Home: 2006 |
Musicians and Weight Training
By Dr. Timothy Jameson
Copyright © 1998-2004 Timothy Jameson. All Rights Reserved.
received e-mail from a guitarist asking about the safety of
weight training. He was told by many of his instructors and
friends that weight training, especially wrist curls, would lead
to carpal tunnel syndrome. This particular person loved his
three time per week exercise routine and was really hesitant
about stopping, but at the same time did not want to risk injury
to his hands nor face giving up playing guitar because of
brought up some very interesting questions about exercising and
playing music. This column will help focus on some common
misconceptions and explain the facts about the importance of
exercise routines and injury prevention. First off, musicians
are no different than any other human being when it comes to
exercise programs. In fact, if there’s any group of people who
need to learn more about exercise, it is the musician
population. The task of learning musical pieces hour after hour
takes a toll on the musculoskeletal system. Exercise is critical
to restore vitality and blood flow to the overworked muscles and
correctly, exercise becomes a vital component to the musician’s
wellness program. The key here is performing weight training
“correctly.” Improper training techniques can wind up in
injuries that can hinder performances and gigs. I recommend that
if a musician is considering a weight training and/or aerobic
training program that they consult with a personal trainer first
to develop a program tailored for their particular needs.
the best results from exercise routines, you must first make a
commitment to at least three days per week of exercise. Anything
less than this will give you less than optimum results. On the
other hand, during the initial three to six months I would
recommend no more than 4 days per week of exercise for someone
who is deconditioned, overweight, or has not exercised in a year
or more. The body needs a rest day in between routines to heal
should begin an exercise program that involves both weight
training and aerobic training. Weight training comes in many
forms; dumbbells, free-weights, nautilus, cybex, universal, etc.
For beginners, I often recommend the weight machines like
universal and nautilus since they are easier to learn and
maneuver. Aerobic exercise comes in many forms as well. When
most people think of aerobic exercise, they envision men and
women jumping and dancing around an aerobics room.
This is only
one form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise means to maintain
your heart rate at an elevated level for at least 20 minutes so
the body enters into the aerobic energy cycle which reduces body
fat and strengthens the heart. This can be done in a number of
ways, such as via a bicycle, treadmill, stair machine, swimming,
“step” classes, and traditional aerobics classes. Some sports
activities also bring your body into the aerobic range. These
including jogging, tennis, racquetball, squash, and
cross-country skiing to name a few.
training, musicians should concentrate on high repetition, low
to medium weight exercises. Each set of exercises should consist
of 15 repetitions. If you feel that you cannot attain 15 “reps”
then you are working with too much weight. Different musicians
will need different exercise regimens due to specific needs.
Drummers need a great deal of arm and leg strength, while cello
players need overall upper body strength. So your routine should
be tailored to the type of instrument you play.
recommend an overall exercise program that develops the major
muscle groups of the hands, forearms, arms, chest, back, legs,
calves, and abdominals. For example, I recently gave this
exercise program to a saxophonist. For forearm strength, I
prescribed wrist extension and flexion exercises. To develop arm
strength to hold the instrument I recommended bicep and triceps
exercises. For shoulder strength, I recommended shoulder “flys”
to develop the deltoids. For chest strength, he began “benching”
exercises on the universal equipment and to balance the
pectoralis development, “seated rows” were implemented to
strengthen the upper back muscles. “Latissimus pulldowns” were
recommended for back support as were four different abdominal
muscle exercises. Leg press and squat exercises were recommended
to develop lower body strength.
these terms may sound like a foreign language to you, but don’t
worry: they will be learned quickly once you become aware of the
equipment and become knowledgeable about some muscle names.
to the guitarist who e-mailed me about the exercise program. I
told him that there is nothing wrong with exercise programs as
long as the exercises are performed correctly. I mentioned that
he should avoid hyperflexing his wrist while performing the
wrist curls. Too much strain on the wrist flexors can cause
inflammation. But if wrist curls are performed correctly, they
are great at developing the forearm muscles, which are very
important for overall hand strength and finger strength. Very
importantly though, is that he has to balance the wrist curls
with exercises that will strengthen the opposing muscle groups,
such as the finger extensors and wrist extensors.
very important in weight training. I advised him to disregard
his friends’ advise regarding avoiding exercise. The body needs
exercise to increase its function and health. It sounds like his
instructors and friends needed some guidance in this aspect.
Hopefully they will read this article and begin learning more
about the importance of exercise for the musician.
realize that as a musician you are a professional athlete?
Consider how much muscle activity goes into practicing and
performing your music. How many hours per day do you use your
arms and hands to play music? You must train your body to
achieve this high level of activity just as if you were training
for the Olympic Games. If you are serious about your profession,
then become serious about your body. You can only play as well
as your body is able. Many musicians develop painful repetitive
strain injuries simply because their bodies were not conditioned
enough to put in the many hours of strenuous muscular activity.
Begin your exercise program today. You will not only see a
change in your health, but also your attitude, your vitality,
your happiness, and your music playing.
About The Author: Dr.
