“Meet someone very dear to me. Someone who made moving from the small country of Bulgaria to busy massive London a much more pleasurable experience. The 1st musically like-minded person I met in the UK and the person with whom I shared my 1st ever band performance on stage – Alex Farry! A very intelligent and technical guitarist who was my motivation to keep improving through the 1st year at uni. He has done a lot of varied projects in music and if you’re curious about what the band we did together was like, you can check out this gem from the distant 2013:” – Neli

How did your musical journey start?

I’d always had an interest in music, which I think I inherited from my dad. He was always entertaining guests playing piano or guitar and singing, generally the same three songs. I had guitar and piano lessons but my teachers were unreliable and I never really made any progress until I was 13 and decided to teach myself. I took out my old acoustic ¾ length and looked up the tabs to Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and never looked back.

You were a part of several original bands. Do you still write music?

I loved the writing process for my original bands, particularly when you find someone you connect with on a musical level, I still go back and listen to some of those songs now! I’ve definitely put writing on the back burner recently to focus on self-improvement, both on the guitar and on the computer. My time has instead been spent learning new music and techniques and exploring the music tech side of things, and once I feel more confident with them I can go back to the more creative side of things.

What is something one should look out for when writing prog music?

Find your voice and write for the song. The diversity of progressive music has led to bands with incredibly distinct styles which ironically makes it easy to be over influenced by them. There are many artists out there effectively trying to write the next Dream Theater song, and I have absolutely been guilty of being one of them. Draw from these influences but think outside the box.

Can you share an interesting story from when you were playing on cruise ships?

The playing was usually the least interesting bit! Getting to see the world definitely outshines playing the Beatles for 10 OAPs at 5:30 in the evening. One funny moment though was when we were playing a set on Halloween one year. Everything was fairly normal until these two guests wearing those big T Rex costumes with the giant floppy heads started running through the venue we were playing. We all ended up laughing so hard we had to stop the song!

What is a thing about being in a functions band you wish you knew when you were first starting?

Particularly for a cruise ship band that plays three times a day with only one day off every fortnight, you can never have too many songs! And make sure you all enjoy the songs at least somewhat. There are many songs we all dread to play now and it can make those boring early afternoon sets feel much longer.

What equipment do you use for your varied projects?

My two main guitars are a Fender Strat and an Ibanez Jem 7V. The Strat for the serious stuff and the Jem for the fun stuff. I also use a Line 6 Helix LT for effects. I don’t think anything beats analogue pedals but for ease of use and transport the Helix is perfect for a cruise ship guitarist.

For a brief period of time you were doing uke covers of pop punk tunes. Are you planning on playing ukulele more?

After a while the ukulele became too powerful for me and I’m going through a deep and lengthy process of recovery and training to face the instrument again.

How do you practice to make sure you keep improving your technique and guitar skills?

I have a super short attention span so playing unmusical drills and patterns is my worst nightmare. I usually just find a part in a song that I want to learn that revolves around certain techniques, whether it’s alternate picking, sweeping, tapping etc, and break it down to learn it. Once I have the notes I’ll take the song into Audacity and slow it right down. Once I can play it clean at a certain tempo I’ll speed it up until I’m back at the proper tempo. Super basic but I enjoy the satisfaction of being able to play along to something I struggled with before.

What is your dream musical project?

Either have my own prog metal band or become Lady Gaga’s touring guitarist.

Follow Alex on Instagram at @alexfarrymusic.

When you get on the path of learning how to play an instrument, sooner or later you arrive at a point when you want to also record your playing. There are plenty of options for sound recording software out there and which one is right for you depends on what your goal is. In order to help you, we have gathered below the best software for free and also the best professional picks. 

Free sound recording software

1. Audacity

Audacity is a free music recording software that is great for beginners as it has a ton of effects, high-quality sound, loaded with plugins and many editing features. It is easy to understand and once you get the hang of it, you can record any audio you want. You can even produce professional studio-quality audio if you have the supporting hardware for recording high-quality audio.

2. Pro Tools First

Pro Tools is the ultimate mixing tool. But it’s not cheap. So a good thing is there’s Pro Tools First – the free limited access version of this top recording program. Since it is the free version you are limited in what you can create, but it’s perfect for singers, songwriters, and musicians just starting out on a limited budget and who want to get a taste of some of the best recording software out there.

