Baby Boomers Return to Playing Guitar

Baby Boomers – Return to Playing Guitar – Berrido Guitars

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot Surrey, England with some thoughts for all fellow Baby Boomer guitarists out there.

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Now being a Baby Boomer myself I can empathise with why the guitar is so special to many of us.

We witnessed the birth of Rock ‘N Rock listening to such great guitarists as Hank Garland, Les Paul, Scotty Moore and James Burton. In fact it was James Burton’s solo to “Hello Mary Lou” that lit my fuse! Moving on to the 60’s we were influenced by marvellous musicians like Hank Marvin, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Big Jim,  Sullivan, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Peter Green Mick Green, Tony Hicks – the list could go on & on! This was decade of change & revolution led by the guitar.

The marvellous thing I remember about the 60’s was that there was such a tolerance for different genres of music – it was fine to listen to folk (Bob Dylan & Paul Simon), Jazz (Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass), Rock (Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix) and even Country (Johnny Cash).

In my teaching practise I am seeing a significant rise in Baby Boomers who return to playing guitar. They have perhaps finished with their primary career and now have more time to return to their long lost love – the guitar. I have a number of students ranging from 50+ up to their late 70’s.

There are many good reasons and befits why you should consider returning to playing guitar: it keeps the brain and fingers working, it helps you socialise by getting you out & about but also it “feeds your soul” by getting you to experience again all that great music that filled our youth.

So if you have the urge to pick up that old 1957 two tone sunburst Strat you have laying under the bed think about giving me a call on: 07762 941931 or email me at colin.berrido@btinternet.com  If not then I’ll give you a tenner for the old guitar! :-0)

Keep plucking and enjoy the music!

 

 

Exam Preparation

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England with some tips on Exam Preparation.

Student in Panic

Well the summer Exam season is nearly upon us which is often a time of anxiety for a lot of students – but it need not be. In this article I’m going to share some useful tips on Exam Preparation that will reduce your anxiety and make you feel confident in the Exam – in fact a lot the tips also apply to not music exams.

Tip 1: The secret of passing any Exam is to know your subject so ensure you do enough practising of Scales, Chords, Set Pieces etc. and read your Set Books very carefully to make sure your are clear as to what you have to do in the Exam. Make sure you know what the Pass Mark is.

Tip2: Do lots of Practise Exams” with your Teacher. This way you’ll get into the routine of what’s needed on the day and it will reduce “surprises”. As a Teacher I tend to make my Practice Exams a little more stretching than what you might meet in a real life Exam so that you are well prepared.

Tip 3: The day BEFORE the Exam make sure you don’t go out partying or have a busy tiring day. Make sure you get a good nights sleep. Also, go over the times and details of where the Exam is and make sure you know how to get there.

Tip 4: On the day of the Exam try to get up early and take some light exercise (to get some oxygen into your blood). Have a slow release carbohydrate breakfast (or lunch if your Exam is in the afternoon). I also recommend you take along to the Exam a glucose drink and some water. Before you go into the Exam drink about half the glucose drink (to get an energy boost) and after the Exam drink the other half (helps to stop the adrenalin “shakes”).

Tip 5: Arrive at the Exam venue at least 30 minutes before start time. Relax – get your guitar in tune, have a “noodle” and play a few scales or chords to get your fingers “warmed up”.

Tip 6:  When you enter the Exam room – stay calm and remember to breathe. Introduce yourself and say “hello” to the Examiner – they are human after all. Get yourself settled and be ready for the “off”. If asked a question, say “play a C major scale two octaves”, restate the question back to Examiner – this way it will help you focus and gives you a little extra thinking time. Count yourself in and remember to breathe.

Tip 7: During the Exam try to keep going and not stop if you make a mistake. If you do make a mistake politely ask if may repeat that section.

