definitions, inspirations:

dB: decibel, a widely used measure of sound pressure levels

Ps. 98: make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; make a LOUD noise

AC/DC: let there be rock!

January 16, 2011

CIGRG, Ch 6: System of a Down, and Up, and Down, and ...

Chapter 6 is all about rhythm, from reading rhythmic notation, to basic strumming techniques, to practicing various rhythms including triplets and "swing eighths."

I've seen many requests on the Guitar Noise forum for help with strumming patterns for a particular song, so this chapter should be right up the alley for many people.

There's also an introduction to alternate picking, similar to up-and-down strumming but applied to single note playing. I'm willing to bet this technique will prove essential in later chapters, especially as we get into soloing. Here's something I did to make the alt-picking exercise more fun: first I dialed in a heavy metal setting on my Digitech RP1000, then I got out my metronome. Using palm muting at the bridge (look ahead a few chapters if you're not familiar with this technique), I started at a slow speed and did the exercise. Then I increased the speed by 5 bpms and did it again. And again. I got pretty fast before I totally muffed it, but it felt like a really good exercise for my fingers!

The chapter's final play-along track is a bluesy rock shuffle that incorporates many of the things we've learned not only in this chapter but in previous ones as well. Double stops, swing eighths, alt-picking, bends, and vibrato all come together in one rather short but very useful lesson. I'm going to spend some more time with this one before moving on, as I still struggle with accurate bending. In the meantime, here's the song that I'm reminded of when working on this lesson:

January 15, 2011

CIGRG, Ch 5: Power Tools!

Got a bit behind during the holiday season, as we had a bunch of new songs to learn for church.  We ended the Christmas Eve service with a country-rock version of Go Tell It On the Mountain for which I got to use the technique discussed in this chapter of CIGRG (search for the version by the band Little Big Town, though ours had more emphasis on the rock side of things!)

Hey kids, here's something you might like:  I copied the CIGRG cd into my iTunes and then onto my iPod, so I've got portable reference tracks wherever I go.  I can grab my guitar and the book and start studying almost anywhere, no cd player required!  I do recommend listening to each track as you browse through the chapters, then going back and reading the chapters in more depth.  I find it helpful to have the sonic examples readily available.

Chapter 5 takes us back to the basics:  chords and, in particular, "power chords."  There's a helpful discussion on playing technique ("Eliminating the Tunks") as you learn some basic open major and minor chord shapes.  If you've played guitar for a while, this will be review for you.

Where chords start to rock is when you strip 'em down to the basics of the root and the 5th interval, called "5" or "Fifth" chords, or more commonly, Power Chords.  As Hodge writes in the helpful notes to the side of the main text, "From old metal bands like Black Sabbath to punk rockers like the Ramones, from AC/DC to Nirvana, you find power chords wherever you turn."

What's so special about power chords?  Well, they're easier to play fast for one thing, but I've read the main reason they are so common in rock music is they don't sound muddy when you start adding distortion, while full chords often do.  

The main play-along example "Power Point" incorporates power chords and octaves, so the "tunks" come back into the discussion.  This is basic but essential stuff, so spend some time until you can play it smoothly.

Here's a great example of a song you can play entirely with power chords: