The Secrets to Mastering Improvisation: Connecting to the Fretboard

In my previous post I talked about the source of improvisation, your inner jukebox. Your inner jukebox fuels your ability to improvise, it is your inspiration, it is the tool by which you express yourself as an individual. If you can tune into your inner jukebox, tap into the musical ideas that it generates, and play these ideas on-the-fly then you can truly and freely express yourself as a musician.

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The Secrets to Mastering Improvisation: Your Inner Jukebox

In this post I want to talk about how you take all this creative energy and translate it to the fretboard, preferably in real-time, since we want to play something on the spot.

Let me begin by stressing that there is no magic pill, no magic way to learn how to master improvisation in two weeks, or a couple of months’ time. Being able to play the guitar or any instrument well requires a lot of focused and consistent practice. We are learning a very delicate skill here, one that requires your brain to make a lot of different and new connections. This simply takes time. Remember the 10,000 hour rule.

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix

Learn two or three basic scales

One thing that can put people off is having to learn all these different scales and modes. This is especially true of jazz improvisation.

When you play the guitar, especially when you improvise you want to have a clear mind. If you don’t, and are constantly thinking about chord changes, modes, and what have you, you lose that connection with your inner jukebox. There is simply too much on your mind to be able to relax and listen. That’s when you start noodling. And the last thing you want is aimlessly running up and down some pattern of notes.

Some people swear by this approach, though, and some musicians do really well improvising by thinking about a ton of different scales and modes. (If you are one of these people, then have a look at this excellent post.)

I personally can’t think that way, it’s too much. I don’t know how these people do it.

So, which scales do you learn?

Well, for rock, blues and pretty much every other genre of music where songs tend to stay in a single key throughout, you start off with the pentatonic scale, both the minor as well as the major versions (see here and here). Learn to play the pentatonic scale across the entire fretboard (see here). If you limit yourself to only knowing it in one position it will eventually hinder your progress.

For jazz improvisation it is a bit more complicated, and this is where different people will have different opinions. You can divide chords roughly into two camps: Minor and major. This doesn’t work for all chords, for example, diminished chords. However, I would advice learning just two scales, initially. The first one is the minor triad scale (that is, root – minor third – fifth) across the entire fretboard. The second is the major triad across the entire fretboard (that is, root – third – fifth).

View more complex scales/modes as adding notes to the basic scales

Once you know your basic scales inside and out, playing more elaborate scales with more notes becomes a lot easier. For example, extending the basic minor pentatonic scale to a Dorian mode just adds two notes to the existing scale.

You need to get the basic scales down cold, only then can you add new notes to it to make things more interesting.

You may ask, what is the point in learning scales, even these basic ones? Well, for one, scales add structure, they add guidance. The next section will make it clear how this can be used in practice.

Learn every chop/lick/phrase you hear and like, by heart

Now we come to the interesting bit. Our goal is to be able to play what we hear. How do we go about accomplishing this?

Simply put, we build a whole arsenal of individual chops, licks and phrases that you can play. These should be relatively short, self-contained, pieces, maybe a bar or two long. These can be licks you hear being played as part of a solo on the radio. Or it can come from something you heard earlier and stuck in your head. Or, if you have a hard time coming up with licks, you listen to a load of music or search the internet for blog posts with headlines like “12 cool blues licks everyone should know”.

The idea is that you hear something, and you copy it. You try and figure out how to play it. Vocalisation can help you with this (see this post). Repeatedly pausing, rewinding and restarting the CD or mp3 helps. For fast passages, being able to slow it down (in software or otherwise) definitely helps. Knowing your basic scales provides guidance in that it present you with 5 or so notes (not all 12) to choose from when figuring out how to play something. This can help tremendously.

When you have figured out how to play it, you memorise it. You want to be able to play it without thinking about it, your fingers should do the work. The less thinking you do during playing, the more time and focus you will have for listening to your inner jukebox.

So you build your arsenal, and as you do so you will find that some licks are similar to some other licks in ways. For example, there are different ways of moving up or down a particular part of the scale. Or licks that somehow involve bending the 3rd note in the minor pentatonic scale (the `blue’ note). After a while you will be able to categorise licks in your head like that.

