Showing posts with label Guitar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guitar. Show all posts

Thursday, November 9, 2017

History And Use Of The BASS GUITAR

Ibanez Roadgear 600
Photo  by MaQPhoto 
The bass guitar has been derived from the double bass, which was used in the late 1950's. Having 4 strings, these instruments add the lower tones to a musical performance. Experimentation with the bass had started as early as the 1920's. It wasn’t until the 50's however, that a proper bass instrument was formed. 

In the mid 20th century jazz became popular. As double bass was used those days, they were often not heard due to the lack of amplification. The drums, banjos and other instruments in the band drowned out the sound of the bass. Until 1950 when the first electric bass came into existence with modern amplification techniques.

The bass guitar is played like all guitars with the player holding it close to his body in a horizontal position. The strings are plucked by hand or with the plectrum. In the 1970's, the slapping technique became popular.

Today, the bass guitar ranges from 4 strings up to 11 strings. The 5, 6 and 7 strings providing the mid range while the 11 string starts from a lower than human hearing going up to a very high activity. Electric bass guitar players use various configurations. These changes are made by using preamplifiers and speaker sets. Signal processors are also varied to provide new soundscapes.
In nightclubs, combo amplifiers are used. These amplifiers are fixed with single loudspeakers to make them portable and effective.

The body of the instrument can be of wood or graphite. A wide range of finishing is applied to make it look good. IT can be colored or simply clear white. The work done on the body is fine engineering and delicate balances have to be maintained.

A hot debate rages on what to call this instrument. For nonmusicians, the term bass guitar is common, while hardcore players like to call it electric bass or simple electric bass. Slowly but surely, however, this instrument has gathered a large following which likes to use its own jargon.

The electric bass is a part of the modern country music, post-1970 jazz, and funk. Used mainly to provide backing, it adds a depth to the music. This instrument has added a whole new color to our musical pleasure. Insole music particularly, the bass guitar is effective.


Are sound effects used? Well, yes and no. As the bass guitar sets the tone for the rest of the band, sound effects are not often used, unlike electric guitars. Modern bands, however, have started experimenting with distortion units to add a new flavor to the bass and low key that they provide behind the music.

As we go into a new century, the electric bass's become more and more popular. All bands use it today to add a subtle background. Many groups like U2 even use it to give a haunted feeling increasing emotional attachment to the music. Newer techniques have made this instrument a crucial part of any musical group today.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

BASIC GUITAR Chords And How To Play Them


English: C major chord for guitar in open posi...
C major chord for guitar in open position.
Beginners chord.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
One of the challenges for the novice guitarist is learning the basic chords. You will not only need to know where to put your fingers but also how to change from one chord to another. The technique of smooth transition between chords is a learning process we are never really finished with. Every time we learn something new on the guitar, that's another sequence of small movements our body learns, and these sets of movements must be executed smoothly through relaxed, calm practice.

Holding chords with your left hand is a new skill. It uses groups of muscles we do not normally use, so it takes time to learn the chord shapes without experiencing discomfort. There is light at the end of the tunnel, although sometimes the tunnel seems very, very long.

Another physical adaptation that has to be made when you learn your basic guitar chords is the left-hand fingers need to be toughened up. Callouses form on the tips of the fingers after a few weeks playing, but until they do you need to put up with the pain.

Fortunately learning the notes on the guitar is a job that does come to an end. As you learn more songs, chords, and scales you will feel your ease with musical theory and notation growing even if you didn't directly learn much theoretical stuff. If you learned in your own way the knowledge gets into you by way of constant practice and the enjoyment you bring to your guitar playing.

So the task at hand is to learn a basic group of chords. This is your toolbox you begin your guitar playing with. 

English: Picture taken from taking barre chord...
Picture taken from taking barre chord on a guitar.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Each chord is identified by a letter. If the letter is followed by the word, minor, it's a minor chord. If it is just the letter alone, it's a major chord.

Major chords contain the Root note, a major third above the Root plus a fifth above the Root.
Minor chords, which have a more "sad" sound, are the same except that they contain a minor third instead of a major third.

A basic rule of thumb for understanding major and minor chords is for a 
major chord plays the (1) (3) and (5) of the major scale, and for a minor chord play the (1) (3) and (5) of the minor scale.

A handy thing to know once you start playing barre chords is that if you learn the major chord shape, you only need to lift one left-hand finger to play the minor chord.

The basic chords come from the keys of A G C and D. The chords themselves can be played at all positions on the fretboard, but beginners start with open chords at the first position. This means that at least one note is played on an open string.