Timothy Jameson has been in private chiropractic practice for 15
years and has spent the last six years focusing on the care of
the musician population. He is the author of “The Musicians
Guide to Health and Wellness, which is available for download at
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Hero Review (PS2)
Guitar Hero is a fun music based game for the PS2. The developer
of Guitar Hero, Harmonix, had previously created Amplitude and
before that Frequency. All three of these games are music based
games where you have to strum or button your way through a song.
Frequency was the first, and in my opinion (and that of my
friends) better than the sequel Amplitude. While Amplitude had a
much better shared multiplayer view, the songs weren't as good
and the sense of actually playing the music was much decreased
in Amplitude. So when the guys come over to play games at my
place, we usually plop in Frequency and not Amplitude.
Guitar Hero carries on the tradition, and I think is an
improvement over Amplitude. It actually includes a guitar
controller, which is a half-size plastic guitar with five
coloured buttons on the neck. You "strum" a two inch long lever,
and the guitar even includes a bendy bar. But you don't have to
use this peripheral if you don't want to. Using the controller
feels very much like Frequency or Amplitude, except that you
sometimes have to hold down the notes over time, which wasn't a
feature in the previous games.
the guitar peripheral makes it so much more fun, you'll want to
use it. The joystick ability really only comes in handy when you
play in two-player mode against a friend and can't afford to buy
a second guitar.
how do you actually play a song? Easy to learn, difficult to
master. The coloured buttons on the neck correspond to coloured
dots on the moving score of the song. The score actually
approaches you, and as coloured dots approach and cross a line
right in front of you, you have to have the correct coloured
button held down as you strum the guitar. Then the note will
change to a different one, so you have to change your fingering
before your next strum. It is easier than it sounds. Check the
IGN website for Guitar Hero videos.
is it? Fun fun FUN!
This is one great game with great songs, and great multiplayer
action. I've only played it multiplayer with a controller, but
getting a second guitar in there would be even more of a blast.
I had my friends over to play this game and they all raved about
it. If you like listening to music and have a PS2, then you owe
it to yourself to at least try this game.
Problems? Yes, a few. My biggest complaint (though not that big
in absolute terms - this is a great game) is that the mapping of
music tracks to game tracks isn't as fun as many of the tracks
in Frequency and Amplitude were. In those game you'd really get
into a groove and really enjoy how the tracks were arranged by
the developers. Guitar Hero doesn't have quite the same
creativity when it came to laying down the tracks. As well, the
game ramps up in difficulty way too fast. The hardest setting is
clearly impossible for everyone without a genetically enhanced
metabolism. (This was also a problem with Frequency and
don't let those things distract you from what is otherwise a
very fun game. And if you don't want to splurge on the full
price right away, you might want to try Frequency. It's an older
game so is now in many bargain bins. It's a true gem, and you
can try out this style of gameplay for less than $10.
Henning Hoffmann is the publisher of
PS3Blog.net, a great resource for PlayStation 3 news
Back to Top
Sanjo and Chandrani -
Two Artistes. One Guitar.
musicians is always great fun. You get to attend a 'private
concert' where you are the only member in the audience. The
artistes talk to you and you alone instead of addressing a large
impersonal crowd. And the best part is that you can ask all the
questions you want.
All this changes
dramatically when the artistes are exceptionally talented. Then
you just sit there and listen... spellbound. No questions. No
yakking. That's exactly what happened when I interviewed a New
Delhi-based music composer-songwriter duo, Sanjo and Chandrani.
Their music was so brilliant, that many of my questions remained
on my writing pad - I didn't even get a chance to ask them. But
hey, who's complaining!
Let me give you
an idea of what I mean when I say "exceptionally talented",
beginning with Sanjo. He is truly a multifaceted, extremely
versatile musician. His command of musical instruments is
mind-boggling. He plays the six-string acoustic guitar, the
twelve-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, mandolin,
keyboards, flutes, harmonica, drums, tabla and a wide variety of
percussion instruments. In his debut album, Barson Huey,
he has composed and arranged all the songs, sung them, providing
backing vocals as well, and played every accompanying musical
Chandrani is an equally talented artiste. A trained classical
singer, Chandrani has written most of the songs on Barson
Huey. She has also provided the lead female vocals and
backing vocals for many of the songs. Her vocal range is
impressive and one of the songs, Hum Logon Ka Saath, has
her harmonising across three octaves, hitting unbelievably high
Before Sanjo and
Chandrani begin their 'private concert' for me, I ask a few
basic questions. And that's the end of the interview, really.
Once the music begins, one is too overawed to ask any further
questions. "No further questions, your Honour".
up for the interview, I had visited the artistes' website:
www.musicbysanjo.com It said nothing about the artistes' early
years. Hence, the first question I pose is fairly predictable:
how did they meet? How did this project begin? As Sanjo starts
answering the question, I realise I've got a great story
brewing. I scribble notes frantically. Here's how it happened.