So now what do we do? Well the goal is to, next time you improvise, match a lick to the idea that you have in your head. The greater your arsenal of licks, the better the match will be. After a while you become so good at this that you can hear something and even if it doesn’t directly fit with a previously memorised lick or passage, you will be able to play it because you have become so familiar with the fretboard.

But what about harmonic improvisation?

I have implicitly written about melodic improvisation, and haven’t mentioned harmonic improvisation: improvising with chords, adding harmonic embellishments, etc. Knowing your basic scales is not going to help much with this. Knowing chords and how to build these up from individual notes, is. The principle is the same though: You hear something, you play it, you build up an arsenal of chord progressions and connections. I will discuss this in more detail in a future post.

Conclusion

When you first start out, it will probably not sound anything like what you hear in your head. Your arsenal is not big enough yet, you are still thinking too much about the mechanics of playing. Initially, you will more often than not end up noodling, or running up and down the scale quite aimlessly. Persevere. The more you practise, the more stuff you hear and figure out, the better you will become. Eventually you will be able to hear something and let your fingers do the rest. That’s the goal.

Got a question? Comment?

If you’re stuck somehow and need some help, or if you have something else to say, write a comment at the bottom of the page. I — or perhaps another reader — will be able to help you.

Best Guitar Cases and Gig Bags

A guitar case is essential. Most manufacturers will include a case in the price of a new guitar. In general, the pricier the guitar, the better the case. If your guitar didn’t come with a case, or it came with an inadequate case, you’ll want to buy a  best guitar case that will keep your guitar safe.

There are three types of Guitar Case:

  • Hard or hardshell guitar case
  • Soft or chipboard guitar case
  • Guitar gig bags

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Hard/Hardshell Guitar Cases

Hardshell Guitar Case
Hardshell Guitar Case

The hard (or hardshell) case offers the best protection for your guitar. And, it is the most expensive option. Hard cases are usually wooden frames covered in leather or nylon. Some hard cases are made of sturdy ABS plastic. The hard case could withstand airline baggage handling, protecting the guitar if stacked with other luggage, or if heavy objects fell on the case.

If you don’t already have a case for your guitar, a hard case is your safest bet. Prices start around $50 up to $120 or more.

Hard cases at Amazon.com

Soft Guitar Cases

Soft Guitar Cases
Soft Guitar Cases

Soft cases are not completely soft (like gig bags), but neither are they completely rigid like hard cases. Thy are typically built with a pressed-particle material such as chipboard, or sturdy cardboard. These cases would protect your guitar should you drop a hardback book on it, but that’s about it.

A soft case would allow you to transport your instrument without exposing it to the weather, and prevent some inadvertent scratching and dinging. But these cases would fold under any real stress. Soft cases sell for around $30.

Soft cases at Amazon.com.

Guitar Gig Bags

Guitar Gig Bags
Guitar Gig Bags

Gig bags are form-fitting fabric or leather enclosures that provide virtually no protection against shock. The bags are sturdy, like soft luggage, and zip shut.

The advantage of gig bags is that they are light, and feature shoulder straps allowing you to sling your guitar over your shoulder. The sturdy fabric protects the guitar against the elements, and scratches and dings.

Gig bags range in price from about $25 up to $150.

Guitar Gig bags at Amazom.com.

The Secrets to Mastering Improvisation: Your Inner Jukebox

I believe that true guitar mastery can be directly judged by a player’s ability to improvise. You can learn all the technique you want, know all the theory, be able to play any song beautifully -no matter how technically difficult- with all its dynamic subtleties, and to me you’d be merely good. But to be great, in my mind, requires you to be able to play something original, something from the bottom of your heart. And what better way to do this than to make it all up on the spot? This requires true mastery of one’s instrument.

The essence of improvisation is to be able to take a musical idea from your head and translate it accurately and instantly to the fretboard. It sounds simple, but it is far from easy. It takes years to become truly proficient at this. True mastery comes from knowing your instrument well enough so that musical ideas can flow freely, without being hindered by lack of technique or not knowing your way around the fretboard.

So how do we go about mastering improvisation? How do we master our fretboard?

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How To Play What You Hear: Vocalisation

Listen to your `inner jukebox’

First and foremost, improvisation requires you to have a musical idea in your head. Without the idea, there’s nothing to play. We all have an inner jukebox. That bit in our brains that can `hear’ songs or bits of music. If you have ever had a song stuck in your head, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s when your inner jukebox is being annoying. But it can also help you. Your inner jukebox is the source of your musical ideas. All you have to do is listen to it.

How do we connect to it? Here’s a simple exercise for doing melodic improvisation with your inner jukebox. Listen to a song, preferably one that you (would) love to improvise over. At the bit where you’d start your solo, just imagine the solo in your head. Listen to the music and let the ideas come to you. Each chord or bar can provide you with a new idea. Imagine you are playing the solo, or even better, hum it out loud if you can. Can you do it? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could instantly translate this solo to your guitar?

If you didn’t `hear’ much then maybe you’re forcing it. Let the ideas come to you. If you’re just starting out, or are exploring a new musical genre, immerse yourself in the music. Listen to as many songs and artists as you can get hold of, but most of all, enjoy listening to them. You are `practising’ or training your inner jukebox.

It is possible to improvise without listening to your inner jukebox. You can let your fingers run over some scale, or play some chops or licks that you have been practising until you could play them automatically. This is called noodling and many players do this, whether it is intentional or because they don’t know how to tune into their inner jukebox. Have you ever tried to make something up without having any inspiration? Me too. We all noodle. And sometimes it can sound quite nice. But it is not real improvisation.

Next time…

In a way, tuning into and listening to your inner jukebox is the easy bit of improvisation. All that is required on your behalf is to listen to a lot of songs you like and let your mind sort out the rest. In the next post, I talk about learning to actually play what you can hear with your mind. This is the bit that takes hours and hours of practice. There is no magic bullet, but I can at least tell you what has worked for me.

Got a question? Comment?

If you’re stuck somehow and need some help, or if you have something else to say, write a comment at the bottom of the page. I — or perhaps another reader — will be able to help you.

How To Play What You Hear: Vocalisation

Many times I will have a certain musical idea in my head, for example, a phrase that just popped into my mind. Or perhaps it’s part of a solo that I heard on the radio earlier. I want to be able to play it on the guitar but I am having a hard time figuring out the individual notes. I just can’t hear them clearly enough in my mind. What do you do?

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How to Play a Song by Ear on the Guitar

Play What You Hear- VocalisationIt’s very simple: you vocalise it. If you can sing something, you can play it. Our voices are in much better connection to our `inner jukebox’ that is our mind than our fingers are. This is because we use our voice all the time and have been pretty much since we were born. Thinking of some musical phrase or tune and being able to sing it instantly is something that we take for granted. But it has taken us many hours of practice to be able to do this.

We don’t practice the guitar nearly as much as we have practiced our voice, and so for many people it takes considerable more time to figure out how to play a new sequence of notes on the guitar than it is to vocalise it.

We can use the voice as a tool to aid our playing. Sing the passage out loud. Really make a point to vocalise each individual note at the right pitch. Once you can sing the the thing correctly, sing each note in turn and figure it out on the guitar.

Now, if you can’t vocalise it correctly, you will have a very hard time figuring it out on the guitar. Sometimes you’ll be able to recover part of whatever it is that you have in your head, but most of the time it’ll be lost. The more you force yourself to hear it in your mind, the harder it will become. The trick is to let go and allow your mind to play it for you. In a future post I will describe this process in more detail.

The more you vocalise and play, the more practised you become at it. After some time you’ll sing something and be able to translate it to the guitar very quickly. There are some tricks you can use to get there, but I will leave that for another time. Ultimately, you want to get rid of the singing altogether. But this takes considerable time. Even the best players still vocalise sometimes when improvising. It makes a musical idea much clearer in your head.

How to Play a Song by Ear on the Guitar

When I was a teenager I used to hang out with other kids in my school who also played an instrument. I remember one guy in particular, who was a guitar player, who I really looked up to. He had been taking lessons for a couple of years, and I had only just picked up a guitar several months earlier. I knew how to play simple chords, like E major, minor, and barred chords. This was in the early 90s and we were all listening to grunge: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. Now, this guy could play all these songs. During one music class he played `Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana and we all thought he was an amazing player. I wanted to be able to do that! How did he learn these songs?

