Saturday, August 16, 2014

Scale Identification Practice


Some of my students right now are working on some really important skills that will help them better play music with others, write songs, or just plain understand the guitar as a whole. Being able to identify, locate, and play scales all over the neck is an essential part of playing guitar.

When it comes to honing this skill, nothing does the job better than randomly calling out fret/position numbers, keys, forms, or finger roots. It's difficult to make sure you cover it all (all forms in all keys), and it might not even be necessary; but the important things are being able to proficiently "use your dots" as a tool to quickly locate root notes, then, identify form root fingers, and recall the forms themselves. If you were to practice your way through every variable in this exercise, you'd play a over 300 scale patterns, total!

To help you practice, I've created a nice little worksheet which you can download. It's pretty straight forward. All you do is fill in the blanks. Once you get the hang of this sort of thing, you should be able to fly. And, you can easily create your own worksheet to get through all 12 keys in all 5 forms, both major and minor, for pentatonics, 7-tone scales, and harmonic minor scales, varying all five of the blanks on this worksheet!

I'll soon post the answer key.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pentatonic Scale Exercises: 3's

At a recent lesson, my student and I ran out of time and I promised her that I'd write a post here, providing some guidance for her next step. Here's what we're working on...

Major and minor pentatonic scales are fundamental to any guitar player. They're one of the first things a player will learn, and they are the gateway into the world of blues and rock guitar solos. If you're serious about guitar, you know these well.

So you've got all five box patterns memorized. Now what?

There are a number of scale exercises that can be applied to any scale we learn, and the first step is to learn the three, most basic ones. A scale exercise is simply a pattern of notes within the scale designed to improve a player's skill. Today, we'll cover what I call "3's".

In the examples below, we're playing Form 1 in second position, in the key of A minor. (Form 1 is the 2-4, 2-4, 1-4, 1-4, 2-4, 2-4 fingering pattern.) This exercise is quite simple, really.

3's can be described as follows: Play three ascending notes, go back one note. Using the note you went back to as "1", play three more ascending notes, etc. (The pattern is reversed when descending.)

Here are a few rules:

1. Every finger gets a fret.
2. Alternate picking (down-up-down-up)
3. Use a metronome
4. Each note receives the same duration (eighth notes, to start)
5. Always start and end on the root note

Take a listen...

And here's the sheet music that corresponds to the audio above...

Notice this pattern is ascending. We also have to remember to practice our 3's descending as well. You'll see that you naturally have to turn around once you get to the highest note of the pattern. Stop on the highest note after completing the last ascending pattern grouping possible. Once you're there, start a new group of three notes and descend away, all the way to the lowest note within the form. Then, turn around again (and ascend with 3's back to the root). Always start and end the exercise on the root note.

Here's an audio example of the entire exercise...

So why do we use and learn scale exercises? Because they allow players to improve their muscle memory, tonal memory, and increase speed and accuracy when playing single notes. In addition, these exercise patterns are also commonly found in popular song guitar solos.

Cheers! Keep on playing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thank You! Kickstarter Successfully Funded

Thank you so much for supporting my music! Yes, this is my guitar lessons blog, and I usually don't post things like this; however, a fair number of you, my students, have supported Restoration Project's Firm Foundation Kickstarter project, and I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!

The grand total raised over our 30-day campaign (including non-KS other cash gifts) was $11,270!

Learn more about our series at

Saturday, August 10, 2013

C Minor Bar Chords and Inversions

This post is for a former student of mine, Steve, whom I told I would write up this special post for him a few weeks after our last lesson together at JC's Guitars in Saint Charles, IL. (More on my leaving coming in an upcoming post over here.)

This lesson is not for beginners.

The worksheet reads left to right, then down a row, etc.

There are ten minor bar/inversion shapes which follow the pattern for the major ones. Simply locate the thirds within the Major shapes and lower them 1/2 step in order to get the minors. However, shapes 1, 4, and 9 are unique to minors, with 1 and 9 essentially being the same, just one octave apart.

By this point in your training, you understand how to check each chord to make sure each note is ringing properly. You also know how to practice increasing your speed between shapes over time. And, of course, you always use a metronome. My favorite basic metronome app for iOS? Bitcount's Clockwork. But if you're looking for one that will gradually increase in tempo as you rehearse difficult passages, you may want to check out Metronome+ (though I very much dislike apps with in-app purchases) or go with the ridiculously robust Dr. Betotte by S'SWorks and pay $10 up front instead of through in-app purchases, like M+.

One more thing to remember: You have to practice these chords ascending and descending as well as in every position, with different roots.

There are two ways you can practice these (other than the simple straight up and down):

1. Pick a position first. Randomly name a minor chord root. Find the shape that fits your root note and position, plus or minus one fret. Then, play all of the shapes you can with that root note, ascending in order, then descending past your original shape, if possible.

