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Newsletter Home:  2006 | 2005


25th November, 2005


  • Health:  Playing Through Pain Needn't Break Strings
  • Artist:  Who's Playing What?  A Guide to the Guitars of the Pros
  • Lessons:  Basic Guitar Chords: How to Easily Master the Guitar Chords You Must Know
  • Gigging:  Top Ten Items You Need In Your Gig Bag
  • Gear:  Acoustic Guitars - Laminated Wood vs Solid Wood
  • New Product:  Guitar Backing Tracks Online


    Playing Through Pain Needn't Break Strings

    ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For decades, playing hurt was just part of the job for musicians, who learned to endure the pain in silence. Now a cellist who once practiced to the point where she couldn't turn a doorknob is spreading a message that resonates with musicians around the country.

    Janet Horvath's seminars help prevent and treat injuries caused by overuse of muscles, harmful playing techniques and instruments that don't fit.  "These injuries really can be nipped in the bud," Horvath said. "They can be very minor if you pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you right away."

    Horvath has been associate principal cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra for more than 20 years. In 1974, she was enrolled at the Indiana University School of Music, studying under renowned cellist Janos Starker.  Determined to be the best Starker student ever, Horvath practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

    It was too much for her body to take. In one two-minute movement of the aria "Why Do the Nations" from Handel's "Messiah," for example, Horvath's right arm moves back and forth 740 times during the 96-bar movement.  "Try brushing your teeth with 740 strokes," she said.

    Horvath's left arm began to hurt. But she kept quiet, thinking the pain would disappear as she got in better shape as a cellist.  Instead, it got worse. She finally admitted her condition to Starker and put down her cello for three months. It took another nine months of working with Starker to adjust her posture and technique before Horvath was healed.

    The experience sensitized Horvath to the pain all around her. Fellow musicians started asking for help with their problems -- muscle and tendon disorders, nerve damage, hearing loss, aching lips and jaws and teeth.  She began working not only with musicians, but with physicians, therapists, orchestra managers, college teachers and insurance carriers.

    Today, some musicians use splints to brace their limbs and special supports for heavy instruments. They are experimenting with special chairs and modified instruments -- smaller piano keyboards for people with small hands, for example, and a viola that is stretched diagonally to help relieve a musician's elbow pain. Some musicians use Plexiglas shields to protect their hearing.

    Performing arts medical clinics have sprung up, and there's a textbook for medical students who may want to specialize in the field.
    In 2002, Horvath self-published a book, "Playing (less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians." It has sold a healthy 3,000 copies.
    Dr. Jennine Speier, a Twin Cities specialist in physical medicine rehabilitation who has worked closely with Horvath, said musicians are becoming more willing to talk about their injuries and seek treatment. And more doctors are becoming knowledgeable about the types of problems musicians experience and what specialists are best trained to evaluate and treat them, she said.

    "It's a tremendously changed area, although we're still, I think, quite behind sports medicine," Horvath said. "But we're getting there, and it's partly due to the rampant nature of overuse injuries, the repetitive strain injuries that are occurring in the workplace due to the computer."

    In May, the Indianapolis Symphony became the first major orchestra in the country to require its musicians to attend a two-day pain prevention workshop. Orchestra management brought in Horvath and used rehearsal time for her workshops.

    Geoffry S. Lapin, a cellist with the symphony for 33 years, said injuries had been increasing and musicians were missing work. Horvath spent about an hour working with Lapin individually on his neck pain.  "I thought it was the way I was leaning my head back when I play," Lapin said. But when he played for Horvath, she determined he was scrunching his shoulders forward and putting pressure on neck nerves.

    Because Lapin has very long legs, Horvath had him sit further back on his chair and pull out the end pin at the bottom of his cello another six inches, which opened up his shoulders.  "I am pain-free for the first time in years," Lapin said.

