A lot of beginner guitarists, and even some intermediate players, have the bad habit of playing the strings using only downstrokes. If it has been a while now since you started playing the guitar, surely you already know what alternate picking is – the combination of downstrokes and upstrokes. Alternate picking is essential for all guitarists, regardless of genre – so the sooner you master it, the better.
The theory behind alternate picking is very simple: when you play single note lines, you should always pick your notes with a down-stroke, then an upstroke, then a down-stroke, upstroke, down-stroke, and so forth, alternatively (keeping in mind the shortest rhythm time).
This kind of picking allows you to optimize the right-hand motion and reach speeds impossible to obtain with a one-way-only picking. And it is logical right? After all you’re utilizing both the down-motion and up-motion, giving you twice as fast a rhythm. Not all guitarists are as obsessed with fast playing as others, but speed is something the vast majority of guitarists will employ at least some of the time.
The Basics of Alternate Picking
There’s nothing really complicated about it. To alternate pick, all you have to do is: pick downstrokes and upstrokes consistently. That’s it! However, you must start off with holding the guitar pick correctly – that is essential if you want to reap the full benefits of alternate picking. Watch Neli’s video below to check if you already have that covered.
Once you’re holding your pick correctly, try having it at a slight angle to the string rather than holding it parallel to the string. With the pick at an angle, it will meet with less resistance from the string. This is because the curved edge of the pick will slide across the string.
Once you have found an angle that works, it is time to concentrate on the movement of the picking hand. With alternate picking, you should use small movements. An important thing to pay attention to is also where the picking movement is coming from – and that would be the fingers, not from the wrist for high speeds.The wrist is slow, as it requires a bigger movement to move the entire hand than it does to simply move the joints of the fingers. You can use your wrist movement for regular speeds. The important part is to NOT use movement from the elbow. Not only for technical reasons, but playing from the elbow can lead to injury.
What to note when exercising
Remember, you are alternate picking. The first stroke on each note should be a down and the second stroke should be an up. So when you exercise, you should begin with a downstroke and continue with an upstroke. Ideally, you want to get to a stage where you can play all exercises evenly and consistently. There shouldn’t be any big gaps between notes.
If you find yourself falling back into bad habits, give yourself time to think and practice slowly. You can play exercises at whatever pace is most comfortable for you, but the rhythm must be consistent.
When you are wondering what to play as an exercise remember that scales are a great way to practice alternate picking. Whenever you learn a scale on the guitar, unless you’ve been specifically told otherwise, you should play it using alternate picking. You can also use Neli’s Ultimate Scale Exercises by joining our Guitar Family. You will receive it straight to your inbox in a few days.
And one final thought – the best way to practice alternate picking is to use it as much as possible. Whether you’re playing lead, scales or even chords, try and use alternate picking in everything that you do.
For more tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to herYouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of ukulele (or guitar) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!
“Someone thanks to whom I went to some cool small punk gigs, someone who was out to play anything rock and just enjoy themselves in London through our year together in Uni – meet Tom Rawlins! Here’s his story in his own words 🙂 “ – Neli
“I am Tom, a 27 year old Guitar, Bass and Ukulele player and teacher who fell in love with the idea of playing when I saw Marty McFly play Johnny B Goode in Back to the Future. It still took me a few years to actually pick up the Guitar and dedicate time to the instrument but since then I have gone from knowing nothing to running my own local guitar school (Medway Guitar School in Kent) and playing in cover bands as my job and it is a progression I am immensely proud of.”
What were you like when you were first starting on guitar?
I started playing properly at age 15 and though I could already piece together a few chords at that point I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I could not afford a tutor despite wanting one and did my best to piece together what I could from online lessons, books and live videos. I probably had more confidence in my ability than what was warranted but that misplaced confidence did get me a long way so I cannot say I regret it.
You are the founder of Medway Guitar School. How did you decide tо make your own music school?
During my years at Uni I realised I had a love of teaching; whether it was teaching my peers who played other instruments or breaking down theory, I enjoyed the feeling of seeing something click in someone and seeing someone develop as a player. I could feel an immense amount of pride in them and myself from that development and that feeling is very addictive. It made sense to me that when I left University that it would be a key part of my income as a musician..
What makes for a smooth transition from being a guitarist to also teaching others how to be guitarists too?
Just get started, maybe try with a few friends and family first and then develop out for teaching for a small fee, try not to massively undercut the market but enough to reflect that you are a new teacher. Remember the pupil is always number one. You have to keep in mind that we all struggled with areas of our development as players at one point or another and that we have interests in completely different areas. I always meet the pupil where they are at in terms of ability and interests and develop their learning around those aspects. Always be patient and encouraging and help them find their own voice on the instrument. Trying to create mini versions of yourself is the quickest way to dissuade pupils from playing.
What are some realistic goals a beginner should set for themselves when first starting?
Honestly the smaller the goal the better. I always start with a few basic tabs often as simple as a single string tab. It is massively encouraging for a pupil to walk away from their first lesson having already made music. From there I continue to use tabs to develop the pupils coordination and dexterity whilst introducing them to basic open chords to play a simple song of their choice. Don’t start with chords right away, they are crucial in the early stages of playing but you need to develop some confidence and familiarity with the instrument first and nothing is better for that than basic riffs and melodies via tab.
