It is already the second week of 2021, but it is never too late to get inspired for some more New Year’s resolutions or to adjust the ones you have already set. Here are some goals that would benefit a great deal to any guitarist – no matter a beginner or an advanced player. Take a look and adopt right away ones that fit you!

Practice technique regularly – Whether you’re preparing for gigs, or just want to stay in top shape, technical exercises are your friends. Not the most pleasant of friends, but the ones that push you to be your best self. And you can only hang out with them for 10 minutes at a time 😀 so you’ll be able to manage this!

Learn Something New Each Week – even if it’s not a full song, or just doing something easy. After all variety is the spice of life 🙂

Join a Guitar Club – doing your hobby is great, but joining a club like our Guitar Family will make sure that you are held accountable to your goals. Also, you can always rely on your club members to back you up whenever you feel uncertain about something and have any questions, or just for a safe-space filled with like-minded people where you can share your progress.

Try a new genre – have you tried playing country? Or jazz? Or metal? Or classical? Pick a new genre just to tip your toes and explore what expressions and techniques are different in this genre. This will not only broaden your horizon, but also improve your overall technique and therefore your playing in the genres you love.

Read More Books – Do you want to improve on your skills? Get a book filled with notes so you can sight-read, or a book on theory or the neuroscience of music, so you better understand what lies behind the thing we love. Or just something lighter like the story of your favourite guitarist. It’s always great fun to read what people went through to get to where they are.

Plan a home concert – whether it is online, you’re alone or with people, planning a concert at home can help you stay focused on the songs you want to learn. If you set a clear date when you’d like to do a 15/30 minute or even 1h concert, you’ll also have that date to look forward to. And you can invite people closer to the time if you feel like you’d like to brave an audience, or you can just record yourself, so you’ll be able to look back on your progress from that moment in time 🙂

Share your resolutions one-on-one – “Some research shows that telling others your goal makes you feel like you’ve already achieved it,” says Dr. Oz. But other studies indicate that sharing progress can help you keep going, he adds. Dr. Oz’s advice: “Confide in one friend, then share achievements with others when you’re on the road to success.” And you can always share your goals or success in our Guitar Family. I love seeing you achieve your goals!

Invest in your Guitar Maintenance – grab a good pack of strings (you can see my recommendations at the Musician Toolbox), and if you don’t have this already, grab some fretboard oil, nut sauce to lubricate the nut and the bridge of your guitar and a good cloth. That way you can clean your guitar, take care of the fretboard wood and make everything feel brand new! And if you don’t want to do this yourself, head to your local guitar shop and ask for a set-up. They will also be able to adjust the neck of your electric or acoustic guitar and give your instrument some needed TLC.

Keep Healthy – take some walks or try out Yoga – that way you will keep your mind at ease, which does wonders for your focus when playing the guitar. You can also try lifting weights – this can do wonders for your durability while playing standing up, or just moving your gear 😀

Build a Budget for a New Guitar/Gear – what’s up with that guitar you’ve been dying to get? You can totally do that this year by planning ahead and creating a savings budget. Make sure that it is viable in the long run and you can stick to it.

Are any of these goals already on your list? Which ones will you add after reading them here? We are waiting for you over at our Guitar family to tell us! We would love to hear also if you have ideas for what we should add to the list.

The featured photo is by Haley Powers on Unsplash.

Photo by Giuseppe Caggiano

“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: info@giuseppepucciarelli.com.

You can check out his three previous records here: 

2017 – Shall We Say It Is Worth [ https://ampl.ink/N9LJR  ]
2019 – Feel Free To Feel Free – [ https://ampl.ink/aKmDP ]
2020 – Tunes We Like [ https://ampl.ink/VDyBe ] 

CDs can be bought from https://giuseppepucciarelli.bandcamp.com/ or by emailing info@giuseppepucciarelli.com

Follow him also on social media:

Website: https://www.giuseppepucciarelli.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pucciarellistraightahead/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PucciarelliMusic/ 

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.

 Les Paul

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.

SG

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.

PRS  

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.

4. GuitarPro Software

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 guitarbass, 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.