We group the basic keys to families:
The A family contains the chords A, D and E.
The D family contains the chords D, E minor, G and A.
The G family contains the chords G, A minor, C, D and E minor.
The C family contains the chords C, D minor, E minor, F and G.



Saturday, September 30, 2017

RHYTHM AND BLUES GUITAR Solos - DUKE ROBILLARD Plays With Finesse!

English: Robillard rocking in 2006
Robillard rocking in 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Duke Robillard was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on October 4, 1948. He first decided that he wanted to play the guitar at the age of six after hearing some records by Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. But it was not till he was twelve years of age that he got his very first guitar. In his early teens, he was influenced by different popular artists including Duane Eddy, The Ventures, and The Surfaris along with rockabilly and country guitar players James Burton and Scotty Moore. Then his guitar style became influenced by some of the leading blues guitar players including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Freddie King.

After his initial graduation from high school, Duke Robillard worked for over a year in a factory. This experience made him decide to make a living as a guitarist! In 1967 he formed his group "Roomful Of Blues". Right around this time, his personal musical style began to be affected by the recordings of Buddy Johnson's rhythm and blues band. Duke then started to pay close attention to the jazz stage band recordings of Count Basie and Duke Ellington and likewise those of jazz guitar players Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel, Oscar Moore, and Tiny Grimes.

In 1969 he formed another blues band called "Black Cat". It was short-lived though and after it disbanded Robillard reformed the "Roomful Of Blues". This group was styled after the Kansas City and Southwest swing band sounds. For numerous years the group worked frequently in clubs around the Rhode Island and Boston areas. When he befriended and worked with jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton, it was during this time that Duke was drawn further in the direction of jazz.




In 1978 the "Roomful Of Blues" band started making recordings for the Island Record Company. Since that time Duke Robillard has been associated with numerous well-known groups including "The Pleasure Kings", "The Legendary Blues Band" and "The Fabulous Thunderbirds". Duke then began recording for Rounder Records. His releases for this recording company reflect the quality of the jazz blues side of his guitar playing rather than the rhythm and blues styles of his earlier recordings.

In 1993 Duke Robillard signed a recording contract with the Stony Plains record label. Among his many albums ever since then are 2 duet efforts with jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis, a rhythm and blues tribute to T-Bone Walker, collaborating with Jay Geils and Jerry Beaudoin as "The New Guitar Summit" performing passionate performances of well-known swing standards, a duet with fellow blues guitarist Ronnie Earl as well as a tribute to Les Paul and Mary Ford.


Throughout his vibrant professional career Duke Robillard, who is also a likable singer, has always gone his own way often crossing over stylistic borders to play the music he loves. In more recent times Duke has launched several excellent instructional guitar DVDs and book collections that teach many of his recorded solos along with his playing techniques and harmonic approach to guitar.



Friday, September 22, 2017

A Brief History of the BANJO

Modern banjo-playing has historical roots that go back over 150 years to late 19th and early 20th-century classic banjo styles, mid-19th-century minstrel banjo styles, and even earlier African musical influences.

The idea of stretching a skin tightly across a resonating chamber, attaching a neck, adding one or more drone strings, and playing the resulting instrument in a rhythmical and percussive manner originated with West Africans, who were forcibly imported as slaves to the New World. African and early African-American banjos consisted of a gourd or a carved wood body with a stretched skinhead and usually little more than a stick for a neck.

BF  659
Photo   by MrGaryLarson 

The first banjo-type instruments in the Americas were documented in the Caribbean as early as 1689, and the first mention of the banjo in the American colonies occurred in 1754 (where it is called a "banjer" in a Maryland newspaper).

When Africans and Europeans came together in North America, they had enough similarity in their ideas and attitudes about music for a new musical synthesis to occur despite the dramatically unequal status of black and white populations. In large part, the history of American music, from minstrelsy to jazz, rock 'n' roll to rap music, is the story of this continuing convergence of musical sensibilities.

The mid-19th-century minstrel banjo is one of the first manifestations of the meeting of these musical worlds. Along with the fiddle, the banjo was the most popular instrument in African-American music in the United States through the 18th and into the 19th century. In the early 1800s, white musicians began to take up the banjo in imitation of southern African-American players. By the mid-1800s,

white professional stage performers had popularized the banjo all across the United States and in England and had begun their own banjo traditions as they popularized new songs. Because these musicians usually performed with blackened faces, they came to be known as blackface minstrels.




Because the minstrel stage depicted slaves and southern life in inaccurate and degrading ways, there are many negative aspects to the legacy of blackface minstrelsy. Nevertheless, as part of America's first nationally popular music, minstrelsy served to popularize the banjo and make it an instrument shared by both white and black populations. With this popularity came the publication of the first instruction manuals for the instrument and the first factory-made banjos in the 1840s. Soon after, five strings became the accepted norm for banjos, and five-string banjos are the norm today.




Monday, September 18, 2017

GUITAR TIP: The Power Of Big Picture Thinking

What would you think about someone who wanted to become an awesome finger-picker but most of their practice was focused on using a pick? You'd think they were crazy right? And rightly so! But believe me, it's more common than you think. Heck...even I've been guilty of this more than a few times! I think we all sometimes fall into the trap of practicing things without thinking exactly WHY we are practicing them.

So what's the cure for this? I can give you the cure in three words...

English: Picture from playing guitar with guit...
Picture from playing guitar with guitar pick by Babak Babali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Big Picture Thinking

What's this? Put simply it means looking at the WHYs and WHATs before looking at the HOWs. It's looking at the overall picture before becoming focused on the details. Let's take a look at an example to make it clearer...

Let's say that you would like to learn to shred. Rather than just jumping in and practicing some random exercises, let's go through the big picture thinking process.


**Step One** Why

In this step, you write down exactly WHY you want to become a shredder. Think of all the reasons and write them down. This is really important. Your reasons why help keeps you motivated and enthusiastic about working towards your goal. In fact, I can almost guarantee that without a strong, exciting and compelling why you will give up before you reach your goal!


**Step Two** Big Picture What

Write down WHAT you want to achieve. In this case, you would write down a detailed description of EXACTLY how you would like to play. What type of shredder do you want to become?


**Step Three** Detailed What

In this step, you'll write down the specific things that you will need to master in order to achieve what you wrote down in Step Two. Here are some example questions that you would ask yourself...

* What scales would I need to learn?

* What songs would I like to learn?

* What techniques would I have to master?

* What guitar tutors who live near to me teach shredding?

* What licks and exercises would help me achieve my goal?

* What instructional books, videos or DVDs will I need to buy?

The aim of this step is to get a detailed list of SPECIFIC things that you need to master in order to reach your goal.




**Step Four** How

This is where you write down a detailed practice schedule. This schedule will help you systematically learn what you wrote down in the previous step. If you're not sure how to put together an effective practice schedule then you may want to hire a good guitar tutor.

Can you see how this works? Rather than just jumping in and practicing, you start with the big picture first then work your way down to the small details.I guarantee that doing it this way will speed up your progress drastically. The main reason why is you will only be practicing things 100% related to your guitar goals.




Monday, September 4, 2017

Famous FENDER STRATOCASTER History

Fender Stratocaster history begins with the man some people call the king of surf music. Dick Dale is the man who some believe invented surf music as early as the 1950's. No, it wasn't the Beach Boys. It was Dick Dale.

2013 Fender American Std. Strat (Mystic Red)
Fender Stratocaster - Photo  by Freebird_71 
He had the musical assistance of Leo Fender, inventor of the Fender Stratocaster. Part of early Fender Stratocaster history includes the story of Leo Fender's gift to Dick Dale of a Fender Stratocaster to use in his live performances. He wanted Dick to try the Fender Stratocaster - and the rest is history, as the saying goes.

Did he try that guitar! The Fender Stratocaster history at that point was one of taking abuse and living through it, as Dale beat that guitar, hurling loud raucous music into the night, and destroying forty-nine different amps until one actually caught on fire. Stratocaster history that night including the entertaining Dick Dale using the right handed guitar for left-handed play, playing upside down and created all new sounds.

Leo, Freddy Fender and Dale joined forces to find new, more tolerable speakers and this was the beginning of heavy metal Fender Stratocaster. They approached a company that made speakers and asked that they design a fifteen-inch Fender Stratocaster speaker. This made Fender Stratocaster speaker history.



Fender history included the fact that Dick Dale became the first person to take the quiet guitar player image and transform her or him into a loud heavy metal entertainer.

Included in this portion of Fender history was Guitar Player Magazine, who as a result now referred to Dick Dale as the father of heavy metal.  Stratocaster history, then, is about the transition from quiet soothing sing along surf music to the heavy metal sound of the sixties.



Monday, August 14, 2017

How To Play LEAD GUITAR

Many newbies are fascinated by the way lead guitarists are blazing through a solo and keep wondering how they can do that. They just can't understand how these people figure out which notes can would sound right before playing them. The following article is aimed to show some perspective on how to learn lead guitar and begin to make up your own guitar solos.

