How to improve your chord playing

by Sam Russell

I know that something a lot of beginners struggle with is their chord playing. This can be especially frustrating for beginners, because often, this is the one area of guitar that they really want to get the hang of, so that they can play all their favourite songs.

But the same problems almost always come up:

·      The chords make a weird buzzing sound

·      The chords have a weird thonk noise to them

·      They can’t get the chords on their guitar to be in time

·      The chords sound “thin”

·      There are extra strings ringing out

And being unable to solve these problems leads most beginner guitar players to one of two situations:

·      They quit playing guitar, thinking that it isn’t for them

·      They put up with it, and accept being a mediocre guitar player

Neither situation is ideal. Fortunately, there are solutions and this article is going to walk you through some of those solutions.

These solutions do not relate to just one problem. Each solution can fix one problem, or a few problems. Equally, each problem does not have a single solution. Do not think about solving your chord problems in the following way:

Problem X requires Solution Y

Instead, think of it in the following way:

Problem X requires running through a checklist of solutions A, B, C and D to discover which one is causing the problem

That being said, let’s start looking at some solutions so you can fix up your guitar playing:

Pre-Solution – Problem Finding

There is a step we need to take before we start finding solutions and that is, problem isolation. We have to find out where the problem is. Hold your chord down and pick through the strings one at a time, SLOWLY. We are not looking at ‘playing guitar’, here we are trying to work out which strings need attention and which don’t. If the string rings out fine we can ignore it. If it makes a weird sound, then we start running through the following solutions looking for a fix.

Solution 1 – Finger Position

The ideal place to have your fingers positioned on the strings is close to the fret, but not quite touching. So keep your fingers 1mm-2mm from the fret. If your fingers are too far from the frets, you will find that you get a weird buzzing noise come out of the guitar. The buzzing noise is caused by the string ‘bouncing’ against the fret. If your fingers touch the frets, you will find the strings sound very muted.  This is caused by the skin on your fingers going over the fret and muting the string, causing that part of the chord to not ring out clearly.

Another common problem with finger position is students have their fingers at a jaunty angle to the strings. You want your fingers to be perpendicular to the strings, at 90 degrees. Pretend your fretboard is a piano… that is how you want your fingers positioned.

Position your fingers 1mm-2mm behind the fret, keep them perpendicular to the neck, and the notes will ring out beautifully every single time.

Solution 2 – Finger Pressure

When playing guitar, we want to use just enough pressure to hold down the strings, and no more. If you have checked Solution 1, corrected your finger position and the notes still don’t sound clear, try holding the strings down a little bit harder. I know that for beginners this can be a little painful in your finger tips, but you have to get used to it sooner or later! If you are already applying a large amount of pressure, then try relaxing your fingers until the note loses its clarity. Use a tiny amount more pressure than this.

Just enough pressure – that’s all we need.

Solution 3 – Quit Using the Pick Like a Shovel

If you are getting all sorts of additional and unwanted open strings ringing out, this is probably the cause. Strum your chord and watch you pick hand. Is it moving in a nice and controlled manner, or are you waving it around like a shovel? If it is the latter… then we need to fix that. Practice just moving the pick hand in a more controlled manner and you will clean up your chord playing in no time.

Solution 4 – Leaving the Strumming Hand in the Wrong Place

This is very common with beginners and intermediate players. This is often the cause of why your chord changes are not in time. Most people, when they strum and there is a pause in the music, or a longer note ringing out, or between a chord change; will “leave” their strumming hand at the bottom of the strings (the ‘floor side’ of the guitar). They then change chord. And THEN they have to bring their hand back up to strum the chord.

Often, a beginner guitar player gets the hang of the chord change with the fret hand, but they can’t work out why it is still out of time when they strum. They change chord in time with the left hand, goto play the chord, and then have to bring the strumming hand back up. This process of bringing the strumming hand back up takes additional time which has not been accounted for, throwing the whole process out of time.