3. Voucher for lessons

If you really want to go above and beyond for your guitarist – then this is the one. Any aspiring guitarist would be delighted to get a voucher for lessons, but even an advanced player would benefit a whole lot from such a present. If you get a 10 lessons voucher from Neli, you even get a 10% discount!

2. Headphones 

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.

+ Bonus

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:

YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/clairegenoud
Instagramwww.instagram.com/clairegenoud/
Websitewww.clairegenoud.com

“‘How can I start teaching so that when I graduate I can hit the ground running?’ was the question on my mind during my last year of music uni. Well, Alex Bruce was the 1st person to help me on the path of becoming a successful guitar tutor. I was a part of his company Bruce Music, which at the time provided guitar and piano lessons for students of all ages and abilities in London and I quickly got my 1st students through him. Since I left London, I understand that more have joined his team now covering 12 instruments and 5 UK cities! And with his ethos of being engaging, approachable, nurturing, friendly, and fun I thought he would have some useful tips to share.” – Neli

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

I started playing guitar when I was 14, and it quickly became far beyond a hobby, and what I thought I wanted to do with my life. I’ve been in various bands, written songs, studied, etc. And really enjoyed all of it. But really what has brought me the most success has been running the company.

What led you to create your agency, in which you connect guitar teachers and students?

I’m always keen to stress that Bruce Music isn’t one of those faceless, giant agencies, which any aspiring teacher can join. I meet the teachers personally, have certain standards I’m looking for, and want to promote a personal service at all times. I created it in 2013 – I wanted teaching work to supplement my income while studying, and although a few companies took me on and gave me teaching work, it became clear really I’d need to create my own company in order to have more control over attracting greater numbers of students. I worked particularly hard in the beginning, setting the company up, and arguably neglected my degree somewhat. However the positive aspect of that was that by the time my course finished, I had a secure income in place.

How do you match a student to the right teacher or vice-versa?

Much of it comes down to location, as the teacher needs to be local enough to easily reach the student’s home. As the team has grown, usually we’ll have a few teachers – rather than just one – who are local to a prospective student. So it becomes an issue of – which teacher can give the student the scheduling they want? Are there any stylistic indicators e.g. If the student loves jazz, or metal, or classical guitar, would one of the teachers therefore be best suited? And also – learning styles. Often parents will let us know the kinds of teachers and teaching approaches their children have historically responded well too. This further enables us to give them the right match.

What could you give as advice to a student who wants to find the most suitable teacher on their own?

Try to speak to them on the phone, as you’ll get a good sense of if you ‘click’ and if your personalities match up. Simply put – do you like them? Do you get on with them? Each student has their own concerns – for some it’s location, or price, or schedule, or the teacher’s qualifications. My advice really would be to look for a balance of all of these things. If anyone of these aspects makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably not right. 

You have an insight on how a lot of music teachers are handling the situation in the world right now. How was switching to only online lessons been for you and the teachers at your agency?

Things have gone very well in that respect. I always work hard to give each student or parent individualized communications, admin, and customer service, and I think this approach helped encourage students to stick with us and try online lessons. Really though most of the credit should go to the team as many of them really took initiative in sourcing new software, diligently adapting lesson planning, and finding huge enthusiasm and encouragement in difficult times. The fact that so many students were keen to stick with them was also a testament to the great rapport they’d already built and how likeable the teachers are.

Have online lessons been effective for your teachers and students?

Overall, yes. Certainly they take some thinking about, and preparation, but with the teachers’ diligence and the students’ hard work, most have hugely enjoyed their lessons’ continuation. For many it provided routine and structure, a creative outlet, and during lockdown, frankly, something to do! Teachers and students alike embracing technology has been crucial, and those who have have found their lessons as enjoyable as their previous in-person ones (and often more convenient too – they don’t have to travel to a teacher…or tidy up before the teacher visits them!)

What other adjustments did you have to implement?