    Playing tips

    Five essential practice rules for beginning and professional musicians to prevent injuries, according to cellist and author Janet Horvath:

    -- Warm up
    -- Take breaks
    -- Vary repertoire
    -- Increase practice load gradually
    -- Reduce practice intensity on the day before and day of performance

    .......Associated Press

    On the Net:
    Copyright C 2003 Deseret News Publishing Co.
    Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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    Who’s Playing What? A Guide To The Guitars Of The Pros
    By Jon Butt

    Eric Clapton performs his slow-handed magic on his. Even with just nine fingers, Jerry Garcia kept countless Deadheads dancing as he played with his. At the mere sight of his, the King of Rock-n-Roll could make a grown woman faint. Of course, I’m talking about guitars. Professional musicians have been stroking and strumming, picking and playing the world’s greatest guitars and making the world’s greatest music. If you want to play like the pros, you’re going to need to know what guitars are rocking their worlds.

    Since 1946, Fender guitars have defined rock-n-roll. Fender’s line of world-famous instruments, such as the Telecaster®, Stratocaster®, Precision Bass®, and Jazz Bass® guitars have rocked the world stage for decades. From the very beginning with Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Muddy Waters to the modern maestros such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kurt Cobain, and Eric Clapton, Fender guitars are a must for the serious professional and aspiring amateur!

    A Guitar Named After A World War I Battleship – What Will They Think Of Next?

    The dreadnought guitar was made famous by the Martin Guitar Company. Since just about that same time, the best and brightest guitarists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries have shown why a Martin guitar means excellence. Martin musicians include a who’s who of guitar greats from Jimmy Buffet, Neil Diamond, and Ben Harper to Tracy Chapman, Elvis Costello, and Jerry Garcia. When you throw in such rock icons and string virtuosos as Michael Hedges, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, Tom Petty, and Neil Young, you’ll begin to understand that you’re in good company when you go with a Martin.

    Gibson Supplies The Who’s Who Of Stars

    Starting making guitars way back in 1936, the Gibson Guitar Company has been making some of the world’s finest guitars for nearly 70 years. Most famous for its Les Paul line of guitars, Gibson has been the guitar of choice for such musical legends as Earl Scruggs, B.B. King, and Elvis Presley. When you add two of the most talented Beatles to the mix, George Harrison and John Lennon, as well as Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, you’re talking a guitar that shines out as one of the best of the best.

    For those of you who are looking for a less mainstream guitar choice, don’t fret; Ibanez, maker of all manner of musical instruments, is known as the perfect guitar for the select. With such guitar icons as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Pat Metheny, and Boz Scaggs on board with Ibanez, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to get your strum on just fine with this highest quality of guitars.

    Yamaha Makes More Than MotorBikes

    Beginning in 1887, Yamaha started making world-class instruments. Granted they didn’t start producing their guitars for years to come, but nobody would argue with the fact that Yamaha guitars are some of the best in the world. With an attention to detail that is second to none, Yamaha is a guitar to watch. But, if you want to listen, don’t take my word for it. Lee Ritenour, Edwin McCain, Keb Mo, and Richie Sambora will gladly show you how diverse Yamaha can be.

    If you’re ready to rock like the superstar, get strapped with a guitar of the pros. With so many great brands to choose from, be sure to ask your local guitar store expert for their recommendations to get the best guitar for your money. When you take into consideration your playing style, experience, and budget, you’re sure to find the perfect guitar and start playing like the pros in no time at all! Rock on!

    Jon Butt is the publisher of Musical Instruments Guide , a free resource dedicated to all things musical. From electric guitars to drum sets, tubas to bagpipes, and every musical accessory in-between, the">Musical Instruments Guide is packed full of informative articles, find top-rated musical instruments and online merchants
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     Basic Guitar Chords: How to Easily Master the Guitar Chords You Must Know

    by Peter Bussey

    One of the first challenges faced by the advancing guitar player is learning a core group of basic guitar chords. Why is it so important to learn these basic chords? Chords form the backbone of most rock and pop songs, and provide the harmonic accompaniment to the melody and instrumental solos.

