Tag Archives: article

How to Buy Your First Guitar

So you’re ready to start learning guitar (or maybe it’s your kid or another family member). Now you’ve got to buy one, and you have no idea what to look for. Fear not! This guide will help you find exactly … Continue reading

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How to Embellish Guitar Chords

Have you ever heard a guitarist take a song with otherwise plain vanilla open chords and squeeze new life out of them with subtle embellishments? In this article (and video series), I’ll show you how to spice up the same … Continue reading

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This Should Be Easy, But It’s Not

Have you ever tried doing something new on the guitar, and it was far trickier than you anticipated? “This should be easy! Why can’t my fingers just do it?” Frustration aside, these are big moments in your musical development. Any … Continue reading

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Mistakes Are Good for You

Huh? Read that title again. Mistakes really are good for you. Every mistake you make is a little red flag saying, “Want to become a better guitarist? Spend some time right here! Fix me!” Check out this now-famous video of … Continue reading

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The Guitarist’s Essentials

I don’t like rules. These are not rules. These are my top pieces of advice for guitar students of all ages and skill levels. I use these strategies relentlessly in my own playing. Use a Tuner Keep your guitar as … Continue reading

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Fretboard Twister

Here’s an awesome little finger exercise for guitar. I call it “Fretboard Twister,” because it works just like the popular Twister game. Instead of moving your hands and feet to different spots on a floor mat, you’ll be moving your … Continue reading

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How to Practice Chords: Hit the Bullseye

Practicing guitar chords is very much like practicing darts. When playing through songs, you often need to strum a chord the instant your fingers land on the strings. There’s no extra time to make adjustments and get the chord re-fingered … Continue reading

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The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises – Part 4 of 4

The final episode in the “Mother of All Major Scale Exercises” series is here. (Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first.) Part 4 combines parts 2 and 3, moving through the Cycle of Fourths with every position … Continue reading

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The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises – Part 3 of 4

The “Mother of All Major Scale Exercises” series gets even tougher with Part 3. (Check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.) This new iteration of the exercise takes the zig-zagging up and down the fretboard from Part 1 and … Continue reading

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How to Memorize and Use the Cycle of Fourths

The Cycle of Fourths (a.k.a. “Circle of Fifths” or “Cycle of Fifths” or “Circle of Fourths”) is a representation of all 12 notes in the chromatic scale, arranged into a circle. It’s most commonly used to easily find the notes … Continue reading

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The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises – Part 2 of 4

Part 2 of “The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises” will be a little harder than Part 1. (Make sure you check out Part 1 before diving into this.) Now we limit the exercise to two strings at a time, … Continue reading

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The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises – Part 1 of 4

A few years ago, I developed what I call “The Mother of All Major Scale Exercises.” It’s divided into four parts. In the video above, I walk you through Part 1. (You can see a brief explanation of the whole … Continue reading

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The World’s Most-Used Guitar Scale: A Minor Pentatonic

The A minor pentatonic scale is probably the most-used, most-heard, most-seen, and most-demonstrated scale in the rock guitar world. Video instructors use it constantly as the launching point for demonstrating all kinds of pentatonic scale ideas. A minor is a … Continue reading

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Grip Strength Training for Guitarists

One of the surest ways to make guitar playing easier is to supplement your practicing with grip strength training. There are several popular methods for improving your hand strength, and they’ll all help your guitar playing in subtle ways no … Continue reading

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Discover a Guitarist: Nels Cline

This is the tenth installment of the Discover a Guitarist series. How I Discovered Nels Cline I can’t remember how I first heard of Nels Cline (b. 1956). It was probably around 2004, when I played in the jazz band … Continue reading

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Practice What You Love

You know what you ought to practice. Maybe you have a short list or a long list. My list would last me several lifetimes if I had them. But do you love practicing what you “ought” to practice? Or does … Continue reading

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The CAGED System

The CAGED System for guitar is a method for understanding the fretboard by dividing it into five overlapping chunks. Its name is derived from the five basic major open chords: C, A, G, E, and D. (I’ll explain why they’re … Continue reading

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The Magic Guitar Position

If you’re new to the guitar, you’ve probably been frustrated a few times trying to stretch your fingers out to fret the different notes in a chord. Over time, your fingers will improve at doing this, and those chords will … Continue reading

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31 Ideas for a Guitarist in a Rut

Every guitarist lands in a rut once in a while. While disciplined diligence might allow some people to work their way out, there’s always an easier path. Try some of the ideas below, and you might skip the giant staircase … Continue reading

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3 Books Every Intermediate Guitarist Should Own

I love guitar books. I have about 50 of them lined up on in a bookcase in my teaching studio. I acquired them over the last 12 years, and I have twice that amount sitting in my Amazon wish list. … Continue reading

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Intro to Jazz Guitar Clinic

I taught a 90-minute “Intro to Jazz Guitar” clinic at Hamilton International Middle School yesterday. I met the band director several months ago when he bought my saxophone via Craigslist. He discovered that I’d studied jazz guitar, and he asked … Continue reading

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Discover a Guitarist: Stevie Ray Vaughan

With this post, I commence a new series on the Deft Digits blog: Discover a Guitarist. Each post in the series (inspired by John Horne’s great article, 70 Guitarists You Really Should Know About) will profile one prominent player from … Continue reading

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Why Learn Music Theory?

Learning music theory is essential for recreating and communicating musical ideas. While some great professional musicians are known to have skipped conventional music theory entirely, they’ll always be handicapped, unable to articulate musical ideas other than by playing or humming. … Continue reading

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The Easiest Intro to Music Theory

The major scale is the root of all music theory. Know it well, and the rest of music theory will become easier than you thought possible. Everything else relates back to the major scale, so it’s crucial to be familiar … Continue reading

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How to Find Major and Minor Chords All Over the Guitar

One of the keys to unlocking the guitar fretboard is being able to play the same thing in different places. A great way to get started on this path is learning how to find every major and minor chord everywhere … Continue reading

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8 Essential Open Chords and How to Use Them

What is an open chord? Technically, it’s any chord employing at least one open string. With that definition, you could make thousands. However, the term “open chord” usually refers to one of only eight basic open chords, which I’ll cover … Continue reading

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Know Every Note on the Guitar in 9 Days

Knowing every note on the guitar is a challenge unique to the instrument. A saxophone has only one way to finger each note, while a guitar usually has a few different strings and four fingers to choose from. String a … Continue reading

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Listen to Everything

How many distinct sounds can you hear right now? Try to be consciously aware of all of them at once. Continue reading

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How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Proper picking technique is one of the most-discussed aspects of guitar playing. The overlooked truth is that there are as many picking techniques as there are guitar players. A quick look at some of the fastest pickers out there will … Continue reading

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Always Take Notes

I encourage all of my guitar students to take notes during lessons. I provide frequent handouts and digital materials, but these are supplementary to the student’s own understanding. Continue reading

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3 Easy Ways to Sound Great on Guitar

The three easiest ways to sound great on guitar are also the easiest to overlook. At any skill level, even if it’s your first day, pay attention to these elements of your playing, and you’ll immediately stand out. Continue reading

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