Tip 8: On the Aural Section, which most students find challenging, listen carefully and go with your “gut instinct” – avoid thinking about your answer too much (“paralysis through analysis” can occur). Most Aural Sections come at the end of the Exam and only account for a relatively small percentage of the total marks (say 10 to 15%) so even if you do badly (and you will pick up some marks) it should not stop you Passing the Exam on the basis that you will already have enough marks in the bank.

Tip 9: At the end of the Exam thank the Examiner and leave quickly – Examiner usually have busy schedule so they are under pressure to keep to their timetable.

Tip 10: Once you’ve taken the Exam stop thinking about it – you can’t change the result so don’t torture yourself worrying. Everyone tends to rate themselves down and think that they have done worse than they actually have.

Well good luck and I’m sure you’ll be successful!

Practicing Versus Playing

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

First of a Happy New Year to you all and I hope this will be a successful one for you.

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As a Teacher the primary issue to helping students improve  crops up on a regular basis – that is the need to practice. One question I often get regularly asked is what is the difference between practising versus playing as there is a lot of confusion between the two.

The way I lay this out to my students is by defining practice as the process of learning and improving your skill sets (such as learning chords, scales & arpeggios). Playing is the process were you apply these skills in a chosen piece of music – accompanying a song or perhaps applying the newly learned chords & scales in to a solo for example.

A key point for practicing is that you should always start with a given aim in mind such a learning the  2 octave A Pentatonic Scale. How long should you practice for? For beginners my advice is for a minimum of 20 minutes a day. For advancing students this of course needs to lengthen typically to one hour a day. Now for a lot students, who have other studies to cope with, this can be a challenge. One strategy I used to adopt was to start a particular homework topic and when I’d finished that I would take a 20 minute break by practicing a chosen topic. Then I’d go back to my other academic studies and later take another 20 minute practice break. This worked for me but may not work for everyone (“different stokes for different folks”).

For some students they prefer to make a dedicated single block of time for their practicing. If you opt for this approach there is a school of thought that you should break it into defined areas to focus on. A typical schedule might be – 20 minutes scales & arpeggios, 20 minutes chords and 20 minutes going over a study piece.  Another good tip I share with my folks is the “rule of 7” – which I got from a student who was a small arms instructor at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. If you wish to develop muscle memory, simply repeat the process seven times. I was teaching a chap this morning who was having problems changing between a G chord and a D7 chord so I got him to play the change seven times with a single strum on each chords. Bingo! After the 7th run through there was a big improvement – not perfect but much better. My advice was that for the next couple of days to repeat this process daily as part of his practice routine.

One comment I often share is to warn students not to stay in the “world of practice” too long – this world can be a very negative place where we struggling to get our scale or practice piece right and often failing. The secret is to always start with something you can do well, move on to the “difficult” practice area and then finally finish on something you are good at. If you really find something difficult and frustrating take a break and return to it a little later – works for me! Never forget, no matter how experienced a player you are – we all have “bad” days and find some aspect of our practicing difficult at first. It’s normal.

Now the other question I get is: how long should I play for? My answer is simple – play for as long as you like! If practicing is a kin to cooking then playing is a kin to eating. In general it takes quite a time to cook a dinner, often hours, but only minutes to eat it. Likewise you will need to practice a piece many hours to be able to play a 3 or 4 minute performance. It all boils down to muscle memory and sadly there’s no fast way to short cut this process. I used to teach a student who went to school in South Africa and his Ruby Team Coach used to drill them over and over with set plays saying that “repetition was the mother of all skills”.

Keep in mind there are four things a musician needs to develop: Ears, Brain, Fingers and “Heart”. Now the first three are perfect candidates for a practice routine and learning to play from the “heart” only comes in your playing when you have developed these skills. I once saw a former All Ireland Junior Fiddle Champion play s slow air with such feeling that it brought tears into the eyes of many of the listeners – no words, just the power of beautiful soul felt music. A truly wonderful and amazing experience. How did he manage to do this? He started playing when he was around 3 years old and just kept practicing and practicing  until he didn’t have to look at or think about his hands and he was able to let his “heart” guide his playing. He was about 30 years old when I saw him play – he was a real inspiration to all who heard him.