3. Garageband

Garageband comes free with any Mac computer and can cover most recording needs. It is more powerful than you’d expect from a free piece of software and is a perfect centerpiece for any budget home studio. You know how Apple is really good at making things look pretty while still maintaining high functionality – GarageBand is just like that.

4. Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio is another free, cross-platform audio recording software that has many amazing features for audio editing. It is a little complicated to understand at first but once you get the hang of it, you will appreciate how highly intuitive it is and its simple interface. It also features a powerful library.

5. Traverso

Traverso has an easy to use interface combined with innovative mouse and keyboard shortcuts that help quickly perform audio recording tasks. It is developed for beginners so they can easily learn and get onto recording music. Traverso’s mastering controls, efficient user interface, and intuitive recording performance make it stand out among the rest.

Professional sound recording software

1. Ableton Live 10

This is one of the most beloved DAW (Digital audio workstation) recording softwares on the market. It gives a long free trial (90 days!) for you to make up your mind, with more features than you’ll need for any simple audio recording project with enough for a full-on music project if you upgrade. Probably the best feature is the variety of options that it gives – you can record on multiple tracks with this industry-standard software, as well as sequence MIDI files. A distinctive feature is also the abundance of samples that it offers, with more than 5,000 sounds to choose from, as well as 57 different effects. Overall it is a reliable, safe choice for home producers of all levels, but it’s especially good for novices looking to experiment.

2. Avid Pro Tools 12

Avid Pro Tools 12 is another of the best softwares a musician could ask for. The sound processing with this software is easy, fast and good. It’s one of the most powerful software products available on the market today for recording music, mixing, editing and composing. The DAW package contains a variety of virtual instruments, including, drums, pianos, synths, and other sample instruments. But keep in mind you need a powerful computer system to support this program, unless you go for the ‘First’ version. Definitely check out the requirements before purchasing it.

3. Logic Pro X

Apple has two DAWs in its stable: Garageband, a veritable staple discussed before, and Logic Pro. Logic shares its user-friendly design philosophy with Garageband. If you started with Garageband, you’ll find a lot to love in Logic Pro X.  fantastic built-in plugins that give you a suite of all the tools you need to create great recordings right away. Couple that with intuitive MIDI and audio editing and a powerful sample editor, Logic Pro X strikes a perfect balance between functionality and ease of use. 

4. Image-Line FL Studio 20

FL Studio is an outstanding DAW, with full-featured, professional-grade native plugins. The sum of the functionality, pricing and user interface results in a really great DAW for beginners and pros alike, delivering everything that every other DAW brings but with its own unique workflow.

5. Cubase 

Cubase has been around for a long time and remains popular to this day. It’s innovative, trustworthy, and stable.  Although this DAW isn’t the easiest software to use right out of the box, after a little learning, you’ll be able to make the most out of the startling number of features that it offers. You’ll soon have the tools you need, whether you’re in the studio or performing live.

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!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Lalo de PIlar is a world-class Flamenco guitarist who began his musical career with his first performance at age six in his hometown of Lugo, Spain. For over four decades Lalo has performed as an accompanist and as a solo artist. He toured throughout the world until the early 2000’s.

Since then, Lalo has been residing in Houston, Texas composing for film and television. He has not only been asked to present awards for best music in film, but he has also performed at The Gulf Coast Film & Video Festival on several occasions.

For approximately 7 years he was with the University of St. Thomas where he taught guitar and music as well as lectured about the ins and outs of flamenco.

Lalo treasures his Spanish heritage and his love for Flamenco. Therefore, he continues to push the boundaries of this beautiful art by creating a unique repertoire that reflects his culture, energy, creativity, and passion.

Being self-taught and reaching such heights in guitar mastery – what was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was when I was a child and had to put countless of hours of practices on a daily basis. It was a good and productive challenge. I was always very studious, so I studied diligently. However, at times it was a very lonely time for me although inspiring. I am very glad that I did it.

How would you describe what a flamenco guitar is to someone picking up a guitar for the very first time?

As an instrument that may take him or her away to places that they may never have dreamed of visiting. I would also describe a flamenco guitar as the best form of discipline one could ever acquired on an instrument.

What is a thing about flamenco guitar you wish you knew when you were first starting?

I wish I would have known that it would have been a never ending lifestyle. Peradventure I would have studied more diligently. It has been a wonderful time, a wonderful experience and I learned how to be very disciplined doing something I deeply love. I am very glad that I spent all those years perfecting my craft.

