Tag Archives for " Guitar Theory "

The Foundation For Awesome Guitar Solos

Recently I released my Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos course (which guitar players seem to be really loving, by the way).

It focuses very deeply on using thirds in solos – both in double stops and single note lines. A lot of folks recognized that the course was a little over their heads, but at the same time, they really liked what they saw and heard, and wanted to be able to play like that because well, those thirds are just so dang tasty!

So, the question I’ve been hearing is this: what do I need to do FIRST, to get my playing up to the place where I can learn those tasty techniques?

Well my friend, a good guitar solo never comes completely out of the blue. There’s this myth floating around out there that says that good solos come straight from… the heart. That sounds great and all, but if it were *exclusively* true, you could give a guitar to anyone passionate enough and they’d be able to peel out a great solo on the spot without previous training.

We all know that won’t happen, so clearly – although the heart is involved – there are obviously other factors at work too!

The truth is that a great guitar solo is like a cool piece of architecture: it’s amazing to look at on first glance, but when you try to build it, you realize you need a foundation, you need to understand the ground it will be built on, you need certain materials, and you need a bunch of other elements that aren’t immediately apparent to the casual observer.

Today we’ll talk about two foundational elements that play a massive role in laying the groundwork for great solos.

Foundation #1 – Guitar Theory

One of the most foundational elements of all is learning some guitar theory.

I simply can’t overstate the impact this has had on my own playing.

Learning the relationships between notes, chords, keys, scales and all that good stuff gives you a way of problem solving things on the guitar.

If you don’t have any theory, you can’t define your problem, and you don’t have ways of solving it either, apart from trial and error. (Hint: that’s the really slow way to solve problems!) Theory is the language musicians use to communicate, it contains everything we need to be able to pass on musical ideas, and to develop them in creative directions.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about practical music theory here; not learning a bunch of high falutin’ terms you’ll never use but instead, learning extremely practical tools that have immediate impact on your playing.

If your guitar theory needs a tune up, you’ll love my Unlocking I IV V course – it’s a tremendously practical approach to guitar theory that has produced “light bulb” moments for thousands of guitar players.

I am so pleased with your 1-4-5 lesson. I have purchased lots of guitar/fretboard theory books but only had a vague idea as to how all the concepts were related.

Then I discovered your lesson! The light actually went on and I was able to pull everything together. Now it makes sense and I would like to thank you for doing such a fantastic job.

~ Peg Wagner Hayes, Virginia

Foundation #2 – Guitar Scales

The second foundation is also tremendously important, and it ties in with the first. I’m talking about guitar scale patterns – the key to your fretboard. Once you understand how scales work, you discover that the fretboard is in fact covered in scale patterns that all tie together very nicely.

Learn the most important patterns and you have the ability to find good sounding notes anywhere on the fretboard you choose.

There are two massive benefits of learning scale patterns:

a) You learn where all the good sounding notes are for that particular key. When it comes time to solo, trust me, it sure helps to know where the good notes are to be found! The scales help you avoid the landmines that can blow up your solo into an embarrassing mess.

b) Practicing patterns means your muscle memory improves. This is the key to speed and accuracy in your solos. As muscle memory begins to take over, the amount of actual thought required is reduced, meaning your brain bandwidth is opened up to start thinking more creatively.

A friend of mine who is a very good piano player (with lots of education to back it) watched me solo one day – he also plays guitar by the way. Afterward he asked – are you using scales or something when you play? He’s a pretty good guitar player as well, so his question surprised me. The fact was, with all that education and theory and everything else, he still had not connected the dots and applied scales to his fretboard.

If you’re unsure how scales work on your guitar, and you’d like to unlock your entire fretboard, you’re going to love my Guitar Scale Patterns course.

…Even after more than 30yrs I never had any “lights come on” in terms of my theory that I learned many times over the years.

I started with your scales course and have spent a good bit of time working on those… Your method and written material have been excellent for me!! Your pace and explanations are great and visuals are most helpful.

Last night I had a friend over and we started jamming and guess what??? THE LIGHTS WENT ON!! Your scale instruction came through like a CHAMP.

