Here's a very simple version of Jason Isbell's "Cover Me Up" for solo guitar, to demonstrate how a strong melody, when played well, really doesn't need much else around it.Read More
An excerpt from another one of my new tunes; also playing a fixer-upper guitar project that's nearly complete.Read More
Here's another one of my new tunes, written for the Negative Spaces album.Read More
This piece is the title track/theme for my next album.Read More
Here's another new tune of mine, written for my next album to be released next year.Read More
While in Utah last year, I had plenty of downtime on a small back porch of a cabin where I could look up through the trees at some mountains. Quite a change of scenery from Brooklyn. While there, I wrote this piece, "A Song About A Tree."Read More
I've been practicing with my Line 6 DL4 as a looper quite a bit lately. Yesterday I spun Jackson Browne's For Everyman on vinyl a couple times while I worked, and his song "These Days" has a way of just sticking in my head.Read More
I recently wrote a new article for MusicianWages.com regarding practice routines. Over the last several years I've noticed that my guitar students show more progress if we spend more time each lesson learning how to practice, rather than reviewing the material from the week before and trying to correct mistakes. We could spend a lifetime perfecting one piece, or we could focus on practicing in a way that makes perfecting many pieces more easily attainable. You can read the entire article here:
Here are some of the highlights:
What To Practice
A good practice routine should accomplish three things:
- Maintenance (of current skills and repertoire)
- Improvement (of technique)
- Expansion (of your repertoire)
Schedule your practice time ahead of time. One hour of practice might look like this:
- 20 Minutes – Warmup / Scales / Arpeggios
- 10 Minutes – Getting to know the fretboard; learning every place to play a note, chord, etc.
- 30 Minutes – Work on repertoire
If you have two hours to practice, I might recommend the second hour look like this:
- 15 Minutes – Free Improvisation or Composing
- 15 Minutes – Working on roadblocks, such as difficult chord changes
- 30 Minutes – Work on repertoire
Repetition. Rest. Repeat.
Just as repetition and rest builds muscular strength, the act of repeating a skill over and over creates stronger connections between neurons in our brain. However, those connections won’t be immediately apparent. Rest plays an important role in allowing our brain to process what it has just learned.
The absolute best way to improve yourself as a musician is to transcribe, transcribe, transcribe. What better way to master our craft than to emulate the masters?
Transcribing utilizes everything we would ever need to practice:
- Aural skills – Your ears!
- Musicality – Learn not only the notes, but the tone, inflection, and nuances of each note.
- Technique – Master those difficult passages.
- Scales, arpeggios, chords, rhythm – The building blocks of all music, directly applied in the piece of music you’re learning.
- Composition, improvisation – These skills are two sides of the same coin. Learning somebody else’s composed melody or improvised solo requires the same skill and reaps the same benefits.
- Notation – Memorize your transcription first, but then write it down. Not just for posterity, the act of writing down transcriptions will help you see the music, which will help you improve your reading.
- Expand your repertoire – You’ve just learned a new piece of music or lick.
All of us, regardless of our skill level, could benefit from private lessons every now and then. If you’ve tried to structure your practice time and still can’t decide what to work on, perhaps it’s a sign you need to take lessons. Many musicians, myself included, teach via Skype. No matter where you live, all you need is a good internet connection to take lessons.
And of course, I am available for guitar and mandolin lessons in Brooklyn or via Skype. Happy practicing!
For the past several weeks, my website had been down. It was a simple fix that took a while to diagnose, and breaking just before the holidays sure didn't help. But now we're back up and running! Apologies for the down time, I will soon get back to posting Lick Of The Week lessons and more. Thanks for your patience, and Happy New Year!
JD Simo is a fantastic guitarist in Nashville, TN. Look him up on YouTube and you'll be blown away by his command of country guitar playing. This week we're looking at one of his licks I learned from another friend. No doubt I'll be stealing more of his licks down the road.Read More
Thanksgiving is over, so naturally that means Christmas season has begun. The album that gets the most rotation around here is Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." On the opening track of the album, he plays a lick that is repeated in variations throughout the entire album, and it's stuck in my head as THE Vince Guaraldi Christmas Lick. At least, that's what I call it.Read More
I picked up this week's lick from my friend Tyler Martin, a guitarist in Albuquerque, NM. It's uses the Mixolydian scale with an additional b3 for a bluesy element.Read More
A few months ago I posted my first online lesson written for Premier Guitar, called Fretboard Workshop: Using Triads to Create a Solo. I recently wrote follow up to that lesson, expanding a rather simple concept to incorporate non-chord tones into your solos. You'll find the lesson here: Fretboard Workshop: Non-Chord Tone Soloing. I also created a longer version of the backing track associated with both lessons. Here it is, for your practicing enjoyment.
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This is a handy arpeggio when you need to get from a low note way up the neck to a high note. I originally learned it, along with the exercise demonstrated here, while listening to Kurt Rosenwinkel warm up before giving a masterclass at UNT, over ten years ago!Read More
This week's lick is fast, but the slurs and hybrid picking make it easier than it sounds. I play it slowly in the video twice. The first time, pay attention to my left hand to see how I slide up into 4th position. The second time through watch my picking hand to see how I hybrid pick the second half of the lick.Read More
Today's Lick of the Week was inspired by listening to Charlie Byrd on Jazz Samba. Comping for himself, he played lines around simple chord voicings. This lick is not directly lifted from the album, but it employs a similar style of playing chords under your solo line.Read More
A brief explanation of chord tones and how to play into the next chord change, to help you get out of the habit of just using one scale for an entire solo or trying to just hear your way through the changes.Read More
This week's lick is a simple country lick designed for speed. Pull-offs, open strings, and hammer-ons allow your pick to move effortlessly across the strings.Read More
Today we're looking at another Wes Montgomery lick from his solo on "Freddie Freeloader" off Portrait of Wes. What I love about this lick is how he gets into the Eb7 with Dmaj7 arpeggio.Read More
This week we'll look at two Wes Montgomery licks from his solo on "Freddie Freeloader" off Portrait of Wes. The first lick is over the first three bars of the blues form, over a Bb7 chord. The lick opens with a signature Wes Montgomery arpeggio pattern.Read More