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On-line guitar tools
March 20, 2007 5:15 AM   Subscribe

So you wanna be a rock and roll star. Here's a place to start. GOSK, or the guitarist's online survival kit, is a very handy guide to both scales and modes as well as all chords in all positions on the neck. In order to put it all together, and map modes to chord progressions and really start jamming, this little php widget is pretty helpful. Though in all things, even if you want to learn from the masters, you should never forget the basics. However, if you decide that using these online utilities to improve your performance is too much, you can always go back to school, or else forego training entirely and emulate rock star attitude and style in real life situations.
posted by psmealey (18 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meh. All standard tuning.

What about Drop-D, DADGAD, Open D, Open G, etc., etc., tunings?
posted by smcdow at 5:22 AM on March 20, 2007


Here's your chord machine for alternate tunings (courtesy of Joni Mitchell, oddly) and an alternate tuning guide [PDF link], smcdow.

Didn't find much on scales and modes over alternate tunings, but if you've progressed that far, chances are you can remember where the roots are on each string and go from there.
posted by psmealey at 5:29 AM on March 20, 2007


These are great, especially the Lloyd site: I've read his tutorials before and they're always worth a look. Especially "Mistakes."

I think the biggest thing that keeps most guitarists sucking is that when learning guitar or teaching guitar is discussed, almost all of the emphasis is placed on chords and left-hand fingering techniques, when it is actually the right hand that drives the instrument (reverse hands if you're a lefty, obviously). Foot-tapping is another skill the beginning guitarist ought to master, then playing along with foot-taps, then switching feet while playing along (I'm not exactly sure why it works. There's probably some fascinating cognitive science at work here; this can improve the sense of rhythm immeasurably).

Whether you fingerpick or flatpick, the principles are the same. Strumming chords or playing notes, if your right hand plays in rhythm, it doesn't matter if you only know E, A, and D on the nut. As soon as the guitarist learns barred chords, they should use the same principle as when they started out, but instead of learning chords and variations up and down the neck they should learn the interplay between the left and right hands: the pressing and lifting it takes to play effective rhythm guitar, and the squeeze of a good lead.

Mastering guitar is all about articulation, and I think far too many guitarists learn too many chords before they learn to articulate. Many have the sense that their mastery of chords has rendered unnecessary their mastery of rhythm techniques, and I think part of that failing lies in the way they're taught. I'm sure there are teachers and students who don't fall into this trap, and plenty of evidence to show how presumptuous I'm being. But all I need to do is turn on the radio to hear loads of feathery left hands paired with right hands of stone.
posted by breezeway at 6:35 AM on March 20, 2007 [7 favorites]


Nice pile o' links... As far as rock school goes, I wrote a short article about one in Minneapolis.
posted by COBRA! at 6:44 AM on March 20, 2007


Amen, breezeway. I think articulation, timing and strumming/picking hand technique is what separates the truly great guitarists like Lloyd, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Page (yes, Jimmy Page), Hendrix and Django Reinhard (who only had two working fingers on his fretting hand), from the merely good ones.

Personally, I prefer to listen to the guys with the solid strumming hand technique (Kurt Cobain, Adam Jones, etc.) over guys that shred the fretboard. There's so much more to be heard in terms of variety and subtlety in players who can master that part of the craft than there is with guys who play like Yngwie.
posted by psmealey at 6:46 AM on March 20, 2007


It's funny: my favorite rhythm guitarist is Hendrix, and my favorite lead guitarist is Page.
posted by breezeway at 7:02 AM on March 20, 2007


My nephew will love this, he's 16 and really into his guitar (yeah and this will get me some 'cool uncle' points as well!).
posted by algreer at 7:05 AM on March 20, 2007


And: I'm 100% with you guys on the importance of right hand overleft hand. I think another thing that the vast, vast majority of kids learning guitar would do well to learn is when not to play. Especially with bar-level bands, it's just so, so common to wind up with a muddy, sludgy sound because two people with guitars are whaling on them for all they're worth at the same time.
posted by COBRA! at 7:08 AM on March 20, 2007


These Hendrix videos do a fine job of demonstrating the importance of a solid strumming technique (on an acoustic no less):

Hear My Train a Comin'

Hound Dog
posted by foot at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2007


Mastering guitar is all about articulation, and I think far too many guitarists learn too many chords before they learn to articulate. Many have the sense that their mastery of chords has rendered unnecessary their mastery of rhythm techniques, and I think part of that failing lies in the way they're taught. I'm sure there are teachers and students who don't fall into this trap, and plenty of evidence to show how presumptuous I'm being. But all I need to do is turn on the radio to hear loads of feathery left hands paired with right hands of stone.
posted by breezeway at 9:35 AM on March 20