Sanjo was on vacation at Mussoorie, a popular hill station near
Delhi, with his colleagues. Chandrani was part of the gang,
having tagged along at the last moment on pure impulse. Sanjo
naturally carried his guitar (his friends wouldn't allow him to
join them without it). Chandrani joined in for the jamming
sessions that took place during the evening. Sanjo couldn't help
but notice that Chandrani had a great singing voice. At that
time, he was toying with the idea of doing an album, and he
asked Chandrani if she would pitch in. She agreed - again, on
impulse. Fate pulled the strings, and the project began.
I am always
intrigued by songwriters. Being a writer myself, I have tried
several times to pen songs, and have failed miserably. So I
always try to get under the skin of a songwriter. I ask
Chandrani to tell me about the song that she looks upon as her
personal favourite. Is it Barson Huey? The answer is
'No'. "It is difficult to choose just one, as all the songs are
very close to my heart", she replies. "However, Palkon Pe Tha
will get a few extra points from me as I feel it is lyrically
rich. Also, in terms of composition, Sanjo has beautifully
captured the emotion the song intends to communicate."
I look at Sanjo.
Do they share the same favourite? Not so. His favourite is
Barson Huey, the reggae-based title tracks that most fans
are avidly talking about. "When I first read the lyrics, I felt
a Wow factor", he says, "and after I had finished composing the
song, the Wow factor was still there. I rate it as one of my
best compositions, and the lyrics really do something to me."
noticeable characteristic of the songs composed by Sanjo is that
they all have rich, varied and complex instrumentation. This
stems from Sanjo's ability to play so many different instruments
and work them into his arrangements in a seamless manner. Almost
all the fans have been talking about the depth and richness of
the music, especially since the sound is entirely acoustic and
natural, differentiating it from the morass of synthesizer and
computer-based music flooding the market nowadays.
experience has shown me that artistes who work in such close
proximity invariably have interpersonal problems. I get the
feeling that working with a meticulous perfectionist like Sanjo
is bound to be difficult. So I ask Chandrani what she considers
to be the toughest part while working with Sanjo. Apparently,
the creative clashes don't occur over writing and composing. It
is far more basic than all that. "Sanjo and I sing on completely
different scales", Chandrani explains, "this makes it very
difficult to ensure proper coordination and at the same time,
keep the emotion and mood of the song intact. Now, if I stick to
the scale I am comfortable with, Sanjo has problems - and vice
versa. It's tough."
Fans will, in
all probability, not agree with Chandrani on this one. There is
a much talked about duet titled Sapno Ka Ek Shahar on the
album. It stands out because of the quality of the vocals, the
musical arrangements and the sheer intensity of the guitar
interludes. One can spot no strain in the voices of the artistes
anywhere in the entire song.
I ask both Sanjo
and Chandrani what their music means to each of them. Is it a
hobby? Is it a move towards a new, different profession? Or is
it just a fun pastime. Chandrani answers first: "It's how I
connect with myself", she replies, "music and writing help me to
question", replies Sanjo looking thoughtful, "music is so many
things to me. It's a passion, it is a stress management tool,
and most importantly, it is a channel for enhancing my
creativity. Every creative professional needs to explore other
avenues to avoid creative fatigue. Some paint, others write... I
compose and play and sing. Music lies at the core of my
existence. I cannot live without it."
It is with some
excitement that I ask them about their future plans. It is
always thrilling to get a sneak preview of what artistes are
going to be up to next. A highly popular music blog on
www.sulekha.com has already announced that the material for
Sanjo and Chandrani's next album is ready and they are about to
start recording the songs. Both artistes confirm this news. By
now, I am bursting with curiosity, so I ask them to tell me a
bit about the new album. Unlike most other artistes, they are
quite willing to talk about it.
is evidently the more outspoken of the two, answers first: "We
have tried to be more experimental in the second album", she
says, "just like the first album, every song flows from a
concept and tries to communicate an idea, a message... something
one can relate to. Something one identifies with, as if it has
happened to you. I feel if a listener is able to relate to a
piece of creativity and is able to identify with it, the song
has done its job well. All the songs in the second album attempt
to do exactly that."
"Also, we have turned a little choosy in terms of the styles of
the compositions. Our first album had a few songs in the pop
genre which I feel is a crowded, cluttered space. Our producer
felt these songs would give us an advantage from a purely
commercial point of view. In the second album, we have steered
clear of this, focussing largely on what we do best - create
melodies that are pleasing to the ear, emphasising the acoustic
feel that characterises our music, and building on the
guitar-based sound that is the essence of our songs. And let me
share something else with you: the album springs a major
surprise - you will see Chandrani debuting as a composer!"
I look at
Chandrani. She simply smiles. I pump her for more information in
this regard, but she tells me to wait and see.
And then... it's
time for the private concert to begin. Sanjo picks his guitar
up, Chandrani clears her throat, and they begin without any
fuss. Starting with the title track, I am treated to a
completely unplugged concert featuring acoustic versions of all
the songs on the album. And when Chandrani sings Palkon Pe
Tha, I realise why it is her personal favourite.
By the time I
leave after the interview, this song is constantly going around
inside my head. Something inside me tells me that it will stay
in my head for days to come. And I'm not complaining...
About The Author: Kulpreet
is a freelance writer. She settled in New Delhi after a brief
stint in journalism in Canada and USA. She is married to an IT
professional and has a three year-old daughter
Back to Top
Restring An Electric Guitar
For a newbie,
this may seem a little intimidating. But with the right tools, a
little knowledge and some practice, you'll be able to restring
an electric guitar like a professional guitar tech. When I was
gigging regularly, I would restring my guitar every week. My
body chemistry is acidic and the sweat and oils from my hands
would tend to dull the brightness of the strings as well as make
them feel "dirty". For me, the bright sound and smooth feel of a
new set of strings would inspire my playing. It became a ritual
for me the night before the weekend's gigs started. I would sit
in front of the TV and restring my electric guitar; my acoustic
was much less frequent.
OK, so you've
decided you don't want to pay the guys at the music store and
you want to know how to restring an electric guitar yourself.
Here is the list of tools and supplies you will need:
· A new set of
strings (naturally!) · A string winder (not required but very
handy) · A pair of wire cutters · A guitar tuner (again, not
required but helpful)
You will need to
set aside about an hour of time to do this correctly, but like I
stated earlier, with practice you will know how to restring your
electric guitar in about 20-30 minutes.
First thing to
remember, do NOT remove all six strings at the same time. The
guitar neck is designed to withstand the tension of the strings
and if all of the tension is removed for any significant amount
of time you could damage your guitar.
Also, there are
some guitars that are literally held together by the string
tension. I remember reading a story about a guy who had recently
gotten hired as a guitar tech for the Ramones. Wanting to make a
good impression on Johnny Ramone he decided to restring his
guitar for him right before the show. He removed all six strings
and Johnny's Mosrite guitar literally fell apart in his hands.
The string tension held the whole guitar together! What's worse,
the bridge of the guitar bounced across the floor and fell down
the air conditioning duct.
If I remember
the story correctly, they spent quite some time using a coat
hanger and chewing gum trying to rescue the bridge from the
duct. He retrieved it and managed to keep his job, living to
restring the guitar another day. But not all six strings at
But I digress.
Some people work in pairs of strings at a time, I prefer to work
on individual strings. You will quickly decide what works best
for you. Use this article as a guideline to get you up to speed
OK, let's get
down to it. I always start with the high E string (personal
preference); it helps keep me organized.
If your guitar
has a locking nut tremolo (whammy bar) system you will have to
unlock it. It works best if you remove the clamps completely and
work with just the nut until the restringing process is done and
the strings are stretched and tuned. Then replace the locking
clamps and fine tune using the tuners on the tremolo bridge.
· Use your
string winder and loosen the string until there is enough slack
that you can unwind the string from the tuning post by hand. ·
Use your wire cutters to cut off the curled end of the string
and discard. Do this to minimize the chance of scratching the
finish of your guitar. Push/pull the string back through the
bridge slowly making sure it does not drag across the body. You
don't want restringing your guitar to result in refinishing your
· Next, unwrap
the appropriate new string. Insert it through the bridge of the
guitar, over the saddle, up the neck, over the nut and into the
hole in the tuning post. Again make sure the trailing end of the
string doesn't drag across the guitar body.
· Start turning
the tuner by hand making sure the string wraps over the top of
the tuning post. Ideally you want to have 3-4 wraps of the
string around the tuner, but this in nothing to stress over.
· Turn the tuner
until the slack is out and the string is properly seated in the
nut and over the bridge saddle.
· Next clip the
excess string off close to the tuner and use your string winder
to bring the string up to pitch.
· Use your
digital tuner and tune to pitch.
· Next, grab the
string with your picking hand halfway between the bridge and the
nut and lightly tug the string away from the fretboard. Do not
pull real hard, just hard enough to pull the stretch out of the
string and tighten it around the tuner post.
· Tune to pitch
and repeat the stretching process until the string stays in
Now repeat the
entire process for the remaining five strings. Know that the
pitch of the new strings may fluctuate as you work on the
remaining strings. This is especially true with a Floyd Rose or
similar type floating bridge. When you have replaced and
stretched the last string make sure all six strings are still in
tune. If you have a locking tremolo system, replace the clamps
for the locking nut, tighten, and use the bridge fine tuners to
get the proper pitch.
The final step
is the best one; sit back, crank up your amp and enjoy. Make
sure you play something with lots of note bending in it and make
sure the stretch is all played.
satisfaction in knowing that you now know how to restring an
Author: A life long guitar player, I now spend my time teaching
guitar and researching the best guitar resources on the web.
how to play guitar
for more tips.
How To Turn A Rap Song Into A
guitarists just starting out find the idea of music theory to be
boring, and hence don't invest much time in studying it. While
words like "pentatonic scales" and "transposed keys" may not
conjure up exciting imagery, the truth is undeniable: even the
basics of music theory can prove to be endlessly useful, and can
help guitarists improve their compositional and performance
capabilities. In this article, we'll take a look at how music
theory can be used to transform any rap song into a country
song. Now that, my friends, is pretty exciting stuff.
How it Works
you have a basic understanding of music theory, learning how to
transform a rap song into a country song is a fairly
straightforward process. In case you need to learn or review
music theory, the links in the steps below point to articles
that can help explain the concepts intuitively.