The big one was an adjustment of approach. Because, for example, when a teacher and a student/parent are in agreement on how/when/if to switch to online, or switch back to in-person, then great. But in the instances where they don’t see things the same way, it has taken some careful management. Of course, no one should be pressurized into working in a way that makes them uncomfortable. While on the other hand, customer service, and giving students what they want is the core of the business. It has been a balancing act! September has been good in that sense, as for many it had been an arbitrary milestone – when many planned to return to normal lessons.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

I spend so much time in a guitar-based mindset that I love to listen to stuff without any guitars in it whatsoever. My favourite band is Mammal Hands – a sort of modern, jazz-ish trio from Norwich, UK. But my all-time biggest influence would be the solo work of John Frusciante. Between 2001 and 2009 he released 10 albums, basically any one of which I’ll always love more than just about anything else.

What is your favorite thing to do with a guitar in hand?

Like many guitarists, I’m prone to improvise soloing over backing tracks! But I also love playing in a kind of self-accompanying, chord melody, semi-improv style too, as that feels like a test of knowledge and ability and creativity that’s genuinely challenging, but manageable with focus. And that’s what makes it engaging and fun.

The growth of the business has enabled Alex to explore also other creative avenues too, and he has found relative success as a writer of comedy and drama. He enjoys persevering with that and currently has pitches in with various TV and radio broadcasters. He finds that a fun, and a nice non-musical outlet. 

Bruce can be contcted at: alex@brucemusic.co.uk
Check out also Bruce Music’s website: https://brucemusic.co.uk/

Childhood is a magical time when kids discover the world and in this time, it is important to give them opportunities to explore. One of the best ways is to introduce them to the world of music – not only is learning an instrument a fun activity, but also a tool for development in many areas. If your child has expressed the desire to play a musical instrument, and especially if that instrument is the guitar, they could hardly have made a better choice.

Let’s get something out of the way – when is the best time for a child to begin taking guitar lessons? The answer to this question is largely dependent on the child – some kids are ready to begin guitar lessons very young, while others need more time. The biggest physical hurdle young kids generally need to overcome when learning guitar is their lack of fine motor skills and hand strength. A way to cope with that is to start with learning the ukulele – due to its size, it is perfect for children. The best option though is just to try – a trial lesson with a guitar professional is a sure way to check whether the child is ready to start lessons.

Let’s now talk about some of the benefits of learning the guitar for a child. They are numerous, but read further to find some of them.

Develop Concentration

Concentration is often one of the first skills that children must master when they are learning how to play the guitar. Due to having to focus on a specific task over extended periods of time, concentration is something that comes hand in hand with learning the guitar. Developing it like this will also help them when they need to focus their attention in other educational subjects and generally in life.

Physical Benefits

Taking guitar lessons helps children develop physically, and also strengthens the links between physical and mental action. As they learn to place their fingers on the neck of the guitar and coordinate their hands, children will improve their general coordination and learn to use their hands independent of one another. They will also learn proper posture and positioning.

Improve Memory

Children have the ability to absorb a lot of information, and learning guitar will help them structure their memory and improve this skill. Playing an instrument and reading music requires the kids to constantly build up their knowledge and make links between the different pieces of information, which trains their memory and cognitive abilities.

Teach Discipline

Guitar lessons also improve children’s self discipline. In order to play well, they have to spend many hours practicing. By persevering in their practice sessions and keeping on with basic music theory even when they are frustrated, children will then be able to apply that same dedication to school and to life in general.

Boost Self-Confidence

By providing children with the opportunity to learn guitar, together with the encouragement of a good teacher and also the family showing plenty of support, a child can develop a sense of pride as well as increasing confidence. It is widely believed that children who practice creativity and self-expression that goes with playing guitar often become better communicators and happier individuals.

Increased Creativity and Critical Thinking

By learning guitar from a young age, children learn to develop their critical thinking. When they read sheet music or guitar tabs, they learn to analyze and deconstruct a piece of music by examining its structure. By learning different pieces of music in different styles, children also engage their artistic sensibilities and creativity. They begin to identify their own preferences and when improvising develop their creativity.