So, set yourself a New Years Resolution to practice and play more this coming year but remember above all to enjoy your playing.

Buying an Acoustic Guitar – Ideas for Presents for the Holiday Season

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

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The Christmas Holiday Season is fast approaching – some folks looking forward with anticipation, others with concern of “what to buy?”. A great present is an acoustic guitar – a very portable, very versatile , “go anywhere” instrument. Every guitarist should have one!

So what’s on offer? Acoustic guitars fall into three basic categories – the traditional Classical guitar with nylon strings, the flat top steel strung guitar and the electro acoustic guitar. What’s the difference between each type?

The Classical guitar – they tend be smaller in the body which makes them more comfortable for younger students. They have nylon “finger friendly” strings – again good for younger students. As a generalisation Classical guitars tend to have wider necks – typically 52 mm although some are narrower at around 48mm. The wider neck is easier for access for your fingers when playing chords but can feel too big for smaller hands (which is where the 48mm width is better) viagra naturel acheter. The “normal” way to play a Classical guitar is by using the fingers of your right hand and this is the approach required for playing formal Classical guitar. That said as a teacher I take the approach that if it helps get a student “up & running”  by using a plectrum on a nylon string guitar then use one – you can always loop back and learn finger picking once you have developed some muscle memory with the left hand.

The flat top steel strung guitar – this is the most popular and versatile of the acoustic guitars in my humble opinion. Good for playing chords to accompany singing,  good for playing lead lines or jigs & reels on. They come in various body sizes – The Martin Guitar Company’s grading system is helpful: their smallest guitars were given the number “0”, then “00” and then “000” being the biggest. They are commonly called “Folk” guitars (since they were used extensively by folk singers such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Martin Carthy & Richard Thompson and, many others). Being smaller they are claimed by many to be more comfortable and manageable to play in addition to not being so loud making them easy to sing over. The largest in the Martin range is the Dreadnought. They are not only physically bigger but tend to give a bigger, louder sound: they were originally designed by Martin to be loud enough to be heard alongside a banjo in Bluegrass music. The Jumbo sized body is in between Folk size guitars and the Dreadnought size with the sound being somewhere in between as well – louder than Folk size instruments but not as big as the Dreadnought. The default neck width for a steel string acoustic is around 42mm – some find this width easier to play others feel it’s a bit cramped when finger picking chords. Slightly wider necks are around – 43 or 44mm – as always the best advice is to try them and see what’s best for you. The biggest issue with steel string acoustic guitars is that they make your left hand finger’s sore at first. It doesn’t take long to build up calluses but unfortunately all steel string players have to go through the “pain barrier” . Flat tops can be played with both a plectrum or finger picked.

Electro acoustic guitars – these can be either nylon or steel strung. The primary difference being that they have a built in pick up system so that they can be easily amplified. As mentioned above they can come in a variety of body sizes and neck widths and can be either played finger style or picked.

One point I would mention is that if the intended user is not planning to gig the guitar then the extra money for an electro acoustic guitar in my view is best put towards a slightly “better” non acoustic model (you can always post fit a sound hole pick up at a later date for a modest sum – under £50).

Now as per my previous article buying an electric guitar the things to look out for are:

– make sure the neck is straight (a properly adjusted neck should have a very slight under bow of around 0.010 to 0.015″).

– Check the frets feel smooth (including the fret ends – often an issue on budget guitars).

– Check the action (the height of the strings above the 12th fret) is not too high – as a guide, a good low action would be around 4/64″ on the treble side and around 6/64″ on the bass side.

– Check the machine heads work smoothly.

– Colour: a little more limited with acoustics versus electrics – the “traditional” colour schemes are for natural wood and sunburst but you can find black and some very bright colours if you look hard. I tend to like “plain & simple” with no “bling” but it is after all “different strokes for different folks”.

