Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remembering Solos in Rehearsal

Hi Barrett,

I've been learning some hard rock/heavy metal cover tunes (Priest,
Scorpions, etc.) to play with a drummer. We had an initial rehearsal last night, and it went pretty well until it came time to play the solos (ones transcribed from the record, not improvised). I got lost pretty quickly, even though I had been practicing them along with the records.

My question is: How do you recommend learning/practicing solos from recordings? I know you need to play along with the record initially, but this can become a "crutch" as I learned last night. Is there some way to incorporate priciples from Chord-Tone Soloing to do this (metronome, chord tracks, etc.)?



The same thing happens to me too, and I can't claim any special secret knowledge for preventing it, other than maybe the philosophy that long term memory is assisted by multiple perspectives on the same information: physical, aural, visual, verbal, etc.

Here are some things I do to try to learn a solo well enough that I can pull it off on a gig or rehearsal the first time and every time. I'll do some or all of these things depending on how important the gig is and how much time I have to get ready.

First: everything you said. I practice without the recording as soon as possible and only check back with it if I am totally stuck. I make my own backing sequence to play over, and also play it with a metronome only. I always try to practice the solo and each lick in the proper time, even if I am alone. I do not skip the rests or empty bars to save time. The song structure has to march by in my head like a treadmill.

I try to find the easiest and most obvious fingerings for everything and practice it the same way every time so it becomes muscle memory.

I will put my guitar aside, and slowly visualize the solo being played, one note at a time.

I sing the solo away from the instrument, bit by bit; usually singing scales first for about 5 minutes before I start.

I will intentionally set up situations to test my ability to play the solo while I'm distracted. I'll play it while I'm talking or watching tv at the same time.

Teach the solo to someone else if you get the chance; carefully explaining where to put each finger for each note as you play. Or just teach it to an imaginary student using the verbalization method.

Once I know a solo I practice it frequently, but only once through at a time. Make it similar to the live situation, where you can't back up if you make a mistake. Force yourself to plow on through, just like you'd have to on a gig. The best memorization comes from playing something on the gig several nights a week for months, so emulate that situation. That is a mixture of feeling the pain of blowing it in front of a crowd, and then going back and reviewing it later so that it hopefully it doesn't happen again.

Intentionally screw with yourself by dropping out or improvising a couple bars, then jump back in with the real licks from the original solo. You want to be able to jump back in after a dropout. Practice it starting from all different places, not just from the beginning.

Other things I do: I usually write the solo out by hand when I'm transcribing anyway, but if I learned it from sheet music I'll put that away and write it out again from memory. It takes time, but it helps you really know the ins and outs of each phrase, what beat it starts on, and all its details, because you have to count it all out and write each pitch. Then I read the thing I've written. Then I put it away and go back to it only if I am totally stuck at remembering it.

When (not "if") I forget it, I try to figure it out again without using the paper or the recording. It's usually in my head somewhere as melodic memory, but maybe with no muscle memory attached.

I play it super slow, counting the beats aloud so I really know it.

Also try playing it faster than the original (but still in time with the metronome). This is a good one; it forces you to really get the thing down to reflex.

Transposing the solo to another key can be helpful for getting your ear trained to control your fingers, but you want to be careful that you don't let multiple fingerings get you confused.

After doing all that, I'll still mangle it a few times before I start getting it right in front of an audience with consistency. At that point, I'm almost EXPECTING it to suck, and am about ready to give up. Then it starts coming out perfectly just to spite me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Arpeggio Fingering Considerations

> Hi Barrett,
> I had a question about the Major Triad Arpeggios on p.35 of
> the Chord-Tone Soloing book:
> Just wondering why the Pattern 5 arpeggio is different, in
> that it moves outside the position of the corresponding
> Pattern 5 Major scale with its initial stretch to the
> third, unlike all the other major triad arpeggios which
> stay within their respective scale forms.
> I know these things aren't carved in stone (though the
> CAGED system seems pretty structured to me), but it's
> almost like the Pattern 5 major triad shape moves into
> Pattern 1 initially then back to Pattern 5 again!
> Any thoughts on this?
> - Ed

Hi Ed,

Thanks for writing. Here are some quick thoughts on Pattern 5 arpeggios that also apply to the others.

If you start a pattern 5 arpeggio with the 1st finger on the root, then the one shown on page 35 is easiest to play smoothly, although you're right, it does cross over into pattern 1's territory.

If you start with the 2nd finger on the root, then the way you suggest (similar to patterns 2 & 4) starts off looking easier. But it gets a little tricky when you get to the notes played by the 3rd and 4th fingers on the top 3 strings. It is harder to play cleanly because of the independence required between fingers 3 and 4.

In the long run you'll want to know how to do it either way (and more other ways), depending on which finger happens to be closest at the time, and where your melody is going afterward.

That brings up an exercise that I highly recommend. See what happens when you start the arpeggios from every possible finger on each note, while avoiding any moves that might create a gap or a smear in the sound. (For example: playing two consecutive notes on different strings and different frets with the same finger---I try to avoid that.)

Here is how the exercise physically plays out. Start a major triad arp from a root on the sixth string with each of the 4 fingers, and you often get a different fingering for the same notes. Then try every possible starting finger for the arp but starting from the 3rd, then the 5th, then the next root, and so on. Draw fingering diagrams if necessary.

You'll find it often pushes you into a different area of the neck from where you started. But if you know those first 5 basic shapes it'll help you figure out where the next note is when you get shifted up into the next pattern.

It is lots of work. If you practice this, though, your playing will eventually be ultra-smooth. That's always the final deciding factor: whatever ends up producing the most even, stable, and consistently clean sound is what you should use, even if it creates a conceptual problem or messes up a pattern.

Thanks again,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

melodic structure

Hey, buddy. I've just been working through your Chord-Tone Soloing book again and was wondering if you would indulge me and answer a couple of questions. These both have to do with the whole concept of hitting the closest available chord tone of the next chord. First of all, I have been trying to break out of my pentatonic rut by switching pentatonic scales with each chord. I thought of you because when I just switched scales without much thought as to what tone I "began" on, it sounded pretty rough; however, when I kind of focused on a neighboring note that was a chord tone of the next chord, things sounded much better. Question one is this: What if my phrases are kind of chord based, instead of linear/scalar and aren't really moving in a certain direction? In other words, if I am hitting a D over a D chord, but it's not really part of an ascending or descending line, and I move to an A chord, does it matter if I hit the C# or the E? Secondly, I am a HUGE fan of Neal Schon of Journey--I think his solos are the most beautiful and memorable, by far, out there. It seems to me that he solos entirely out of the tonic/parent diatonic scale, and I have spent the last year painstakingly trying to figure out how to solo with the entire major scale, without much luck. That's what brought me back to your book. I have had it in my head that you only hit the 4 note over the IV chord and can only hit the 7 over the V, etc.--heck, I've experimented with everything. Putting rhythm aside and only focusing on note choice, is there an easy insight you can give me into improvising with the major scale a la Neal Schon? I know that's a pretty wide-open question. Thanks again, Barrett, and keep up the great work.
Travis P.

Hi Travis,

For your first question: "if I am hitting a D over a D chord, but it's not really part of an ascending or descending line, and I move to an A chord, does it matter if I hit the C# or the E?"

Either the C# or the E will work on the A chord even if it is not part of a linear idea, though the linear approach to the chord tone reinforces your ability to hit it at the right time in a way that feels musical.

Beyond hitting the closest available tone of the next chord, you might next need to study melodic structure. Neal Schon's a good exemplifier of it.

Some quick examples are the little guitar melody in "Any Way You Want It" (around 2:00) and the longer one in "Who's Crying Now" (at 3:28).

These melodies are designed (not improvised, really) to fit a phrase of a specific length. A 'phrase' here is defined as a short chord progression, with a discernible beginning and end, that is usually repeated. In "Any Way You Want It" it's a four-bar phrase (G D/F# Em C). In "Who's Crying Now" it's eight bars (Am Am F F Dm G Am Am).

You can clearly hear the resolution point at the end of each phrase in the melody lines. The melody stops naturally in these places.

On "Any Way You Want It" the melody stops on the tonic G, which is the 5th of the IV chord at the time.

On the slow song he stops on the 9th of the Im chord at the end of the 8-bar phrase. There's a little breathing room before the same melody starts again. In the solo that follows, he keeps that phrase length in mind at all times, so he can finish up and return to the signature melody right on time for the fadeout.

Chord Tone Soloing sets you up for the skill by forcing you to count bars. In this case you have to count 4 or 8 bars while you're playing and do your best to finish off your licks at the beginning of bar 4 (or 8). With that in mind, it's ok if it goes past that point by a beat or two, but DO NOT let it hang over the end of bar 4 and into the next phrase. If it does hang over, it may feel like you're doing something really cool, but by about two bars later I can almost guarantee you're going to start feeling lost, and the melody will take on a random meandering quality that you don't want.

For practice you should start looking at chord progressions, writing them down and trying to identify the phrase lengths. If there is a I, IV, or V chord in bar 4 or 8, then it's probably there that you need your melody to resolve to a long chord tone, then take a breath and start it over. It can repeat exactly (and there's nothing wrong with planning it instead of improvising) or it can repeat with some variation.

Exaggerate that long note at the end. It should be longer than you think. A whole note in bar 4 is totally ok. Remember, there's a band playing with you, and they will fill up that space.

With time this kind of phrasing will develop as a reflex when improvising.

I better go now. Good luck and have fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Upcoming CD Released Free, One Track
at a Time

The tunes are all written, and I'm spending lots of time in the studio now. It's all instrumental rock, with an emphasis on melodic soloing and cool arrangements, with the requisite hot licks and some shredding here and there.

When the songs are all mixed and mastered, you'll be able to download one song for free each month. Every month the free song will be switched to a different one off the album. You can contact me to be notified when the CD is available or when each new monthly song is available. Just state your preference. If you give me your address I won't give it to anyone else. No time for marketing shenanigans. I will only contact you when I have new product!

Of course you'll also be able to buy the CD right away if you want CD quality, or if you don't want to wait for the songs. That would be nice.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Help with Guitar Fretboard Workbook, pg 10: Root Shapes; also Dropped Tunings

Hi Barrett,
[...I am on the 2nd chapter of the Fretboard workbook where you are talking about root shapes. I totally understand memorizing the the C notes for the Key of C... but once you mention G and then go on to the exercises I am lost. I guess I understand that the shapes work in a train like pattern... when a certain shape starts at any given point on the fret board the next shape will be the same as it would be if that shape started anywhere else....

I am looking at the finished example in exercise 4 page 10. Do I need to know the key before I can make the shape? Maybe I am reading too far into this but I am just so lost. Is there a book that I should read before this one? Once again thank you for taking time out of your day to try to ease my mind...]

Steve S.

First quick answer: you are correct, you don't need to worry about keys or note names to do Exercises 4 and 5. There is no way to know them yet. I just show you a starting note in Exercises 4 and 5. At the moment it doesn't matter what the name of the note is.

In a way, I'm glad that you got stuck on Exercises 4 and 5 and not a later one. It gives me the opportunity to say right up front that you need to go slow and be patient. We all do. Part of what makes it hard is that you probably expect yourself to just rip through it because you've been playing for years. You don't need another book to prepare for this one, but be ready to spend a long time on each chapter. It's not like a chord chart that you can strum through in a day or two.

The only prior knowledge you need for Exercises 4 and 5 is contained in the book. Make sure you know your correct fret and string numbers as shown on page 6. If you have to stop and think about those, it'll make you forget what you're doing when you try to do the later exercises. It's like math in that way. You have to learn how to count without thinking before you learn to add and subtract.

You may want to review pages 8 and 9 every day for a week or two. The root shapes need to be memorized so well that you could teach them to someone else. Throughout the book, wherever I have you repeat things aloud, I'm telling you they should be memorized that firmly.

When you can play the five patterns of root shapes (as shown on page 8) without looking at the book, you are playing every C note on the guitar---except for some high ones way up the neck.

The demonstration diagrams are not completely abstract, with no note names, because I want to stress the fact that the big sequence of five root shapes stays the same when the key changes. So the diagram is shown in the key of C on page 8, and in G at the bottom of page 9. The main concern at this point, however, is not note names or keys, but just learning the relative locations of the notes within the root shapes and the exact order those root shapes follow.

So please bust out some blank paper and draw the exact same "C" diagram for yourself. Then draw the same diagram two more times, moving each note one fret higher each time. The shapes should stay the same, but you will be drawing all the roots in C#, and then in D. It'll be just like sliding a clear plastic template with dots on it over the graph formed by the strings and frets.

Then, to further cement the knowledge, please answer these questions for me.
(The answers are further down in this post.)
1. Which root shapes have a note on the 3rd string?
2. I have my first finger on the 6th string at any fret. Which root shape can I play?
3. How many frets apart are the roots in pattern 5?
4. I have my pinky finger on the 2nd string at fret 4 (or higher). Which root shape can I play?
5. Which root shapes have a note on the 4th string?
6. I have my 2nd finger on the 5th string at fret 4. Which root shape can I play?
7. Which root shapes have a note on the 1st string?
8. In pattern 1, the roots are two frets apart. Which strings are they on?
9. If I have my first finger on the 5th string, which root shape can I play?
10. What if I have my 4th finger on the 5th string? Which root shape can I play?

You are correct when you say "when a certain shape starts at any given point on the fret board the next shape will be the same as it would be if that shape started anywhere else." You can start with (for example) pattern 2 at the first fret, and go up from there to pattern 3 at fret 3.

It's the same as if I told you to recite the alphabet starting from the letter E, you could say, "E F G H I J," and so on. If I told you to recite it from the letter W and start over when you hit the end, you could say, "W X Y Z A B C," etc. The same applies to the five root shapes. Pattern 5 is always followed by pattern 1 as you move up the neck.

When you go back to the book on page 10, I suggest you do Exercise 5 before Exercise 4. Experience has shown that Exercise 5 is a little bit easier for most people; I think it's because it doesn't make you think about your fingers as much.

1. Patterns 2 and 3
2. Pattern 4
3. 3 frets apart
4. Pattern 5
5. Patterns 4 and 5
6. Pattern 2
7. Patterns 3 and 4
8. Strings 2 and 5
9. Pattern 2
10. Pattern 1, but only if the 4th finger is at fret 2 or higher.

OK, please work on that and get back to me.

Thanks for the great reply! Ok... so I think I am starting to get it now. Looking at excercise 5 helped me. But lets make sure I am thinking about this the right way. If you look at exercise 5 number 2... the first notes is on the 3rd fret on the b string. So I look up at exercise 1 and I see that the note appears twice in that position on the b string not just on the 3rd fret. So then I apply the pattern that I see in the 1st exercise to number 2. So anyway... this means that anytime I have a root on the high e string/low e string it means that it will involve a triangle pattern.... right? no matter what? As long as I am in standard tuning. Now I usually play in Drop C tuning... CGCFAD. I think thats what... 2 or 2 and a half steps down from D standard tuning? Well how much would these diagrams change? Would I have to memorize another set of diagrams or is there a way to use these? I guess the triangle patterns on the 6th string would be the only ones shifted... but is there an easier way to think about it? I actually just bought your soloing book maybe 30 mins ago from amazon... I know that book is probably over my head until I get this one down. But to be able to solo and play lead riffs in my band is my goal. I can write pretty good stuff but when it comes to playing something different over the other guitar playing riffs... I start to get lost.


Hi Steve,

You're right. In standard tuning, any time you have a root on an E string, you will have a triangular pattern of roots: either pattern 3 (if your pinky is playing the E-string notes) or pattern 4 (if your index or maybe your middle finger is playing the E-string notes). I think you're getting it. The answers are all in the back of the book to help you make sure.

Dropped D tuning (DADGBE) is the same as standard tuning in its absolute string intervals except for the 6th string. So again you are correct; the fretboard workbook will apply, except that any note on the 6th string will need to be moved up by two frets in the diagram. Also, as I'm sure you know because it's why you're using this tuning, some chords will become available that are not mentioned in the book because they are too hard to play in standard tuning.

If you then tune the entire guitar down a whole step, producing CGCFAD, any note or chord root letter in the book will of course be off by a whole step.

I think it would be a good idea to make a few of your own diagrams (not a whole book's worth) just to get you on track with the tuning you use. It can't hurt. Another thing I'm sure you've considered is keeping one guitar in standard tuning around the house to use when you're working with books or playing along with most of the recorded guitars you hear.

Thanks for buying the other book, Chord Tone Soloing, too! I think you'll like it, and it won't be as tough as you might think to understand. I tried very hard to put every little step in the correct order and keep the learning curve as shallow as possible for the first half of the book. So go ahead and check out the first couple of chapters when you get it, even if you're still working with the other one. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Guitar Reading Workbook's Out Today (Feb. 15, 2008)

I got the idea for the Guitar Reading Workbook (click to buy it) from teaching Reading classes to beginning GIT students. I gave them extra diagram exercises sort of like those in my Fretboard Workbook. They said it helped them learn and made the subject more fun, so I expanded the idea into a complete reading method book.

After explaining a topic as concisely as possible, I give a written exercise that solidifies the concept in your brain. Early ones might take about 5 minutes. Later ones can take up to half an hour to complete. The exercises differ from chapter to chapter. Sometimes you just have to write the names of some notes or chords that you see on the staff. In others, you write which beat number a rhythm falls on. Later, you'll read some tab and translate it into regular notation, look at some notes and identify the chord they make, and so on. When you've finished the written part, you pick up the guitar, turn on the metronome, and play the notation.

Throughout the book I try to make everything as easy and clear as possible, so you don't have to ever learn two new things at once. But if you get this book, you should spend at least 6 months to a year with it. Go slowly! It starts out basic but takes you into some reasonably advanced territory.

This new book is available at amazon.com and can be ordered from any regular bookstore (if they don't already have it).

Per the comment below, you can look at a pdf of a couple of sample pages from Chapter Two here: http://monsterguitars.com/gtr-rdng-wkbk.pdf

Sometimes pdf's lock up a browser (though this is a small one - about 65K), so maybe you'd rather right click the link and save it before viewing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How Long Should I Practice Each Scale Pattern Before Adding Another One?

>xxxx@xxxxxxx.com writes:
> Just picked up a copy of you Chord-Tone soloing book.
> Great reviews is what sold me. I'm just trying to expand
> my guitar knowledge and hopefully my soloing. My
> question is I've come to Major scales chapter 6. As a
> practicing schedule would you like start on pattern 1 for
> a couple of weeks, add two, and so on. Then when would
> you start intervals, and chords and arpegios? I'm trying
> to develop a schedule and I'm just looking for some
> suggestions. Thanks and I'm looking forward in diving
> into your book!!
> Winchester, KY

Hi S.S,

The short answer is, you know yourself best. If you get them mixed up or start forgetting shapes as you learn new ones, then you're going too fast. I can't give you a set time frame for each thing like one week, two weeks, etc. because it is different for everybody.

You want to gradually add new fretboard shapes (chords, scales, and arpeggios) to your practice schedule in a way that doesn't overwhelm your ability to absorb the information. It's like juggling. Maybe you can juggle four balls but adding the fifth one makes you drop all of them. You'd have to stick with four for a little longer.

I think trying to learn too many new shapes at once is the same way. When you can get up cold in the morning, turn on the metronome, and play a scale pattern in time, with no mistakes on the first try (and it feels like you know it), then it's ok to start working on a new one.

After you know them, you can always benefit by continuing to practice the scales and arpeggios so you don't forget them, and can do more things with them. I still practice them after knowing them for many years, only now I'm practicing longer melodic sequences of notes that use them.

As an example, last night I was practicing this 8-note scale sequence, both alternate-picked and using pulloffs. It is written in pattern 3 of C major.


When moved through the scale it looks like this. Each measure starts one note lower than the one before.



This way I'm still practicing the scale, but I'm doing something unfamiliar with it that may become part of a solo or a melody later.

Once you know a shape, you want to do the same: continue to practice it but in a way that you haven't done before. That way you will stay engaged in what you are learning. If you start to daydream about other stuff while you practice, that's bad. Then you're going too slow; so you need to move faster, make it a little harder, or of course, add a new scale, interval, or arpeggio to the list of practice items.

Shoot for a pace that falls between these two extremes and you should be OK!

I hope this helps. Thanks again, and good luck.


Barrett Tagliarino

Barrett Tagliarino