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Just browsing on the internet and I came across this fantastic article on practicing. Well worth a quick read (it is short, the page just seems very long due to the user posted comments at the end of it).  

http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/how-many-hours-a-day-should-you-practice/

 

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I read an interesting column that Mark Morton of Lamb Of God had written once about being successful in music making.  Being successful to most people means alot of different things. When I was younger, I wanted to make it by writing metal songs, touring, gigging and generally living the stereotypical rock and roll life style.  As time went on, this changed as I realised what I needed to have in order to achieve that lifestyle in terms of talent, ability etc were out of my reach at that age (Well, I was only 12 at the time…).

So, how can we define being successful at music? Is it playing sold out gigs in large arenas? Is it playing to hushed audiences in exclusive cafe bars across Europe as a folk singer/song writer? Or getting a million hits on youtube for a video you’ve uploaded?  In my opinion, it can be all and non of these things.  You have to pitch your own goals and if you achieve them, then that is successful. For example, mastering a bunch of difficult chords, that’s a type of success. Learning a whole song is also a success. However, to think broader and bigger, you may want to become a regular at a local jam night or get into a local gigging band. This will then focus your mind and your road into it. Taking the song as an example, you need to know the structure, chords, timing and melody. Your destination is the learning the song, the road is learning the chords, timing, structure and melody.  Follow the road map and you’ll end up at your destination.

In essence, I am saying you need to have a goal in order to be successful. Everything we do is goal driven in some way shape or form.  Your goals can be as big as your imagination but setting realistic and achievable goals is the key to anything that you do, musically or otherwise.

 

If you’ve ever browsed an guitar internet forum, you may have seen NGD or GAS or something similar in the thread title. This usually stands for New Guitar Day or Gear Acquired Syndrome. Essentially its a new piece of kick ass gear for you to check out!  Ive been lucky enough to have been bought a new guitar by my long suffering wife to be and here it is!

My New Fender Blacktop

Id always fancied a Fender style strat so I was super keen on these when I saw them about a year ago but never got round to trying one out. Thankfully, I had the chance and it was like a match made in heaven.  As you can see from my other gear, I tend to be a bit of Ibanez fan boy so going for something as traditional as Fender would be a total change from my norm. However, this guitar covers my missing blues/rock part of my set up. It also plays amazingly AND looks proper rock so Im very happy.

However, the rule in my house is one in, one out, so I am saying goodbye to my white Ibanez Roadstar 2 which has gone to live in Barry. However, it’ll have a great life there and I can always visit.

In other news, I was very excited and honoured to be asked to help out at The Great British Show in Birmingham over the last weekend (24/25th Feb).  Lots of excellent guitars to be looked/drooled over as well as hearing some great guys play, Chris George of Marshall fame being one of them. If you didnt go this year, make sure you go next year and book early 🙂

Hope you guys are all practicing and keeping your chops/licks/riffs and other cliche terms sharp!

Yep, this blog is about plectrums. Up until about 5 years ago, I didnt really give a damn which plectrum I used. It was usually what ever I could find lying around on the floor, in my guitar case, in my washing machine (as they always end up there.. ) etc. However, I started to look abit more seriously about the ones I used and the materials they are made from. So, this is current selection of the plectrums Im using now.

My current crop: Jim Dunlop Jazz 3 XL, another Jimp Dunlop Jazz 3 XL (thicker guage, hence the black), a £1 coin (for measurement), a Paul Gilbert Ibanez signature plectrum and a Dunlop Ultex Sharp)

A bunch of plicks..

So, the red and black Jim Dunlops are the “go to” plectrums for me. (Just say, the £1 coin is just there for size reference, I dont use it for playing with..). Its nice and firm and doesnt keep my hand too far away from strings for alternate picking. I also like the pretty sharp points on them.  Another recent fave is the white Paul Gilbert ones as they made of a different material again so they also have a nice zing to them but are a little bit thinner. Also, they are smooth all over which isnt a good or bad thing, its just different. Again, the point is nice and pointy but not too rough. Finally, the newest one Ive been trying out is the Dunlop Ultex pic. This takes up more space in my hand but the edges are “bevelled” so they have a hand finished quality about them which helps the strings slide off the plectrum, rather than the rougher edge of the other three.

All in all, the thing I find with plectrums is that you have to get on and try them out. For me, I find that the Ultex plectrum sounds fantastic and feels high quality but its just too big for faster picking sections but it certainly has opened my eyes (and ears!) to a new product.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all you guys and gals out there. I hope 2012 is a fantastic year for you all and I hope to see you all for some cracking lessons! This year I’ll be updating the blog with some lessons and advice on playing and hopefully, some new items that you all find interesting.

