Essential Guitar Skills: Introductory TV Show, Part 1

Natalie: Hello and welcome to Gigajam. This is the introductory lesson of the essential guitar skills course part one. I'm Natalie Barrass, and this man here is our tutor David Young. David, how are you?

David: Very well, how are you?

N: I'm very well, yes

D: Good

N: I'm very, very much looking forward to ten episodes of guitar mayhem…

D: (Laughs)

N: …and fun and enjoyment

D: Jolly good

N: Excellent. Ok, well today is our introductory lesson

D: Yes it is

N: Introduce me to a guitar

D: Okay, well here's a guitar here

N: Hello guitar

D: Okay, a guitar's basically got two main bits to it, I suppose you would say,…

N: Right

D: …the body and the neck. I'll start at the neck end…

N: Mmmhmm

D: …okay here we've got the neck here, where we do most of our playing. This is a head stock

N: Head stock

D: Head stock at the top which is actually on this guitar, part of the neck, it's all carved out of the same piece of wood

N: Can it sometimes be different then?

D: Rarely

N: Right

D: So it's all, it's all one piece really

N: (Laughs)

D: You've got machine heads here, which are the tuning pegs. So you tune your guitar with these pegs here. So these will tighten or slacken the strings, sharpen them if it's tightening, or flatten them if you're slackening the strings

N: Mmmhmm

D: I shall just demonstrate here if I pluck this guitar string here. And if I turn the machine head away from me, that tightens that up

N: Yes

D: And that flattens it back down again

N: And they're attached, the strings are attached through those is it?

D: Yeah, the guitar strings go through these little posts, they're through there, and by turning the peg, it winds a little wheel, these move round, tightens up the guitar string, or slackens it

N: Mmmhmm

D: Okay?

N: Alright, so we've got our strings, how many strings?

D: So these are your strings, six guitar strings. Okay? Coming back down the neck we've got the frets

N: Mmmhmm

D: As we move up the finger board, or the neck, the notes go up. There's a semi-tone between each fret

N: Mmmhmm

D: Okay? That's up, that's back down

N: Right

D: Okay, which brings me to the frets, and the guitar strings. Six guitar strings as you say, the low E is the one nearest me, not the one nearest the floor

N: Right

D: So a lot of people continue to say the bottom string, but that's actually the top string

N: (Laughs)

D: Okay? So everything we describe in terms of up, down, low, high, is all to do with pitch

N: So not positioning

D: Not positioning at all, purely pitch. So that's the top string…

N: The high string

D: …because it's got the highest pitch

N: Yeah

D: And that's the lowest string with the lowest pitch

N: Alright and that's, if we look at those strings, the lowest one, is a lot thicker

D: It's a thicker guitar string, yes definitely, quite a lot thicker. And you get thinner as you work towards the top string

N: Mmmhmm

D: Okay?

N: Are they numbered?

D: They are numbered indeed. The lowest string is number six, and then moving across, five, four, three, two, one…

N: Mmmhmm

D: …the top string is string number one. And their note names are E, A, D, G, B, and the high E. There's two octaves between the bottom E and the top E

N: Alright, I was gonna say what's the difference between them?

D: Two octaves…

N: Two octaves?

D: …between those. That's correct. So there's your six guitar strings, low E to high E, and the names in between, which brings us down to the body of the guitar. On the body, probably the most obvious thing is the pick-ups

N: The pick-ups, what do they do?

D: The pick-ups are effectively microphones which are just sitting underneath the guitar strings, like literally holding a little microphone underneath your guitar strings

N: (Laughs)

D: Picking up the sound from the vibration of the guitar strings, sending it down the cable…

N: Yes

D: …into the amplifier, which I'll speak about shortly

N: Alright

D: But it goes, down the cable into the amplifier, and as you can see on here, I've got more than one pick-up. Some other guitars will have three pick-ups, some'll have two, some guitars actually do only have one pick-up

N: Why do you have two pick-ups then? What's the difference between them?

D: Usually there is more than one pick-up, and the reason is to create various tones from your guitar. Certain styles of music they're quite happy with one tone, and they've built guitars with only one pick-up, but generally you have at least two pick-ups. Now, if I strum my guitar over by the neck, it's quite a warm, mellow sound

N: Mmmhmm

D: If I strum down by the bridge, where the strings are fastened, it's quite trebly…

N: Oh there are…

D: …and quite bright

N: Yeah, distinct difference between those

D: Quite a different….quite a difference in tone there. Similarly wherever pick-up is working, if it's a pick-up by the neck, you'll get quite a warm tone

N: Mmmhmm

D: If it's back by the bridge it's much more harsh type tone

N: That switch that you pushed and pulled then?

