5 Quick Reasons Why You Should Learn Scales
Here’s a guest post from playguitarscalesnow.com on why learning scales is an important part of learning guitar. Chords and scales are very closely related so consider splitting your time learning chords and scales for the best results.
1. You’ll know which groups of notes sound good together
When people first sit down and try and write a guitar solo they can get lost because of all the notes on the fretboard. Some of the notes on the fretboard work better together than others and learning scales will help you know which notes work well together and which don’t.
Not only that, some scales have a certain tone or feel to them. For example, a minor scale might have a sad or sombre tone to it. If you know what each scale sounds like you can choose the one you want to set the mood you are after.
2. You’ll know what notes to play over a piece of music
Chords are made from scales. So some scales will work with some chords and some won’t. If you know your guitar scales you’ll know which one to play over a certain chord progression.
This will help you make sure you are using the correct notes and will help you write better solos. This can also save you time and embarrassment if you are playing with other musicians and they ask you to solo over a chord progression. You’ll instantly know what notes to play that’ll work.
For more info on this check out my article “How to know what scale to play over a chord progression”.
3. Helps you learn the position of the notes
You can just learn the scale shapes and move it around the fretboard. But to really understand scales and to get the most out of them you need to know the notes in them. Learning the notes in any scale can be difficult but once you know these notes and can play it on your guitar it will help you learn the position of the notes on the fretboard.
Also if you know the position of your notes on your fretboard it will help you learn the notes in the scale. This can really help you when soloing because you can target certain notes to made you licks and phrases stand out.
4. Help improve your technique
Learning your scales can be a great opportunity to improve your technique at the same time. While you are playing up and down the scale shapes you can be focusing on other parts of your playing to improve them. For example making sure you use the correct fingering will help you with your co-ordination and dexterity and improve strength in your weaker fingers. Or practicing to a metronome will help you improve your rhythm and make you a much tighter guitarist in the long run.
5. Help you write better solos
The main reason people learn guitar scales is to write better guitar solos and they will definitely help you with that. In fact all of the other four reasons will greatly help you improvise and writer better guitar solos. If you are serious about doing this I recommend you start spending some of your practicing time learning guitar solos.
How to practice guitar effectively
You become a great player from the practice you put in. There is no other way. The more time and effort you put in to practicing, the faster you will learn. The way you practice also has a big impact on how fast you develop. This article will tell you why so many guitarists are wasting countless hours with ineffective ‘practice’. By the end of this article you will know how to avoid the most common mistakes people make and how to have the most effective practice session possible. When you apply all this information, you will learn faster and become a better guitarist.
Bad Habits to Avoid When Practicing Guitar
Before you learn what makes an effective practice session, it’s important to understand what to avoid. So many guitarists waste hours and hours every week because they practice guitar the wrong way. Here’s the most common bad habits to avoid when practicing.
1. Spending too much time practicing without a break
This is the most common bad habit guitarists face. Some players think that if they sit down and practice straight for 2+ hours, they will learn faster. The sad truth is that a 2+ hour practice session will do more harm than good and a player practicing for 30 minutes can achieve more.
The reason long practice sessions don’t achieve anything is because your brain can only learn things in small block sized pieces. If you spend five minutes working on a technique, you will remember the whole five minute session and learn from it. On the other hand if you spend two hours working on the same technique, you will probably remember the first five minutes of practice and the last ten minutes. Everything in between becomes a blur because it was such a long practice session. The result is almost two hours wasted.
Key Point: Limit the amount of time you spend practicing one session. Practicing guitar for more than an hour in one sitting will simply waste your time.
2. Spending too much time on one thing
Just like the point above, if you spend too much time on one thing (eg: technique, exercise) your brain will switch off and you wont learn anything. Spending five minutes on one exercise will achieve about 80% of the gains that you would achieve by spending 60 minutes practicing. In other words, you gain 80% of the benefits from the first five minutes, then you need to practice for another 55 minutes to gain an extra 20%. Hardly seems worth it does it?
Key Point: Spending too much time on one technique or exercise won’t help you out. Limit how much time you spend practicing any one topic.
3. ‘Just playing’
A lot of players feel that ‘just playing’ will help them learn fast enough and that spending time practicing is pointless. While it’s important to spend time ‘just playing’, you don’t develop as a player as much from those sessions compared to focused practice. A guitarist who has a focused practice session for 30 minutes a day will learn faster and develop better skills than a player who ‘just plays’ for 30 minutes a day. Even if the ‘just play’ guitarist starts out better, in a years time the guitarist who practices will be far more advanced.
Key Point: ‘Just playing’ is not practicing. While it’s important to have time to just play, you gain far more from focused practice sessions.
Practice Smarter – Not Harder
The aim of these points is to help you learn faster with less work. By focusing your practice sessions you can achieve more in less time. The goal is to practice smarter and achieve more.
1. Have a goal
Before you decide to practice, figure out what you want to develop. Do you want to be able to play faster? Play bends properly? Improve your chord changes? Your first step is to find out what area of guitar you want to improve. This may sound obvious but how often do you actually consider this before you practice? If you decide on a goal before starting to practice, you will focus on the goal more.
Key Point: Set yourself a goal before you start practicing. Having a goal will help you focus which helps you learn faster
2. Start out easy and slow
If you want to learn a solo that’s played fast or is technically challenging, you need to start out slow. Starting out slow will help you control your playing and develop good habits. Once you gain control over the piece, then you can start building up the tempo gradually. The result is you will have more control at a higher tempo. Don’t try to achieve everything straight away, you’re better off starting out slow and easy and building up the tempo and complexity.
Want to play something at 200bpm? Start out at 50bpm and build it up 5bpm at a time. By the time you get to 200bpm you would have played it so many times it will feel easy. Compare that to straight away attempting 200bpm. You will struggle to keep up and it will sound sloppy. Building up the tempo in a controlled way wins every time.
Key Point: Start out slow and easy and build the tempo gradually. It will give you control over your playing.
3. Record yourself
While you’re playing, you’re focusing on technique. This means you can’t really listen to your playing 100%. Listening back to a recording of your playing allows you to listen 100%. You will notice things you didn’t while playing such as mistakes. Record yourself and play it back and you might be surprised how different you sound compared to what you think you sound like. The reason it’s so important to do this is because it lets you know how you’re going. If you save your recordings you will be able to keep track of your improvement over time. You will also be able to discover any faults in your playing you never notice while actually playing.
After you finish a practice session, record yourself playing whatever you want (eg: improvise or play a section from a song) then listen back to the recording. Be honest with yourself and analyze your playing. What do you like about it? What needs more work? Write it down and that can be your goal for the next practice session.
Key Point: Record yourself regularly to keep track on your progress
4. Vary your practice session
It’s important that you don’t repeat the same things over and over every practice session. Not only will it quickly become boring, but you won’t develop as a well rounded player. If today you spent a lot of time practicing chord changes, tomorrow practice something else such as scales. Then you can come back to chord changes the following day. By varying what you practice, you constantly push in different areas and learn faster. Practice sessions will be more interesting because you will always be doing something new.
Key Point: Keep changing your focus and work on different things. You will become a more well rounded player as a result.
5. Keep practice sessions short and repeat regularly
This is the biggest key to success. As mentioned earlier, spending too much time doesn’t automatically mean you learn more. You’re actually better off to have very short practice sessions and repeat them regularly. Spend 20 minutes practicing then have a 5 minute break. Then come back and do another 20 minute session. You will actually be better off practicing this way compared to a 60 minute practice session. Split your practice time up in to short blocks. You will remember more, be able to focus more and will achieve more.
Key Point: A short practice session repeated regularly will always be more effective than a long once off practice session.
6. Practice every day
Make it a goal to practice every day. Even if you can only practice for 5 minutes some days, you will still be better off. Do everything you can to make sure you don’t miss a single day. By practicing every day you will get better every day. Practicing once or twice a week is a slow way to learn because you will have 5-6 days every week where you don’t improve. In fact, every day you don’t practice you’re actually going backwards. You will slowly forget things when you don’t regularly practice.
Key Point: Practice every day without fail even if it’s only for five minutes. Any day you don’t practice you’re actually going backwards.
