As you may know, I recently got myself a new guitar. I went into the shop and had quite a few questions, unfortunately the sales assistants didn’t know the answers to a lot of them. So I went home and as you might have done before for yourself too – looked up the guitar on YouTube to try and find a detailed review. In comes Max with the most detailed and interesting review I had ever seen! Awesome, mega helpful and answered not only all the questions I had, but even more and I fell in love with the guitar even more! <3 So I thought a person with that much interest in the instrument will surely have some interesting things to share… read on below! 😊” – Neli

How did you first get into guitar?

It was around 1996-1997 – my older brother had a guitar or two and it was just a matter of time for me to grab it. And that is what happened – eventually I started trying and at some point it worked. He abandoned the instrument completely and I continued.

How did it grow from a hobby to a career path?

That actually happened naturally. Somewhere around 2006 I started seriously working as a musician and had around 20 gigs a month or so with the cover band I was in. Ever since I moved to Germany, where I currently reside, things escalated quickly – two weeks after moving I was in a band, month after – two bands, two months after – three bands and so on. The first two years I was playing everything I was asked, for free or not for free – I was just taking any kind of jobs. And then things shifted – people started to ask me to join different shows and that started making some money, which was good. Then a musical happened and another musical and things continued like that until 2017-2018 when it kind of faded out and stopped being a major source of income for me. Because of that the pandemic didn’t hit me in that sense.

Did you move to Germany to pursue a career in music?

I was already playing the guitar years before that, sometimes for fun, sometimes professionally. But one of the triggers for me to move to Germany was that I was working a full time job, sometimes six days a week and there was no time for playing guitar. I was going like this for about a year and I was very sad and needed to change something. So when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it.

What led you to create your first guitar gear video?

I created my first video around 2016-2017 while I was still active with music and gigs and it was going very slow. Our niche is not particularly popular and it is hard to make it grow faster so the first probably three or four years it was very slow and it really kind of started to work in the beginning of 2020.

What happened was I met a couple of people from the industry and started to work with a couple of brands. As musicians many of us want to get some endorsements from brands and as a kid of course I wanted that as well. A few years into making videos I figured out that maybe there’s another way, a better way. If you work with brands not as an endorser but as an influencer or youtuber, then you are getting all the same stuff, but you don’t have the same level of obligations. You are not exclusive to a specific brand and you can choose whatever gear you want. That is how it started – I was a brand endorser. They sent me some gear and I was wondering how to pay them back which resulted in me creating a video or two. They liked it, I continued, then some other brands approached me and this is how it all began.

How did your channel pick up in 2020?

I don’t think there was one specific trigger, I think it was a combination of different things that happened. First of all, of course people were locked because of the pandemic. But the momentum that I had started before that, in January of 2020. One of those things might have been the YouTube event that I organized in Moscow. It was one of those events when youtubers and brands come together without the general public to just produce content for a few days. There are studios which are all set up and you can book them and create whatever content you want with the gear that is at the event and with the other youtubers. We were 6 or 7 Russian channels and 9 brands and the event was the first of its kind in Russia. The whole thing was organized very quickly and with a very thin budget, but everything turned out great. The effect wasn’t immediate but it was steadily getting better for a few months after that. Perhaps that was the trigger, although most of the content we produced was in Russian. 

How did you come up with the idea to create videos with such detailed reviews of guitar gear?

I used to watch gear videos, but not guitar gear videos. When I was playing in bands I was looking for ways to film the shows so I started buying tiny cameras that I could put on the guitar neck, the drum kit or in front of the stage. I was watching a YouTube channel called Techmoan and was impressed by the way he created his videos – they were so detailed and answered all the questions I might have had. That got me thinking why doesn’t anything like this exist for guitar gear? This is the kind of content I would like to watch when I want to buy a pedal, guitar modeler or a guitar and nothing like that existed so I decided I would be the one to make it. I put together all the questions I would like to get the answers to and that was my script for the first video. It still pretty much is how it is going nowadays as well.

What advice would you give to a beginner guitarist, who would like to buy some gear?

I would say the best solution would be to go into the store and try 3, 5 maybe 10 guitars and just pick the one you like. Don’t go for a very expensive instrument. Any typical Harley Benton, Ibanez Gio, Ibanez AZES or Cort would be a good fit for most needs.  Many brands have good offers in the price range between €150 and €300 and most of those guitars are pretty much the same in terms of performance. They are not top-notch guitars, but they perform. Try a couple from that range and pick the one that sits right with you.  

In terms of sound it is important to know what you are aiming for. Most people get into guitar because they have a favorite band and want to play something like that. That gives you a direction already – if your favorite band plays a certain type of guitar, you probably should go for something similar. It can be beneficial to also watch a couple of “beginners-read” gear videos. I don’t have any of those, but many channels do.

You also have a second channel in Russian language. Are there many differences in creating content for English speakers and for people fluent in Russian?

Yes and no. Apparently it is easier for me to express myself in my native language and I speak way more freely in Russian. Doing livestreams and videos in Russian is way easier for me. Other than that the audience is different. On the Russian channel at first I had only live streams, which now happen every second week. Right now almost every video I produce happens simultaneously in both languages – I film a take in English and then immediately in Russian as well.

What would your dream gear review be about?

They are obviously a few things I would like to have, but I wouldn’t necessarily make videos about them. But there are certain guitar brands I have never touched before and would like to review – Solar for example.

What are you up to when you are not reviewing guitar gear, any project happening at the moment?

I am currently preparing for a show. It is a musical production – “Rent”, one of my favorite shows. We played it a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun and this time it will be even better since we are doing it in English and not in German. It is always more exciting for me to play this kind of stuff rather than regular band gigs, because there is so much more going on – many more people involved and many more things that can go wrong. It is a much higher responsibility, if for example there are 10 actors performing on stage and you are the only instrument that is playing.

What is your dream music project?

I would like to play for Taylor Swift. I once lost a gig because I wasn’t familiar with the certain style of music. Then I realized I needed to get familiar with what is popular at that moment and started listening to whatever received “Best album” of the year. That was right after her album “Speak now” was out, but it wasn’t popular outside of the US. I listened to it and was very impressed and thought I would like to play something like that. And then “Red” came and she did a world tour and so on. It is funny that I got to know and appreciate her music before she became big.

Check out Max Solo Music’s website HERE, follow him on social media HERE and HERE and subscribe to his YouTube channel HERE.