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Learn to Play Guitar with Method Books

How to Play a Song by Ear on the GuitarI remember one particular instance in which he gave me this tip that completely transformed the way I approached things as a player. He said, “If you want to figure out how to play a song, just listen to what the bass does”. This is true, not only for simple chord songs like the one’s Nirvana were well known for, but for music in general. Next time you hear a song, listen to the chords, but in particular, listen to the notes the bass is playing. Start with a simple song, you will be able to pick it up quicker. Listen to the bass, play the notes on your guitar. Hum them first, if necessary. Pause the song if necessary, to focus on a specific part. The bass always plays the roots of the chords that make up the song. Figuring out what the bass does means you have figured out the roots of the chords that are played. Then, you fill it in by playing the chords.

Now, ofcourse I am slightly oversimplifying things here. First of all, the bass can play many `fill’ notes in addition to the chord roots. That’s why you start off with simple songs; music in which the bass doesn’t play a large role, for example rock music, or perhaps a pop ballad.

Secondly, there are many types of chord that one can play. There’s minor, major, dominant 7, and more esoteric ones, still. Again, you must start off with a simple song. I was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Metallica at the time. It wasn’t until later when I was more skilled that I approached more difficult songs this way.

How To Solo Guitar: Scale Choice Confusion?

Today I am going to talk some more about improvisation, specifically melodic improvisation: `soloing’ or `lead playing’ as some call it. Sorry jazz people, I am going to disappoint you and focus on songs that stay in a single key. In particular, I want to reach those people who have only recently started exploring improvisation.

How To Solo GuitarThe trouble most players have when they start out is figuring out which scale to play with which song. How do you know which one sounds good against which sequence of chords?

The usual answer that more experienced people give is that you should play a minor scale over minor chord progressions, and a major scale of major chord progressions. While theoretically sound advice, I think this just adds to the confusion and it certainly doesn’t always hold true.

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Those scales again

If you’re just starting out with improvisation you will probably have learnt a few basic scales and modes. I am a big proponent of the idea that you should start off knowing just the minor and major pentatonic scales. At this stage, simplicity is key — you do not want to overload your mind with a whole range of different scales and modes to choose from.

Let me rephrase that slightly. There is nothing wrong with learning a whole lot of scales when you are just starting out. But when it comes to improvising, you should forget all of them except the major and minor pentatonic scales — just for now. You can view many other scales and modes as extensions to the pentatonic scale, later on.

Let me emphasise that this will not restrict your ability to improvise nearly half as much as you think it will. The pentatonic scale may consist of only five notes, but you can play an infinite number of interesting melodies with these. Remember it’s not about which notes you play, it’s about how you play them. A lot of the great guitarists have done great stuff using just the pentatonic scale.

So now that we’ve narrowed our choice of scale down to just two, things suddenly look a lot simpler. Luck has it that for most songs either (or sometimes both) of these scales will fit the chords of the song perfectly. All you have to do is figure out the key of the song — which is usually the root of the very first chord and/or the very last chord of the song — and then pick either the minor or major pentatonic scale and play it in the correct key.

Still not sure which one to pick?

Try both of them and see which works! After a while you will get a feel for which scale to use when. Not long from now you will be able to instantly know which scale to play when you hear a song.

Sometimes, both scales work. In fact, if you have a song over which the major scale works, chances are that the minor scale will also work. You will find that this minor scale will add a bluesy somewhat rebellious (and liberating!) feel to your solo. Many players use this trick. I recommend you do the same.

Got a question? Comment?

If you’re stuck somehow and need some help, or if you have something else to say, write a comment at the bottom of the page. I — or perhaps another reader — will be able to help you.

Best Guitar Strap and Strap Locks

Buying a guitar strap may seem like a no-brainer. But, there are a couple of things to consider — comfort and durability. Wearing a guitar for a long time can get uncomfortable, especially if you’re playing a heavy, solid-body guitar. The better the strap, the more comfortable it will be.

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Choosing a Best Guitar Strap

Guitar Strap
Guitar Strap

Guitar straps come in a variety of materials from plastic to leather. Typically, the wider the strap, the more evenly the weight of the guitar will be distributed. Some straps feature padded unit that can take some of the pressure off of the shoulder. Don’t be afraid to “try on” a guitar strap you’re considering buying. Put it on a similar guitar at the store and try it out.

After comfort comes durability. The cheap plastic, faux-leather straps are known to wear out at the strap buttons. Unfortunately, they’re most likely to give out completely while you’re in the midst of playing. Pick out a strap that looks durable and well-made.