The other pieces of advice I’d share are:

– If possible buy from your local friendly Music Shop primarily on the basis that if it goes wrong or needs a “tweak” then it’s easy to get it fixed. Most shops will price match which narrows the gap between a local purchase versus internet shopping.

– Set a budget and try to stick to it. The quality of budget guitars these days is very good so there’s less of a risk of getting a really bad guitar (as was the case when I was starting out) but in general – a slightly higher budget (say around £120 – £150) will get a guitar that is just that little bit better in all departments (you get what you pay for). That said you can get a really good budget bargain – you just have to go a hunting.

– I always recommend (if possible) that the student plays their proposed instrument – they are often only small differences in feel and sound but they are important in the decision process.

– If the instrument is bought as a “surprise” then I’d suggest you keep the receipt and negotiate with the store if it would be possible to exchange it if the student finds it not quite right for them.

-Take someone who already plays (even your Music Teacher – could be the best one hour lesson fee you ever spent) along with you when you buy.

– Buy a pack of spare strings – Murphy’s Law says, for sure one will break on Christmas morning! Also, buy a dozen picks – they always end up down the back of the sofa.

Happy shopping and enjoy the festive season!

Choosing Your Guitar Teacher

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

I’ve been busy lately giving guitar lessons and teaching a variety of instruments – including mandolin and ukulele plus I’ve played a couple of gigs with Rogues Gallery – The Not So Traditional Barn Dance Band and I also did a stand-in/dep gig with another local barn dance band.

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For this posting I thought I’d chat over “Choosing Your Guitar Teacher” – very important for both you and your teacher to make the right choice.

This first thing to think about is: what to look for in picking a guitar teacher?

Some areas could be:

–       to learn to play in particular style.

–       to help me get in to College or University.

–       to boost my confidence and help me play in front of people.

–       to show me how to play barre chords.

–       show me how to solo.

–       or, to help me enjoy music and de-stress.

A good tip is to make a check list of what you want to ask your potential teacher BEFORE you contact them. With the Internet and all the Social Networking sites, such as Facebook/Twitter now available, it is relatively easy for you to check out possible teachers and draw up a short list of candidates.

As part of the screening process you should also ask around friends and family to see if they have any recommendations – “word of mouth” is a good source of information as you can get first hand opinions as to what a particular teacher is like. Music Shops are also a good source of information as they often personally know local teachers and can make recommendations.

A key point I would highlight is wherever possible CALL the prospective teacher up and speak with them. You will instantly get an idea of whether you will get on with them – after all we are all people and “chemistry” is important. Sometimes, for no fault of our own (or the other person), the “chemistry” is wrong and the relationship doesn’t fly. By speaking directly with someone you can get an instant “read out” as to their personality and can quickly gauge if you will get along with them.

Getting back to your Check List – questions you might want to ask when choosing your guitar teacher are:

–       Do they have a recognised Teaching Qualification? I hold a teaching Diploma from the London College of Music (Dip LCM). Remember – great players don’t always make the best teachers (and vice versa).

–       How long have they been teaching? In general, it is difficult to short cut experience.

–       What level/grade can they teach up to? Not all teachers will teach (or want to teach) up to advanced level students. I had a good friend who was a piano teacher and he only taught up to Grade 5 by choice but he was brilliant at getting people up and running!

–       Ask what they think is the most important aspect a student should focus on? The obvious answer is of course – keep up regular practice, but other points of view could include, play music that you like (I’m a firm believer in this philosophy), make sure you play with other musicians, learn to read music (I tend to learn towards the Suzuki philosophy of “learn to play first & them loop back and learn the theory or learn to read music”. As guitarists we have the advantage of being able to use TAB – which I believe is an excellent system as long as it’s used in conjunction with regular notation).

