How to Memorize Music: A Pianist’s Guide

Introduction Have you ever watched a great pianist perform a complicated piece from memory? Impressive, isn’t it? All those notes and details, perfectly remembered and then fantastically re-created in the moment. There’s something about a performance of memorized music that makes it feel somehow more authentic, more intimate and honest. To be sure, this is a subjective perception, as many of the greatest performers used sheet music when playing, but the appeal of a memorized performance certainly exists. The practice of memorizing music is different from the more standard modes of practice to learn music off the page. In some … Read more

6 Excellent Practicing Strategies Commonly Missed by Pianists

Introduction Why do we practice music? Your answer may be something to the effect of, “well, we practice so that we can play the music,” which is pretty much correct, but can be stated a little more succinctly: whether you’re planning to play in front of a blowout crowd at Carnegie Hall, a modest gathering of friends and family at a holiday gathering, or simply for yourself in the privacy of your own home, the goal is the same, we practice to perform.  Ok, but what exactly is practicing? Or, more importantly, how do we practice? What are we supposed … Read more

10 Tips for Guitar Players with Small Hands

Large hands with long fingers are common physical traits found amongst some of the best guitar players. Just do a quick Google search and look at the hands of Paul Gilbert, Buckethead, John Mayer, Guthri Govan, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Wes Montgomery. Having bigger hands definitely gives you an advantage when it comes to playing complex chord voicings, reaching for large interval jumps, and playing fast licks.  However, many guitar legends like Angus Young and Prince didn’t have massive digits, and just look at how they’ve transformed how we play the guitar forever. You can also … Read more

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz – Learning to Arrange for Solo Guitar

So far we have learned how each note of the C major scale feels and sounds when it is played over each chord in the progression. As you become more comfortable with these notes, you will be able to learn arrangements much more efficiently, as all the shapes will feel somewhat familiar.  In “I’m Yours,” an incredibly popular song from Jason Mraz’s 2008 album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, the chord structure is our simple I V ii IV. The original is a half step lower, in the key of B major. It’s always best to start any … Read more

Can You Feel the Love Tonight Solo Guitar Arrangement

The Elton John classic, “Can you feel the love tonight,” is most famous for its feature in Disney’s The Lion King and is a massive part of many people’s childhood, so it would be amazing to be able to pull out this song on the guitar. The song’s chorus is based around our I-V-vi-IV progression but with some variations and inversions that we learned about in “No Woman No Cry.” Elton John’s compositional skills are highly regarded in the world of pop music; his use of inversions, motives, and non-diatonic chords makes for some very interesting songwriting. One notable thing … Read more

No Woman No Cry Solo Guitar Arrangement

“No woman no cry,” one of Bob Marley’s most famous songs, was released in 1975 as a Live single. It is proof that simplicity can be effective, as its repetitive, diatonic nature proves very catchy. Harmonically straight-forward, the song is a loop of diatonic chords, allowing the beautiful melody and carefully-crafted lyrics to be the focus. The idea of this arrangement is to harness the use of our fingers on the picking hand and to avoid any dents in your nail, which might catch onto the string. Simple chords allow us to easily arrange the song for solo guitar. Our … Read more

With or Without You Solo Guitar Arrangement

In the first two lessons, we have covered the basis of C major in the first position. All the songs we will learn in the course will stay in this position. To practice what we have learned, With or without you is a great song to start with, as it uses only four chords and has a simple melody using the C major scale. Before we practice any of the songs, make sure to warm up by playing the exercise in the last lesson, in which we play the scale over each chord. With or Without You uses the progression … Read more

Practising Music Away from Your Instrument

It should go without saying that as music students, a sizeable amount of the time we spend thinking about and, well, practising music will be done at or with our instruments. After all, we’re practicing to be able to play, and it seems counterintuitive to practice playing without the “playing” part of the equation. To that end, we’ll spend many hours of many days of many years generating sound with our instruments, ever intent on shaping it to our desired musical vision. This is as it should be; no musician has ever achieved mastery with their instrument by not playing … Read more

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