Thursday, June 25, 2009

How to Improve Your Lead Guitar and Imporovising

Just a little idea for when you are practicing your lead guitar that really works for me, and is a whole lot of fun!

Most people do not have a band at their disposal that will assemble everytime they want to practice their improvising. So something that alot of people do is find a backtrack (a song without the guitar and/or vocals in it) and improvise over it. Not only is this really fun, but it is one of the best ways to improve your phrasing. You will become more fluent with the scales you use, and it helps you to play faster as the drum in the track acts as a metronome.

Find backtracks of songs you enjoy, and you will find that you can sound pretty professional once you get the hang of it. But you have to make sure that you know what key the song is in. Even better, check out the tab of the bass, synth, or guitar to find out what chords they are playing. Then go to and click on chords to scales. Enter the chords or notes that are played in the backtrack, and it will give you a list of scales that would fit in with it.

You can either try to imitate the style of the bands guitarist which is good because it helps you to get out of your routine of monotonous licks in your lead. Also, check out the tab on the solo and try to incorporate them in your solo. Building up a wide vocabulary of licks is essential to successful lead guitar. Or, you can try to create a new sound and style for the song and make it your own. This can be harder, but it helps you to find and create your own voice in lead guitar. Plus, it is important that you do not become a copy of another guitarist, be yourself! Originality is a huge part of what makes a great guitarist.

Here are some free sites for downloading backtracks...

Remember to check back in on my blog to keep the articles coming!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who is the best guitarist of all time?

First of all, let me just start by saying this question does not have a definite answer. It is like asking who is the best athlete, you can't compare Micheal Phelps to Tiger Woods, or any of the other great athletes among different sports. Guitar is the same way. Each person has their own choice for who is the best guitarist, becuase each person has their own definition of what best guitarist means.

I decided to write this post after hearing my friends argue about it, about how it is a fact that Jimi Hendrix, or Slash, or whoever is the best guitarist of all time. The most annoying comment I hear is from someone who plays guitar hero but not guitar, because "that guy from Dragonforce is the best because he plays the hardest on guitar hero." Well first of all that guy is Herman Li, and Guitar Hero has nothing to do with his abilities. Don't get me wrong, he can shred really well, but Through the Fire and Flames is harder on Xbox than on a guitar.

Anyway, to help us answer this question, I divided up what makes a great guitarist into categories. Speed, dexterity/control, riffing, phrasing, originality/creativity, and musical talent.

Speed is usually what comes to mind when we think of a good guitarist. Some people might say the best guitarist is the person who can play the fastest, and shred the best. If that was true, the best guitarist would probably be a toss up between Paul Gilbert and Micheal Angelo Batio. I personally PG, but there is no denying Batio's incredible skills. Some honorable mentions would be Buckethead, Yngwie Malmsteem, Herman Li, and John Petrucci (Dream Theater). And you can never forget Eddie Van Halen who really popularized shredding. Also, some people may disagree but I believe Jimi Hendrix to be the founder of shred, but I will get into that more when we talk about originality.

The next is dexterity/control. It was a little hard to find a name for this category, but what it basically means is the ability to play hard riffs, licks, or progressions that are hard not becuase they are fast, but because of they way they are played. Some riffs can sound very slow and easy to play, when in reality they are advanced and require disciplined fretwork. When I think of this category one name seems to be the obvious best, and that is the great Jimi Hendrix. However this category is very hard to rank, so excuse me if I leave out alot of important names, but for this one I will stick to the big ones, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, B.B. King, and one of my personal choices, John Hetfield.

Riffing is simply the ability of a guitarist to create a good riff. This category really comes down to personal choice. I would have to say the winner (at least in my opinion) is John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) whether you like them or not, everyone knows a few Frusciante riffs. My personal favorite though, is James Hetfield/Kirk Hammett of Metallica, followed closely by Tom Morello.

