Want to Get Better at Guitar? Go Offline.

by Rob Ward
New York Studio of Music and Art

Here’s a great modern day educational guitar tip:  Stop reading this post, turn off your computer, pick up your guitar, and play it!  However, since time was taken to write this article, perhaps you can read it first and then follow that advise.  Even if you read slowly, the hypocrisy will only take a few moments.

Thinking About the Guitar vs. Playing the Guitar

If you are spending a lot of time watching guitar videos online (gear reviews, lessons, interviews, etc.) or just reading music articles about your favorite musicians… odds are that you’re spending too much time thinking/dreaming about the guitar and not enough time actually playing it!  For millenniums, musicians learned how to play by holding their instrument and physically learning kinesthetically.  Gradually, over time, you get better and become a player.  That’s how it’s done, simple as that.

Real Lessons vs. Online Lessons

Recorded online video lessons do have a value.  They can introduce you to a new technique, teach you a neat musical trick, or help you brush up on theory.  However, the thing they can’t do is play with you, watch your hands, and talk back to you and give you personal advise.  Since everybody has different hands and brains, having a real teacher makes a difference.

Additionally, some people feel shy when attempting to play along with their teachers, and they may think it’s better to just play and practice by themselves at home.  Sure, do that!  For hours!!  Every day!!!  But, there’s a huge difference between sounding good at home and playing with people in real life.  Traditional lessons give students the opportunity to test out what they’ve been practicing, and in turn get feedback from someone more experienced than themselves.  Since surrounding oneself in a virtual world can lead to false senses of achievement, it’s always good to have a real teacher give you a reality check.

In Closing, Just Play

Perhaps discussing the negative effects of too much internet/computer use can sound like a lecture coming from an old fogey unable to cope with the modern world… but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  1.  I’m not that old. 2. Despite everything written above, I find many positives of internet use too.  However, keep in mind that when you want to learn how to play an instrument, nothing will give you better results than sitting down and just playing.  Have fun making sounds, build hand coordination, and make it happen… in real life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Performance Tips

by Rob Ward
New York Studio of Music and Art

As our upcoming student concert approaches, it’s high time to practice and prepare the piece you are going to perform!  Getting into concert shape means more than just playing the correct notes, and listed below are some things to think about as you get ready.

1. Memorization & Knowing Your Music Inside Out

Learning isn’t always easy, and sometimes merely playing the notes of a song without making a mistake feels like a massive victory!  However, if you want to take your playing to the next level, having the music memorized will free your mind and eyes from staring at a music stand on stage which will allow you to focus your energy on playing the piece more musically.

Internalizing your music with memorization will enable you to look at your hands, focus on technique, bring out phrasing and dynamics, and can even give you a free moment to wink and smile at that cute girl, boy, mom and/or dad in the audience…  ’cause hey, after all, we are in the entertainment business.  Got to keep it real.

Granted, sometimes a piece of music may be too difficult for a student to memorize, but with enough practice you can surely learn it well enough to lessen your dependence on those little black dots which will ultimately improve your level of playing.

2. Use Techniques 

After going through the task of learning the notes, start practicing techniques!  The beauty of the guitar is brought out by using vibrato, bends, slides, etc.  If you use these devices in appropriate spots, you’ll find the music coming to life!

3. Explore the Sounds of the Guitar

If you play electric guitar, those knobs and switches actually do something!  Of course, I’m sure you knew that, but do you know how to get the most out of using different pickup and knob settings?  By the time you step on stage, you should already know how your guitar should be set… and that requires more than just turning your volume to ten and flicking the toggle switch to a random pickup.  Use your ears and find the settings that please your ear for that particular song.  Odds are that if the sound pleases you, it will please others as well.

If you play acoustic guitar, you can explore the many different tones of the guitar by experimenting with the placement of your picking hand.  Play closer to the bridge for brighter sound, above the soundhole for more balance, and closer or above the neck to add some nice dark/rich tones.