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

Although setting goals for oneself is a very good thing, I no longer set goals for myself. I am past that stage of my musical career and practice. However, as a seasoned professional musician I did set goals for myself, such as how to handle rehearsals and the repertoire of a future concert. There were even goals set for the scheduling of a tour.

What I do is practice scales daily for continued strength and stamina. That I shall have to do for the rest of my life. I work diligently on compositions in order to perfect them. I no longer have a set goal for what I am going to do or practice. This is perhaps because everything that I do is internally very inspirational.

After a few years of experience, things fall naturally into place because of what I have learned due to my tremendous discipline.

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

I find that technique is an excellent place to begin. Still, it all depends on the individual. I always start by teaching beginners scales. A simple C scale is always a good place to begin.

I then move on to arpeggios and thumb, alzapua, exercises. Certain arpeggio exercises are excellent for building a strong and flawless tremolo.

While teaching these techniques, I also have the student work on compás, rhythm. It is vital for them to do so. The compás is the foundation of everything in flamenco.

How does your process of writing music for film and television go?

I often begin by asking the producer and/or the director about their project. As they speak and describe their project, I either begin composing in my head and/or I begin quietly playing my guitar. Something usually comes up as I am playing even if it is a small idea.

You also teach at the University of St. Thomas. How did you go about creating your curriculum?

I did teach at UST for seven years. I was on faculty there. Although I have been asked to return to teach at UST, my time there ended when Paul Krystofiak sadly passed away. I had many wonderful times while there and Paul made it comfortable for me while I was there.

My curriculum has been established since I was a boy. What I have first learned has always stayed with me and has continuously been perfected. Therefore, it is very easy for me to refer to my internal curriculum whenever I fancy to do so.

What is your dream musical project?

My dream musical project is to compose for an orchestra, perform with that orchestra and conduct it. That would be the epitome of my musical career. Wish me luck!

Currently Lalo is creating a course of all what he has learned and mastered throughout his musical career. He is putting things together that shall eventually come together naturally in the form of a book, CD or both. Stay tuned also for Lalo’s return to the recording studio where he will record and produce a variety of music that he has composed over the years.

Contact Lalo via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lalodepilar/ and subscribe to his YouTube channel here.

If you have been playing guitar for a little while, you’ve probably heard of harmonics – those high-pitched or bell-like notes. You definitely have heard them in songcs by bands like U2, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and many others. If you are already familiar with the topic – read along and go through the basics again. If not – buckle up and dive into this new technique. 

Harmonics are actually played every time you pluck a note. Most of the time, however, you do not hear them. What you hear is the fundamental (sometimes called the first harmonic). The fundamental is the loudest sound produced, but it is accompanied by several harmonics. When a string is plucked, it creates vibrations from the guitar’s bridge to the nut and thus many other overtones – or harmonics – are created as a result of shorter frequencies along the fretboard. There are various ways to produce guitar harmonics. You can play natural harmonics which are harmonic instances that occur naturally on the fretboard as well as artificial harmonics. The latter uses techniques that allow you to play harmonics no matter where on the fretboard you are.

Natural Harmonics Vs. Artificial Harmonics

It’s important to know that there is a difference between the types of harmonics you can play on your guitar.   The natural harmonics, also known as “open-string harmonics are played on an open string, while the artificial harmonics are when you play a harmonic on a fretted string. Although all harmonics are actually artificial, the latter technique is the one commonly referred to as “playing an artificial harmonic”. 

Natural Harmonics

The easiest way to produce a harmonic sound is through the use of natural harmonics which occur at various locations across the fretboard. However, the most common and distinct natural harmonics are located on the 12th, 7th, and 5th frets.

Natural harmonics are created by making the string vibrate in fractions. For example, half of the length fraction results in a 12th fret harmonic, a third of the length fraction results in a 7th fret harmonic, a fourth of the length fraction results in a 5th fret harmonic, etc.

Here is also a fun fact: When you play a harmonic note, you’re playing the same note as the fretted or open note. So a harmonic on the 12th fret of the A string is the same note as fretting the 12th fret on the A string. A harmonic on the 5th fret results in a 2 octave higher note than the open string you’re playing it on. And lastly – a harmonic on the 7th fret results in an octave higher note than the fretted 7th fret.

