(20 replies, posted in Acoustic)

As I recall... all those many years ago when I learned I learned with a pick in my hand and the technique I used is based on a flat picking style. I used it at the time because I found it easier than finger picking and I was playing a lot of Gordon Lightfoot so to emulate the artist I focused on a pick style that honors the root of each chord. You find over time that this leads to a practiced picking technique that really makes the pick position relative to the strings almost instinctive.
As others have said, I too use my pinky on the pick guard as an anchor... coincidentally, it was that planted pinky that eventually allowed me to learn finger picking as well since this is (for me at least) an essential means of keeping your hand in the right place to do what you want.
At the end of the day though, we all know its about practice. Seems we just can't escape that!

So many people who come visit at my house see the few guitars I generally keep out on their stands for easy access (like many players I have several guitars and the collections continually grows and shrinks as I buy and sell... anyway). Most people ask me - why have three guitars sitting there? They all look the same so what's the difference between them?

Well, one is a laminated spruce top, one is a solid cedar top and one has a cutaway and built in pickup with EQ and tuner. They all sound different and I have them set up slightly differently. On one I use Elixor strings, while on another I use Dadario. One I generally keep in a drop - D tuning, another is a standard tuning. One guitar has loads of resonance while another is much softer.

I could go on and on about the differences. None of my guitars I currently own are very pricey - they average between $600 to $1200. One guitar I have and still play often is one I bought 20 years ago or more for $250 - it has stood up very nicely to the years and the use and has just improved with age.
So - moral of the story is this:
There definitely is an advantage to buying quality, but don't think of the price tag as necessarily the mark of quality. Look for something in the "average" range and take lots and lots of time to play different guitars, ask people what they like and why and eventually get something that you like.
Oh, and trust me - if you stick with it you'll probably do a bit of buying and selling as your tastes change. That can be part of the fun!


(25 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I remember years ago when I was teaching myself (well... re-learning actually after taking lessons as a kid) I used to buy books that were a "made easy for guitar" series. So they had different artists or genres and they were presented with super tab in a really easy to play format. There are many 3 chord songs in those I'm sure... I'm just not sure if they still make those books - geez, I'm feeling old now!

Anyway - the only other thing I would very strongly recommend is that if you can play those three chords fairly easily (and it sounds like you can) you should definitely start to expand your base a bit.
Start with an Am, which is just one finger movement from the C. Then, if you can do that then move all three fingers all up one string and viola - you have an E! and if you can do that, then the Em is right there... soon you'll see that you can quickly expand your G,C,D knowledge into 8 or 10 chords pretty easily. As you do this your level of enjoyment will bloom along with your ability to take on more and more tunes!

Good luck with it - keep playing (that's the biggest thing you can do for yourself).


(12 replies, posted in Acoustic)

NELA wrote:

If you want a place to play and sing why don't you start your own? We did. There is a building in our community that is set up to where you can reserve it for parties, family reunions, wedding receptions or a little "pickin' n grinnin'. Since I knew the people who were in charge of the building I went to them and asked if we could put a group together to play there twice a month. They jumped on it. We play the 1st and 3rd Saturday night of each month. We got a local band with drums, keyboard, bass, lead guitar, rythem guitar that kinda serves as a house band ( and I get to set in with them on rythem guitar all night long). We all get out turns at the mike and get to do 4 to 8 songs each. We do allow anyone who wants to sing and play time at the mike and if asked we will play for them. We have had crowds of between 30 and 50 people since we been doing this. The key to doing this is to find out what type of music the local people like and be sure to add that to your program. Since the people in this community are older, church folk we started out doing old country and some light gospel music. As these people got to knowing us and we got to know them a little better we started getting some requests. These requests were for blues, '60s rock n roll and some straight out "honky-tonk" music. Now we got them up on their feet, hollering and clapping and really enjoying themselves.

Getting this set up is easy. Find out what the community people want to hear and play that. Set up a house band BUT offer time for anyone who to perform to do so. Make sure the everyone knows it is LIVE MUSIC and not a sing-a-long to a CD. Get the community people involved, set up for snack foods and cold drinks and don't be afraid to ask people to bring something = chips, dip, sandwiches, drinks. Come early, set up the sound system, meet and greet the people as they come in and stay late and make sure everything is clean when you leave. And SING / PLAY WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR!

We played for 4 hours last night, had a good crowd and everyong was coming up and telling us how much they liked the music as they left. We also got a whole lotta " do you know...............?