Very well said. The most important thing a beginner can do is learn how to hold the instrument and how to pick, because this is when all the bad habits get formed, like resting the right wrist on the bridge, slinging the guitar so low that the left hand curls around the neck, etc. These habits will interfere with playing right when the student starts to become halfway decent. And it's much worse when the student starts playing on an electric, because it so easy to make a powerful sound that you don't build up any strength or control.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2007


When I first started hacking away in blues clubs I focused on being the best rhythm payer I could be. Soon, a lot of the local guys would ask me to back them so I knew I was on the right track. Now some players, read: shredders, could give a rat fuck about playing a I-IV-V pattern over and over but it is amazing how, as Pastabagel points out, articulation plays such an important role in making something old, new again. One of my heros, Gatemouth Brown, didn't play the most difficult positions on the fretboard but the way he played made rhythm sound other-worldly.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2007


Breezeway, do you mean tapping for a while with one foot and then switching to the other after a few bars, or alternating taps?
posted by Brainy at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2007


Either, really. Mostly I mean folks who always tap with their right foot should try tapping with their left. It's sometimes surprising how terrible your rhythm can seem when you use muscle groups that aren't used to keeping rhythm, and honing ambidextrous tapping can improve the overall sense greatly.

I grew up playing violin, which is definitely a left foot-planted, right foot-tapping concern. Much of what I know about dynamics and articulation I learned from good violin teachers. Much of what I know about boxing and the Argentine black market I learned from excellent violin teachers.

When I started violin I was six, and for the first six months, lessons and practice consisted of holding the violin correctly for thirty minutes at a time. No bow; just silently holding the violin, to get the muscles of the left arm used to an awkward posture. Eventually I was given a bow and instructions on how to hold it; I was told to place the bow in the string at the correct angle but not to move it. Finally I was allowed to draw the bow back and forth on the string, holding violin and bow correctly, but I wasn't allowed to put the fingers of my left hand to the fingerboard.

By the time I was ready to learn left-hand fingerings and actually play music, I had progressed to a point at which I could actually draw a consistent sound out of the violin (it took about eight months of silent standing practice followed by four months of tuneless sawing).

The challenge lies in keeping the interest up during the long initial period in which learning an istrument is not making music as much as it is an exercise. But the rewards are great, for the foundation one builds is a solid one. It is an approach to instrumental practice and musicianship that can be applied to any stringed instrument, bowed or plucked, and probably other types of instrument as well.
posted by breezeway at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2007


Those videos of Hendrix playing acoustically are incredible. He does tend to repurpose that Voodoo Chile riff a lot in a lot of different songs, but it still sounds great. Every time.

I think a lot of young guitarists would do well to study Jimi, regardless of genre. Not really even for his pyrotecnics or his inimitable style (impossibly play bass lines and melodies at the same time). But moreover because his grasp of the fundamentals of tone is peerless. He gets more variety and dynamics from varying his attack with his pick hand --- and a little fiddling with the guitar's volume knob when he plays electric -- than 10 million guitarists can get with 100 million effects pedals.

Not to denigrate effects pedals; I have a few myself. But too many guitarists use them as devices to cover up imperfections in their playing rather than to enhance their tone (which at the end of the day, comes 90% from your right hand, not from your rig).
posted by psmealey at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2007


But too many guitarists use them as devices to cover up imperfections in their playing rather than to enhance their tone (which at the end of the day, comes 90% from your right hand, not from your rig)

Well said, though I would add that a lot of people use pedals to up their sustain instead of working on it with their fretting hand.

Oh, and that GOSK is gold. Thanks for the post!
posted by lumpenprole at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2007


psmealey, thanks for the great post.
posted by snsranch at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2007


Amen to that, psmealy and breezeway. I remember years ago seeing a guitarist in a music store--not some pro giving a workshop, but a random customer--expounding on this very notion. He picked up a Strat, plugged it into a Fender Twin, and plunked out the notes for the "Spoonful" riff, and it sounded flat. Lifeless. Mechanical. Then, without touching a thing on the amp or the guitar controls, hit the same riff, at the same tempo, but with a little extra snap to this note, a grace note before this one, et cetera--it sounded bloody amazing.
posted by arto at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2007


Yacht rock!
posted by Demogorgon at 7:52 PM on March 23, 2007


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