To fix this, pretend your strumming hand is on a big rubber band connected to your neck. Every time you finish a strum, even if it is not necessary, bring the strumming hand back above the strings. This will mean that it is ready to go the split second you need it. This one change can help you get your chords changes wonderfully in time.

This article was written by Sam Russell who teaches beginner guitar students in Ickenham how to rapidly improve their guitar playing

Do I Really Need To Practice With A Metronome?

By Jason Wilford

A question that I’ve received from many students over the years is whether or not they should be practicing with a metronome. Practicing to a metronome can definitely help your playing in many areas, but the answer to this question is a little more complicated than just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Whether or not you should practice to a metronome depends on individual circumstances, the level of the player, what they are working on, and much more — so in this short article I want to lay out the reasons why you would — and wouldn’t — want to practice to a metronome.

First off, if you don’t know what a metronome is, the short answer is that it’s a device that produces an audible beat at specific intervals of time. If you’ve never heard of one before, it’s a good idea to search for ‘metronome’ online and watch a video about what this can do for you. You can get standalone metronomes, apps for your computer/phone/tablet, as well as online webpages that will act as a metronome for you.

First off, let’s go over some reasons why you’d want to practice with a metronome. This is just a starting point, so feel free to add your own reasons of when using a metronome can help you achieve your individual guitar playing goals.

  • When you want to build speed — using a metronome can help you slowly push your speed higher and higher, provided that you ensure you’re staying in time with the metronome.
  • When you want to track your progress - Keeping a log that tracks your top speed of specific scales, arpeggios, or exercises can really help you see how much you’re coming along in specific areas.
  • When you want to improve your timing for a exercise or song - it’s great to have something to help you keep your timing in place when you’re working on a piece that you’ve already memorized. Record yourself as you play along, and listen back: you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn by doing this


  • If you’re going to be recording - playing to a metronome is essential if you’re going to be recording. Nowadays most recording is done to a ‘click track’ using recording software. Being able to stay in time with the metronome should be your number 1 priority when preparing to record.


  • When you want to get better at note divisions

- being able to divide a beat into 2,3,4,6 etc is really important if you want to make your playing as interesting as possible. Practice playing to a metronome at 60bpm, and pick a single string. Practice dividing it into groups of 2, then 3, then 4, and finally 6. There are many other divisions you can work on, but this is a good start.

Now let’s go over some reasons why you would want to practice without a metronome.

  • When you are first learning a song, exercise, or piece of music - At this point you don’t know what you’re playing that well yet, so playing with a metronome will only add frustration. Wait until you have memorized the piece until you start using the metronome.

  • When practicing for a gig - you should balance playing with a metronome vs. not playing with a metronome so that you’re comfortable with both situations. Odds are that you don’t want that metronome clicking when you’re up on stage playing with a band, or performing a solo gig. The metronome can help you practice staying in consistent time, but ultimately you want to be able to stay consistently in time without a metronome as well.

  • When playing for fun - playing the guitar isn’t all about practicing every minute of the day! You need to have fun too, so make sure to set aside some time where you just playing the guitar without anything else playing.

  • When playing with a band or along to a recording - This should be self explanatory, but if you’re practicing with a band or playing along to a song, you don’t need that metronome on!

  • In the end, there are many reasons to play with or not to play along with a metronome. In my experience, it’s best to practice in as many ways as possible. Play with a metronome, play completely solo with no backing at all, practice along with backing tracks, practice with other musicians, and play along with recordings of actual songs. The best way to be a well-rounded guitarist is to practice in a well-rounded way, so as you can see, the answer to the question ’should I practice with a metronome?’ doesn’t have just one answer — the answer is to practice with and without a metronome.

    About the Author:

    Jason Wilford is a musician and guitar instructor in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada).

Easy Ways to Maintain Forward Progress in Your Musical Growth and Mastery Without Wasting Past Victories

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue... Easy Ways to Maintain Forward Progress in Your Musical Growth and Mastery Without Wasting Past Victories

The struggle is always the same, right? How does one balance on the tightrope of maintaining musical growth and mastery momentum while not allowing what’s already been learned to become a distant, not so clear, memory?

There have been many instances in my life as a musician where I’ve dug through boxes and boxes of books, dvds and old lessons and become very disappointed at the amount of material I’ve worked hard to learn and totally forgotten to apply...

A very simple idea I’ve used to overcome these disappointing times is based on the old wedding adage of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” It goes something like this...

Something Old (Review)

Within each practice session I dedicate a percentage of time to reviewing older material. This material could be past songs I’ve learned for gigs, techniques I’ve learned and haven’t been able to utilize in a while, old scale patterns and positions, chord shapes, phrasing tools, etc. I usually keep a list of things I want to review in my practice journal and simply refer back to the list when I’m planning my weekly practice sessions.

Something New (Learning)

I also dedicate a percentage of my practice session to learning new material. There’s no mystery here. This material consists of songs for upcoming gigs, techniques for styles I’m interested in adding to my playing and specialized content I develop for my students (yep, I actually go through the learning process for all content I provide to my students so I can help them avoid an unnecessary pitfalls that might occur.)

Something Borrowed (Finding Inspiration)

A small percentage of practice time is dedicated to finding inspirational playing. This could be the most important element of my practice sessions because it continually motivates me to get better and improves my learning abilities as I “borrow” techniques and ideas from online performances, recordings, method books, dvds, etc. While a lot of the ideas I find get placed on my “review” list mentioned above, I still gain the benefit of being inspired in the current moment... Win-win!

Something Blue (Going Back to Your Roots)

Another incredibly important part of staying motivated to push forward and maintain momentum is simply going back to what originally inspired me to begin playing in the first place. For me, it’s the Blues. It may be something different for you. Regardless, I always take a bit of time during each practice session to play some blues guitar. It may be specific songs I loved as a kid. It may be a 10-minute jam over the changes to a Hendrix tune... It’s always different, but it’s consistently fun and invigorating.

Take away:

While everything in this article is common sense, it’s the simplicity of each element combined with the synergy between these elements that provide massive results. I would encourage you to try separating your practice sessions into similar sections for a week or two and experience the benefits an old marriage saying can add to your success as a growing musician.

Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself.  :-)

About the author: Ty Morgan is a professional guitarist in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He also owns and operates one of the premier guitar education academies in the area. If you’re searching for rock/blues guitar lessons in Mesa, AZ  and ready to discover the science of learning and mastering guitar be sure to contact Ty!

Can You Teach Yourself Guitar From Apps?

The invention of the smartphone and tablet devices has greatly affected the world in which we live. Many industries are experiencing massive change as we now move into the digital age and spend more and more of our lives glued to our phones.

10 years ago the majority of people who wanted to learn guitar had only two options, learn from a guitar teacher or self teach from a book, DVD or VHS. These days guitarists can learn from a host of sources including smartphone apps, online courses, youtube videos and skype lessons with actual teachers online. There has never been more information available to potential students with more and more content being added every day. This is a good thing right? Wrong! There has never been so much content available but there is absolutely no quality control and the vast majority of it is garbage. Furthermore there is just so much available that you can spend an endless amount of time just learning without ever actually applying your knowledge to a practical context.

Don’t get me wrong I think there are some wonderful guitar applications and believe there many positive things that apps do. One feature that many apps do well is gamifying the learning process which makes learning really enjoyable, particularly for children. The ease of access and affordability of many apps also means that more and more people can teach themselves the basics of guitar. This means the average Joe who just wants to learn how to strum along to some of their favorite songs can do so in the comfort of his own home and can learn at his own pace. If you’re a casual player and you’re not too serious about learning an app might be just what you need.