If you have been playing for a while now, you know that guitars get out of tune for all sorts of reasons and it is quite useful to have a backup plan when you don’t have an electronic tuner around. That is when tuning your guitar by ear is a skill you would want to have acquired. But it is so much more than just a convenience.

The process of learning to tune the guitar this way will force you to get familiar with the sound of each string and accordingly be able to tell when a string is out of tune. This lays the foundation of pitch ear training – by consistently tuning your guitar by ear you will learn to understand the pitch relationships between notes. And don’t worry – perfect pitch is not required, and everyone can learn how to tune a guitar by ear to some extent.

The Basics

The six strings of a guitar go from thickest to thinnest. The topmost thickest one is the low E string, also called 6th string. The next thickest is A, or the  5th string, and so on, all the way to the 1st or the high E. 

The pitch order of strings in standard tuning – from 6th to 1st string or from lowest to highest, is EADGBE. It is recommended to tune your guitar in “reverse” order, starting with the 6th string and finishing up with the 1st. You can help yourself remember this pitch sequence with a mnemonic, such as “Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually”. 

Now that we have this covered, lets begin with the real work:

6th String: Low E

Play an example of an E note for a reference pitch. If you use a guitar sound, pitch pipe or other simple “tone” it is comparatively easy to tune by ear. If you have to use another instrument such as a piano, you might find the difference in timbre makes it harder to compare the notes’ pitches. You can use the sound provided below.

Have a listen and then play the E string of your guitar. If the two sound perfectly the same, then your sixth string is in tune. It is though more likely for you to hear a difference which means your guitar string is out of tune. Slowly rotate the tuning peg of your sixth string, gradually adjusting in one direction to see if the two notes come into agreement. If they don’t, and you hear that the pitches are becoming further apart, simply reverse your direction and adjust pitch until the two notes match.

5th string: A

Once the E string is in tune, you actually don’t need any more example sounds – from then on you can tune the other strings based on the correctly adjusted 6th string.

Playing the 5th fret on the E string will produce the same note as the open A string. Place your finger on the 5th fret and play the E string and the A string one by one. If the A string sounds higher, rotate its tuning peg to lower its pitch. If it sounds lower, rotate it the other way. Repeat until the notes sound exactly the same. Just to be confident you got it right, have a listen also to the example of a correctly tuned 5th string below.

4th string: D

The note on the 5th fret of the A string is the same as the open note of the D string. Play the two strings in unison, by placing your finger on the 5th fret of the 5th string and plucking the open 4th string. Listen for whether the two notes are the same or have a noticeable gap in pitch. Adjust your tuning peg until you hear they are an exact match.

3rd string: G

When you get to the point to tune your 3rd or G string to the 4th or the D string some timbre problems might occur. On both acoustic and electric guitars there is typically a change in string type: either from nylon to steel or from single strings to wound strings. This affects the timbre of the note and can make it harder to directly compare pitches. 

Don’t be discouraged though, with a few tries you will get the hang of it. The G on the 4th string is at the 5th fret. Use it to tune your 3rd string’s open note the same way you already did with the previous strings – listen, compare, turn the tuning peg, find a match.

2nd string: B

If you’re playing a steel string acoustic, the timbre difference mentioned above will apply for you here. But never fear! Place your finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string – this will create a B sound, as the open note of your 2nd string should be. I repeat – the 4th fret, not the 5th as in all the cases before. Again, rotate counter-clockwise for higher pitch and clockwise for lower pitch.

1st string: High E

You can tune this one in two ways:

Since your low E string is already tuned, you can tune your high E by referring to it. But as they are two octaves apart, you may find this gap makes it difficult to compare the two pitches.

If you are new to tuning you might want to leave that for later and continue with the method we have been using so far. Placing your finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd or B string will produce an E which sounds exactly how your open first string should. You already know how to continue from there and finish the tuning, right? 

Finishing touches

Before you officially pat yourself on the back and consider the job done, do some checkups. Start by comparing the low E with your source note again and then play each of the note pairs from above to be sure they sound the same. If something doesn’t sound quite right, adjust the tuning of the higher string to match the lower one. This way your tuning is always rooted on your low E string. As you practice tuning and do pitch ear training you’ll find you can sense when a string is out of tune and also directly hear whether it is too high or too low. 

If you’re tuning another instrument or are using different tuning, you might also find it useful to hear an A ‘tuning note’ at 440Hz, so here is a sample of it below:

Of course, this is not the only way to tune your guitar by ear. You can also tune it using natural harmonics, so let us know if you’d like to learn this method. Check out some other ways to tune here and if you want to know more about another one, leave a comment below and you might be responsible for our next article!

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

READ ALSO:
How to tune my guitar?
10 Gift Ideas That Every Guitar Player Would Love
What are the different types of acoustic guitars?
8 Reasons to Learn the Guitar
What are Harmonics and How to Play Them
Guitarist of the Month: Claire Genoud
10 guitar quotes that will make you want one

Photo by Bernie Almanzar on Unsplash

If you know me, then you know this man – my man. My coffee bringer, my rock and inspiration at times, frustration at others. 😀 What else could I possibly say about Renton without going into a biased long story? When we 1st met, we bonded over our love of Joe Stariani and overall passion for guitar. That passion then grew and now we’re in a happy marriage which filled our home with more guitars than probably any sensible household 👀 In the month of our 4th marriage and 9th relationship anniversary, I thought it would probably be good to introduce him better to all of you. Or better yet – let him do that below. If you’re interested in nerding out about guitar, you’ll definitely enjoy this read!” – Neli

How would you describe your journey as a musician so far – where it started and how you got where you are now?

The way I got to where I am today was a bit profound! I had a guitar teacher where I grew up who was a nice guy but only played blues and kept on telling every student that they’re amazing. It was nice to be told things like this and I got used to getting told that I’m really good at guitar, but I knew I was far away from where I wanted to be.

I then started guitar lessons with a different teacher who also taught my uncle how to play bass. He was (at the time) the best guitar player that I’d ever sat next to and he made it very clear from the first lesson that I am (in his words) absolutely shit!….. Motivation done properly! It was obviously not “nice” to hear but I liked the change from being praised all the time and it gave me a push to take it more seriously.

Then basically I went to music university, met my wife, met loads of other fantastic musicians who are all better than me, made a few friends, moved to Bulgaria, and here I am!

What equipment do you use for your varied projects and how do you choose what gear to invest in?

