the right pick

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Today’s blog I would like to get into the plectrum. There are so many different shapes, sizes and materials used in plectrums that choosing the right one can be overwhelming. I spent over a year honing in on what pick worked best for me and now that I’ve chosen it I feel my playing is much more consistent. As a Melbourne guitar teacher I see students struggling with their tone and I feel the pick has a significant effect. I usually recommend a medium to hard pick as the soft ones are really only good for strumming and strumming is only one portion of guitar playing. I find with a hard pick I can diversify through licks, strums and solos without changing picks halfway through. A firm pick means your accuracy will improve as your string strike will be more definitive. A great practice technique I teach my guitar students is to try angling a pick to get a “feathery” sound when strumming. This slight angle on the pick means you are using a broader edge of the pick and get a rounder sound off the strings. Don’t just grab the nearest pick to you for practicing your guitar. Experiment with what pick best serves you and your playing. To find out more about picking techniques get in contact with us for your first Melbourne guitar lesson!

 

 

5 tips to become a better guitarist

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We all like lists that are concise and to the point. So here it is young guitar warriors, my 5 tips to becoming a better guitar player. For Melbourne guitar student’s progress to your musical goal is sometimes hindered by the anxiety of being overwhelmed. There is so much to learn and master on the beautiful piece of wood with six strings that to acquire it all seems too vast for you. But don’t fear, listen to your Melbourne guitar teacher and try making this top 5 tips part of your daily practice. Here they are in no particular order:

 

1: Practice with a Metronome

  • By having a strong rhythmical sense you will always be welcomed on the band stand. You will find it is crucial to your sight reading and chord changes too!

 

2: Listen more intently

  • By engaging your ears in your practice you will learn to love what you are playing. It could be the Hippie in me or the fact it was drilled into me at Music college but ‘Love every note’

 

3: Learn all scales and modes intervallically

  • You don’t need to know thousands of scales and modes but you should know your ones inside out. Play them ascending, descending and with steps and leaps.

 

4: Learn the notes on the fretboard

  • Yes I know it’s a strange piece of wood but it does have meaning and patterns. Learn the notes by studying the visual map and doing note recognition exercises.

 

5: Record yourself

– We have a wonderful way of tricking ourselves for self-protection or self-validation. Skip all this emotional nonsense and record your playing and listen back with a critical and open mind. You will ear where your practice needs to be focused.

 

ukulele lessons

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Here at Music in Mind we offer Ukulele lessons and they have begun to gain popularity form our young students. The guitar like many instruments is a physically demanding instrument so parents must be practical about their child’s size and ability before enrolling them in guitar lessons. Even the half sized guitars can be too bulky and cumbersome for children so we often recommend the ukulele as a suitable substitute. The small size of the ukulele, the easy chord shapes and the fact it only has 4 strings means little hands can play songs with greater ease. I’ve been teaching ukulele for a number of years and honestly some songs sound even better played on the ukulele than the guitar. This is controversial but I like “Here come the sun” by the Beatles played on the ukulele more than the guitar… Maybe it was because I taught it to myself on the exquisite beaches of Vietnam or its just because the timbre makes me smile. Ukuleles are cheap and can be a great springboard into music for young children. They also travel very well so taking it on trips or to and from lessons is easy for small children.  Get in contact with us to try out a first lesson!

Tone of the right hand

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Today I would like to discuss the right hand technique of guitar playing. Many of my guitar students in Melbourne mention how they don’t feel like their strumming sounds as good as the strumming on the song they are learning. Much of the tone of your guitar is coming from your right hand (strumming hand) so lets give some attention to it now. The strings are an active element that responds to how they are hit. If you are looking for dynamics and tone in your playing try accenting the strong beats with harder strums with your right hand. Usually the strong beats are 2 and 4 however listen to the song you are playing and find where the accents lie. In order to give the strong beats accent you need to allow space on the other beats so they can be heard properly. Listening is essential to this skill. Guitar students must be able to parrot what he or she hears as well as express themselves improvisationally. This is a constant pursuit of technique, dynamics and tone. Talk with your Melbourne guitar teacher and find how dynamic your guitar can be. Check out “I see fire” by Ed Sheeran to hear some exquisite use of guitar strumming.

Take care of your hands

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As a guitarist and guitar teacher in Melbourne my hands are my livelihood. As such I’ve gone to some lengths to ensure they aren’t damaged from everyday use. Immanuel Kant wrote, “The hand is the visible part of the brain” which is how it feels when playing the guitar. There are some things I have chosen not to do as I know it will risk the dexterity of my hands. My first job out of school was to be a dish cleaner at a local restaurant. I would spend up to 6 hours with my hands submerged in hot soapy water leaving them wrinkled, peeling and soft. My steel strings would then shred my poor hands when I got home to practice. I have been wanting to get into Jiu Jitsu and boxing but I know my hands will likely be twisted, yanked and slammed leaving them feel like sloths rather than gymnasts. We want all guitar students to make sensible choices about how they use their hands. I certainly don’t think you should become like Seinfeld’s character George Costanza when he becomes a hand model but safe, sensible and respectful use is a great path. Have your teacher in your guitar lessons give you some warm up tips and hand stretching exercises to keep your precious hands in peak performance!

Breaking free of the box

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Guitarists are notorious for playing pentatonic scales. This is mainly due to their easy block pattern on the fretboard. Many Guitar students like easy patterns; our minds have an easy time of remembering them and regurgitating it. As a guitar teacher in Melbourne my aim is to help guitarists enjoy their playing and master music. The pentatonic scale is one of the first scales I teach but breaking out of the “box shape” is something many players are reluctant to do. In order to master your scales you have to know them ascending, descending, intervallically and basically inside out etc. The infamous Myamoto Musashi wisely wrote “If you know the way broadly you will see it in all things”. He was a master samurai swordsman but he also believed in mastering other techniques such as Calligraphy and Sculpture. In your guitar lessons knowing the Pentatonic scale in one pattern is going to limit your playing and expression so try these exercises:

  • Play the scale only on 1 string
  • Play the scale in all 12 keys
  • Play the scale in intervallic jumps 1,2 1,3 1,4 etc.
  • Sing the scale or try playing it on another instrument

In this way you will develop a much stronger understanding of the scale and your ability to use it musically and “speak” it will be well on the way to playing real music!