As a guitar teacher with years of experience, how do you personally set goals for the continuous development of your guitar skills?
There are huge number of things that go into choosing a goal. As a professional there is also income development to consider. In the last couple of years for example, I have branching out into covers work, my focus has been much more on singing and song learning. But I keep small part of practice to one or two small developmental goals. Keep the goals simple, small and suitable to the amount of practice time available. Avoid overwhelming yourself. You may want to increase your repertoire, develop your technique, chords, aural perception and rhythm all at once but if you only have an hour practice a day you will make little to no progress. One thing at a time, for example I am currently working a single exercise daily for my alternate picking (my playing to this point has been more legato and economy picking based) and a single exercise for developing altered licks whilst improvising either side of my song learning practice.
Music theory scares many beginner musicians. How do you approach the matter with students who are overwhelmed by the theoretical part of music?
I often find music theory is less scary for pupils and more that they assume it could potentially damage their expressiveness as a player. When you are learning the fundamentals it can seem like a bunch of rules rather than what theory actually is, which is an explanation of how music works. I do my best to explain this through a demonstration to show how theory has impacted my own playing and development, explaining how those who do not understand theory often end up falling into the trap of “following the rules” without realising. I then work through the theory very slow step by step, I always test a pupils knowledge continuously making sure they understand the current step in full before moving onto the next goal checking in and gently encouraging them all the way.
What is something you learned from your students?
I am always learning from my students. Believe it or not just going over the fundamentals of playing with them has taught me a lot. You come into teaching believing that you already know these concepts in and out and while you definitely understand them explaining them and answering unexpected questions around the fundamentals can get you to think about them in a way you never imagined before. It can certainly help you to reinvigorate their use in your playing. The fundamentals can seem boring sometimes but even the masters worked on them well into their playing development, just because you know them does not mean there is not more to learn about them.
Is there something you’d like to experiment with in music, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
I keep meaning to sit down and practice more keyboards. While I understand what is theoretically going on and I can string together a few chords and scales my muscle memory and technique is not developed enough to perform proficiently and I do really need to get a decent keyboard and work on it. I believe it will help me look at music in a completely different way and potentially open up future performance opportunities.
Before lockdown Tom’s function band Slam Dunktion were about to get started on gigging. The lockdown put a hold on that for now but they are currently working on a video for when the gigs get going again, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
How much do you actually know about the ukulele except that it looks adorable and immediately gives you those Hawaian vibes? The ukulele was indeed born in Hawaii but has its roots found in Western Europe. Read on ahead to find out more about the four-stringed instrument.
We can say that the ukulele has a Portuguese descend, since its parents – the cavaquinho and the machete, also known as braguinha – were born in the city of Braga, located in the north of the country. It was around 1879 when Portuguese immigrants from Madeira decided to leave their home in search of a better life. Some 25,000 people found such a life working in the Hawaiian archipelago.
With themselves, they also brought the machete, which immediately became popular with the local population. The European immigrants were excellent guitar players – so great that they even gained the appreciation of the royal family.
In less than two decades, the ukulele was born as a natural Hawaiian adaptation of those four and five-string Portuguese instruments that were brought to Hawaii. And so not long after the immigrants started working in local sugar plantations, they were opening woodworking shops where musical instruments and furniture were sold side by side.
The word “ukulele” itself has a curious meaning – “jumping flea.” It was given this name because of its small size, and vibrant, cheerful, and exuberant sound.
The technical specifics
There are four main sizes of ukuleles: the baritone ukulele (18-21 frets), the tenor ukulele (17-19 frets), the ukulele concert (15-18 frets) and the soprano ukulele (12-15 frets).
The price of an ukulele has a wide range – anywhere between $20 and more than $1,000, depending on the type and quality of the construction. High-quality ukuleles are made of acacia koa or mahogany. The cheaper models are built using plywood, plastic, or laminate woods. The ukulele strings can be made of nylon, fluorocarbon, titanium, wound nylon, wound metal, and steel.
The standard and most common ukulele tuning is G4, C4, E4, A4.
The best and most popular ukulele brands and manufacturers are Kala, Lanikai, Mahalo, Hola!, Luna, Oscar Schmidt, ADM, Sawtooth, Diamond Head, Lohanu, Ohana, Pono, Kamaka, and Kanilea, so if you’re interested in buying one, we’d recommend looking into these.
Don’t be fooled by its small size – the ukulele is a versatile instrument, and it is often used and heard in a broad range of musical genres, including jazz, country music, pop, world music, and rock. Just look up ‘metal ukulele’ an you’dd be amazed! It is also the instrument that best represents surfing and surfers.
Thus far you must have already got it but just to make it very clear – the ukulele is not a small guitar. It is understandable why people think this way, but it’s always good to spread information and educate those who believe in misconceptions.
A ukulele does indeed share alot of similarities with an acoustic guitar – more specifically the classical variety. We are talking shape, size proportions, principle of operations and generally how the instrument behaves. However, an ukulele is not only smaller, but it uses a completely different type of tuning, which means different chords and different playing techniques.