Get a coffee, or a snack, or some popcorn for this answer please. We’re gonna be here for a while…

I started playing guitar to primarily play rock music, so every piece of equipment I have would be useful for that in some way. Even if it means that I don’t use it for rock music, it’s nice to know that it is possible.

Investing in a piece of equipment is actually quite easy. There are four factors I look for, plus a “secret” fifth factor.

  1. Does it sound good?
  2. Does it feel good?
  3. Does it look good?
  4. How reliable is it going to be?

The secret factor is basically, do I feel cool using it and does it make me look good?

That kind of leads me on to what equipment I use. I have quite a lot of guitars, but my main ones are my Warmoth custom strat and my Fender american standard strat (both of which have a low output PAF-style humbucker in the bridge position). These are the two that I play the most as I’m very used to the strat shape and the neck profile. They also have vibrato bars and that means I can do silly tricks and add some nice flavour to chords. It’s also fun to play Joe Satriani music with these guitars.

I also have a double-cut hollowbody Gretsch in green, Which I got because it was pretty and it was a kind of wedding gift from my in-laws. I play that a lot for heavier styles of music because it has this unique clarity and quality sound to it. It’s not very typical to use a hollowbody for metal but I think it works well.

I have a very nice amplifier and speaker cabinet. I have a Victory V30 The Countess MKii (now just called “The Jack”) which has two channels and five available gain sounds. I plugged into one for the first time at my previous job in a guitar store in London (Hello GG Camden if you’re reading!). I couldn’t stop playing the amp as it has huge amounts of gain and distortion available, yet still sounds very unforgiving. I like playing equipment that tells you if your playing sounds good or bad. Some equipment will help you out no matter what, but this amp just punishes you if you’re having a bad day, which I love! The speaker cab is an “Orange 112” with a “Celestion Vintage 30”. Again, this speaker is unforgiving.

I’ve also got a few effects that I use occasionally: wah wah, a nice delay pedal and a couple of distortion and overdrive pedals. I don’t really use the overdrives or distortions much now because the amplifier gives me everything I need. Sometimes, I’ll use a “Tubescreamer” type pedal just to help out the Gretsch, because the pickups on that guitar are very low output.

Recently, I got a “Two-Notes Captor X” which really helps with recording because it means that recording guitar is faster and there is less post-production and processing to do. I use Logic Pro X for recording everything I make. It’s fast and easy to work with and the in-built sounds and the plugins are great.

I also have a Taylor acoustic which I use mostly for just personal enjoyment at home.

To be honest though, there is such a vast amount of equipment out there to explore and try, but I’ll only buy anything if it’s going to help me in some way.

How do you maintain your equipment?

With a lot of care and attention. It takes patience and a little bit of skill to do repair work to any of your musical instruments or amplifiers. I only do basic work on my amp, such as changing the valves, re-biassing the power-valves and changing a fuse every now and then if it’s needed. I don’t understand electronics so if I’m out of my depth, I’ll just take it to someone who knows about that stuff and ask questions if I get the chance.

For my guitars I do everything that I can myself. For example, my Fender recently had a new neck put on it, so I did the fret-levelling (getting all the frets to an even height for the best playability), crowning (reshaping the frets to a nice dome shape) and polishing so that they feel much smoother and better to play. I don’t recommend everyone does this as it does take a lot of time and patience, and it is very easy to get it wrong and ruin your guitar. If you would like to learn about this stuff, check out “Crimson Custom Guitars” on Youtube.

Apart from major repair work, I do guitar set-ups about once every 6 months just to account for seasonal changes to the Truss rod, and general clean and change of strings.

Honestly, the maintenance that I do is because I play every day. Because of the constant use, even tiny changes to my equipment are noticeable.

Recently, you started streaming guitar. What inspired you to get engaged in this activity?

Basically, Neli used to watch a lot of streaming when we were in London, and I always liked the idea, but could never see myself doing it because of the sound quality that I knew was going to be a problem.

Neli helped me set up the streaming software, as I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to computers. When everything was set up I gave it a go and quite enjoyed it, so I carried on.

My goal is to build a community of like minded musicians to chat and hang out. Hopefully me playing guitar and chatting about gear and music will get some people to join in and chat. I’ve always had so many random thoughts and ideas about “guitar tone” everyday. When I wake up in the morning, it’s coffee time and then my brain just hears music and riffs and guitars, and it always leads to ideas about the sound I’m after. I know that there are lots of other musicians who have this kind of thought process (either intentionally or not), so I really want to meet and talk to those people.

I also follow a few musicians on Youtube and other platforms, and streaming doesn’t seem to be too popular with electric guitar players, so I like the idea of helping to popularise it somewhat.

How do you choose what songs to cover and stream?

I don’t really think about it. I have a lot of backing tracks downloaded and a few tracks that I have made myself that I like to jam over. A lot of Joe Satriani stuff is in there. I’ve been trying to play in a style similar to him for years so it’s nice to just play stuff I know.

Generally, if people have a particular request on the stream chat, I’ll have a look at it for the following stream.

Is there something you wish you knew before starting to stream?

Yeah, how difficult it is to be interesting! I do enjoy streaming, but sometimes, when I’m taking time to answer any questions or thinking of a topic to discuss or even just playing the guitar and dialing in a sound, I struggle to fill the silence with something interesting. I’m learning how to deal with this though and often I’ll just put my EP on in the background, just so that the stream doesn’t feel urgent.

Apart from that, I try to advertise when I remember but it’s quite tricky to get over “imposter syndrome”. I’m just not 100 percent sure of how to advertise and where to advertise. I’m still experimenting though.

How do you approach music writing?

Most of the time a song will start with a simple idea, and often the ideas are a personal tribute to a particular artist or something like that. For example, there is a song by a band called “The Winery Dogs” which I love the energy of and the slight tongue-and cheek humour in the lyrics. I basically took the chord progression and the tempo and tried to twist and break it and make something different and new. I find it easier to work this way because the musical ideas flow a bit more freely.

As I have a particular sound that I’m trying to hear and achieve when writing, I often get caught up playing around with sounds and the song doesn’t get finished, because I’ve forgotten how the rest of it sounds in my head! As a result, I have a folder on my desktop with a massive amount of Logic Pro X projects waiting to be finished.

Any new music coming soon?

I do have plans to release a follow-up to my first EP “5” from 2016, but as of right now there are no completed songs. The idea is to explore some of the songs from the first EP and create a “Part 2”. The first EP was an instrumental as well, so maybe I’ll do some singing on this one, or get someone else to sing for me.