–       Ask what teaching aids or facilities they have? As the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland said – “You have to keep running just to stay where you are!” Technology keeps moving on at a rate of knots and it’s important that your teacher can offer you the advantages of these advancements. Now I’m the first person to say I love valve amps (very old analogue technology) but I wouldn’t record them with a reel to reel recorder anymore (although that could sound very good) simply because at some point I would have to convert the analogue signal to a digital one. For speed and simplicity I use an iPad with a dongle/digital analogue interface these days since the amp emulations are very good and it gives me the ability to quickly email or file share the recording with a student.

On the subject of recording I’m a big fan of recording a student’s efforts (particular those who are working towards an external exam) since it gives them the chance to hear how they are getting on. It’s also a non critical way to give constructive feedback – more often than not we are very self critical of our own work and think our “mistakes” are the size of Mount Everest when in fact when you listen back to the recording they are barely noticeable. Once we learn we can often “get away” with little faux pas as our confidence level rises – which has to be good (see you can “fool” the listener some of the time!).

–       Do they have Web Site or use Social media? This is a good way to keep in contact with your teacher and get extra tips and information (for free!).

–       Do they have any specialist knowledge or types of music they specialize in? Like most teachers I’m a bit of a “jack of all trades” – we have to be to help our students however my specialism is electric Celtic based folk music – in particular playing jigs & reels and the like on electric guitar (that Richard Thompson chap has a lot to answer for but is still the Master). I find they are great “finger twisters” and are an excellent supplement to conventional scales (and more fun – which is the aim of the game after all).

–       Are they a working, gigging musician? I still am and I share my experiences of what pieces of kit – amps, guitars, effects pedals etc., that I find work well (or don’t). This often saves my students a lot time in chasing down a gigging rig that will sound good (and often keeps them on track to a limited budget).

I’m sure you will have lots of questions of your own but I hope these will spark your thought process.

Please don’t lose sight of the fact that a good music teacher can have a long and lasting positive effect on you as well helping you learn to play guitar – they can be inspirational, a mentor, a gigging partner (two of my current band are former pupils) or just a great source of learning. I was taught piano from the age of seven to fourteen (when I took up guitar) and the music theory I was taught by my piano teacher, for which I will be forever grateful, I still use on a daily basis.

So take some time and seek out a teacher that ticks the boxes for you – a teacher is not just for Christmas but their effect on you may be for life (like my piano teacher was for me).

How to be a “Bad Student”

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

I thought in this article I’d show you how to be a “Bad Student”.

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In a “former life” I was involved in a major reorganisation programme. There was a lot of resistance to change with accompanying negativity. The Manager charged with heading up the changes employed a very cleaver reverse psychology technique at the briefing meetings. Rather than telling the work force what was needed for a successful changeover he asked them to brainstorm how to “wreck” the project. The meetings were a great success, good natured (in fact very entertaining) and he got his message across in a non dictatorial manner. Brilliant!

So, how could you be a “Bad Student”? Here are a few ideas to start you off….

–          Don’t practice!

–          Can’t be bothered to tune your instrument (or buy an electronic tuner)

–          Don’t learn the basics – scales, chords and arpeggios

–          Forget your music or study book

–          Don’t learn the notes on the fingerboard

–          Can’t be bothered “to read the book” or “read the Music/Tab” –

           RTFB & RTFM (Read the Flaming’ Book and Read the Flaming’ Music)

–          Don’t think about what YOU want to study or get help with

–          Don’t think about what you would like to play BEFORE your lesson

–          Refuse to buy and use a Metronome

–          Don’t turn up for your agreed lesson

–         And what’s worse – don’t pay a cancellation fee

–          Regularly turn up late for lessons

–          Turn up for a lesson with a broken string (and have a spare one!)