    Rhythm guitar based on basic chords provides many of the most memorable rock riffs... think AC/DCs "Back in Black" or The Whos "Wont Get Fooled Again". Whats really amazing is that by learning no more than 10 to 15 basic guitar chords, you will be equipped to play thousands of rock and pop songs!

    What is a Guitar Chord?

    First lets establish the definition of a chord. A chord is three or more different musical notes played together. In the case of the guitar, this means that at least three strings are strummed or plucked simultaneously to sound three or more notes. Since the guitar has six strings, the maximum numbers of notes in a guitar chord is six. All chords can be placed in one of three groups based on the musical structure of the chord: Major, Minor, or Seventh. Each of these chord groups has its own "sound" or "feel". Major chords sound stable and complete. Minor chords can evoke a more somber or pensive mood, and Seventh chords are jazzy and somewhat incomplete sounding.

    There is no standard list of "basic guitar chords" that every one agrees to. However, there is general agreement that there is a list of somewhere between 8 and 18 basic guitar chords (open string) that every guitarist must know cold. These chords are used in all musical styles from rock and pop to country, jazz, and classical. No matter where you are on your guitar-playing path, you should take the time to learn and master the basic chords. Getting these right will ensure you have the basic tools and skills to learn many songs and increase your playing enjoyment.

    The List of Basic Guitar Chords

    So what are the basic guitar chords? Our basic stable includes the major and minor chords from four common musical keys, A,G,C, and D. They are played as "open chords", that is at least one string in the chord is not fretted (pressed down with a finger). Open chords are easier to learn and play than more advanced chords such as Barre chords, or complex chords further up the guitar neck. Our list of basic major and minor chords is:

    A Major (or A), A Minor (or Am), C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G

    These chords can be best learned as chord "families" (by key) that can be combined into great-sounding chord sequences that make up lots of popular songs. Using this chord family approach is much more interesting and useful than just memorizing a bunch of chords in random order!

    These chords grouped by chord family (key) are as follows:

    A Family (Key of A): A, D, E
    D Family (Key of D): D, Em, G, A
    G Family (Key of G): G, Am, C, D, Em
    C Family (Key of C): C, Dm, Em, F, G

    Tips for Learning the Basic Chords:

    1. Pick a Chord Family and master it. This will give you quick success and let you play great sounding progressions right away.

    2. Use a Guitar Chord Chart as a reference tool. A chord chart shows each chord as an easy to read "chord diagram" with exact finger positions. See this example of a chart of basic guitar chords.

    3. Find the chords and lyrics for an easy song that is based on the chord family so you can apply your skills. Many great songs are based on only three chords!

    4. Ensure each string sounds right. Take care to make sure that each string is sounding clearly, and that only the strings that should be played are played.

    5. Practice, practice, practice! Every day, practice continually change from one chord to another until you can do it rapidly. Learn the chord families one at a time.

    6. Master all the basic chords first. Only then move on to Barre chords and other more complex chords. First things first!

    7. Expand with 7th chords. As a next step you can easily expand on your basic chord knowledge by adding 7th and minor 7th chords based on the nine basic major and minor chords.

    8. Have fun using your new skills! Enjoy your musical ability by applying it to learning a small set of 5-10 songs you know really well and can confidently play at any time.

    Peter Bussey has been an avid guitar player for over 10 years. In 2004 he became Editor of The Guitar Players Toolbox, a website dedicated to helping advancing guitar players improve with practical tools, tips, and information. Visit for a variety of free, practical resources such as guitar chords, guitar chord charts, song chords, and much more.

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    Top Ten Items You Need In Your Gig Bag 

    By Jerry Mathis

    ...Nothing like being prepared...
    It would serve you well to keep that in mind. Whether or not you going to play your gig, your recording session, or just jam with the band, the list below comprises (in my honest, humble opinion) ten of the most important accessories you need to have in your gig bag. They are not necessarily listed in order of importance; I think they all are equally necessary...

    1. Strings

    Ok...DUHHH!! Of course you need strings. Kinda hard to play without them. The thing is that you would not believe how many times people are just unprepared...and then they break one. Nothing more embarassing than having to take a break during your gig to change a string. There could be a little bit of a double-whammy would be best if you had a backup guitar (strung up and tuned, of course), but if you don't have one, having a few sets of strings in your bag can save you.

    2. Picks

    Umm...Double DUHHH. This one comes from personal experience. I never really thought about keeping extra picks in my bag, but there was one time in particular that I found I needed one and I didn't have any! I had to try and do the Billy Gibbons/Brian May deal and use a quarter (yeah, I know...Billy uses a peso and Brian uses some sort of British coin...but you get the point). If you have never tried to play with a quarter and then have to, it can be quite a different experience when compared to picks that you are used to.

    3. Cords

    Triple DUHHH. No question about that. The deal here is make sure your cords are in good shape. I've had them go out on me in the middle of a gig (thank God for having a back-up). The cheaper ones with the molded plastic ends can cause you problems because if you develop a short-circuit in the plug you are pretty much done. I prefer the cords that have ends you can unscrew to get to the actual solder connection to the plug. Like #1 and #2 this may seem to be a no-brainer...but you really do need all three.

    4. Tuner

    No more DUHHH's here (well...maybe there is one later on). I'm sure we have all been in situations where we tune to everyone else by ear, and for the most part that might be OK for practice. For live and recording situations, however, a tuner is a must-have item. Especially for recording. I was hired out to play on this one fellow's demo, and I didn't have a tuner with me - "no big deal..." I thought. "They will have one at the studio." Guess what? No tuner. We spent at least a half-hour trying to tune up by ear to this guy's keyboard.
    I have found that chromatic tuners are the best. One band I was in tuned down 1/2 step to give a little edge in the vocal department, and being able to tune exactly down was great. The "needle" tuners of old can be touchy, so I would go for ones with some sort of LED or digital display.

    (By the way, there is a BIG difference between tuning down 1/2 step and tuning to A430Hz (?). We were the house band during jam night one time, and this crusty guy comes up and asks how we are tuned. I said "1/2 step down"...and he looked at me like I had lobsters crawing out of my ears. "What the ?!@# is 1/2 step? Do you mean A430Hz?" Whew...what a jerk. 'A' is actually pitched at A440Hz.)
    Pedal tuners are an excellent way to be able to keep in tune while not having to undo your cords to plug in to an "offline" tuner (and this will keep the sound man from kicking your butt when you pull the cord and send a great sounding "POP" through the PA).
    Do youself a favor. If you don't have a tuner - get one!

    5. Strap Locks

    It makes me shudder just to think about it. Get in your way-back machine and go to 1984 (mmm...mullets...). I was jamming in my cousin's garage with my very first band. The guy we had for a singer was a guitar player as well. The problem was he thought he was Paul Stanley and was jumping around in front of the mike with both arms in the air. I'm sure you can figure out what happened next...
    He had a Les Paul copy. Not expensive, but it was his only guitar. The strap came off and the guitar landed - face first - onto the cold, hard, concrete floor. Makes me nauseous even now. Cracked the neck, chipped the headstock, smashed in the volume and tone controls...what a mess.

    All I can say is - get some strap locks. For the uninformed, strap locks are nifty little devices that have a ball-lock system. The pins on the guitar have a large hole in the end of them , and the other piece (which is affixed to your strap so it won't pull through the hole) plugs in and locks - it can't come undone unless you push the release button on the piece mounted to the strap. Strap locks wil help you to make sure your most prized possession (your guitar...what else?!?) won't have to same fate as my old singer's.

    6. Surge Protector

    Man, we were fired up. A new club had opened in town and was getting the rep for being "the place to play" - and we managed to get a gig!  We came in, checked out the stage, made sure that we had enough power sources, and went to town setting up.