I would like to write an album with a band at some point in a heavier progressive rock/metal style. I’ve been listening to “Tool” a lot recently and playing their riffs. I really like the simplicity that they have with the ideas, but the sound and the story that they tell is so unlike anything that anybody else does. I also love the humour and complexities in the music of Frank Zappa, so maybe Tool-ish riffing and bass and drums with Zappa-ish lyrics and improvisational sections would be fun to try and record with a band. Maybe one day…

What is your dream music project?

I love it when I play guitar and look into an audience and see people smiling and laughing with joy at the music and show that they’re seeing. Some shows of friends and also some larger shows with more well known artists have had this effect on me. I remember seeing AC/DC years ago and everybody was dancing and smiling and generally having a great time.

I also had the chance to see Hans Zimmer a few years ago and that was an unbelievable experience. The emotional impact that it had on me was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There was humour, sadness, fear and also a sense of feeling like you’re on top of the world. All because of the music and the show that was put on in front of us.

I think that my dream musical project is just to be with other musicians who I can call friends, and to make people happy and forget the real world for the time we get to play for them.

Either that or replace Joe Satriani in Chickenfoot for a tour or two!

You can catch Renton streaming on Twitch at 18:00 EET Wednesdays and Sundays.
Listen also to his EP “5” HERE and follow him here:
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“I want to introduce to you Joakim – with whom we graduated with Bachelor degrees in contemporary music from ICMP. He’s a very friendly player whose smooth sound never failed to please my ears. Including at his final exam for his Jazz Masters Degree which I was lucky to attend at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I was very happy to hear his own arrangements there and (if I’m not mistaken) some of his originals!

Similar to me – after working and studying in London as a musician he also returned to his home country. So nowadays you can see him working as a guitarist participating in various projects as well as teaching guitar in Norway.” – Neli

How did you get into guitar? 

I grew up in a very musical environment. My mum plays the piano and you could always find several instruments lying around the house. We listened to everything from jazz to Disney music on a daily basis and I was therefore exposed to a lot of music from a very young age. Growing up I sang in the local children’s choir (for a short amount of time), played in a brass band for 5 years as well as started my own punk band at the age of 12 with my best mates from school. I am not a 100% sure why I picked up the guitar, but through family and friends I met several people who could play and I also thought it looked super cool. I picked up a small nylon string guitar lying around the house and my mum taught me 3 chords; E minor, A7 and D major. And that’s how it all started.

Since you have a Master’s degree in jazz music, you are the perfect person to ask – how would you describe jazz music to an aspiring musician experiencing it for the first time?  

This is the biggest cliché around, but Jazz is a language. It is both complex and simple. You can listen to jazz for fun, or you can be the type who analyses the music in the most detailed way. And nothing is wrong with either. I absolutely love some of the easy-listening stuff, as well as the more advanced jazz material I tend to listen to from time to time. When it comes to playing it, jazz is all about improvising, and it is important to realise that jazz improvisation should be fun – not scary. However, in order to improvise you need a few tools up your sleeve, like a good ear or knowing a few scales and how they work over certain chords. This can all be very difficult at the start – at least I thought so when trying to play over jazz standards with my teacher at the age of 14. So my best advice is to be patient, and focus on playing stuff that you really enjoy.

What equipment do you use that has been crucial to your becoming a successful musician?

I have spent countless hours on Youtube and various forums looking for the perfect overdrive pedal, guitar or amplifier. And although I really enjoy gear shopping, I try to spend more time actually playing guitar. I always end up with my trusty Telecaster on most gigs and I can get by with a few of my favourite pedals and a decent valve amp. It is all about making your own gear sounding good. However, like most other musicians I try to stay updated on what is going when it comes to new gear popping up. Find yourself an instrument that you really like playing and you should be good to go. You can always use practice tools like YouTube, Logic, a loop pedal and so on, but this should always be regarded as tools, not a necessity for you in order to have a good practice session or to produce your sound.

Working on the musical “Kristina Från Duvemåla” with Bømlo Theatre, August 2021

In your career, you have been part of several functions and originals bands and also have performed as a session musician, and at musicals. How do you combine all these roles?

I try to be a musical chameleon. I just really enjoy different types of music, and therefore I have chosen not to properly specialise in just one particular style or genre. Some might say that sounds like a limitation, but the more styles and genres I delve into the more I realise how much they have in common. As a result, I am always keen on learning new things, and it keeps me interested at all times. Many of the qualities I have focused on developing over the last few years have also worked as door openers for new projects. I released a songbook about two years ago, which really made me improve my reading skills as well as chart writing. 

How does a performance for a musical come together?

Hard work and lots of it. If it is a big production it will require you to be patient as things don’t always go as planned. There are usually loads of people involved and although people come from different backgrounds and art fields we are all aiming for the best result possible. If everyone is up for going a little bit out of their comfort zone things normally end up really well. 

In 2016 you released the EP of original instrumentals “Spring”. How did it come together?

This was my final project at ICMP. I gathered some of my favourite musicians and we went to a great studio in Dalston called the Blue Studios and recorded 5 songs. A good friend of mine and sound engineer, Nathan Smardina, produced the EP. It was basically a two-day session and I didn’t have a lot of studio experience at the time. I remember learning a lot about session work through this project. Considering how little time you have in studio it is really important to be able to make quick decisions and actually have the skill to play what is required at that particular time. I always think of studio work as a result of that exact moment. Listening back to this EP I am sure there are plenty of things I could, or should, change – but it is what it is; an exact excerpt of those two days in the studio.  

Which qualities do you think make a great musician? 

Personally, I really value two things: Be able to listen and be a nice person. First and foremost I want to work with people who are nice to hang around with. After that they need to be able to play in time, and make their instrument sound good. If a musician ticks all these boxes I’m sure they will have good chances of making a career in the music industry.

What is a thing you’d like to experiment with in music? 

It really interests me how people get emotionally involved in music, either as a listener or performer. Perhaps it’s a melody that you really like, or a groove that gets you going. People find it hard to describe these emotions, and perhaps it would be interesting to study this more in the future. 

Currently Joakim is working on a new album with his solo project – a quartet with him on vocals as well as guitar, and hopefully there will be a single released later this year. Keep an eye out on his Instagram profile @joakimvikanes for more info.

After we covered all about the types of material most guitar strings are made of in Part I, it is time to move on to the other crucially important characteristics you need to keep in mind to equip your guitar with the best fit of string. These are the gauge of the string, as well as the shape of its core and the way it is coated and wound. Stay ‘till the end to also get a recommendation for some of the best guitar string brands.

