Friday, August 27, 2010

Basic Scales for Guitar. Friend or Foe?

Basic Scales for Guitar.
Friend or Foe?

Guitar teachers and books all seem to preach the dogma of scales. How much do basic scales really help? Find out in this interesting article.

If you're reading this, I'm assuming that you're interested in playing lead guitar, improvising and/or composing.

Love/hate relationships...I have a love/hate relationship with scales. After 25 years experience with the guitar and about 35 years with music (I'm also a singer and semi-decent pianist) I'm convinced that scales are not the best way to learn music. I've also noticed more than a few students get turned off by music - from scales.

OK Dave, so why the heck do ya' have an article on them? Well, for some people, especially in the beginning, they can be useful to get their chops together. ( If you didn't already know, chops are what we musicians call technical ability on the instrument).

Basic scales are very moderation. Especially in the beginning for ear training and basic mapping out of the guitar fretboard. Once these tasks have been accomplished, basic scales should be left behind. The student will progress further and faster by focusing on music.

What do you mean by "music"? Songs, licks, riffs and composing. I write more about these essential ideas on my theory page, but I will expose the strengths and weaknesses of basic scales for you right now.


get playing mechanics together quicklyear trainingfretboard mapping


The weaknesses require more explanation. First, some background...

I got into music through my mum (Canadian, eh) who was an excellent singer and also accompanied herself on the piano while she sang. She would teach me to sing songs by ear, and I would attempt to figure them out at the piano.

Later,(about age 7 or so) I began a formal study of the piano. I had a good teacher and for the first 5 years I made great progress. Once I hit the age of 12 or 13 though, I wanted to try to play songs I heard on the radio. I also wanted to improvise. This led to some frustration because everything I'd been learning was either printed music or scales.

The upside was that I made it a mission to learn to play by ear and to improvise. I also developed a passionate interest in guitar and rock music. Not too long after this, when I was about 15 I started forming a vision of being a musician. For me, that meant "going against the grain" of the establishment.

Of course my musical vision has gone through several transformations by now.Long story short, I decided the easiest way for me to be a full time musician after high school was to audition for the Jazz Music curriculum at Toronto's Humber College. Humber College is kind of like Canada's version of Berklee in the United States. Although much smaller, it boasted teachers who were all world-class masters at what they did.

The drawback was that scales were the method by which a lot of the music was explained. I played scales and "modes" up, down and sideways. I started to believe that becoming a world-class jazz musician wasn't worth it. This is probably why I continued to pursue playing mostly rock music at that time in my life. Who wants to play basic scales all day and night? Especially when I didn't see any results in my ability to improvise.

My point about the weaknesses... guitar scales and basic scales can make you lose sight of the forest for the trees. You start to think and analyze too much. Instead of responding in a spontaneous way.

More Background

Luckily for me, I had a spark of imagination and common sense. As soon as my assignments for school were complete(or before!)I would learn all the Eddie Van Halen and Slash tunes and solos I could. I also played out in a couple of cover bands while still attending Humber College.

As soon as I graduated (after 4 years of basic scales...yikes!) I formed my own original band here in Toronto and started playing the clubs. I didn't play a scale or even look at printed music for many years, and I made more progress than I ever had!

I'm sure my teachers at Humber College had learned this way too. Jamming, copying licks from recordings, writing music...Of course, my studies gave me a solid musical foundation upon which to build. My point is that you don't want to get caught up in too much theory or scale playing. Make music!

Sidenote: Humber College was an awesome experience for me. My teachers were some serious world-class musicians. Many of my fellow students were amazing musicians. There was a lot of jamming going on. It wasn't all scales ;-) I'm sure that a lot of what I'm capable of now is due to the seeds planted at Humber :-)

More "ranting"...Basic scales are just a convenient form for teachers to package musical ideas in. Teachers don't mean to do any harm. They probably don't know how they learned what they know, or they just don't know how to express it.

People have been making music for eons. Melodies have been around for centuries. I believe they come from the collective consciousness of humanity. If that's a little "out there" for ya' , hey! I'm a musician!

The point is that basic scales are man-made. They were invented by academics who analyzed music that was made by musicians and noticed patterns.

