I must (slightly belatedly) congratulate Bath Guitar Lessons student Huw, who passed his Rock School Grade 6 the other day with merit.
I want to wish a merry Christmas to all my website viewers and students. As my Christmas present to you, here’s a free video lesson (and downloadable chord sheet) for the intro to Brian Setzer’s incredible version of Jingle Bells. If you haven’t checked out the Brian Setzer Orchestra, his Christmas Rocks album is a great place to start. If you want to learn more stuff like this, get in touch!
Anyway, there are some great jazz chords and a killer rock n’ roll lick in this action packed 8 bars, so check it out.
I just want to say congratulations and good luck to Bath Guitar Lessons student Ash, who is starting this week on the Royal Northern College of Music’s new foundation degree in popular music practice. Ash has been a great student since I first taught him at IGF in 2007.
If you’re viewing this, you must know that the new Bath Guitar Lessons website – www.bathguitarlessons.co.uk – is now online.
To celebrate the launch of this shiny new website, I’m offering free one hour introductory guitar lessons until the end of October. That’s a free guitar lesson, just in case you thought your eyes were deceiving you the first time.
Call 07929 911092 to book one up!
In last month’s Total Guitar (issue 214, with Zakk Wylde on the cover), I wrote a feature on how to become a session guitarist, called “Gun For Hire.”
I interviewed 5 guys: Luke Potashnick – an in-demand session guitarist, Mike Stevens – probably Britain’s top MD, Sue Carling – a top agent booking session musicians for TV, Cliff Jones – a producer for Polydor and other major labels, and Chris Difford, the legendary Squeeze frontman.
I asked all of them what they look for in a guitarist, and they all had different and insightful answers. Some great tips got left out of the article because of space, so I might try to find time to post them here. Two in particular spring to mind. Mike Stevens mentioned that the Bedford and the Cobden Club are two great places in London to meet touring musicians and MDs (and that you do really have to move to London if you’re serious about this). Cliff Jones suggested that studio producers are looking for guitarists who specialise in a given style, and you should have a dedicated myspace or website for promoting your session skills in that particular style.
Whenever I interview students applying to BIMM, they all say they want to become session musicians. Most people think of a session guitarist as a guy who gets up in the morning, drives to a studio, plays on a Madonna record before lunch, a Michael Jackson record after lunch, and goes home again. Sadly, the days of studio players like that are mostly over. The majority of modern professionals make their money from various income streams: functions gigs, live sessions, studio sessions, theatre shows, teaching, magazine writing, library music, product demonstrations, and whatever other work comes up. That’s why I teach my students (the ones who are aspiring session players, at least) a load of different skills.
Most guitarists’ vibrato is too fast. Of course, some guys, like Angus Young and Paul Kossoff, sound cool with a fast vib, but most people sound like a sheep. The way to sort it out is to practise bending the string in time, and in different rhythms. As I demonstrate, in the following video of unparalleled class:
Check out Jonny Scaramanga Guitar Tuition at www.bathguitarlessons.co.uk for more cool stuff. Actually, only a small amount of cool stuff right now, but it’s being revamped, so epic cool stuff coming soon.
In this week’s lesson, I want to look at vibrato. If you’ve got a great one, everything you do will sound professional. Without a good vibrato, you’re a rubbish lead guitarist. Fact.
I’ve never really seen vibrato taught well, so I’ve developed a system to help my students with it. Most of the time you’re just told “it’s a feel thing” and left to wobble the string in the hope it sounds good. That normally ends up with an uncontrolled, out of tune mess. It’s better to think of vibrato as a series of bends. If you can bend a string in tune, you can do a good vibrato. In this video (and part 2, coming next week), I’ll show you some of my system for building up your vibrato.
Don’t forget to visit my website at www.bathguitarlessons.co.uk
String bending is the most important lead technique for electric guitar. There are hardly any great rock, blues, or metal solos that don’t use this technique. Yet many guitarists do it wrong, not getting the bends in tune or having poor control. So I made a video to show you how it’s done, because I know everything.
I would love to take your money from you, and in return I would happily show you how to bend strings and do many other exciting things on guitar which will make you happier and more desirable to the opposite sex (and the same sex, for that matter). Check out www.bathguitarlessons.co.uk, and be aware that I am currently offering a free introductory lesson for new students. That’s right, a free guitar lesson (in Bath).
Apologies for the lack of new lessons. I have at least three more lessons written and ready to go, but I haven’t had time to record the video, and now it’s too dark.
So while you’re waiting, I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on guitar tone, because most guitarists have a crap tone and that’s kind of the fault of guitar mags (and I speak as someone who writes reviews for a guitar mag).
The trouble is that when we review a multi-fx unit like the new [I was going to name a specific brand here, but I've chickened out because I want to keep my job] pedal, we have to consider in mind of a) what it’s designed to do, and b) the type of person that might buy it. And budget multi-fx pedals are meant to be a cheap way for new players to get a bunch of fun sounds, find out what the different effects do, and sound good playing on your own in your bedroom. And most budget multi-fx do that reasonably well, so they get positive reviews.
But that doesn’t change the fact that they actually sound horrendous, and will break almost immediately if you subject them to any kind of real gigging. And that swamping your sound in tons of gain and effects at once is great way to guarantee that the drummer will drown you out.
The reason that some guitarists have a rubbish tone is the same reason they sound crap improvising over a 12 bar blues: they’re not listening. They’re not listening to the chord changes when they land on an Eb just as the chord changes to D, and they’re not listening to the sound when they set up their amp. They’re just going, “Well, I like a lot of bass, so I’ll turn the bass control up high, and I don’t like too much mid, so I’ll turn that down.” I often see guitarists do that before they play a note through the amp. Which is crazy, because all amps sound different, and every time you move an amp, the acoustic space changes and it will sound different. I had a Laney AOR50 for a while, and the only place to set the treble control on that thing was zero. Whereas that setting on a MESA/Boogie would sound like it was under a duvet.
And another thing: Don’t set the gain based on how it feels. It’s easy to do that. A certain amount of gain makes the guitar feel different when you’re playing. But guess what? You’re audience can’t feel the guitar, and they don’t care. So go with how it sounds, which is almost always less gain, even for metal. If that makes your licks harder to play, learn to play them better.
Here’s another option for playing over a major 12 bar blues: the major pentatonic.
Trouble is, you can’t play A major pentatonic all the way through a 12 bar like you can A minor pentatonic. It sounds crap over the D7 chord and it doesn’t do a particularly great job over the E7 either. To get round this, we’re going to use a different major pentatonic for each chord. You’ll play A major pentatonic over A7, D major pentatonic over D7, and… yeah, you got it.
Again, I’ve tried to stick in one area of the neck. It’s difficult to make your licks flow if you’re having to jump five frets between chord changes. So I’ve used E major pentatonic shape 3 (that’s the C shape, CAGED system fans), D major pentatonic shape 4 (A shape in the CAGED system), and A major pentatonic shape 1 (E shape). All of these hover around the 5th fret position where you should feel at home.
If you’re not used to using these it can be difficult to improvise because you won’t have any lick vocabulary. For one thing, listen to guys like Freddie King or Robben Ford who do this well. For another, take the time to write some licks using these scales that work. Your musicality will improve loads as a result.
Don’t forget to download the free tab, and contact me with any questions.
Download free tab: Blues Turnarounds