D: Yes?

N: What does that do?

D: This is a pick-up selector switch, so that actually chooses how you want the pick-ups to be set. Simple as that. So as you move the switch back across, these pick-ups are actually divided into more than one pick-up within themselves in effect. So, as I've got the switch over by the neck, the neck pick-up's working

N: Right

D: And as you move back, you're moving back through the sequence of pick-ups, back towards the bridge pick-up which is more trebly

N: Okay

D: So that's what that does. Here I've got a volume control

N: Okay the silver dial

D: That's on zero…

N: (Laughs)

D: …and that's on ten. Okay? And these are tone controls

N: Tone

D: So again tone controls will affect the sound. If I turn that right down to zero you'll still hear it but it'll be quite muddy. If I turn that back up it brightens the sound up, it just sharpens it up a bit

N: It's like almost on a camera when you're sort of pulling it into focus

D: Exactly it sort of brings it into focus a bit, yeah. Now you might wanna move that around and get slightly different tones for, you know, blues as opposed to heavy metal, or whatever you're playing. So you'd have different tones, and different pick-up settings for that matter as well

N: Alright

D: That's pretty much what the guitar does

N: What's that thing?

D: Other than…

N: (Laughs)

D: …yeah tremolo arm, or whammy bar. What's happening here is this arm is attached into the bridge, and as I depress the arm, the bridge gets raised. So as that raise, as the bridge is raised from the guitar it actually slackens the guitar strings

N: Do that again

D: And the pitch drops

N: So that's lifting it up, oh and it's…

D: Lifting it up, slackens the guitar string off. Okay…

N: Mmmhmm

D: …and we use, instead of finger vibrato which would be this…for people playing, violinists do that type of thing also. To make the notes a little bit warmer and sustained…

N: Mmmhmm

D: …you can do it with the whammy bar. But now commonly a lot of rock guitar players in particular use this as a real tool for dramatic, kind of…

N: Yeah

D: …kind of guitar playing, particularly in heavy rock, that type of stuff

N: Okay

D: So that's what that does

N: Okay, so this is, obviously, an electric guitar

D: Yes

N: What's the difference between this and an acoustic guitar?

D: Well in terms of the guitar and the notation, nothing. One guitar's the same as the other, so you can learn to play pretty much anything on either guitar. You can certainly do anything on an electric guitar, that you can do on an acoustic guitar. There's certain styles of playing on an acoustic guitar you couldn't do very easily, that you could do on an electric guitar, because an electric guitar's physically more, a little bit easier to play, the strings bend much more easily than on an acoustic guitar. But in terms of the notation, the neck, the body, they are the same instrument.

N: Mmmhmm

D: The electric guitar is amplified, consequently can be much louder, but it also means by using the amplifier that we can have a greater variety of sounds, whereas an acoustic guitar is fundamentally a one sound guitar

N: Okay, so people at home that are following the Gigajam essential guitar skills course…

D: Yes

N: …part one, if they've got, if they haven't got an electric guitar they can still play along with an acoustic?

D: Yeah, I mean with an acoustic guitar certainly there's lessons, I think up round about lessons seven, eight and nine, where it really is the type of guitar playing you would do on an acoustic guitar, strumming, chords, that type of playing. The only parts more like an electric guitar rock playing, but physically you could still do it on an electric guitar, yes you could

N: Great stuff, but obviously here in the studio we've got electric guitars

D: That's right

N: And with those we need the amplifier

D: We certainly do

N: Talk me through it

D: Okay, this amplifier here is a fairly standard guitar amplifier, I think similar to what most people will probably have. You may have amplifiers a little bit smaller, or a little bit bigger, but it will probably work in much the same way I should think. So two channel amplifier, what that means is you've effectively got two amplifiers in one amplifier if you like. One channel you can set up as one type of sound. The other channel you can set up as a completely different type of sound

N: So there's two channels but only one instrument going in

D: Correct. Channel one here is my clean sound, which is what you would expect a guitar to sound like, nice clean sound. Volume, bass, middle, treble, so you can obviously adjust those to your personal taste

N: Mmmhmm

D: Right at the far end here we've got reverb. If I take the reverb off completely and play my guitar it sounds very, quite dead, very much here in the room

N: Yeah

D: If I turn the reverb up to a ridiculous, ridiculously high level, just to demonstrate, it sounds like I'm in a dungeon or a very big room of some description

N: Very echoey

D: Quite echoey, so if I turn that down a bit, but it's quite nice to have a bit of reverb on there. Most people will have that on their amplifiers I would expect. That's basically channel one, a clean sound, all you've got is a bass, middle and treble and a volume, the reverb…

N: Channel two

D: …that, channel two, clicking me little button which swaps over to channel two

N: It sounds kind of hummy already

D: It already sounds like something more dramatics' going to happen doesn't it?

N: It does

D: My little light has turned to red so you can see at a glance if you're playing, what sound you're on if you're in a moment of silence and you're about to play. The main difference on this channel is the gain. Now if I turn the gain right down, and then begin to roll it back up, you can hear that overdrive, or distortion as we call it, beginning to kick in

N: Mmmhmm

D: So you get this kind of…

N: Very rocky…

D: …it's that kind of

N: …very darkness

D: Very darkness, rock kind of sound, exactly. We've still got the treble, we've still got the bass, we've still got the volume, but the main thing is that the higher you turn up the gain, the more of that distortion you will get. That's really the main difference, and the reverb applies to both channels as I say

N: Okay, so that's that guitar…

D: Yeah

N: …and we've talked about that linking up to that amp

D: Okay

N: Let's just quickly talk about this guitar down by your feet. If you lift it up so we can have a view of it, this to me looks bizarre

D: This is quite a radically different type of instrument that maybe not a lot of viewers have seen before. It's a midi-guitar. That means that it can connect in to your computer in exactly the same way that a keyboard can. So this guitar can sound like a guitar, but it can also sound like a piano, it can sound like a flute, you know, whatever. It triggers a sound in the computer, on your sound card or whatever, to actually change the sound of the guitar. It's got buttons rather than guitar strings….

N: Yeah

D: …which seems a bit strange, but to be honest with you they feel pretty good. They feel much the same as playing a, playing a real guitar

N: Can I just have a, a little listen? That sounds absolutely amazing, so realistic

D: It is

N: Obviously in part two we're gonna look at how that interacts with our Gigajam software…

D: Yes, of course, yes

N: …that we've got in front of us

D: Yes

N: So yes, join us back here for part two where we'll be looking at the software in more detail, the course notes, and getting interactive and analysing our performance. See you soon

Part 2

N: Welcome back to part two, the lesson which is our introduction to the ten episodes of Gigajam the essential guitar skills course part one. I'm Natalie Barrass and your tutor for the course, and guiding us through the instruction, is David Young. David, before the break we were looking at the guitar…

D: Yes

N: …the electric guitar, the bits here…

D: Yes

N: …there and everywhere,…

D: Mmmhmm

N: …let's talk about this

D: Okay

N: Gigajam

D: Gigajam as a course. Okay, what we've tried to do with Gigajam, and I think we've succeeded with this, is that we're stepping through a logical pathway when you're learning how to play. So we don't tell you anything without explaining it, and usually show you that on a video clip as well

N: Mmmhmm

D: So you'll see, if you can just help me out there, that at the, well actually at the top of the lesson you will see that there are lesson objectives, right at the very beginning. So on the left hand side there, on that column, it tells you, or it sets out right at the beginning exactly what you're going to try and achieve during that lesson

N: Mmmhmm

D: In this particular guitar lesson, which would be lesson number one, we're talking about learning how to play power chords, how to hold the plectrum, and how to understand the reading of whole notes and common time. So we teach people to read music as we go along. Nothing to difficult or scary, but everything that we learn how to play you can read as well…

N: Mmmhmm

D: … quite clearly put forward I think

N: And always backing it up with the examples

D: Always backing it up with the examples. So in all the lessons we have several exercises, and this is not just for the guitar, for the keyboard, the drums and the bass guitar as well of course. We can play along with the exercises, you can see video clips, in the case of the guitar of course of me demonstrating the exercises. So a video will show you how to play the exercise. You can obviously also hear that exercise, and there will be notation showing what that music is

N: Okay, well let's…

D: So you can play that exercise

N: Let's have a look at a video, let me…

D: Okay

N: …scroll down to exercise one here

D: Here we go, here's exercise one here. Now you'll see at the top, just above the music there, and obviously we'll get into how you read that music and how you play those chords in the actual lesson, but at the moment just to understand how the course works in principle, there's three icons there. The first of which is a little video icon, now if you click any of those icons it will automatically load in the exercise which is underneath the icons

N: Yeah

D: Okay, so if you click that video icon you will soon see a video of me playing that exercise

(Exercise starts playing)

N: I see it and I hear it

D: There it is. You can hear the music…

N: Yeah

D: …you can hear where I'm playing the guitar…

N: Yeah

D: …and that's exactly how the musical example's written

N: Mmmhmm

D: So you can see what's going on. So you get an idea of what it's meant to do, what it's supposed to look like. You can sharpen up your technique, make sure you're sitting with the correct posture, all that type of stuff, you can get from the video clip obviously

(Exercise stops playing)

N: All the sort of things that you would say ask a teacher or a tutor…

D: Yes

N: …but that you haven't got in your book

D: Exactly, and I think by watching people doing something correctly, subliminally that kind of goes in as well, so the video's very useful in that regard, not just hearing what the music sounds like

N: What are the other icons that we've got there?

D: Okay, the one on the extreme right is the midi-file. Now that's the backing track to which you will be playing. If you just wanted to hear that in isolation you can click on that and listen to it, but the most exciting part I think I would say is that middle icon there with the yellow G for Gigajam on it. If you'd just like to click that, that will bring up something called the guitar Xtractor

N: The Xtractor

D: The guitar Xtractor

N: The guitar Xtractor

D: Yes indeed, which is a piece of software which will play the backing track, and allow you to play along with it. And as you can see that looks somewhat similar to a car CD player, that type of thing, and the little graphic shows a CD going into the Xtractor. Now on the bottom right-hand corner, just before you click the bottom corner actually,…

N: (Laughs)

D: …that little icon, if you'd just like to click that again, that takes that away. Click it and what that does is it just brings down a mixing desk. So when you hear the track in there you've probably got drums, bass guitar or bass, keyboards, a metronome, piano, whatever

N: Everything!

D: Everything you'd find in most bands, you know, will be there and playing. Now you can increase the volume, or decrease the volume on any of those instruments if you so desire. You might want a little bit more bass, you might want a little bit more drums to keep you in time, whatever it may be

N: What would be the effect of that?

D: The effect of that is just that from a musical point of view you might like a loud drum beat to play to, you might find the piano is not the sound you want to hear prominently. Whatever that may be you can just mix it, they're pretty well mixed as they are to be perfectly honest

N: Mmmhmm

D: But the individual can move them and how you do that, if you can see on each of the channels there's a nice little green button there, and it's just a little slider and you slide that to the left and that'll turn the instrument down a little bit, or you slide it to the right which'll turn the volume up

N: Okay that's simple enough…

D: All clear?

N: …so what else have we got on the Xtractor?

D: Now up above that you can see play, underneath the word Gigajam you've play, you've then got pause, you've then got stop, much the same as any CD player

N: Mmmhmm

D: Next to that you've got the loop button. The exercises that are written on the page will, on the computer, will last for sixteen bars only unless you put the loop button on. It'll just run sixteen bars and then it'll stop. Put the loop button on, it'll just run and run and run and run as long as you want it to go for. So that's very useful obviously, you can keep going rather than stopping and starting all the time…

N: (Laughs)

D: …which is a bit of a pain. So that's really, really good. You'll also see that there's a tempo indication on the top right-hand side. Now that, all the exercises in part one come up at eighty beats per minute. Now you can decrease that if that's a little bit too fast when you're trying to learn, or indeed you can go faster if you think you can play at eighty beats per minute to improve the speed of your chord changes, whatever. You can speed that right up and, you know, improve that way. So you've got something driving you along all the time…

N: Yeah there's always something you could do better…

D: …which keeps you, nudges you along

N: …yeah

D: Exactly, you can keep getting quicker or, of course, slow it down if it's a little bit too fast

N: Alright

D: So that's really, really good in that regard. Over on the left-hand side where the instruments are listed, again the metronome and the drums and the piano and what-have-you, you'll see an M next to each instrument. That means mute, so as a guitarist, for example, when I'm playing I don't really want the guitar part in the Xtractor. Cos it's, is it the Xtractor that I can hear or is it my playing that I can hear?

N: Yeah

D: So I tend to click the M and get rid of the overdrive guitar, and then it's clear that any guitar playing I can hear is me

N: I tell you what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna hit play and have a listen to it

D: Okay, is this with the guitar in?

(Xtractor starts playing)

D: That's with the guitar taken out

N: Okay

D: Oh no there we go

N: So there's, so I could get rid of the guitar

D: There's the guitar, overdrive guitar's there. That's still there. Overdrive guitar

N: Overdrive guitar

D: There you go. So we took out the overdrive guitar, so that won't work

N: Ah, there's the piano that's in

D: That's it, and if you highlight the other guitar part, it might have been, that was taken out. There you go, now we can get stuck in and play along with that

N: So now we know that guitar sound is you, and nobody else

D: Exactly

N: What about if I speed it up a bit?

D: Okay

(Xtractor stops playing)

D: Okay, so…

N: Before it got too quick

D: Yes, thank you. So you can, you can go through that, you can speed it up, you can slow it down, you can take out the instruments that you'd rather not hear, in my case the guitar

N: Mmmhmm

D: You can increase the volume of the, maybe the drums or the bass or whatever you like to keep you in time, or whatever your personal choice is that's absolutely, you know, ideal, fantastic to play along to, really, really good. The other thing which you can do, which is very, very good, is it can record your performance, and it will then analyse it for you. In other words it will give you a percentage score…

N: Mmmhmm

D: …as to how well you played it and it will actually print out a musical score, which is colour-coded to show you how accurately you played the piece of music you tried to play

N: Okay, so for in order to do that we need a midi-guitar?

D: We need a midi-guitar. Now you can't do that with a conventional guitar, not at least without a midi pick-up

N: Oh

D: Now this guitar over there by your good self is a conventional guitar with a midi pick-up attached which is that little thin black strip just before the bridge

N: Just that there

D: That's it there. That's a new pick-up which has been attached to that guitar. You can attach it to any guitar, you buy it as a unit. You attach it to the guitar and it comes with a set-top box which goes into your computer, and that will convert it into midi, so you can then record your guitar into the computer

N: Alright

D: You then don't use the amplifier, you go straight into the computer

N: But obviously, I mean, if you've got an acoustic guitar you can still play along with the tracks and learn the lessons

D: You can still play away of course, that's exactly what you can do. Regarding the midi, the other thing of course you can do is use the midi-guitar which we spoke about…

N: In part one

D: …before the break, which is this guitar here. This will record straight in, you don't need any adaptions, you don't need a pick-up or whatever. Feels slightly different to a conventional guitar because we have buttons, I think as we discussed earlier, rather than guitar strings…

N: Yeah

D: …but it works in exactly the same way, plug it straight into your computer and you're ready to go, and you can analyse immediately

N: Shall we have a go?

D: Why not

N: Alright I'm pushing the red record button

(Xtractor starts playing)

D: Okay here we go

N: And this is just you doing…

D: This is just me

N: …exercise one. And don't worry if you don't know what's going on in exercise one, because obviously in lesson one…

D: Of course

N: …we'll be talking about it in more depth

D: So I'm playing along to that there

N: That's a good pace actually isn't it?

D: Yeah it's fine. Okay, so if you stop that…

(Xtractor stops playing)

D: …little stop button there, and then you click the A for analyse. Now as we didn't do the whole way through the exercise I'll score a pretty low score, which is what I'm sticking to anyway. But it will bring up an analysis of how I just played that part

N: Ah here we are. Okay, I'll put it full screen

D: Let's see how I did

N: Right your overall grading was 36.88 percent

D: You sound disappointed

N: Not disappointed

D: Okay, I should just point out that it would only mark the percentage of the exercise you played. So I only played about fifty percent, this is the truth, fifty percent of the exercise there, so even played perfectly fifty percent is as good a mark as you can get

N: Right

D: Yeah

N: Enough of your excuses

D: Okay

N: Let's look at what you should have played. This is on the top line

D: Yeah. The top line, what that's telling you is that if you play the notes absolutely perfectly at the right time and the right place they should come up as black notes

N: Mmmhmm

D: And the grey, sort of, trail after the note is showing you the duration of the chord. Okay? So that's then mirrored underneath

N: Right. Well not mirrored strictly is it?


D: Well it's not strictly mirrored, you're quite right. But as you can see there's a few green lines, which I think are a good

N: They are good, yes

D: There's a colour coordination, colour key thing under there which tells you greens good, red's poor unfortunately

N: Yes, I don't know what was going on here in bars three and four

D: Don't, dunno what was going on there, but what you'll find is when you play on the midi-guitar, it's programmed very, very accurately. So if you play something in real life which misses the note slightly, I mean a correct note but not exactly…

N: Yeah

D: …in the middle of the fretting, etcetera, it's programmed to get it absolutely perfectly right. So you can be a little bit forgiving with some of the scores you would get, definitely

N: Alright, so practise is required for you

D: Practise is certainly required for me, yes

N: (Laughs) Alright, well you've got time because between now and our ten episodes I want to see you practising

D: I will do

N: Alright, lovely. Join us for our essential guitar skills course part one with myself and Mr David Young