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Ok it seems I am going on about guitars lately. I’ve actually been playing guitar for 17 years. I never really wanted to make it professionally although it would have been nice but I played in a few bands and mostly kept that as a hobby. It doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about it though. All the opposite in fact.

I have been playing a lot of hard rock and heavy metal “back then”. This kind of music was just ruling the scene. We’re talking 1989 (I lived in a small town so the 80’s kind of lasted until 1995 there…). There never was a song without a Van Halen-esque solo after the second chorus with tapping and whammy bar all over the place. But Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden, as well as many others who were really successful at the time, came in with some more agressive solos. And there were also harmony solos. Not that they invented it but metal bands sure did pick up the ball and ran with. Who never tried to play the bridge solo from Master ouf Puppets until their parents went crazy ? Wow, I remember playing it like shit. Seriously, it did sound like shit. Ah the good old days…

That gets us to today’s post. You’re going to learn how to write some basic harmony solos. I have never been a real fan of music theory although I know a little. But we’re not gonna rely on it a lot.

Recording the Single-Note Line

I suggest you take a simple tape recorder, or even better if you have a DAW, and record your single-note line. It doesn’t really have to be fancy equipment. Just something to record your guitar so you can work out the harmony with. If you have a drum machine or a metronome use it, otherwise try tapping your foot on the floor when you record. I always add four beats at the beginning so I have something to cue me when I listen to playback.

Now let’s say we try this simple A minor line :

E ------------------------8---7-----------
B ----------------6---5-----------8~~~~---
G --------5---4---------------------------
D ---/7-----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------------
E ----------------------------------------

Work Out the Harmony

Now that’s you’ve recorded the first line, play it back so you can work out the harmony. A simple and efficient way to do it is to play the exact same lick three frets higher …

One sure way of spicing up a solo is to use arpeggios. Let’s look at how to build arpeggios off of basic chord positions by simply using your fourth finger.

Let’s start with an A minor chord in the fifth position :

A-minor-chord

Then, instead of playing the third note (E) on the B string (5th fret), hammer-on to the G string / 9th fret. Skip over the B string entirely, playing the next note (A) on the 5th fret of the high E string. Finally, hammer-on to the 8th fret (C). Once you get the fingerings down, work on playing the entire pattern as one long ascending / descending line, as fast as your fingers will allow. Try shifting the entire pattern chromatically up and down the neck.

guitar_lesson_arpeggios_fig2(1)

Below is an extended A minor arpeggio in the twelfth position. Notice that the highest note requires a considerable fourth finger stretch, so relax and work up to it if you’re feeling any stiffness.

guitar_lesson_arpeggios_fig3

Now let’s try a two-octave A minor arpeggio in the 5th position. This one is derived from a basic A minor barre chord by the use of fourth finger extensions. Try to memorize the visual pattern and the location of major and minor thirds.

guitar_lesson_arpeggios_fig4

Well that’s basically it so practice the exercises slowly until you feel confortable!

While I mostly play guitar, I happen to play bass on occasion, particularly when I need to record a backing track. I thought that playing would be a lot easier than guitar at least for most rock songs I play. It wasn’t the case. Playing bass is a lot about maintaining the rythmic section and being that tight isn’t an easy task.

Learn How to Play Bass Guitar

Instead of concentrating on “becoming one” with the bass and snare drums, we overindulge ourselves with excessive fills. Try to avoid the urge to throw in every lick you know. When it comes to playing bass, less is usually more (I didn’t say they were none great technical bass players!).

When creating a bass line, set up a solid foundation using the bass drum pattern as your guide and build from there. Too much embellishment can take away from the groove, so stay in control of your territory. Shown below are some standard bass / drum grooves.

how to play bass guitar

Practice playing with the drum only and memorize each pattern. After you’ve mastered these exercises, continue your groove studies by listening to your favorite records, focusing on the bass and rum patterns. Think of bass and bass drum as one instrument and watch for variations, accents and fills.

Below is a video that can help you learn how to play bass guitar.

There is something about playing guitar which I always wondered if I was right or wrong: playing by ear. In fact, every musician plays by ear. Those who say they don’t are probably deaf. Guitar ear training is one of the important steps you should go through when beginning your lessons. I got to admit that over time I haven’t been reading music much. It would take longer to figure out a song with a sheet music than by ear.

Basic Guitar Ear Training

This leads us to today’s guitar lesson. Ear training helps develop a sense of “rightness” or “wrongness” when we play or listen to music. Some can push the exercise up to having a perfect pitch which means that they have the ability to recognize every musical notes just as you would recognize any color. We’re not going there today but we’re going to train our ear to recognize intervals (or distances between notes).

Let’s see the intervals within one octave of the C major scale :

guitar ear training

Now record yourself playing these intervals by grouping them in different orders of study. Group the minor and major seconds together, then the minor and major thirds, and so on. Add a pause of 3 or 4 seconds between each intervals.

When you are done, play your recording and try to name what you are hearing. Of course, you should take this exercise to another level and record some more intervals (E Major 2nd, E Major 3rd, etc).

You could also write down each interval name on a separate 3×5 file card : C Major 2nd, C Major 3rd, etc. Now shuffle the deck and then pick a card and try to sing or play the interval.

Just keep practicing until you can easily identify each interval by ear!
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