The Blog

Guitar Workshop “Exploring the Fretboard” – Saturday, March 31st

Parker is teaching a Guitar Workshop on Saturday, March 31st from 10:00-11:30 am. The workshop is titled “Exploring the Fretboard” and is great for intermediate to advanced teens and adults.

This session will focus on how to use five open chord shapes to map out the entire fretboard using the CAGED system. This chord based approach to soloing is helpful for the beginning to advanced improviser. If you are tired of playing the same licks or if you are looking to improvise for the first time, this is a great opportunity to learn among fellow Guitar Shedders.

Differences between harmonic concepts, practice techniques and ear training will be discussed. Below are the details…

  • Saturday, March 31st at Guitar Shed
  • 10:00-11:30 am
  • $30 for current students
  • $40 for new students
  • Limited to 20 students

To sign up either send an email to lessons@guitarshedatl.com, or register in the student portal.

March 14, 2018 Comments Off on Guitar Workshop “Exploring the Fretboard” – Saturday, March 31st

Guest Author: Marc-Andre Seguin

About the Author

Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar. Marc-Andre was kind enough to reach out and create a custom blog post for our students at Guitar Shed. I mentioned to him that one of the main things our students are struggling with is being able to keep the form of a song. Read on for some very insightful tips and advice. Thanks Marc-Andre!

Tips to Learning Chord Progressions

Learning a new song song, especially the sequence of chords, can be a long and daunting task. Here are a few tips to help you memorize the order of chords in any song you wish to play. Although the first suggestion is quite simple, the rest of the article is really something you should take your time with. If you manage to incorporate this into your musical understanding, you will reap the benefits in the long term and have an easier time understanding music in general.

Break the song up into sections

If you take the time to divide the song into sections and then smaller chunks if needed, you’ll have a much easier time remembering the music as a whole. For example, take the time to identify the choruses as opposed to verses. Usually, these will have different progressions and will have lengths of 4 or 8 bars. It will make things a lot less daunting and easier to chew on. Some songs have also bridges to consider.

When starting out, it’s a good idea to actually write the chords out on a piece of paper. Draw out a grid with 4 bars per line (I simply draw 5 vertical lines with even space between them to make up the 4 bars). Then, making sure you count the beats, write in the chords. For every beat that repeats the same harmony, write a single slash to keep track of the harmonic rhythm, which is simply a nice way of saying when the chords change. Keep track of each section and label them when needed. Once you’ve written out the whole song, seeing the music in parts like this will help you memorize the music by breaking it down to smaller, more manageable pieces. Here is a short example to illustrate a simple chart:

Verse

| G / / / | C / / / | G / / / | D / / / |

Chorus

| G / / / | / / / / | D / / / | / / / / |

At this point, if you are a beginner or simply having trouble committing songs to memory, it’s a matter of memorizing the chords, by name, until you can play each section by heart. It’s a tedious process, but it’s part of the bigger picture which will enable you to see patterns and accelerate the learning process.

Calling the chords by roman numerals, rather than by name

Eventually, once you’ve spent enough time simply learning songs chord by chord, it’ll be time to enhance you’re theoretical knowledge to eventually help you learn faster and even transpose music quickly.

The first thing that you’ll need to be capable of doing, is identifying the key of a song. A fast and almost foolproof way of doing this is checking out the last chord of the piece. To be sure though, the simplest way at this point is to first write down all the unique chords present in the piece of music you are looking at. Then, starting from the root of each of those chords, write down the corresponding major or minor scale that start from that note. If you have a 7th chord in a piece that’s not a blues song, chances are that the key won’t be from that scale, so you can skip those. Once you’ve written out all the notes, compare each and every note in the scales you wrote down with the roots of the other chords in your song. If something is out of place (for example you might have a Bb chord in your list when you write out the C major scale – that scale doesn’t include B flats) go to the next chord until you find the perfect scale that fits the roots of all the chords.