When it comes time to actually playing natural guitar harmonics there are a couple of things to be aware of: to isolate the harmonic, you’ll want to very lightly press on the string at either the 5th, 7th, or 12th position (or any other position you want to experiment with). Be sure to place your finger above the metal part of the fret – this will produce the clearest sounding harmonic rather than if your finger is in between two metal frets. For beginners, you may find it easier to actually pluck a string first and then lightly touch the string with the tip of your finger at the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret. Alternatively, if you rather place your finger on the string first, you may find that the harmonic rings more clearly if immediately after you pluck the string, you quickly remove your finger.

Apart from natural harmonics, which are somewhat restrictive, you can also use artificial harmonics which allow you to produce that signature high-pitched harmonic sound, anywhere on the guitar. Here are 3 different types of artificial harmonics you can play:

Touch Harmonics

Simply fret a note on one of the strings. Place your right-hand index finger (for right-handed guitarists) on the note twelve frets above the fretted note, as if you’re going to chime that note. So your finger should be over the fretwire. With both the note fretted and the right index finger in place,  use either your thumb or a pick and pluck the string – then you will be able to hear the harmonic quality of the note. You will produce a note which is an octave higher than the one you’re fretting.

Tap harmonics

Tap harmonics are the same as touch harmonics up until the “pluck the string” part.  You fret a note, but then tap the fret twelve frets higher than the note you’re fretting.  Try to do so in a way where your finger quickly touches the string exactly above the corresponding metal fret and then is removed.

Pinch Harmonics

This technique is definitely the most difficult type of harmonics to play. They are done best while holding the guitar pick in a way that less of the pick is exposed so that there is less distance between the end of the pick and your thumb. What you should aim for is plucking a string with your guitar pick while almost simultaneous lightly dampening the string with your thumb. Once your thumb dampens the string, it will create that “scream” sound known as a pinch harmonic.

Guitar harmonics are just another technique you can add to your guitar skills toolbox. Getting them right can definitely take time and practice, however doing so allows you to create more unique sounds. It is best if you try all guitar harmonic techniques to see which ones you like the most.

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!

“How do you introduce someone who is a talented musician and artist, who has many skills and is probably knowledgeable on most topics of interest (well to me at least!)? I guess I’ll just say the thing that wouldn’t really be obvious from interview questions – Alex is a lovely person and a great friend. Reliable, with great eye for detail and full of ideas. It is a joy to do projects with him and soon you will probably see another one! Check out the last time we collaborated HERE.” – Neli

How did your musical journey start?

It started in 1995, when I took up the piano at the age of 4. Then I picked up the classical guitar and the flute at age 12 and started playing at local community orchestras. A few years later I started playing also the electric guitar and got seriously interested in different contemporary genres, which motivated me to explore the same stuff on the piano.

So you play the piano, guitar, and flute. How does knowing multiple instruments change your perspective on music?

Being a multi-instrumentalist allows me to appreciate music more and in a different way and be open-minded to various possibilities of taking up new challenges. It also gives me opportunities to play in different musical contexts, e.g. the versatility of piano and guitar allows me to be in pop and rock bands, duo gigs, etc. whilst the flute has given me chances to play in classical orchestras and jazz big bands which I would never get to do had I only played piano or guitar. Due to the piano I learnt much more about theory and can be in control of harmonies. When it comes to the guitar, due to its popularity, it is fun to play and gives me lots of teaching opportunities outside of my gigging life. 

What is the reason you picked up those instruments in particular?

I started with classical piano at a young age as advised by my parents. I only got seriously interested in it after taking up the guitar and discovering more contemporary genres. It was just very natural to me to play lots of things on the piano by ear at first, it just sounded good whenever I played a popular melody on top of some chords I could naturally harmonise on the spot. I picked up the flute as it’s my favourite sound in the orchestra/woodwind family. Then I got even more interested in the flute when I discovered how well it works in modern jazz (especially post-bob, latin and modal). 

What is a thing about being a multi-instrumentalist you wish you knew when you were first starting?

I wish I had seen other instruments as more “equal”. When I took up the guitar, I used to see it as a “superior” instrument to others and would associate a strong sense of identity with it. Having learnt, played, and gigged on three different instruments now, studied them all at degree levels, and by knowing the efforts required and mindsets needed for different instruments, I’m now a lot more open-minded and appreciate all instruments across all genres.

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

In regards to my guitar skills, I set goals by simply thinking about what new sound from new releases I could copy and learn. I no longer want to stay “loyal” to just a few favourite bands/artists and associate my playing style with them like I used to do. I constantly look for new sounds I hear from new music and think about how I could imitate them on the guitar. This applies to the other two instruments I play as well. 