If you are serious about your guitar playing and want to be more than a hobbyist then learning from an app probably isn’t for you. While apps can provide you with an abundance of knowledge (assuming the app you have is created by an expert guitar teacher and not just thrown together by a company looking to cash in on the app market) they don’t give you feedback on your technique. If you’re not holding your hand the right way, have synchronisation issues between your hands or a host of other problems that are faced by many guitarists then the app can’t give you that feedback. This may lead to you practicing incorrectly and developing bad habits which will be harder to break than if you learned correctly the first time.

The other big downside to learning from apps is they give you all the information you need without actually giving you the opportunity to apply it, integrate it and master it. What’s the point in learning 100 chords if you’re only going to use 12 of them 95% of the time? What’s the point in learning 30 scales if you don’t know how to improvise solos or create your own licks with them? An app can give you the information that you need but it can’t show you how to use it. You would be much better getting lessons from a teacher who can already do what you want to do and show you how to think creatively so you can avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Another point to consider is that the majority of apps are targeted at beginners and have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format that assumes everyone wants to learn the chords to strum along to their favorite radio songs. This is mainly because the biggest market is beginner guitar players many of which will buy the app while they’re motivated and give up a few weeks later. Not only do you get severely limited in the content you learn within an app but once you’re done (assuming you haven't quit already) you’ve got nowhere else to go. If you’ve reached the intermediate phase or if you’re into heavy metal, blues, jazz, flamenco or other niche genres then you’re extremely limited in the amount of apps available to you. This is where having a guitar teacher who can create a personalised lesson program built around your own goals and musical tastes really wins out.

One final note is that the vast majority of people who try and teach themselves from apps end up quitting before they reach their goal. It’s easy to tell yourself you are going to practice 20 minutes before bed and an hour on saturday but when you have a bad day at work and a friend pops around unannounced then all your plans go out the window. By signing up for guitar lessons you automatically get a teacher to hold you accountable.

So in summary, I believe there are a some wonderful guitar applications out there that can give the casual player a great start to playing guitar. Nothing however can substitute for guitar lessons with a great teacher who can create you a program around your goals, give you live feedback on your technique and hold you accountable. If you’re content learning some of your favorite songs and don’t mind it taking the long road with the potential to develop a few bad habits along the way,, then an app may be for you. If you’re serious about guitar playing, developing a great technique and learning how to apply everything you know to real musical situations then guitar lessons with a teacher will be a much better investment of your time and money.


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About The Author

Michael Gumley is a virtuoso guitarist and highly sought after guitar teacher from Melbourne, Australia. His hobbies include fishing, camping and fixing bad habits that people learn from the Yousician App. If you’re serious about your skills taking guitar lessons in Melbourne will make you a better player in no time at all.


7 Simple Steps To Developing And Creating An Effective Guitar Practice Routine

“What?” I hear you say...”you mean I got to practice this stuff?” Only if you want to get better at it...

You are investing both your time and money into learning to play the guitar. You go to your guitar lesson each week, but what do you do with the material from your lesson, when you get home? How do you get maximum return on your investment? This is what this article will cover.

There are some really useful things to know about practising. But first let me tell you about a little secret truth. If you get home and just casually pick up your guitar and half-heartedly, go over the material you have been given, let me tell you that is NOT practising. That is noodling. Noodling and practising is not the same thing!

It is best to have a plan and KNOW exactly what you are going to practice today - even if you only have ten minutes to practice. Having a dedicated, focused, fully planned ten minutes will get you further along the path faster than an hour of mindless noodling. So how do create a practice routine?

This article is not a 'be all and end all lesson' on how to practice. As you progress there will be different demands and disciplines required but the basics will stay with you for the rest of your playing days. Below are specific steps that, if you follow them as set out, will produce some dramatic results for you.