Finally, don’t overlook the “style” of the strap. This is like a piece of clothing, match your strap to the general look of

your guitar, and you’re own individual style.

Guitar Strap Locks
Guitar Strap Locks

Choosing a Best Guitar Strap Locks

A strap lock mechanism secures the strap ends of to the guitar with a locking mechanism. Some strap locks work with virtually any straps. Other mechanisms secure a fixture at the guitar, and the strap snaps in with a mechanism similar to a seat belt.

If you own more than one guitar, it’s a good idea to have at least one strap for each type of guitar you own. Else you’ll need to keep readjusting the strap when you switch between your acoustic guitar and electric guitar, or your archtop guitar and your solid-body.

Learn to Play Guitar with Method Books

The guitar “method” book is a staple for guitar players going back decades. Before audio, video, and Internet guitar lessons, there were guitar method book.

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Learn to Play Guitar — Left Handers

Why Learn Guitar With Method Books?

Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book
Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book

Some features of basic guitar method books include:

  • First lessons start from scratch — teaching you how to hold the guitar and how to hold the pick.
  • Lessons are graduated, each building on the previous lesson, increasing in complexity.
  • Most methods come in a series of three to six books — sold separately so you don’t have to buy all at once.
  • One goal is to teach the student how to read music (notes), and build chords.
  • Another goal is to have the student build dexterity in both hands.
  • Teachers often use method books for both private and class instruction.
  • Audio CDs of lessons are often included.

Learn Guitar Music for Beginners

Level one method books are all about guitar music for beginners. Level one books teach:

  • Easy guitar chords.
  • Sight-reading guitar notes for beginners.
  • Easy guitar music.
  • Some method books include guitar tabs for beginners.

Students who work through a level one method book will have a good foundation for tackling intermediate level materials.

Specialized Guitar Method Books

Alfred's Kid's Guitar Course
Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course

Aside from the basic guitar method books, there are also specialized or niche method books for…

  • small children.
  • electric guitar or for acoustic guitar.
  • genres: blues, jazz, rock, bluegrass, classical, etc.

These niche books often place less emphasis on teaching note-reading and more emphasis on learning to play the fundamentals of the specific style, for example blues progressions, or bluegrass style bass/chord runs. If you’re more interested in joining a blues, rock, or bluegrass jam than you are on learning to read notes, these niche methods might be a good place to start.

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Learn to Play Guitar — Left Handers

If you are left handed, you have a decision to make. Should you learn to play like a righty? Or should you get a left-handed guitar?

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix

Here’s a suggestion from a left-handed guitar player. “Go into a guitar shop and pick up the best guitar. Sit down and without too much thought, put the guitar in playing position. Did you put the neck in your left hand (like a right-handed player), or did you put the neck in your right hand?

“If you positioned the guitar like a right-hander, you’ll probably want the typical right-handed guitar. If you positioned it like a lefty, you’ll probably want a left-handed guitar.”

If you decide to go with a left handed guitar, I’d recommend that you buy a left-handed guitar, and not convert a right-handed guitar. If you do decide to have a right-handed guitar converted, don’t just restring it. Take it to a repair shop and have the nut recut and the bridge altered accordingly.

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How to Practice Guitar With a Metronome

Some things to consider…

Guitar playing is a two-handed activity. No matter what your orientation, both hands are going to be called on for unique and demanding actions.

For left-handed beginners it may actually be easier to play a right-handed guitar. When starting out, the fretting hand (left) requires more strength and coordination than the picking hand. However, as players progress, much of the artistic expression comes through the picking hand.

Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotten plays left-handed guitar

If you decide to play right handed, you’ll be able to pick up any guitar and play. Otherwise, you’ll be obliged to tote your left-handed guitar to any possible playing situation.

Most music and instruction books are written for the right-handed player. Virtually all chord charts, tablature, and fretboard diagrams are presented from a right-hand orientation.

Consider the availability of left-handed guitars at local shops. If you’re shopping for a left-handed guitar at a local shop, the selection will be limited. If you’re planning on buying from a reputable online dealer, then this won’t be a factor.

