Post: Guitar Techniques, Future Publishing, Ivo Peters Road, Bath, BA2 3QS. Email: email@example.com using the header ‘Talkback’.
Your recent editor’s letter about the days you used to jam endlessly with a friend (GT245), really struck a chord with me as I’m sure it did with many readers. When I started playing (this is not a sob story, just the truth), we had no guitar magazines that catered to our tastes; videos and DVDs weren’t invented, guitar books were rubbish with all the songs in F and C (even Stones songs that I knew were in A and D), and no one taught modern rock, pop or blues guitar. The only way a whole generation learnt to play – and that will include the Gary Moores, the Joe Satrianis and so on – was to knuckle down with a record player and slog at it, trying to figure out what you could just by listening. If you were lucky the band you liked were on Thank Your Lucky Stars, Shindig or Ready Steady Go, and you might just get to see where their fingers went. Usually the cameraman was doing pretentious angles, or focusing on the bass player during the guitar solo!
The light at the end of the tunnel for us was those jams with your pals, comparing licks, laughing at each other’s wrong chords and basically striving to get better together.
I don’t know if any younger readers have written in with their stories, but I’d be interested to know if our culture of learning still exists today in any form. Or, as with seemingly every other pastime, it’s turned into a solitary event that usually involves laptops or mobile phones. If that’s the case I feel sorry for the generations that are missing out on such a brilliant social, educational and enlightening way to spend their formative musical years. Bill Padstow It is indeed a different world now, Bill. Learning an instrument has never been easier, what with schools being more focused on music, parents wanting their kids to succeed in ever-broader areas and willing to stump up for extra-curricular activities such as guitar lessons. Not to mention YouTube and the various teaching websites to which people have access. Back in my day, a few kids I knew had piano lessons, but most saw this as a form of purgatory – like learning poetry. Actually, we’ve had no letters from young people saying whether they get together and jam or not, but I’d love to hear from any that do. Perhaps genuine human interaction is not dead yet!
I loved the feature on using chord intervals in blues (GT244). I think I got more out of that than any lesson from anywhere in a long time. People always talk about homing in on chord tones but I never really knew what they meant. With this feature the penny dropped well and truly. I suppose like many older readers I’d noodled around for years, having gained a degree of fingerboard dexterity and a sort of understanding of scales but I never felt my solos went anywhere. Then I’d hear other guitarists, seemingly using the same notes as I was, but making their solos make sense and sound fantastic. Going through Jon Bishop’s examples the light went on – target the prime notes in the chords as they change! It means you need a better understanding of the licks you are playing, and where they are going, so you can ensure you do land on a good note. It didn’t take long before I started to get the hang of it.
This single lesson has moved my playing on dramatically. So, thanks, Jon – and thanks GT! William Donovan Whenever I’ve done any kind of teaching, such as IGF or GuitarBreak weekends, this has been the major problem for most students – especially those in the older age ranges. Often people are told, ‘Use such and such a scale over such and such a chord,’ but this doesn’t get to the heart of the problem since, while the scale may indeed work, it still falls to the player to choose the best note, and put it in the best place at the best moment. Any note in D minor Pentatonic (D-F-G-A-C) will work over a D minor chord, but in the context of a piece of music that’s moving in 4/4 time the D, F and C will sound strong when played on the beat, and the G and A less so. But you also have to create a shapely lick or line in which strong notes do then land on strong beats. You need a mental road map on which you can plot the licks you are playing so this ideal situation is achieved. Something simple on paper becomes more complex in practice because so many external forces enter the equation – experience, taste, technique, musicality (or lack of it), choice of notes, and so on. The best advice I can give is that practice, and using your ears more than your eyes (ie listening rather than relying solely on tab), is most likely to yield the results you are looking for. I’m glad Jon’s article was the catalyst to your becoming the player you want to be.
DON’T KNOW OUR PIANOS FROM OUR FORTES
First off I applaud your publication. I really appreciate the content and viewpoints and I try to take in everything I can each month. At my age, I don’t have the rest of my life to get better gradually. As a result I really like to work from accurate and precise information.
In the June issue of Guitar Techniques, in the article Dynamics and Articulations you have a large bold quote: “The first method of denoting the volume of a piece or a section is by using the letters p and f – piano and forte, or loud and soft’. However, in the article it states: ‘The first method of denoting the general volume of a piece or a section is by using the letters p and f. These are the initials of the words piano and forte; ‘p’ means soft and ‘f’ means loud…’. I don’t mean to nitpick, as I really do like what you put out, just wanted to let you know that you had a small slip-up. Thanks again for a wonderful publication and keep up the good work. Danny White Oh dear, Danny! It looks like one of those cases where someone didn’t write what they meant to (probably me since I usually select and create the pull-out quotes). The various people who read the article after that, didn’t spot it either. So slapped wrists all round and thanks for spotting the mistake – ‘piano’ is indeed soft, and ‘forte’ loud, in case there’s still any confusion. And, as I’m sure you all know, it’s the reason the piano-forte is called the piano-forte, as its pedals and touch sensitivity allow it to play both loud and soft!
Jamming together is a great way for all of us to improve
Hitting a chord tone on a strong beat is a good place to start