Every great guitar player has great tone, and the only person who can control the way you sound is you, the player.  It’s all in the hands and in your approach to sound.  The sooner you start exploring the guitars tonal capabilities, the better!

4. Stage Preparation

What does stage preparation mean?  It means having your guitar tuned, and having anything that you need on stage during your performance ready before you step on stage.  Are you playing a song with a capo?  Better make sure you packed it in your guitar case before you leave the house!  You’re still students, so until you have roadies and guitar techs like The Rolling Stones or Metallica who take care of these things for you, you have to be responsible and learn to be ready.  Once you step on stage, it’s go time!

5. Have Fun

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun while your on stage.  After studying guitar for some time, chances are that you now realize that mastering the instrument is more difficult than you may have originally thought.  It takes years of practice and hard work.  In the process of preparing your music, you may find yourself stressed out and worrying too much about delivering a perfect performance.  Before you get on stage, you have to do your best to turn any fears and/or stress into positive energy.  Do you remember why you started playing?  It was to have fun, and if you have fun while playing in front of people, they will have fun watching you… and that is the perfect performance.

 

 

 

 

New Music Review: Dave “Knife” Fabris

Artist: Dave “Knife” Fabris (feat. Ran Blake)
Album: “Lettuce Prey”

Reviewed by Rob Ward
New York Studio of Music and Art

Lettuce Prey CoverGuitarist Dave “Knife” Fabris’s new release “Lettuce Prey” (with cover artwork emblazoned with a head of Iceberg) could leave people unfamiliar with his music wondering if they are about to listen to a vegan audio cookbook.  However, perhaps keeping people guessing about the album’s content is the point because even if one is familiar with the music of Piazzolla, Mingus, Coleman, Hendrix, Prokofiev, or Ives… any preconceived notions about how the interpretations on this disc might sound would most likely turn out to be wrong anyway.

Utilizing a formidable lineup of musicians to help him see his vision through, Fabris has delivered a well-crafted effort which unifies a triptych of styles (jazz, classical, rock), and does so in a way that is uniquely his own.  Whether it’s the 20th century classical pieces that were rearranged to sound like they were originally composed by a prog rock group, the jazzing up of a rock tune, or the “out” blues interpretation of a jazz standard with longtime collaborator Ran Blake; Fabris’s voice as a guitarist and arranger is present throughout.



Depending on how adventurous you are as a listener, some pieces may jump out as highlights… and others may jump out at you like a deer in headlights.  Seemingly keeping everybody in mind, the track order gracefully intertwines beautiful ballads with edgier avant-garde tunes; allowing the diversity of the music contained on the CD to flow evenly and naturally.  The end result is an amalgamation of heady material which blends well together.

For an album with a green title, “Lettuce Prey” is deceptively filled with a whole lotta meat.  There’s plenty of music to explore here, so for those looking for a feast… open your musical palate and dig in.

Highlights: “Sadness” (Coleman), “Angel” (Hendrix), “Down Here Below” (Lincoln), “Haitian Fight Song/Merci Bon Dieu” (Mingus/Casseus), “Michelangelo” (Piazzolla), “Nightcrawler” (Fabris), “Scythian Suite” (Prokofiev)

For more info on this artist and/or album, visit davefabris.com

25 Golden Years of Guitar

by Rob Ward
New York Studio of Music and Art

1967 (Hendrix Emerges) – 1992 (Grunge Explodes):
The 25 Golden Years of Guitar

For veterans involved in the guitar world, ever feel like time has stood still since grunge ascended into the mainstream music consciousness in 1992?  If you’ve been looking at guitar magazine covers over the last 22 years, you most likely have been looking at the same faces over and over again… the faces of musicians who had career highlights sometime in this 25-year time frame.  This applies to all styles as well.

