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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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ditones (guitar exercise) vs. Ditone (interval)

Sometimes terminological clarifications are needed.
DITONES, the book of guitar exercises by Begotti and Fazari happens to have the same name of ditone, that is used to refer to the interval of a major third (e.g: C-E).

ditones book cover

Actually, in Italian "dito" means finger, and a "ditone" (singular) is a big finger. Hence using DITONES method you'll end up having big functional fingers, as Paul Gilbert.

This story has something useful for us all as practicing guitarists. "Ditone" also means two tones, i.e. more generically an interval.
Is there a way to combine ditones as playing the two notes of the interval and the DITONES approach as a method of exhaustion of the available combinations?
How can we improve our guitar practice relying on that fact?

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Ditones how to: what are ditones and how to use them part I

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Extending ditones guitar lesson 1: stretching

We talked already about how to make guitar exercises your guitar exercises. There's another powerful methodology in studying the guitar: play what you know in a new way.

This zen-like saying can be fruitfully applied to our beloved lesson 1 of the Ditones book, that of two fingers combination. Let's assume we already have some control of the material, we know where to put our fingers, we have an idea of how it should sound and we understand what kinds of techniques we are targetting by way of the exercises. Cool.

Now we are going to practice exactly the same material but changing fingering. We have already seen that the 12 ditones (index and middle finger) sounds as ditones 34 (ring finger and pinky). Nonetheless, having the same strength in 34 and in 12 is quite hard.

Chris Impellitteri stretching

We're going to do the something similar to this refingering of 12 as 34, this time using stretching. So let's move up in the neck up to position VII or XII or whenever you are confortable. We are going to play some wild stretches, so relax and be careful.
We are going to learn six stretching ditones variations for two fingers.

Take our old 13 ditones, say between 12 fret and 14 fret. Instead of using the 13 ditones, 12 (1) - 14 (3) - the number between brackets is that of the finger, try with your first and second finger. This shall give us

stretch variation I: 12 (1) - 14 (2).

Guess what's next? Of course we are going to exhaust the combinations so we'll try to insert and empyt fret also between finger 2 and 3, and even between finger 3 and 4, i.e.:

stretch variation II: 12 (2) - 14 (3);
stretch variation III: 12 (3) - 14 (4).

Our next variation adds two empty frets between finger 1 and 3. Basically we are playing ditones 14 with index and middle finger, as follows:

stretch variation IV: 12 (1) - 15 (3).

Our last two variations require first and extra semitone by your index-pinky stretch and then an extra whole tone. These two shall help while playing arpeggios or pentatonic licks. As said already, if the neck is too wide at XII move along where your hands fit into it and then shift backwards:

stretch variation V: 12 (1) - 16 (4);
stretch variation VI: 12 (1) - 17 (4).

That's all for now. Relax, stretch and play. And don't forget to join the ditones journey.