Set up

January 27, 2017
A new guitar often needs 'setting up'. This is a little like getting a car that has never been 'tuned' and never having it serviced.
Guitars are precision machines that need to be operating at their best to make it as easy as possible to play, and to make the guitar sound as clean and 'in-tune' as possible.
A good guitar technician ( will look very closely at your guitar and all of the variables that can be changed.
Aspects such as the neck relief (bend), neck tilt, nut height and angles, bridge saddle height and angles, intonation (fine tuning) and fret levelling can be adjusted to bring out the best response from your instrument.
In many instances, the action (string height) can be far too high even on brand new instruments and it makes the guitar difficult to press down the strings. This is harder for beginners of course.
A set up is a relatively inexpensive way to bring the best out your instrument. I have a Fender Deluxe Stratocaster that has been set up a number of times in the 12 years I've had it. Each time it is done, the guitar feels and sounds so much better. It generally gets 'out of whack' in a very gradual way and we don't always realise it is happening and then all of a sudden it sounds bad and won't play in tune and may buzz or rattle.
You would need to find a good guitar technician who can bring it back to life. It will cost a little but is always worthwhile.
I use Pete Walcott at He lives close by and I trust him with my many instruments. Ask around your area and seek the advice of experienced guitarists. 
I hope you have found this useful.

Be a versatile guitarist

October 18, 2016
So, I am writing this little blog as someone who read many years ago that versatility is a key way of both enjoying music and making a living from it.

Do you need to be able to play every genre and style flawlessly?

But..we need a little bit of an idea on many styles to be truly versatile.

I know musicians who are fantastic in a cover band situation and take time to learn the parts of every song their band plays. Unfortunately, this doesn't always translate well when required to sight ...
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The Circle of 4ths (Part 1)

August 5, 2016
The Circle of 4ths (or 5ths)

The Circle of 4ths contains a huge amount of information when we understand it in some depth. 
A songwriter may know nothing about the circle of 4ths but use it all the time in their songs. It is particularly useful in performance, composition, playing by ear, improvisation, arranging teaching and general understanding of music.

After playing music for many years, the circle of 4th's has become second nature as so much music uses the movement laid out in it. For exam...

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Buying your First Guitar

July 26, 2016



Buying Your First Guitar
Congratulations!! If you are reading this you have probably decided to begin learning the most beautiful and rewarding of all instruments. These brief guidelines come to you with the compliments of your guitar tuition specialist to help you sort through some of the probable questions you may have regarding the purchase of a new instrument.

Where to start?
Most guitar teachers deal with one or two music stores with whom they have developed some tr...

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Arranging for Guitar 103 (Practicalities)

July 26, 2016
Big Band
Over the years I have noticed that many school big band charts are virtually unplayable for the guitarists. (Particularly for middle school aged students!) This is largely due to the commonly used keys and the extended chords that are often present in such charts. 
An easy option is to use tritone shapes. These are often the 3rd and 7th of the chord and the extensions are handled by the piano and horns.

The example below shows an easy way for a guitar player to play the chords shown (mo...
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Arranging for Guitar 102 (Practicalities)

July 21, 2016
As a general suggestion, allow a few beats for your guitarists to go from chordal playing to single notes and vice-versa.
This would be a challenge.

A better way to write it would be:

Usually it is best to allow your guitar players time to transition from the larger strumming action to the smaller and more precise picking action. 

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Arranging for Guitar 101 (Range)

July 21, 2016

Arranging for guitar is a very complex and involved subject, so we will handle it in small chunks. Here are some basic 'rules'. 

These are generalisation but are usually applicable to most high school aged guitarists. There are, of course, exceptions.

  1. The guitar sounds an octave LOWER than it is written.
  2. The open strings are tuned high to low E B G D A E. (Other tunings are possible but standard is still 'standard'!)
  3. Cluster chords of 2nds may be unplayable. 
  4. Keys of F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb are very diff...

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Chord Spelling Tips and Tricks

July 11, 2016
Chord spelling with what?!
If you ask most guitarists what the notes are in a particular chord, be prepared to wait a while as they form the chord on the instrument, figure out the name of the open string, count up the number of frets, calculate the note (probably missing some flats or sharps in the process) and give you the answer like this. D major = F# D A. While this answer is correct it has taken about 60 seconds to figure out, and the notes are not in root position (1 3 5).

When I studied...

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Transposing Chart

July 11, 2016
Basic Transposing Chart for Capo use.

1. Simply choose the key that the music is written in from the column at the left.
2. The numbers on the top line are the steps in the scale. 
3. Let's say the song is in the key of C and has C F and G chords in it. (The 1, 4, 5 in the key of C) 
4. F chord can be difficult to get a good sound from and many young students struggle with it.
5. If we look across to the right, you’ll see that it can be transposed into A.
6. C F and G transpose into A D and E res...

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Tuning by Ear

July 8, 2016
Why Electronic Tuners Are Not the Complete Answer.

When I first started work in a music shop, one of my jobs was to tune each guitar every day. This was before electronic tuners were just starting to become available. Now, of course, people just clip on a tuner and away they go. 
While electronic tuners (tuners from now on) are great in many ways, guitarists tend to tune the open strings and hope for the best. Unfortunately, when the guitar is slightly out of tune many players can't tell just b...

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