Ok, so after browsing the net constantly for some cool tools to help you guys improve your playing, I’ve found this website:


Basically, it’s a website for ear training and helping to improve your recognition of scales by ear and chords too. There are plenty of tips and tricks to help get these things nailed. For example, a D7 chord (or D dominant 7th chord) is the very first chord of the Muse version of Feeling Good. It’s very recognisable when you start attaching song names or images in your head to scales or chords! And the good thing is, you dont have to know how to play the chord to start ear training. Hope this helps some of you out there!




Hello again! I have recently got round to trying out Podcasting so this weeks guitarist is Tosin Abasi 🙂 To hear and download the podcast, visit this link and click on Podcast 1.

So, when I was around 15/16, there was a few bands that I thought that I never listen to because they were essentially, old music. Music for people who were older than me and were not listening to the newest, most modern stuff.  For example, Korn, Fear Factory and Sepultura were regulars on my tape player at the time so anything like Saxon or Judas Priest were totally out of the question! (However, I had a Judas Priest poster as my folks wouldn’t let me buy an Iron Maiden one as well as a Saxon tape when I was 7.)  Anyway, stupidly, one of the bands I lumped into that category was Black Sabbath.  Ozzy was an old man to me and listening to War Pigs wasnt for me, or so I thought.  Fast forward and in order to expand my musical tastes, I buy the best of Black Sabbath 2 CD set from a second-hand shop in Cardiff and my world changed.

Tony Iommi is the stuff of legends. I’ll ignore the boozing and hell raising that took place with Ozzy at certain points during his life and stick to the guitar facts that I know about him as that is what this blog is about.  Hailing from Birmingham which was a heavy industry town, Tony worked in a factory working with metal-cutting machines. One day, he caught the tips of his right hand in one of the machines slicing the top of one of his fingers off.  Normally for a right-handed guitarist this wouldn’t be a problem but Tony was a left hand guitarist, this was a massive deal. In order to continue playing, he fashioned a plastic finger tip from an old washing up bottle and was able to play again.

Often hailed as the “God-Father of Heavy Metal”, Tony’s guitar style is very blues based but brought with it a darker and sinister tone which wasnt really heard of before. The most obvious track to mention at this point is “Black Sabbath“.  The intro sets the tone with rain pouring and single bell tolling, the riff kicks in with searing distortion, rolling drums and thundering low-end from Geezer Butler on bass. The riff itself is very simple but super effective only featuring a few notes but dynamics playing a huge part in it.  The distortion is rolled back to let the single note riff ring out clear as bell before storming into the chorus with gain fully cranked.

Tony’s riffs were generally pretty simplistic but why play thousands of notes when you can get away with just a few? Another track which springs to mind is Symptom of the Universe.  That opening riff is so simple as again its only a few notes played a few times over and over but the sheer brute force of it makes it a true Iommi classic. NIB is another song so falls into this category of simple but effective riffing.However, if you want to hear some of thier blues roots, check out the track Hole In The Sky (which was covered by Pantera proving the British can do blues just as well as the Americans.)

Guitar wise, Iommi has always favoured the SG shaped guitars mainly and been a long time user of Laney amps.

Ok, so this guys name is fantastic for getting big word scores in scrabble as well as being a fantastic guitarist.  Mike plays for the band Incubus who are very lazily labelled as nu-metal. This, of course, is rubbish and the band are much more than this.  I first heard Incubus with their first major label album “S.C.I.E.N.C.E” back in 1998.  Mixing funk, rock, metal, breakbeat and DJ samples, they tore open the whole genre of “Nu-metal” but were often over shadowed by bands like Korn, Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit.  I’m very misty eyed about this album as it showed me that mixing styles and trying something different was ok in terms of playing the guitar. Opening the album, “Redefine” starts with didgeridoo played by the singer before launching into a riff-tastic groove monster of a song. Featuring turntable trickery, slap bass and scat style vocals, this really was a breath of fresh air for the flagging grunge era heavy music scene. Other album highlights include the incredible catchy “New Skin” and the frankly bonkers “Nebula” which shows what kinda things people can achieve when they aren’t afraid to mix styles.

Later releases by the band showed them mellowing out and focusing more on song writing and being less frantic. “Morning View” is a brilliant album from which the single “Wish You Were Here” was released. A full on summer classic if I’ve ever heard one.

Mikes main guitars for most his career are various PRS models (solid bodies and semi acoustics) with some live appearances of an SG.  Amp wise, Mike seems to favour the Mesa Boogie range which help provide his fantastic guitar tones.