How does your process of writing and arranging music for different projects go?

I don’t normally have a flow-chart type of process when it comes to writing and arranging. I usually have a wide picture of what I’d like my new arrangements or compositions to sound like, choose a starting point, and then strategically and creatively execute my plan to make things work. 

Which is your favorite part of being a musician?

My favourite part of being a musician is the cliché of getting to do what you love all year round. I love the fact that I also get to learn new things from what I do and others I work with constantly. 

What is your dream musical project?

A dream musical project would be a large-scale musical collaboration with as many of my best musician friends recording/filming something that could showcase all our unique musical strengths (regardless of personal favourite styles, abilities, etc.) 

Currently Alex is working on a cinematic orchestral soundtrack that involves orchestrating wind and string instruments, with some cooperation of modern jazz harmony. 

Follow him on social media: facebook.com/alexdannmusic
Also check out his website: alexdan.co.uk

Doesn’t it sound awesome to be one of those guitarists who can just show up and jam? No sheet music, no chord charts, no tutorials… It seems like magic how they can play every song – even such they hear for the very first time. But worry not – you don’t need any superpowers to be able to do that as well. What actually is going on is that their capable fingers are paired with well-trained ears. Keep on reading to discover why your ears are the key to that seemingly-magical ability and how to start training them.

What Is Learning By Ear?

Learning by ear is basically the process of learning a piece of music without any written music. It comes from the tradition of folk music, where melodies were rarely written down, and people would ‘pass them down via aural tradition’ – learn them by hearing, and then replicating the music.

Do you need perfect pitch to play by ear?

Perfect pitch is the ability to hear a pitch and immediately know which note it is. It seems to be something you’re born with. You either have perfect pitch or you don’t (though some people claim you can learn it). Whatever the case, having perfect pitch is pretty rare and you don’t need it to play by ear or make great music. 

Now that we have cleared that up, here are these four main ear training areas that will lead to you becoming the guitarist you always dreamed of being.

1. Pitch

Pitch ear training is all about hearing the notes and how they relate to one another. First, hone your core sense of the “highness” or “lowness” of sound. This is referred to simply as pitch ear training. Once you’ve mastered single note pitches, the basics of all ear training is learning to hear relative pitch. One common approach is interval ear training which teaches you how near or far notes are from each other.

2.  Rhythm

While many guitarists stop at pitch ear training, being able to identify rhythms and rhythmic patterns may be even more important. If you’re going to cover a song, or play within a certain style, matching the strum pattern, timing, and tempo matters a lot to your audience. With rhythm mastery you can even feel free to depart from it intentionally and the creativity will make your performance even more powerful. Furthermore, when jamming with a band, you’ll be able to better play around with the drummer and maybe ‘trade 4s’ – where you and the drummer take turns to solo over 4 bars.

3. FX and Tone

What? You can train your ears to do that? Yes, of course, and you should. Audio FX ear training will guide you through the world of sound effects available to today’s guitarist.

You will be able to tell what is going on in a piece of music much more precisely and then use it in your own playing and writing.

4. Song-Writing

Hear me out before you say that song writing isn’t an ear training exercise. A song is the structure that brings all of the previous points together. Learn that structure, and you’ll know what to do next—whether you’re writing your own song or learning someone else’s. 

Most songs are made up of certain parts (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) and built from some fundamental elements (notes, rhythms, harmonies, instrumentation, etc.). By learning the musical characteristics of song structures and what tends to follow what, you’ll instinctively know what to do next even if you’re jamming on a song you never heard before!

Conclusion

They may not strum, pick, run around the fretboard or stomp a pedal, but your ears are as important as your fingers if you’re aiming to become the best guitarist you can be. Start training them intentionally today, if you haven’t already!

If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here, 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!

If you want to expand your guitar playing beyond strumming an accompaniment chord part then fingerstyle guitar is a great way to add variety to your playing. It is a great technique to learn for both the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar. With its piano-like sound (since you play the bass parts and the melody parts at the same time), one can say it is the perfect technique for playing without other musicians around.

Definition 

Under ‘Fingerstyle Guitar’ we understand the technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or finger picks (picks attached to fingers), as opposed to ‘Flatpicking’ (picking individual notes with a single plectrum) or strumming all the strings of the instrument in chords. The term is often used synonymously with ‘Fingerpicking’.