Identify your target rap song. As you might expect, if
you want to transform a rap song into a country song, you first
need to identify what rap song you want to transform. Try to
pick one that you genuinely enjoy; your country song will end up
much better that way.
Pick a seventh chord to serve as your root chord. The
root chord is the starting point of your chord progression; it's
sort of the anchor that that the other chords in your song can
be based around. Seventh chords have a country twang to them, so
they are perfect for this exercise.
Once you've got your root chord, identify your fourth (IV)
and fifth (V) chords. All the chords should be seventh
chords; for instance, if I chose A7 as my root, D7 and E7 would
be the fourth and fifth, respectively. If you're not sure what
all this root/fourth/fifth chord business is, check out
this article on intervals as well and this
introductory lesson on music theory.
The root-fourth-fifth (I-IV-V) chord progression will be the
foundation of your song. You can play it for both the
chorus and the verse. The trick is to switch up the rhythm and
picking style so that the song sounds unique.
Add vocals. This is the fun part! Rap the lyrics or
sing along to the seventh chords -- experiment with what you
think will work.
that's it! Congratulations -- you've transformed a rap song into
a country song.
Secret to Making This Work
Remember, the key to making this sound original and fun is to
have a unique vocal delivery layered over a unique rhythm
structure and a simple I-IV-V chord change.
Mercury is a VIP member of the New York Singer/Songwriter
Sessions. He is the founder and director of ActoGuitar, an
online learning community for learning to play guitar.
a question on this article? Want some audio samples that PROVE
that this formula works? Check out
the complete article, where you can ask a question as
Back to Top
Guitar Lesson - Mode Mysteries
true that most guitarists ignore the theory side of things, and
it's no surprise - the majority of sites and books out there
don't exactly make it look..."fun".
so it can never really be fun, but for those guitarists who
actually care about progressing, it's essential to know theory.
A good place to start is by learning the 7 modes on your guitar.
This lesson article will introduce them. You can then use the
free resource that follows if you wish.
best way to think of modes are as scales. These scales, like the
pentatonic or major scale can be mapped out on the fretboard.
Think of the modes as "flavours" of the major and natural minor
modes are, in order:
Ionian - this is just the "major scale", but it's also the first
and most important mode in western music.
Dorian - a flavour of the natural minor scale
Phrygian - a flavour of the natural minor scale with a Spanish
Lydian - a flavour of the major/Ionian scale
Mixolydian - a flavour of the major/Ionian scale built around
dominant 7th chords.
Aeolian - the natural minor scale the other minor modes are
Locrian - the odd one out. Diminished scale.
the reason we have a particular order for these modes/scales is
because when you put them together in that sequence using the
intervals of the major/Ionian scale, you get one big scale. Let
you wanted to solo over the E major chord. You could just select
the first mode, Ionian, because it's a major mode. You need to
find the root note of the E major chord (E) and start whatever
mode you want to solo over it from that root note (of course,
you don't have to START the solo on the root note, just make
sure you start on a note that's within that scale - the SCALE
starts on the root note).
Because we've chosen Ionian, the intervals of that scale are as
1 W 2
W 3 H 4 W 5 W 6 W 7 H 1
Whole step (2 fret interval) H= Half step (1 fret interval)
What's interesting is you can use the note intervals of WHATEVER
mode you're playing and use each note as a starting point for
the next mode in sequence - e.g....
you were playing Dorian over a minor chord, the next mode is
Phrygian - because it's the next mode, it starts on the 2nd note
you were playing Lydian over a major chord, the next mode is
Mixolydian, so because it's the next mode, it starts on the 2nd
note of Lydian.
What Does This Mean?!
means once you know which "flavour"/mode you want to solo over a
chord, you can follow the sequence of intervals in that mode and
suddenly, all the other modes in sequence at those intervals
become part of that same flavour and scale!
Play "A Dorian" over the A minor chord
- The 2nd note in A Dorian is a whole step higher, so it's B
- The mode after Dorian is Phrygian
- Therefore, you can play B Phrygian over A minor and it will
sound like Dorian!!!
is the relationship between the modes and their intervals that
many guitarists fail to see, they just learn the boxed mode
shapes and don't realise how they all tie in together.
all about the intervals...
Learn the intervals of each mode (e.g. we looked at 1st mode
Ionian's intervals above)
- Learn the order of modes, so you'll know which mode applies to
each note in each mode (this does take some time)
picking a random one out the air... What mode starts (has its
root note on) on the 4th note of Phrygian?...
Phrygian is the 3rd mode
- the 2nd note of Phrygian is the root of the next mode, Lydian
- follow the order of modes to the 4th note...
answer is: Aeolian
know, I know, it's kind of obvious why a lot of guitarists just
cannot be bothered, but I promise you, learning the modes is so
so beneficial because not only will you learn to add "flavour"
to the same old major/minor lead guitar, but knowing this also
leads onto being able to write songs at the snap of your fingers
and have a visual map of each mode scale all up the fretboard -
no more box playing!
invest some time into learning the modes and how they work.
You'll only understand how important they are once you learn
them! It's weird that way!
About The Author: Mike
Beatham runs a free easy to follow guitar lessons site. For
clear mode diagrams and audio plus other guitar theory lessons,
Back to Top
Guitars - Made In America
By Al Wielder
The evolution of
the guitar in its present form is forever tied to American
ingenuity and precision. The development of the modern steel
string acoustic guitar and the electric guitar is an American
tale. This article will discuss interesting facts about the
development of modern acoustic and electric guitars.
place to begin our discussion is with the development of the
modern steel string acoustic guitar. The modern steel string
guitar is certainly an American invention. The instrument was
developed and refined in the USA. From the mid to late
nineteenth century until the early twentieth century, many
immigrants of European descent made their way to the United
States. Among these immigrants were extremely skilled musical
instrument makers, also known as luthiers. These skilled
craftsmen would play a pivotal role in the development of the
modern steel string acoustic guitar.
As the acoustic
guitar evolved, two different types of guitars would dominate
the development of the instrument. The first type of steel
string guitar to be developed would come to be known as the
"flat-top" guitar. The "flat-top" guitar was a descendant of
European classical guitars. The name is derived from the shape
of the guitar soundboard. The soundboard is also called the
The second type
of steel string acoustic guitar would come to be known as the
"arch-top" or "f-hole" guitar. The "arch-top" guitar has a
contoured soundboard and back. The soundboard and the back are
carved from a single piece of wood. The design and construction
of the "arch-top" guitar are descendants of European violin
The two pioneers
in American steel string acoustic guitar construction are Gibson
and Martin. These companies still exist today and they produce
some of the finest American acoustic guitars available. The
Gibson "arch-top" guitars are a favorite of many musicians. The
Martin company is famous for their "flat-top" Dreadnought
guitars. The Martin "flat-top" guitar of choice is the Martin
HD-28 or the Martin D-45.
The role of
America in modern guitar development defined the evolution of
the electric guitar. The electric guitar is an amazing device.
It creates excitement and sound unlike any instrument on earth.
The electric guitar is a combination of craftsmanship,
engineering, physics and electrical power. At the flip of a
switch, electric guitars have the ability to create smooth
gentle sounds or chaotic hysteria.
In the United
States there are many quality electric guitar manufacturers. It
would be impossible to mention each one in this brief article
about America's role in the development of the electric guitar.
I would like to mention the two American guitar manufacturers
that are commonly associated with the modern electric guitar.
These two manufacturers are Fender and Gibson.
guitar company was started by Leo Fender in the late 1940's.
Leo's purpose was to create an innovative solid body electric
guitar. It has been reported that Leo was most concerned with
the utilitarian aspect of the guitar rather than its appearance.
Leo wanted to build a clean sounding guitar that minimized the
feedback problems associated with previous solid body steel
In 1948, Leo
Fender introduced a guitar that was destined to make music
history. He called the guitar the Fender Broadcaster. The guitar
was made of ash or alder and had a detachable maple neck. The
detachable neck was just one of the innovative features
associated with the Broadcaster.
design placed the tuning machines on one side and at an angle.
This design was another clever innovation that accented the
Broadcaster. The Broadcaster was later re-named the Telecaster.
This stellar guitar is still in production today and is sought
out by many guitarists around the world.
In 1954 Leo
Fender introduced the Stratocaster. This guitar is widely
recognized as a design standard for solid-body electric guitars.
This standard remains to the present day. The Stratocaster has
been immortalized by guitar greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie
Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
It is also very
important to mention Gibson guitars when considering the role of
America in modern guitar development. Gibson electric guitars
encompass many styles and models. However, none are more
important than the Les Paul. The Les Paul was introduced in
1952. The first Les Paul was equipped with two high-impedance
single-coil pickups with cream colored cover plates. It included
a three-way pick-up selector switch with separate volume and
tone controls. The Les Paul "Standard" that was introduced in
1952 could not have been more aptly named. The Les Paul Standard
is a yardstick by which many musicians measure other fine
The Les Paul
guitars that were created from 1957 to 1960 are regarded as some
of the finest solid body electric guitars ever made. As a
result, they are some of the most coveted guitars in the world.
electric guitar players will tell you they have owned or will
own a Fender or a Gibson electric guitar. These fine guitars are
a benchmark and a plateau for other guitars to emulate. Chances
are, if you are a guitar player, you own a piece of this
guitar era is far from over. It will be very exciting to see the
future development of acoustic and electric guitars. One thing
you can be sure of, America will be there and it is likely that
Martin, Gibson and Fender will play a direct role in the
creation of the next generation of "Super Guitars".
Al Wielder is
a host and instructor at
Contact Al Wielder at Riff TV.com, your source for
video guitar training.
Creating The Perfect
Structure For Your Song
You know what
they say about rules? Actually they say lots of things about
rules but here's two - rules were made to be broken, and you
have to know what the rules are before you can break them. While
Judge Dredd may not agree with the first, the second is
certainly true and nevermore so than in writing a song.
structure may not be the first thing you think about when you
start writing. You probably work on the verse or chorus, or
maybe you have a good riff that you want to expand into a song.