Once you’ve determined the scale you are in, you will now be able to attribute roman numerals to the chords and effectively perform musical analysis to explain the music you have. Simply attribute the numerals to each chord in the progression relative to their position in the scale. For example, if you determine that the song is in C major and you see an F chord, that F would be IV (being the fourth note in C major). Repeat this procedure for the rest of the chords. If you wrote out the song in sections like mentioned previously, you can focus on sections and learn the progression in smaller chunks. You might end up with something looking like this for a particular section (with the respective harmony of your music):

| I / / / | VIm / / / | IV / / / | V / / / |

Eventually, this type of analysis will be made in your head and will come very quickly, especially if you do it often. On the guitar, it’s easy to then perform these sequences if you play with bar chords, streamlining the learning process to simply remembering the changes as jumps corresponding to the scale tones rather than a sequence of seemingly open random chords.

Another advantage of this type of analysis and playing is that once you become faster at recognizing the harmony changes as numerals, transposing music will be much simpler. By simply applying the numerals to the new key, it will be easier to call upon the correct chord this way than transposing each and every chord in the progression.

Recognizing common progressions

The more you apply roman numerals to chords, the more you will start to see recurring formulas. Although music itself is limitless, the progressions aren’t and our ears seem to gravitate towards a handful of sequences, preferences that are usually explained with theoretical concepts. You probably have come across a very famous progression called the blues. This relatively simple progression spans 12 bars and visits the IVth and Vth chords of a scale and inspired countless of songs, melodies and solos. Here it is in it’s simplest form:

| I7 / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | | IV7 / / / | / / / / | I7 / / / | / / / / | | V7 / / / | / / / / | I7 / / / | / / / / |

You should be able to play this at any key and visualize each change before it happens. This kind of rigorous learning will cross over to other progressions and make your life learning things a lot easier. Here are a few other common progressions you should be aware of:

– | I / / / | IV / / / | V / / / | I / / / |

– | I / / / | IIm / / / | V / / / | I / / / |

– | IIIm / / / | VIm / / / | IIm / / / | V / / / |

Although there are a lot of things to learn, you should definitely invest time in teaching yourself to identify song keys quickly and break down the chord progressions into numerical grids. You’ll be surprised how fast your understanding and ear training will develop and help you anticipate harmonic movement.

 

February 14, 2018 Comments Off on Guest Author: Marc-Andre Seguin

Guitar Workshops

I am excited to be conducting a few workshops in the upcoming months! Here’s what’s on tap…

GMEA (Georgia Music Educators Association) Conference

  • Friday – Jan 26, 2018
    • 8:45 – 9:45 am
      • Exploring the Fretboard – Improvising using the CAGED system
  • Saturday – Jan 27, 2018
    • 11:15 – 12:15 pm
      • Guitarists Need Rhythm – Teaching Strumming and Finger Picking Patterns through Songwriting

Cayamo

  • February 4-11, 2018
    • Guitarist Need Rhythm – strumming and finger picking patterns (Beginner / Intermediate)
    • Make it Sing – finding your voice on the guitar (Beginner / Intermediate)
    • Exploring the Fretboard – chord shapes and scales up the neck (Intermediate / Advanced)

ASTA (American String Teachers’ Association) Conference

  • Saturday – March 10, 2018
    • 7:00-8:00 am
      • Art of the Jazz Duo: Where Chamber Music Meets Improvisation
      • Duets offer an unparalleled opportunity for two musicians to converse in an intimate, exposed setting. Many jazz musicians have used this to their advantage, creating works that sound closer to modern chamber music. Presenters Greg Byers and Parker Smith will explore the rich history of jazz duets, demonstrate strategies each half can employ, and outline how students of any ability level can listen and interact with a partner.

Guitar Shed

  • Saturday – March 31, 2018
    • 10:00-11:30 am
      • Exploring the Fretboard – Improvising using the CAGED system
      • This session will focus on how to use five open chord shapes to map out the entire fretboard. This chord based approach to soloing is helpful for the beginning to advanced improviser. Differences between harmonic concepts, practice techniques and ear training will be discussed.
        • $30 for current students $40 for new students
January 18, 2018 Comments Off on Guitar Workshops

Fall Student Showcase Recap

Great job in the Fall Student Showcase at The Pullman everyone! At Guitar Shed there is a performance opportunity for each season. We have a Spring and Fall Student Showcase as well as a Summer and Winter Recital. Keep an eye out for more performance opportunities in addition to these soon!

At our Fall Student Showcase this past weekend we had some first time performers as well as seasoned veterans. All of our Guitar Shedders played beautifully! Thank you for having the courage to perform in front of a live audience. I encourage you to treat each performance as a unique learning opportunity and treat them objectively. It takes some effort to be able to objectively view both the positive and negative aspects of your performance. Make sure to use all aspects of your playing as a tool to keep your ego in check.

There is much to be learned from the performance process and a variety of internal and external factors can affect your desired outcome. By performing regularly, you are able to diminish performance anxiety and grow exponentially as a musician.

Keep Shedding!

September 13, 2017 Comments Off on Fall Student Showcase Recap

iGen + Music = Happiness

After listening to a segment on NPR about generation “iGen” I couldn’t help but think about the role music plays in mental health. iGen refers to children born in the mid 1990’s or later and is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. Most of our young students at Guitar Shed fall into this age range and are doing great things to not succumb to the pitfalls of their generation. They are playing music!

You know what is great about music lessons? During a lesson we are playing music, and if we do use our phones (which is very rare) it is for a tuner or a metronome…not Snapchat or Instagram. Students and teachers are developing a relationship in the real world without distractions.

Music lessons also get people out of the house! There is a reason we don’t do in-home lessons or online lessons at Guitar Shed. Community. We see all of our students and families every week and watch them grow with each performance. We know about their struggles and victories, encouraging them every step of the way.

Studies show that teenagers in iGen are much physically safer, but on the brink of a mental health crisis. Some of the negative impacts that have been linked to too much screen time are loneliness, depression, isolation, sleep deprivation, increased suicide attempts, lack of focus… the list goes on.

An article about iGen in the Atlantic gives the following advice…. “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.” Although iGen is the target of this discussion, we adults are not immune either. There are countless benefits to playing and learning an instrument, but now we all need music more than ever.

August 31, 2017 Comments Off on iGen + Music = Happiness

Practicing Tools – Recommended Software

Many of my students know that I like to utilize a few different software programs in our lessons. Here are the main three that I use on a daily basis.


Metronomics 

Price: $4.99 mobile app $7.99 desktop

This is my favorite metronome to use because it is easy to use and there are several features for the advanced musician as well. Many kids complain about metronomes because the sound of the “click” is annoying. This app is great because you can choose from several different percussion instruments (i.e. bongos, snare drum, wood blocks, etc.). You can also build your own drum grooves to make a drum loop that sounds very realistic. Within each instrument you can control the volume, probability, and subdivision length. All of that at a very friendly price!


Transcribe

Price: $39 desktop only

I tell all of my students “this is what got me through college.” As a music major I had many assignments to transcribe complex pieces. The most important feature of this software is the ability to SLOW things down without altering the pitch. There are several other programs out there, but I have been using this for 10 years and they are continually updating it with improvements. In the “old days” musicians would slow down the speed of a record player to try and learn songs by ear. This is the 21st century version of that same concept, time to get on board and use your ears folks!


iReal

Price: $12.99 mobile app $19.99 desktop

This app is a game changer. A “Real Book” is a collection of charts that has been used in Jazz for decades. This software takes that concept to a whole new level. There are robust play-a-long features, the ability to create your own charts and vast forums online to download songs from. All of the charts in the forums are free and as you can see from the screenshot, my collection includes bluegrass, blues, jazz and more. If you are looking for software and jam tracks to play-a-long too, look no further.

July 12, 2017 Comments Off on Practicing Tools – Recommended Software

Songwriting 101 – Sunday, May 21

Want to write songs but don’t know where to start? Anyone with a basic knowledge of music can write a song! Learn how to put together a chord progression, a melody, and lyrics to create a lasting piece of art to call your own. We will discuss common song forms, study some techniques of the great songwriters throughout history, and every student will leave the workshop with their own original song!