Difference Between Strumming and Fingerstyle

The main difference between strumming and fingerstyle is that strumming is a very simple guitar technique in which we strum (brush) the strings with the finger or guitar pick up or down. This technique is perfect for beginners who want to play simple chords and songs.

With fingerstyle guitar you will pluck the strings with the ‘picking hand’ fingertips so the beginning could be more challenging than strumming as we have to now use finger independence with our dominant hand as well as the fretting hand.

Further characteristics

The main aim when playing fingerstyle is to orchestrate the piece of music, meaning that you merge bass lines, melody lines and chords into one part. All classical guitar is fingerstyle and is played on nylon string guitars, but over the last few decades, many great players have adapted fingerstyle to steel string and even electric guitar and popularized the technique.

It is still most commonly utilized in folk and classical guitar, but it can be utilized in just about any style. 

In essence fingerstyle guitar involves quick playing, moving around the fretboard and using all of the strings. If you can get good at this style then others, such as bluegrass, will come more easily to you, but be prepared for plenty of frustrated hours improving your finger independence.

If you are used to strumming, this technique can be quite overwhelming at first, so before you go here is something to keep in mind – even the most challenging fingerpicking arrangement, in any style of music, consists of three basic movements. The thumb can pluck a string, the other fingers can pluck a string or the thumb and another finger can pluck some strings at the same time (called a ‘pinch’). That is it! Once you learn these basic movements, with practice and time, it’s easily possible to learn some great sounding pieces and your guitar playing will come alive.

Here is one such piece that isn’t the easiest, but it isn’t too hard for a 1st fingerpicking piece either: Falling slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. And if you’d like to get started on a more classical route – check out ‘Giuliani Studies’ – these are technical fingerstyle studies that have existed for so long that are now available for free! And they contain chords and techniques still used to this day.

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!

The journey of any guitarist begins by deciding what type of guitar you want to start with and that can be a tough decision. Of course, you can start with any type of guitar, and once you know the basics you can switch and decide which is the best fit. But it is always good to know what you are dealing with in advance. We already covered most types of acoustic and electric guitar, so now it is time for the classical guitar.

Most guitarists start on an acoustic or classical guitar, because an acoustic is a little less harsh on the fingers and a very simple pick-up-and-play option. You don’t need an amplifier to hear the sound properly and they are often cheaper than electric guitars.

For some beginner guitarists (and advanced as well) it is hard to tell the difference between an acoustic and a classical guitar. So let’s clear that up. 

Classical guitar

Acoustic guitar

Here are the key differences between the two:

1. Fretboard

The fretboard of a classical guitar is a lot wider than that of an acoustic. Quite often classical guitars will not have the fret markers (dots or inlays) along the fingerboard either.

2. Body Shape

Acoustic guitars often come in a dreadnought shape which is considerably larger than that of a classical guitar and cutaways where you have access to the higher frets on classical guitars are rather rare.

3. Bridge

A classic wrap-around bridge is used on a standard classical guitar. On this type of guitar, the strings are tied in a knot around the bridge to secure them in place. But classical bridges also accept ball-end classical strings. In contrast, the bridge on an acoustic guitar has pegs that securely hold the strings in place via their ball-ends.

4. Strings

Both these guitars are in fact acoustic guitars, except one uses nylon strings (classical) and the other uses steel strings (acoustic), hence the modern acoustic ones are often referred to as a “steel string acoustic”. The nylon strings of a classical guitar are a lot thicker and mellower or softer sounding than those of a steel string. Some nylon string guitars are also not considered to be ‘classical’, however, to differentiate between them would be a whole other topic. Let us know if you’d like us to cover that one as well.

5. Tuning Pegs

The mechanics of the tuning peg on a classical guitar are quite different to those on an acoustic guitar.  Usually, on a classical guitar, the tuning peg is made of plastic and metal, whereas on an acoustic guitar the whole tuning peg is made out of metal.

6. Price

Often classical guitars are a little cheaper than their acoustic cousins, which is why many beginners start with a classical guitar first.

The best thing you can do is try as many guitars as you can and see which style is best for you and the music you like to play. Go to the local musical store and spend a good amount of time there or ask guitarist friends of yours to have a strum at their guitar. And don’t get overwhelmed – there are indeed thousands of guitars out there, but you will be able to feel which ones are right for you.

If you would like to read further a very detailed explanation about the nature of classical guitars, check this article.

