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Archive for the ‘Guitar Lessons’ Category

You’re playing that wrong!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Alright…. there are a hand full of tracks out there that guitarists have disagreed about how to play for YEARS!  I remember when Guitar Player magazine started printing transcriptions of guitar solos in the 1980’s. Invariably, people would would write in disagreeing with the transcription. Usually this was over a fast passage and was often confined to a line or two. But there were guitarists who would get down right nasty about the transcription being “wrong”… as if they were some how ripped of by the magazine or something.  To keep the peace Guitar Player would print these corrections or “alternate versions” and order and peace were once again restored in the world of guitar playing.

Guitarists can be down right anal about fingering, chord positions, and even a  tiny variation of a riff will almost always provoke a “That’s Wrong!” from some one with entirely too much time on their hands. Guitarists are also very anal about their tone and claim to hear minute differences in eq curves, over drive character and reverb depth that no one else can. They throw around terms like, “chime” and “glass” and  talk about emphasizing “even order harmonics” .  I’ve been playing for 30 years or so and I have known many guitarists and I assure you that these terms are so arbitrary as to render them completely meaningless.

Will all of these anal retentive guitar players roaming the planet , you can imagine the extreme relief when the mystery of the opening chord for Hard Days Night was FINALLY solved.  This one chord has provoked more arguments, caused more band brake-ups and sent more fists flying at more rehearsals than any other guitar riff or solo in the history of the instrument.  Thanks to Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame (yes… they put one of those meaningless guitar terms in their name.) who was granted access to the Beatles master tracks, we call all sleep a little better tonight.  The chord is actually two separate chords played on two different guitars by two different guitarists and one of those guitars is a twelve string. These guitars in combination with the bass note…played on a bass guitar create the magic that is the “chord heard round world.”   The six string guitar (played by John Lennon) is playing a D chord with a G note added on the first string. The twelve string guitar (Played by George Harrison) is playing a form of an F chord with and added G  on the sixth string and a G on the first string.  The bass gutiar (played by Paul McCartney) is playing a D note.  Put it all together and you have music magic!

Here Randy Bachman tells the complete story of how he got to hear the master tracks and demonstrates what he learned.

Lou Lombardi

Metal Up with Taberah Guitarist Jono Barwick

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

I hey there rock stars! Are you ready to get your metal on? 😉  I’m amazed at how much I am learning from all of these great guitar vids that I’m finding on the net these days. So stop what you’re doing. Pick up your ax and metal up!

Cool pedal steel/openstring lick!

Thursday, December 10th, 2009


Are you writing and playing in the same keys all the time?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Guitarists tend to write and play in certain keys.  This has to do with ease of use of open strings. E, A, G, D, seem to be the most common keys for guitarists.  However, before we go guitar player bashing keep in mind that Pianists, and Woodwind players tend to prefer keys such as F, Bb, Eb, and Ab.   This has to do with fingerings required to play in these keys.  Most vocalists also have keys within certain range that they prefer.  If you tend to work in certain keys it doesn’t mean that you aren’t proficient on your instrument.  You are simply sticking to your comfort zone.  Breaking out of “your zone” is a great way to find new sounds and spark creativity.


Here a few tips:


  1. Instant key change. Just add Capo!  Place a capo at the first fret and you are instantly in whole new key.  There is really nothing more to it.  Simply play your riffs etc… they way you usually do. This is a great way to accommodate a vocalist’s range and still have access to all your favorite open string riffs and licks.


  1. Alternate tunings are another option.  By simply retuning one string you will find a whole new world of sounds, riffs, licks, and songs.  “Drop D” is the most common alternate tuning of this current generation of rock guitarists.


Keep in mind that just because you are playing with the guitar tuned to drop D doesn’t mean that your song/riff has to be in the key of D.  There are other ways to utilize this tuning. Start your Riff or chord changes at the 2nd fret. This is E…  You now have “room” to move a whole step lower.  This opens up all sorts of new possibilities.  But wait!  Now we’re back to the key of E again.  No problem. Start your riff/chord changes at the third fret.  This makes F your home base.  You can descend an entire step and a half now and that low D note is diatonic to the Key of F.  These waters are definitely less traveled than E or even D for most rock guitarists.


Of course drop D is only one of about a thousand tunings you could use.  Tune the guitar to a power chord. For instance (from low to high) E A E A A E. By doing this you will find all sorts of very useful sounds by simply adding or subtracting one note.


  1. If you don’t want to have to think about retuning the guitar or you’re too broke to by a capo, try taking your favorite riffs/songs and playing them up or down one fret.  What you hear my not be pleasing to your ear at first esp. if your riff uses open strings.  That’s okay…we are looking for new sounds.  Take time to listen to the “intervallic” differences you are hearing.  Allow yourself to absorb these sounds.  Once you are comfortable try adjusting your riff by one note.  You may also want to modify the phrasing.  You will have to experiment but there are rewards to this approach.


  1. Eliminate open strings completely.  By playing fretted notes only, the key of the riff/song becomes a much less significant factor.  Start by transposing some of your favorite songs and riffs into “fretted only” versions.  You must discipline yourself not to revert to open strings.  This may be difficult at first.  Stick with it.  It will get easier the more you do it.  You will find that very often a certain note may require an impractical finger reach.  In these cases substitute this note with a fretted note in a different octave or if this is not practical pick a note that sounds good.  Doing this may cause you to want to adjust other notes as well. Adjust the entire riff if you like.  Before you know it you will have a killer riff in some key like Bb and it’s all your own.  I think that you can see the benefits here.


Doing just one or two of these exercises will help you to see the neck in a totally new way.  This will lead you to many new sounds that you would not find by sticking to you comfort zone.


Happy Jamming!


Playing the changes

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A young guitarist recently asked, ” How important is it to play the change when soloing?”


My Answer:


If you aren’t playing the changes, what would you play?

I’m not asking to be a smart ass.  You should be playing as part of a group which means playing with the other members.  The chord changes, bass line, melody, and percussion line will all be factors in what you play during your solo.  Without this frame work then you are simply playing by yourself.  Music is about communication.  You wouldn’t start talking about politics if some one asked you for the time of day.

You will have more leeway if the changes are quick.  In this case it becomes less of an issue to strongly articulate or outline the notes of a particular chord.  However, if you are resolving a phrase it is mandatory that you resolve with a note from the chord or an implied note (meaning a note that would be part of the extended harmony like a 7th, 9th, 13th etc…)

Most players would say that you sound “more intelligent” if you pronouncedly acknowledge the chord changes.  This can be tricky.  Without total command of your instrument and the song, your solo could sound forced…or “square”.  It’s helpful to practice over annunciating the chord changes at first. Create a short phrase, and practice resolving it on each note of the chord. Do this with a few different phrases.  This is for practice purposes only. 

Hint: Avoid resolving (ending) your phrases on the first beat of each measure.  This is a sure way to bore your audience.

As soon as you can you will want to find or create situations to play solos with other musicians.  You will need opportunities to implement these ideas.  You will learn a lot more from playing in live situations than you will practicing or jamming along to rhythm tracks.

In the long run it is much more important to listen than to “think” about what to play.  Listen and play what you hear, and you will NEVER make a mistake!


Chords…how to learn ’em. What to do with ’em… T. M I. Dude!

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

The best way to learn chords is to learn lots of songs.

You can get started by getting a good chord book or search “guitar chords” on the internet.  Sites like are a good resource.  There are many others as well.  This will help you when learning songs.  When you come across a chord that you don’t know in a song that you are learning you can simply look it up on your chord chart, book or web page. Simply memorizing chords from a chart isn’t going to do you much good.  You need to learn, understand, and practice the application of chords.  The more songs you learn the better your chord playing will get. This is a sort of “quick start” approach. There is a lot more to understanding and playing chords than simply learning songs or using a chord charts.   If you would like to delve into chords a little further read on!

To be able to really make the most of chords you will need an understanding of harmony.  In short harmony is the combining or “stacking” of notes from a scale. For instance, in the key or scale of “C” the notes are C D E F G A B C.  However, more important than the actual notes is their harmonic distance between each other in the sequence.  A major scale is a combination of a sequence of 7 notes arranged in the intervals of whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.  This is sometimes referred to as the Major Scale Formula.  On the guitar a whole step is when you skip a fret, and a half step is when you play the adjacent fret.  It may help your understanding to see the C major scale laid out on one string. Start with the first fret on the second string and follow the formula.  You will complete the C major scale at the thirteenth fret.

The most common, practically universal, way to create chords is to “stack thirds”.  “Thirds” are created by playing every other note (skip the note in between) in the scale. For example in our C scale we could start with C and E.  These notes played together create a very basic and very familiar harmony.  Adding the next note in the sequence, in this case “G”, creates a “Major” chord.  C E G played together creates the C Major chord.

There a four basic types of chords Major, Minor, Augmented and Diminish.  The two most common are the Major and the Minor. The difference between the two has to do with how the “thirds” are arranged.  In the example of the C Major chord the harmonic distance between the C and the E is called a major third.  That is because the distance is that of two whole steps. C to D is a whole step and D to E is a whole step.  Therefore the distance between C and E is two whole steps or a Major Third. The next note in the C Major chord is the G.  The distance between the E and the G is a step and a half. That is because E to F is a half step and F to G is a whole step. The combination of a whole step with a half step is called a Minor Third.  Therefore the C Major chord is created by combining a Major Third and then a Minor Third. The formula for all major chords is Major Third + Minor Third = Major Chord.

The minor chord is created by reversing the order of the major third and the minor third.  Let’s return to our C scale C D E F G A B C.  This time we will stack thirds starting on the second note of the scale.  The notes will be D F A.  The harmonic distance between D and F is a whole step and half step. As stated above, this combination is called a minor third.  The next notes in our chord are F and A.  The harmonic distance between these two notes is a whole step and a whole step.  Remember two whole steps always equal a major third.  When we put these two thirds together we have a combination that looks like this: Minor Third + Major third.  This equals a Minor chord.  In this case the D minor chord. 

In every scale or key there are three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminish that occur “naturally”…that is to say these chords use only the notes in the scale.  The word for this is “Diatonic”…

The two less common types of chords are the Diminish and Augmented.  The formula for a Diminish chord is Minor Third plus Minor Third.  The only time that this combination occurs naturally in a major scale is when we stack thirds starting on the seventh note of the scale. For instance in the key of C, the seventh note is B. B diminish would be B D F.  You may see this referred to as a “Minor Minor” chord. Diminish chords are almost always played with extra notes by adding the next third in the scale.  But by the strictest definition Minor third plus Minor third is the Diminish sound/chord.

Augmented chords are created by combining a Major third with another Major Third.  This combination does not occur naturally in any major key.  You will have to raise the last note of the chord one half step to create this combination. For example C Aug. would be C E G#.

By having an understanding of how chords are put together you can create many options for yourself when playing a song.  You aren’t restricted by chord shapes that you find on a chart or in a book.  This is especially handy when playing in groups. It can be difficult to be heard or to “cut through the mix” when playing the traditional full chord voicings.  The best way around this is to use small voicings that you create yourself using your knowledge of how chords are put together.

Happy Jamming!

Lou Lombardi 

How to effectively boost the volume of your guitar for solos?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

 This question was posted on the sputnik music form



I want to increase the volume of my guitar during guitar solos and maybe add or change effects for the solo. What is the best way to do this?  Are there different ways to do this?  I am looking at the Boss ME20.  What is the best unit for this purpose?


Any multi-effects units could do what you want and most will probably give you more than one way to do it.  I have the same need for boost and effect changes for solos.   Typically for solos I want a little more delay, maybe a little compression, and definitely more volume!  You can’t always rely on the sound tech to know when you are going to play a solo. It is often necessary to take matters into your own hands in these situations.  I accomplish this using a very old BOSS GT3.  This is certainly NOT the greatest pedal ever, and I am not a BOSS endorser.  I just happened to have this unit, and therefore it’s what I use.


Like I said there is usually more than one way to do this with an effect unit. First of all the set up is very important to get the desired result of a volume boost and effect change for a solo.  You will want to connect your unit to your amplifiers effects loop.  Connect the input of your device the amplifier’s “Send” jack and the output of the device to the jack marked “Return”.  This provides a more efficient “clean boost” than simply connecting to the front of the amplifier.  This will boost the volume after the distortion or overdrive, yielding a true increase in the sound level. If the unit is connected before the distortion in the signal chain you will just increase the amount of distortion and not the volume.   If your amp does not have an effects loop connect the unit after your distortion pedal.  You will have to be careful when boosting not to overdrive your amp.  This will increase distortion with little or no effect on the volume level. This is not what we want!