The Blues Scale

What many beginner guitarists who want to learn lead guitar do not know that improvising doesn't mean just playing random notes and hoping they will sound great together. Before you can learn lead guitar, you should know that professional guitar players usually draw their solos from a scale, which they are using as a template for improvisation. The blues scale, despite the name, is actually a scale used very often in all guitar solo styles.

Bruce Kulick - IMG_1973
Bruce Kulick - Photo by JamesDPhotography 
How to Use It?

Try practicing this scale forwards and backward, while using alternate picking and make sure you play each note evenly and cleanly. After you got this right, try to play each note two times before you get to the next one. Make up different ways to play the blues scale to challenge your playing skills.
Play the blues scale so that the root begins with the letter name of the scale you are trying to play. For example, if you want to play a C blues scale, you've got to find the note C on the fretboard and start the scale on that note.

Improvising

Once you've become familiar with the blues scale, you might want to take up some theory lessons and learn more about the different positions of pentatonic and blues scales. However, you can get to play a lot of great stuff just by using the single position explained above, so start practicing on making up your own solos before you memorize tons of scale positions.

Once you've managed to learn lead guitar basics, you can start improvising. The concept is fairly simple: all you have to do is string together some licks from the blues scale that sound good together. However, when you try to do it, you'll realize it's actually more difficult than it sounds. You might want to get some soloing lessons for beginner guitarists that want to learn lead guitar. Accesrock.com provides some good lessons.

After you did some practicing, you should visit the Home for all Guitar Lovers website that shows several guitar licks. You can try to memorize some of these and use them in your own solos. Don't get frustrated if you play rather badly at first; if you like what you're doing, it will get better over time.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Your Personal Tone Generator

A guide to getting a sound and trouble shooting

English: This is Rogelio Rivas trying to learn...
This is Rogelio Rivas trying to learn his guitar lessons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A good sound starts from the fingers, through the pick-up to the guitar and out. If you don’t start there, you’re spinning in circles and end up with a transparent (fuzzy) sound without body and response. “Your fingers are your tone generators”. Not the amps or pedals. Those are tools to augment your expression. That’s what guitar lessons teach you, not teaching you a song without teaching you, and guiding you in technique.

And, if you learn a thing or two about trouble shooting “on the fly”, you’ll go down the line to find the problem with your rig. The same goes for finding your sound. When establishing your sound you start with your technique, through the pick-up on down to the amp. With trouble shooting on stage, you should start with the amp and go down the line back to you, which make’s sense. Since you’ve established your rig set up. As you’re trying to fix what was working, you back track. 

This saves time and controls moods, besides the over all situation’s under control. Then, if and when you need to use a stage tech, you’ll have a template in which to explain what it is you require from the person “you” hire. There’s nothing more frustrating than hiring someone, that has no idea what it is you need or want. Imagine working for someone without a clue. A band leader who expects you to read his mind? Communication starts with a plan.

Good luck and sound good, where ever your muse takes you, find a clue.

Stay in touch for a more in depth study of the elusive art of tone. Whose tone is good? Someday maybe I’ll be able to dial in someone else’s tone and tell you for sure what the deal is!!! RIGHT……. It’s all subjective!


Saturday, August 5, 2017

LES PAUL GUITARS - What Makes Them Special?

English: A 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar.
A 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Gibson Les Paul guitar was conceived at the very beginning of electric guitar history and has held its place at the forefront of guitar technology ever since. The two key elements that make the Les Paul guitars special are the vision of Les Paul himself, an eminent guitarist and enthusiastic inventor and the fact that the Gibson guitar company has always held extremely high standards of excellence for its instruments. 

Les Paul is often credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar, and his involvement with the Gibson models was more or less just a happy accident. When he was a teenage performer he tried amplifying an ordinary acoustic guitar so that he could be heard by the audience. The feedback that resulted was finally eliminated by attaching the neck of an Epiphone guitar onto a block of wood. This was so strange looking that Les' musical talents were not taken seriously so he attached wings to the side of the wood so that it resembled a conventional guitar shape.

The moving force behind the financial and artistic success of the Les Paul guitar was the desire of the Gibson Guitar Corporation to market a solid body model electric guitar under the name of an established guitarist. By this time, the early 1950's, Les Paul was the most popular electric guitar player of the time. It would be a great triumph for Gibson to snare the endorsement of this guitarist who had conceived and made his own electric guitar which had become the basis for a solid electric guitar sold by his friend, Leo Fender. Eventually, after recommending some changes to the appearance of the new Gibson guitar, Les Paul allowed it to be released under his name.

