Wednesday, April 8, 2015

13 guitar tips from Paul Gilbert's Clinic (RNR Arena, Romagnano Sesia)

A couple of days ago Paul Gilbert was nearby for a concert/clinic at RNR Arena, Romagnano Sesia.
Any attempt to describe his passion when he plays or his humor while teaching and explaining are doomed to failure.

Paul Gilbert rocks

What follows are 13 condensed tips sum up both his clinic/performance and Q/A:

  1. Use the thumb (to mute the lower string);
  2. Use the blues major pentatonic (then he played Hendrix's Red House);
  3. Use dynamics: play quiet and loud, loud and quiet;
  4. Use rhythm variations: play long and short, short and long;
  5. Learn to play melodies on guitar (singers are a great inspirations as well as clarinets and other jazz instruments);
  6. Learn vibrato. Choose a vibrato hero and try to imitate him/her;
  7. Learn a lot of rhythm parts!
  8. Learn a lot of Beatles song! (In the Q &A, Paul said that Beatles have an interesting use of the dominant chord in their harmony: they use it pretty often in positions different from the fifth chord);
  9. Focus on your upstroke. Practice swing feel eight notes on single string for the first 3 beats, add a triplet in the final beat;
  10. Picking practice (part I): a variation on the Paul Gilbert lick. Play four ascending notes (3 on a string, then 1 on the string below) and keep repeating. Start off beat;
  11. Pickinc practice (part II): focus on string changes. Paul said he benefited a lot from studying 3 notes blues licks that have one note per string. They force you to invert the picking on every repetition.
  12. Your hands are your hears: always focus on your sound rather than on how fast your hands are moving aroung the fretboard;
  13. Fast playing is a combination of legato and alternate picking. "Sticking only to alternate picking would make most of my playing disappear" he said.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chitarrista Metal da Zero Review (Tuvo / Begotti) - Beginner metal guitar

One of the mistakes you can make in studying guitar is that of underrating rhythm guitar. Of course you want to do the solo and the crazy stuff, so you practice a lot of scales, excercizes after you nail your solo.

But wait? There are verses and riffs before you can play your solo. How about them?
You then start practicing them and here come the pains of rhythm playing. Different mechanics, different technical difficulties, etc.

Here comes this method Chitarrista Metal da Zero (Beginner Metal Guitar) by Alessandro Tuvo and Donato Begotti:

It main features are the following:
  • 16 exercises spread into 5 progressive lessons (the fifth lesson is a whole song);
  • contemporary stra-heavy metal riff: DROP C and DROP D exercises in the style of Metallica, Rammstein, Meshuggah, Pantera, Lamb of God, Killswith Engage, and so on;
  • coverage of the main techniques: downstroke (ch. 1); upstrocke (ch. 2); alternate picking (ch. 3); inside/outside picking, djent muting, artifical harmonics, octave playing, string skipping (ch. 4); song studying (ch. 5); palm muting (whole book);
  • a lot of play-along on song like tracks: the backing tracks include a singer and are always groovy. You won't feel bored by playing on the click;
  • challenges: some exercise speed up 10 bpm everytime they repeat and sometimes the subdivision changes and requires you to perform speed boost (straight 8th to triplets, ya said?).
Alessandro Tuvo heavy metal rhythm guitar

[Ale Tuvo goes heavy, image credits]

More in details, the book will be quite a challange for various reasons:
  • you'll fast to play fast and accurate. Fingerings might be easy, but you'll be required to play 32th notes at 90 bpm, or all downstrokes 8th notes at 190 bpm. The final song is 130 bpm 16th notes;
  • there's djent involved, so subdivision is not always so easy. Syncopations are groovy so easier to be played by hear, but it's rhythm book after all.
Explanations are clear on the book and the dvd allows you to see what's going on. The book feature a lot of DROP D and DROP C tune but it's interesting to play them in standard tune adjusting the fingering. I consider this an extra challenge because I don't want to drop with a floyd rose ;)

It is important to note that the book developed because Tuvo and Begotti listened to the feedback they had for the more advanced book on metal rhythm Extreme Metal Grooves. Some wanted easier stuff, and they made a book. Some asked for less exercise-like pieces and they added song-like backing tracks and a whole song at the end of the book (ch. 5). Well done!

Given Begotti and Tuvo took the feedback seriously, here are my two tips to further improve the book or maybe to prompt an "intermediate metal guitar":

  • there are no harmonic hints in the exercises. I think some E5, D#5, Am or similar indications in the exercize score can be helpful and won't disturb the absolute beginner;
  • having exercises in different meters would the great. 3/4 or 5/4 can be tricky, but the actual exercises are all so groovy that even the djent rhythms can be played along the track. I'm sure they can do the same in different meters;
  • I'd like to have a section that either declares the inspiration for the exercises or, even better, suggests song to played given the skills acquired in a certain exercise. This should make the transition from practice to actual playing even easier.
Once again, great method, lot of fun and horns up for Tuvo & Begotti.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Triplet Rhythm Workout

Ok, it's time to try something different and focus on your right hand and rhythm. Fast and accurate picking is not only something we can use in lead playing but in rhythm too. And this means that rhythm can help our ditones as well. That's good news!

The workout below has a metal flavour and is all devoted to triplets. 

Triplet Rhythm Workout Explained

The idea is to a steady down pick for all the 8th note and then has a little speed boost of 16th notes. You can see this mechanism in bar 2. You get the right hand going, then there's the boost on bar 3. You have different notes (G and A) to isolate the boost.
What about the first bar that starts with a boost of four 16th triplets?

Sometimes I approach rhythm exercises with some fear to speed up and let the right hand going. The first bar is ment to avoid this and have you start pretty soon.
Moving to the next riff, in bar 4 we have to boost on the even accents (2 and 4) and we have 16th-notes power chords. The idea is to widen the movements on your picking hand while keeping speed.

That should allow you to worko better on 12 16-th notes rush of bar5, in which the opening riffs comes back to be worked out proficiently. The last riff places the speed boosts on click 1 and 3 (compare with bar 4) and develops a more musical theme.

I hope you enjoy the work out!
Apply variations and share them if you want.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jellynote - tabs and more

I've recently discovered a nice online tab service called Jellynote (I was looking for Buckethead's Soothsayer tab, and they had it).
They have the now-standard tab player in the browser (do you remember songsterr?) but with an incredibly enjoyable font and nice music notation. Yes, music notation is there as well, so you can practice sight reading or try to read the other instruments' score (such as piano or violin) that have no tab below them.

The difficulty of a part is marked from 1 to 3, but not all the tabs I watched had this feature enabled, so to me it did not appear 100% reliable. Anyway, it's good they have the feature there and they can improve it.
There are social features as well: you can create a profile and file tabs and songs into folders (useful to sort out tabs), request tab, follow artists and interact with other Jellynote members.
You can further play part of a tab in loops, slow down the meter and - as a paid service - play along the tab and let the site tell you how much of the song you got right (never tried that). There are learning opportunities.

yep, jellynote logo is awesome!

How can it help with practice?
The first way to use Jellynote is that of sorting out: 1. songs you can play; 2. songs you'd like to play; 3. songs you're stydying etc.
You can group songs by genre and them browse them when you're writing your music to get inspiration - or to see how the other instruments work, such as bass and drums.

What would be great to add
Jellynote could be even better with the chance to copy and paste tabs into new tabs. I'd love to have that to create some practice book that is fully made of music. Hope they'll add it soon!

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dolcetti - Metallo Beat (tentative Review)

"We are Dolcetti, we shred and we love you!".
These words uttered by Gianni Rojatti (they were actually in Italian Noi siamo i Dolcetti. Facciamo shred e vi vogliamo bene!) lead me into the amazing Dolcetti word.
I had a chance to hear them at what was scheduled in my mind as "my first The Aristocrats' concert" but is now remembered as "my first The Aristocrats and Dolcetti's concert" (and also the Cynic & death metal concert, but that's another story).

It didn't take long until I logged on amazon music and I found something similar to the thing down here:

In a few clicks I downloaded the Metallo Beat album. It rocks for various reasons.

Structurally: all songs are 3.33 long (which I guess is half 6.66 which is quite a metal beat number, but it was something our way of counting minutes made it difficult to have).

Structurally II: all song except "Away from home" start with "Tr".

Structurally III: all songs except the aforementioned "Away from home" - what's wrong with being away from home?!??! - are instrumental (besides some vocals popping out from time to time).

Ok, that's so much for the bio. What about the music?
Of course it shreds! But it shreds, differently... wisely.