What to Practice
Now that you understand what you need to do to practice guitar effectively, have a read on what to practice. The two articles below will give you ideas on what to do in your practice sessions:
Ideas for your practice sessions – Gives you plenty of ideas and tools to use in your practice sessions
Five core tips to get the most out of your practice session – Focuses on five areas that will have a big impact on your development
The best way to memorize chords on guitar
In this lesson we will look at a few strategies to use for the best way to memorize chords on guitar. Keep in mind that everybody learns in slightly different ways so if you feel like modifying this method then do so. This method builds on other tips and lessons we have on memorizing chords and it’s worth checking them out as well. One of the most frustrating aspects of learning guitar is memorizing chords so this method should get you off to a flying start.
What it takes to memorize guitar chords
Tests have found that it takes at least 20 repetitions of any task for the brain to start the memorization process. This means if you only repeat something 5-10 times it won’t be enough to improve your skills or recall the information later on. Knowing that it takes at least 20 repetitions to start memorizing chords will help us ensure we’re practicing effectively.
Repetition is the key to memorization. If you practice something only once, there’s very little chance you will actually improve your skills and memory. On the other hand, if you repeat the exercise 20-50 times and do the same thing for a few days in a row you will clearly see improvements and increases in skill.
Key Tip #1: When practicing anything, repeat it at least 20 times before moving on
Our five senses are very tightly linked to our memory – think back of the last holiday you had at the beach – can you feel the warm sunlight, smell the salty air and hear the crashing waves? You are more likely to remember in detail an experience if you use more of your senses. Again we can use this when memorizing guitar chords. Instead of simply playing the chords without much thought we need to really ‘experience’ them. Listen carefully to each sound, feel the strings and frets under your fingers, look at the patterns your fingers make on the guitar. If you really pay attention to every detail you will improve your memorization of the chords. Alternatively, if you simply play the chords without much thought involved, there won’t be enough ‘links’ from your senses to help memorization.
Key Tip #2: The more senses you focus on when practicing, the more your brain will remember it
A final tip we can consider when thinking about memory is something called mnemonics. Mnemonics are simply tricks we can use to assist memorization. A detailed lesson on mnemonics for memorizing chords has already been written so check that out for more information.
Key Tip #3: Use mnemonic devices whenever possible to assist memorization
The best method to memorize chords on guitar
Now that you understand what it takes to memorize chords, let’s look at a simple step-by-step method to memorize them in the fastest and easiest way possible.
Step 1: Choose four chords to memorize
If you have our flash cards pack, simply pick out four random cards. Choosing chords at random will stop you from choosing what already feels familiar to you and will help you memorize chords you normally wouldn’t try. It also means you can repeat the method over and over and constantly learn new chords.
Step 2: Study the chords
Quite often beginners will skip this step – it’s a big reason why many beginners have so much trouble actually memorizing the chords! So don’t skip it!
The reason why we study each chord is to create ‘links’ to help your brain memorize them. Below is the flash card for D Major. Have a look at all the information on the card for a moment before reading on.
As you can see there’s quite a lot of information on this one chord. Here’s a quick list of points you should think about when looking at this card:
- The chord uses only four strings – D, G, B, E
- The notes used are D, F#, A
- The chord is a Major chord
- Only the first three fingers are used
- The finger pattern creates a triangle shape on the fretboard
- The Guitar TAB layout for the chord (shown on the left of the card) creates a pattern 0 2 3 2
- The lowest note is the low D string
Can you see how all this information help you memorize the chord? The more you understand the chord before you actually try to play it the easier you will find it to memorize. It’s not enough to simply know where to place your fingers, you need to really understand what is happening for your brain to memorize it faster.
After you spend a minute or two studying each chord you can move on to the next step
Step 3: Visualize playing the chords
Some people may read that and think ‘just play the chord!’, but remember that every time you add in these steps and involve more than one sense you will improve memorization. Visualizing the shapes you form on the fretboard and imagining playing them will actually help you play them! It may feel weird at first to imagine playing the chords, but it really does have an impact on how well you memorize chords.
Simply close your eyes and imagine playing the first chord. Then imagine changing your hand from the first chord to the second and so on until you repeat the four chords twice.
