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Guitar Playing Tips for March 2010

March 8th, 2010 by Jeff Vivrette

Welcome to my guitar playing tips for March 2010!

Each month I will be providing you some guitar playing tips that will help you become a better guitar player.  Although the tips may be short, they are very powerful and I strongly encourage you to read them over several times and begin using them.

Let’s get started!

Guitar Playing Tip #1 – “Have More Than One Pickup On Your Guitar? Which Pickup Should You Use?”

There is more to picking than just gripping the pick between your fingers and using it to strike the strings. Picking technique includes an enormous amount of different skills that must be studied, practiced, refined and mastered in order to truly get the benefits of exceptional picking.

Most electric guitars have more than one pickup. If you haven’t experimented with using the other pickups on your guitar then you are missing out. Many guitar players get stuck using only the pickup closest to the bridge because it produces a bright and powerful sound. Try switching to the neck pickup sometimes and listen to how it sounds. What you will find is that it is a mellower and smoother tone.

The trick is to not focus on deciding to use one or the other. You should experiment using the neck pickup for different parts of a song your playing or when you’re practicing so that it becomes another option for you to use.

For guitars with 3 pickups, the center pickup will produce a sound that is a little brighter than the neck pickup but mellower than the bridge pickup. Typically, guitars with 3 pickups will have a 5 way selector switch. This will allow you to switch not only between the 3 pickups but also to blend the bridge and neck pickups with the middle pickup.

Experiment with your different pickups using a clean tone and a distorted tone. Listen to what they sound like with the volume on your guitar turned down a little. Make a note of the sounds that catch your attention and start to use those in your playing.

Have fun!

Guitar Playing Tip #2 – “When to Use Bar Chords, Power Chords or Open Chords”

You may find yourself wondering when to use a bar chord, a power chord or an open chord? The answer to this question depends on many factors. Too many to go into here. But the following tips will help you get started in the right direction when faced with this question.

One reason you may decide to se a bar chord or a power chord instead of an open chord is based on your hands location on the fretboard. If the chord your are coming from, or going to next,  is located higher up the fretboard (in pitch) then playing an open chord around the first or second fret may not be practical. It’s easier to get to the chords if they are located close to one another.

However, this shouldn’t be your only reason for deciding to play a chord as a bar chord or an open chord. The sound of the chord is a very important factor in your decision.

Sound: “Open Chords” have a big sound because some of the strings of the chard being played are open. This allows the string to vibrate easier and louder than a fretted string. “Power Chords” typically use just 2 strings so they will not sound as big as a “Bar Chord” that is using 5-6 strings.

Which one you use depends on the song you are playing or the sound you are after. Many times you may not want the higher sounding strings of a bar chord so instead you can play a power chord that focuses on the 2 lower sounding notes of the chord. You may decide to use an open chord instead of a bar chord or power chord because you want that big, open sound instead of a more focused sound that you will get from a bar chord or power chord.

Experiment with each type of chord and see which one sounds right for the music you are playing at the time. Keep an open mind.

Guitar Playing Tip #3 – “Giving Your Guitar Playing The Thumbs Up”

Where you place your thumb on your guitar neck is extremely important. Let it hang over the top and you might not be able to play some chords well. You will also find it difficult, or impossible, to stretch your fingers wide enough to play certain things. However, if you have it placed on the back of the neck then you will not be able to execute bends very well or perform other techniques.

So how do you determine where to put your thumb? 
At first, you should be learning to place your thumb on the back of the neck instead of hooking it over the top. This will help to minimize issues when learning to fret a chord or play single notes. It will help you prevent muting stings with your fret hand fingers when learning to play chords.

Try this: Play one of the following chords and allow your thumb to hook over the top of the fretboard: G, C or Am

Look closely at your fingers and see if they are touching strings other than the ones they are playing. Notice how the fingers are just sort of laying down over the strings. Many times they will mute the adjacent string and make it sound dead.

Now slide your thumb down to the middle of the back of the neck and notice how the fingers curl around and down onto the strings instead of lying down across the other strings. If your chords are not sounding the way they should, this is one of the first things you should check.

If you live in Michigan and would like to learn more about lessons and Vivrette Guitar Academy just contact me here!