 

So until then, keep checking back for updates as they happen!

As Christmas is just around the corner, alot of people may be thinking about buying a guitar for themselves or someone they know. The question is, with a staggering amount of guitars on the market these days with all different models, pick up selections and wood types, where does someone start? In this blog post, I hope to help clear all that up with some practical advice and real life examples.  (Just to mention that I obviously can not endorse any products or companies and all my suggestions are based on my own experience or preference.)

Costs
So, where to start?  First place in this day and age is budget. How much can you afford to spend?  Realistically set it and stick it to it, otherwise your £150 budget is up to £200 before you know it.  However, the question in that circumstance is how much should you spend? Ideally, £200 would get you everything you need and more for a great, brand new, starter kit.  However, if you’re prepared to go to the second hand market, then you can get alot for £100 – £150.

On top of the guitar you look to buy, PLEASE ensure you add in the following:
Guitar tuner – £15 max
At least 2 set of strings – £10 (£5 each set, depending on what brand. The usual brand is Ernie Ball)
Plectrums (assorted sizes – 45p each)

The above are great stocking fillers so if someone is stuck for a present, a tuner is a must have for all beginners.

Where to buy – Local Stores Vs Internet Shops
So, now we have set our budget, where do we go?  The internet has a massive array of websites all offering a great range of guitars, starter packs, budget buys etc. However, local stores are well stocked and usually well informed on their products.  Your local shop will often be able to resolve small issues in the store so if your guitar does develop a fault, you wont have to box it back up and send it away at your expense. Finally, a local shop is that they may also offer a discount where online stores are fixed prices only.

Online stores main benefit is cost so certainly have a browse of the local shops and websites before you make a decision.

Heres a list of local shops you may wish to check out:

Guitarthings – www.guitarthings.co.uk – Brand new shop in Llanelli
Cadno – www.cadnomusic.net – Llanelli shop
Rowlands – rowlandsmusic.co.uk – Based in Swansea town centre
Cranes – www.cranesmusicstore.com – Based in Swansea town centre, also have a shop in Cardiff

What to buy

Now we have a established where you can buy your guitars from, we now need to be looking at what guitar you should consider. Essentially, it mainly comes down to the type of music you want play. Certain guitars suit certain types of music so theres not point trying to play blasting death metal on a Jazz guitar! Here are some suggestions for you:

Rock/Metal etc:
Fender Squire Affinity Strat – Click here for info
Fender Squire Bullet Strat – Click here for info
Ibanez GRGR121EX – Click here for info

Blues/Classic Rock:
Epiphone Les Paul Special 2 – Click here for info
Epiphone SG – Click here for info
Fender Squire Telecaster – Click here for info
Fender Squire Affinity – Click here for info
Ibanez GAX30 – Click here for info


Indie/Pop:
Fender Squire Telecaster – Click here for info
Fender Squire Affinity – Click here for info

This list is not by any means exhaustive but the majority of shops will offer these guitars at a reasonable price (ie around the £100 – £150)

The Guitar Itself
When deciding what guitar suits best, its usually best to pick up the guitar you want to buy and see how it sits on your leg/strap. You’ll more than likely spend around 30 mins a day (if you get a good practise routine going!) with it so you want to let it sit naturally with you and not fight to keep it in a comfortable position. You dont have to know how to play guitar to know how comfortable you will feel with your guitar on your leg so go into a shop and ask to try them out. Explain you cant play a note and say your just looking for something to start with.  Some guitars are “neck heavy” (the neck being the long wood which your left hand goes onto) so they will tend to be a little unbalanced in that respect. Some people are ok with that, some people find it a bit of an issue.

Before parting with your cash, run your hands up and down the neck to feel for any imperfections, dents or sharp edges. Check the metal work (like frets, screw heads etc) to make sure all the frets etc are smooth and not chewed up.  Screw heads should be in flush and NOT at a 45 degree angle as I have seen with some guitars. Check the body in the same way and ensure its all dent free etc. If you’re happy, then make sure you buy the guitar you have inspected and not a different one from the back of the shop. This is important as each guitar is different so ensure you get what you’ve checked out, it just saves you checking out a different guitar again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this little user guide on what to consider when guitar buying this Christmas. If you need any more advice or are looking for some lessons from me, please click here for my contact details.

When I was younger, and still this day, this pair of guitarists are a real driving force and inspiration to playing guitar. This is the stand out track for me with the intro and outro solos being huge highlights for me. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do every time I hear it!