Examples:

Rock: (Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck, Santana, Gilmore, Iommi, Young, Van Halen, Rhoads, Malmsteen, Satriani, Vai, Slash, Hammett, Hetfield, Frusciante)

Jazz/Fusion: (Benson, Martino, DiMeola, McLaughlin, Metheny, Scofield)

Classical/Flamenco: (Bream, Williams, Parkening, Barrueco, Russell, Isbin, Assads, DeLucia)

Sound familiar?  Many names of great players were left out, but you get the gist.  So, what’s the point of talking about this?  For many guitarists who love playing and listening to music… seeing and hearing the same players all the time… well, frankly, it gets kind of boring!  Granted, that’s not to say these players don’t deserve the recognition they get because they do… for many of us, they were/are our idols and our inspiration to play!  Though, for the sake of keeping the guitar world fresh and vibrant… there’s also a real need to have more attention given to new blood as opposed to recycling articles about guitarists who, in some cases, haven’t done anything new or relevant in 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years!

However, raising awareness about new artists is no easy task.  There’s a wide range of obstacles keeping the modern guitar world from achieving this… most notably, the overall decline of the music business.  Why is this important?  It’s simple: lack of sales = lack of funds for recording & advertising.  In addition, when big profits aren’t being made, there’s also a lack of enthusiasm from labels/investors, managers, promoters, etc.  Furthermore, while many artists may not admit to it, the lack of earning potential also affects their work.  There’s always been a romantic notion that musicians create for the love of playing (for sure they do!), but I can pretty much guarantee that more artists would be walking around with a little extra pep in their step if they knew their efforts had a chance to provide them with an income rather than succumbing to the idea that their projects are destined to float into the ether and amount to little.  So, in essence, small profit potential has a negative snowball effect on everything.  We can put guitarists aside for a second, and really apply this to the whole music/entertainment industry.

Anyway, we could go on talking about the problems forever… but, perhaps what’s more important are the solutions.  One small step in the right direction may be to increase the amount of new music reviews to help budding guitarists get their name out.  So, if you are a guitarist and would like to have your music reviewed, please send a CD to our address, or a link of your music to our email.  If your music gets considered for reviewing, we will notify you and post a review which you can freely use as publicity!

Address:
New York Studio of Music and Art
Ul. Wąwozowa 22 / 168
02-796 Warszawa
Poland

email: info@newyorkstudio.pl

http://www.newyorkstudio.pl
http://www.facebook.com/nysoma

Battle of Rhythmic Notation: Dotted vs Tied Notes

Ever start writing down a piece of music and get to a point when you can’t figure out if you should use a dotted note or a tie?  Even though we learn about these notation devices early on in our music education, deciding which one to use can be trickier than it seems… especially when the music we are writing becomes more layered and rhythmically advanced.

Rule of thumb:  Notate in a way that the rhythm is clear and easy to read.

Unfortunately, doing so can be easier said than done.  Depending on the meter and the beat in which the note lands on, different ways of notating can be called for… and sometimes there is more than one right answer.

Examples 1 & 2:  The same melody written two different ways.  (Notated for guitar + TAB)  Both are correct.  Example 1 looks cleaner, and example 2 shows the rhythm more clearly during beat 3 (you can visually see beats 3 & 4).  The melody is simple enough to be read either way.

Battle of the Rhythm

Example 3:  Notice that adding a bass line makes the dotted rhythm a little harder to read.  The dotted quarter note is kind of just floating there on its own between beats 3 and 4.  It’s still not wrong to notate it like this, but now that there is a second voice… the reader might get thrown off at first.

Battle of the Rhythm

 Example 4: Now take a look at the same excerpt with the & of 3 tied to the 4th beat.  The rhythm is now clearer… therefore, a better choice for noting these measures.

Battle of the Rhythm

There are countless different combinations of notes, rhythms, and meters, so to really discuss this topic in detail would require writing a book instead of a short blog.  Though, if you keep the rule of thumb in mind, it will probably get you out of most of your notating tough spots regarding dots and ties.