Lefties Who Play Right-Handed Guitars

A couple of lefties who play regular, right-handed guitars…

  • Paul Simon
  • Glenn Frey

Lefties Who Play Left-Handed Guitars

Albert King
Albert King

Lefties who play left-handed (or converted right-handed) guitars…

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Paul McCartney
  • Tony Iommi
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Mars Volta
  • Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos

Lefties Who Play a Right-Handed Guitar Upside Down

These lefties turn a right-handed guitar upside down with no conversion (the bass string is toward the floor)…

  • Elizabeth Cotten
  • Dick Dale
  • Albert King

How to Practice Guitar With a Metronome

A metronome is a mechanical device that provides a click sound at a selected tempo. The metronome lets you learn to control the timing of the music.

Critics of metronome practice rightfully claim that real music is not played at a strict click-click metronome tempo. In live music, the tempo gets pushed or pulled back. But, before you can push or pull the tempo, you need to establish the base rhythm is in the first place.

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How to Tune Your Guitar

Practicing Guitar With a Metronome

Metronome
Metronome

As a practice device the metronome helps you establish your own “internal” timing. When you practice with your metronome tap your foot or keep the rhythm with some part of your body. You want to use your ears and get into the groove. The metronome is there to correct you if you drift.

Here’s how you can use your metronome to practice a piece of music and bring it up to tempo.

Step 1: Forget about the tempo

To begin a piece of music, you want to learn the notes without worrying about timing. Turn off the metronome and play the piece “legato” — don’t worry about playing a consistent tempo. Take as much time as needed to make the proper chord changes or note playing. Once you have the notes or changes committed to memory, get out your metronome.

Step 2: Start slowly and build from there

Set the metronome at a tempo that will let you play the piece accurately. Take into account the eighth-note phrases, or quick chord changes. You want to find a comfortable tempo, then raise it gradually.

Korg Tuner with Metronome
Korg Tuner with Metronome

Step 3: Find the trouble spots

You’ll likely find parts of the piece are easy, and others have you stumbling. You’re looking for those stumbling places. Without your metronome, you might unconsciously slow down at the rough spots and not realize the problems. The metronome, a relentless task master, will point out the trouble spots. And, you want to find them so you can correct them (and improve your guitar playing).

Also, look for places that you can get through at tempo, but at the cost of sloppy chords or notes, fret buzzes, or other poor playing technique. It’s not just enough to play at tempo, you need to play cleanly.

Step 4: Smooth out the trouble spots

Turn off the metronome and play the two notes or the two chords of the first trouble spot. Just go through the motions slowly over and over, be conscious of the movements. Practice the changes five or six times. Then pause, shake out your hand, and repeat. Avoid getting into a pattern of mindless repetition. If you have to go painfully slow, that’s OK. As you get comfortable, bring up the tempo.

Once you’ve smoothed out that change at a moderate tempo, add the note or chord immediately ahead of that change. Practice that until those three moves are smooth, bring up the tempo (without the metronome).

Now add the note or chord immediately after the change. Practice these four changes. Keep building outward add the next note ahead of the passage, then the next note at the end.

Step 5: Repeat the process

Turn on the metronome up the tempo a bit from Step 2, and repeat the process until you’ve built up to the required tempo. Keep in mind if you’re practicing a piece that requires a blistering pace, this could take weeks, if not months. Keep identifying the new stress points at the faster tempos.

Alternatives to Hardware Metronomes

When used properly, a metronome is an essential tool for learning guitar. But you don’t have to run out and buy one just yet. If you can practice guitar near your computer there are loads of online metronomes. Just do a Web search for “online metronome.” These require that you’re connected to the Internet.

Also, there are loads of freeware metronome applications that you can download and run from your PC without having to be online. Try searching for “free metronome download.”

Band In A Box

Band in a Box
Band in a Box

One of my favorite learning (and just playing) resources is the Band-in-a-Box computer application. BIAB allows you to create “jam tracks” that allow you practice with an electronic band. As a metronome replacement, you can select an appropriate style of music and turn on the drums only. This creates a drum machine which works like a metronome, but is much more fun. Like a metronome, you can set the tempo in beats per minute.

If you’re a Mac user, you’re lucky. Mac has Garage Band, a BIAB-like application, that comes bundled with most Mac PCs.

You can also buy electronic tuners that have built in metronomes like the Korg TM-40 Digital Tuner. If you’re in the market for an electronic tuner, and plan on using a metronome, it’s convenient to have both devices in a single unit.

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