Quick Practice Tips – Daily Blog – Day 2.

Here’s part 2 of our new daily blog series offering you a quick practice tip each day, to improve your Guitar or Piano playing.

Tip 2 – Little & Often

2 hours per week, split into 6 sessions of 20 minutes, is infinitely more valuable than 1 long 2 hour session.

Breaks are important to process the practice that you’ve done.

Over a period of 2 hours straight your concentration, focus and technique will drop off very heavily, your playing could become quite sloppy and you are unlikely to take onboard the benefits of regular, shorter practice sessions.

If you currently do long practice sessions, try splitting them into shorter, more frequent sessions.  The results will be obvious!

Tip 3 coming tomorrow.

Good Luck!

-Alex

Guitar Lessons In London

Piano Lessons In London

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Meet Our Guitar Teachers – Video Performances

Hi everyone,

Here’s a chance to meet our guitar teachers who cover London and the surrounding areas.

On our website we feature a page of Guitar Teacher profiles, listing our teachers’ information, qualifications, experience and successes.

And here below is a video playlist featuring performances by a selection of our Guitar teachers – From home studio performances, to Classical Guitar competition recitals, to Glastonbury to The Albert Hall.

We hope you enjoy the great playing featured in the videos, and we’ll post soon when we upload some videos of our newest teachers too.

-Alex

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

Guitar Themed TBT Part Two

Welcome to part 2 in our Guitar-themed TBT (Throwback Thursday) mini series.

You can find part 1 here.

Again, we’re featuring 3 great Guitar videos from days gone by.  Just as part 1 contained performances from 1959, 1969 and 1979, now’s the time for 1989, 1999 and 2009.  So here we go!

1) 1989 – Night Of The Guitar

2) 1999 – Guitar Boogie – Tommy Emmanuel

3) 2009 – Joe Bonamassa Live 

Enjoy!

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

Lead Guitar Phrasing – Part 3 – Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits

Welcome to Part 3 in our series on Lead Guitar Phrasing.  The subject of today’s study is the Mark Knopfler‘s playing on Brothers In Arms.  First, here’s the track:

So here are 5 key points we can take from this, to apply to our own Phrasing when soloing:

1) Leaving Space.  
We’ve discussed leaving spaces between phrases before, and referenced Miles Davis’ quote “It’s the notes you don’t play”.  However, on this track, and many others, Mark Knopfler takes this concept from a necessary technique to an art form.  During these spaces in the verses is arguably when his Guitar carries most weight and power, as when listening to the song, you can feel yourself urging and pre-empting the Guitar’s re-entry.  This combined with the Guitar being “high in the mix” (ie. noticeably louder than the other instruments), and a collection of concise, sparse and perfectly executed fills, makes for a brilliantly evocative Guitar part.

2) Minimalism 
This is a selection of short and medium length fills, there are no long fills at all.  This is an effective, controlled approach.  Rather like how you might stop listening to someone who’s been going on and on for 10 minutes, but take serious note when a silent type finally speaks up.  On a couple of occasions, there is no fill at all, and once the first verse, there’s a fill of just one note.  Even in the solos, there is absolutely no playing to excess whatsoever.  If you told any guitarist to solo over the Brothers In Arms Backing Track, you can be sure they wouldn’t play so little, or be anywhere near as effective, unless they’d already learned this lesson

3) Volume Swells 
Knopfler’s volume pedal is a big part of his sound.  Essentially a volume pedal is a foot pedal which sweeps from silent to full volume, and you can create similar effects using the volume knob on your guitar.  Using this he creates violin-like swells, notes that creep and fade in and out.  Essentially he’s hereby deepening the use and potential of dynamics in his playing.  Try it out with whatever you have at your disposal!

4) Pushing 
Pushing is coming in just before the beat, usually a quaver (or 8th note) before.  Knopfler does this a lot, coming in early with something emphatic, that sounds momentarily out of place, then soars as the music falls into place around his guitar part.  This adds expression, dynamics and the illusion of pace, and is exemplified by the solo-opening bend at 4:13

5) Fingerstyle 
The central, best-known aspect of Mark Knopfler’s technique is the fact that he nearly always plays with his fingers, rather than a plectrum.  Whilst this arguably has more influence over his rhythm playing, it does affect his lead playing in one major way.  The scope and range of expression provided by the fingers is much wider than with a pick.  This range extends at one end of the spectrum to a hard, plucked twang, and at the other to the lightest, feather-touch flick of the strings.  In general, there’s a soft, rounded quality to his tone that comes from his fingerstyle soloing.  Try it out!

Coming soon, the 4th and final (for now) part in this series.

Happy Knopfler-ing!

– Alex

Piano Lessons London

Guitar Lessons London

Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 1 – Bird of Paradise by Snowy White

Welcome to part 1 in our new blog series looking at Lead Guitar Phrasing.  We’ll be studying some of the most beautiful moments in soloing history, from the classic, unforgettables, to the unheard of, obscure gems.