2. Pick a shape first. Randomly name a minor chord root. Find the position which matches the chord and root note which you randomly selected. Then, play all the shapes you can. Maybe this time play the shapes below your starting shape first, then ascend past the original, as high as you can go.

Questions? Comment below.

Happy minor chord playing!

Disclaimer: All resources on this blog are intended for personal use only. If you are a music instructor - public or private - and would like to use some of the resource materials I have created, please contact me to get permission before using them with your own students.

Donate Today to My Kickstarter Campaign!

Yesterday, on Friday, August 9, 2013, my friends and I in Restoration Project launched our first-ever Kickstarter campaign. We're trying to raise $10,000 in 30 days to pay for the recording and production costs for a new EP series we're calling Firm Foundation.

Watch our campaign video and view our Kickstarter page here:

Our Firm Foundation recordings will feature Sunday School songs with new arrangements and lyrics—bringing greater theological depth and clarity to the originals you may already know. Just read about it, watch the video, and donate on our campaign page! It's better watched than described.

Learn more about Restoration Project's mission and history and listen to our two, previously released albums on our website:

You can also share our fundraiser on social:

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Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sight-Reading for Guitarists

One of the most important skills a guitarist can possess is the ability to read music.

I've said it. I mean it.

Great guitarists don't need to know how to read music, but well-rounded ones do - especially when it comes to comparing musicians of other instruments. Guitarists are the target of a lot of snobbish derision when it comes to their abilities to sight-read. But if we can read music, then we get the best of both worlds: playing from the heart (without music) and playing with precise calculation and technique (reading music).

I owe a big apology to one of my former guitar students, for whom I was supposed to write this special blog post a few days ago. This one is for Joe.

The attached image can be used for sight-reading in any position. Don't memorize it. When you feel like you're starting to get familiar with the order of the notes, flip the sheet upside down. Voila! It's a new page to practice. Here are the most important positions and keys to start with:
  • I - Keys: C, G, D, A, E, F
  • II - Keys: C, G, D, A
  • IV - Keys: D, A, E, B, F
  • VI - Keys: E, B, F
  • X - Keys: G, D, A, E
As you begin, start by reading a single note at a fairly slow pace. Consider each note head to be the same duration.

You're reading whole notes. When you feel comfortable with single notes, move on to reading two notes at a time. Now you're reading twice the information at one time, and you're reading half notes. I think you get the point. Increase the number of notes you read at a time. Some key benchmarks are as follows:
  • 3-note groupings - reading in 3/4
  • 6-note groupings - reading in 6/8
  • 8-note groupings - reading in 4/4
  • 12-note groupings - reading 4 measures of 3/4 at one time
  • 16-note groupings - reading 4 measures of 4/4 at one time
If you're hungry for more, and you're serious, you can write out your own pages, following mine as an example. In my page, I've limited my notes to C3 up to A4. However, the reading range for guitars goes down to E2 and all the way up to E6, approximately, so if you make your own practice sheets, be sure to utilize all of the pitches in your given fret position. (You won't be able to flip the sheet over when the notes become too familiar to "make" a new sheet, but it will give you the full range for guitarists.)

I have based my sheet on David Hickman's book, Music Speed Reading, which is out of print as of this post. Original copies of Hickman's book are currently fetching $150+ on

Have any questions or comments? Please use the form below. And good luck!

Disclaimer: All resources on this blog are intended for personal use only. If you are a music instructor - public or private - and would like to use some of the resource materials I have created, please contact me to get permission before using them with your own students.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Brad Paisley, Reverend Guitars, and Doug Seven

I've had an itch for about three months now to purchase a guitar capable of pulling some serious Southern twang (in the style of Brad Paisley). At this point, I feel like I really have two options:

A Reverend Buckshot or a Fender American Tele Deluxe. The next time I'm down out Chicago Music Exchange, there's a good chance that I'll be dropping either $750 or $1,700, depending on which of these two guitars I like the feel of more. Yeah, that's a pretty big price spread. But, more than anything, I want to get the right guitar. Sometimes it's not about price.

To prepare for my new purchase, I've been wanting to learn a few extra Paisley-esque licks. A quick search on Google this afternoon turned up a number of videos, and I decided to watch the one that looked the best from its screenshot. As it turns out, I stumbled upon a Southern dude named Doug Seven, who seems to have quite a reputation. Here's the video:

(The video is 15 minutes long, but the first 6 or so minutes will get you the bulk of the good stuff.)

If you're interested in this chicken pickin' style, Doug recommends picking up one of his books/DVD's - probably a worthy investment, based on what I've seen. So go check it out!

Also, I'm curious to see which Tele paint job you like best. Check out the current models and let me know which one you think I should get: