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How To Shred – The First Steps

Before I had ever taken a single guitar lesson, I was self taught for about three years. I thought I knew a lot about guitar because I could play quite a bit of chords, a couple scales, and a handful of songs. I did in fact know a lot, but some of the things I had learned on my own were not quite as effective or efficient as they could have been.

Today, I want to share one of those things that I -sort of had right-, but when I re-learned it the “expert” way, my playing was set on a path for some really crazy growth.

So what was this one thing that changed my guitar playing so dramatically? One of the single best things I EVER learned was something called the “shred style” way of playing. Now, “shred style” may not be the technical term, but that’s what my teacher back then called it so that name has always just stuck with me.

What it means is this:

Whenever possible, arrange any phrase or line of single notes into an odd number of notes-per-string pattern.

Let me show you an example of this using the G Major Scale. (As a side note, I pretty much always show the G Major Scale when explaining this technique to people because this scale ties into so many other things I like teaching later on. Plus, the musical key of G is also really common in music, so that helps too!)

Okay. So let’s take a look at this G Major Scale.

G Major Scale Tab

The first thing I want you to notice about this scale is the pattern of notes. Notice how there seems to be three distinct patterns on these six strings. The:

  1. 3 5 7 pattern on the first two strings
  2. 4 5 7 pattern on the middle two strings, and the
  3. 5 7 8 pattern on the last two strings.

 

These patterns are SUPER helpful to notice right off the bat because they literally cut the amount of notes you need to learn in half. Instead of learning three notes multiplied by six strings, you really only have to learn three notes multiplied by three strings. The other 3 strings are just repeats of the same patterns.

And honestly, when you venture into other scales and modes, these three patterns keep showing up over and over again. So it’s definitely worth learning them now as patterns instead of fret numbers. I may get some back lash for suggesting that you learn patterns instead of notes, but I do feel like it’s helpful. At least in this situation.

Anyway, try playing through this scale a couple of times, taking note of these patterns that you’re playing. When you feel like you’ve got the notes down, then it’s time to use the right fingers.

G Major Scale Shred Style Finger Position Stretch

This stretch looks pretty intense, I know. But don’t worry, there is a really simple way to go about hitting it.

Instead of starting with your first finger on the 3rd fret and trying to stretch your way up to the 5th fret, and then the 7th fret, the first thing you’ll want to do is find the middle point of the line you’re playing (I like to call this the “center of balance“) and expand your fingers out to hit the others. So in our 3 5 7 pattern, our middle note is 5. Also, looking back at the G Major Scale tab we can see that this note is supposed to be played with your middle finger.

So let’s start out by placing your middle finger on the 5th fret of the Low E string and consider this your “center of balance”. Now bring all your fingers in close together. Try and get them all to touch each other and stay within a fret or two, like this:

G Major Scale Finger Cram

Now, from this point, let’s expand your fingers out from this center of balance (your middle finger). Take your first finger (your pointer finger), and move it down to the 3rd fret without changing anything about the rest of your fingers.

G Major Scale Pointer Finger Stretch

Now move your pinky up to the 7th fret in the same way. You should now have a hand position that looks really similar to that first finger stretching picture up above.

One more tip to help out with that big stretch, –because I know it feels weird right now-, is to lower your thumb on the back side of the neck. My thumb usually rests right behind where my middle finger is but down really low to the bottom edge of the neck. The lower you go with your thumb, the more space you give the rest of your fingers.

So as you go through these notes, the main take away here, –and definitely one of the biggest challenges-, is making sure that you leave your fingers on the already played notes as you go up. What I mean by that is make sure you continue to press down on the 3rd fret AND the 5th fret, even when you’re playing the 7th fret. It may sound strange, but this is a really good playing habit to get into. As you go backwards down the scale, it’s “proper” form to already have your fingers on the notes you need, and not just floating around in space while they wait for “go” time.

G Major Scale Tab

The last thing I want to show you is the very heart and soul of the “shred” playing style. Here is that G Major Scale again so you don’t have to keep scrolling back and forth!

Notice those symbols above the tab. These are your picking patterns. That first one, the one that looks like an upside down U is a down pick. The V symbol is an up pick. But, the most important symbol of all is that little slash in between the two down picks, or if you look more closely, when you transfer from string to string. 

As you play your down-up-down pattern, notice that it keeps repeating that same picking pattern on each string. Pretty easy, right? Well, once you give it a try you may think otherwise (maybe at first at least!). This double down picking motion should feel like it’s flowing from one string to the next. It’s a slash symbol because its technically one movement. One down pick between two strings. Sort of like playing a two note chord.

And that right there is one of the most important concepts I ever learned on guitar. It WILL take some practice to get the hang of it, so just be prepared for that. But, once you master this concept of playing odd numbered amounts of notes per string (so that you can flow through strings, whether down-up-down-down, or up-down-up-up when you go the other direction), you will dramatically be able to increase your playing speed. 

Whew! I know this was a tough one today, and a lot to take in so make sure if you have any questions, that you leave a comment down below. And don’t forget, if you know someone that would benefit from this one, or would just enjoy reading it, be sure to share it with them as well. Just remember, this one will take some time to get good at, so don’t give up if it seems to hard at first. Just keep practicing at it a little bit here and there, and before  you know it you will have gained an incredible picking technique that will allow  you to play as fast as you’ll ever need.

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How To Save Your Hands And Play Longer

Not too long ago, we talked about one of the ways you can get rid of some fret buzz and the importance of pushing the string down in the front part of the fret. There’s also an article about it here, too. Be sure to check those out first because today I have another one of these cool guitar playing concepts for you.

This is one of the coolest things I learned in the beginning and I feel like it has not only stayed with me and shaped my playing, but that it has also helped a lot of other people over the years, too.

It’s something that an old teacher of mine showed me. Simply put, you don’t have to squeeze the life out of your guitar when you play. To show you what I mean, let’s try an experiment really quick.

Start With A Mutedont squeeze too hard

Find the 5th fret on your high E string. Really, you could play any fret on any string, but just so we’re on the same page, let’s use this note. Touch your finger to the string right above this 5th fret space. Don’t actually press down to the point of making, or fretting, a note just yet. Now with your picking hand, pick your string over and over at a somewhat slow place, maybe a little faster than one pluck per second.

Right now you should be hearing nothing but a muted string. No real notes yet. Now SLOWLY press the string down to create that 5th fret note. The moment that string makes contact with the fretboard and makes a real note from your pluck, don’t press down any harder.

The Aha Moment

The amount of strength that you’re using right now to create this note is the most force that you will ever need to use to create this note. Any more force that you would use is just wasted energy.

The first time I tried this experiment, I was blown away by how easily I could press down to make a note and how much strength and energy I was throwing away by pressing down too hard.

Not that I’m perfect at sticking to this all the time, as it’s very easy to forget. Some days I notice that I’m squeezing the life out of my strings, but I do come back to this thought a lot to remind myself that I’m pressing down too hard 99% of the time. Try this exercise out in a few places on your fretboard. On the high strings and the thicker strings, too. I have a feeling that you’ll really be blown away too by how little effort it actually takes to make a note sound.

So, what did you think of this concept? Pretty cool,huh? Remember, the less energy you use while playing, the longer you can play. Your chords and notes will actually sound more in tune, too. Double win! Let us know what you thought of this one in the comments section down below.

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How To Remember The Guitar String Names

For a video version of this post, check out “The Easy Way To Learn Your Guitar String Names”

Memory is such an interesting thing. Some people seem to have a naturally good memory, and some of us, well, don’t! I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time remembering things. When I was a kid in school and I had something I needed to remember for a test or something, I’d put it to a song. I do love learning new things though, but sometimes trying to remember it all is a real challenge.

Learning The String Names

When it comes to learning new things in an area you don’t know much about, like when you’re learning how to play guitar, it can be hard and frustrating. It may not make a whole lot of sense trying to remember things like the order of strings, especially if this is your first instrument and the concept of notes isn’t something you’re used to. It IS hard to remember those notes, and then knowing that they are in -what seems like random- order, just makes it even more confusing.

use mnemonics to learn guitar string names

Let’s Learn The Guitar Notes

So, one really useful trick is to use a memory aid, kind of like the example above of putting it to a song, but this time for the strings I like to use an aid called “mnemonics”. Mnemonics just basically means that you’re taking the first letter of all the things you’re trying to remember (in our case we just want string names) and then we assign a word or phrase to each of those letters. It’s definitely easier to show you than explain it, so let’s take a look:

If the letters we need to remember for the strings are E A D G B E, we can make this order MUCH easier to remember by using a word for each of those letters and making a phrase or sentence out of them. The phrase I like using is “Elephants And Dogs Grow Big Ears”. So starting with the biggest string first, moving to the smallest, we have E A D G B E.

Be Creative, Use Mnemonics

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of different mnemonic phrases and the truth is they all work as long as you use the right string name letters for your phrase. You can even make up your own, and hey, who knows, maybe it will help you remember better by creating one for yourself.

So how about you? Did you use a mnemonic phrase to help you learn the strings, or did you learn them in a different way? Share your story down below.

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How To Minimize Fret Buzz

Click here to check out the video post for how to cut down on fret buzz.

Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard you press down on a note, it just doesn’t make that solid, clean sound you want. Instead it sounds “buzzy”, or maybe it doesn’t even make any note at all and it’s a just a dead, or muted note. This sort of thing happens to everyone at one point or another. This is mainly the case when you’re just starting out, but it can even happen quite a bit later on in the intermediate stages depending on what it is you’re trying to play.

