DSP Guitar Tuition Blog

Carbon Fiber Guitars

Jam Track Guitar Solo Competition Winner

What makes a great guitarist?

Is Hair Metal Back?

Focused Guitar Practise

Alternative fret board clean product

String bending and why its important to do it correctly

Dunlop CryBaby Documentary

Guitar Set-ups article

Article on tuition and practise habits

Dogs in Caves Gig Overview

Carbon Fiber Guitars


During last weeks lessons a student pointed my to a brand of guitars called 'RainSong' guitars which I thought were going to be some boutique brand of acoustic guitars that I had just never came across. I was correct about the boutique nature and the acoustic part, however these guitars have no wood at all in there construction. Purely made of carbon fiber theses guitars should give you something different to add to your collection. 

Iv never had the chance to play a guitar that is made of carbon fiber so I will reserve judgment until I do. Looking at some videos online they do sound very similar to wooden build guitars. There is a slight tonal difference of course but if you heard it on a record you wouldn't immediately thing thats not an acoustic guitar. 

check them out: http://www.rainsong.com
 

Jam Track Guitar Solo Competition Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KENNY SERANE

Above is the winner with his excellent composition. Kenny has a perfect blend of everything that I personally look for in a guitar player. Kenny has the tone, skills and interesting phrasing that keep the piece interesting throughout. CHECK IT OUT..... 
There were some excellent entries into the Jam Track Central Guitar Solo Competition, in which I myself entered for fun and to see where my own playing stacks up again some of the best players in the world. I was blown away with the amount of entries and the quality of players that there are from all corners of the globe. I was pleased to find that the chosen winner was simply not the fastest or most craziest player that entered, but rather the best all round player who has all the ticks in the right boxes.
I just wanted to share his music with everyone as I feel that it is excellent.  
 

What makes a great guitarist?


I was asked this question a few weeks ago and at the time I can honestly say I was slightly stumped by it. There are so many factors that contribute to making a guitarist great as opposed to just an average player. Of course its a personal opinion on who we consider to be great but I guess for this question we can simply look at the universally considered guitar greats and apply the 5 main areas I feel all apply to the greats. 

1.) Tone - For me a guitar great can instantly be recognised on a track by their unique individual tone of their guitar. I personally like a guitar tone that sings in the track almost at a vocal level, nothing too harsh or full of crazy effects. For me the tone master is Eric Johnson, he has a wide pallet of varied tones that he will blend together throughout his music.

2.) Technique- A guitar great simply has to have great technique, doesn't necessarily have to be the worlds most technical or speediest of players. Technique is about having the instrument under control at all times and being able to make those simple notes shine through, getting a perfect blend of tone and technique. Of some of the greats are faster players but again they have the control over the speed and will blend it with those perfectly played slower sections.

3.) Personal phrasing- All of the great players can be recognised by the way that they play their lines and phrase certain solo ideas. An example for me has the way that some players like to jump around the guitar from high to low sections, where as someone like Slash will for the most part play an ascending climb to build up to the higher notes on the guitar. I can always tell who the guitarist is in tracks where there maybe multiple players taking solo breaks by the way that they play certain lines and ideas, mix that in with their individual tones and you start to build up the package of what makes a great guitarist. 

4.) Song writing- Most of the great players are not just great at ripping out solos and lead breaks but also at writing great songs that stand strong for years. Songs that may inspire people to play guitar or in fact start writing and forming bands of their own. Using Slash as my example kids today are still loving the old GnR tracks that came out in the 80s, proving that the song writing is strong and the songs will stand for many years to come.  

5.) Identity- All of the great player have a personal identity that always shines through in the way that they play and sound on the guitar. It maybe something as simple as a top hat for Slash or Steve Vai's large fan that he uses at the front of the stage to blow his hair around, or perhaps its a full outfit such as Angus Young's school boy outfit that he has so famous for. This own personal identity has help them be instantly recognised as an individual player amongst their fellow band mates.
I believe if you put all 5 of these aspects together that you start to build up a good base for what can make a great guitar player. Not all players have these and are still great guitarist but from my own favourite players I find they all have these aspects in common.    
 

Is Hair Metal Back?