Whether or not someone who is proficient with a guitar could play ukulele right off the bat is questionable. They might have the general skill in their hands, but would have to start from scratch when it comes to the notes on the fretboard. However, a lot of the chord shapes can be adapted from guitar – just under different names because of the tuning. So knowing guitar chords well, means you’ll be able to play on and sing along to songs with a ukulele pretty quickly.
For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to herYouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of ukulele (or guitar) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!
In Part 1 we covered 5 types of electric guitar body shapes – Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul, SG and PRS. Now it is time to cover some more.
Semi-Hollow Body Type
The semi-hollow guitar is based on having a “tone block” that runs down the center of the body of the instrument. This reduces feedback issues while still maintaining the woody tone of the true hollow body instruments that are widely used in Jazz.
The Gibson ES-335 is a long-time favorite of electric blues and fusion players, and is growing in popularity in other fields such as indie rock While these guitars are known for their warm woody sound, they are capable of being used in almost any genre that doesn’t require massive amounts of gain, which is prone to feedback.
Hollow Body Types
True hollow body guitars sound very similar to semi-hollow guitars, with the main difference being that there’s a higher presence of an acoustic-like tone. They also have a tendency to feedback more than semi-hollow instruments, which makes them a poor fit for genres that require high levels of gain. While many people associate the term “hollow body” guitar with big jazz guitars, the real definition is that a hollow body guitar doesn’t have a wood block running down the middle. So there are hollow guitars with the same body style as semi-hollow guitars.
While hollow guitars are best suited to jazz, there have been a handful of cases where rock musicians have utilized fully hollow jazz box guitars in rock and roll.
Single cut or double cut
A cutaway on the guitar construction is an indentation in the upper bout of the guitar body adjacent to the guitar neck, designed to allow easier access to the upper frets. Instruments with only a lower cutaway are known as “single cutaway” instruments, and guitars with both are called “double cutaway”. These terms are sometimes shortened to just “single cut” or “double cut”.
The advantage to any guitar with single or no cutaways is that the body of the guitar has more room to resonate and therefore will have a larger sound. The double cutaway has the advantage of a thinner body, and easier access to the higher frets.
The offset body style includes three main instruments: the Jaguar, the Mustang, and the Jazzmaster. While there are definite differences between them, offset guitars all generally have a bright and clear sound with a subtle mid and low-end response. These guitars are also well suited to rhythm work depending on how their tone knobs are adjusted.
Offset guitars are very well suited to genres that require a lot of effects, especially fuzz. Good examples of this would be grunge, shoe-gaze, and alternative.
Miscellaneous (e.g. Flying V, Explorer)
Gibson released a number of famous guitars in the 50’s with their eyes set towards the future. They nailed it, because these guitars still look amazing and futuristic even nowadays.
The Flying V offered many of the same benefits as the SG with a much more distinctive body shape. It is now a very common guitar among heavy rock and metal guitarists. This electric guitar style has experienced surges and lulls in its popularity, but has never fallen off the scene, due to the number of great players who have chosen to use it.
Alongside its brother, the Flying V, the Gibson Explorer allows easy access to the highest notes of the instrument, alongside dual humbuckers and massive sustaining bodies. The Explorer, much like the V, is now a very common electric guitar shape in the heavy rock and metal genres, but was widely used in other styles as well.
Did we miss any guitars? If you have some questions left, feel free to leave a comment below or join our Guitar Family and start a conversation there.
“The most fun I had playing gigs thus far has been when I was the guitarist for UK’s Tool tribute band. They just had the best audiences! But the person who was our singer and organiser of all sorts of things at the time – Andy Vozza – is one of many talents and projects. He has been all around the London urban rock scene and I thought he’d have some very interesting stories to share.” – Neli
What were you like when you were first starting on the guitar?
When I started playing the guitar, I was a chubby insecure Italian kid with a lot of negative thoughts. Learning how to play was great therapy for me because while everyone was into football, I had my own thing back then.
What is a solo technique you’d recommend for a new guitarist?
Practicing slowly with the metronome. It’s not a technique, but it opens all doors to any technique you are interested in. I love the legato, because of its fluent sound.
You recently released an EP. What does it represent?
Yes, with my band Elyn. It’s called “I Broke My P.C”. It’s not a concept album. It represents various stages of my life. However, it’s not what it represents to me, instead, it’s what it represents to the listeners.
How was Elyn created?
The idea of Elyn was born after a gig gone bad in India. 4 songs into the set and the speaker tower on my side of the stage collapsed because the crowd kept pushing the security, which eventually made them lose balance and fall. When I went back to London, I started setting things up. My plans for the future are to market it a bit harder as soon as lockdown is over and perhaps attempt a European tour.
What is your process for writing music?
I write lyrics first, with no melody or chord progression in mind. I do this because otherwise, I feel limited in writing lyrics when the music is ready.
You play as Slash in a Guns ‘N’ Roses tribute band. How did that come around?