There are a couple of design elements that stand out in the Les Paul range of guitars. The strings on a Les Paul guitar are mounted "hollow body style" on top of the guitar instead of passing through the body as is common with other brands of solid body guitars. This is merely a stylistic distinction, not affecting the sound of the guitar. The characteristic warm tone of the Les Paul guitars is due to the types of wood chosen by Gibson for these models. As we should expect from a guitar endorsed by the man whose own guitar design was nicknamed "the log", Les Paul guitars are also heavier and thicker than other solid body guitars. Both Les Paul and the Gibson corporation were fans of starting with substance and piling on heaps of style, so most Les Paul model guitars feature flashy inlays on the neck and headstock.

The Gibson Guitar Corporation has made many models under the Les Paul brand. Featuring names like Classic, Supreme, Standard, Studio Baritone, Studio, Goddess, Menace, New Century, Vixen, Special, Doublecuts and Melody Maker, each one has its own individual sound. Between 1969 and 1979 Gibson even marketed a range of Les Paul bass guitars. The Gibson Les Paul guitars have also been imitated by other companies such as Ibanez and Tokai. The legal wrangles surrounding these attempts at copying Les Paul guitars have only added to their collectibility.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cheap ELECTRIC GUITARS

If you are looking for cheap electric guitars there is a lot of choice out there. 

You can buy a cheap electric guitar from as little as £70 and there are a number of brands making cheap guitars.

Don’t spend under £90 on a guitar

PRS Standard 22 Platinum Guitar
PRS Standard 22 Platinum Guitar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are buying your first electric guitar, I wouldn’t recommend spending under £90. Most of these guitars are built with very cheap materials to bring the production costs down, hence the retail price. The guitar’s sound will be compromised with this lower quality and the finish will also look a bit rough. 

You will usually find that the guitar strings are the cheapest ones you can buy, they will sound twangy. 

The other downside of these cheap electric guitars due to the low build quality is the durability. You will be lucky if you can play it for more than 1 year and not have a problem with the guitar parts. You will end up with a cheap electric guitar (cheap meaning the quality this time and not the price). 
Spend £90-£150 on a guitar

My advice is to spend between £90 and £150 on your first electric guitar. You will get some reasonable quality at the lower end and good quality at the upper end. 

Electric guitar brands to look out for

Here is a list of guitar brands that offer beginner electric guitars within the above price range: Stagg, Crafter, Vintage, Encore, Cruiser by Crafter, Gould, Squier, Yamaha, Dean, Peavey, Epiphone, Carlsbro and Ibanez.

The Epiphone, Vintage and Yamaha are the most popular electric guitars from the above list, the Stagg offers the best value for money in my opinion.



Should I Buy My Guitar in a Music Shop or Online? 

It is really up to you, but my advice would be to buy one of the recommended guitar brands above. You can do this easily online, and you won’t get a shop salesman trying to push what’s best for them rather than what’s best for you.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beginning ACOUSTIC GUITAR

So you have decided the acoustic guitar is the instrument for you. What are the first steps to take to get your guitar playing off to a flying start?  How about we cover the really basic stuff here, like what kind of music will I be playing? Am I aiming to be a professional guitarist? What type of amplifier do acoustic guitar players use, and what strings are best for which genre of music?

After we have covered these topics you will have a clear idea of the way ahead in your guitar playing career.



Right, so what is your acoustic guitar repertoire going to consist of? Which music attracted you to the acoustic guitar should really be your guide here. The most obvious acoustic genre for many people is folk music. This genre really took off as a form of popular music in the 1960's and now there's a tremendous volume of material for you to choose from. A lot of musicians who are interested in singing ballads go for the acoustic guitar because it's so easy to pick up the instrument and go ahead and sing. Providing your guitar is in tune of course. But in general the acoustic guitar is a great companion for the ballad singer because it won't compete with your vocals.

While we are on the subject of repertoire, don't forget the acoustic guitar is ideal for singing your own simple arrangements of popular songs from many styles of music. Two examples of rock and roll songs that were hits all over again as acoustic ballads are "Layla" by Eric Clapton and "Light My Fire" originally recorded by The Doors, and reworked by Jose Feliciano.

To let your audience hear your playing, you can choose to amplify your guitar by simply playing into a microphone as classical or flamenco guitarists do, or make use of a pickup and an amplifier. The question of which amp to use is a matter for experimentation and talking it over with more experienced guitarists. Generally speaking you wouldn't need any kind of effects for acoustic guitar music; it just needs to have the volume to reach your audience in a restaurant or hall. So just bear in mind you are looking for a nice clear sound from your amp to help carry your vocals rather than set up shop in competition with them.