These patterns are akin to the "rules" of grammar. The language developed, and then grammar was invented. Do you think that knowing a lot about the rules of grammar helps you communicate your ideas more effectively?

In summary: Practice your scales on guitar. Just don't forget the goal is to make music :-) Best in guitar and Life,


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guitar Playing Techniques

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ear Training for Better Guitar Playing

Ear Training -
for better guitar playing!

Can ear training really help you become a better guitar player? Wouldn't you be better off just playing more guitar? And just what is ear training? Let's find out...

Those are great questions. Yes, to improve on guitar you need to practice consistently. However, imagine being able to get 100% more out of your practice sessions than you are right now. Could that be possible?

Understanding theory and scales etc. is important. Being able to read music can also be a useful skill. However, as important as these skills are, they also depend upon your specific goals with music. All great musicians, despite the many differences in genre, style, age, gender or cultural influence most definitely have one thing in common - great ears!

Ear training is crucial - no matter what your goals in music may be. Yes, even if you just want to hum n' strum some songs on the guitar. Why? Well, do you remember learning to read back in elementary school? You know how your teacher would ask you to write a report on the story you just read? You know, to make sure that you actually read it?

The teacher didn't only want to check that you read it. They also wanted to know how well you understood what you read! Now read that sentence again and let it sink in :-) What's the point of reading something if you don't grasp its meaning?

THAT is ear training. Being able to understand the music you're playing. Not through analysis (although that definitely has a place), but through lightning fast perception! Your learning of the guitar and music will increase 300%!!! In other words, it'll go through the roof.

Everyone's musical ears are at a different stage of development when they take up the guitar. For a lot of people, when they hear music, it's like they're listening to a foreign language. They don't have much comprehension of what they are hearing.

Others may have a little more experience and be able to grasp musical ideas and concepts more quickly. Still others (a rare few) have had just the right factors of Nature and Nurture and have highly developed musical ears.

If you're worried that your ear may not be that great or that you can't develop it, relax. It's easy to improve. See the ear training exercises at the bottom of this page for some ideas.

No Previous Experience with Ear Training?

Perhaps a cup of tea :-) and finishing this page could be helpful before jumping into the exercises. If you have actual physical issues with your sense of hearing in any way, just be sure to do whatever it is that the experts are advising you to do in order to take care of them. Playing guitar shouldn't be an issue.

NOTE: about hearing protection...a lot of people take their sense of hearing for granted. If you play music with a drummer, or are regularly exposed to any loud sounds, please see more about hearing protection.

What about being Tone Deaf?...I'm here to tell you - and you'll simply have to trust me on this one for now - that ear training is possible for everyone. If you enjoy music enough to have the inspiration and determination to take action on learning how to play a guitar, then you are NOT tone deaf! Let me ask you this... if you had to choose your 2 favourite songs, what would they be? OK. Now, if you were to be blindfolded, and then those 2 songs were played back to you, would you be able to tell them apart? Of course you could! If you were indeed "tone deaf", they would both sound like the same "mush".

Can You Benefit from Ear Training?

Yes. Ear training exercises are easy to do. There are some great ones below to help get you started. The good news is that once you start becoming more aware of the sounds you're hearing, your musical ear will take on a life of its own. It'll continue to grow without you even knowing it. As long as you follow the one rule that will make or break your results in music...

Pay attention! Always pay attention and listen to the best of your ability. Whether you're tuning your guitar, playing your guitar or engaged with music in any way. This is what's meant by connecting your ears to your hands. Simple. If you have some way you can record yourself practicing, that can also help big time. It'll make you more aware of the sounds you're playing. Oh yeah...just don't be too hard on yourself when you hear stuff you don't like - look for the stuff you like :-)

What About Perfect Pitch?

Who cares?! Perfect (or absolute) pitch is something of a myth that has been around for a long time. No one has actually been scientifically verified as having perfect pitch as far as I know. I've known musicians over the years who reputedly had "perfect pitch" - but when tested, ( I can tell you 'cos I was present) - while they displayed some impressive feats with recognizing the pitches, they were certainly not perfect!

NOTE: In a nutshell, perfect pitch is the ability to hear a random musical tone, and to know precisely whether that note is an A or a C#, etc.

My feeling is - and I'm not a scientist, so I'm not saying that my view on it is absolute ;-) - that a certain "pitch memory" occurs with a musician after many years. I myself seem to have it at times with guitars and my voice. It's usually only on the musicians "main axe" that this phenomenon occurs. In my experience, it's more of a memory thing.

The human brain is simply not "wired" for absolute pitch. If it were, these musicians would not only be able to know the pitches in standard A 440 tuning, but in A 432, etc. It's similar to being able to accurately guage distances. Who knows precisely, even 9 times out of 10 what 3.3 metres looks like? If someone does, it is probably more a case of memory than actual perception.

It's All Relative!

My point is, while there may well be some "freaks of nature" out there who could be rigorously tested and found to have some ability that we "mere mortals" are missing - it doesn't matter!

Relative pitch is the fastest and most accurate way to understand what you are hearing when you are playing guitar! Just ask Einstein ;-) Or many other recognized masters of music who had nothing more than a highly developed sense of relative pitch.

As a matter of fact, if you know anything about the classical/romantic composer Beethoven, you'll know that although he lost all his hearing, he continued to compose utterly fantastic music! Wow! How? An unerring sense of relative pitch, that's how. (Not to mention incredible will, courage and determination.) I love Beethoven's story!

Relative pitch is the only kind of ear training you need to concern yourself with. If you develop great relative pitch, you'll be" miles ahead" ;-)

Relative pitch is simply knowing what notes or chords you are hearing by comparing it to other notes or chords that are happening in the tune.

If you haven't got a strong background in music, you'll definitely find it helpful to study a bit of guitar music theory. That's because theory and ear training are like two sides of the same coin. If music is a kind of language, then theory is like grammar and spelling. To take this idea further, ear training would be similar to speaking. Be sure to Bookmark this Ear Training page so you can come back to it once you get a little understanding of theory. Otherwise, just stay here and develop your musical ears first :-)


You'll need some basic tools to help you do the ear training exercises. If you have a keyboard, that's easiest. If not, a piano or your guitar will work just as effectively.

If you don't know where middle "C" is, you need to see guitar music theory now. Find out where "C" is on either your keyboard or guitar and come right back. Without training your musical ear, all the theory in the world won't help very much.

Play either middle "C" or the "C"one octave below that. Men will usually need the "C" below. It doesn't matter which, as long as you're comfortable and not straining in any way.

Sing or hum that pitch. In other words, you want to match the pitch of your voice to the instrument. If it's too low for you, move up one octave.

If you can easily hold your voice steady on the pitch for several seconds, try a few more notes close by. If those are also easy, move on to Lesson 2.

f you're having some difficulty, or feel unsure about whether you are doing it correctly, relax :-) It only means you have some work to do in this area. If you are currently with a private teacher, get them to help you. If they can't, ask them why. Ear training is an extremely important area to work on.


Play the "C" note that's in your vocal "range".

Match the pitch with your voice.

Start sliding your voice up in pitch. It should sound a bit like a siren. Or a slow string bend.

you're aiming for a "notch" - it has a distinct feeling to it. It's called a perfect 5th, and means you are now singing a naturally tuned G note. The G note on your keyboard or guitar will be tempered tuning - this is actually "out of tune", believe it or not! The one you are humming is the accurate tuning.

Check with the instrument to make sure you're on a "G". Can you notice the slight difference in tuning? The instrument is in "tempered tuning".

If that drill was easy, you can aim for another "notch". The ma3rd. Starting on a "C", that would be an "E" on your instrument.

If you hit the "notch" vocally, you'll really notice the difference in tuning. Major 3rds should sound sweet. Sometimes, my guitar drives me crazy 'cos the 5ths and 3rds never seem to balance out :-( The downside of tempered tuning. The upside is we can play in all the different keys :-)

If you persist, your musical ears will really start to come to life. It's like going from black and white to color. You'll reap a lifetime of rewards from this time you spend developing your ears.

Where Do You Go From Here?

If you enjoyed these exercises and you can, I mean...hear... the value in how they will catapult your guitar playing and musical skills forward, I would strongly suggest learning more about ear training and guitar music theory.

Once you have these fundamental sounds in place, important guitar playing activities such as learning songs or even "lifting" from recordings become much easier. It's especially important to hear the natural tunings as guitar players because we are always hearing the "fuzzy" versions from tempered tuning. Another by product of ear training is that if you sing with others, you'll be able to sing great harmonies!

Thanks for listening ;-) and allowing me to be play a part in "inspiring you to keep dusting off your guitar." - Dave

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Toronto Guitar Lessons in the Beaches

Toronto Guitar Lessons

Toronto guitar lessons are available here :-)

If you're looking for fun guitar lessons that deliver results - if you practice! (chuckle) - then you're in the right place.

ADULTS...want to spice up your playing? Been strumming the same tired ol' chords for decades? I can show you how to juice up your playing.

GUITAR FOR'd love your children to get more exposure to music and learn to play an instrument? But the Conservatory style or Suzuki etc. seem too rigid and stiff. Perhaps music's an opportunity you never had as a child...

Adults, teens, kids, beginners... all are welcome! Toronto guitar lessons - aka Davidson Yeager - is pleased to serve.

Learn the basic guitar skills that will last a lifetime. Plus, I can show you how to play the songs you love that are in your i-pod!

Basic strumming, classic rock, folk, blues, jazz, lead guitar...Toronto guitar lessons has you covered :-)

Toronto Guitar Lesson InfoPlease note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.First Name

Monday, August 23, 2010

Barre Chords Made Easy

Barre Chords - made easy!

Struggling with barre chords? If you've been frustrated,here's a great free guitar lesson that reveals important tips you need to know. With a little practice these "moveable chord shapes" will be something you look forward to playing and using in your music.

I remember growing up as a teenager, being able to play them was some kind of a benchmark. "Can you play barre chord shapes?" - "Oh yeah..." I'd coolly respond ;-)

What's a Moveable Chord?

" Moveable chord" is just another name for barre chord - speaking of which, why is it spelled like that? I've heard that the spelling is from the French. Here in Canada, we have French on all the packaging. I learned to speak a little French from reading cereal boxes as a kid:-)

These moveable chord shapes that can be played just about anywhere on the neck of the guitar. The great thing about them is that they are symmetrical. Once you've learned one shape, you've got a whole bunch of useful guitar chords.

The most important thing to realize about barre chords(and possibly even music in general) is that there are 2 types: major and minor. See guitar music theory if you don't understand the difference between major and minor chords.

The second most important thing to know about barre chords is which string the root of the chord is being played on. For our purposes, there are 2 strings that the root could be located on. Some people call the root the bass note. As always, a picture speaks a thousand words, so check out the guitar chord charts below.

Are things making a little more sense now?

Do you understand how there are major and minor? Do you know what the root of the chord means? An excellent way to train your musical ear is to sing the roots of the chords while you play them. I strongly suggest investigating ear training further if you are serious about developing as a guitarist/musician.


place the index finger of your fretting hand in 5th position(5th fret)

barre the first two strings with this finger

check and see that both strings are ringing clearly

feel the "weight" - or pressure - that you're applying with your index finger. Make sure that your finger is as close to the fret as possible. This means you don't have to apply as much pressure, and you'll also produce a much better sound.

so far so good? OK, now place the 2nd finger of your fretting hand(don't count your thumb)on the 6th fret of string 3 while still barring the first 2 strings!

if you're still with me, relax your hand for a sec...shake it out a bit 'cos here we go with some more "finger yoga" :-)

Hold the first 3 strings down as described above. Once you have a good sound, place the 4th finger of your fretting hand on fret 7 of string 4. Got it? Good!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Music Theory Basics and Rhythm

4. Same thing. Tick tock like a clock.

There are 2 types of meter. Simple and Compound. The songs and examples listed above are Simple Time. When each basic pulse is divided into 3 ( an odd number ), you get Compound Time. An example of this is "House of the Risin' Sun."

In Simple Time, these basic pulses are also subdivided. But it's into 2 or 4( even numbers).

One more consideration is whether the pulse is "straight" time or "swing" feel. Most traditional folk music and classical is "straight". Again, tick tock like a clock. Hip Hop is a "swung" 16th note feel. This means the pulses are divided into 4 and are loose and uneven. Another common groove is called a Shuffle. This is a swung 1/8th note feel. The nitty gritty explanation of this is beyond the scope of this article. Don't worry. Just play. And count out loud! It'll come to you :-)

Rhythm is a layer superimposed on top of the meter. It's not an even pulse. The even pulse is the "canvas." Think of the word Mississippi. The word has a rhythm. The accent is on the 3rd syllable. It's painted on a Simple Meter.

