20 Ways to Become a Better Guitarist

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Our friends at Pro Guitar Shop have written a fantastic article on the “20 Ways to Become a Better Guitarist”.  We are happy to provide the article to you in our newsletter here!

Play music with others:

This is probably the single best piece of advice anyone can offer. Music is rarely a solitary activity. Whether it’s a rock band, a jazz trio, or a full orchestra—it typically takes a village to bring music to life. A bedroom player who has mastered the instrument is going to go back to square one once he or she starts playing with other musicians—the communication and instincts that are developed by playing music with others are both irreplaceable and unteachable. You just have to do it and live it to get good at it.

You can always benefit from guitar lessons:

One of my favorite pieces of (true) rock lore is the fact that Randy Rhoads used to look up guitar teachers in the towns where he toured and would squeeze in taking a lesson if he could—even though he was on top of his game already, Rhoads knew that he could always learn more and that getting lessons from a diverse array of teachers would only make him a better overall musician. No matter your skill level, you can always benefit from lessons—especially if you take lessons in a genre outside your normal oeuvre. If you’re a rock player, take jazz or flamenco and vice versa.

Take a workshop:

There are countless workshops offered throughout the world—sometimes by music schools, sometimes by manufacturers, sometimes by famous players themselves. Take a few days and attend a workshop, not only to pick up some new skills but also for getting the chance to play alongside other musicians. The workshop format—where you dedicate a couple days to focusing on your instrument—can be incredibly inspiring.

Read a book:

It’s impossible to have too many reference materials. Even professionals usually have a chord dictionary hanging around. Having a chord, scales or arpeggio tome handy can offer you a way to kick start your playing when you find yourself in a rut.

Play licks in other fretboard positions:

As an exercise, try playing some of your favorite licks in alternate positions on the fretboard. Taking phrases out of their intended box and playing them elsewhere on the neck forces your brain to go “off-book” as it were, hopefully opening the floodgates of creativity.

Don’t fear the computer:

Though many of us are die-hard analog kids, playing our magnetic-pickup wooden guitars through tube amps—it’s foolish to ignore all of the amazing advances happening in the digital world. From modeling software to phrase trainers to online lessons—there is a ton happening in the digital guitar world, most of which you can access from almost any device: Android, iOS, Mac, PC, etc. I have a MIDI-capable guitar and from time to time, I’ll plug it into a software instrument such as Reason or Native Instrument’s Komplete suite and practice while using plug ins for non-guitar instruments—a grand piano or string section, for example.

Learn about music theory:

With the ease of reading tablature, it’s easy for guitarists to learn to play without necessarily learning a lot of music theory—just by using their ears to match up what they’re reading in the tab with what they’ve heard. A little theory goes a long way—consider picking up a book, studying online, or even take a local course at a community college to shore up your knowledge of theory.

Learn a new instrument:

Once you know one instrument (and hopefully at least a little theory), it’s a lot easier to switch over to another. Playing multiple instruments helps keep your mind actively engaged and prevents you from getting too stale on the one thing that you’re best at. Piano is a fantastic complement to guitar, but any instrument will do: ukulele, saxophone, tuba! At the least, if you’re playing in a band, switch instruments once in a while to break up the monotony.

Play with musicians who are better than you:

It’s easy to be a bit sheepish about playing with people who can play circles around you, but don’t psyche yourself out—as often as possible, play with musicians who are better than you; they will raise the level of your playing and you will probably be surprised how quickly it happens.

Milk notes for all they’re worth:

The one-note solo is a real thing and it is awesome. Just because you’re capable of speed doesn’t mean you should use it. There’s a time and place for speed, but make sure you know when that moment is. Don’t be afraid to squeeze every last drop out of a note or a couple notes. You can do so much with so little.

Buy a weird effect pedal:

Overdrives are a dime a dozen. There are plenty of non-traditional effects pedals on the market today—try adding one in to your rig and challenge yourself to find ways to use it and implement it in your music. It might not stick around forever, but it might open up channels of creativity in your playing that your old TS-9 clone never will.

Keep your guitar in tip top shape:

A race car driver can’t do his or her best driving if they’ve let their vehicle go to hell. Your instrument is the vehicle for your music; take care of it for your best playing to come out. Make sure it is properly intonated and set up, keep it free from dust and spills, use the case when you’re not playing. Be sure it isn’t in shambles.

Use a metronome once in a while:

In the iPhone age, it’s easy to play along to recorded music—but playing to a metronome is key. Being able to lock into a tempo while you’re playing and not relying on backing music to cover you is a necessity.

Learn when not to play:

There’s a time and place for everything . . . your four-finger tapping solo has a place, but don’t forget that there’s also going to be moments when not playing is more powerful than playing. A well timed rest in a song, or even in a lead, can create great tension or be an extremely powerful moment.

Be honest about your weaknesses:

No one is amazing at everything, even (your favorite guitar hero’s name here). Periodically take an honest inventory of your guitar strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your vibrato sounds like someone is having a seizure, maybe your right hand dexterity is less than dexterous. The great thing about weaknesses is that they give you something to work on and it’s never too late to turn them into strengths.

