Category: Free Lessons

How to play a Bossa Nova – an introduction

I am by no means an expert on Bossa Nova, or latin styles. This is a quick little lesson on how to get started. This information comes from listening and practical experience. Learn this little thing as a way to get started. Good luck!

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Christmas Time is Here


Every year, I’ve been wroking on trying to add a new tune to my Christmas Tunes repertoire. With everything that goes on in the world, it’s easy to get caught up in all the negativity. For me, the “Charlie Brown Christmas” special has always been one of my favorites.

Here’s the chart I used. Please note that what I played was not absolutely precise to the transcription. Further, none of the solo is transcribed. I took liberties with what’s written.

If you want to know what I was thinking while improvising, it was simple: “Find notes that sound good and play those.”

…and yes. I’m being just a little bit smart-ass.

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Santa Claus is Coming To Town Fingerstyle!



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Chaplin in New Shoes

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to study with Guy Van Duser (think “Chet Atkins on Steroids”). I’d been a fan of his style for many years, but really never tried it much.

After hanging out with him a little bit, I learned two things:
-Guy is an absolute monster in this style. I can’t possible reach his level without a major re-orienting of my priorities.

-Even if that’s true, I can still make a lot of progress and actually “kinda ok”!

While surfing youtube one day, I came across this tune called “Chaplin in New Shoes” as played by (I think) a truck driver named BIll. Bill plays great and the tune won me over in about 3 seconds.

I heard the story of how/why the tune came to be later on. It was written by a fairly well-known Nashville songwriter named Bourdleaux Bryant; best known for the tunes he wrote for the Everly Bros. (“Wake Up Little Suzie”, “Dream Dream Dream” etc…).

When Mr. Bryant was informed he had cancer, the doctor gave him the “get your things in order” speech. The first thing he did was go to the local video store (this was back in the 1980′s), rent as many Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin movies as he could find, then spent the next three days eating ice cream, popcorn, and laughing.

Afterward, he wrote the tune. He passed away (approx.) six months later.

Last summer, I lost a close friend, Virginia Howe to Panceatic cancer. Days before she passed, she asked if I’d play at her ceremony. I chose this tune.

Here’s the .pdf that shows how to play it in a fair amount of detail.
Thanks!


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Jam in C minor


I’m working on setting up a little video studio. So far, I’ve got a camera, some lighting and a backdrop. Down the road, I’ll be able to improve the sound quality quite a bit. Today I just filmed this to see what it would look like once it’s up on youtube. It’s not really a song. It’s just a little jam. One take.

Here’s the Chord Progression:

Note that the chord progression is written twice. The first time is for the chords, the second time is for the “Target Notes.” We’ll get to those in a moment.
Here’s the backing track:

Here are a couple of tips:

-Before soloing, learn to play the chords over the track.  Start with the chord diagrams in the .pdf file. Find other ways to play the chords that connect things nicely.

-Try playing the “target notes” along with the track. Once you can play them, try improvising while hitting those notes, at the beginning of each chord. Work on connecting them in a smooth manner. Once you get that, create your own target notes, and practice improvising while connecting the target notes.

-B diminished 7th arpeggio is a nice choice over the G7 chord.

-Once you get comfortable with the mechanics, forget about it all and just play.

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C7 Country-ish Lick 03/21/11

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Bill Leavitt’s 5 Major Scale Fingerings

William Leavitt’s 5-Positions of the Major Scale:

Those scales are in William Leavitt’s “Modern Method for Guitar”
His approach is defined by what he calls “position playing” (position=one fret BELOW your 2nd finger). His position playing allows your hand to stay in one place while your fingers cover a six-fret area (using 1st and 4th finger stretches).

The first 5 are introduced in Volume II (I think):
Type 1 (uses one 1st finger stretch)
Type 1A (uses two 1st finger stretches)
Type 2 (no finger stretches)
Type 3 (no finger stretches)
Type 4 (uses on 4th finger stretch)

In volume three, he adds Types 1B, 1C, 1D (all using 1st finger stretches)
as well as 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 1A/4D

Making a total of 14 total fingerings. His thing was to be thorough. He admitted to using only a portion of these in his own playing, but felt that it was important to give his readers “keys to the kingdom”

Here are his 5 fingerings. enjoy.

PS: Bill was my teacher while I was at Berklee :-)
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Chet’s Blues in C

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Kisses and Hugs (the ORIGINAL version of the GP mag article)

[private]I heard Steve Morse play a lick at a gig once. It was really cool, so I stole it and turned it in to something new. Now I use it as if it’s my own. I called it the X scale because it looks like an X when written down on paper. Of course, hearing guys like Steve play always made me wonder if they had been abducted by aliens and had their brains replaced by a higher functioning cranial mechanism.
Then it came to me. The voices came from everywhere, yet nowhere. “Loooook foooorrrr The O Scaaaaale……”
It was a cosmic message (if a bit confusing). Either the aliens were sending me kinetic love messages (X’s and O’s), or perhaps weirder still, I was supposed to play a sort of celestial/musical version of tic-tac-toe (where I am the X and They are the O). Then, maybe it was just a cool guitar idea and I need help.
Either way, Example 1 shows the X scale.
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All Tapped Out

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All Tapped Out

The first time I heard Eddie Van Halen do his tapping thing, I sat in disbelief that what I was hearing was guitar. Of course, so many of us guitarists became so enamoured of that sound that we all learned how to do it. Eventually it became a cliche. Many guitarists came after Eddie to bring the technique further; Most notably Stanley Jordan and Jennifer Batten. I think the most important contribution they made was to bring it beyond a mere “stupid guitarist” trick in to an actual vocabulary.
How to do it

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