The choice of strings for the beginner acoustic guitarist is a no-brainer. Learn on nylon strings till your fingers are toughened up. You will form callouses on the tips of your fingers during the first few weeks of playing, after that you can start on a steel string guitar if you wish without slicing your fingers. Regarding the sound of the different kinds of strings, nylon will give you a mellow, unobtrusive sound, and steel strings have a sharper sound which demands attention from the audience. This can augment your vocals and enable you to do solos if you want to.

Now you have got the basic topics covered all that's left for you to do is enjoy your journey as an acoustic guitar player.




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 String BANJO Setup - Making Your Bluegrass Banjo Sound Better

I've been picking 5 string bluegrass banjo for 26+ years, and I've been teaching for many of those years. I've seen many banjos come and go, and I know that the average student needs a couple of pointers for making their banjo sound as good as it can.

IMG_0847
5 String Banjo - Photo   by      deovolenti
If I were to have 10 new students start today, I know that 6 or 7 of those students would say to me: "I've had this old banjo in the closet for 20 years and I thought it was time to learn how to play it." What most don't know is that even just sitting in a closet, the banjo gets out of adjustment. Some tender loving care is needed!

*Important*: 
There is no substitution for a nice instrument. It's a fact that a low-end instrument is just harder to learn on. It's tougher to play, tougher to manipulate. If you play a low-end banjo for some time, then switch to a higher quality instrument, you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to play. Most students start out on the cheap instrument to learn with, then switch into the "Cadillac" a few years in. This is backwards. You should give yourself the benefit of learning on something that's easy to play, right from the get-go. Having said that, many people don't have the budget for an expensive banjo, plus they might have an old banjo already in hand, ready to be learned on. This article will help those people. Just don't fool yourself into thinking that we're going to make your cheap, $100 Japanese made banjo sound like a Gibson Mastertone. We'll make it sound better, but we aren't going to turn a Ford Escort into a Cadillac by any means.

Item #1: new strings
Perhaps one of the most dramatic changes you can make to the overall sound of your banjo is to change the strings. This is not tough, and you can do this at home. One big consideration is to watch your string gauge. Most of the string manufacturers label their string sets with words like light gauge, medim light, medium, etc. My recommendation is to go with medium light; you'll find mediums way too tough on your fingers. If you have slight fingers or are young, you might even prefer light gauge strings. You'll have to try different sets to develop a preference.

A good recommended string changing interval is to change the strings after each 8 hours of playing time. And if you are pulling the banjo out of the closet for the first time in many weeks, months, or years, definitely get them changed. Strings corrode, wear out, rust, become dull, etc., even if the banjo is just sitting in the closet. Consult the author's information to contact me with questions.

Item #2: set the bridge
The bridge is that little wooden piece that the strings pass over, just before they reach the end of the banjo. If the bridge is out of place, your banjo won't make the proper notes. The bridge is not fastened down; it's held in place by the pressure of the strings, and it can be moved around. To set the bridge, you'll need an electronic tuner.

Measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. Then, make the distance from the 12th fret to the bridge the same. Once this is done, tune your banjo. Once in tune, fret the 1st string (the higher of the two D strings) at the 17th fret, and see what your tuner is telling you. When the bridge is set right, this will be an in tune G note. If the tuner says the note is too sharp, then scoot the bridge back towards the tail piece just a little. Retune, then check again. If the tuner says the note is flat, scoot the bridge towards the neck just a little. Retune, then check again. Keep checking, moving, and retuning until the 1st string, when fretted at the 17th fret, is showing an in tune G note.

*Handy tip*: Once the bridge is set, then each time you do a string change in the future, just do one string at a time so that the bridge doesn't move on you.

Item #3: the head
This is an adjustment that tends to make quite a difference on the overall sound of the banjo. Most beginners are afraid of this one, but there's no need to be. All you need are some nut drivers or sockets, and maybe a screwdriver. It's fairly straight-forward. Coincidentally, the head is the white "skin" that you can play like a drum; the big white circle that makes up the face of the banjo. When the brackets that hold the head tightly work themselves loose, then the head becomes "mooshy" and "tubby" sounding. A crisp, tight head gives you that classic banjo zing!

The first step is to remove the back of the banjo (this is called the resonator.) Most banjos have 4 thumb screws holding the resonator on. Usually no tools are needed to remove these screws. Sometimes, you'll need a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the back on.
Turn the banjo upside down, and notice the "fingers", or brackets, ringing the banjo. At the bottom end of these brackets are bracket nuts. These brackets and nuts are just fancy nuts and bolts; nothing to 'em. Grab your sockets or nut drivers, and figure out which size will fit over your bracket nuts. 
Once you have the correct tool, start with one nut and tighten it. 