Describing the album track by track is futile. There's way too much inside.
So, let's limit to the first track, Tribale. It starts with crazy tapping on heavy dropped grooves, but in a while we're into liquid jazzy-fusion shredding. Enough? Of course not! It's keyboard time (?!?) for an ambient atmospheare on the something that should be conceived as a "chorus".
Tremendous neoclassical tapped arpeggios are the next ingredient, but of course in the world of Dolcetti neoclassical is not something extremely canonical that you've probably heard before. Before the 3.33 are over - round the third minute - there a guitarist and drummer dialogue that goes more or less as follows:
G: "What do you want me to do next?"
D: "Do what you can do better!"
which brings us to the last "section" of the "song".
The tremendous thing is that this always surprising mixture... makes a lot of sense!

Ok, given that I've said tremendous twice and that's the last track of the album (Dolcetti makes even writing about their album difficult!) I have a chance to say something about it. It's probably the most conventional track, it's all fast and neoclassical and... no. Here we shred fusion again, things turn jazzy, keyboards go hammond and much more...

Well, that's enough. Before closing with the track list, a few advice and spoilers:

1. you may start to sing "don't stand so close to me" on track two;
2. it seems Elio is on the album;
3. you should get that album;
4. live they are even more a lot of fun. There are much more keyboards and beat and stuff. Find a way to be at one of their concerts!

And, yes, Dolcetti are only a drummer (the almighty Erik Tulissio) and a guitar player (Gianni Rojatti). But that's a secret.

1 Tribale
2 Transient
3 Transport
4 Tremors
5 Trytrebor
6 Away From Home
7 Tresex
8 Tremendous

(all songs are 3.33 long so that Dolcetti had no need in pricing them differently if you were to buy single tracks)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to handle practicing breakdowns? Just play the guitar!

It's a though and hectic period and you simply can't plan to follow a method, go through different exercises, learn some new riffs and song, improve your music theory. What should you do then?

I think that, while waiting for a better period to start scheduling and planning, the answer is quite simple: JUST PLAY!

just play guitar!

Playing guitar should be fun and, indeed, it is a lot of fun! If you are frustrated by not reaching a certain goal or feel sick and tired about your daily playing probably there's something you are doing wrong.

Anyway, the just play option means keep playing!
Of course playing more relaxed, if we focus of technicque, might mean incorporate bad playing into your overall playing, which is something we don't want. So here a few tips to turn the just play! option into something more usefull that will keep you into guitar without damaging you.

Try to relax and go for something easy: play some nice chords and learn some easy song.
Watch a guitar video on scales / chords and phrasing: then spend some time improvising and thinking about music.
Try to learn some licks you like: take usual precaution starting slow and then increase speed. But to not take it as an exercise. You are not planning on it for weeks. It's just a way to spend some 10 minutes on the guitar without loosing all you've earned before!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learning song on guitar: how to study and practice

We are surrounded by tablatures and learn to play videos. There are some really good ones. The guitar code is partly already cracked and, keep borrowing Tony Grady's metaphor, there's no longer any need to sit down with a casio SX-1 sampling, slowing down licks and transcribing them.
Still, none of us is a Yngwie or and Impellitteri.

You may have all the tabs you ever wanted, but still suck at playing guitar if you don't learn how to study a song. Below there are some tips and strategies. The general idea is that you're not studying someone else's piece, you are growing as a musician and you are making yours whatever it happens that you are playing.

song structure example

More in detail, here we go:

1) I like to know what I'm doing, that's why I like the Ditones method and its combinatorial approach. When learning a song this means that I want to know what I'm playing. Which means:

2) I want to know how the song is organized. How many riffs does it have? What follows after chorus? Having a song structure is one of the most importat things to start learning a song in a systematic way.

3) I want to have some idea of how the music work. To discover this, just ask yourself the following questions: what is the key of the song? what are the main chords used? which scales are used for it?

4) Having a general idea of the whole matters. Now start matching the different parts with the techniques involved, writing down possible problems (e.g.: a fast picking riff, some difficult bendings).

5) Find a nice way to start, possibly the riff or rhythm so that you start getting the groove and feel of the piece. If it's something instrumental, consider the main melody as a starting point.

6) Start learning the notes first. Start slow and learn where your finger have to go. Then increase speed.

7) Whenever something is difficult, break it in smaller part and make it manageable.

8) Experiment on the song: play the theme from the second bar, invert the pedal tones, try similar rhythm ideas.

9) Basically every song you learn is a lesson you teach yourself.
Such a lesson feature some theory to understand its structure and how it works plus some exercises that will prepare you for the riffs and licks. The fun part is that you are going to be your teacher, so it's up to you not to bore yourself. Good luck!

I am now struggling with Iron Maiden's Losfer Word. I hope to share something from this experience...

Let me know how it's going!

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