Blues guitar: 2 Videos on the “La Grange” lick

As you know from earlier blogs, I believe that the best way to development facility playing guitar is to REALLY learn how to play blues guitar.  That being said these are good!

Today I recorded and uploaded  the 2nd of two videos I’ve done showing the “La Grange” lick.  I think they are really good…really clear, and excellent way to develop your playing…and musicianship.

The first video shows how to play the basic lick, 3 different ways.  Also includes some good timing exercises.

The 2nd video shows some really cool variations and licks that can be included.  Eventually leads to how to jam out on this vamp.

Have fun with this!  All the best, Joe

Jazz Guitar: The Primacy of the Melody

My band has this brand-new video:

It’s our version of the Beatles song “And I Love Her.” I’m getting so much positive feedback on the video that I’d like to share my thoughts about the arrangement that we did.

What’s great is that there is so much you can with the tune “And I Love Her”. Also, I like that it’s not really a “jazz” feel we use on our rendition, but the approach on guitar can be “jazz.” I feel that the great part about practicing and learning jazz guitar is that it’s all about taking a song and developing endless variations and riffs on it.

Here are some basic points that I have gleaned from practicing jazz guitar over the last 40 years:
I’ve found that for me the most important point is to study the melody. You’d like to work out numerous ways to play any melody:
1-first simply. ( and hopefully: sing)
2- then in different registers
3- then with embellishments and variations

From experience I have found that these are the most important steps in developing your improvisation. I think that John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Metheny would all agree with me! (Just LISTEN to how each of these guys develop a tune!)

In this video version, you can notice that in the first verse I play the melody in a lower octave, then in the next verse I bring it up an octave, with some variation. Next, for the bridge, I play the bridge melody with chords.

I feel that taking that approach led to a situation where the song naturally “builds” because of these changes. When practicing I worked out each of these parts in both registers, and with and without chords. It’s a fun and interesting way to practice. And, in my view, the best.

All the best, Joe

PS- hopefully more in later blogs about jazz guitar…music theory, scales and all that. But melody comes first for me.

Who makes up the Blues “Licks”?

Who makes up the Blues “Licks”:
It’s a curious thought. Blues licks are a shared vocabulary for most (electric) guitarists. But where are they from? Who made them up?
In my opinion for a student of guitar that can play a blues progression, and knows the pentatonic scale, the next step is learning the licks. In other words the next step is learning the Language.
But who composes these licks?
There may be hundreds of phrases that every blues and rock guitar player shares in common, as a common language, but to my knowledge there is not one of them that has an attribution to a single person. My guess is that the licks start and they are changed and improved by countless players over some period of time, till they have ended up in our American musical language. It’s powerful stuff.
I’ve made a few general observations about all of them:
1- All off them can be repeated over and over, creating a ‘Groove’ that is continuous. This is an approach that has worked for many blues artists, as well as making some ‘Rock” bands really kind of rich. All of this licks have deep groove and to master one of them sets you into the pocket.
2- they all seem to be divisible into sub phrases, and each sub phrase has a great groove of it’s own, and can also be repeated as a vamp.
Anyway, I think this is interesting. Let me know what YOU think!
Best, Joe

Why Blues?

Blog #4:  More musings on You-Tube:  Slash plays the Blues:     

Guns and Roses lead guitar man Slash.  Rock and Roll, right?

Those of you who are familiar with how I practice and teach the guitar will know that I think the BEST way to learn and get really fluid on the guitar is to really learn the language of the blues guitar.  I was surfing just a little on You-Tube and stumbled on this video.   When I watched this video of Guns and Roses axeman Slash ( playing with BB King no less: I’ve seen everything, now ) I was impressed at how it shows that  he really knows his blues!  Slash is known as a rocker, but it’s clear he cut his teeth on blues.  Not only that: he really knows the language awfully well.

Players often say to me:  Blues, that’s about a 12- Bar progression and pentatonic scales, right?    Well, not really.  No . Really Blues is a language all to itself.  If you learn this language you will know how to make the guitar speak.  Really.

Like BB says in the video, it’s “Mississippi stuff.”

For a great blues lead that’s easy to figure out, check out this video a student posted of me a few years back:

Joe Belmont, Northampton guitar lessons:


You- Tube Instructional Videos:  Today:  Tim Pierce, teaching Jimi Hendrix:

As I promised in my first Blog, “Welcome to Guitarland”, I’m planning to comment on some stuff on You-Tube, and hopefully point at some videos that are really great.  I’d think that You-Tube is the best thing that has happened for guitar!

I’m convinced that Guitar-Playing is an oral tradition, and videos can be excellent path for this.

Studio musician Tim Pierce’s instructional videos are incredible!  First off, he sounds great.  And his teaching is excellent.  ( Also he looks so HAPPY when he plays, kind of filled with gratitude.  It makes you glad to be a guitar player!)

Right off notice on the “Hey Joe” video, for example the way he shows so well the opening Hammer-on.(at about 1:10 into the video.)  Very good instruction on the fingering.  But notice what a great SOUND he gets.  You can improve your Hammer-on technique with this one example alone. (Philosophy here:  the Small stuff is the Big stuff.)  I think Tim plays this opening about as well as Jimi did, which is awfully cool.  I feel any guitarist can benefit from this video, whether intermediate or advanced.

Hey Joe:  

The Wind Cries Mary:  

Let me know what YOU think!

Best, Joe

Guitar Set-Up

For guitarists this is a super-important topic. While you may not have the patience to learn how to set-up your own guitars, it is so helpful to understand what’s involved. A guitar that is not working correctly can be very frustrating. It can sound badly, be very hard to play, and play out of tune. (i.e. Not Fun)

I remember when I was starting out , I had a Guild D-40 that sounded great when I bought it. Over time it seemed not to play as well: it made warbling kind of sounds, didn’t vibrate properly, had fret “buzzes” and generally didn’t play or sound right. Back then I thought maybe I had only imagined that it ever sounded right.

Now that I know better, I realize that this guitar needed to be set-up, again. Experience notices that guitars are made of wood and are subject to changes over time, often created by shifting humidity and being subjected to all that string tension.

Luckily for me, my good friends (and expert guitar techs) Harry Becker and Bill Cumpiano took it upon themselves to teach me the concepts and skills involved with setting up guitars. (So I probably really didn’t need to burn my Guild D-40 after all. Apologies to Jimi!)

Also it’s important to note that even when buying a new guitar the set-up can be way off. I notice, for example, that on most production-line guitars the ‘nut height’ is usually completely wrong, which can make playing really kind of miserable. Particularly for beginners.

I will attempt to explain how to assess and possibly set-up guitars. Luckily I’ve spotted a number of YouTube videos on this that are quite helpful. It seems like in the early part of these videos you will be shown how to assess your situation; if you hang in there they will show you what to do.

After playing a guitar, the first thing I personally look at is the “nut height.” Often the nut height is high, and will be hard to play in the first couple of frets, and can play noticeably out of tune.

Here is a collection of videos from various experts on YouTube that can serve as a quick checklist for you to gauge the health of your guitar, assuming that the frets are in good condition:

1) First check the nut height:

2) Next, assess the truss rod ( which can affect the nut height):

3) Next, check the string height:

4) Finally, adjust your intonation:

I hope these are helpful! I found learning how to assess and fix set-ups to be really interesting, yet took me really quite a while to get the hang of it. These videos, at the very least, will help you to know when it is time to bring your axe in to a good guitar tech.

Best wishes, Joe

Welcome to Guitarland

Greetings from Guitarland! Sometimes I think that’s the name of this fictional country I inhabit. It’s really a nice place. It’s kind of great being here. Am I right?
Being here, I’ve decided to use the opportunity of having a web-site to create a blog” about all things guitar. Playing guitar, jamming on guitar, learning music, fixing and buying guitars… gear… music theory. So much fun!

I welcome your input, your responses, your suggestions… because, although I seem to spend all day here, I never seem to know everything there is to know here.

I’m planning to share my observations and some of what I’ve learned over these years. It’s amazing and interesting how complicated and involved things can get in this guitar world. But that’s OK because we love it, right?

Some topics I plan to cover this fall are:
-Overtones and Harmonics
-Music using harmonic techniques
-Guitar set-up (So important!)
-Tuning and tuning systems
-Observations on shopping
-Some fretboard Music Theory
-Observations on trends in Guitarland – i.e. new music and styles
-The right style(s) of music for YOU to study and practice

I’d like to extend my warmest welcome to you to come visit me by reading this blog. I hope it will be illuminating and entertaining.

Best, Joe