Beginner’s Notes – The Correct Thumb Position

By far the most common mistake I see with new students, be they novices or people who already play, is not about how they place their hand on the guitar neck. In fact it’s about about how they place their thumb. Getting their thumb in the right place is often the single biggest thing they can do to make playing and learning the guitar easier. Let me explain…

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A Little Lube goes a Long Way

Keeping guitars in tune can be difficult at the best of times. Aside from the inherent compromises of guitar construction and how the human ear would rather hear things, we’ve all had those days when we’ve beautifully tuned a guitar and yet two minutes later it sounds like poop all over again. Let’s look at some solutions…

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How often should I take guitar lessons?

A frequent question asked by my guitar students concerns the lessons themselves – how often should their guitar lessons take place? In an international city like Paris, a lot of my guitar students are ex-pats or international students. With hectic work or school schedules and frequent international travel I understand that finding time for lessons and practice can be a difficult task. So when trying to decide on your lesson schedule, the question comes down to this…

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How often should I practice?

"The Best Part of the Day" by Brittney Marshall

“How often should I practice?” is the most common question asked by my guitar students. Every student I teach has their own unique needs and goals. And they have their own unique schedules and problems too – there is work, or school, and chores, homework, friends and families to see, other hobbies, interests, and activities and they all compete for time. It’s absolutely normal that finding the time to learn an instrument, to take lessons and to practice, can be a difficult task. But no matter who my students are, how old they are, and what other things they have going on in their life, there are a few things that I recommend for everybody.

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A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

Many a great guitar has been ruined by well-meaning but bad advice. And many a great guitar is also ruined by people who overestimate their experience and abilities with a screwdriver or a file. These are obvious lessons but so easy to forget that I think it’s time I reminded you with some real world examples (yes, the names have been changed to protect the innocent)…

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Capos and Tuning Problems

A recent forum post asked the following question: My guitar goes out of tune when I put on a capo. Is this normal? What can I do about it? Can this problem be worse on the lower frets? Does string diameter matter? The answer to all these questions is “yes”. Let’s look at why.

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How Babies Can Help Us Practice Better

Baby and Guitar

Music and language are frequently compared. The similarities are quite obvious with a little thought but our first spoken language we mastered as young children without any formal tuition. We had to pick it up as we went along. Mastering an instrument is very difficult to achieve in the same manner but there is a lot we can take from babies learning to talk that can help us to learn faster and play music better.

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Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings Review

Early this year Ernie Ball released a unique line of electric guitar and bass strings. Known as Cobalt Slinkys. The proprietary cobalt steel wrap on the wound strings is said to be provide a “stronger magnetic relationship between the strings and the pickups”, resulting in higher output, more sustain, and richer harmonics. The initial response was so strong that Ernie Ball were left scrambling to keep pace with the demand. I recently got my hands on a set and put them through their paces.

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Gibson – a Disgrace to the Guitar Industry

After much posturing and wailing and childish “why are they picking on us?” from CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson have agreed to a criminal sanction with the U.S. Government over imports of illegal ebony from Madagascar to the US. Gibson’s statement on the matter still tries to make it look like they are treated unfairly but when we look at the facts as presented by the U.S. Department of Justice, a very different picture emerges.

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PolyTune – A Practical Review

TC Electronic’s “PolyTune” first hit the stores back in 2010 and caused quite a stir. Its ability to ‘tune’ all guitar six strings at once is indeed a neat trick. While there were many magazine and web reviews, most just copied-and-pasted the same marketing blurb and didn’t tell us how well the PolyTune really performs in every day use. I’ve been using one for 18 months, for stage, studio, and tech work. Oddly enough, I think PolyTune’s best feature is the one most people don’t use…

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Tuning Stability Checklist

Tuning stability with tremolo bridges can be problematic and very frustrating, especially when recording. Solving these problem is not rocket science but with such a complicated mechanical system it can certainly can seem like a black art.  But there is a simple way of thinking through tuning problems which might help…

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Your Own Personal Fret Buzz

It is a myth that buzz-free low action is always possible. People frequently read manufacturers’ specifications and assume those numbers are a goal rather than a guideline. They assume such a setup will suit their personal playing technique without any string/fret buzz. In my experience, that is just not the case. I’ll explain why.

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It fell of the back of a truck…

Strat in pieces
Strat in pieces

Re-gluing the fingerboard, ready to work on the innards.

Usually, in English, that expression would imply some level of theft or underhand dealing. In this case it really is just a guitar that fell off the back of a truck. The truck was moving too. Quite fast, I was told, on a French motorway. Mathieu, a great double bass player, wanted his beloved Squier Strat ready for a punk gig that week and between our existing schedules it meant that I didn’t have much time to work on this. Naturally, I was expecting something of a disaster.

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