*Important*: don't crank down with all your might! Simply "snug" this bracket. It's possible to spit or crack the head if you crank on these nuts. Snug the nut with very little force, then move to the next one.

Most banjo repairmen say that you should do one nut, then move to the one directly across from it, on the other side of the banjo, and tighten it. Work your way around the banjo, tightening each pair this way. Remember to just barely snug up the nut.

Once you return to the one you started with, you'll likely find it loose again. It's very common to have to make 3 or 4 passes around the banjo before you get everything snugged down. When you have everything crisp and tight, put the resonator back on and enjoy!

In closing
With a little tender loving care, you can squeak some more life out of your old, low-end banjo. I always recommend buying the most banjo you can afford, but reality proves that we'll have to work with what we have available to us. Get your old banjo set up using these simple pointers, and you'll be happier with the overall sound and playability.

"Wunse, I coodn't even spel bango pikker...now I are one!"

My name is Banjo Paul. I'm a banjo teacher, a member of two bluegrass bands, a web designer, and a professional blogger. I have a banjo themed website and blog with lot's of good information about banjos, banjo humor, banjo lessons, banjo kulture...errr...culture...and lot's more. I'd love for you to stop by and say howdy sometime, and as I always say: pick 'em if ya got 'em!



Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Lure Of The NYLON STRING GUITAR

As a fan of the electric guitar and an enthusiastic player of acoustic music, I would like to share some of the most fascinating aspects of the nylon string guitar to give you an idea of the beauty of this instrument as a stepping stone for beginner guitarists or as the subject of a lifelong devotion. Although a nylon string guitar fan can go on and on about the wonderful mellow sound and the potential for extracting new meaning from music, maybe we can focus on the more practical aspects of the nylon string acoustic like the different styles of music played on it and the advantages it can hold for an amateur or professional guitarist.

Photo: Pexxels
First let's talk about the types of guitars using nylon strings. Many experts say the flamenco guitar with its dry sound is more typical of  what a guitar was like before the emergence of the sonorous and lyrical sound of the classical guitar which evolved in the first half of the twentieth century. The flamenco guitar has always been common in some areas of Spain, and it is simply the musical instrument used by a family or group of friends to play the local folk music. The classical guitar was developed to play the classical style compositions which became popular in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A descendent of the classical guitar is the basic nylon string acoustic guitar you see in music stores today. It lends itself to the accompaniment of all types of songs and was made popular in the 1960's folk boom by artists like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul And Mary. These artists captured the public's imagination with their songs and planted the sound of the nylon string guitar firmly in the realms of popular music.

The sound of the nylon string guitar is much more peaceful compared to the brighter sound of the steel string acoustic. Another major advantage of the nylon string guitar is that it provides musical accompaniment to songs without distracting attention from your vocals.

By the way - did you know that players of electric guitars or steel string acoustic instruments need to develop callouses on their left hand fingers? Nylon strings are generally a little kinder to your hands. You will find that your nylon string guitar is easy to tune and you can just pick your guitar up and play it at any time of day or night without disturbing anybody in the immediate environment. Also the wider fret board allows you to play chords and single notes without accidentally touching the wrong string.

Nylon string guitars are kinder to finger picking guitarists. Anybody can learn finger style guitar on nylon strings without running too much risk of breaking fingernails, plus you will be pleased at how your first finger picking efforts are rewarded by the more beginner-friendly tone of the nylon acoustic.

Now you have some idea of the attractive aspects of the nylon string acoustic guitar, I do hope you will find some time to devote to this beautiful and, in recent times, neglected instrument.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Make a Game of Your GUITAR PRACTICE and Surprise Yourself

So you want to be improve your guitar playing?

Well, like any thing, guitar skill progress takes time and practice, but many of us have much difficulty practicing regularly because it is so easy to let other things take priority over our guitar lessons.

Broke the guitar out today. She hit for the cy...
Broke the guitar out today. She hit for the cycle on music - recorder, piano, and guitar. Nice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First, you need to absolutely make up your mind that you want to improve your guitar playing and then make sure that your progress is truly is a priority for you.

Make a list of the most important things that you need to focus on in your life right now and honestly assess where guitar fits into your list.

Ideally, you want to be engaged in a guitar lesson for at least an hour a day in order to make any significant progress.

However, you may have to conclude that at this point you are not going to be able to devote even an hour a week to the task.

