Archive for the 'Learn to Play' Category

Getting Started With Jazz Guitar

Guest post by Chad Johnson – guitarist, author, & Hal Leonard digital content specialist

For many guitarists who start out as rock, country, or blues players, learning jazz can be a bit intimidating. At first glance, there seems to be very little in common between jazz and popular music. The scales have weird names like “Lydian Dominant,” there are lots of key changes, and what’s up with all those crazy chord names with “#9” and “13” and all that? However, it’s not nearly as daunting as it may seem. For these players interested in learning jazz, there are a few hurdles to get over, but it’s very doable with a structured approach. And the musical reward is well worth it!

The journey to jazz fluency relies on a few key elements. We’ll take a look at each here and provide suggestions for helpful relevant instructional materials.


Sightreading and Music Theory

Although it’s not required to read music as a jazz musician, it will certainly help in many ways and expedite the process. For one, it’s fairly common practice on a jazz gig to play from a chart and “sightread” music you’ve never seen before.

It’s also incredibly helpful when communicating with other jazz musicians, as is some musical theory knowledge. Guitarist’s Guide to Music Reading is an excellent resource for the guitarist who wants to learn to read, and Music Theory for Guitarists provides an effective, guitar-based approach to learning music theory.

Guitarist’s Guide to Music Reading
by Chris Buono
Music Theory for Guitarists
By Tom Kolb

Chord Vocabulary and Rhythm Guitar

It’s true that jazz makes use of many chords not found in your typical rock or pop song, so you’ll need to get familiar with a new set of chord shapes.

A nice systematic approach is provided in the Berklee Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary and Jazz Guitar Chords, both of which present a wealth of usable chord voicings along with many exercises to help put them to use in a musical context.

Berklee Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
by Rick Peckham
Jazz Guitar Chords by Chad Johnson

Scales and Improvisation

Although the minor pentatonic and blues scale do see a good deal of action in jazz, you’ll still need to know a few more scales to be able to comfortably improvise over a typical jazz standard.

To help in this regard, check out the Hal Leonard Guitar Method – Jazz Guitar and Introduction to Jazz Guitar Soloing.

Both books will arm you with the melodic tools necessary to play over common jazz changes with confidence.

Hal Leonard Guitar Method
Jazz Guitar by Jeff Schroedl
Introduction to Jazz Guitar Soloing
by Joe Elliott

Repertoire

Finally, we have repertoire. In jazz, this generally means learning as many “standards” as you can.

On a jazz gig, it’s common for musicians to show up without a setlist at all, instead calling on well-known songs (standards) in the moment. Today, we have access to many different versions of “real books,” which contain many well-known jazz standards in lead sheet format (melody and chords only).

You should certainly start with The Real Book – Volume 1 (Sixth Edition), though, as it will get consistent use throughout your music career. Another great guitar-specific resource is First 50 Jazz Standards You Should Play on Guitar, which contains arrangements for 50 must-know jazz tunes in “chord melody” format, in which you’re playing both the melody and the chords of a song at the same time. This is an indispensable skill to have when playing in a guitar/bass/drums trio, for example.

The Real Book – Volume I
(Sixth Edition)
First 50 Jazz Standards You Should
Play on Guitar

Conclusion

While each of these topics is important to jazz guitar, you’ll likely want to start with reading music if you don’t already. Being able to read well will undoubtedly make mastery of the other three topics much easier. Be sure to also learn the melodies to any standard you look at, as opposed to just the chord changes. Not only does this prepare you for when you may actually have to play “the head” (jazz slang for a song’s melody) on a gig, but it’s a great way to add to your melodic library of phrases.

Regarding chords, the books suggested above will help you get the essential voicings under your fingers, but developing a strong chord vocabulary is an ongoing pursuit. You can never know too many chords! And finally, in order to play jazz well, remember that you need to listen to jazz! It’s nearly impossible to convincingly play in a style with which you’re not intimately familiar. Besides, the simple act of listening to a jazz song (or solo) can sometimes help crystalize a musical concept more easily than 10 pages of explanatory text!

Learning jazz guitar is fun and enlightening, so enjoy the journey! A whole new musical world awaits!


Chad Johnson has authored over 95 books for Hal Leonard Corporation covering a variety of instruments and topics, including Guitarist’s Guide to Scales Over ChordsHow to Fingerpick Songs on GuitarHow to Record at Home on a BudgetAll About UkuleleBassist’s Guide to Scales Over Chords, and Ukulele Aerobics, to name but a few. He’s a featured instructor on the DVD 200 Country Guitar Licks and has toured and performed throughout the East Coast in various bands, sharing the stage with members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, and others. He currently resides in Franklin, WI and works at Hal Leonard Corporation as a digital content specialist.

Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!

Guest post by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, editors of Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Our 5 anthologies contain the 100 pieces that pianists should learn to play. In the 5 companion Study Guides for each piece. Problems are IDENTIFIED and problems are SOLVED.                                                             

Continue reading ‘Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!’

Rockschool: A Complete Beginners Guide

RSL Awards Academic Director Tim Bennett-Hart takes us through everything Rockschool

Rockschool is part of RSL Awards, an international awarding body based in London, UK. For the last 30 years we have been producing material to help people learn musical instruments and assess their progress.

What’s more it really works! Artists such as Ed Sheeran, Jess Glyn, and Wolf Alice have all taken RSL Awards qualifications and gone on to have incredible careers.

It’s not just for super stars. RSL Awards assess over 80,000 people each year across 50 countries – this is a world-wide community of creative people.






What’s in a Book

A typical book like Electric Guitar Level 3 contains – 6 full transcriptions of hit songs, 6 original songs, backing tracks and example audio to download, scales and technical exercises for the level.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Ike & Tina Turner – Proud Mary
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69
Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay


Continue reading ‘Rockschool: A Complete Beginners Guide’

How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos

Guest post by Leo Nguyen, founder of Six String Tips

Playing guitar solos is one of the highest aspirations a guitar player can have. We’ve all heard amazing guitar solos that are so inspiring that they make us want to do whatever it takes to be able to play them, right?

You may be in a situation where you don’t know where to start or how to have a better understanding of how guitar solos work. Keep reading and you will find really cool concepts that will make a difference in how you approach them!

1. What are guitar solos anyway?

To begin with, we can say that guitar solos are instrumental parts, and as such they provide a great opportunity for the guitar to abandon the accompaniment role and be more of a leader.

Guitar solos fulfill a really important role in the song. (No… not to show off, man!) In any song with vocals, the song gets to certain points where a vocal break is needed, noot only from the singer/vocalist’s perspective (to rest), but also for the sake of song construction.

Imagine if you hear a song with no instrumental gaps: it would be terrible! But guitar solos can give those breaks, and keep the song interesting at the same time. That’s why we need to make sure they are well crafted.

There are a great number of different possibilities in solos, but something we know for sure is that guitar solos always need to be aligned with the style of the song.

What kinds of solos are there?

Melodies – Some solos are basically melodies: a melody already used in the song, or a new one, is presented in a highly expressive and embellished way.

Improvisation – There are cases where guitar solo sections are basically left to the interpretation of the player at a specific time. (This mostly happens in live situations.) 

Continue reading ‘How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos’

A Little Jazz Piano: Exploring the Building Blocks of Music with Bob Chilcott

Bob Chilcott
(Photo: John Bellars)

You know him as one of the world’s preeminent choral composers and conductors, as well as a former member of the King’s Singers, but like so many of us, even Bob Chilcott was forced to put down his baton this year and find other ways to make music.

Chilcott focused his musical attention on teaching piano and theory to his eleven-year-old daughter, Becky, and her friend, and ended up also writing a set of three short jazz-style pieces for the piano to help show his students and other early intermediate learners explore the technical building blocks of music and develop their musical instincts in a way that would also be fun.

The results, A Little Jazz Piano, is a short piano suite featuring Chilcott’s celebrated jazz style in three movements: “Bobbing along,” “Becky’s Song” and “Walking with Ollie.”

Watch Chilcott play excerpts of the suite here:  

First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

Continue reading ‘First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up’

Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English

“There is no truth in theory – only in music!”

Frank Sikora

That’s Frank Sikora‘s creed.

Frank Sikora is also in charge of the theory department and the Master’s program in Jazz Composition & Arrangement at the University of the Arts Bern and is the author of a best-selling and widely acclaimed jazz theory book, Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre, that is now available in English: Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach.

While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. In Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.

Continue reading ‘Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English’

How to Play the Electric Guitar: Songs, Techniques, Effects, and other Beginner Fundamentals

Guest post by JBostian

Music making is more accessible than it has ever been. In fact, there has been a significant rise in searches for music creation software and instrument sales in the last couple of months.

Anyone from beginners to virtuosos can now make a record of their own from the comfort of their homes. Now, what if you don’t know how to play an instrument? As we’ve already tackled in our article on learning how to play guitar, you can learn how to play all on your own through diligent practice.

If you’ve already read that article and are looking to add a little more oomph to your guitar playing, then you may want to consider the electric guitar. To help you out, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to play this instrument. Read on if you want to learn more about the basics, effects pedals, and easy songs you can start playing!

Continue reading ‘How to Play the Electric Guitar: Songs, Techniques, Effects, and other Beginner Fundamentals’

Top 10 Facts About Drums

Written by Austin Hennen Vigil

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments and is considered the most important component of the rhythm section of a band; essentially, it is the backbone. Dozens of different types of drums in many shapes and sizes exist today.

Drums are the world’s oldest musical instrument, and while the technology in drums has improved over centuries, the basic design of the drum has virtually remained the same for thousands of years. Here are ten facts about the drums you may not be aware of:  Continue reading ‘Top 10 Facts About Drums’

Top 10 Facts About the Guitar

By Austin Hennen Vigil

The guitar is the world’s second most popular musical instrument, after the piano, and has evolved tremendously over centuries.
The word “guitar” was adopted into English from the Spanish word “guitarra” in the 1600s. Guitars are used in many different genres of music such as: rock, metal, punk, pop, folk, country, traditional, regional, and the blues. Here are some facts about the guitar that you may not know:
Continue reading ‘Top 10 Facts About the Guitar’


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