Gauge

This refers to the size of the string in diameter, or we can simply say “gauge” is just a fancy term for thickness. It’s hard to believe, but even a thousandth of an inch can make a huge difference in your guitar’s sound and feel. This characteristic is measured in 1/1000th of an inch. When you look at a pack of guitar strings, the heaviest and lightest gauges will be displayed on the packaging. For example, ‘10-46’ – which means the pack’s lightest string is a 10-gauge string that is 0.010 inches or 0.254mm in diameter,  and the thickest string is 46-gauge that is 0.046 inches or 1.17 mm in diameter.

String core

The string core essentially means the shape of the guitar string. There are two key types – the round core and the hex core. The round core strings offer mellower tones that sound fantastic when playing blues or classic rock. Meanwhile, the hex core strings are typically louder and brighter, delivering a very modern sound best suited to more recent rock and metal.

Winding

When we talk about winding, we’re referring to the way the wire wrap is wound around the core. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the surface of your string. Roundwounds have a textured surface. They have a bright tone and flexible feel, making them a solid choice for rock, metal and fingerstyle. Roundwounds are also the cheapest and most widespread option. 

When it comes to flatwounds, as the name suggests, they have a flattened surface. They produce more tension on the fretboard, which means less fret buzz and smoother note transitions. But they’re harder to fret and have a dark, bass-heavy tone, which is why they;re widely used in jazz. Half rounds have a slightly flattened surface. They’re brighter than flatwounds, but stiffer and darker sounding than roundwounds. They’re also the most expensive of the three types and may be hard to find at your local store.

Coating

In the late 90s, the brand Elixir revolutionized the industry by launching coated guitar strings. With a plastic polymer around the wire wrap, they keep away sweat, dirt and other grimy build-up and oxidation.

There are two major types of coating, developed by Elixir and copied by other brands:

  • Polyweb: with a heavy coating, they have a smoother feel and longer lifespan.
  • Nanoweb: with a light coating, they feel and sound more like uncoated types.
  • Optiweb: their latest coating – the thinnest of all and meant to last the longest.

Coated strings last at least twice as long as uncoated ones, but they’re also about twice as expensive. Another thing is they aren’t as bright and have less sustain. Let us know if you’d like to learn more about Coating.

String Brand Recommendations

There are a variety of different string brands on the market, and that can make it difficult to know where to start looking. Here are a few recommended brands for each of the three main types of guitar strings.

  • Electric Guitar Strings – Elixir – any of theirs really, Ernie Ball Cobalt Slinkies, D’Addario NYXL, Rotosound
  • Acoustic Guitar Strings – Elixir Phosphor Bronze w/Nanoweb Coating, Ernie Ball Earthwood Strings, D’Addario, Martin M170 80/20 Bronze (although they tend to wear out in a few days)
  • Nylon and Classical Guitar Strings – D’Addario Pro-Arté, Godin Nylon Strings, Martin

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

READ ALSO:
How to tune my guitar?
10 Gift Ideas That Every Guitar Player Would Love
What are the different types of acoustic guitars?
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part I)
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part II)

Photo by Alexis Baydoun on Unsplash

Choosing the right type of strings for your guitar is incredibly important. When you know what strings to use it’s a huge asset to your playing and likewise when you get it wrong it can be incredibly detrimental. There are many types of guitar strings, each of which contributes a different sound to the music you play. In this two-part series, we will cover all the basics you need to know in order to equip your guitar with the best fit of strings.

The sound of a guitar string depends on the material and gauge of the string, as well as the shape of its core and the way it is coated or wound. In this first part, we will dive into the types of material. 

The most common strings are metal ones that use steel and nickel, metal ones made from brass or bronze, and strings made from nylon. Occasionally, you can find ones made from other metals, like:

  • Titanium: long-lasting, with a bright tone.
  • Cobalt: has a bright tone and wide range.
  • Chrome: has a warm tone, but breaks easily.

Steel and nickel are mainly used to make strings for electric guitars. Usually, an electric guitar string will consist of a steel wire that is plated in nickel, although you can also buy pure steel or pure nickel ones. Steel strings have a long sustain and are best for metal, rock and country. Important to know is that they should never go on a classical guitar. Ever! Classical guitars are lightly braced, with a delicate body. You might accidentally snap its neck by using high-tension steel since you’re likely to double the tension it is designed to be able to handle. On nickel strings, your notes will be warmer, richer and fuller. Because of this, nickel is more popular with rhythm guitarists and is typical in vintage-sounding blues or jazz. Opting for nickel-plated steel strings allows you to find a happy medium between these two sounds.

Brass and bronze strings are a variation of steel strings for steel-string acoustic guitars. Brass is favored by a lot of musicians who want to bring out the “natural” tones of their instrument. It combines a strong bass on the lower strings with a super bright tone on the higher strings. But here is also a warning – brass ages faster than other types. Bronze plated strings deliver a smoother and warmer sound than brass, which is why they are often used for softer music pieces.

Nylon strings are typically used on nylon string guitars or classical guitars. They can have low tension, so you might experience some fret buzz when you play. With the right guitar body, you can master a diversity of styles – from classical, through flamenco and gypsy jazz, to country, with nylons. Do keep in mind though that because they tend to stretch more than steel ones, they require more frequent tuning, especially when newly installed. They are also more sensitive to atmospheric changes caused by humidity and temperature.

Now you know what to expect from the different types of strings based on the material they are made of. In order to match your guitar with the best strings though you need to also be on the lookout for their gauge, string core, coating and winding. We will be covering that in the second part so stay tuned!

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

READ ALSO:
How to tune my guitar?
10 Gift Ideas That Every Guitar Player Would Love
What are the different types of acoustic guitars?
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part I)
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part II)

Photo by Daniel G on Unsplash

“Georgi is the 1st guitar tutor I met in Bulgaria since moving back in 2019. We met at a blues jam session and I really liked the way he managed to weave beautiful melodies into his improvising and get lovely tones from his instrument. I was also impressed that he put the effort in bringing all sorts of effects to a jam session, some of which I have been eyeing up for quite a while (like the Big Sky from Strymon). We continued chatting on social media and I found out that he has a very similar approach to teaching as me. So, I immediately decided that he’d have some very valuable advice to share with you! Read more about him below.” – Neli

How did you get into guitar?