Expressing Emotions by Playing Guitar

Music is a universal language – you often hear that it’s a channel to express the soul of the musician, and it’s definitely a way to explore one’s emotions. By playing the guitar, children will explore new dimensions of their personality, give voice to what is in their hearts, and be more in tune with themselves.

While letting a child try guitar lessons is a wonderful thing, it is also important not to force the child to do something he or she doesn’t want. Developing a negative impression of guitar lessons early in life can repel kids on playing music in general. So don’t be too disappointed if your child has no aspirations to become the next Jimi Hendrix…

If you would like to sign up your child for a trial guitar lesson, you can do that HERE – the first one is 50% off! Also feel free to reach out to ask for a list of recommended tutors.

The first time experiencing jazz music can be overwhelming for any listener. Its structure is typically more complex than the other popular forms of music we are used to. Jazz is of an improvised nature – it consists of multiple melodies and rhythms working together – which can be hard to follow for listeners accustomed to more structured, predictable forms of music. Exactly the things that make jazz difficult to appreciate at first though, keep listeners interested for the long run.

The number of musicians in a Jazz ensemble can vary all the way from two to 20 players. Besides size, they also range in style and instrumentation. But they all have three basic elements in common: improvisation, syncopation and blue notes.

Improvisation is the heart of jazz. It happens when a player follows a moment of inspiration into unwritten territory, and composes while playing. Improvising takes a great amount of skill, a good ear and a lot of focus. Another thing it requires is willingness to experiment, so it’s never too early to start! Improvisation allows communication between players known as a call-and-response pattern. It starts when a soloist, singing or playing, issues a “call” and the other participants sing or play back a “response.” It’s a fun way to improvise and get involved with other band members, especially when you’re jamming.

Syncopation refers to shifting the emphasis of a song’s rhythm, or beat pattern, to weak or unaccented beats and notes. Skilled musicians can syncopate smaller denominations of notes, dividing the offbeats into eighths and 16th notes in the beats. Syncopation appears in jazz when two rhythms are played against each other. This is also a feature that appears in latin-style music and a lot of dance music. And this is where jazz gets its swing, which makes listeners want to tap their feet or dance. Not to be mistaken with swung notes, which actually mean to change the length of notes, holding some longer and making others shorter.

Blue notes occur when a musician plays or slides through a scale, flattening some of the notes (playing them a half-step lower than expected). A blues scale is a minor pentatonic scale with an added flat 5 (or a tritone, or the so called blue note) This for example is how the A minor pentatonic scale: A C D E G turns into the A blues scale: A C D E♭ E G.

However you approach listening to jazz, it’s best not to try to take it all in at once. Focus on one thing at a time. In jazz often times you don’t just use the one scale for a whole song. It is possible, but often times notes that are outside of it are added. That is because most jazz songs have chords that don’t just fit in one scale. So what people often use instead of scales when playing jazz is arpeggios. Another possibility is to use the scale that best fits the song and some chromatic notes around it. If we dive even deeper, Sometimes instead of the Natural Major or Minor scale, a jazz song revolves around the modes of the major scale – Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian, so let us know if you’d like more information on that topic.

If you want to be able to play jazz music – take your time. When learning improvisation people often draw parallels with learning a foreign language. New words, phrases, and grammar make it possible to communicate in a new environment. Improvisation is very much the same: as you learn patterns, licks, chord shapes, different tonalities, sequences, and harmonies, you gain more flexibility and fluency in your improvisation. And also you start creating your own patterns and style – which is the whole point of jazz being so free.

Read more about jazz and its’ history HERE and join Neli’s Guitar Family for FREE guitar tips, exercises and lessons HERE. You can also have a listen to a Wes Montgomery cover Neli did before she went to music Uni HERE!

“Ever wonder what it takes to be a full-time guitarist? Well, for me it was an online business course and community of like-minded musicians all with the goal of making their dreams be their full-time jobs. And that’s where Philip comes in – he is a part of such a community and seeing his progress and what he shares has helped me on my way as a musician too. He loves jazz, but similarly to me can find something he likes in any type of music – from classical, through punk and folk, to hip hop! And with his impressive experience of playing the guitar, singing and writing songs since the 70’s I thought he’d have some great tips to share with you. Enjoy! 🙂 ” – Neli

What is the most important lesson you learned on your journey as a musician?

