10 of My Favourite Guitar Solos

There are so many great guitarists and fantastic guitar solos.  Here are some of my favourites ...

1) Under a Glass Moon (Band: Dream Theater, Album: Images and Words, Guitarist: John Petrucci)
2) All I want (Band: Lynch Mob, Album: Lynch Mob, Guitarist: George Lynch)
3) Where Were You? (Album: Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop, Guitarist: Jeff Beck)
4) How can you do what you do (Band: Mr.Big, Album: Mr.Big, Guitarist: Paul Gilbert)
5) Flight of the Bumblebee (Album: Above, Below and Beyond, Guitarist: Jennifer Batten)
6) For a Million Years (Band: Lynch Mob, Album: Lynch Mob, Guitarist: George Lynch)
7) For the Love of God (Album: Passion and Warfare, Guitarist: Steve Vai)
8) Eyes of a Stranger (Band: Queensryche, Album: Operation: Mindcrime, Guitarists: Chris DeGarmo, Michael Wilson)
9) Flying in a Blue Dream (Album: Flying in a Blue Dream, Guitarist: Joe Satriani)
10) Anything by Paco de Lucia, Paco Pena

Martyn

'Friday Night Fiesta' - My International Guitar Hero Competition Entry

From the archives, here's a video of the original piece that was submitted for the 2009 International Guitar Hero competition and reached the online finals.  It's in the 'Flamrock' style, a mixture of Flamenco and rock guitar playing.



The Benefits of Transcribing

I started playing guitar well before we had the Internet. The only way to learn a song was to buy the songbook (most of my favourite songs weren't in print), or to work it out yourself. I spent almost as long working out songs as I did actually playing the guitar, but I believe these were in no way a waste of my time.

It certainly has come in handy and helped with my song writing, improvisation, learning songs for my gigs and students, working out something after I had improvised it, and as a service to help other players learn songs that are not offered accurately elsewhere.

Now, we have countless websites helping players learn songs, using tabs, video lessons etc. This is clearly a great tool for all players. However the on-line transcriptions on offer are only as good as the transcriber's ear, and virtually anyone can upload a song tab to a site, so it's important to know if the tab is accurate.

This is where ear training, including transcribing comes into it's own. If you have developed a good ear you can at least hear that the transcription, when played is correct, close, or very wrong. And if there are no tabs for the song you want to learn, you can at least do it yourself.

Just like any skill, transcribing music takes regular practice, but the more we do it, the more acutely our ears start picking out important things such as hearing the difference between a fast slide (glissando) and a hammer-on, or hearing the tone quality that gives away which string a note is really being played on etc.

Here are some tips for those of you who are interested in starting-out transcribing music:
  • Set aside just 5-10 minutes of time daily to transcribe something-anything!
  • Start with simple melodies, slow solos, single note riffs etc.
  • Use technology to help-you can slow down fast passages or loop them to aid in working out notes.
  • Take-up general ear training to compliment your transcribing skills.
  • Every time you play anything on guitar, really listen to the notes and try to familiarise yourself with them.

Music is an art form based on sounds, so every musician should be working on hearing notes and rhythms as well as they possibly can to aid in reaching their musical goals. To not do so would be like a painter who can't recognise colours very well. Not an ideal scenario.

Happy transcribing!
Martyn

Guitar Buying Tips for New Learners

Buying Your First Guitar


Budding guitarists now are spoiled for choice and generally even cheap guitars are well made so there's no need to spend a lot of money when starting out.  However, very cheap guitars will make playing difficult and may inhibit the learning process.

The first thing to do is ask yourself what type of music you want to play  If you love, say, Jimi Hendrix, you should buy an electric guitar.  If you listen to, say, James Morrison, go for an acoustic.

One option is to buy a guitar ‘package’ deal aimed at beginners.  These are available for electric, acoustic, and classical guitars and include all you need to get you started: guitar, small practice amp, cable, plectrum, spare strings, tuner, etc.  A few companies that specifically offer guitars and guitar packages aimed at beginners are: (Fender) Squier, Stagg, Epiphone, Aria, Yamaha and Encore.

If you don’t get a package deal, make sure you at least buy an electronic tuner for your guitar.  These can be readily found for under ten pounds.

Children


The most important thing for younger players is to get the right sized guitar.  Many companies make one-half (1/2) or three-quarter (3/4) sized guitars for the smaller person.  The softer nylon strings on classical guitars make it easier on the fingers, but the type of music your child likes should decide the type of guitar you buy.

The Next Step - Buying a ‘Better’ Guitar


If you have been playing a while and want a better quality guitar (or if you are really keen and can afford to spend a bit more) buying second-hand can be a good idea.  You will get a much better guitar for less money.

Another option is to trade-in your old guitar at a music shop to bring the price down of your new guitar.

Guitar Companies


Some great guitar companies include: Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, Jackson, B.C Rich, PRS, ESP, Tanglewood, Takamine and Peavey.

Martyn

Great Songs for Learner Guitarists

Often it can be hard for new guitarists to find popular practice pieces that are enjoyable to play and that listeners will recognise. Here are some well-known rock and pop songs that are relatively easy to learn and let students quickly develop their skills to the point where they are playing real music:

- Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
- Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol
- Back in Black, AC/DC
- Time of Your life, Green Day
- Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
- Sunshine of Your Love, Cream
- Beat It, Michael Jackson
- One, U2
- Use Somebody, Kings of Leon
- Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Webcam Guitar Lessons - Flexible and Convenient

More and more of my guitar students are having webcam lessons.  There are several benefits, including:
  • Students who are not local or find it difficult to travel can have lessons
  • Lessons are in the comfort and convenience of the student's own home
  • It's cheaper!
  • No time wasted travelling and no travel expenses
  • No time wasted packing and unpacking your guitar at either end
Lessons can be conducted using videoconferencing software such as Skype and that you may already have on your computer.

Stretches and Massages for all Guitarists

It is an all too often over-looked subject, and even many guitar teachers fail to explain the importance of warming-up before practising or performing. Staying physically fit is very important to guitarists who otherwise may sit around for long hours slumped over a guitar (see my previous post on posture) .

Equally important is to strengthen and improve the flexibility of fingers, wrists, and in fact out whole body. As part of a thorough warm-up, it would be a good idea to do some form of light exercise (a short walk or slow jog), then after stretching off your main muscle groups, move onto the stretches and massages I illustrated for my students (see diagram below) It would also be beneficial to perform some 'joint rotations', slowly rotating wrists each direction, rolling shoulders each direction etc. Only then would I suggest guitarists start to run through basic finger warm-ups on the guitar itself, gradually increasing to 'performance' speed.

Hold each stretch for 10-30 secs

There are a few reasons why it is so important to loosen-up, and stretch before and after playing, and I'm confident that if a student starts regular stretches and massages they will quickly see (and FEEL) the benefits, including:
  • Improved playing skill
  • Injury prevention
  • Longevity of playing time
  • More comfort and consequently greater enjoyment
  • Improved hand and wrist health in general
So, if you are one of the many players who just grab the guitar and start playing then I would suggest you try adding in these warm-up ideas, alongside a well designed warm-up guitar playing routine.  Then you can enjoy healthily playing guitar for many years!