Step 4: Play the progression 20+ times
Now you can pick up the guitar and slowly move from one chord to the next. Notice how you don’t touch the guitar until step 4? That’s why this method is so effective – it makes use of all the available tricks to memorize chords instead of just trying to play them.
At this point it’s important you take your time and really focus on each chord. Remember to think about all your senses while playing as it will assist memorization. Play each chord four times before moving on to the next chord. Repeat the progression at least 20 times.
Step 5: Take a break
It’s important you give your brain time for the chords to sink in. Practicing them too much at the start won’t help you out. Simply taking a break for a couple minutes or having a quick walk is enough to refresh your mind. Don’t be fooled into thinking that an hour of constant practice will help you memorize chords. You’re better off with short and intense practice bursts rather than long and boring practice. If you really concentrate during the first four steps you should feel like you need a break at this point.
Simply take a couple minutes break from the chords to let them sink in.
Step 6: Repeat
Write down the chord progression you just practiced so you can come back to it later on. Plan on practicing the steps for that progression every day for the next week. At this point you can now start again at step 1 and pick out four new chords. Repeat the process with the new chords. Do this a few times until you feel like you can’t concentrate 100% on the task. Once you feel your concentrating fading it’s time to stop and move on to something else. Don’t overdo it as it will actually take you longer to memorize chords.
Why this method works to memorize chords
This method is effective in helping you memorize chords because it requires you to really think about the chords and not just play them. Too many beginners think that if they just play the chords that’s enough to memorize them. When you spend time thinking about the chords and studying them, you will actually find that you can recall the information easier and play them quicker.
Try out this method the next time you want to learn some new chords and you’ll find out just how effective it can be. If you haven’t already got our guitar flash cards pack, consider getting one as it contains 50 basic chords chosen specifically for beginners. It’s a great starting point when used with this method. Follow the advice and steps above and you will memorize chords in less time as well as learning more about each chord.
Guitar FAQ: How long should you spend learning a chord?
Q: How long should you spend learning a chord on guitar?
A: The short answer is, ‘as long as it takes to memorize it and be able to play it effortlessly’ but that answer doesn’t really help you out so let’s look into this a bit deeper.
The reason why we learn chords is so we can use them in songs and jamming in general. Being able to see the chord name Em or G and instantly know where to place your fingers is an essential skill for every guitarist. On top of being able to place your fingers in the right place, it also helps to understand a bit about the chord. Understanding the type of chord you are playing will help you write your own songs or figure out how to improvise over the top of the chord. Do you understand the difference between Major and minor? What about suspended chords?
To be able to do the things above, there are a few different things you need to learn about each chord. Let’s look at what’s involved in learning chords and what’s actually worth learning. The picture below is from one of the flash cards available in our 50 Essential Chords Pack.
When looking at the information on the card, there’s a few points worth learning:
- The chord shape and finger positions
- The notes used in the chord
- The chord formula
- The Guitar TAB layout
Let’s look at each point and why each one is important to learn.
1. The chord shape and finger positions
Obviously all the other information about the chord is useless if you can’t actually play the chord. Learning the shape of the chord and the fingers used will help you memorize the chord faster and actually play it. There are a few tricks you can use to memorize the chords faster. Check out this lesson to learn how you can use a couple simple mnemonic devices to memorize the chord shapes.
2. The notes used in the chord
This is something too many guitarists neglect to learn. Quite often beginners will memorize the chord shape then move on to new chords. Spending a little time to memorize the notes used in the chord will have a big impact on your playing later on. There’s a couple reasons why this information is important but let’s look at the main reason:
If you understand what notes are used in any chord, you will have a much easier time improvising over the top of chords. If you know the chord D Major (shown above) uses the notes D, F# & A then you know straight away that you can use those notes when improvising and they will sound great when D Major is played in the backing chords. Without knowing anything else about theory this information on it’s own is enough to improve your improvisation abilities.
3. The chord formula
If you plan on one day writing your own music then this information is extremely important. The chord formula explains the intervals used in each type of chord. This means you can use the formula to come up with chords you don’t yet know. For example: if you wanted to use the chord C# minor in your song, what notes do you need to play to come up with the chord? If you know the formula for a minor chord the answer comes easy. With this information you can figure out any chord you need – without it, you would need to memorize all the chords and the notes used for each chord. Once you spend the time understanding the theory you will appreciate how valuable it is. This lesson will help explain chord formulas.