    I plugged my wireless unit, my footpedal effects unit, and my amp in...and turned the power on. POP!! My wireless was, well, DEAD. Same with the amp. Somehow my pedal unit made it through and I had to run a line-out direct from the unit to the PA. Sounded OK, but I had no stage volume (we were too cheap to get monitors back then). I couldn't hear myself that well that night...

    I ended up "paying" my bass player with a bottle of his favorite tequila to rip the amp apart (this guy was an electronics whiz) and see what was wrong. Luckily it was only a blown fuse, but it could have been a lot worse. Sadly, the wireless receiver did not meet with the same fate.

    I never - repeat, NEVER - have plugged in anywhere without using my own power strip with a surge protector after that. Period. Lesson learned.

    7. Guitar Stand

    Nothing can look more unprofessional than having to lean your guitar against something when you are taking your breaks. Not to mention, you don't want your guitar to fall over. Trust need a stand. Also, it looks pretty cool to have your guitar arsenal displayed in front of the crowd...

    8. Capo

    This one really depends on your playing style, so I don't know if it is "required"...but it a capo can come in handy. For the uninitiated, a capo is a device that clamps around your guitar neck to "change" the position of the nut. It allows you to use the same chord fingerings in different keys, and there for get different voicings. For example, play an open 'D' chord. Now place your capo between the first and second frets and play the same is now an 'E'. Pretty simple, and some songs (especially some acoustic numbers) are downright impossible to play without one.

    Cheap...simple...and used by millions.

    9. String Cleaner

    I don't know about you but I can get pretty sweaty after playing four sets in a seedy little dive on the edge of town. The eventual result of this if you don't use some sort of string cleaner is having to take a chisel to scrape out the crud that builds up on your fretboard (ok - a chisel may be exaggerating a bit).

    Your guitar is an investment. Clean it and take care if it!

    10. Batteries

    This goes in the "may be needed" section. If you use a wireless, you use batteries. If you use foot pedals, you may use batteries (unless you use an AC adaptor). If you use a wireless microphone, you use batteries.

    I think this goes without saying anything more. You can tell when your battery in your wireless is going dead - bad quality, bad sounding signal - then nothing. Make sure you have plenty of back ups. I had to get myself in the habit of remembering to get some before every gig.

    11. Gig Bag

    BONUS ITEM!!  You get your money's worth here at, I'll tell you what...
    DUHHH (I told you there may be another one)!!! It's hard to put all of this stuff in your gig bag if you don't have one. 'Nuff said.

    12. Your head

    Anytime you play, you need to remain focused. Sure, there are other things going on in your life. Letting your mind wander can lead to mistakes...been there, done that. Try to clear your mind before you play and just "let it flow, dude".

    13. Fun

    To quote The Beatles in "She's Leaving Home" from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": "Fun is the one thing that money can't buy".

    You can't put this in your gig bag, but remember - it's GOT to be fun!!
    Well, that's about it. Obviously I wanted to have a little fun (see item #13) here, but the points made and lessons learned are real.
    And remember:  ...Nothing like being prepared...

    Jerry Mathis has 25 years of guitar experience - playing, teaching, recording and performing live. Visit his website to get all of your guitar tablatures, articles, reviews, accessories and more all in one place!
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    Acoustic Guitars – Laminated Wood Versus Solid Wood

    by Ken Searcy

    A lot has transpired through the years in the debate over acoustic guitars in the area of laminate versus solid wood construction. It is not a secret that the type of materials and craftsmanship affect the quality, durability, sound and price of acoustic guitars. However, there is probably no other discussion bigger than this.

    The question that many players ask themselves is whether a solid body is worth the price? Despite the better sound, they require care and regular maintenance to prevent cracking. When using laminated you run the risk that it will separate over time. There is no clear answer to this question and as long as there is a discussion about acoustic guitars, it will always be at the forefront.

