Guitar Chords: How to Progress from Beginner to Advanced Chord Shapes

One of the most common barriers that beginners face when they first pick up the guitar is the overwhelming number of chords to learn. Many will attempt to learn as many as possible without trying to master or memorize their shapes. Some may even jump into barre chords, which are notoriously difficult for beginners, before developing sufficient finger strength and dexterity. These are all recipes for disappointment and I’ve seen it happen time and time again. The truth is, when learning how to play acoustic rhythm guitar, you want to start with songs that only have three or four open … Read more

The Guitar Effects Pedals Behind John Mayer’s Wide Ranging Sound Palette

Every guitar player has a unique preference in tone, genre, brand of guitar, and even guitar picks. Other than being guitar players, you’d be hard pressed to find many similarities in our setups. However, there is one thing that binds us all together, and that is our love for guitar pedals. Regardless if you’re a bedroom guitarist or a headliner for a major festival, you likely have a decent collection of pedals, and if you don’t, you’re probably working your way towards it. So it comes as no surprise that a guitar player like John Mayer would have a very … Read more

What are Keys: Learning About Chords

What are Chords and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? It starts off by being just a thing you do, and why wouldn’t you? For piano or guitar—for pretty much any instrument on which you can easily play lots of notes at the same time, really. Whether you see it in the music you’re learning or try it out of pure curiosity, at some point you’re going to do it…. You’re going to play a chord. Chords have been a staple device in the music of the Western world for, well, a long time. Prior to the Baroque … Read more

What are Keys: Learning about Scales

What are Scales and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? Have you ever had conversation with someone about their bygone days of learning a musical instrument? Often the story goes: “You’re taking music lessons?” Nice. Yeah, I took some piano lessons when I was younger. I really liked it, but I really wasn’t any good. Think I learned Fur Elise and some Mozart and, you know, did scales and stuff…” It seems we’ve all heard of–or practiced–scales at some point. In terms of learning our instruments, practicing scales serves as an accessible method for improving our technique and … Read more

What are Keys and Why Should We Know About Them?

In the Key of… “In the key of…” — we rarely get far into our musical endeavors before we find ourselves faced with this phrase. Minuets in the key of G, Sonatas in the key of A, Nocturnes in the key of E minor, Fugues in the key of F#, and so on. But what does being “in the key of ” something really mean? As beginners, we learn that it in some way refers to the number of sharps or flats (generally referred to as accidentals) we encounter at the beginning of a piece. We learn that this key … Read more

Jazz Standards on Guitar: All of Me

As we learn to play in the various styles and genres of music, it is crucial to become familiar with the repertoire of that genre—and jazz is no different. The term ‘Jazz Standard’ is thrown around a lot between improvising jazz musicians, and we all make it our goal to master as many as possible. The beautiful thing about jazz repertoire is that wherever you are in the world, regardless of language barriers or cultural differences, there are certain jazz standards that other people will know. Right now, the best thing we can do to start our journey into jazz … Read more

Ultimate Injury Prevention: How to Gain Body Awareness for Pianists

Piano playing requires extremely repetitive muscle movements. For example, if you play quarter notes consistently at 120BPM, after an hour, the repetition will require your muscles to contract and release 7,200 times…with eighth-notes 144,000 times… with sixteenth-notes 288,000 times! This many muscle movements add a lot of stress to your body and there is a high risk of injury if you do not pay attention to your physical needs. Musicians need to take care of their bodies, just like athletes do. Sadly, however, most of us do not listen to our body until we experience pain or discomfort. Take some … Read more

How to Practice Piano Effectively: A Comprehensive Practice Guide for the Busy Adult Pianist

You’ve said it before, “I am going to finally learn how to play the piano!” You were so excited and motivated. But after a full day of working, exhausted, you thought: “I’ll practice piano tomorrow…”  A day passed, a week passed, and a month passed… Before you know it, your books were collecting dusts and you couldn’t even remember where you are in the method book. This is very a common phenomenon for adult pianists. Learning piano as an adult can be challenging; with a full-time job, taking care of the family, household chores….your day is already jam-packed with a … Read more

10 Most Influential Jazz Pianists You Should Listen to

The number of truly wonderful pianists is astounding. There are countless innovative and unique artists that have taken composition and performance to new heights. It can be easy to get discouraged with your own playing in the face of such greatness, but I’d like to point out that there is one thing every great pianist has in common, regardless of time period or style – they all were inspired by and influenced by those who came before them! When I first started learning to play piano, I only played and listened to classical music. I wasn’t exposed to jazz until … Read more

Great Jazz Licks over the I-iv-ii-V and ii-V-I

After learning how arpeggios are used to improvise and exploring the foundations of improvisation, it’s important to learn from the great improvisers and how they applied the theory so that we can reproduce these techniques in a musical and more authentic way.  One of the best ways to start internalizing the jazz language is to transcribe these great musicians. By transcribing we develop not only our ear, but it also allows us to train our muscle memory to feel swing, accents, and particular passages that are very common in, and are a crucial part of jazz music from a range … Read more