I love that kind of thing.
I used to play at a pub fairly regularly in a little touristy kind of town where the after dinner crowd was a more mature audience and just loved hearing some local sounds and always came up with some decent requests. It really is a ton of fun in the right environment.


(10 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I'm curious to know if this is a constant thing or only sporadic? Also I wonder - did this just start happening after the guitar sounding fine for a long time prior to this?
The reason I ask is 1) if it is only sporadic it may be related to how you're playing. I know that there are times when I pick up my guitar, get half way through a song and just put it back down because for whatever reason I'm not playing it well at that moment. No fault of the guitar, just has more to do with my own mood or energy level. 2) if this is something that has just slowly crept into the sound over a bit of time but it was fine before it is probably the strings. It could also be the guitar mellowing with age. Things like temperature, humidity and exposure to sunlight can affect the tone of the guitar pretty quickly and can also take it out of tune pretty fast.
Just some things to think about, but as a first step I'd slap some new strings on to her and see if she smiles back at you. If the strings you currently have on are getting long in the tooth it could be just as simple as that.
Good luck.


(21 replies, posted in Acoustic)

As it seems everyone here has said, yes it will come with practice. Of that there is no doubt so be encouraged by that - we've all been there.
Also, don't convince yourself that your fingers all need to be landing on all the right strings in all the right places at exactly the same time each time you form a new chord! This simply isn't so. Before responding to you here I picked up my guitar and strummed a few chords with changes between them and tried to pay attention to how my fingers form the chords (this of course led me to play "Last Dance with Mary-Jane" as soon as I heard the Am - it just popped into my head, but I digress, lol). But that was an interesting exercise because like most here I chord instinctively now after over 20 years of playing. But I noticed that I have developed my own style whereby I tend to "root" my finger location with one finger and the rest follow immediately. So for instance with a D my 3rd finger hits the 2nd string in the 3rd fret first and the others are almost instantly in place right behind them. Of course this is also a technique you can play with by expanding that laps between the "root" finger landing and the others following - kind of a hammer on type of thing, but for now just relax about it, know that it will come in time and don't stop practicing.

crevs.1972 wrote:

I've spent another few hours this morning practising and one thing I've noticed is that you can give the barre versions more "wwmmph"..if you know what I mean?

The sound also goes a bit "tinny" the further up I go on the acoustic but it's fine on the electic so I guess thats down to me and the acoustic not being as forgiving as the strat?

You're right that you can give the barre chords more "wwmmph". Of course, they also return to you more wwmmph because now you are utilizing six strings instead of say just four (compare the sound of F barred vs. F played open for example). So you can easily see then why the barre chords are going to have a place in your kit bag of techniques.
As for the Strat vs. acoustic there are a couple of things. First, yes, generally speaking the electric is going to be much easier to barre than the acoustic. But particularly with the acoustic it is important that it is set up properly - that your action is where it should be. Also using lighter strings can be quite helpful on the acoustic when you're practicing the barre chords. Some buddies have recommended Elixor strings to me and I haven't tried them on my own guitars yet, although I did try them on my buddy's Taylor and found them to be very smooth feeling which is good for a guy like me who doesn't play as much as I used to since I no longer perform (decided I needed a job to be able to eat and buy beers - lol). I suspect they might be a good choice for learning the barre chords as well.


(45 replies, posted in Acoustic)

tunedeaf wrote:

Hi Rich:

Here we go again! <img src="images/smiley_icons/icon_rolleyes.gif" border=0 alt="Rolling Eyes">

Once more I'm about to aggravate the purists and serious players here who will inevitably say "practice practice practice", and they are of course correct.

Playing the full fingerings of any chord does indeed sound better, and I'm sure that with the recommended finger strengthening exercises and months of the aforementioned practice, practice, practice, most people could eventually play all the barred chords reasonably well.

If they did'nt first get frustrated to all get out and quit.

I'd be willing to bet that F and Bm and the rest of the barred chords have much to do with a lot of guitars gathering dust in unopened closets.

That being said, there are definitely easier ways to play F and Bm than the official and proper fingerings.

For those of us with no delusions of ever being Liona Boyd or Eric Clapton, F can be fingered 003211 with the first finger fretting e and b on the first fret , the index finger fretting g on the second and your ring finger fretting D on the third fret.