4. The Guitar TAB layout
This may not be as important as the other points listed, but it does help you when you need to learn songs from TAB. On the left of the card shown above, you can see the chord in Guitar TAB format. Whenever you see this number pattern in TAB you will know that it’s the D Major chord. Spending a little bit of time memorizing the pattern each chord makes in TAB format will help you read TAB faster. This type of skill will come naturally over time, so it isn’t as important as the other aspects of the chord – but it does help you out now.
How long it takes to memorize a chord
When you consider the four points above, it really shouldn’t take too long to memorize any one chord. The notes used the chord, the chord formula and the Guitar TAB layout can be memorized very quickly. Spend a couple minutes now studying the D Major card above to get an idea how easy it is to memorize this information.
The hardest part in learning guitar chords is actually learning to play them. This takes a while because it will take quite a few attempts before your brain starts to learn the position of the fingers on the fretboard. It takes at least 20 repeats of any task for your brain to start to remember it so you will need to repeat the chord over and over before it starts to sink in.
Fortunately this is easier than it sounds. Simply spending 5-10 minutes each day playing the chords is enough to memorize them. Some people have written to us about our 50 Essential Chords Pack to let us know that they managed to memorize all 50 chords in under a month. They followed out ’30 Day Guide’ included with the pack which details a 10 minute daily practice plan. Following this plan most people will be able to memorize an average of 1 chord a day. As long as you practice regularly you will memorize the chords. On the other hand if you only practice every couple of days or only a couple of times a week it will take you a lot longer to start to remember the chords.
Our guide to learning 50 chords in 30 days
So in short – if you follow the right practice plan, you can realistically memorize an average of 1 chord per day. Try out our 30 Day Plan included with every 50 Essential Chords guitar flash cards pack to learn 50 easy chords chosen for beginners. 10 minutes a day is all it takes.
Lick 008 Spanish Guitar
This lick really isn’t a ‘lick’ – it’s more of a template you can use to create your own licks. Look closely at the lick and you will see that it’s simply a three note repeating pattern with the bass note moving up a scale. The idea behind this lick is to improvise with the bass notes to create your own interesting licks. The whole idea is to get a Spanish sound in your playing.
The scale used – Phrygian Dominant
The bass notes move up a scale but you will probably notice there is quite a jump from the first fret F to the fourth fret G#. We don’t see this type of jump in our standard Major scale. This type of scale is actually the Phrygian Dominant mode. Don’t let the name scare you off – just think of it as any other scale. The only difference is the intervals used. This lick uses E Phrygian Dominant to help you achieve a Spanish sound. Many Flamenco guitarists use the Phrygian Dominant mode to achieve this sound as well as the Phrygian mode.
Improvising using this lick
Start off by practing the lick as shown. Get used to playing the three note pattern. You need to play this with your fingers in this order – thumb, index, middle. Alternatively you could play it – thumb, middle, ring. The choice is yours. Play it over and over again with a metronome and build up the tempo until you can play it easily at a high pace. Once you can play it as shown, practice moving backwards down the scale. Then practice going up and down the scale. Once you memorize the notes used and can easily move up and down then you can start improvising.
The unique thing about this mode is the jump you can see from F to G#. If you focus your improvisation around these two notes you will bring out the exotic flavour of the mode. So you could start your improvisation by playing E, then F, G#, F G#, A etc. Play around with moving back and forth between the notes, repeating the same notes and jumping past notes.
Here’s a few ideas you can use to improvise using this lick:
- Slide between the notes
- Add vibrato to the bass notes
- Change the tempo as you play (speed up or slow down)
- Use hammer-ons or trills on the bass notes
- Continue the scale past the notes shown (try to figure out the notes all over the fretboard)
- Add in some chords that fit the scale (eg: E Major)
If you can spend a lot of time simply improvising with this basic lick, you will find your ability to come up with new creative ideas will improve. The point of this simple exercise is to help you learn to create your own interesting licks. After you master this lick, try using a different scale or mode.