Once you have the unit properly connected your amplifier’s loop you will want to program it to do the task of boosting and “effecting” your sound.  First of all program the foot pedal to increase the volume 30 to 50 percent.  This means that even when the pedal is in its lowest position (heel toward the floor) you will still hear your guitar clearly. You will program this position between 50 and 70 or 5 and 7 depending on how your unit measures volume increments.  When you press the pedal to the maximum position (toe to the floor) the volume should go from 5 or 7 up to 10.  You will find this set up to be very convenient for quickly boosting your volume for solos without adding any additional effects or distortion.


To have effect changes happen when you boost you will need to program your unit a little differently.  You will need to create a patch or program with the effects that you like for solos. If your unit does not provide a separate overall volume control for each patch or program you can program an increase in volume using the unit’s pre-amp settings, eq , amp modeling, compressor, or even distortion.  If you use an amp modeler or distortion for boosting be careful to set the distortion settings as low as possible or you may end up with unwanted distortion.  When you want to play a solo press the button on your unit that you have assigned to be your boost patch and you should hear a definite volume increase along with the effect changes that you programmed.  You may have to go back and make adjustments to the eq and volume settings to get the amount of boost that you need.  It is also helpful to name your patches; “ Normal” for rhythm work and “Lead” or “Boost” for your solo work.


On a final note be aware that what works when you’re programming your unit in your basement or garage may not work when your playing with your band.  Use your full gigging set up for rehearsals until your have any all bugs worked out. Practice pressing the buttons for the patch changes for your solos while you’re playing.  Mastering your effects at rehearsal could save you a lot of embarrassment at the gig.


Happy Jammin’!


Help! My hand hurts when I play barre chords.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Another one from


I’ve been playing guitar for about 2.5 years now and I’ve noticed that my wrists still ache for a while after playing for extended periods of times, especially when I barre, but I was wondering if you guys have any exercises you do to build up finger/wrist strength to prevent such aching?

My response:

First of all be careful.  If you are getting cramps while practicing, stop immediately.  Rub your wrist starting at the elbow and rub downward toward the wrist.  Gently shake your wrist then resume practicing. Do this EVERY TIME your wrist starts to feel cramped or strained.  This is serious business. NEVER play thru a cramp!  

You may want to re-evaluate your hand position when playing barres.  I have this problem with barres at the lower frets (near the nut).  I do everything that I can to not play full barre chords in this position.


If this happens more when you’re playing standing up try raising the strap, yeah it doesn’t look as “cool”, but it’s worth it to avoid tendonitis.


Look at your string gauge and the over all action.  Heavy strings and high action can also be a factor.


Try thinking about the strength or “energy” as coming from the bicep as opposed to the forearm or wrist.  The bicep is much stronger that those other two muscle areas.  This has helped me as well.


If you are inclined to start a weight training program make sure that you do wrist curls, both underhand and over hand.  This will help to strengthen the forearm and reduce the chance of strain or other injury.


Hand size is also factor.  I taught lessons for many years and all my students with small hands had more issues with cramping than those with large hands and long fingers. (As you may have guessed I have relatively small hands.)  They eventually found ways to overcome or get around the cramping and discomfort, just like you will.  Playing scales, and other hand and finger exercises definitely helped as well.


Keep practicing but remember, DON’T PLAY THRU A CRAMP.  Follow the above guidelines and in time you should be able to play barres with less discomfort.


Lou Lombardi

Band Site:


What is the best way to start to learn the guitar?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This question comes from the Ultimate Guitar Forum.


 Ok so I started to play guitar on my acoustic and I know some chords and a scale or two. I can change between some chords and stuff

I have an electric guitar and would like to learn that but just really worried and kind of confused about some things. Like are chords and the like important in playing like metal and stuff and do is there anything I really need to know. Like for example my dad’s been playing guitar for 30 tears plus and he can show me how to play acoustic and teach me fundamentals and stuff. I’m just wondering like if I jump straight into playing riffs and stuff on electric is that bad like what should I know or teach myself

And if I was to learn electric guitar where would I start, what would be a good learning source. I just don’t want to be able to play riffs and then be oblivious to so much other stuff I just wanna do it properly

My response:

Learning riffs, and songs that you like is one of the best ways to start.  It won’t hurt you in the least.  The best advice I can give is to find a GOOD teacher.  A good teacher will be able to take the riffs and chords from songs that you like and structure a program for you that will make it fun for you to learn.  You will progress much faster doing things that you like than you will simply working on finger exercises, scales or learning theory.  It’s all music. So all the theory,  scales and chords are in your favorite tunes…regardless of the style.   You will want to start with the easiest riffs then progress to the more complicated ones as you go.  Working with a good teacher will give you the opportunity to gain some working knowledge of the scales and chords within the framework of your favorite style without having to bore yourself with memorizing scales and chords.  The best way to learn is within the context of music that you love.  I studied from books for years and got nothing out of it.  I hated guitar lessons.  When I found someone who showed me how to play rock and roll the wick was lit.  He was able get me interested enough that I wanted to know what I was playing…not just how to play it.  I learned “theory” very quickly because I saw the value in it as it related to the music I was learning.   Enjoy!


Finger picking tips

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

 This was a recent question posted on the Harmony Central forum about learning to fingerpick.

The Question:

Alright here is the deal-e-o. Between bass, guitar of electric and acoustic variety, along with brass and other strings, I have been playing for over 12 years now. I know, before anyone says anything I should know how to do this… 

I want to get more into fingerpicking. I know, I know, I know, I probably should have picked this up about 5 years ago atleast but… I didn’t, and avoided it like the plague, because I was young, stupid, knew everything, and it wasn’t what I was into playing.So now I’m all jacked up and need help. Looking for someone with some words of wisdom to help along the way.

 My Answer:

First of all don’t be so hard on yourself.  The great thing about playing guitar and music in general is that there is always something new to learn.  That’s what makes it fun!  :-)

I prefer to play with my fingers these days and I’ve gotten pretty good at it but I played many years mostly with the pick.  Here’s a little bit of my journey to finger picking. This may give you a few ideas.

When I had been playing about a year I decided that I wanted to learn the song “Dust in the Wind”.  It was actually written as a finger picking exercise. Then later it became a song.  I got the basics from a teacher.  Remember, there is nothing wrong with asking some one to show you at least the basics to get you rolling.  This was only the surface for me.  A few years later I studied classical guitar at a university but found it extremely boring.  I did get a few more pointers that I added to my trick bag but oddly classical seemed to do more for my left hand than my right.  I was always “tripped up” by a picking technique called the “rest stroke”.  This is where the picking finger or thumb comes to rest on the consecutive string …the string next to the one just plucked.  While my teacher and several students swore by this, it did NOTHING but fuck me up.  Try it for yourself.  You may love it. It just didn’t work for me.

I also spent time watching other players who played a lot of finger style. I picked up a lot from watching people like Joe Pass and Chet Atkins, while those guys are light years ahead of me I was at least able to see how the hand was held and how to pluck effectively. I also watched Mark Knopfler.  His technique “clicked” with me the most.  (maybe because he was a rock player, and I love the music of Dire Straights.)  I’m sure that played a big part.  The ability to relate to the music is important.  That was part of the issue with me and the classical guitar.  While I respect that music and the chops it takes to play it well, it rarely “moves” me emotionally.  A few years after my classical guitar experience I decided to go all finger style.  Even playing heavy rock riffs with my fingers.  While everything else laid the foundation this was the real turning point in my finger picking journey.  I would force myself to put down the pick and play with the fingers no matter what the song.  I also spent many hours in front of the TV guitar in hand just sort of noodling without the pick. This helped develop my comfort with using my fingers.  The one thing that I discovered is the major difference in tone esp. when playing over driven electric guitar.  The sound is generally a lot fatter and I have a lot more control over the sound, which leads to being able to be much more expressive.  

I eventually settled on the general approach of alternating between the thumb and index and middle fingers as needed. This is similar to what Mark Knopfler does.  When I want more attack I’ll use the nail of the index finger in and alternate picking motion.  This comes in handy when you want to mix up the strong attack sound with the fatter finger sound in the same song.  This is a technique (not the only) used by Jeff Beck.

For chords, or other types if “comping” will use the thumb for notes on the lower three strings (E A D) and the index, on the G, the middle on the B and the ring on the E, respectively.  This is my starting position but will vary it as needed.  I also like to “slap” and “pop” like a bassist would do but I reserve that for only certain pieces.

I’m still working on my finger style and playing in general.  I’m working on being able to accompany myself while singing and still be able to play solos while keeping the bass line and chords going.  This is just the next step.  So you see, I never ends!