Bm can be done 004432 with first finger second fret e, index finger third fret b, ring finger fourth fret g and baby finger also on fourth fret but on the D string.

Yes I know that this isn't proper and that there are the dreaded open strings and that I will probably burn in Hell for attempting to seduce a beginner away from the pure and proper path to true guitar enlightenment, but to heck with it.

I play because I love to play and if making some chords easier, if less than perfect, keeps us amateurs pickin and grinnin rather than fumin and fussin and storing our guitars in the closet, then it's all good for me.

O.K. purists....let the Tunedeaf bashing begin! <img src="images/smiley_icons/icon_lol.gif" border=0 alt="Laughing">

This isn't a bad idea tunedeaf. I actually agree with both the purist vision of "do it the right way all the way" AND the novice with no illusions idea that making it simple probably will give the beginner some enjoyment from the guitar rather than it sitting in the closet. I think it comes down to what you want to achieve.
BUT - I will say that using the simplified versions should be recognized as a step along the way rather than the destination. By that I mean its great if it gets you playing, but by virtue of that playing you will realize at some point that further progress requires you to learn the barres.
I think your version of the F chord is bang on - even advanced players sometimes use this. But as for the Bm I think the person who asked this question should realize the only difference between the simplified version tunedeaf posted and the proper barre is the position of the index finger. Therefore, if you can play the simple version you are one small step away from learning a very useful barre chord. Its a good place to start and move on from there. All hail the sweet Bm. It might be the big step you're looking for!


(12 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Although I've done some performing in bars both solo and with a couple of small local bands I've never played an open-mic except when I was in university. The university scene was great because you'd get a variety of styles and skill levels and for the most part the audience is there because they want to hear the music - you know, the whole "being all intellectual" and all that. But it was fun.
Coincidentally, I recently saw Ashley MacIsaac - a great Cape Breton fiddler - playing at a "listening room" venue in Halifax, N.S. Canada and even in the listening room environment once the booze begins to take effect the yapping grows. Staff were trying to "shush" people but then Ashley said he thought people should be able to talk and carry on because he felt it meant they were enjoying the music and enjoying themselves and he feeds off that kind of crowd dynamic. So to each their own I guess.
For me if its a true open mic event then the audience should be going there to listen to music. Some talking and having fun is appropriate, but honestly folks - give the performers a bit of a break and listen to them play. If you don't want to do that you are probably in the wrong place and should go to the pub down the road where the stereo is cranked up and nobody gives a damn how loud you are.

I think this is a great question and the number of replies with different opinions seems to prove that. Here's my two cents worth...
My answer is that there is no absolute answer. By that I mean there are so many variables to consider. For instance, are you only interested in playing on the couch at home or around a campfire with a few friends and some cold "pop"? If so you may not really need to work too hard on learning the barre chords and will be fine just playing open whenever possible (keeping in mind that some barre chords are "must haves" in your tool kit - such as Bm). But if you want your horizon to never really be in sight, you want to be able to keep expanding and really play at a high level you'll need the barre chords for various reasons. For instance, you will significantly grow your library of tunes you can play if you have barre chord abilities. Someone here mentioned "Sultans of Swing". That's a great example because it can be played with open or barred chords but most people agree the barre version is much better. Mark Knopfler once said he keeps things as simple as possible (of course everything is relative - simple for him is complex for most mortals). But his point is well taken - don't overly complicate a tune if you don't have to, but at the same time make sure you do enough justice to it. If it "should" be played barred, then its probably worth learning that way. Otherwise you end up with a simplified or "dumbed down" version.
At least that's how I look at it. Cheers!


(5 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Here's a few ideas.
First is this little web site I found and I quite like it because it gives you standard tuning along with several alternative tunings so when you encounter songs that are played in alternate tuning this will still be a helpful site:
Also, electronic tuners are pretty cheap these days. I use a Korg GA-30 that I bought several years ago for 20 bucks. It features your standard E A D G B E tuning in 440 hz as well as "quinta" tuning allowing you to tune down up to five semi tones. It has and lcd level indicator, sharp and flat led indicator lights a jack to plug in for electric guitar and an audible tone option if you want to tune by ear. That's pretty good for a $20 tuner! There are several like this available for small money.
Lastly, I suggest also getting a tuning fork because it will help you develop your ear for the right tone. With it you will tune one string to the fork's pitch, then tune the other strings in relation to that and to each other. The benefit here is that when you're playing and hear that something's just off a little you'll know how to check each string's tuning and make a couple of small adjustments without having to pull out the tuner or go online in the middle of jamming.
Lots of people see tuning as just a chore standing in the way of getting down to playing, but embracing the tuning process will pay good dividends in the long run.