August 2012 Quiz
This quiz will test your understanding of chord progressions and keys. If you have trouble answering the questions, try using the following resources:
- Understanding chord formulas and the Major Scale
- Working out chords in a key
- 50 Essential Chords Pack – each chord has the notes labelled
Once you learn how to figure out the answers to questions like these, you will be able to write songs and jam with other musicians a lot quicker and easier.
Explanations for each question will be provided at the end with your results.
Take the Quiz below
How to learn guitar chords at home
Learning guitar chords is one of the first things you will learn when starting guitar. If you plan on teaching yourself how to play, there are a few different ways you can learn guitar chords at home. In this article we will look at how you can teach yourself guitar chords at home using a few simple methods. If you have a teacher and are looking at other ways to learn chords, then these methods will help you out too.
Following a method vs just playing chords
Quite often when beginners ask me for help on how to teach themselves to play, they often mention that they just play the chords until it works. This is a problem many self taught guitarists face – they don’t realize there’s better ways to learn. If you’re currently teaching yourself how to play guitar or thinking about teaching yourself, keep in mind that unless you follow a method it’s going to be a long and hard process. ‘Just playing chords until it works’ is a long and frustrating way to learn chords. Learning guitar using this trial and error approach takes a lot longer than following methods that have been proven to work.
When you follow a method you have the piece of mind knowing that it’s worked for other people before you. Instead of guessing what to do you can simply follow the steps given. Following a method allows you to completely focus on what you’re doing instead of thinking the whole time ‘is this going to work?’ Next time you want to learn a new technique on guitar, try to find a method or practice plan that other people have used before. You will save a lot of time doing this and you will learn faster and easier as a result.
What you need to learn guitar chords at home
As explained above you need a method to follow to learn guitar chords on your own. You’re going to learn a lot faster with a method instead of just trying to play songs. The next thing you will need is a wide range of guitar chords to learn. Rather than figure out on your own which guitar chords you should learn, having a set of easy guitar chords picked out for beginners will save you a lot of headaches. Our flash cards pack, 50 Essential Chords, was developed to contain 50 easy guitar chords that any beginner can learn. Using this resource will help you learn guitar chords faster because you will have 50 chords already chosen for you.
The last thing you will need to learn guitar chords is patience. Don’t underestimate how important this one is. If you expect to learn all 50 chords in a couple of days then you’re just going to get frustrated. Learning guitar is always hardest at the very beginning because everything feels impossible. The first time you try to play chords it will seem like your fingers can’t stretch that far and the chords just don’t sound right when you play them. But if you have patience, you will know that in time it will get easier and eventually you will be able to play them. Having patience is the key to becoming a pro at guitar.
How to learn 50 chords in 10 minutes a day
We have put together a method to help beginners learn guitar chords at home in 10 minutes a day. If you set aside 10 minutes every day for some solid practice, you will learn guitar chords faster than you might think. Our method breaks the practice down into simple steps that focus on each chord to help you learn in the most efficient way. Read through the method here and download the pdf. The pdf contains a breakdown of what to practice and you can print it out and stick it up on your wall to help you remember what to practice. We have had great feedback from beginners who used this method and managed to eventually memorize all 50 chords.
A quick checklist
So what do you really need to learn guitar chords at home? Here’s a quick checklist on the essentials.
- A learning resource such as our guitar flash cards pack
- A method to follow such as our ‘Learn 50 chords in 10 minutes a day‘ method
- Time to sit down every day for short and focused practice sessions
Notice how short the list is and how simple it sounds. The reason so many beginners get stuck is because they don’t consider what actually works. When you take a trial and error approach and just play the chords it’s going to take a lot longer than focusing on one simple method.
What to do after you learn the chords
Once you do learn some chords on your own, it’s time to start applying them. Here’s a quick list of things you can try after you learn some basic chords:
- Create your own rhythm and strumming patterns
- Play chords with a capo
- Learn seven different ways to play chord progressions
- Write a very basic song
There are many more different ways you can use chords but if you give these a go you’ll start to enjoy using chords and your playing will start to improve at a faster pace. Don’t underestimate the value in these simple steps – there isn’t any secret shortcut – simply follow the steps in the method and you’ll learn the chords in no time at all.