I used to. I stopped in 2019 to focus full time on Elyn. I still work as a substitute with them from time to time. It all started in 2016. I met Gavin, the singer in Metalworks (the legendary metal event that used to happen every Sunday before the lockdown). He asked me if I could play for Guns 2 Roses if he needed a guitar player. Fast forward to Valentine’s day 2017, he asked me if I could play the first gig with the band on that weekend. Two weeks later he asked me if I could join the band full time and I said I was gonna do it only for 2 years as I want to focus on my original music.
How does it affect you being constantly compared to a legend?
I take things professionally. That was my source of income back then. I enjoyed playing with the band and I treasure their friendship.
In your line of work have you encountered the “rockstar attitude” phenomenon?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, more often than I have ever expected. Have you ever heard the say “what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas?”. That applies to what happens on tour as well. I’d rather not discuss the rockstar attitude in-depth 😀
Does the inspiration for your unique fashion style come from music?
Is my fashion style unique? I guess Bowie and Prince are the biggest inspirations on that.
What are your goals in music for 2021?
I wanna bring my band Elyn to the spotlight.
What is your most precious memory of playing the guitar?
Hmmm, there are so many. Probably that time when in university I played a song by the band Extreme and Charlie Griffith from Haken said that was as close as it gets to Nuno Bettencourt. Being compared to one of my idols from a guitar legend was priceless.
“Meet my 1st singer in London – Nicole van Niekerk! She is a highly intellectual and multitalented human originally from South Africa. She recently released her awesome debut book “Mother of the Fire” (which I’m currently reading) and I wanted her to tell you about it and delve further into how she expresses herself.” – Neli
Nicole van Niekerk is a multitalented creator and author from South Africa. Her artistic pursuits have ranged from the world of theatre – which took her to England to study – through music, and to creative writing. ‘Mother of the Fire’ is Nicole’s debut novel which showcases her fascination with history through an exploration of familial expectations, gender roles, cultural identity and the importance of artistic expression. Nicole now lives with her husband in the South of France.
You are a multitalented artist – musician, actress and a writer. How do you combine all these artforms?
Ah, thank you. That’s kind. Well, I try to mix them all organically as I feel they are all forms of expressions coming from the throat or the mouth. In “Mother of the Fire”, you will see that music, writing and theatre plays a very big role in the story and in the life of the strong female character, Louisa. I think it is very important to express ourselves and we often have to overcome great adversity with it. I also try to show some of this in “Mother of the Fire”.
Your debut novel “Mother of the Fire” is now published and available worldwide as an e-book. How did you decide the story of a fictional illegitimate daughter of Charles II is the plot you want to explore in your first book? Honestly, I didn’t really “decide” it. I love history and specifically the restoration period so I just started writing one day. But I like writing about important events in an unexpected way so choosing something like the fire of London, meant I could play around with the events in a way that no one would expect. (Well, perhaps some would) Charles the II had twenty-eight illegitimate children so it wasn’t that far of a stretch to create Louisa.
Did you have the whole plot set before starting to write the book?
Absolutely not. This is going to sound strange but sometimes I just have an idea for a character, an event or just an image in my head. I start writing and it feels like the characters and the story starts to write itself. Sometimes it’s very difficult and I wonder why I’m doing this but then suddenly, I’ll have an idea and off we go again. Sometimes while I write a chapter or re-read a chapter, I’ll get a new idea based on something that happened in that chapter, or a previous chapter. The hardest thing about writing is to stop yourself judging what you’re writing as you write it.
What were the inspirations behind the characters you created – besides the ones who are real historical figures. Are they also based on real people?
Yes, Will Cartwright’s character is a character I combined from real actors during the time period. Alphonse and Louisa are also characters I made up. A few people have commented that some of Louisa’s characteristics are somewhat like mine, and I realised that Alphonse was a lot like my husband, bearing in mind I wrote this before I met my husband, so it is purely coincidental. Or perhaps fate, depending on how you look at it. He looks a lot like him too. I really don’t know how this happened. Haha
How did you achieve the impressive level of authenticity in the book – the characters and plot seem so real, that it is hard to tell which parts are fiction?
Thank you! That is immensely complimentary as I do like to write in such a way that people cannot be truly sure if it’s real or not. Some of the events and characters are of course real but as I wasn’t there in 1666, it’s educated guessing as well as complete fiction at times. I’m not sure how I achieved it but I can tell you that an impressive amount of research went into it. To the point where I thought if the police are tracking my internet searches, they may think I am an arsonist. Examples include: “How long does it take someone to die from asphyxiation?”, “Does thick wood char or burn completely?”, “How long does it take for a wooden house to burn down completely?” and more.
What reader would enjoy your book most – does one have to be familiar with the era in which the events are set, in order to comprehend the story?
I think the ideal reader would be someone who enjoys history but not only because the story stands alone. Of course the historical part is huge but you could enjoy it for the character arcs, the wit and the emotional ups and downs.
So rather someone who enjoys something a little out of the ordinary. I chose to self-publish because most agents and publishing houses told me that they could not take on my book because it wasn’t mainstream enough. And one told me that it was downright strange. Haha, thank you. I shall take it as a compliment. I am nothing if not daring. A few people who have read it thus far have told me how surprised they were that the book was so accessible to them and that they actually started to like historical fiction! So that to me is extremely inspiring.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author who wants to dive in the historical fiction genre?
Wow, I’m not sure if I’m experienced enough to be giving advice on how to dive in but I would say write, write, write. Don’t judge your writing as you do it. Don’t let people’s negative opinions make you doubt yourself, they are, after all, subjective. There is a market out there for everything so don’t try to write to fit a specific genre. Write for yourself and you will attract your audience. Lastly, get a great editor that you trust completely. I recommend Emily Snee.https://www.emilysnee.co.uk/
Writing music and fiction are two completely different things, but are there some similarities in some way?
They are different but they are both stories. Music is just a shorter story than a novel is. Both have difficulties and simplicities. I don’t prefer one above the other, either. They are both forms of expressions and both are very personal. They show something of our souls and that is what makes art such a vulnerable profession. Support your artists, we truly need it. Tell us how good you think we are, we haven’t heard it enough.
Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to writing?
I knew this big question was coming! I’ve always truly loved Anne Rice. She writes fantasy but she writes so authentically that you’re like, “of course vampires and witches exist!” For historical fiction, I admire Kate Mosse, Phillipa Gregory and Charlotte Betts. All strong female writers and very inspiring. The first writer I ever loved was a South-African writer who writes in Afrikaans, my native language. Her name is Fransi Phillips. Her daughter is one of my best friends and we grew up together in Pretoria. I still love her work and read it often. She read one of my stories when I was a child and though I was only thirteen, she told me that there’s no doubt that I’m going places. She also told me that I’m completely crazy but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Do you plan on writing more – a sequel to “Mother of the Fire” or maybe a completely different story?
Yes, of course. I’m always writing something, whether it is published is another story. I am currently writing a different book about my family’s experience living under the British Immigration system. We had a very difficult and traumatic time and it partly inspired me to write about all the identity issues in “Mother of the Fire”. I’m not sure when it will be finished though. I may write a prequel to “Mother of the Fire” at some point, or perhaps about another character from the story but I’m not a fan of sequels so that is probably not going to happen. I like stories that can stand by themselves and that don’t rely on you having read something else.
“You know what was intimidating when I first moved to London? That I didn’t really know anyone! And that was kind of exciting at the time too for some reason! But one of the first people I met on my course and went to chill at a pub and explore central London with was Giuseppe. One of the guitarists I looked up to in my course and one who’s able to play the hardest Metallica stuff AND sophisticated jazz. And all guitarists know that this is a cool skill to have! At the end of our 4 years of university, he had gone through a lot of musical projects and had written a rly cool EP! Which (dad, if you’re reading this, then skip to the interview part please) my dad loved so much that I gave it to him and bought him some more CDs for his birthday this month 🙂 Anyway – without further ado – here are some of Giuseppe’s thoughts and tips on jazz and the mindset of doing music.” – Neli
What made you pick jazz music as your field of work?
It was a natural decision. I can’t remember the day where I went: “I’m only playing jazz from now on”. I guess I got interested in the types of harmonies, melodies and rhythms used in that kind of music. Even though, there’s so many different ones! Jazz has a long history!
How would you describe jazz music to an aspiring musician experiencing jazz for the first time?
Freedom is the word that I would choose. Jazz is freedom. Yes, there are rules (on paper) on how to voice a chord, what scale works with what chord etc. But at the end of the day, as an improviser, you get to choose what and how to play the notes.
What is the most basic jazz guitar skill you would recommend for beginners?
I don’t think there is one. Being able to play ‘jazz guitar’ involves a variety of different skills. If I had to choose one, I would begin with mastering the harmony from the melodic minor (both chords and scales – they are the same thing). Melodic minor is a sound that most people would associate with jazz music. (E.G. Don’t play G13, stick a sharp 11th in there as well! (lol) – Don’t play Lydian, play Lydian augmented, don’t play G-7, play Gmin maj7 etc etc)
Photo by Ben Pembery
Which are your biggest inspirations?
It wouldn’t be fair if I don’t put Pat Metheny on top of my list. He is the guy who really made me cry a few times. I got in love with jazz because of him. Then I must mention John Scofield, Steve Swallow, Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Lyle Mays, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel. I also studied with John Parricelli, guitarist based in London…There’s so many! They all have different styles, but I love each one of them and many others.
How do you personally set goals for the continuous development of your guitar skills?
This is an hard one. You have to be super analytical. Being aware of the things you cannot do. For example, if you cannot play in 7, then practice in 7. If you can’t play the Eb harmonic major between fret 1 to 4 – then you practice that. It’s important – if not crucial – to spend time with your instrument.
How do you approach arranging jazz songs?
It depends on what you arrange for. If you want to re-arrange any songs, the melody must not be touched, otherwise people cannot recognize that songs! What’s left? Harmony and Rhythms.
Do you think about the theory when writing music?
Nope, never ever. Emotions and feelings are the most important thing. I would play a C major chord for 45 minutes if it means something to me.
How do you go about writing a whole album?