I was 14 years old when something made me say to my mother: “I want you to sign me up for guitar lessons!”. It was very sudden, I don’t even know where it came from. The answer was that they would do it, but I had to fix my grades at school – and I agreed. However, I really got into it when my music teacher at school gathered us in the school hall and played Asturias by Isaac Albeniz for us on his classical guitar. I had never heard such an incredible sound and was speechless. Then he told us that we could take guitar lessons with him, and I was the first one to sign up.

I attended classes with him for a year, but we only studied classical guitar. This is a common practice in Bulgaria, which I do not consider good, given that everyone wants to play something different. However, I never waited for the lessons to come – all the time I was trying things by myself, digging on the Internet for information and spending 6 hours a day practicing. This way I progressed a lot.

With years of experience as a guitarist and guitar teacher, how do you take care of constantly developing your guitar skills?

I like for things to happen gradually and naturally – for example, I learn a new chord and think about how to apply it. In general, at this stage I am at the point where I am refining my phrasing more and upgrading my improvisation skills so that I can naturally push an improvisation forward to tell a story – this is the main thing I am working on. Things happen quite naturally because of my inner desire to learn new things.

Also while working with students, sometimes new ideas come to my mind on how to teach better – such as how to explain things like chords and strumming more clearly. I’ve been asked a lot of cool questions that made me realize I can do something better. This is a great way to grow because you also get feedback.

 What do you wish you knew about the guitar before you started learning it?

It would have been great if I knew that playing by notation is not necessary at all. Classical guitar and playing songs have nothing in common, the instrument is different. The classical guitar has a very wide fretboard and it is not convenient to play songs or solos on it. The acoustic guitar, which is closest to the classical one, has a more narrow fingerboard and metal strings. Everything sounds great and natural on an acoustic. With the electric ones, you can get so many variations of the sound, which is also great. I wish I had come across a teacher who had pushed me in that direction initially.

Another thing is, it would have been nice to know a little more theory in the beginning. I studied the theory all by myself – for all these years since I’ve been involved in music, I haven’t found anyone to explain it to me in a good way. I figured out things by myself through a lot of trials and errors. If the theory is brought into a framework and shown through clear examples of what, how and why – it is not that difficult. How to think, how to change voicings, how to serve the song – today I teach these things because it seems like not enough is said about them.


What are some realistic goals that a beginner guitarist should set for themselves?

I think you have to start with the attitude – to be patient. It’s strictly individual for everyone, but playing the guitar takes time – you can’t play any song perfectly in a month. Even if you learn the chords correctly, then you have to fix the right hand, the dynamics, the tempo and many other factors.

A good goal is to learn most of the main chords in the 1st [classical] position in a month or two – like C major, G major, A minor, etc. This again depends – some people will find it easier to start with a scale like the pentatonic, since it is easy to remember because of the serious logic behind it.

Another important thing for beginners is the placement of both hands, to control the right hand and the pick well and not to hit too hard. These are some things that are important to master properly in the beginning.

In addition to teaching guitar, you also work as a session musician. How does a typical session of yours go?

It all starts with a long conversation in which we specify how exactly the record should sound and I offer different options. I’m also a pianist, so if the record is to include a piano, we clarify that as well. I try to nail down the nuance that is being pursued. I try out different ideas, from which in the end remains the best one, which I send. If they don’t like it – I try another one. The main thing is that I try to serve the song. The technical part is not a problem, because I know how to make the recording in the right way with a timbre that suits the song and complements it.

What can we find on your YouTube channel, or maybe expect soon?

I started developing my YouTube channel last December. I decided that this was a natural step for me, because in addition to working with audio, I also work on video production. A friend of mine made me try it and it dawned on me that it was something I could do. I am extremely pleased with the quality and the information I manage to convey.

My channel is focused on everything music. It contains many guitar lessons on topics that no one seems to talk about on the Internet. I also alanyse songs, which is something new for me, and I really enjoy it. I think this is a very cool format. I am also trying to create a catalog with chords of Bulgarian songs. For example, many people want to play D2 songs (a Bulgarian band), but there are no videos on how to play a song of theirs, which I want to change.

How do you choose the themes on which you create YouTube videos?

There are questions that I asked myself as a beginner and I did not find the answers – by this logic I make a lot of the videos. I pick the topics based on things which were missing from my own knowledge back when I was a beginner. But also it depends on what I am interested in on the week I’m recording. There are some weeks when I play the piano more and others, when I am mostly on the guitar.

It is important for me that my content is in Bulgarian – my goal is to make videos for the Bulgarian audience, which give a good feeling and teach something without unnecessary information.

What is your dream music project?

I have been working on it for over a year – my debut solo album, which will include 10 original songs. We are already halfway through – 5 of the songs are ready for recording, and for the other 5 we are working on the lyrics. It will be muso oriented with real instruments, analog sound and songs that I hope will not have an expiration date. I think it will turn out great. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and I’m getting closer to the goal of releasing the album. I am very glad that I have found great musicians with whom to bring it to life. I am the main producer, arranger, guitarist and pianist for the project. I try to make it by the American standards – like John Mayer, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Michael Jackson. I hope to be able to do it on the same level and create music for the soul that resonates with people. I hope to have concerts to which fans of my music come. This is the greatest recognition for a performer – someone to set aside money and time to come and watch you.

Check out Georgi’s website HERE, follow him on social media HERE and subscribe to his YouTube channel HERE.

To pinpoint the best acoustic guitar brands is a highly subjective endeavour, however it is important to know some basics, particularly for people who are relatively new to the instrument and would like to narrow down their search when looking to buy one. So here is a breakdown of Neli’s prefered brands and their distinctive features.

Fender

While many guitar companies began making acoustic guitars and later moved into electric guitars, with Fender it happened the other way around. Although Fender moved much later into acoustics, the legendary brand offers a diverse collection. These models include both classic styles and more diverse shapes, so players in all genres can find a great fit. Although they are not widely regarded as a high-end maker of acoustic guitars, they are very well respected for the entry-level acoustics.

Each Fender acoustic guitar is made to play fast and smooth. Tonewoods like mahogany, sapele, and spruce keep each Fender acoustic guitar smooth and crisp, with a tightly focused sound that cuts through live mixes.

Martin

The founder of Martin is known as the person to invent the first-ever acoustic guitar in the United States, so one can expect good quality – and the brand delivers. It is one of the oldest yet most reliable ones that offer top-quality instruments for the past nearly 200 years, and they’re still going strong. Generations of players in all genres — from Johnny Cash to Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran — have cherished their Martin guitars because of their higher-end craftsmanship and timeless sound. 

Martin pioneered body shapes like the dreadnought and orchestra model (OM) and, even today, its model lines provide rich, supple response with a delicate mid-range and powerful bass. It’s hard to beat the quality that Martin offers in their lower price-range as well. They might be a bit more pricey, but you won’t need another guitar. Added bonus – they are very environmentally friendly.

Taylor

Taylor’s signature body shape, the grand auditorium, blends the strumming power of a dreadnought with the fingerstyle articulation of an orchestra or concert model. If you’re looking for a brand that combines premium tonewoods with dynamic voicing and pristine build quality, it’s hard to beat Taylor guitars. 

The best thing about this brand is that it manufactures guitars for everyone. Whether you have a tight budget or you are ready to spend well on a high-end guitar, you will get a perfect acoustic guitar to suit your needs. Artists such as Taylor Swift, Zac Brown, and Jason Mraz play the guitars by this brand. 

Cort

Cort Guitars is a South Korean manufacturer that makes a massive amount of guitars. Chances are, you have played one of the Cort Guitar models, and you didn’t even know it, because they produce guitars for larger companies. A little known fact is they also have their own brand. They do not advertise the same way that other brands do so you might be hearing this for the first time. 

But if you do stumble across Cort, you will find a great line of instruments that cover all the genres. These models come in all kinds of finishes and price points, and they have a pretty wide variety of shapes and features for any playing style.

Yamaha

Yamaha guitars are built to last, with the construction sturdy enough to withstand years of use. They are designed to appeal to guitarists of all levels, and the sound is so good that you can grow with the instrument and not feel that it holds you back, which is sometimes an issue with low-price, beginner guitars.

Their higher-priced guitars are also particularly special. With features enabling you to play live with a band, Yamaha’s innovative “Transatlantic” technology allows you to have reverb and chorusing effects to sing straight out of the guitar itself… without needing to plug in! 

Ibanez

Ibanez is one of the most reliable guitar brands in the industry. It is a top contender when it comes to guitar brands for entry-level and amateur guitarists and it is a great option if you are looking for a budget nylon string. On the acoustic market, Ibanez prioritizes traditional body shapes like the dreadnought and concert bodies. For anyone who is willing to purchase a high-quality guitar but does not have the budget to go for a Martin or Taylor, an Ibanez is a smart choice.

Kremona

Did you know that one of the premier European guitar manufacturers – Kremona, known for their industry-leading nylon string classical acoustic guitars, is Bulgarian? That’s right! Established in Bulgaria in 1924 by the master luthier named Dimitar Georgiev, Kremona has built itself as a household name when it comes to both affordable and high-end classical guitars. The flagship models of the Kremona line of nylon string acoustics feature solid tops, backs and sides built with superior tonewoods delivering a balanced sound with rich lows and clear mids perfect for classical, jazz, pop and more. Their steel-string guitars are also a fantastic option coming in many traditional body styles.

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

READ ALSO:
How to tune my guitar?
10 Gift Ideas That Every Guitar Player Would Love
What are the different types of acoustic guitars?
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part I)
Types of Electric Guitar According to Body Shapes (Part II)

Stumbling upon inspiring people online is great right? Well, Paul is exactly one of those inspiring guitarists that I met on Instagram. He regularly posts guitar content on social media and his attitude and playing is contagious! It makes you want to pick up the instrument some more as well. Read more about him below as he shares some behind-the-scenes stories and some guitar tips.” – Neli

What brought you on the path of a career in music?

Although I was not born into a musical family, I was fascinated by music and musicians as a kid. My parents sent me to piano and violin lessons at an early age, but secretly I was more drawn to the guitar. I remember being in awe of guitarists like Slash and Prince and amazed by their music videos. Even though I was too young to understand what was happening in those videos, I thought the guitar was so cool. Thankfully, I was able to convince my parents to let me play guitar in middle school. I felt the freedom to create through the guitar, which is something my violin and piano teacher didn’t let me do. They told me that to create music, you first had to achieve a level of virtuosity in your instrument. One of my music teachers in high school even discouraged me from auditioning for music schools, which was too bad. It turns out they were wrong. Years later, I attended a conservatory and earned a Masters in Music Composition.

While I was composing, I, unfortunately, didn’t have much time to play guitar. For a few years, I felt like I was neglecting the instrument. Although I’ve used my guitars to record and produce, they mostly sat in my studio collecting dust. That made me feel a little regretful, and I thought I should go back to playing one day. The lyrics “your sword’s grown old and rusty” from “Giving Up the Gun” by Vampire Weekend rang in my head for some time.

About three years ago, I broke 5 bones in my right hand and wrist. It was a tough recovery process, and I lost a lot of muscle mass on my right arm and shoulder. I was really worried that I lost the ability to play guitar. So as soon as I got the clearance from my doctor to resume normal activities, I picked up my guitar to relearn it and see how far I can advance. After regaining mobility in my right hand, I began actively auditioning for bands and ended up in Between Skies.

What is the story behind your stage name?

Hmm, I think the story might not be too interesting. I’m actually a private person, and I wanted to create a slight barrier between my stage and social media persona and my private life. Although anyone with Google can easily look up people’s real names, I thought I should add just one layer. For a while, I loved the cartoon Adventure Time and loved the character Marceline’s songs. Cartoonist Rebecca Sugar wrote them, and they are super catchy. I think I was playing guitar one day, and someone said “sweet tone,” and it clicked!

Also, I didn’t want those familiar with my work as a composer to influence their expectations of my guitar playing or any of the bands I’d perform with.

You are on the verge of releasing your debut EP “Horizons” Between Skies. How did the creation process for it go?

Oh, it had a lot of starts and stops! I think, like every musician in the world, the pandemic really put a halt in the process. Guitarist Tommy Scales is the main writer for Between Skies. I mostly contribute guitar solos and a few supporting riffs. Tommy began writing the songs in “Horizons” before Between Skies was formed. After he formed the band, we were hoping to record and release it by 2020. But thankfully, we were able to persevere and find a way to finish recording remotely during the quarantine. We are so excited to share it! It’s a short EP, but it took a while to make, and great friendships were born out of the process.

How did the band come together in the first place?

