Solo Guitar: Combining Scales with Chords

The biggest challenge of playing unaccompanied guitar is supporting your melodies with the much needed harmony, to do this well we need to carefully arrange our melody to ergonomically fit around the chords we are playing and vice versa. The best way to get used to this is by playing all the chords of the key and slowly incorporating the scale into the chords. Each chord will already contain at least 3 notes from the scale we are using, so it is only a matter of adding the notes above and below the ones we are fretting. We will base … Read more

Understanding C Major: First Position, Chords, and Scale

We hear music in keys. Each piece of Western music can be transposed into 12 different keys, so it makes sense to learn each key centre thoroughly. C major is the simplest as it contains no sharps or flats. In relation to the piano, this scale is played on white keys only, which makes the scale visually more approachable. C major on the guitar is not always the first scale we learn, some often learn G or D. But if we are to approach the guitar in a theoretical way, it really is best to start with C major. In … Read more

Great Solo Guitarists and Solo Guitar’s Use in the Musical World

Why Solo Guitar? To play the guitar–or any instrument–unaccompanied opens up a world of opportunities from gigs and concerts to simply being able to satisfy one’s own need to play without requiring a band. In the gigging world, to be able to play unaccompanied is very inviting to venues. It is highly effective to have solo guitar as background music in a cafe or at a classy bar and is always more practical in terms of cost for the venue. One major field that solo guitarists tend to excel in is weddings. The guitar makes for a great solo instrument … Read more

The Women of Classical Piano: A Brief History and Overview

As musicians, our preoccupations in study and performance trend towards the compositional side of notoriety. When we think of the ‘greatest’ musicians, the names we tend to utter first are the composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev… This is not unreasonable, as without these masters of compositional craft we would not have their music. However, in consistently leaning on these gargantuan names, we tend to overlook the vast and storied history of the practitioners who have so brilliantly brought the works of these master creators to life. To be sure, many of these composers were … Read more

A practice regimen that will get you sounding like John Mayer

John Mayer is arguably one of the most influential guitarists of our time and has shown this through his technical ability, songwriting skills, and paying homage to the great blues players of previous generations. Recreating his sound is something that millions of guitarists like us try endlessly to perfect. I am sure you can now see how having the right guitar and amp may not get you sounding exactly like John Mayer, it’s all about paying equal attention to technique, sound, stylistic approach, and then of course–plugging this all into the right amp! Now that we’ve covered John Mayer’s influences, … Read more

Discovering Keys: From Then to Now

It’s easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of studying music. Intervals, scales, chords, key signatures, chord progressions…once we dive into the deep pool of musical fundamentals, it can take some effort to recall that our ultimate objective is to create and play music. Indeed, it’s important to remember that the study of music as a formal, institutional affair will always be a biased sort of learning—we may treat our scales and chords and other wonderful musical basics as gospel, but they are derived from a fairly specific musical tradition, and not every practitioner of music will … Read more

Discovering Keys: Minor Keys

We’ve already covered a lot of ground in this article series on keys, however there is one important area that we’ve largely avoided in our studies thus far: minor keys. Please note: if you haven’t had a chance to check out our previous articles in this series, particularly our article on scales (What are Keys?: Learning Scales) and Parts I and II of our Discovering Keys articles, now would be a good time to check them out. Much of the information in this article will assume some familiarity with the material from those articles, so now is a good time … Read more

John Mayer’s Commonly Used Techniques

It may be tempting to think that all it takes to sound like John Mayer is to get the right guitar, amp, and pedal combination. If only it were that easy! While gear does play a significant role in a guitarist’s sound and playing style, what plays an even bigger role is technique. A cheap, broken guitar will still sound amazing in the hands of a master guitarist. There’s a saying amongst musicians, dancers, artists, and athletes — “Technique is everything!” Technique determines what you can play, how fast you can play it, and how consistently you can play it. … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 2

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys Part II In Part I of this article series, we illustrated how some of the most basic tools in our musical tool-box could be employed to achieve a functional, foundational understanding of the the concept of ‘keys’ in music. By reinforcing our knowledge of scales and chords and then distilling that knowledge for the purpose of understanding keys, we were able to able to reveal the infrastructure behind keys as a product of the common musical devices we know and use everyday. To further summarize: At the core of all keys … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 1

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys From the beginning of this series, we set out to achieve a succinct but comprehensive understanding of what keys are and how they can help us in our musical pursuits. We started by presenting a common musical scenario heavily dependent on keys for its construction and learning potential (in this case, a snippet from Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545). We then highlighted some of the most basic infrastructural components we find in music (chords and scales) for the sake of reinforcing the knowledge base we’ll need to … Read more