So you get that down and then you start to think about the other
parts - the intro, how many verses, middle eight, do you want an
instrumental, the ending...
Some song genres
have a fairly rigid format, others are more flexible, and you
need to know where you can bend the rules and why you may not
want to do so in order to make your song stand out from the
others. Let's look at the sections you'll find in most songs and
the part they play in song construction.
Intro. Yes, this
leads you into the song. It may be two, four or eight bars long
or longer. Some songs don't have any intro at all. A pop song
intro will often be reminiscent of the chorus or the hook. In a
club song, it's often a good idea to have eight bars of rhythm
to help the DJ to mix match your song. They say that music
publishers typically only listen to the first 20 seconds of a
song before deciding whether to reject it so if you're sending
material to a publisher, keep the intro short and get into the
song as quickly as possible. Save the 5 minute intros for the CD
Verse. This is the preamble to
the chorus. It sets the scene, certainly lyrically, and as the
verses progress they often tell a story or recount episodes from
a situation although that's by no means essential. They are
typically eight or sixteen bars long and melodically not usually
as strong as the chorus although, again, that's by no means
essential. However, it often seems as if the songwriter ran out
of ideas when writing the verse. One of the strengths of The
Beatles' songs is that verses and choruses are equally strong
and most people could hum or sing their way through most Beatles
hits. Not so with many songs where the verses are little more
than fillers to get you to the chorus.
Chorus. This the bit
everyone remembers, whistles and sings along to. It should be
the strongest part of the song and generally is or contains the
hook. It's usually eight or sixteen bars long.
Middle eight. As a song
progresses, there's a danger of boredom setting for the
listener. The middle eight offers them a break and typically
comes after a couple of verses and choruses. Some people think
of it as an alternative verse and that's one way to look at it.
It often modulates to a different key or introduces a new chord
progression and it usually doesn't include the song title.
However, all too often it's simply an excuse for waffling on for
a few bars. Although it's called the middle eight it could be
four or sixteen bars long.
Bridge. Many people use the
terms 'middle eight' and 'bridge' synonymously and so popular is
this usage that it would be churlish to disagree. However, among
those who prefer to note the difference, a bridge is a short
section used to bridge the gap between verse and chorus. It may
only be two or four bars long and it's often used when the verse
and chorus are so different from each other that a 'joining'
phrase helps bring them together.
Instrumental. This is part
of the song without any vocals. Yeah, okay. It's often an
instrumental version of the verse or chorus, it may be an
improvised variation on one of these, or it may be an entirely
different tune and set of chords altogether. Sometimes it fits
into a song where a vocal middle eight would otherwise go.
Breakdown/Break. This term
has been high jacked from songs from the early 1900s when it was
common to either to reduce the instrumentation or stop it
altogether while a tap dancer would strut his stuff. The term
'break' is still sometimes used to indicate an instrumental
section. 'Breakdown' is now most commonly used in dance music
for the section where the percussion breaks down or is reduced,
and it may be the dance equivalent of the middle eight.
Outro/Ending. Once upon a
time, songs had definite endings but the mid 1950s heralded in
the era of the fade-out and songwriters thought they would never
have to write an ending again. However, fade-outs became such
clichés to the extent that fade out meant cop out so songwriters
started writing endings again. With that in mind, you can do as
you wish, and considering that the endings of most songs get
talked over or cut short by radio DJs and mixed over by club
DJs, you have only your artistic integrity and your CD listeners
to answer to. Some songs work extremely well with fade outs but
listen to songs in your chosen genre to see how other writers
approach endings. But whatever you do, avoid like the plague the
three time tag ending.
Hook. The hook is not a song
part as such; rather it's the term used to describe the part of
the song that people remember and sing. It's what they buy the
record for. It's usually the chorus although it need not be the
entire chorus, but simply a two- or four-bar phrase. It could be
an instrumental riff as in Whiter Shade of Pale or Smoke on the
Water, or a processed vocal as in Cher's Believe.
All together now
the parts of a song, let's see how they are commonly arranged.
The most popular arrangement by far is simply verse-chorus and
repeat. Here are two variations on the theme:
Intro Verse 1
Chorus Verse 2 Chorus Chorus Outro
Intro Verse 1
Verse 2 Chorus Verse 3 Middle eight Chorus Chorus Outro
You get the
picture. However, these are conventions rather than rules so you
can adapt, change or ignore them as you see fit. But they have
developed for a reason and that is simply to make the song as
immediately appealing to the listener as possible.
Listen to some
of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman hits of the 80s (it's not
compulsory if you really can't bear to) and you'll see that most
follow the simplest format, guaranteed to brainwash the listener
with as many repeats of the hook as possible. They tend to be:
to the chorus) Verse 1 Chorus Verse 2 Middle eight Chorus Chorus
Notice that the
hook's there straight away in the intro, there's only one verse
before the chorus so you get to it quicker, and the chorus tends
to repeat at the end, just to imprint the hook firmly in your
obvious exceptions to these formats. Ambient, trance, chill-out
music and the like, are obvious candidates. With these you can
start at the beginning and work through to the end creating an
evolving music form without any clear verse/chorus structure.