I have never been shy about improvising but in just a few weeks of studying your course, I was playing at a whole different level and wasn’t just faking it!!! The use of my fingers was so much more efficient and clearly the knowledge of the scales gave me so much more in terms of tools and knowledge to work with!!!

By the end of one 20 min jam the adrenaline was pumping through me and I have never played so well and felt so satisfied on the guitar in my life!! Your lessons clearly helped me accomplish this wonderful experience. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

~ Craig Villalon

What’s Next?

After you have these two foundation stones in place, there’s still plenty more to learn 🙂

Riffs are short musical phrases that relate directly to the scale – think of them like words, and think of your solo like telling a story. The more riffs you have at your fingertips, the better story you’ll be able to tell, right?

No one wants to finally get the spotlight, only to say “The brown dog ran.”

So learning and practicing riffs is tremendously helpful.

Beyond that, there are many directions you can go with your soloing: different styles and genres, perhaps you like blazing fast shred metal, or maybe you like country chicken pickin, blues, rock, or something else entirely.

One option that helps with just about all the above is learning how thirds work. I’ve dubbed the third as being the “tasty” interval. It’s crazy how many “tasty” riffs and solos are built upon this interval. But don’t take my word for it, check this out:

I have purchased several of your courses and I am just getting started on Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos. A light bulb went on and I pulled out the TAB on one of my favorite acoustic songs, Operator, by Jim Croce. I have studied the accompanied guitar part by Maury Muehleisen and could not figure out how he came up with such beautiful fills until now. He is playing thirds and like your intro part of the course, in the key of G.

I believe what you say about how “tasty” these can sound as I have always loved the guitar on that song and now I know why!

~ Craig C. in Oklahoma

If you’d like to add that “tasty” factor to your playing, you’ll love Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos!


Can THEORY be used to create MELODY?

Here’s a really interesting guitar lesson from Joe Satriani. If any guitar player has some street-cred for creating great musical melodies, I’d say Joe does. Sure, he can shred, but as I’ve listened to him over the years, technical ability has always seemed to take a back seat to the music itself.

In other words, he makes his playing serve the song, rather than the song serve his playing.

A subtle difference perhaps, but huge, when you think about it.

Anyhow, I enjoyed listening to Joe talk nuts-and-bolts strategy of HOW he goes about creating melody, and I think it is a valuable thing for all guitar players to think about. I’d love to hear your comments & thoughts on this below.

Check it out:

Watch on Youtube

The Great Talent Equalizer

guitarjumpTheory is one of those funny things that can really help out beginning players and advanced players alike.

I was talking to the Riff Ninja the other day, and he told me he’d got where he was not because of any natural “born with it” ability, but by hard work… and theory.

He said that understanding theory helped him catch up with other guys – prodigies, some of them – who seemed to have an inbred ability to just hear the music, and play it perfectly.

So in that sense, theory + hard work is the great equalizer.

The most amazing music is not only pleasant to the ear, it is also elegant from a theoretical standpoint.

I know – sounds goofy right? But you’ve probably heard the phrase “math is beautiful” before, and this is the same idea.

What “works” in the real world is always backed up by a good explanation of why.

That’s why understanding WHY can help you make cool music even if you can’t intuitively hear it before you even start.

I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ll never be a good player simply because they weren’t born with the necessary talent.

In most cases, that’s simply an excuse for not wanting to work hard.

In my guitar courses, I’ve mostly focused on theory to date, and for good reason.

The reason is that a bit of theory can help both the beginner and the more advanced players.

Learn guitar scale theory here.

Take this email I received from Ryan for instance:

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]quotes_greyJust want to let you know that I found the videos to be perfect for me.

I’ve been playing metal/hard rock for over 15 years and have been in several bands along the way. I consider myself advanced in technique, but always wanted to understand “the other side” as I call it.

Literally after watching video 1, the light bulb came on and stayed on.  The way you presented it was PERFECT.

I especially like your alternate way of teaching the different modes (using the term “root” instead of the mode name).

Again, great job. I’m no longer in the dark about this stuff and my playing has already advanced.