Ironically, connecting with people is the most valuable byproduct of being a musician.  It’s a lesson I obviously have to learn over and over again because I’m essentially almost completely isolated from other musicians and my audience.

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

With a piece of paper and a pen.  After thinking about what I want to be able to do, based on what I hear and/or pick up from my mentors.  I use a journal in which I write down every minute I practice, what I practice (exercise, tempo, composition, etc…) to keep I track of my progress and stay on task.

What are some realistic goals a beginner should set for themselves when first starting?

Choose a song (or three) that they want to be able to play.  Listen to recordings of those songs from as many different performances as they can find and decide which one they want to imitate.  The number one goal should be to have the ability to play what they hear.


How would you say a productive guitar practice without supervision/on your own goes?

If I made any improvement at all, it was a productive practice session.  Sometimes the difference is very subtle.  Here’s my typical routine: First I warm up, then run through single note technical exercises (like scales or arpeggios), then comping (playing chords as accompaniment) and finally (using at least half of the time I have allotted to practice) I devote myself to building repertoire (practicing the songs I am working on mastering and learning new stuff by ear [a.k.a. transcribing]) and almost always with a metronome or backing track going to ensure I’m playing with solid time.  Mostly I simply trust in the process, I decide what I’m going to practice and I believe that if I put in the time and practice what I set out to, I’ll get a little better every week.

How can one make the best schedule for practicing?

 Decide how much time you have to practice for each day you are going to practice.  Divide that in half.  Use the first half to warm up and practice technical exercises.  The second half should be used for building repertoire, learning new songs and improving the ones you already know (or just refreshing your memory if you don’t play them often enough).  Consistency is key, make every effort possible to practice the same amount of time each time you practice and the same number of times every week.  I believe that an hour a day 5 days a week is a much better schedule than 5 hours one day a week because it takes time to have things soak in to your ear, fingers and heart.  I have had great success at personal accountability by journaling my practice time.

Besides the guitar, you also play the drums. Is learning a second instrument easier than the first or is it confusing?

 It is way easier to learn a second instrument because you already know certain songs and have musicality developed from playing your first instrument.  What is tough is to master more than one instrument because the technique you’ll need to develop any sort of mastery requires a significant time commitment, time you’ll have to steal from practicing on one instrument to improve on the other.

What is a piece of advice you received that helped you with your development as a musician?

 Plan for success, but don’t plan on it.  In other words, develop your skills so that when you have the opportunity to perform you’ll be as prepared as possible, but realize that you may never build a big enough audience to support even a modest lifestyle playing music.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

My dad is my biggest musical inspiration and influence.  He had a short career before I was born and quit to follow another path.  I think I’ve stuck with music because he turned me on it and I’ll never quit because a part of me wishes he hadn’t stopped playing.  He enjoyed his life as a university professor, traveled the world developing relationships with his colleagues, writing with them and presenting papers on mathematics.   He always says that he found math to be just as challenging and satisfying a creative outlet as improvising Jazz.

What is your dream musical project?

Singing and playing with a group that jams (impromptu collective performing) in a number of styles (Blues, Rock, Jazz, etc…), writing together (arranging and/or composing) original as well as previously established songs, performing and recording them live. 

Currently, Philip is in the process of recording live solo acoustic demos of his unrecorded original songs. He is posting these performances as videos on his social platforms:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/PhilipQsongwriter1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilipQuintasMusic/
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/philipquintasvideosongs

 …and is listening to the responses he gets (while being very big on liking, sharing, commenting and reciprocating!) to determine what order to produce full band versions of them.

If you want to hear full band versions of his music, have a can listen to an EP and CD here: https://philipquintas.bandcamp.com or on iTunes or Spotify.

For sure you already know the basics of what an acoustic guitar is –  a guitar that uses only an acoustic soundboard to transmit the strings’ energy into the air in order to produce its sound, whereas an electric guitar relies on electronic amplification. 