Step 1. Make a plan. Your guitar teacher by now has given you some material(s) that cover various areas of guitar playing. What ones should you be practising? All of the exercises and techniques you have. But not all in the same practice session. So your plan will be specific to you, but if you follow this guideline you will see results. If you have four or five different lesson material/exercises, divide your practise time up evenly. How can you gain results on five different materials/exercises if you've only got 10 minutes to practice your guitar?

If you only have ten minutes for practice, work on rhythm playing and some single note exercises for 5 minutes each today, which would be day 1. Tomorrow if you can, work on the other three sets of materials. Even simply rotating through the materials will help. Varying it up each day will help to keep it fresh and interesting, thus preventing boredom. You may like to set this up in a planner for yourself or in a excel spread sheet or something similar.

Step 2. Dedicate a specific amount of time. This step should be part of your plan. Set aside an allocated time each day. Work out for yourself are you a morning person or an evening person? Do you need to split up your practice time before work and when you get home? Maybe you're a night owl and 2 o'clock in the morning works best for you. Whatever time works for you, make the commitment to yourself and keep it.

Step 3. Set up. What does it mean by set up? It means having all of your lesson materials ready to go before you begin to practice. Do you have your folder with your lesson material in it? Is your metronome ready for action? Having everything you need ready and easily accessible, before starting your practice, saves a lot of time and reduces stress, if you don't have a lot of time to begin with to practice. Do you have a stand to put your materials on? Do you have your tuner?

Step 4. Turn off. So you have your plan in place and all of your materials and accessories are in easy reach. Now it is time to turn off - all mobile phones and electronic devices (except your guitar tuner/amplifier if using). Your Wi-Fi and T.V should be off.

Step 5. Tune up. Allow a minute or so before you start your practice to tune up your guitar. You should be doing this every time you sit down with your guitar anyway. This will help to develop your ear and you will begin to notice if it goes out of tune when playing or practising.

Step 6. Focus. For the next 10, 15 or 20 minutes (or whatever you have decided), focus entirely on the exercise/material at hand. Break the material down. Do not keep going back over the piece once you make a mistake. Isolate the mistake and turn the weakness into strength. Then, and only then begin to put the whole piece/section together.

Step 7. Study. Regular review and study of your materials is essential for your growth as a guitar player. Go over the material as many times as you have to until you know it. Lock those chord shapes, scale patterns and theory notes into memory so you can start creating music and not continually reading off the sheet.

So there you have seven simple steps to help you. By following these steps, you will achieve more than you probably thought before. Yes practice is what needed. There is the old saying that practice makes perfect. That is only a half-truth. Perfect practice makes perfect. Above are some basic tools for you to achieve this.


Allen Hopgood is a professional guitar instructor on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. He is committed to helping his students become better guitar players, with his modern guitar teaching techniques and strategies, ensuring they have a complete guitar learning experience.

Are you searching for an easy way to start playing guitar? Here it is!

by Marco von Baumbach

It has always been your dream to play guitar and you finally decided to get started? If you are holding your first guitar in your hand, than most likely you can not wait to start right away, at least for me that was the case!

Back than when I discovered the old guitar of my father, I immediately tried to play some cool tunes on it. From my today's perspective I must have played awful, but I didn't cared about how I sounded at all, because I was so fascinated from playing it. I simply started with what I thought would be fun for me and after 2 weeks I was already able to strum to the first simple songs.

Most people find it hard to start playing the guitar, because they don't know where to begin. Don't get me wrong, learning the guitar is a challenge for every single person who attempts it, for me it was as well, as I had troubles to play even the simplest chords - not even talking about changing between them - in the beginning, but I didn't perceived it as being a struggle. Why? Because I had a picture in my mind's eye, with me already being able to play all the stuff I really would like to be able to play and I only practiced stuff that seemed to be a lot of fun to me and the stuff which I saw myself already being able to play.

Start with something that is fun for you!