Ryan Sebastian
Delaware, USA[/box]

Thanks Ryan – that helps explain my point perfectly!

Regardless of the stage you’re at as a guitar player, learning some music theory will really help you advance further as a player.

Theory isn’t hard, doesn’t have to be complicated, and can provide incredibly satisfying “Ah Ha!” moments that you’ll love.

Check it out – guitar scale theory starts here.

Impress Your Friends With This Guitar Trick

campfireLast weekend I went for a quick little camping trip. There’s something about camping – even close to home – that does the heart good. At least, it does mine. And of course I jumped at the chance to take along my old Takamine and get in a little campfire jamming in the evening.

Certain kinds of guitar music always sound better with the crackling and popping of a fire nearby…

Anyhow, I was just jamming away, and one of the guys asked what I was playing. Thing is, I wasn’t playing any particular song, I was just noodling around in the key of G. And everything I played was due to a wee bit of theory that explains exactly which chords are available in each key. I used this little bit of chord theory to jam for nearly half an hour in exactly the same key…

Things were always changing and different, yet I stayed in the same key. I enjoy playing that way – I know others prefer rolling through a list of songs they know, and that’s cool too.

But for those who just love jamming (and for everyone else too – for that matter!) learning a little bit of guitar theory is crucial.

The difference between playing with a little bit of theory under your belt, and not, is like the difference between a modern car and a horse-drawn buggy.

Learn Guitar Theory – The Easy Way

The Weird Thing About Guitar Theory

crazy-guy-cutting-grassYesterday evening I had an epiphany while mowing my grass.  Yeah – this time of year it takes pretty much twice a week to keep things under control. Fortunately, I enjoy cutting my grass, when I have time for it that is.

Back to that epiphany.

If you want your yard to look good, you have to maintain it, right? That means cutting the grass twice a week in my case.

Well, guitar is like that too.

If you want to build up any kind of muscle memory, you’ve just GOT to be maintaining what you’ve accomplished. And guess what? Fingers need more than twice a week 🙂

Nothing new there though, everyone already knows you need to practice if you want to improve. The interesting thing though, is that learning guitar theory is not like that.

It breaks the rules.

That’s kind of ironic, considering it is mostly rules you’re learning. It’s like planting your lawn with some weird Japanese grass that only ever grows short so you never have to cut it. There’s work involved initially, but the upkeep is minimal.

Why’s that?

Because guitar theory empowers how you THINK about the guitar, not your actual fingers. So once you’ve taken the time to study and understand the theory, and learn how to apply it to your guitar, it’s yours.

It’s like learning the location of a new store in town. Once you’ve been there once or twice, you remember, and there’s no need to “practice” by going back each week. That would be silly, wouldn’t it?

Add some guitar theory to your skill set, and you’ll gain a lasting improvement to your playing…

Learn Guitar Theory The Quick & Easy Way

BB King’s Advice When Getting Lost In A Solo

BB KingI guess probably everyone has gotten lost in a solo at some point in their lives – the thing that separates the good players from the not-so-good is how they handle it.

I read an interview with BB King a while back, and one of the questions he was asked was “What do you do if you lose your place in the chords while you’re soloing?”

BB’s answer was that he plays whole notes.

He looks for a note that is within the chord (chords are made up of individual notes) and then he just holds that note until the progression moves back to a place he recognizes.

For instance, in a G chord, you’ve got three notes: G, B and D.

Play any one of those notes and it is going to sound great against the chord… it blends right into the chord.

With this trick, 9 times out of 10, no one is ever going to realize you didn’t know exactly what you were doing there.

That’s just one simple example of how guitar theory can really play a big role in your on-the-spot playing ability.

A lot of people think guitar theory is simply head knowledge, but in reality it can make the difference between a great solo and a total flop.

I’m not talking about learning how to read music here – I’m talking about the nuts and bolts theory that BB King was talking about – things like what notes go into what chords, why chords work together, how chords and scales and keys all relate to each other… that kind of thing.

To learn guitar theory the easy way, checkout the Unlocking I IV V course.

Don’t forget that whole note trick, it just might save your bacon one day!