Stay focused

It’s easy to get lost in playing without achieving maximum results from playing, practicing or both. In a band scenario, try to set a time limit for rehearsal and don’t get too off-track talking about the latest funny videos you’ve been watching on the Internets. Stay focused and try to get the most out of every minute that you’re playing.

Book some gigs:

No matter how good you are or are trying to be, playing live is a great way to get better. There’s something about playing in front of an audience (whether it’s five people or 500) that elevates your game—not to mention how much you’ll learn about gear and sound from having to tear down and set up your rig a few times. Warning: your desire for a roadie will skyrocket.

Go see live music:

Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s so important to go watch/listen to other musicians. You can go see bands that play music that you’re already into, or you can roll the dice on some bands that you’ve never heard of. You’re guaranteed to walk away with something, whether it’s a new technique to try out or whether it’s what NOT to do (like, for example, gig without a backup!). Even better—pick up season tickets to the symphony, if you don’t normally listen to classical fare, and expose yourself to an entirely different world of music.

…And see shows that break the taste barrier:

You’re not getting much diversity in your diet by playing metal and only going to metal shows. I’m sure even the crustiest metalhead can admit that Django Reinhart is an amazing guitar player, so if they can admit it to themselves, so can you. Go check out shows that are a genre or two apart from your normal tastes and watch what they’re doing, make some mental notes and enjoy yourself. Diversity is where the fun is.

Have fun and break the rules:

Just remember that if it doesn’t make you happy, you shouldn’t do it. Don’t be afraid to break the rules, but do remember that you have to know them in order to break them. Music is a never-ending pursuit—keep pushing yourself and keep looking out for how to take the next step. There will always be one more ahead of you to take.

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Tour Series Performance Video by Shawn Tubbs!

Shawn Tubbs

For all you J.Rockett Audio fans, here’s an AWESOME performance video of six of our Tour Series pedals by Carrie Underwood guitarist Shawn Tubbs.  Shawn is an absolutely incredible player so, needless to say, he gets the most out of our pedals.  If you want to know what these pedals sound like in the context of a song, this is a MUST SEE video!!

Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard Signature Air Guitar Demo

We got a kick out of this blog post that our Illinois dealer, Chicago Music Exchange, posted on 2012 World Air Guitar Champion Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard! We laughed so hard that we thought we would share it with our J.Rockett Audio Design followers!

CME EXCLUSIVE: JUSTIN “NORDIC THUNDER” HOWARD SIGNATURE AIR GUITAR DEMO

We at Chicago Music Exchange had a unique opportunity to work with Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard on an exclusive, and very limited, piece of gear.

Nordic Thunder has been on our radar since 2011. As lovers of all things gear, we tuned into the 2011 US Air Guitar Championships at Chicago’s Metro where guitarists of all shapes and sizes battled it out for national (and worldwide) fame. Nordic Thunder ultimately finished second in the world that year. In 2012, he was overtaken in the US by Matt “Airistotle” Burns, but ultimately won the 2012 World Air Guitar Championships after qualifying as a dark horse competitor.

If those aren’t accomplishments, we don’t know what are.

So, of course, when the opportunity arose to collaborate with him on an exclusive guitar, we jumped on it! It was nothing short of fate that brought Nordic Thunder and Chicago Music Exchange to work together on one of our finest pieces of gear yet. Watch the demo below:

Nothing beats that ghost flame finish! And, we’re sure you’re just as in love with those transparent tones as we are.

Would you rock the Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard Signature Air Guitar? If you’re interested in learning more, our helpful staff is always available to chat gear in-store and online.

New .45 Caliber Video by Kris Richards

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Kris Richards is already well known throughout the Maritimes (Canada) for his versatility as a lead guitarist. The 24-year-old Music Arts grad has played the biggest stage east of Montreal at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, where his band shared the same bill as country sensations, Eric Church and Toby Keith. Kris has also performed at the East Coast Music Awards, Music Nova Scotia Week, The Tall Ships Festival, The International Balloon Fiesta and many other festivals.

In addition to opening for Canadian artists, including Doc Walker, The Stellas, Jason Blaine and Tara Oram, Kris has opened for American acts including Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and Joe Diffie. He has performed with the Toronto-based group, Classic Albums Live. Kris Richards has also had televised performances on Breakfast Television and on Candy Palmater’s (Nova Scotia Music Weeks Award Gala 2011 host) nationally broadcasted hit, The Candy Show.

Kris has recorded with Australian artist Kat La Key, and local musicians, including New Brunswick award winning ECMA country singer, Mike Biggar; Young Performer of the Year, Molly Thomason; Paul Randy Mingo, Yvette d’Entrement; Kelly Blair; and Alexa d’Entrement. Whether it’s country-rock, jazz-fusion, blues, classic rock or honing his skills for a theatre score, Kris’ musicality makes him a sought session guitarist in the recording studio:

“Kris Richards is my #1 choice of session players when I need a top-notch, dependable guitarist. His uncanny choice of notes and unique feel, always harmonizes with what’s in my head, and as a producer, I need that transparency. Kris’s musicianship is second to none and reaches new highs every time I hear him play.”