If you don't know where to begin, than start with what I did. Imagine in your mind's eye, how you would like to see yourself as a guitar player. If you need an idea for this, simply get started with listening to your favorite song and imagine yourself playing along to it. That helps yourself with getting excited about wanting to become really good on guitar and second, you now have something to start practicing with.

For example, you can start with listening to the melody of the singer and replay it on your guitar, or you start strumming simple chords to the song. If you get stuck and feel helpless with learning it by yourself, you could simply asked a more advanced player or a guitar teacher to help you.

Do you see yourself playing your own songs?

If you imagine yourself in your mind's eye playing your own songs, maybe even performing them in front of a big audience, here is something to get you started right away with playing and writing your own songs, even if you know nothing about music right now.

A great place to start is to learn basic chord on guitar. Here are some names of chords to get you started:

C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am

These chords are all in the same key, called C Major. Nowadays most songs are written in a single key. In popular music it often occurs, that a composer is picking out 3 or 4 chords out of the same key and than basically repeats them over and over in the same order.

So if you want to write a song, you could take the same concept and simply pick out 3 or 4 chords of the ones above and let them repeat over and over.

Here are examples of how that could look like:

1. Example with 3 chords: G Em C; G Em C; G Em C; G Em C;

2. Example with 4 chords: G F Am C; G F Am C; G F Am C; G F Am C;

After you have figured out how to play these chords and came up with your own chord progressions, a great exercise is to sing a melody along the chords and your first song is already finished! If you are into songwriting, this will get you started having fun with as a beginner on the guitar.

This article was written by Marco von Baumbach, guitar teacher in Wuppertal, Germany.

If you are interested in the author, check out his website about Gitarrenunterricht in Wuppertal

The One Technique That Will Transform Your Guitar Playing

Do you exactly know how to play guitar with a lot of emotion?

When I am working with students on getting them to play blues guitar parts that are dripping with emotion there is one technique that I put a lot of emphasis on.

This technique is the one thing that is holding you back from sounding like an amateur to playing like the pro's.

It's quite a journey to get this technique just right, so the sooner you start developing this technique of the masters the better.

Learn what this technique is by watching this video:

Learn more about what in the video is called the 'full strum technique' as used by guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan in order to achieve a very hard hitting sound on the guitar in this article about the most important Stevie Ray Vaughan technique.


How To Make Your Blues Rhythm Guitar Riffs Sound More Complex

I am very happy to write that I've created a brand new description on how to transform your blues riffs from sounding like an amateur to advanced riffs.

Many good lead guitarists have a hard time coming up with creative rhythm parts.

Especially in the blues this hold true, because many consider the blues as an 'easy' style and so the internet is filled with basic blues riffs, but no one is taking you by the hand and showing you how to get from the basics to advanced riffs.

Learn to create your own blues riffs from starting at the most basic riffs and expanding them to complex sounding blues rhythm riffs.

Talk to you soon,


How Guitarists Such As BB King And John Mayer Create Melodic Blues Solos

I often get asked how to create melodic blues solos like BB King. After all, regular blues soloing advise will only carry you through the first steps of playing scales such as the minor pentatonic scale, but will leave you on your own after these initial tips.

Here is a sound example that clarifies what I mean with 'melodic' blues solos:

In this sound example I am not using the minor pentatonic scale exclusively, but I am adding the major pentatonic scale as well. This is being used a lot by guitarists such as BB King, Freddy King, John Mayer.

In my latest guitar article I explain why most guitarists fail to keep progressing in their blues playing and how to turn things around and keep improving every day by learning to switch between major and minor pentatonic scales in your soloing. Learn more about my blues guitar method.



My debut album Spirits in Revolution is out now!

After months of preparation (in fact, I've been writing this album for so long that I almost lost count, probably 4 or 5 years) it's great to be able to say that my album is now available. You can listen to previews of the songs and buy the album on itunes or you can order the physical version here.

It's been great to share my music with you all and I feel blessed having this music out for you to enjoy!