–          Don’t maintain your instrument (so it doesn’t work)

–          Don’t bring a pick (if you use one)

–          Don’t bring a note pad or Tab/Music notation book and a pencil

–          “Noodle” or strum whilst your teacher is trying to explain something

–          If in a Group Ensemble Session:

  • Remember to distract and chat over your fellow students
  • Play a “wrong chord” and look scathingly at the person next to you!
  • Never learn the piece ahead of the session – “wing it”!

–          Don’t “engage” and take part in the lesson ( being grumpy also helps)

–          Don’t cut the finger nails on your left hand (so all chords sound “wooly”)

–          Can’t be bothered to learn some basic theory

–          Forget to pay for your lesson (always appreciated by your teacher)

Now I’m sure you get the idea and you don’t have to be a genius to work out what makes a Good Student.

So, keep practising and playing!

Enjoy!

An Alternative to Scales – Jigs & Reels

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

As an alternative to using scales and arpeggios to build finger speed, strength and muscle memory I often teach jigs & reels and the like partly because I’m on a mini-mission to keep the old traditional tunes alive albeit in a modern format.  I’m always surprised at how many of my younger students take to them with a passion even though their core genre interest could be something radically different  – such as Heavy Rock or Metal. I’ve thought about why this is and whilst I don’t have definitive answer I think it’s because they have strong melody line coupled with a technical challenge to play them well – you have to work hard to get them right on guitar but when my students do I see a real sense of achievement on their faces.

The inspiration for me to start playing jigs & reels on guitar was the wonderfully innovative guitarist Richard Thompson. I can remember hearing him duet and duel with Dave Swarbrick on the 1969 Fairport Convention Album “Liege and Leif”. Now I’d heard a number guitarists play some traditional tunes on acoustic guitars, which was all well and good but Richard Thompson did it on a Fender Stratocaster. What a sound, what a tone! It simply inspired me to both learn to play the tunes (which is another long story!) and I had to have a Fender Strat! Which is still my go-to guitar of choice.

Returning to the comment regarding a strong melody line – I have pet theory that music that has a strong melody line tends to also have a long life and gets passed on to successive generations of musicians. An example being the music of Mozart – superb complex harmonies coupled to wonderful melodies that we can all hum or whistle. Alternatively Bartok wrote some very complex pieces but with much more emphasis on dissonant melody lines. Now it’s unfair to say one composer is “better” than another but if we use the yard stick of who gets played more regularly on “Classic FM” then Mozart is clearly requested more often by their target audience.

The fact that traditional music is in general very melodic in nature it would go some way to explaining why they have been passed down for hundreds of years – plus they were written to make you dance and feel happy.

Now I did have one student who just loved to play scales but after pointing out the he’d could do with “getting out” a bit more I tried him on some traditional jigs & reels and he loved ’em! He found them frustrating at first- getting the fingering right, getting the timing right, not to mention those dammed triplets but once he’s cracked a couple of them he was a “happy camper”. Job done – another convert and I hopefully saved his sanity as well.

So check out some traditional Irish, Scottish or English tunes and have a-go! ‘Till next time – keep enjoying your playing!

Help with Tendonitis

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

Yesterday one of my pupils came along for his lesson saying that his left hand thumb was sore and it was difficult to play his acoustic guitar. He has been playing about 6 months and has made really good progress. Having had the dreaded tendonitis myself in my left thumb I suspect that he may have the same problem. Today he went to his doctor and he was in fact diagnosed with tendonitis and given some anti inflammatory  medication.

After his visit to the doctor he came round to see me as he was fearful of having to give up guitar or at least take a break from playing. This was something he didn’t want to do and asked for my help and thoughts on what to do.

Here’s a summary of our conversation:

1. Always seek and take the advice from a qualified medical practitioner (doctor or physiotherapist).

2. Pain is the body’s way of flagging that something is wrong – so don’t be “hero” and ignore it.

3.The main problem was my student didn’t want to stop playing but needed to allow time for his thumb to recover.