Do You Need Lots of Finger Strength?

For the most part, it does has a lot to do with finger strength, which is why it happens most often to beginners who haven’t quite built up their hands yet. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. As long as you keep on playing, you WILL get that finger strength. It’s only natural to get better at something you’re putting time into. However, there’s one little trick that you can do to make sure your notes are playing cleanly. Something anyone can do. Especially beginners because the earlier you can grasp on to this technique, the better it will serve you as you go on to play.

A Simple Finger Exercise

Now before we see what this trick is, let’s check out what NOT to do first. As you’re looking down at your frets, try playing a note (any note is fine), but instead of playing in the middle area of the fret, try pressing down near the back end of your fret, that is, on the end closest to the tuning pegs, and away from your body. Take note of how hard you have to press down to make that note sound clear. Now let’s try the opposite.

string buzz from back of fret
On that same note, press down again but instead of playing on the back end of your fret, this time press down on the front end of your fret, the side that is closest to your body. See how much easier that was? You should have noticed that it took much less strength to fret that note to create the same clean tone.

clean sound from front of fret
So how exactly does help you? This experiment shows us is that whenever possible, try and press every note down as close to the front side of the fret as you can. Now this won’t always work out with every thing you play. For example, an A Major chord, where you’re playing the 2nd fret across three strings, you’re going to have one finger near the front edge, one on the back edge, and one in the middle area. So for that particular example, sticking to the front isn’t always possible. But just remember that whenever you can, try putting your fingers on the front side of the frets.
Well guys, I hope that if you’ve been having trouble with fret buzz, and you’ve been struggling with making clear and clean notes, that this little trick will help you once and for all. Like always, if you have any questions or just want to add to this topic, feel free to leave a comment down below.

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How To Read Guitar Tabs

One of the most important skills you can have as a musician is to read music. Most people aren’t naturally able to play by ear, so most song learning will either come from someone showing them how to play it, or by them reading the music notes for it. Unfortunately, learning to read guitar notation, or guitar notes on a musical staff, can be quite confusing and intimidating for us guitarists since we have so many duplicate notes on our instrument. One note on a staff could potentially be in five different places on your guitar. So how do you even decide where to play a note like that? A lot of times it’s just up to your best judgement and the context of all the other notes. The good news is that us guitarists have a music notation system called tablature (tab for short) that is much easier to read. And while it may be true that tab has some pitfalls, it’s definitely the most popular choice among guitarists and bassists.

Getting Started With Guitar Tab

So how do you read tab? Well, it’s actually pretty easy. Let’s take a look at the picture below and notice how there are 6 lines going left to right. These lines represent the 6 strings on your guitar. And you can even see on the far left, or the start of the tab, that each line is labeled as one of your string names.

how to read tab
Now, for a long time when I was first learning to read tab, I’d always confuse the lines and read it upside down. I use to read the line on the bottom as the High E string, not the Low E string. I’ve actually noticed that a lot of people do this at first too because as you’re holding your guitar and looking down at it, it does seem like your thick, Low E string is on top, right? So when you look at the tab, that line on top seems like it should be the Low E. Well, as you might have guessed, it’s actually the opposite and the best way to remember this is to think of it like note pitches. The lowest pitch is on bottom, and going up, the highest pitch is at the top. So that would mean that the Low E string is on bottom and the High E is on top.

Understanding The Numbers

Now let’s look now at the tab again and figure out what all those numbers mean. These numbers on the lines are the fret number, or space number, that you play. So that 2 on the top line means that you play a 2nd fret on your High E string. The 3 on the B String means that you would play a 3rd fret on your 2nd string, B. When you get to that 0, this just means that you would play the string “open”, or without pressing any fret note down.

But What About Chords?

The last thing I want to show you is the stacked numbers. So far we’ve been reading one note at a time, going left to right. When numbers are stacked up and down like this in a vertical way, it means that you play them all at the same time, as a chord. This chord happens to be a G chord, and you’d strum every string that has a number on it, in this case, all six strings. In other words, when you find a chord that only has 5, or 4, or even 3 or 2 notes stacked on each other, you would only strum the strings that have a number on the line. If there’s no number on the line, then don’t strum that string.

Learn And Master The Basics First

Well, that should at least get you going on a basic introduction level of reading and playing tabs. There are all kinds of symbols that can be added to tab for notating different playing techniques and tricks, but these can quickly become overwhelming at first if you’re not totally comfortable with these fundamental starting points. In fact, there so many symbols that can appear in tabs, and really any music notation in general, that even I have to look up what some of them mean sometimes.
So for now, this should be a good starting point to getting you up and running with playing songs by tab. If you have any questions or comments, always feel free to post them in the comment section below.

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