Composing new music is never easy. Because it is easy to write anything, but it’s challenging to write something that makes it important in your life. Composing music is like homework to me. Sometimes, I know I need to dedicate 2 hours of my day just to do that. So I seat down, and I start playing chords or melody… and it starts from there. I never use logic – I write it down on Sibelius (a scorewriter program) and then bring it on the bandstand.
Photo by Ben Pembery
What are your tips on improvising?
It’s not just about playing the right notes with the right chord, it’s about knowing the history of the music as well as the different styles of the music. How you approach ‘Giant Steps’ might be completely different than playing a tune from… the Yellojackets! It’s important to have the vocabulary to improvise on different styles, so you know how to play in different contexts and then make that vocabulary your own.
What is a thing you’d like to experiment with in music?
I just like playing music. I like to play music with different ensembles. Some days, I love to play duo with a double bass, some other days I like playing trio with a drummer or in a quintet with a piano and a horn. It really depends. I don’t really experiment with sounds that much. I like the sound of a clean guitar. That seems to be enough for me, right now.
At the moment, Giuseppe is writing new music and thinking to go back and record a quartet album with the piano. He is also available for teaching lessons – get in touch by contacting him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can check out his three previous records here:
You are probably already familiar what an electric guitar is but let’s still cover the basics. An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals, which ultimately are reproduced as sound by loudspeakers. With the electric guitar you have the option to shape or electronically alter the sound to achieve different timbres or tonal qualities, which is a significant difference to an acoustic guitar.
Electric guitar design and construction varies greatly in the shape of the body and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups. In order to make the best decision when picking up an electric guitar, it is good to know a thing or two about the different types of electric guitars. There are several ways to distinguish them. According to the body is one of the most useful ones, so in this article we will take a look at that classification.
Strat (comes from Stratocaster)
Chances are, that the first image which pops in your head when you hear “eclectric guitar” is a Fender Stratocaster – since it is probably the most widely recognized model of electric guitar. It features distinctive cutaway “horns” that allow the player to access the higher frets and the back of its body is contoured for comfort. In the standard configuration, Stratocasters have three single-coil pickups and a tremolo bar. A tremolo is a device that allows you to change the pitch of a guitar by moving the arm up (raising pitch) or down (lowering pitch).
The Strat is a versatile guitar, and can be used to play in a huge variety of genres (country, rock, pop, folk, soul, blues, R&B etc), so it is a great companion if you want a guitar that you can rely on for several types of music.
Tele (comes from Telecaster)
The Fender Telecaster is another instantly recognizable guitar. Its design is simpler than that of a Stratocaster, featuring a single cutaway, two single coil pickups, and lacking a tremolo bar and contoured body. Instead of a Tremolo bridge, the Telecaster has what is called an “ashtray” bridge (the name came about from the original metal covering over the bridge that players decided to remove and use as an ashtray). Instead of six saddles, the original ashtray bridges had three that in conjunction with its single coil pickup and larger metal surface, created a sound perfect for any country music.
While the guitar is generally associated with country, the Telecaster is actually a pretty versatile instrument and can fit to any genre with the exception of harder varieties of rock, unless fitted with the right combination of pickups.
The Gibson Les Paul is a heavyweight electric guitar known for its thick sound and high sustain. And yes, the Les Paul is a signature model for the great guitarist Les Paul who used this model extensively in his career. Like the Stratocaster, it’s hard to say that the Les Paul has a single tone which defines the instrument. The Les Paul can cover just about every genre – it has been widely used in jazz, metal, R&B, countless varieties of rock, and even punk. While it is arguably best for rock and some variants of jazz, the only genre it is not suitable for is country.
The original Les Paul featured two P-90 single-coil pickups and the distinctive single-cutaway shape. While many variants are produced, the double humbuckers put the Les Paul in a league of its own, separate from the offerings of Fender’s Telecaster and Stratocaster. Other defining features include its 3 on a side tuners on a painted headstock, a bound neck and body with trapezoid or block inlays on rosewood or ebony, and its Tune-O-Matic bridge with the Stop Bar tailpiece.
The SG stands for “Solid Guitar,” and it is indeed not only quite solid but also famous all over the world. The Gibson SG features a twin-horn, long-neck design and is a lighter guitar than a Les Paul. In its standard configuration it is equipped with neck and bridge humbucker pickups, both of which have their own tone and volume controls. The double cutaway body and its higher fret access made the SG become the perfect axe for the slide guitarist.
SGs produce a reasonably powerful, thick sound that is suitable for blues and metal. While their long necks mean that they don’t feel quite as ‘balanced’ as other guitars and that takes a bit of getting used to, the SG is a simple but versatile guitar, currently enjoying a wave of popularity with rock and indie players.
The Custom 24 is the definitive guitar from the PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitar brand. Distinctive for its flying bird fingerboard inlays, dual humbuckers, carved Flamed Maple top, 24 frets and ergonomic contours, the Custom 24 is considered a modern classic among guitarists. It features a tremolo systems and also locking tuners that ensure greater tuning stability. Many cite the Custom 24 as a Les Paul/Stratocaster hybrid of sorts, in terms of its sound, playability and looks.