Here is a great small article on the band Steel Panther and Vh1 thoughts on the state of hair metal in the current music ranks. 

http://www.vh1.com/news/14777/glam-metal-revival/?xrs=TMS_11am

For all that know me well they know that I am a big fan of this genre. Generally I find that the musicians in this genre are all skilled at the chosen craft. This makes for some great song writing, of course there are quite a few hair bands that should not make the ranks of the bigger bands mentioned in the article above. I am still discovering new bands of this genre all the time, in fact just the other week I came across the band 'Tyketto' after listening to planet rock. This band is typical of that era and host a great selection of albums and cracking tunes. For me modern music has become inherently miserable and dull with taking musical simplicity to it absolute maximum. There are many great bands still out there but they are not getting the recognition that they deserve as they perhaps have more than a one line chorus and dare I say it a guitar solo. 

The hair bands of the 1980s represents a time when it was ok to make happy music that could actually sell and that had a level of complexity to it. For me hair metal has never died, with what Steel Panther has achieved it is great to see this genre being brought back to the ranks of modern music. I cant see Steel Panther stopping any time soon as they are going from strength to strength with each year. I personally enjoy their music, I know its a bit tongue in cheek but that is what is so great about it. Its fun to listen to and it represents all the best parts of that genre, massive chorus lines that stick in your head for years and crazy guitar solos. Music is a form of entertainment and should be enjoyable so why not inject some comedy into the music and live shows while your at it.    
 

Focused Guitar Practise

Get More from your practise time

No matter how long you have to practise the guitar in a week make sure you make the most of the time that you get. Set a goal either for that practise session, that week or for that month if its especially challenging. Popular guitar tuition books will have you break your session up into timed chunks that have specific areas to work on, however I personally find that I get too involved in working on one area and will over run on the time limit every time. So I will focus on one area for that session or that week and work on improving area. However this could cover multiple practises, for example this week I have been working on every position in the major scale ascending and descending in groups of four notes. I have focused my practise time to working on one position at a time to make sure that each one is given equal amounts of time.

Certain areas of guitar playing take longer to master than others and will require various levels of work. If you are just working on one chord voicing then you could mix that up with other aspects of practising to make sure your sessions are fun and varied. There is no one way to practise as it is individual and personal, some people like to focus on just one thing at a time and others like multiple areas of which to mix up when practising. Keep practising and experimenting with your practise time and you will find what works for you in time.

Alternative fret board clean product

For many years I have been doing setups on my own guitars as well as students guitars. And part of that setup process has always been cleaning the neck of the guitar. I have always used the products recommend by music shops and other guitar players which has always been trusty lemon oil, however in recent months I have discovered that this may not be the best product to use. 

In some cases lemon oil has been known to dissolve the glue used to hold your frets and inlays in place causing all kinds of issues. Also consistent use of lemon oil on your guitars fret board can dry out the wood rather than add moisture. I personally have never had any of these issues over the years of use, however I only use lemon oil maybe once a year as my guitar necks are not dry. People say the best way to oil your guitar neck is to play it as your own natural oils will keep the neck moist. I guess this depends how much that guitar is played and the conditions that it is kept.

Alternate products: I have been recommended using boil oil and my neck as well as linseed oil, since I don't condition my necks much I haven't as yet had chance to try these products and I wont use students guitars as test subjects which to test other products on. Two new products have now been recommended to me which I am going to try the main one being:

 

Dr. Ducks Ax Wax

 

 

 

 

 

 

This product can be used on any part of the guitar neck, body and even strings. It contains nothing bad that can harm your instrument in anyway. I have recently purchased a bottle of Dr Ducks for two reasons, one because the bottle looks killer and two because it comes very highly recommended from a trusted source.  I will use this product and report back on my findings.

String bending and why its important to do it correctly

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/guitar_techniques/why_your_bends_are_out_of_tune_and_how_to_fix_it.html

Above is a link to an article that talks about the finer details of bending a guitar string in tune. Every players approach to bending strings is slightly different and it takes a large amount of time to be able to do it properly every time.

For me I can always tell a good guitar player from a bad one with the quality of their string bends. This skill in younger players is often overlooked with their focus being on playing fast or chugging along to their favourite nu metal band. A lot of what I see in younger players is they can play fast heavy riffs better than I could when I was their age but then when it comes to the nice melody line they sound like they are strangling a cat.

The skill of having a nice vocal sounding singing bend is something often that is left and overlooked until a later date.  All the old great players knew how to make a bend sing just as well as the rest of the notes, bending is a technique very special to the guitar and should be practised and perfected as much as any other skill on the instrument.