Lick 007 James Bond Theme
This is the seventh lick in our ‘Licks and Riffs’ series and when we realized the lick would be number ‘007’ we couldn’t resist – it had to be the James Bond theme. If you have only seen the most recent two James Bond movies you may not recognize this riff but if you’ve seen any of the older movies you’ll recognize it instantly. This is a fun and very easy riff that any beginner can learn.
Tip: Use alternate picking on the sixteenth notes to get the rhythm right
Understanding alternate endings
If you don’t recognize the long lines above the staff they are ‘alternate endings’. Alternate endings are a simple way to repeat sections of music but changing some of the measures. In this case when you play the riff you start out by playing measures 1 & 2. You then repeat measure 1 (because of the repeat sign), repeat measure 2, repeat measure 1 again then skip ahead and play measure 3.
To understand why you play in this order have a look at the numbers above the staff. The first alternate ending bracket shows the numbers ‘1.2.’ which means that measure 2 is played on the first and second repeats. In other words, you play measures one and two (the first instance), then repeat measures one and two (the second instance). From there you repeat measure one. But this time you don’t play measure two again because it doesn’t ask for a third repeat. That’s why the second alternate ending bracket is written ‘3.’ – to play on the third repeat. After continuing on and finishing measure five the entire piece is repeated.
Getting the tone right
This riff sounds best when played on an electric guitar as that is what was used in the James Bond movies. After you learn the basics of the riff try to focus on how the riff sounds. Think about which pickup you should use. Maybe a bridge pickup would be a better choice than a neck pickup to get that sharp edgy sound. Experiment with where you pick the strings – closer to the bridge will give a more hollow sound and closer to the neck will give a bassy sound.
A technique you can use to make this riff sound more interesting is palm muting. Experiment by using different amounts of palm muting. Start by lightly muting the strings then gradually increase the palm muting until you almost can’t recognize the notes. Then you can decide what amount of palm muting sounds best.
Something else you can experiment with is distortion/overdrive. If you have an amp or pedal that lets you use distortion, try playing the lick with it. Experiment with different settings from low gain to high gain. Although the riff originally doesn’t use any distortion (ie: it is played clean), there’s no reason why you can’t add some in to change the feel of it.
Possibly the most important thing to keep in mind is to get the groove right – a James Bond riff should be played with suave, controlled groove! Try practicing with a metronome to make sure you’re playing this in time.
Lick 006 Country Style Double Stops
Our previous lick (Lick 005 Hendrix Style Double Stops) looked at a unique way of playing double stops. This lick uses double stops again (double stop means to play two notes at once) but to get a country feel. There are a few pull-offs between double stops so its important you think about which fingers you use to play the notes.
How to get a country feel
The key to getting this lick to sound authentic is to control your tone. If you’re playing an acoustic guitar you don’t have any choice with pickups but you can still choose how to play the notes. Using your fingers (or hybrid picking) will give this lick a more interesting sound compared to playing with a pick. When playing the double stops, try to pluck the strings hard enough that they slap back against the fretboard. This snapping sound adds to the character of the lick.
If you’re playing electric guitar, use a single coil pickup around the middle position (depending on your type of guitar). This will give your tone a very hollow sound and will sound great when you pluck the strings hard with your fingers.
What makes this lick sound country?
While playing the lick, have a think about each part and why it makes it sound country. Is it the double stops? Is it the hammer-ons? The chords at the end? Learning to critically analyze a piece of music this way will help you understand what gives it certain characteristics. Many players don’t think about music this way and have trouble coming up with their own music as a result. If you can figure out what makes this lick sound country then you can recreate it in your own licks.
We won’t give the answers away because that defeats the whole point of this lick! Learning how to figure out what makes this lick sound country will help you grow as a musician. So practice the lick over and over until it feels natural then figure out what makes it sound good. Once you can do this you can start trying to come up with similar licks.
Tip: Click the TAB above to see a larger version
Even if you don’t plan on learning how to play country style guitar, it’s still worth learning this lick as it will help you understand how to copy a certain style. It will also help you learn different ways to play double stops. By adjusting the way you play this lick you can transform it from dull sounding to an authentic country lick. Merely playing the notes as written isn’t enough – you need to put some feel into it!