Guitar Beginners’ FAQ Part 1: Electric or Acoustic?

Hi everyone,

Here’s the first part in our new blog series which will answer many frequently asked questions from beginners, or “pre-beginners” – i.e. people who are thinking about starting to play the Guitar.

For FAQ specific to our Guitar lessons please visit our Guitar Lesson FAQ.

Ok, here goes:

QUESTION – 

“Should I Learn Electric or Acoustic Guitar?”

The short answer is:  Whichever one you want to learn!  There are a lot of reasons new why players usually choose one or the other, but often these are the wrong reasons, or not valid reasons altogether.  Here is the most common misconception, followed by the truth!

MYTH – Acoustic Guitar Is Easier

TRUTH – Well, yes it is if you’re playing something easy.  Ok, so objectively Jimi Hendrix is harder to play than Oasis, but then Chet Atkins is objectively harder to play than The Cribs.  There is almost infinite repertoire on both instruments, ranging from the beginner strum-alongs, to the virtuoso solos.  The difficulty is determined by the song, your level, your practice, and certainly by how easy to play the guitar itself is, but this means how high the strings are from the fretboard (“the action”), how bulky the body is, what size (or “gauge”) the strings are, and so on.  But not on whether the guitar is made the be amplified or not – That is a stylistic concern.  And so should your decision be.

ANSWER – Think about these things –

– Who are your favourite guitarists/bands?

– What music do you want to play?

– What are your aims for your playing?

If you love Bob Dylan or Ed Sheeran and you want to be able to play an open mic night or get hold of the guitar at a party, then the answer is Acoustic.

If you’re into the Foo Fighters or Red Hot Chili Peppers and you want to start a band, it’s electric all the way.

So think about what and how you want to play, and follow that route.  Ultimately, the instruments work in exactly the same way, so you’re not too far committed down one road, it’s just that each type lends itself slightly better to different styles of music.  So consider the styles!

And if you’re still confused, buy both and enjoy!

– Alex

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

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Guitar Themed TBT Part One

Here’s part one in a two-part TBT (Throwback Thursday) mini series.  Over the next 2 weeks we’ll bring you some classic live Guitar-centred performances from the last 60 years.  This week begins with 1959, 1969 and 1979.  Next week = 1989, 1999 and 2009.

1) 1959 – The Drifters/Shadows Live at Saturday Club

2) 1969 – Jimi Hendrix live in Stockholm

3) 1979 – Led Zeppelin live at Knebworth

Enjoy, and let us know your thoughts and suggestions for next week’s feature on 1989, 1999 and 2009 – We’re open to contributions!

-Alex

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 2 – All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix

Welcome to part 2 in Bruce Music‘s series on Lead Guitar Phrasing.  View Part 1 here.

Today’s  Jimi Hendrix’s innovative, brilliant cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”

So what can we learn from Jimi’s lead guitar phrasing on this recording, and how can we apply it to our own playing to incorporate better phrasing when playing, composing or improvising our solos?

– “On Edge” 
Like a large amount of Jimi’s playing, the phrasing and timing is “on edge”.  Right as your ear starts to detect his rhythm becoming loose, he nails an intricate phrase, ending squarely on beat 1 of the next bar, and right as you feel a phrase has gone off track, he twists it into an unusual resolution, making you realise he knew where he was going all along.  This is one of the central, magical principles of Jimi’s soloing, and what gives it such a soaring, but mellow freedom.  When you see live footage, he often gives the impression of just mindlessly stabbing and thrashing at the strings without a second thought, but what’s coming out is some of the most innovative and creative lead playing we’ve ever seen.  So what we can take from this is that the combination of security in your technique and fretboard knowledge, with a relaxed, free style, will take you a long way.  Essentially, it’s knowing your stuff whilst appearing too cool for school!

– 1.5 Tone Bends 
In the intro and the solos, Jimi’s using some 1.5 tone (ie. one and a half tones, or 3 fret) bends.  These are very expressive, as it’s even more of a climb and a stretch for the note being bent, and also very distinctive, as we’re so used to hearing 1 tone bends (2 frets).