Ok, so this is a bit of an obvious one for me as a teacher to list.  However, you’d be surprised how many guitarists never listen to themselves.  Many guitarists never hear themselves the same way other people do, simply because they never take the time to record themselves and listen back.  A lot of players bash out chords and solos which are totally out of time and sound like a car crash and that’s ok to do that. However, to improve your playing, you need to know that you are making those mistakes and correct them.  If your timing is all over the place and you don’t notice it, you’ll keep practising that mistake and its much harder to correct it.

Recording yourself is not an expensive business these days either, most PC’s have a microphone with them or you could even use your mobile phone to record.  As long as you can hear yourself clearly, then you’re onto a winner.  If you’ve never done it before, I suggest you try it today!

Ok, so here we are at week three in the 52 weeks and this week, I thought Id mention a great singer songwriter I’ve known about for some time. I’ve recently been given some great bands to check out ranging from extreme BLEERUUGGHH metal who can shred paint from the walls to acoustic players who charm the angels with their delicate voices. So, I’ve decided to go with a great, soulful guitarist this week by the name of Dallas Green. Dallas is better known for his “other” band, Alexisonfire. Despite his playing in this band being great, I’m going to concentrate on his side project, City And Colour.

I first heard about City and Colour by total accident.  While I was browsing through a friend of a friends Myspace, I came onto a profile which had the song “Sometimes” playing on it.  The opening chords and melody had me hooked in a second and I had to know more about this guy.  The first album I came across is Bring Me Your Love (which does not feature the aforementioned track) and it remained on my Ipod play list for at least 2 months. (In fact, the track from this album “Sensible Heart” is in my top 25 most played songs on iTunes. )  Essentially, this is stripped down honest guitar songs with a  single voice and a simple guitar.  You can lump it into the singer/songwriter genre easily along with folk rock, acoustic rock but it’s always just plain brillant.  Its strummy, it’s picked, its dreamy and lots of other things that potentially make me sound like a giddy school girl, but its great. One of the highlight tracks from Bring Me Your Love for me is The Girl which is set in two parts. The main song focuses on every mans feelings about how selfless his other half is while he chases his dreams of being in a band and travelling around the world. The second part turns into a thumping sing along with guitars, banjos and harmony vocals stirring the soul. The video sums it up beautifully.

Dallas’s guitar playing is a mixture of strumming and finger picking and nine times out of ten, a capo.  Acoustically, I’ve seen him use a few things but his main stay seems to be an old 1940’s Martin.

City and Colour: A lesson in less is often more.

Check out:

City and Colour Youtube Videos

So number 2 is going to be an all time fave players of all times, the late, great Dimebag.

I first heard the debut Pantera album, Cowboys From Hell, from a friend of mine back in 1993.  It was metal, but with groove? Unheard of in those times, esp when bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Lemonheads were all the rage back then. Nothing anything even remotely metal was considered good or popular but Pantera changed that. Everything with Pantera had a story which was usually the stuff of legends even down to his own guitar. His lightening blue Dean ML with retro fitted Floyd Rose and custom pick ups.  He originally owned the guitar but sold it on but after some time, he began to miss it and hunted it down to be the guy to sell it back to him. The guy refused to Dimebag resigned himself to never owning it again. Then, one day the guy turned on his door step with the same guitar and handed it over to him saying Dimebag was a much better player than him.  It has been custom painted with the now legendary graphics and became his main guitar for many years.

Playing wise, Dimebag was mainly a metal and blues play, which coming from Texas, he would be.  If you just listen to the main riff of Im Broken, it oozes pure Sour Mash and the lone star state by the bucket load. Cowboys From Hell i defies the listener not to tap their foot along to the stomping riff which all based around the blues scale; a huge fan fave. Aside from the anthems, Dimebag also had his softer side too with such tracks as Floods and Cemetary Gates. End outro solo to Floods has been recognised as one his best solos when it scooped nearly all the awards in its year of release by all the main guitar mags and online polls.

Dimebag even managed to shock me when he started down tuning from standard E to D tuning.  Classic tunes like Walk used Drop D tuning but I had never wanted to down tune until he had started.  If he did it, I would have to do it and this lead to me using heavier tunings and looking to improve my use of pentatonic, blues soloing and straight up metal riffing.

Songs to seek out:
A New Level
Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks
Domination (This version is classic)

Dimebag was tragically shot and killed while playing with his follow on band, Damageplan.  8th December is always the day I play Pantera albums as much as I can.