So far so good. But acoustic guitars come in many body shapes, styles, sizes, materials and number of strings. With so many variations, it can be really overwhelming for anybody to tell them apart. The good news is that they all fall into a category somewhere and this article will give you an overview of the most important things you need to know.

The type of acoustic guitar is often dependent on the acoustic guitar’s size and that’s how you can tell apart a lot of them. Starting from largest here are some of the most popular types:

Jumbo

This would be the largest and loudest acoustic guitar shape on this list. From strumming hard to finger picking softly, if you invest in a Jumbo you will get the most volume for your money. They are most suitable for players who want to perform to a large group of people with no additional amplification and are not very suitable for smaller players (especially children). Jumbo guitars are also known as the traditional ‘cowboy guitar’, because they are particularly popular with country players and were a favorite of Elvis Presley.

Dreadnought

This is the most popular acoustic guitar body shape, used for both budget guitars as well as very expensive ones. These guitars have a big build with a large, wide soundboard. Due to the larger shape, a Dreadnought produces a bold, balanced sound, which makes it popular among rock, country and bluegrass players. But again, because of its size it is not the best for children.

Parlor guitar 

They have small bodies and used to be played mostly by women back in the day because of their size. Parlor guitars usually have a small overall length and an elongated body, retaining a standard nut width to make them suitable for all styles of playing, from strumming to fingerstyle. Speaking of tone a Parlor guitar is light and well balanced, although with less bass and more midrange emphasis. They are of course quieter than big-bodied acoustics and suitable for smaller players as well as singer-songwriters, as the quieter sound means you don’t have to compete with the guitar when playing. 

Classical

The classical guitar is a nylon-stringed acoustic, whereas the rest on this list so far featured steel strings. A typical classical guitar differs from a steel-string acoustic also in the neck and fretboard – they are wider on a classical guitar, and in terms of scale length, a classical guitar tends to be a bit longer. Of course we can dive a lot deeper in the details depending on how snobbish you take it – the reality is that even guitar specialists have different opinions on the matter of what makes a guitar truly a classical one. Good to know is also that the sound is softer and balanced, and this style of guitar is a good choice for acoustic guitar beginners, as the nylon strings are easier on the fingers in the budget range of guitars.

Flamenco

A guitar similar to a classical one but with some important differences – flamenco guitars generally have tap plates on the top to facilitate the rhythmic tapping that’s an integral part of flamenco music. The strings are also closer to the body. Like classical guitars they tend to have a significantly wider nut width than a standard steel string acoustic, but are defined by their growly and passionate sound.

Resonator Guitar

A distinctive instrument in its own right, the resonator guitar (also commonly referred to as the ‘dobro’ or ‘steel guitar’) differers from an acoustic guitar because of the way in which it produces sound. Where an acoustic guitar amplifies the vibrations of the strings through their contact with the wooden soundboard or top via the bridge, a resonator instead amplifies the strings through the use of one or more metal coils which are in contact with the underside of the bridge. Whilst creating a distinctively different tone to the instrument, a resonator guitar is also much louder than a regular acoustic guitar.

Electro acoustic

Another type of acoustic guitars are electro acoustic ones. Not to be confused with electric guitars, which are a completely different kind of instrument. Electro acoustic guitars can be of any kind above (well, some classics would say that when you add electronics to a classical guitar, it ceases to be so, but you decide if you share this opinion – I personally try not to fall into such details :D). Electro acoustic guitars have a built-in adapter, or (less commonly) a microphone, that allows you to plug your guitar into an amplifier, mixer, or recording interface. Most musicians performing acoustic music on stage have this type of guitar to make it easier to amplify its sound. Acoustically, the guitar would not be loud enough to be heard in a restaurant, club, or concert hall.

‘What kind of acoustic guitar should I buy?’ is a very common question. It depends on a lot of things, including budget, interests, etc., so if you want an article on this topic, comment below 🙂

We could also talk about the different types of acoustic guitar brands, types of acoustic guitar strings, but these are topics that would take up a whole article of their own, along with what the best acoustic guitar is. The latter of which is also based a lot on a personal preference, but more on that, another time!

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.