TIPS AND TRICKS
- There are a number of tips and tricks you can learn from playing with other people, reading articles, and playing different musical styles. There are tricks with picking patterns, effects units, and song reading, and more. Some of the tips below can help you when play a certain style of music or improve your overall playing, while other tips show how to achieve a specific sound out of your guitar. -
Reading and Playing Syncopated Rhythms
The definition of syncopated: stressing a normally weak beat.
Count the rhythm until you can "feel" the phrase. Eventually you will be able to recognize and "feel" entire groups of syncopated notes. At first, you should pick down for notes falling on the beat, and up for those counted "and." This will definitely help you learn read these "off-beat" rhythms. When syncopation is no longer a problem you can vary your picking for the purpose of phrasing and accents.
Using the Wa-Wa Pedal
The wa-wa is a filter that amplifies one specific frequency at a time. Using the pedal, you can make it sweep up and down the range of frequencies, thus creating the wa-wa effect. It is basically a tone control in a pedal. The wa-wa is very useful for the rhythm guitarist. The accents that the pedal creates add a nice variety to your playing. With the pedal in the heel-down position you get the bass quality, and in the toe-down position you get the treble sound. When the pedal is off, it usually takes some treble away.
Using a Phase Shifter to Make Organ Sounds
One of the most useful sounds you can get from a phase shifter is trying to make it sound like an organ. Be careful when you set the speed. If it's not fast enough, it'll get in the way, if it's too fast, it'll sound worse than the vibrato on your amp. Once you find the right speed, just play like an organ player. No bends; that will give it away immediately. When you play chords, play them short and accented. Since the guitar doesn't sustain very well, you can use either a compressor/sustain peadl or a volume pedal.
Using a Tape Echo Unit
A tape echo units is simply a tape recorder with a record-and-playback head. The difference is this: the playback head is movable, so when the initial sound is recorded on the tape loop, the length of time it takes to be played back can be changed from almost immediately to as much as two to three seconds later. There are tons of crazy things you can do with tape echo, like outer space sounds to making the sounds of 40 guitarists playing at once. Some of the most common effects that are used: 1. One repeat and shortest delay time. This will give you the old rock-and-roll sound of the Fifties. 2. Making the classic pyramid effect (still a crowd pleaser). two or three repeats and delay time set to the quarter notes of the song.
Even Out Your Strumming
Make the upstroke as much like the down stroke as possible by favoring the lower strings with the returning upstroke of the pick. There will be a slight natural accent on beats 2 and 4 because of the down stroke hitting the heavy strings first--but this is good, as it is comparable to the drummers' use of the hi-hat cymbal on these beats.
Violin Sound with a Distortion Box
One of the "prettiest" sounds you'll ever hear a distortion box make is that of a violin. To begin with, take all the treble off your amp, put your reverb on full, add all the distortion or fuzz the box will give, and run your guitar through a volume pedal. Pick the notes with the volume almost off, then bring the volume up. The vibrato arm will add the rich vibrato strings players use, and the volume pedal will both hide the attack of the pick and add to the sustain of the note.
How to Get a Banjo Sound
1. Fold a piece of paper until it's about three by one-half inches. Weave it between the strings. This will be good for a traditional banjo sound when playing certain songs.
2. Use a three-inch piece of rubber-coated wire (part of an old extension cord might work well). Experiment with different thicknesses until you find the right one. Weave the wire between the strings. This is great for bluegrass tunes or for old-time jigs. You might have to re-tune your guitar when the wire is in it.
Artificial or Fingered Harmonics
Hold the pick between your thumb and middle finger, then stretch out your first finger. With your extended finger, touch the string 12 frets higher than the fingered note of your left hand. As with natural harmonics, touch, pick and release all at the same moment.
This is the most useful technique you will learn when it comes to playing single-note lines. As you pick, the pick hits the string, then the string hits the skin on the side of your thumb. The result is a percussive sound, plus a harmonic. At first you'll find it easier when you pick downwards, but eventually you should be able to use an upstroke as well.
Learning Chord Spelling
As it is impossible to play most close-voiced structures as chords, we must learn their spelling by practicing them as arpeggios. This must be done so thoroughly that chord spelling becomes automatic. Fingerings are derived from the 12-form major scales, and you should practice them until they require very little, if any, conscious effort.
Controlling the Speed of Your Song
The ability to control the speed of your song allows you to use speed as a structural device, and that can be used for contrast and/or for emphasis. There are three ways to control the speed within your song without changing the tempo: 1. Vary the length of the phrases. 2. Vary the rhythms within the phrases. 3. Use (1) and (2) in any combination (i.e., slowing down the phrasal movement while speeding up the rhythms within the phrases.)
Improvisation and Song Form
During an improvised solo, you can still feel the written melody. That's because the improvisation follows the same chords as the written melody. This repeating chord pattern is the same throughout the entire tune and is called the song's form--its plan or structure. It is essential that everyone on the band be aware of this!
A type of form you'll come across in songwriting is something known as the standard. The standards type of song, written mainly between 1920 and 1950, is still the mainstay of theater songwriting. The focus of this form is placed on the chorus because the dramatic action on stage usually doesn't require a verse to tell the story; instead, the writers usually need a section of music to move from dialogue into full-blown song. This is provided by an introductory verse.
Gearing Up Properly
Here are a couple of different ways to hook up your guitar.
- Guitar -> Fuzz -> Phaser -> Wa Wa -> Volume Pedal -> Echo -> Amp
- Guitar -> Compressor/Sustainer -> Distortion -> Volume Pedal -> Chorus/Flanger -> Delay -> Wa Wa -> Amp
Singing to Assist Reading
Reading music is a combination of instant note and finger recognition, and playing the sound and note durations you see on the music. Try this: play the tonic chord of a piece you are about to read (to get your "ear" in the proper key) and then try to sing the music to yourself as you play it. If your fingers have been over the fingering type enough times, they will automatically play whatever notes (sound patterns) you mentally "hear" on the page. This will take a great deal of time to master, but keep after it--it's worth it.
I hope you've gained something helpful out of all this. Suggestions or comments? Tips that I should know about, send them to me. Send this lesson to friend.