Beginner players often suffer with either over bending or under bending or a combination of the two. This will result in out of tune bends and generally make whatever they play sound terrible. Every player has to go through this process of practising the tuning of their bend. Its a battle of two sides, one is your ears and listening for the correct pitch. The other is how the bends feel under your fingers, developing muscle memory for the correct pitch of bends all over the guitar neck. Once you put the two together you will be screaming bends in tune every time.

Dunlop CryBaby Documentary

DUNLOP CRYBABY Document 'the pedal that changed everything'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0A8cPj_fPo

The crybaby or WahWah pedal is one of the most recognised sounds in the guitar world, used on countless recordings over the years and is still in use by many today. Above is a link to a documentary that has some of the most recognised guitarist and producers talking about how the pedal came to be and its multiple applications across music. Like most a WahWah pedal was the first effect pedals that I purchased way back at the early stages of my playing. 

I decided a WahWah was the pedal for me after watching Zakk Wylde use one in a live dvd that I had. I was fixated on the swooping tones that he would get as he built up the intensity in his solos. Every guitarist uses the WahWah in many different ways some find a sweet spot and play around in that area some simply move the pedal up and down as they solo away. Most famous guitarist have their own signature version of the pedal all based around the original CryBaby design which will stand the test of time. 

Guitar Set-ups article

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/how_to_set_up_electric_guitar.html

Above is a link to a short article that breaks down the basics of each section of setting up an electric guitar.

Setting up your own guitar can be quite a scary and confusing subject, many guitarist don't ever learn to set up their own instruments. I have spend many years tinkering with my own guitars finding out what works and what doesn't, adding to my knowledge and skills as the years went on. I am by no means a skilled luthier I leave that work to the pros. I made many stupid mistakes over the years and ill be the first to admit to not having a clue what I was doing. However if all the fundamentals on your guitar are ok then there is no reason why you cannot set up your own instrument. If you make a mistake it is generally reversible with a turn of a screw driver. My advice is always make small adjustments and check your work, never take large turns with any adjustment on an instrument unless you fully know what you are doing. And finally if in doubt or it has all gone wrong then ask for help.

The Benefit?
Playing a guitar that is set-up properly not only feels better to play but it will help speed up your learning and playing if that is your desire. Trying to learn on a badly set-up guitar will make it harder to play meaning you may struggle to play even simple guitar song a lot more. Many of my students will play my teaching guitar and say "wow that's so easy to play" and they generally play what they are learning better.  

Article on tuition and practise habits

http://www.guitarworld.com/guitar-strength-seven-habits-will-make-you-better-guitarist?page=0%2C1

Above is a link to a fantastic article which covers many of the classic questions surrounding taking guitar lessons and general practise habits. It covers in detail the main philosophy I generally tend to teach and agree with, which is little and often for practising rather than spending 3 hours noodling the same thing you always do "this gets you no where fast and you normally see very little improvement". It also covers the advantages of taking lessons and how to correctly structure your practise time even if its only 10 minutes a day. In my opinion taking lessons is the best thing any guitarist can do for their own playing. Although I do not take private lesson myself any more I still crave new knowledge and skills on the guitar. 

Dogs in Caves Gig Overview

Dogs in Caves

So I was playing with my band 'Corruption Policy' the other night at The Maze, which was looking to be a fairly standard issue gig and line up for other bands. I hadn't heard of any of the other bands on the bill which is fairly common for a mid week gig at the maze, then this acoustic duo pop on stage and I could tell from their set up that something good was about to happen. 

Again I had no pre conceived ideas as to what this duo was about to play, however when they started I was blown away. Their music was clearly thought out and well composed which it has to be when it comes to instrumental music. The worst kind of instrumental music is where the music just sounds like one big jam with no over riding structure or movement. Dogs in Caves music has many rhythmic and tonal variations throughout the cleverly titled tracks. There was a perfect blend of open tunings as well eastern sounding influences in the melodies. 

The stage performance also was great, when playing this kind of music I wouldn't expect them to be jumping around the stage. The lads were clearly enjoying them selves on stage which came through in the overall performance of the set. Great duo that I expect to grow as they progress with this project.  

Check these guys out here https://www.facebook.com/dogsincaves?fref=nf