Phrasing is alot like riffing, except it refers to the ability to create licks (short phrases). In other words, it basically means lead/soloing ability. Again, this becomes way too personal to find a definite answer. My honorable mention goes to David Gilmour, he has not gotten too much credit as a great guitarist, but after his solo's in comfortably numb, shine on you crazy diamonds, marooned, and many works throughout The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon, I think he deserves some credit. Another great example would be Jerry Garcia, he deserves props just for the fact he was missing a finger of his fretting hand. Other names would include Slash, Kurt Cobain, Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osborne/Black Label Society), Jimmy Page, Adam Jones (Tool), Randy Rhoads (also Ozzy Osborne) and the list goes on.

Originality and creativity I think are the most underrated parts of what makes a great guitarist. Without some of these pioneers, the guitar might have been a background instrument for eternity. For example, Jimi Hendrix, as I said before, "invented" shredding. By today's standards, he is not much of a shredder, but back then he was the first person to make an attempt at just playing fast. He made the guitar jump out at you, if you want to see what I am saying, compare his live performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock to the Beatles, you might notice a difference. Another revolutionary guitarist was Eddie Van Halen. He is known for his signature metal tapping. Van Halen, Ozzy Osborne, Iron Maiden and Metallica could collectively be considered the godfathers of metal. Without them, it may not have existed today. Then there is one of my personal favorites, Tom Morello. He took a guitar and refused to play it right. With the help of his Digitech Whammy pedal and a killswitch, he made legendary solo's from scratching and slapping strings, playing with feedback, and even unplugging the cable and touching it to the bridge. He also was one of the first, if not the only, successful "rap" guitarists.

Finally, there is musical ability, which is really just the ability to make a song that people will like. This one is 100% personal taste. So really in the end there are too many factors to put in. Is it more important to shred or to riff? To sell albums or have mind blowing solo's? But I hope this post helped you to understand the different parts of what makes a great guitarist, and some of the best in each field. Also, please do not be upset if I did not mention your favorite guitarist, there are so many great guitarists, there is no way I could name them all.

Getting Started...

Hey fellow guitar enthusiasts, just wanted to let you know a little bit about myself and this blog.

To be completely honest, this is my first ever blog, and I am sure I have no readers as I am putting up this first post. However, hopefully over time that will change. I decided to start this blog for two reasons... First I love guitar, and have few friends that share the same interest, so I thought it would be fun to blog about it. 2. I am at school and am far too lazy for a real job so I was hoping to get some money out of the adsense. But seriously, I look forward to gaining some followers, and maybe even learning a few things myself in the process.

A little background on me, I play guitar and have been playing for 7 years now. I consider myself to be a pretty advanced guitarist, especially compared to other people I know that have played as long as me. Now I am sorry for sounding a little cocky there, but I just want you to know I have some credibility, and I am not just some average joe who picked it up last week. Anyway, I am currently rocking the Fender Stratocaster American Standard HSS. The HSS means it has a humbucker in the bridge pickup (by the way for anyone considering this guitar I highly recommend it). I play all sorts of music such as blues, classic rock, alternative/grunge, and metal. I also know how to play country and jazz style, but it is not my specialty as I only studied it to become a more well rounded guitarist.

Some of my favorite bands/guitarists include Jimi Hendrix, anything Tom Morrello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club), Buckethead (Praxis, Death Cube K, along with some self titled work), Pink Floyd/David Gilmour, Metallica/James Hetfield/Kirk Hammett, Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page, Slash, Nirvana/Kurt Cobain, Duane Allman, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteem, John Mayer, and anyway the list goes on, but as you can see I like alot of different styles of music. What I look for in whatever genre it is, is a good guitarist. I actually like music that has no singing, just has one big guitar solo (if you like that too let me recommend Buckethead).

Anyway, that was just a little background on me, tune in to my blog to see some posts on my take on "the best guitarist", the future of rock (hint: it will fuse with another style of music), songwriting tips, my opinion on the current state of rock and pop, band/album/guitar/gear reviews, and of course some helpful advice on improving your guitar playing.