Oh yes! I almost forgot. Many songs do not start on beat 1. There's a pick-up or "anacrusis." With "Happy Birthday" it's the word "happy."

Still confused or overwhelmed? Don't try so hard to figure it out. The best way to get this information is to listen to music and try to find the pulse. Tap it with your hands or feet. Count out loud. Don't worry if you're wrong or right. Just do it. If you play an instrument make it a habit to count out loud when learning new songs. And ask yourself if the song is in Simple or Compound Time. If Simple, is it in 2 or 3? Are the subdivided beats in 2 or 4? That's it!

OK. So you came to this page expecting to learn some kind of secret formula ;-) There are certainly some more areas of misunderstanding in music theory that I could be writing about. But for now, I chose rhythm and timing because it's confusing for so many people. Even professional musicians. They just happen to be in the category of lucky individuals who do it intuitively. Rhythm and meter are the most basic of music theory basics!

Thanks for tuning up. I hope this article on music theory basics has helped you see the forest for the trees with rhythm and timing. All the best,


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Saturday, August 21, 2010

How To Play Acoustic Guitar for the Beginner and Intermediate

How to Play Acoustic Guitar -
fuel for your acoustic guitar playing quest...

Some of the online lessons about how to play acoustic guitar are either confusing or risky. Here's top instruction for your acoustic guitar playing quest. Whether you're a beginner just starting out or you've been playing a while and want to take it to the next level - everything you need is here.

Btw, if you ARE a beginner, I'd strongly suggest taking a look at the beginner guitar lessons - if you haven't already. The lessons below are best suited for those of you who have mastered a few basic guitar chords and are ready to spice things up.

How to "do" these lessons...

The best way to approach these acoustic guitar lessons is to take an honest look at your own playing. Just saying "it sucks" doesn't help you pinpoint the areas that need work. Read through the lesson carefully - and if there's a guitar lesson video on that page, watch it.

I would recommend going through the above procedure for each lesson that interests you. Not only that, but I strongly suggest repeating each of your lessons a minimum of 3 times. That way, it becomes like a seed that grows as you nourish and water it. It will eventually expand into all your guitar playing. It does take some discipline to learn how to play acoustic guitar - but it truly is worthwhile :-)


If you're like most of the students I've seen over the years, your strumming could probably be "juiced up" a bit. You might need new ideas and patterns. Not to mention a stronger sense of "time". If you've got a good handle on strumming, you can improve any number of other guitar techniques or concepts. Why don't you take a look at the acoustic guitar lessons below and see what strikes a chord? ;-)

The Lessons

Tune Acoustic Guitar Online
There's an online tuner on this page as well as some important tips on how to tune your acoustic guitar.

Fingerpicking Lessons
Start learning acoustic fingerstyle guitar with good technique. These 2 lessons get you started right.

Guitar Strumming Patterns
Learn the fundamentals of rock solid timing as well as new ideas and patterns to strum.

Guitar Bar Chords
The infamous barre chord ;-) Not only are barre (correct spelling) chords necessary to play songs, but they lead to deeper understanding of the guitar fretboard.

Guitar Chord Lessons
What can you do with a chord besides simply strum it? This acoustic guitar lesson opens your mind up to other possibilities.

Guitar Pentatonic Scales
Penta... wha'? Simple patterns for single note runs. Can also be used on electric guitar - but here, we'll focus on how to play them with acoustic guitar.

Learn Guitar Fretboard
Do you know the names of the bar chords you've been playing? Learn the notenames quickly and easily. Here's how...

How To Play Reggae Guitar
Ya mon! Who doesn't love the chilled out vibe of reggae guitar? Learn the basics of this popular world beat and start jammin' ;-)

Hope you're enjoying your stay here at how to play acoustic guitar :-) There's a lot of material here to dig into. If you have any questions - or you feel unsure about anything, click here to contact me. I'd love to hear you're feedback. Best in guitar and Life,


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