    The Debate - Uncut

    Laminated is several pieces of wood glued together and solid body is exactly that, one piece. There are pros and cons to both kinds. It is a fact that laminate is known to produce a ‘dead’ sound that does not sustain or project sound very well and the one-piece body is known for its richer tone. Laminate is more used because it is more durable and less sensitive to humidity and change in temperature. A body that is made from one-piece timber is very sensitive to humidity and climate change. The top is like a sponge that you can’t let dry out.

    A Bit Of History

    Years ago the debate was not about sound quality or durability, it was about price. The one piece timber body guitars were very expensive so many musicians did not have a choice but to buy one made of laminate. A one piece is coveted because of its rich and beautiful tone that only seems to become better over time. However, times have changed quite a bit in the world of laminate including the craftsmanship. Better quality laminate is being used and more detailed craftsmanship has been applied so they are sounding better and better everyday.

    It is evident why this debate is becoming less spectacular, but the fact will always remain the same that a laminate will never be able to sound as good.

    The Main Problem

    When building a guitar you want the soundboard, better known as the top, to be as lightweight and strong as possible. Creating this ratio with laminate is often difficult because in order to make it strong it ends up too heavy. The wet glue used to secure the pieces of timber together can become to heavy when too much is used. Unfortunately, when too little of the glue is used, the timber pulls apart. Recently new adhesives have been introduced that have helped to solve this problem and ensure lightness. This is one of the ways that laminated construction is becoming more popular and competitive.

    Necks, Sides & Backs

    Acoustic laminate necks are very common and widely accepted. This has become a popular way to make the neck stronger. Hybrid guitars are also extremely common. Many models are made with one piece body tops and laminate sides and backs. The sound quality is 90% dependent on what the top is made of, so as long as the soundboard is one piece the rich sound will be present. This is also a great way to make solid body tops affordable.

    How Do You Tell The Difference?

    Depending on how dark the timber or stain is, telling the difference between them can be a difficult task. First, you need to look at the inside edge of the sound hole on the top of the body. If the edge has a natural finish it is a one piece body and if it has two or more layers it is made of laminate. To determine what the back and sides are constructed with you need to first look at the back of the guitar. Next, look inside the sound hole at the same spot on the back and see if the wood grains are the same. If they are the same it is a whole body. You can do this same technique with the sides.

    It’s a Wrap

    Everyone’s opinion is different. Many believe that there is no need to buy an acoustic made of laminated timber when solid bodies are so affordable now. Others believe that the sound quality of laminate bodies on their own and in a hybrid model is comparable. Each individual needs to evaluate the pros and cons of both, and decide what makes sense for them. For example if you travel often, perhaps it makes sense to purchase a laminate model for its durability. When buying there are always a lot of questions that need to be answered, this is just another one.

    Ken Searcy is the host of where you will discover invaluable advice and tips on how-to choose and buy electric guitars, the perfect acoustic guitar, guitar lessons, guitar amps and guitar accessories.

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    And  speaking of jamming, if you're tired of jamming alone, check this out!

    Guitar-Backing-Tracks is a brand new site that allows you to select ANY drum beat... ANY bass riff or ANY synth track...... and start jamming immediately!

    Improve your guitar playing...... create your own songs..... improve your lead with over 125,000 different combinations of beats, riffs and synth tracks behind you!

    For the last 6 months, Chris Elmore and the team at Guitar Tips have been flat out recording and he's just told us he's finally finished!!!
    Because you're already a subscriber on our newsletter -- we wanted you to be among the first to check it out.  It's called "Guitar-Backing-Tracks" and like all his other sites, you can access the site any time of the day or night, at the times which suit you best!

    Whether you enjoy slow jazz beats, hard rock beats, ultra fast grooves or slow mellow tunes... ... you'll be jamming in your own home, with your own virtual 'Backing Band' behind you!  There's so much more to explain, so check out his new site before everyone else gets in!

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