Genres such as trance tend to build to a series of crescendos
several times throughout the song. However, even these types of
song often have a hook or two on which listeners can hang their
Build ups and downs
Bearing in mind
that the purpose of a song is to keep the listeners listening
and not allow them to get bored, you need variety within the
song. Simply strumming a guitar and singing
verse/chorus/verse/chorus won't cut the mustard unless you're in
a folk club. The usual method is to start with a simple
arrangement and add to it as the song progresses.
So, the first
verse might consist of light drums, bass and rhythm guitar. As
you move into the second verse you could add strings or a synth
pad. A drum fill takes you into the chorus which would include
busier drums, maybe some additional percussion, a fuller string
arrangement and perhaps a lead line. When you dip back to the
verse, you revert to the simpler arrangement.
The middle eight
is usually a lighter arrangement than the chorus and gives you
the opportunity to use different instrumentation if you want to.
When you hit the second chorus, add backing vocals and a lead
riff. The final chorus is the culmination the song and you can
add more backing vocals, more percussion and additional lead
Listen to songs
in the style you are writing and analyse their formats to see
how far other exponents have stuck to or departed from the
traditional formats. when you're familiar with the rules or
conventions that they use, then you can experiment by breaking
more about making music plus a free book to download at
About the author: Ian Waugh is
one of the UK's leading hi tech music writers and creator of
He has written several books and albums. He is author of the
"Quick Guide to..." series which includes the Quick Guide to
Dance Music, Digital Audio Recording, MP3 and Digital Music, and
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Four Tactics to
Pack Fans Into Your E-mail List
Have you been dreaming of a huge
email list? The kind of list that with one click of the “send”
button hordes of fans mobilize to come to see your shows, or
play your new track at garageband.com? If not, then shame on
A well maintained and growing email
list is a mighty tool. Why? Because it provides a quick and easy
way to keep in front of your adoring fans, and it is absolutely
The sad thing is most artists drop
the ball on building this marketing powerhouse. So, in an effort
to stop this atrocity, I decided to give you four simple and
effective tactics to build that list.
Migidy Mic Check…
Your standing on stage, maybe the
beach balls are floating atop the crowd, or the mosh pit has
attracted the state police, or maybe the fans are singing so
loud you can’t hear your stage monitors. Whatever your
situation, the fact of the matter is that you have human beings
sitting right in front of you, hanging off of your every word,
wanting to become your fans.
Do you realize the power of this
moment? Right now your audience is focused on one thing – you.
And as hard as it may be to believe, at this very moment, more
than anything else, they want more of you. How do you give them
what they want? Speak up and offer to get connected.
Tell your audience in your own
genuine words that your email list is the way you stay connected
to your fans. It is how you pass on latest news and how you
notify of your upcoming gigs.
Simple and effective. Do not let one
gig pass without asking your fans to get connected.
Give it away now…
Ok, you know the value of seizing the
moment while you’re at the microphone, now lets make signing up
a little more enticing.
Do you like free stuff? Who doesn’t?
We are suckers for trinkets and giveaways. Now just imagine if
you were to offer your fans an opportunity to get something more
valuable than a mere trinket. What if you offered them the
opportunity to win one of your T-shirts or autographed CDs, or
[wait for it…] Both! Oh my, the pandemonium, the crowd goes
How would this work? Simply hold a
contest where the entry form is a piece of paper that asks for
your fan’s first name and email address. It’s that simple. You
exchange the chance to win one CD (your cost under $2) and a
T-shirt (your cost around $5) in exchange for the email address
of the members of your audience. If the cost of giving away a
few pieces of much merch bothers you, just think of the value of
only one new fan dragging a friend to your next show, shelling
out two covers charges, selling a t-shirt to the friend and both
of them telling others at work about their experience… Lets move
3. Something Of Value
Ask yourself what the real objective
of the contest mentioned above is? Let me tell you plainly, the
objective is to mutually exchange something of value. You offer
something of value to your fans in exchange for something of
value to you. A surprisingly high value item to your fans is a
simple old-fashioned newsletter. You know, the thing with silly
facts and stories about you? Offer this gem in exchange for
something of value to you - your fan’s email address. This is an
easy sell because you need their email address to send the
newsletter right? It is a natural win-win situation so use it.
4. Point of Sale
Now were at the end of the show and
people are flocking to your merch table. Your latest self-titled
CD is flying off the shelf. Your fans are even picking up that
illegible sticker that was designed by your crazy cousin Fred.
Are you going to just let them walk away without offering them
the chance to stay connected to the band that they just layed
down their hard earned cash to buy a recording of?
You have a perfect opportunity while
you are counting out their change to “ask them” to sign your
concert connection and stay connected to the band. What’s the
worse they can do, say no?
There you go four tactics you can use
tonight to pack fans into your mighty email list. That should
get you going. Remember it is the simple and effective tactics
performed flawlessly over and over that make you successful.
Don’t miss a beat and watch that email list grow
Copyright 2006 - For additional
information regarding Sean Farrington, band coaching, money,
music, business or just to learn how to turn your passion for
music into profit, please visit
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