(23 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Here's something that might amuse you.
20 or so years ago I was roughly a "1 year" player like you are now. I've always been a big fan of Gordon Lightfoot and so one of the ways I learned to play was by focusing on the stuff that I knew how it should sound - i.e. a lot of Gordon Lightfoot. I bought the anthology and learned many songs from it. One day I was playing for some family and friends and my sister gently said to me - gee, you play that stuff really well... but do you know any other stuff, because the Lightfoot is getting boring.
Well, with that I set out to expand my horizons and now 20 years later I find a couple of things. One is that I have developed a particular kind of style that finds its way into whatever I play, but it is definitely not a repeated strum pattern... rather, its just a kind of style, if that makes any sense. Oh - the other thing is that I no longer remember most of those Lightfoot tunes, lol.
My point is that I had to challenge myself to play things that were much different than what I had gotten comfortable with. When I was doing that, every song I learned seemed to feel like I was learning the guitar all over again. That was a little frustrating because I felt like after making such progress, suddenly I was back at square one again. But in time square one was actually square two, and so on. So to break the little "rut" you find yourself in, you need to take on songs that just will not fit into that rut. If that turns into starting a new rut, well at least now you have two. And keep expanding from there. I think its a life long road and you wont have all the answers in 1, 10, or 100 years of playing, but the more you try new things, the more the lessons learned from that will give you a variety of tools to pick from when you play.
I'm not sure this ramble makes a lot of sense, but I hope you kind of get what I'm trying to say at least.
Just keep moving forward and don't worry about where you're going with it, but focus on the enjoyment you experience along the way.
All the best to you!


(2 replies, posted in Song requests)

That's awesome topdown - thanks. I wasn't familiar with that site, but it looks good. I'll have to check it out a little more.


(2 replies, posted in Song requests)

I haven't scoured the planet in my search yet, but thought someone here might be able to point me in the right direction quickly for the chords & lyrics to Serena Ryder's "Weak in The Knees".
If not, I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and dissect the tune note by note to figure it out.


(45 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I don't consider myself a "purist" and I have no problem with cheating on a couple of chords in order to allow you to keep learning and progressing. After all, as some have mentioned here, there are many guitars collecting dust in closets because of new players getting frustrated with tough new chords that are quite frankly not so easy to get the hang of.
So I say go for it - by all means learn the little tips being offered here if it will keep you playing. Just do yourself a favor and never settle for that in the long run. I've been playing for around 20 years or better now and I occasionally struggle with a chord here and there and I still need to practice at least a little every day to keep up on things. So do what you must in the early stages to keep interested, but keep challenging yourself to take on those chords that seem impossible right now.


(6 replies, posted in Acoustic)

It would help if you tell us who your audience is, what their general tastes are, what kind of music you like to play and what level of ability you feel you are at. I suspect those tidbits will get some suggestions flowing.


(9 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Ok, maybe its because I'm getting a little older and mellowing with age, but I hear your question, or rather you request for a "challenge" in a bit of a different way. If its just hot licks you want, then just ignore the rest of what I'm saying - that's cool.
But listening to what you tell us you're playing now and hearing the suggestions others are making to you I think you should challenge yourself to play something peaceful and packed with emotion rather than trying to get more and more sizzling licks to scream from your finger tips.
Many great rock artists have done this with sometimes astounding results. One that comes to mind is "Beth" by Kiss. Another interesting approach might be to play something like Whiskey in The Jar, like Metallica did, but go find the Evans & Doherty, or other Irish musician's more original version and master that - Gaelic lyrics and all - then switch it into the Metallica style and see if knowing where the tune came from makes any difference to how you feel about where it is now.
You could be surprised at how diversifying your talents and understanding of music will effect the way you play. Try not to forget that it isn't always about the destination - sometimes the journey itself is where the real joy is.
However you find new challenges, I wish you all the best!


(29 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I've said before in a different post that I think Fender expects its sales to come from the fact that it says "Fender" on the guitar. I totally agree that Fender does not compete all that well in the acoustic market. Of course, I smile from ear to ear every time I pick up my Strat., so let's give credit where credit is due.
But in the acoustic market there are so many really good guitars in such a wide variety of price ranges that Fender sure has failed to live up to the name they build around the Strats & Telecasters. IMHO.