Did we miss anything important? If you have some questions left or want to add something, feel free to leave a comment below or join our Guitar Family and start a conversation there.

“Meet the man who many thought was my brother through our Higher Diploma course as I met him – The Count! Later I learned that he also had a normal human name – Joseph 😀 He’s an awesome guitarist with lots of pizzazz who has created awesome rock and metal shred instrumentals and also released an acoustic track recently. A multiinstrumentalist, teacher, composer… read more about his music journey below.” – Neli 

How did your music journey begin?

I started playing when I was 15. I was inspired by the guitarist John 5, of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, but it was his solo work that really inspired me. He has a great command of the instrument and seems to be able to play a huge range of styles. I certainly never intended it to become my career choice, but I instantly got hooked! I was lucky to have a lot of excellent teachers who inspired me to work hard. 

What is the story behind your stage name The Count?

I wish there was a better story for this! Two huge influences were Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson so I thought if I was going to be a musician I needed a stage name as well! I was watching ‘Dracula’ and just thought ’The Count, that’ll do!’ I’d love to tell you that I’m a real Count living in a castle in Transylvania but sadly not!

Does the inspiration for your unique fashion style come from music?

To some extent, yes. The highly theatrical performers I mentioned above certainly inspired that. Jimi Hendrix is also a big fashion influence, I have a replica of his iconic military jacket. I think being a musician gives you permission to be a little more flamboyant! 

You have obtained multiple qualifications in Guitar. What advice would you give to an aspiring guitarist, who is wondering whether to pursue music as a formal education?

It’s a difficult one. I am glad I did all the qualifications as it made me learn things I wouldn’t have looked at otherwise and some of the teachers I had were extremely inspiring. However not all music courses are created equal, some of them do more essay writing and music business which is fine if that’s what you’re after, but they won’t help you get better at your instrument. It’s worth looking through a course’s curriculum before committing yourself to anything. 

In addition to guitar, you have also mastered the sitar, piano and mandolin. Is learning a second instrument easier than the first or is it confusing?

Certainly a lot easier! Particularly with the stringed instruments, the mandolin requires the same technique as guitar, just on a smaller scale. I think with piano, though it has very little in common with the guitar, I still had a head start when it came to finger dexterity and the fact I could already read music. It’s worth saying I don’t dedicate equal time to all of them. Guitar and piano certainly get more focus than the others. 

Do you plan on learning other instruments?

I bought a banjo over lockdown as something to do which is a lot of fun! I don’t currently have any plans to learn another one, there’s only so many hours in the day! It’s always interesting to try out different instruments, I learn a lot I can then apply to the guitar, it’s a great way of breaking away from familiar patterns.

So far you have produced one album “More is More” and one EP “Aqua Hands”. How does your writing process go?

Very slowly! It’s often several months from the initial idea of a song to the completion. A lot of the material for Aqua Hands was actually written away from the guitar. A lot of the guitar solos were inspired by classical piano music by composers like Liszt and Chopin. I have a huge library of sheet music and often I’d take a pattern from something they’d written and reworked it to suit the song. After I got a sound I liked I’d then try and work out how to play it on guitar. Most of the time this was extremely difficult as the patterns don’t suit the guitar’s tuning at all. Sometimes a few seconds of music could take me weeks to practice. Though it’s a difficult, and often very frustrating process, it creates idea’s I’d never come up with if I only wrote while sitting with the guitar. It’s very easy to get stuck in familiar patterns.

What changed in your style and creative process between the two projects?

The two projects were done 5 years apart, so quite a lot! ‘More is More’ is my first attempt at writing music, so I was still trying out a lot of things. Everything was recorded with my friend and former guitar teacher Sam McCune at his home studio ’Skull Sound Studios.’ He mixed and mastered the whole thing. I learned a lot while doing it, some of the tracks are not the sort of thing I’d write now, but I think that’s all part of the process. He certainly helped me to understand what works and it was a great experience.

When it came to Aqua Hands I had my own recording set up so everything was done from home. My friend A-Siege then beefed up the production, we added lots of orchestration and had a lot of fun seeing how over the top we could make the tracks! Some of them turned out quite differently to how they were originally written. The song ‘Riptide’ was intended to be a straight ahead rock song but it ended up as a synth filled, Van Halen style track! It probably ended up being my favourite track on the EP. It’s sometimes good to suggest some different ideas, it can produce some great results! 