– Variation 
If you add up the time spent soloing during this track, it’s probably about 90 seconds.  In that time, we’ve got rock and blues licks, a chordal soloing section, a wah-wah section, a slide guitar section, tons of bends and slides, slow fills, fast flurries and an ocatver effect coming on and off at different points.  What you should take from this is the variation that is afforded to you by a knowledge of different styles and techniques, getting to grips with FX pedals, and intertwining rhythm guitar aspects with your lead playing.

– Sustain/”More Time On The Ball”  
Here’s a great article on top sports stars seeming to have more time on the ball.  Jimi Hendrix is the musical equivalent.  His notes are held until the very last possible moment, aided by a practised, full-bodied, vibrato and sustain.  Yet he doesn’t seem or sound rushed.  Sustain your notes as long as possible, and try thinking one phrase ahead.

– Loose Call & Response 
We’ve previously looked at Call & Response and what exactly it is.  If you don’t know what it is, here’s lots of info.

Jimi’s at times using a very loose Call & Response technique, probably down to a natural musicality and love of The Blues.  Occasionally he is answering his own phrases very directly and symmetrically, such as the second phrase in the intro solo being almost a mirror image of the first.  But very often he’s using this very loose variant, almost as if the response is answering a mutation of the call, rather than the direct call itself.  This is how he manages to make his soloing have a very clear and unified style, without being repetitive.  give it a go!

Next Time – How Mark Knopfler plays almost no notes at all!

– Alex

London Guitar Lessons

London Piano Lessons

Lead Guitar Improvisation – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of Bruce Music‘s mini series on improvisation.  (Click here for part 1)

Today’s topic is Improvisation Exercises.  The exercises are designed to stop you getting stuck in a rut with your playing.  (Or help you out of a rut you’re already in!)  They’re also good for general practice, and you should learn lots along the way.

1) Improvise over the same chord progression, in different styles
This ensures the style you’re best at doesn’t take over, which is a very common bad habit when you’re improvising.  If you have recording software/a loop pedal/a willing friend, then record/have your friend play a chord progression in a funk style, while you improvise.  Then transfer the same progression to a jazz style for a little while, then rock, then country, and so on.  This approach forces you to consider the style you’re playing in.  You’re less likely to be repeating your soloing phrases because the chords have stayed the same, so the stylistic difference becomes more apparent. 

2) Restrict Yourself  
If you feel like your phrasing is becoming repetitive or stale, apply a restriction.  Only the first 5 frets, only the top 2 strings, even down to only using 3 or 4 notes.  This forces you to use all your techniques, expression and creativity to get the most out of what you have at your disposal.  It sounds like it should make your playing even more repetitive, but you’ll be surprised what you can come up with.  Better still, when you lift the restriction, the whole fretboard will seem full of even more possibilities than before.

3) Play Like Someone Else  
For example:  Take a blues/rock backing track and improvise over it 5 times.  The first time you’re Jimmy Page, the second Jimi Hendrix, the third Slash, the fourth Dave Gilmour and the fifth Eric Clapton.  (Examples only, of course you should change up your list and include your favourites.)
play as if you are the guitarist you have in mind, their style, their approach, their attitude.  You’ll get to grips with their different styles and learn all sorts of new things to add to your own soloing repertoire.
A twist on this is to make the guitarists you’re copying ones from a completely different style to the backing track.  How would they respond to a different style and how would they play?

4) Play In An Unfamiliar Position  
If you know your fretboard inside out, then great.  The chances are though that there’ll be somewhere on the neck that you’re not very comfortable improvising.  (Especially if you’re in an ‘unusual key’ ie. not E, A, etc)
This is a chance to use that unfamiliarity to your advantage.
You are now improvising in the truest sense.  Your bank of phrases and licks is gone and your ear is guiding you.  Play confidently and without worrying about mistakes and you’ll discover new licks, avoiding familiar scale patterns and improve your ear.  All the while gradually getting to grips with another area of the fretboard.

More to come in Part 3 later in the week.

Want Improvisation help in person?  Guitar Lessons In London

-Alex