(7 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Hello nmontgomery.
I have to say that the very first thing that struck me about your post is that you've only been playing for a very short while. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that you're having some of these problems and I think you'll find that in almost every response the one thing everybody here can agree on without a doubt is that practice makes the difference.
I hear what NELA is saying about finger position, but personally - and this is just me - I don't like that approach for two reasons. One is that it actually adds another thing to learn/remember and the other is that it can sometimes result in incorrect finger technique which might come back to haunt you later when you're learning many more chords.
My advice is to learn the chords properly, one at a time and just keep practicing until they become second nature and you no longer have to think about where you're putting your fingers. What is helpful, if you're at the stage where you can do it, is to practice other songs as well which will build on the flexibility to switch between the chords in different ways. For instance, another good song to try with the same chords you mention is "Time of Your Life".
I guess the point is that just as you have to walk before you can run, you also have to learn chords and how to switch between them before you can get too worried about mastering strum patterns techniques.
Just my two cents worth :-)


(19 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Ok - this is freaky. My hair is longer now than it has been in years and I've recently learned at least a few new tunes. Hmmm.... now I'm afraid that if I get a haircut I'll forget those new tunes.
I think I'll have a bevy and think about it.


(6 replies, posted in Acoustic)

OK - gonna jump on the band wagon here. These guys have said it like it is my friend. Spend hours (maybe not all at once), but hours with your guitar and the recording and work it out.
One little trick that I use though to figure out the structure of a song is rather than trying to play along with a song's rhythm, try picking out a lead. This will get you going up and down the fret board finding out where certain strings make the right sounds and if you already know what the song's basic chords are you will definitely learn from this experience, not to mention you might gain some speed and accuracy with fingering.
Also, a good song to get you picking up on the little fingering tricks is Wild World by Cat Stevens. The little run in the chorus takes some practice (here's a tip - it begins with the open F) but it will give you some new confidence and again, help you to hear what kinds of sounds can happen with just a little effort. Lastly, if you're playing by ear along with the recording make absolutely sure your guitar is tuned to concert pitch (440 hz). Otherwise it will never sound quite right.
Cheers & good luck!


(7 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Well maybe you already know this one, but try learning, and then playing around with Folsome Prison Blues (Johnny Cash). It uses a chord that I love for getting some nice bluesy sounds and that magic little chord is the Bm7. So with E, A and Bm7 and mixing up the tempo and then working in a bit of a bluesy riff after the second verse you can really have some fun with it.
For me I think at some point in time I just stepped out of my little comfort zone and started to "create" sounds that worked well. Once those juices start flowing it just seems to keep coming. You just need a kind of breakthrough moment.
Good luck!


(18 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I say go for some experimenting with alternate tunings. A great start is to try Bruce Cockburn's Wondering Where the Lions Are in drop to D tuning (drop the low E to match the sound of the D). Add a capo in the 2nd fret and this is a beauty! If you have a lot of patience, you can also try Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy either in drop D or even double drop D (tune both E strings to match the D). Experiment with the capo on this tune and again - pure magic baby! Biggest trouble with this one is remembering all the words.
Also here's a link to a nifty little site that will get you thinking and playing with tunings:
Have fun with it and don't be afraid to try some new things. Good luck!


(42 replies, posted in Acoustic)

I had lost track of who posted the original question, then figured out that it was Meggity who is now recovering from some surgery. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery my friend, and even if playing the guitar is a little out of reach for now, I know I can always find comfort in great music. I hope you can too.
Best wishes!


(42 replies, posted in Acoustic)

Haven't looked at all the replies, but I saw a lot of people suggesting you play the open F using the first 4 strings instead of the full barre version. I can tell you that this will definitely get you playing those songs with an F - after 20 + years I still use the open F. But, don't let your progress stall there. If you want to open up a whole world of possibilities for yourself you need to know how to play the barre version because it isn't just F, but the same technique will give you the entire fret board to work with. A good example of a tune where I play the barre instead of the open F is "Sultans of Swing", but then again I play the entire song with barre chords. I do this because when you compare the full sound of the barre chord to the weaker sounding open chord cousins you realize the barres make the difference, plus you can slide into other chords rather than just switching to them which is a whole new level of sweet sounds!