The track “Stringkiller” from your first album features a guest appearance from television legend Bill Oddie. How did that come around?
Bill is a good friend of my dad’s, and I’ve met him a few times. I know he’s a big fan of classic rock music and thought it’d be fun to bring a bit of a comedy edge to it! He was very pleased to be involved which was great as it made the track into something unique, and added some much needed humour. His part was actually recorded by my Dad at a charity event in a hallway! 

Is there something you’d like to experiment with in music, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

I think I’d like to learn orchestration to a better extent and perhaps try writing music for instruments other than the guitar. I’ve started branching out with the track ‘Lotus’ from Aqua Hands, which was written for the sitar. They’ll also be two solo piano pieces on my next EP.

Due to the pandemic The Count has had a lot of time to work on several projects of his own. The song ‘Roswell’s Night Out’ with Dannyjoe Carter from Las Vegas – that includes plenty of high-speed shredding and showing off – is now out.

On the other end of the spectrum, he has also written another EP with two finger-style guitar pieces and two piano pieces which show a new side of his work. And he also released a brand new EP with the band The Jupiter Gallery. Follow him on social media and check it all out!

Follow him on social media at:
Spotify, iTunes – linktr.ee/thecountguitarist 
Youtube – youtube.com/channel/UCmTGui7BwhA1dEIz4hhha3A 
Instagram – instagram.com/the_countguitar
Website – countjosephbarnes.com

Since you are here, chances are the thought of becoming a guitarist has popped up in your mind not once or twice. We are not here to convince you to embark on the journey on the spot – just state some facts, that inevitably will do so. Check them out and see for yourself if you would be interested in benefiting from all of them (and actually plenty more) while learning the guitar!

1. Exercises your brain

Concentration and memory are two things you use in all areas of life so their constant development is much needed. Playing the guitar is an extremely enjoyable way of improving them – yeah some people also enjoy doing math exercises, but do they really? As you spend more time focusing on different guitar exercises or songs, you’ll find that your ability to focus on other tasks outside of playing music will increase as well.

2. Improves fine motor skills

If you’ve ever tried to learn how to use chopsticks, you’ll know how difficult it is to coordinate your fingers. Learning how to play the guitar is kind of like that, but about a thousand times more difficult. Just like picking up a new sport, learning to play the guitar greatly improves your hand-eye coordination as it requires very specific movements. The best part about improving your motor skills from playing music is that it translates to other activities like knitting, martial arts, and sports.

3. Еnhances your creativity

Whether it’s writing original material or reworking a song for a cover, the guitar is going to unleash your creativity. Since you are thinking of learning exactly the guitar you must find it inspiring and exactly that inspiration will boost your imagination. Who knows, you might even surprise yourself. 

4. Provides emotional release

Probably the most enjoyable aspect of playing the guitar is the happiness that comes from expressing yourself through music. The free expression found in creating music is linked to many health benefits – playing the guitar can also lower blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety and depression.

5. Boosts your confidence

Learning to play the guitar can have an enormously positive effect on your self-esteem and confidence. As you learn to play, chances are you’ll end up playing in front of a family member, a mate, some potential bandmates or even an audience. Playing guitar in front of others, however scary at first, will build your confidence in expressing yourself publicly and sharing your creativity. 

6. Creates connections

It’s definitely possible to spend your entire musical journey jamming alone in your bedroom, but the best musical moments come from playing with others. Finding people to jam with can lead to meeting a ton of cool like-minded people. The shared experience of playing music together can also strip away a lot of psychological barriers and often leads to close and long-lasting relationships.

7. Increased appreciation of music

Once you know how music works and have tried to create it yourself nothing will ever be the same… Seeing, listening and thinking about how the notes fit together in your favorite songs played by beloved musicians of yours – you’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll enjoy music. 

‘Learning how to play an instrument, any instrument, will increase your ability to appreciate music on a deeper level of understanding and (I believe) emotional connection. This is because you can relate more to the music and the artist performing it.’ – Philip Quintas

8. The Cool Factor

Let’s be honest for a moment. Playing the guitar is just cool. A guitar player who is comfortable with the music they are playing simply radiates confidence. Naturally, that is going to look cool no matter the setting. Sure, learning guitar just to look cool is a bad way to go about this, but the fact remains that it’s an incredible feeling to play your creations in front of an audience in awe.

If you need more reasons, check out also these articles here, here and here. When you are ready to embark on your guitar journey – join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! You can also sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!