T. Feswick (Producer, Feswick Music Productions)

When he’s not in the recording studio or on the road, Kris can be found teaching lessons, performing at private functions or composing music. Currently Kris plays with several bands (CMT’s Big in a Small Town finalists, Mark Cameron and Amanda Riley; and JD Clarke).

A talented guitarist with panache for solos, Kris is always keen for the next stage to perform on, collaborating with artists, and seeing where the open road takes him.

Kris put together this great video on the .45 Caliber OD. He really showcases the tonal versatility of the pedal when using both a Strat and a Les Paul…just like the sounds coming from a 1962 JTM 45!

The First ‘Burst Comes to Carter Vintage Guitars

The First ’Burst comes to Carter Vintage Guitars

May 13, 2016, Nashville TN… Carter Vintage Guitars has acquired the earliest example of Gibson’s iconic cherry sunburst Les Paul guitar, the model made famous by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman and numerous other influential rock guitarists.

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The Les Paul Model, as it was originally called, had been introduced in 1952 with a gold finish on the top, but in 1958 Gibson began experimenting with cherry-stain finishes. After several trial runs, two guitars were shipped on May 28, 1958 to Gibson’s parent company, Chicago Musical Instrument, for approval. In Gibson’s daily shipping ledger, they were described as “LP Spec. Finish.” They featured the yellow-to-red “sunburst” that became the standard finish on the model.

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One of the guitars in the shipping entry, serial number 8 3096, has been known to Les Paul aficionados for more than a decade and is currently owned by Slash, former guitarist for the group Guns N’ Roses. The guitar that now resides at Carter Vintage is serial number 8 3087. It went to the O.K. Houck music store in Memphis, where the father of the current owner bought it in 1958 as a Christmas present for his son.

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“The original owner, who still lives in Memphis, sent us photos with the serial number, 8 3087,” said Walter Carter, proprietor of Carter Vintage and former historian for Gibson Guitar Corp. “I had found an entry twenty years ago in Gibson’s shipping ledgers that I thought might be the first ’burst, and the serial number rang a bell. The owner also had snapshots of himself at age 14, taken just months after he bought it. It’s the kind of discovery that vintage guitar collectors dream about.”

This “first ’burst” has a three-piece maple top, which is different from the two-piece top that subsequent sunburst Les Pauls sported—an indication that it was intended to be a “goldtop” and was pulled off the production line for the experimental finish.

Gibson made an estimated 1,500 cherry sunburst Les Paul Standards before changing the body shape and finish color in 1961. The cherry sunburst Les Paul is one of the most highly sought vintage guitar models and has been the subject of several books.

Carter Vintage Guitars was established in Nashville in 2013 by Walter and Christie Carter and is an internationally known dealer of vintage fretted instruments.

 

Affordable Soundproofing Window Panels!

If any of you have been looking for an affordable and convenient way to sound proof your home studio, I’ve finally found the solution! For years I’ve been looking for an inexpensive and practical way to reduce the amount of sound that comes from my home studio, particularly through my windows. Sure, I could build sound isolation material into my windows or I could put up some plexiglass but those options are expensive and, more inconveniently, relatively permanent!

At J.Rockett Audio Designs we do lots of recording for sound bytes of our pedals. Not only do I want the noise to be reduced but I also want to decrease sound reflection so that the recordings are as true as they can be. I’ve always wanted to come up with a way to temporarily create a sound barrier for my windows…something I could put up while recording and then take down when I’m done.  Heck, I’d love to be able to at least enjoy the view out my windows when I’m not recording!

The answer?

Audimute isole Two-in-One Sound Isolation Sheets!  Man, these things are absolutely brilliant!  They are made of cloth and weigh 20 pounds each.  Not only do they have sound absorption material inside them but they have a sound barrier material as well.

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So, I can absorb reflective sound waves as well as block sound waves going out the window!  And, you just hang them over your windows via three grommet holes as you can see from this actual before and after shot of the windows in my home studio!  It takes me 30 seconds to hang them and less than that to remove them!

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I’m actually using three sheets in order to create the best sound barrier possible. I hung two sheets, as you normally would, to cover both windows and then I hung the sheet in the middle by only one grommet hole. It has cut the volume by more than half outside my windows! You can also hang these throughout the room to create even more sound absorption and isolation if need be as well as over doors to avoid making the Mrs. angry while she’s cooking dinner or watching Days of our Lives!

Each sheet is 36″ wide by 82″ long. The best part is that these things are only $119 each or you can get them in sets of three for even more savings like I did. J.Rockett Audio Designs is not affiliated with Audimute in any way. This is just a great product that I happened to run across which has saved me a ton of time and a substantial cost to soundproof my home studio. And again, I can take them down whenever I want so that I can watch the birds outside!

Check out Audimute’s website at www.audimutesoundproofing.com for more information on these awesome sound isolation solutions!