Around 2018, guitarist Tommy Scales was a bartender, and bassist Ranpal Chana was his regular customer. They discovered they both loved metal and decided to jam together and start a band. They posted some ads, and eventually, I auditioned, followed by vocalist Oscar Derderian. Before the pandemic, we began performing with our former drummer Pedro Herrera, who left for personal reasons. Our last gig was in a venue called the Midway Café on March 10, 2020, the day many states in the US declared a state of emergency. Now that our new drummer Edson Lacerda joined, we will resume live performances after the release of Horizons on August 3, 2021.

Is there a certain message or emotion you want to convey with the “Horizons” EP to the audience?

The songs in “Horizons” explore themes of delusions of grandeur that can spiral into paranoia. We’re pretty nerdy guys, so you may hear some nerdy references in the lyrics. But overall, we wanted to create an unfiltered metal record. Although each member listens to different styles of music, we all have a love for metal and especially classic metal. So we wanted to create something that sounds new while paying homage to our influences.

What effects do you use on your electric guitar? How do you choose them?

My favorite guitar effect is a good spring reverb. Although I have pedals, they are mostly drive, reverb, or delay pedals. I have a couple of funky effects that I might use to create some Instagram content. But, I really shy away from other effects and instead try to create effects with my hands. For example, I may use my whammy bar or left hand to emulate the wobbly effect of a chorus pedal.

Personally, when I choose pedals, I go for ones that have the least amount of knobs. Although I appreciate the level of control that some pedals have, I get overwhelmed with the options and worry I might kick a weird setting on a dark stage. But, I believe it’s all a personal choice. Some people love playing with all the knobs and adjusting every parameter. That is totally cool too! I just prefer simplicity.

For many years, I used to play totally pedal-less. I just plugged straight into an amp with a good drive channel and a spring reverb tank, and I was happy with that! 

Having years of experience as a musician, how do you personally set goals for the continuous development of your guitar skills?

Honestly, for many years I felt that I was stuck and stagnant with my guitar skills. But in the back of my mind, I was not satisfied and wished I was advancing more. By advancing, I don’t mean turning into a shredder. I felt like I was doing the same things over and over and wished I could see the guitar differently. For me, breaking my hand was a turning point. When the possibility came that I could never play guitar or advance in guitar due to an injury, my perspective changed. Now I feel like I have a good mentality for practice and trying new things. When you practice, it’s not about just repeating the same thing over and over. You need to learn how to practice smart and make sure you are evolving as you go. I think I advanced more dramatically in the months after my injury than the years before it. I like to set short-term goals like learning a new song or working on a particular technique. Over time, the short-term goals add up. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

I’m sure other musicians will say this, but listening to different kinds of music really helps with goal setting and expanding your sense of what’s possible. You don’t need to become a fan of every style of music but developing the skills to actively listen and try to understand the music that’s new to you really helps. Personally, I feel like I have so much more room to grow on the guitar. I live near the Berklee College of Music, so I feel like I’m surrounded by 10,000 guitarists who are better than me. Maybe they are 10,000 people I can learn something from.

What is your dream musical project?

Oh, this is a hard question! As a guitarist, I would love to jam with someone like Thundercat or perform with an innovative artist like Erykah Badu. As a metal guitarist, I would love to be a Nameless Ghoul in the band Ghost and perform in one of their huge arena performances. 

Now that the Between Skies line up is complete and the band has a new drummer, Paul is looking forward to creating and recording new music. He recently joined the funk/smooth jazz band Midnight Motion. They are planning on recording a debut EP, so look forward to that.

Photo by Nicole Mari Photography

He also has a bunch of unfinished electro-acoustic instrumental tracks that could end up with a more electronic or maybe a more guitar-centric sound. He is planning to finish them as a solo project. You can find some clips on his Instagram now!

Follow Paul and his bands here:
Website: wearebetweenskies.bandcamp.com
Instagram: @paulsugar.music
@wearebetweenskies
@midnightmotionband
TikTok: @paulsugar.music

When a guitarist’s approach to playing includes flatpicking and fingerpicking simultaneously, it’s called hybrid picking. This is accomplished by holding a pick in the conventional way, and then using your remaining fingers to pluck as well. Although it has a strong connection with country and rockabilly styles, hybrid picking can be used in practically all styles of guitar playing.

Who uses hybrid picking?

It was popularised by progressive rock guitarists such as Steve Howe in the ‘80s, but these days the technique has been adopted by many players because of its speed and flexibility. Players like Guthrie Govan and Eric Johnson have pushed technical boundaries and often include hybrid picking in their melodic arsenals.

Why learn hybrid picking?

Basically it is the best of both worlds. It allows you to have the possibilities presented when using a fingerstyle approach while instantly being able to switch back to flat picking when you desire to do so. Hybrid picking also has a unique sound quality compared to just the pick, or just the fingers. 

The natural question that comes after this is – how to do it then?

Start Small

For those who feel more comfortable using a standard pick, try a small one with a pointy tip – it facilitates a true pick pluck in tighter spaces, and the small “pick print” means it will stay relatively out of the way, leaving your other fingers plenty of room to get into the mix for various plucking patterns.

Flow Your Roll

Many fingerstyle players use primarily the first three fingers, but since the index finger is occupied pinching the pick along with the thumb in hybrid picking, fingers 2 and 3 become primary. 

You can try to get a consistent roll going forward – pick, 2, 3, repeat, or backward – 3, 2, pick, repeat.

Here’s an elementary exercise: Form an open D chord and focus on the top three strings so that the arpeggiated chord tones are, from low to high, A, D, F#. Get a click going on a metronome. Try repeating the arpeggio up from strings three to one in time. Then try the same in reverse. When you have this down, slow the tempo and play the notes as triplets, three to a beat.

Involve the Pinkie

To get a flow going, try it in 6/8 time as follows: Pick the open D, pluck the A on the third string with finger 2, pluck the D on the second string with finger 3, and then pluck the F# on the top string with the pinkie.

Don’t hit that a second time; just go right back down in reverse order until you pick the open D string, and then start heading right back up. Keep repeating up and down.

Next, try working that concept using different chords with the goal of switching smoothly, in time, from chord to chord.

Final thoughts

Once you can do that, you’re off and running as a hybrid picker, with a million songs at your fingertips. Learning to work both your fingers and the plectrum opens up all sorts of new avenues for exploration so dive ahead and find your next inspiration. 

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

PhotPhoto by freestocks on Unsplash

READ ALSO:
What is a classical guitar?
What are the different types of acoustic guitars?
What are Harmonics and How to Play Them