Music theory is the study of the logic behind music. Fretboard harmony is music theory as it applies to the guitar. At some point in every guitarist’s journey there comes a time when learning songs by other people is no longer enough. That’s why every aspiring guitarist should eventually acquire some understanding of fretboard harmony to further their guitar skills. Understanding the fretboard and music theory opens up a whole new world to the guitar player by revealing the logic behind music. It enables one to better improvise and compose music as well as better understand why their favorite songs sound so good.
As someone who came to his knowledge of the fretboard in a very round-about way, let me assure you that a lot of time can be saved with a more structured approach. This is the book that I recommend to my students who are ready to go beyond learning songs and venture out into the world of scales, chords, freboard patterns, harmony and intervals.
Guitar Fretboard Workbook by Barrett Tagliarino is a great resource because it is not just a book but a workbook with exercises and fretboard maps for you to fill in to reinforce what you have learned. It has a very structured, building-block approach that starts with the most basic topics such as “root-shapes” and slowly builds on what you know until the fretboard is no longer a mystery but web of relationships that make sense. I wish I had this book when I was first learning.
The word “recital” has terrible connotations doesn’t it? High pressure for the performers, but cold, robotic and boring for the audience. That’s why in December, Dan’s Guitar Studio will be hosting its first JAM PARTY! – a time where all students and their friends/family are invited to Keys 4/4 Kids to perform (if your a student) as well as hear other students perform in a laid back, fun, supportive environment.
I’ve been helping students pick out songs that they would like to share at the Jam Party. I’ve also been making jam tracks for the songs that they select so they have some accompaniment while they perform. Here is a sample jam track for “Last Nite” by the Strokes that one of my pupils will be rocking out to.
I am encouraging all my students to attend because it is a great chance to get some performing experience and connect with other guitarists and hear what they have been working on – not to mention eat holiday snacks and refreshments. It should be a fun evening!
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts is great beginner guitar riff that I have worked on with a few students. I like to give beginning guitar players simple, bite size, easily recognizable riffs such as this one, Smoke on the Water and 12 Bar Blues in addition to chords because these riffs offer more immediate gratification to the beginner while chords can often take at least a few weeks of hard practicing before they become fluent. The intro to “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a small step up in difficulty from 12 Bar Blues and Smoke on Water because it combines power chords, bends, and some single note runs toward the end, but with a little practice anyone can be rocking this one in no time.
A lot of people don’t realize that Joan Jett’s 1981 hit version of this song was not the original which was recorded in 1975 by a band called Arrows. I highly recommend playing along with these tracks when you practice because it’s fun and helps with rhythm. Playing along with Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, ”I Love Rocky Road” is also fun.
I have enjoyed working on Oye Como Va by Carlos Santana with a couple of my students. The chords are very easy and can be strummed with a pick or plucked with your fingers. The challenging part is the rhythm which is very syncopated (accenting down and upbeats in an unexpected way). I recommend this piece for any beginner/intermediate player looking to improve their rhythm skills.
I know there is more to the song than I have notated in this PDF (above), but this is a great start without getting into the subtleties of Santana’s complete guitar solos. This version includes the vocal melody as well a short but sweet guitar solo that Santana plays at the beginning of the track. If any of my students are interested in the sheet music for the complete song, let me know!
A student recently asked me to teach them this. “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction is an insanely catchy song with a cool guitar riff that is essentially just two chords (G and A) with a couple pull-offs to decorate the A chord.
Learning this song offers the chance to practice a couple of useful ways of playing G and A chords. Notice that the 5th-string is muted by your ring finger while playing the G-chord which frees up the index finger and allows it to more fluently transition to the A-chord which is played with only your index finger by laying it across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings and the 2nd fret. This allows your ring finger to easily reach the 4th fret for the pull-offs during the A-Chord. The chorus uses a similar index finger barre covering the 2nd and 3rd strings during the Gsus2add#11 (a fancy name for a simple modification of a G chord). Arrows are included in the sheet music to indicate the strumming pattern I recommend.
For those of you who missed the last video here is a section of it that I found especially interesting where local guitar luthier Jim Blilie of Barbarossa Guitars shows us his B-00 model guitar. The design is his own. I think this guitar would especially appeal to nylon-string players who want a steel-string guitar because the body-size and length of the B-00 are those of a 20th century classical guitar. Having played one, I can personally attest that they sound great and feel good to play.
I thought I would mix it up a little and show you all a little piece that I am working on with one of my classical students who is developing his tremolo technique. The traditional Spanish folk song, Romance de Amor is a more commonly heard arranged in arpeggios but I believe it to be a good beginner tremolo piece for it is much easier than alternatives such as Recuerdos de la Alhambra or Una Limosna Por Amor de Dios by A. Barrios. Let me know if you agree!
I recently had the privilege of visiting the Barbarossa Guitars Workshop in Shoreview, MN and talking with guitar luthier, Jim Blilie. He told us about himself and the guitars he builds including his own B-00 design which I had a chance to play and can personally attest that it “plays like butter” as Jim likes to say.
If you learn “Grow Old With You” by Adam Sandler you can win your girl’s heart while bringing her to loving tears of joy just like Robbie (Adam Sandler) did to Julie (Drew Barrymore) in the hilarious 1998 romantic comedy “The Wedding Singer”. If you aren’t familiar with the scene you should check it out here. And yes, that is Billy Idol in the scene acting as a flight attendant to help Robbie save the day.
Use swing rhythm when you strum the chords and remember that a C#m is just like a Bm but at the 4th fret. Good luck!
With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, it’s time for all of us to remember why we picked up the guitar in the first place: to impress girls that are way out of our league (such as our wives or girlfriends). That’s why between now and V-Day I will be showing you how to play a few of the all-time best love songs ever sung so you can woo the object of your affection and honor your original motivation for playing the guitar.
Our first song, the classic 1961 hit, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley, is sure to make her swoon. I have provided both the lyrics with chords as well as a suggested finger picking pattern (it is also possible to use a pick) which closely mimics the piano on The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s original recording. Don’t be thrown off by the 6/8 time signature – there is nothing but straight eighth notes in my arrangement.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any requests for more love songs!