Brandon has been writing songs for 10+ years, both as a solo artist and with various bands over the years. He has approached songwriting from both a self-taught perspective and under the systems of the classical tradition. We will learn some of the basic “rules” for songwriting, and in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, learn how to break them.

$30 for Current Students
$40 for Non Students

Sign up in our online portal at www.guitarshedatl.com or email lessons@guitarshedatl.com

March 31, 2017 Comments Off on Songwriting 101 – Sunday, May 21

Student Showcase Recap

Big thanks to all of the performers and attendees at our first Student Showcase! Piano, guitar, violin, voice and ukulele were all represented along with a variety of age groups.

It takes courage to get up in front of an audience and perform. Several internal and external distractions have the ability to derail any performance. A musical mistake or error can be defined as a difference between the intended and actual musical outcome. How we deal with these unexpected outcomes is up to us. In my private lessons, a lot of what we work on is how to recover from these mishaps. How do you pick yourself up and move forward? Most of the time, the audience is unaware of a mistake and the only time they notice is when the performer makes it obvious.

To quote Zachary Poulter in Teaching Improv in your Jazz Ensemblethese “experiences prepare students for a world of increasing ambiguity by enabling them to confront and transcend uncertainty.” Every time you get up on stage to perform, you are one step closer to becoming a better musician and a better human. So keep learning, keep shedding and keep performing!

Thank you to our neighborhood pub, The Pullman for hosting!

 

March 27, 2017 Comments Off on Student Showcase Recap

Beginner Keyboard Gift Guide

Looking to purchase an affordable keyboard for a beginner? This is a guest post is from our piano teacher Christopher Case that will be able to point you in the right direction…

“I have done a lot of looking and I really like the Williams keyboards as far as sound and functionality goes. They are a little pricier, but solid and without a lot of the flashy bells and whistles that most beginners don’t need. Just a solid piano style keyboard”

Williams Legato Digital Piano ($199)

“The Yamahas are a reliable option as well. The used ones on here are slightly cheaper. These are known to sound good and be durable, and they tack on some extra sounds and drumbeat type things.”

Yamaha YPG-235 ($199)

“This Casio might also be a good choice if you want to keep it under $150, although I do think the lack of keys would be an issue. Still plenty to get you started without breaking the bank.”

Casio CTK2400 ($117.95)

December 14, 2016 Comments Off on Beginner Keyboard Gift Guide

When did you start playing guitar?

I received my first guitar for Chanukah in December of 1996. I was 10 years old and I can vividly remember unwrapping the large box in our living room and seeing the hardshell case. At first I thought it was a trombone (not sure why) but then as I pulled the case out of the box I realized it was an acoustic guitar. I had been asking for a guitar for what seemed like eons, so the moment was surreal. My mom thought the guitar would be just like the gameboy, sega genesis, computer, baseball cards, movies, and million other material things that I needed to have and discarded along the way. Fortunately for both of us the guitar stuck.

It was a modest Mitchell acoustic guitar and it came with a book and videotape. My excitement was met with some initial frustration and confusion when I opened the book and watched the video. Like any kid, I wanted instant gratification and wanted everything to sound amazing right away. This was not my first time picking up guitar; but up until then my exposure was limited to watching adults strumming chords and friends showing me simple one string riffs on their guitars. Hearing and seeing all of this new information for the first time was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. Also, it did not sound amazing.

For the moment it was back to my one string riffs and turning the pegs on the end of the guitar so they all lined up (kids don’t try this at home). My curiosity and determination won over and eventually I was able to play some recognizable melodies. This was the beginning of a lifelong journey that continues to this day. I’m still looking forward to learning that next song.

If your child expresses a specific interest in an instrument, get them one! Sign them up for lessons. You’ll never know if it will stick unless you try.

September 30, 2016 Comments Off on When did you start playing guitar?