This instrument is acclaimed for its versatility and has been used by countless high-profile artists over the years, including internationally touring artists, gigging musicians, and aspiring players.
Part 2 with even more guitar body shapes is coming soon! You can always also ask your questions, if something is still unclear, in the group of Neli’s Guitar Family. Become a part of it HERE and share which body type is your favorite.
There are two main reasons why you clicked on this article: either you have a guitar player in your life who you want to surprise or you are a guitarist yourself and are curious if we really have good ideas. Well, either way we’ve got you covered! The list below includes a wide range of options for beginners to proper guitar nerds and includes all price points, so chances are you will find what you are looking for. And if you’re a guitarist, feel free to share this article to give those around you a good hint as to what to get you. 😉
10. Guitar Mug
Starting of small, but strong – a cup with a funny guitar joke or a nice image of a guitar is a sure way to make your person smile. There’s plenty of them online, but you could always explore your local shops, or even get a custom one printed.
9. Guitar Strap
This is a guitar accessory, which can also be a fashion item! Look for a strap of a high quality with a design that the person you are gifting will like. And depending on your budget, you could get one with a cool design, or a thick comfortable leather one that will last them years!
8. Guitar Care Kit
As guitarists are very attached to their instruments, a guitar care kit will for sure make their eyes sparkle. In one such you will find everything needed to keep a guitar maintained – cleaners for the guitar’s body, neck and strings; micro fine fret polishing cloths; cotton cloths; care instructions and other stuff depending on the kit you choose. This kit from Dunlop for example has everything one needs to clean a guitar and keep it looking shiny and fresh for a long time.
7. Mini Guitar Amp
A gift perfect for the electric guitarist! A small practice amp that you can also use as a speaker via Bluetooth is an excellent two in one present. This one and this one in particular that Neli recommends produce a really great guitar sound for their size and are very convenient during travel.
6. Guitar Pick Wallet
Picks are the bobby pins of guitar players – at one point they just disappear without a trace. A good way to prevent that from happening is to have a guitar pick wallet. If the guitar player in your life doesn’t have such – get them one asap, it is a game changer.
5. Pick Punch
While we are still on the topic of losing guitar picks – if your person is opposed to keeping his or her picks in a wallet, then try a different approach. Instead of saving their picks, gift them a tool for an infinity of picks – a Pick Punch! This device can turn most pieces of thin plastic – credit cards, lids and so forth – into new picks. The quality of the picks you get might not be the best, but this is a fun and creative way to supply yourself with a guitar pick at any given time.
The GuitarPro software for creating, playing, and sharing tabs is basically unmatched. It is just the best such software out there. It allows you to edit your music scores and tablature for guitar, bass, and ukulele, as well as create backing tracks for drums or piano. It is a thorough yet user-friendly tool for musicians who wish to get better, compose, or simply play along. So yeah, basically a dream tool for any guitarist.
Too simple, yeah? Very underestimated I would say! With many players relying on smartphones or tablets nowadays for practice, a good set of noise-cancelling headphones is always a solid choice for a gift. Some even double as an amp! And click here for a cheaper option too.
1. Help them make their dreams come true!
This one needs a bit of preparation. Pay attention, find out which are the guitar shops your guitarist likes, and then get them a gift card from there! This way you do not run the risk of getting something they don’t need or want, while giving them the freedom to make the best out of your money.
A cool guitar related present you can add to any gift of your choice is a music-themed sticker pack like Neli’s Guitar Family Sticker Pack! So even if you opt to get your guitarist something totally different, you can still make a nod to the world of music with this stocking filler.
Did we miss a present that should have been on our list? Comment below what you would add! Join Neli’s Guitar Family for FREE guitar tips, exercises and lessons HERE.
“Ooooh! What a cool blue guitar! Is that a PRS?” – were my thoughts when I first saw Claire on stage at a uni jam session in London. She seemed both confident and in her own music world on stage and I loved that! Even though we weren’t in the same years at uni, I got to know her better through the years and she has been a very nice person to talk to. I know she has been keeping so busy with so many bands – original, cover bands, doing gigs and tours… and what not?! During our recent chat, she told me that she has been focused on recording her amp and working on her new guitar sounds, but also she has been releasing quite a few videos on YouTube. Such a versatile guitarist definitely has some useful info and insight to share with you 🙂 “– Neli
What made you become a rock musician?
Firstly, music was a given in my life – I have always loved hearing music around me. My parents are also musicians – my dad plays the guitar and my mom is a piano player, so I was always surrounded by a lot of music at home. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I discovered the electric guitar and fell in love also with the music that goes along with it – which is mostly rock and blues. I actually remember the exact moment I decided I want to be a rock musician specifically – I was studying at ICMP London and every week we had to perform a song together with the other students. We were playing a song by the band Extreme, because that week the genre was rock music. That was the first time I performed a heavy rock song loud on the stage with other musicians and the feeling that I got that day… I got addicted to it! That was the moment I decided this is what I want to do.
What’s a tip for achieving a great rock sound?