If that is the case, try to spend some casual time reading guitar-related publications or listening to your favorite guitarists to nurture your love of the music.  When your priorities change and you have more time, you will then at least still have a strong interest in becoming as good a guitarist as you can.  Listening to Eric Clapton or other greats will only kindle your interest and may even cause you to reprioritize your guitar lessons.

Once you see where your guitar practice fits in with the rest of your life, make a true appointment with yourself.  Put your practice into your schedule.  Get it in your planner or it won't get done!
Okay, now that you are regularly spending time with your beloved guitar, what should you do?
First, make sure it is quality time.  Don't have the television on or be hanging out with friends. Then, make sure you are working on skills that you need to sharpen.

If you spend time strumming popular solos and cranking up your amplifier, you may have some fun, but you will not improve your skills.

Think about the chords and scales that you struggle with.  Grade yourself on them on a scale (no pun intended) of 1 to 10 and then re-evaluate every week or so.  Re-grading every practice or guitar lesson is not appropriate because it is unfair to measure progress that frequently.

No one improves in a straight line.  You may hit a certain chord great one day and then have two of the strings sound very unclear the next day.  However, if you work diligently you will make progress when measured every couple weeks or so.

Do the same thing with scales and even notes depending on your current skill level.

Once you have a way of measuring your progress, you will be inspired to continue with your regular practice regimen and guitar lessons.

As an advanced step, after you have made progress with a certain group of chords and scales, you should find a song you like that uses many of those elements and work on that as a way of applying your improved ability.

This can be very rewarding.

You may even want to start with the song and work backwards, but make sure that you do spend a great deal of time on the fundamentals before you get serious about the song.

The key to all this is regular consistent work and a measurement of results.  Achieve this, and you will enjoy your practice time more and more.  Challenge yourself to be at a certain grade by a specific time.

Make a game of your practice efforts and you will surprise yourself!

Author: Jeremiah Thompson




Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Nylon String ACOUSTIC GUITAR

Playing an acoustic guitar. The guitar is a Harley Benton (HBF20CE/TS); an Ovation clone, that is. (A friend of mine plays the guitar on a dock by a lake, in front of a summer cottage at Mäntyharju, 


Playing an acoustic guitar. The guitar is a Ha...
Finland in July, 2004.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The nylon string acoustic guitar has a softer, mellower sound than the steel string guitar. Strangely, modern audiences can still be spellbound by the depth of feeling of a nylon string guitar.  It's entirely up to you which one you choose to play. I could cite a list of artists who used either nylon or steel string for this or that record, and make a wild guess or two at why the artists made the choices they did, but the bottom line is that if you want a deep, quiet sound that doesn't compete with your singing, the nylon string guitar is the way to go.

When you go out to buy a guitar, go past the general music store and on to your local guitar dealer if you have one. That way you will have a guitar expert guiding you and not some dufus who only plays two-and-a-half chords. Don't let the guy in the store automatically steer you to the top-of-the-range guitars, and equally don't succumb to your inner cheapskate. Pick a guitar that you like the look, sound and feel of, then come down in price range if you really need to.

To get some idea of the range you could be looking at, the Alvarez Masterworks Series MC90 Classical Guitar, a more pricey instrument, has solid rosewood back and sides, western cedar top with precision scalloped bracing, mosaic rosette and gold tuning pegs with tortoise buttons and sells for over $600. The Alvarez Regent, a beginner's model, is about $150. Of course there are many grades of price and quality in between.

The kinds of music that the nylon string guitar was designed for are classical and flamenco music. Classical guitar music is classical music composed for other instruments but arranged for the guitar, and classical style pieces composed especially for the guitar or other stringed instruments. There is a wide repertoire of music composed in the medieval or renaissance eras for the vihuela or mandolin and arranged for the guitar which can be extremely enjoyable and satisfying to play. Flamenco music is a folk music of Spain, and is usually comparatively technically advanced simply due to flamenco being a "flashy" kind of music. If you are interested in exploring either of these kinds of music I suggest you go to YouTube and check out the classical or flamenco guitar videos. John Williams (the British guitarist, not the Starwars guy) and Julian Bream are two obvious starting points for classical guitar. Paco De Lucia, Paco Pena and Sabicas will open your heart to flamenco.

We can't finish without mentioning the nylon string guitar-driven folk music boom of the 1960's which has given us a lot of great music which can be easily picked up by beginner guitarists. The music of Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Joan Baez or The Kingston Trio still holds some interest for modern guitarists.

So that is an overview of the world of the nylon string guitar. I hope you have found something to spark your interest.