Article on Choosing Your First Guitar

Here’s an article from Parlor Guitars which quotes advice from me and a few other guitarists about buying your first guitar.  If you’re looking for a guitar, check this one out:

Choosing Your First Guitar by Alexander Briones.

Thanks for the reference, Alexander.

Online Guitar Lessons or In-Person – What to Choose?

There’s a common decision among students: there’s so much information out there, should I get guitar lessons online, or find a regular teacher in person?

online guitar lessons versus off-line guitar lessons

In my research there were interesting sites on the topic of online versus traditional education, but there weren’t any studies specifically on music lessons, though there are informal forums discussing offline vs. online music lessons.  Colleges tend to offer courses online in subjects like business, history, computers, etc, but rarely music and the performance arts.  Some courses, such as P.E. just need more interactivity. 

As for general education, results from various studies such as JOLT, Cyberpop! and Thesocietypages went from showing slightly lower than average score online to others where students reported better results overall from the online experience.

When I first started playing I learned the basic chords and used resources from the library.  Years later, I took lessons and classes with various mentors and can honestly say I progressed faster with the help of instructors. 

I did well teaching myself, but would lose interest or get stuck in the same routines.  Teachers broke me out of the box, and helped instill great technique and practice habits.

Some think instructors are threatened by all this automation. I say, the more knowledge you can obtain, the better!  Extra resources are great, and I have no problem using these to further your goals.  However, it’s also my experience that searching online gives you a ton of random information and it’s hard to tell where to start, and filtering through the junk takes time.

As for my own teaching, I like traditional.  With Skype you have to worry about camera angles, trying to explain hand positions, or painfully trying to describe where a piano key is.  The convenience factor is great, but what I’ve experienced I prefer live teaching.

From what students and parents have told me many have tried online lessons to save money, but when it came down to it, they needed a live, in-person instructor to really get anywhere.  So what can I say, you get what you pay for. 

When I learn a skill I like a combination of books, media, and classes.  The books help me learn at my own pace, but I like having an instructor with weekly assignments to keep me on track.  The fact that I’m paying actual dollars and making a consistent time commitment shows that I’m serious and I want to get my money’s worth.

If you really want to go the non-instructor route, I’d recommend at least investing in a good book (I really like Guitar: A Complete Guide for the Player) and learning all you can from it with step-by-step methods, rather than perusing random youtube videos and websites.

Also try the local library.  There’s high-quality material along with charts, dvds, etc. and you won’t have to put up with tacky banner ads, cluttered up websites or giving your credit card number to an unfamiliar site.

Learn your basic guitar chords and how to play songs.  In fact if you’ve learned as much as you can on your own, you’ll be that much more ready when you do take lessons. 

And most people don’t take lessons forever, but I encourage students to keep learning on their own.

So that’s my take on the subject.  Whichever path you choose, don’t settle for half-hearted learning and think excellence in all you do.

Taking it Slow

You remember the pentatonic scale?  You know blues, B.B.King, and all that good stuff.  Rock, metal and even country players use it as well.

Just a word on jamming.  When some start playing pentatonic scales they like to jam it out as fast as they can.  Yeah, that’s fun, I agree.  But if you listen to a lot of shredding, it can sometimes get old when it’s the same thing over and over.  You’re going to solo better if you take some time and practice playing slowly.

So here’s the challenge: play around on the scale and try to make up slow melodies.  How do you do this?  Play, experiment, no rules for a few minutes to get used to it.  If you still have no idea what to do, try listening to some B.B. King solos.  Play your pentatonic.  Sound similar?  Do your best to imitate these guys for guidance, then start playing your own solos.

A minor pentatonic scaleNow play it slow.  Make each note sing!  (Rock the finger back and forth for a vibrato sound.)  Another thing you want to do is create spaces or rests.  Play a riff, and be quiet for a couple seconds.  Let the accompanying band jam.  Then play again.

Now that you can tone it down, try playing a fast riff.  Then a slow riff.  Keep switchin it up, and you’ll have plenty of variety for a great solo!

Sus Chords

E SuspendedToday, I’m gonna give you some fun chord science.  We’re going to talk about suspended chords.  Yeah, baby! (in Austin Powers voice)

So I’m assuming you know your basic major chords, right?  If not, please review, then come back soon!

Read the rest of this entry »

Open Chords in C

Open Chord C5 up the neck on 8th fret.  87X088And so the search for the elusive escape from barre chords continues…

So if you know the open chords in G, here’s another take on that concept.  Just take your open G shape (the one with ring and pinky), raise it up to the 8th fret and wala, C!  Read the rest of this entry »

The Pull-off and Hammer-on – a guest post by

Here’s a guest post from  If you want to start playing pull-offs and hammer-ons, check this out:


The Pull-Off


Playing lead guitar like your heroes can be hard if you don’t master key techniques like the pull-off. A pull-off (and a hammer-on) is a way of changing between two notes smoothly. This guitar lesson for beginners introduces you to the technique and shows you how it can be put into practice. Even if you’re just learning, the pull-off can bring a run of notes to life.

Read the rest of this entry »

9 Basic Steps for the Walkdown in G

Walkdown in G: First two chords, G5 and Dsus/F#Okay, today we’re going to learn the walkdown in G. Ready to work out that pinky and ring again? 


1. So start with G5.  Pretty easy right?

2. Now hold the same shape and move the lowest string down a fret for Dsus/F#.  Yes, big name chord, but don’t let that intimidate you!  Don’t worry about the long name or the theory for now, just listen with your ear.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Blues Scale (or Pentatonic Scale)

A minor pentatonic scalePentawhat scale?  Huh?  Josh, you’re not gonna be one of those poofy-hair teachers who goes off on diminish 9th scales are you?

Relax.  Pentatonics is a big word, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.  The awesome players like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and B.B. King used it all the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Easy Eb Major

Okay, so you’re playing some song with fairly normal guitar chords on the lead, and then all a sudden you see a terrible foe…  The dread Eb chord…  This is where the guitar player stands kind of dumbfounded.

Should I use a capo?  Or perhaps barre it like this:

Eb Major Chord Barred

To go from your regular acoustic chords to a barred Eb?  Kind of awkward.  Solution?  Let’s go back to our friendly C form with a pinky.  Play it on the forth fret and wala, Eb!

Eb Major Chord Open

Yes, you get to play that open G.  Even though it’s the same as G on the D-string below, it sounds fine.  Enjoy your new easy chord!

Three Beautiful Easy Chords-The C-Form

C MajorOkay, this will be an easy lesson for you guys, whether you’ve played a while, or are just starting.  Remember the C chord we all know and love?

Well, now we’re going to find some other cool sounds with that shape.  Read the rest of this entry »

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