What I found important is to have gear that is sensitive to what you are playing – which means having a lot of more modern amps, not necessarily all of them but some of them. When you play on them, you as the player cannot really hear – the sound is very compressed and so the amp is not going to respond really well to the different dynamics when you play. So I like using (specifically for guitar amps) amps that are very punchy and responsive, meaning that you can easily control the amount of distortion just by the way you play. Because no matter what volume you play, some modern amps are not responsive enough to the dynamics of the player. I was using a Marshall amp previously, but now I am using Invaders Amplification and the amp I have now is perfect for rock – very responsive and punchy.
How do you create your own unique sound?
What I believe makes people unique weirdly is not trying to develop something that has never been done before completely. The key is actually in that to just to take a look at your influences – guitarists, bands and just any aspect of the guitar you like sound wise, technique wise or whatever – and just take that and apply it to your playing. If you get inspiration only from one guitarist or one style of music – you are going to end up sounding like a copy of someone else. To find your own sound you need different influences. Take the best out of every musician you are influenced by and eventually this mixture is going to sound like you. So even if at first you copied aspects of other musicians, the secret is to copy not only a few people, but a lot of people and not to take everything from them – just what you prefer. It takes time but a cocktail of influences is how you achieve your own unique sound.
What are your tips for recording your playing?
I am glad you are asking because recently I have been upgrading my skills in recording. That is because I got my new amp and it is the best one I have owned ever, so I need to match how good it sounds live to how good of a sound I can get when it is being recorded. So a great tip I have for everyone who is recording or trying to record a tube amp at home is to get a load box instead of trying to use the traditional way to record an amp which is mic-ing the cab you have. I am now using a program that simulates a guitar cab, so I am recording my tube head and it goes straight to the load box and then into the computer and the cab and the mic-ing system are being simulated directly into my computer. This is amazing because you can record yourself silently, which is great because when you want to record a tube amp, you usually have to crank it, because otherwise your amp is not giving a 100%. Which is fine in a studio, but at home it is not always possible. I actually got this tip from a friend who works in a studio. I actually have a demo of the sound I was able to get this way – you can listen to it here.
What is a technique you would recommend to aspiring rock musicians?
Don’t try to copy anyone else. If you see another musician using a specific technique, don’t feel like you have to nail it yourself. Learning how to play the guitar is endless – there are so many techniques. In my opinion, you should work only on the stuff that you want to implement in your own playing or songwriting or need artistically. For example if you want to be a great blues player you probably don’t need to work on your alternate picking and go really fast. Nowadays especially, it is very hard because you see what everyone else is doing on social media and it is very easy to think that if a certain person is succeeding by playing in a certain way, you also have to do the same. Thinking this way is a waste of time – you should spend your time working on what you actually want to play. If you chase after success by doing what works for other people, eventually you are not going to be yourself, which is not going to work for the long run. And this is a long run game.
What is your formula for a great solo?
What I try to do when I write a solo is to try to make the solo section like a song into the song. I like when solos have a structure like you would have in a song. If I write a solo on someone else’s song or an already written backing track – I always follow the dynamics of the track I am working with. When you create tension – and there are many ways to create tension for a solo – but one of the ways I use is adding speed. So I play faster whenever I want to create tension. In case I am writing the backing track or it is one of my tracks I like to write the harmony behind the solo already with the solo in mind. Having a solo is also a great way to prepare the listener for a transition. So when creating a solo it depends on where your starting point is and how much creativity you can have, depending on for who you are writing. A great solo in my view is one that serves the song and can convey the emotion you want it to. After all, the heart of the craft of playing a guitar and writing solos is to be able to know what technique or sound to use in order to evoke a particular emotion in the listener.
How do you approach collaborating with other musicians?
Collaboration especially online is something I love doing. I love the fact that now it is so easy to collaborate with people from all over the world and I have been doing it a lot this year, since the live music industry is taking a little break now. Hopefully not for long. This year I recorded things for people in Israel, Switzerland, London, America and so on and it is great. About my approach – it is good to be clear from the start about what you expect from each other. I love it when everyone can add their creative input, but depending on the project it can vary a lot. I believe creating music with other musicians is the most essential thing even if you are a solo artist, because you still are going to work with session musicians, producers and others. It is also a great learning experience so I do it as much as possible.
What is a thing you’d like to experiment with in music?
One thing I always wanted to experiment with and 2020 gave me the chance to – because obviously my schedule cleared up quite a bit – is to try writing also for other instruments. Up to until a few months ago I wrote almost exclusively for guitar, which makes sense since I am a guitarist, but I always wanted to write also for drums, bass and keyboard. I also recently bought a bass so that I can write on the guitar and I am happy that now I have the time to do it. It helps massively if you know your way around the drums or other instruments so that you can communicate with other musicians and know exactly what you want. So I would recommend to learn also instruments that you are in contact a lot for the ease of communication with other people. Currently I want to be able to create a full instrumental song myself.
Claire is now in the process of recording videos for her YouTube with playing and rig rundowns, so you can expect a lot more new stuff on her channel. She is still working with the bands she was working with before the pandemic and also has a special project in the making with a mystery band – in the next few months she will reveal it so stay tuned! She is also currently moving to another city great for music somewhere in Europe. Make a guess and follow her on her social media channels to see if you were right:
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