We’re breaking one of our own rules here, as for once, we’re not preaching that “it’s all about the song” – This time it’s all about what we can take from a solo to improve our own playing and phrasing, regardless of our opinion on the song as a whole.

No.1 – “Bird Of Paradise” by Snowy White.

We’re focusing here on solo. 1 at 1:57

This is something of a paradigm of phrasing and soloing for aspiring guitarists.  Below is a list of why that might be, and thus what we can take from it to apply to, and improve, our own playing.

– Dramatic entry and exit.  
The solo crashes in with a wailing bend with strong vibrato, and exits with an expressive phrase landing on the key centre of D.  These are powerful musical bookends.

– Building Throughout
The comedian Louis CK says that when writing and developing a new stand up show, he’ll take his finale, and make it the opening of his routine, so he’s forced to make the show grow from what was previously its peak, and raise the level of the whole act.  We can do a similar thing with our Guitar solos, whether composed or improvised.  Start strongly, and force yourself to build.

– Leaving Space
It might sound silly to say “You don’t have to play constantly” – But, you really don’t!  In fact, it’s much better if you don’t.  The analogy here is language, the use of full stops, commas, and the necessary drawing of breath.  Guitar wise, it’s impossible to create something memorable, singable or catchy without leaving spaces between phrases, ie. “PHRASING” your solo!  “It’s the notes you don’t play” has been attributed to Miles Davis and is often referenced in relation to Eric Clapton, and is seen in action here in this solo.  This solo is “singable” – it has all the melody of a great vocal line, but with all the additional expression that Guitar Techniques can provide.  Leave Gaps!

– Classic, with unusual twists
On first listen, this solo sounds like a particularly good bit of fairly common Pentatonic/Minor/Blues playing.  There’s one major difference, one big factor which makes the solo stand out, a little more difficult to transcribe, and extra-specially beautiful.  The point is, every phrase in this solo is so close to being a standard, well-played Rock/Blues lick, but with a twist.  With just the smallest amount of string-skipping, or root-note avoiding, or landing on an unusual note, the solo is transformed into one that really stands out.  So test yourself!  – Improvise over a backing track and ban yourself from ending a phrase on the root note, play all your usual licks but with one note different, ban all full tone bends, etc etc.  There’s only one way to get out of a rut!  (And get into a slightly more melodic rut!  Still, at least you have 2 ruts to choose

Coming up later in this blog series:  Hendrix – Over or Under Rated?  Mark Knopfler – Could anybody play any less?  And many more!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

-Alex

Bruce Music – Guitar Lessons In London

Bruce Music – Piano Lessons in London

Lead Guitar Improvisation – Part 1

This is the first in a mini-series of posts about improvisation for lead Guitar.
Today the issue is improvising over a song containing vocals and how to make your playing work.  Whether this is practising over a recorded song, or in a live band situation, the ideas concerned are exactly the same.

Essentially, the art to this is understanding and accepting that (in 99% of cases) the vocals are THE feature part of the song.  There is no room for “shredding”, or for clashing with the vocals.  When the Guitar solo comes along, that is your time to shine.  Whilst the vocals are present, the idea is to tastefully compliment and enhance them.  Here are some thoughts and practice tips to help you get to grips with this:

  • Play in the gaps – Your playing should fill the gaps between the singer’s lines, not clash with them.  This sounds very obvious and simple, but the art to this is keeping awareness of these gaps, and not spilling over too much into the next line.  This applies even if you’re just playing at home over a recorded song.  You should play as if you’re playing live with that band.  There are millions of backing tracks out there for extended soloing practice, but doing this properly is great practice for the real thing.
  • Don’t Play Too Much – Save your elaborate, long phrases for your solo.  It’s far more important that what you play fits the gap and the vibe of the song.  It’s tempting to try to cram everything you know into your lead playing, but watch any great guitarist doing this and they’ll be holding back, playing short tasteful bursts to suit the song as a whole.  This is a sign of professionalism.
  • Make Your Playing Relevant To The Vocals – The specifics of this require some judgement in each instance, but typically this means either:
    1) A copy/variation of the vocal line that’s just been sung
    2) An answer, or “response” to the vocal line that’s just been sung
    3) Playing in the same “range” as the vocals – ie.  Playing in the same octave, or roughly the same pitch to compliment the vocals.  Not playing extremely high or low, thereby drawing attention away.
  • Developing “Themes” – Let’s say that during the course of the whole song, you have 20 or so gaps to fill.  Are you going to play a different phrase in every single gap?  Again this is something you just won’t see a professional do.  The best idea is to come up with a handful of effective phrases and then rotate these, varying slightly if you want.  So you create some “themes” or ideas, perhaps at the end of each chorus you always play the same phrase, or after the 3rd line of each verse you play the same bend, and so on.  Your job is to compliment the vocals and to match their emotion and sentiment.  By varying your playing too much, you make it immemorable.

More on improvisation in part 2, coming soon.

Take lessons with Bruce Music in London

-Alex