4. Well I came up with two strategies for him:

Firstly – I also teach ukulele,  which is a fun instrument to play,  and is ideal for younger children who only have small hands. So I gave him my uke to try. Low and behold he found he could play it without it causing any pain in his thumb. After half an hour or so he’d mastered some basic chords and was happily playing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – and, no pain.

Secondly – I tuned his acoustic guitar to an open E chord and let him try out playing some slide guitar. Again, he could do this without causing any pain.He didn’t take to slide guitar as much as the uke so he elected to try playing this for a while so as keep his “muscle memory” skills up to date – which are quickly lost if you have to take an enforced break (I was once told by a physiotherapist that this can happen after as short a period as 8 to 10 days – which goes some way to explaining why we are all bit “lead” fingered when we come back from our holidays).

So out he went and bought a uke from our local friendly music store – this with a soft case cost him around £35.  He’s now a “happy camper” – result!

Now, avoiding tendonitis is far better than trying to fix it (which can be a slow and painful process). How can you avoid it? Well he’s a list a “good habits” to adopt:

–       Don’t play with a bad posture. Play sitting upright on a proper chair or stool – I know we’ve all played laying back on the couch ’cause it looks cool and is comfortable but it can lead to repetitive strain injury problems as well as tendonitis. This how how got tendonitis in my thumb.

–       Don’t play or practice for too long at one session. I usually tell my beginners to play for 20 minutes or so then take a break. Practising should be like feeding a baby “a little and often rather than one feast once a fortnight!” As your strength builds up then extend your sessions to maybe one hour or so but then take a “stretch” break.

–       It is also good to do some “warm up exercises” at the start of your practice session – scales are a good way of getting your fingers working and warmed up.

–       If you start to feel and pain in your hands, arms or neck – stop and take a break.

–       A good tip if you feel your hands cramping up is to massage them in a bowl of warm water for about 5 to 10 minutes – this will help everything to relax out and stop any inflammation forming.

–       I personally use some 10% ibuprofen gel on localised sore spots but I would advise that you always check with your doctor or pharmacist that it’s OK for your to use this gel – and, of course, if you do use it, read the instructions!

–       Again, if any pain persists go and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Well I hope this article has been helpful and will keep you playing and pain free.

 

 

 

Ideas for Presents for the Holiday Season

Hello again from Colin Berrido, the independent music teacher based in Bagshot, Surrey, England.

The Christmas Holiday Season is fast approaching – some folks looking forward with anticipation, others with the concern of “what to buy?”.

If you have a musician in the family, particularly a guitarist, ukulele, mandolin or banjo player then I’d thought I’d help out with some suggestions of what to buy them.

So here we go:

  1. Buy them a New Instrument– this is a great idea but can be tricky from the stand point that I always recommend the player tries out the instrument first, as my previous articles mentioned – no two instrument feel or play quite the same. But, all is not lost – there are a couple of options:
    1. Buy the instrument from your “local friendly music shop” and ask if they would be prepared to swap out the instrument if it’s not quite right (remember to keep the receipt!).
    2. Buy a voucher from your music shop so that the gift recipient can go and select the instrument of their choice (plus they can top up the value with money of their own)
  2. Buy them A Different But Related Instrument – if they currently play the guitar but them a Ukulele (or a mandolin or banjo), as often said – variety is the spice of life!
  3. Buy them an Electronic Tuner – this is a great low cost “stocking filler” that will really improve a player’s sound.
  4. Buy them an Electronic Metronome – from my own teaching experiences keeping time does not come easy for some folks so playing along to a metronome can help out big time (once you get over that annoying “tick-tick-tick”!).
  5. If they play an electric instrument buy them a New Amplifier – this can also be a little tricky but if you apply the same two strategies as buying a New Instrument (that is buy a voucher or arrange a swap-back deal) that way I’m sure you’ll end up with a “happy camper”. I guess I need to put “buying a new amplifier” on my “to do list” for a future article viagra sur ordonnance.
  6. Buy them some Music Lessons with an experienced and Qualified Teacher. Even a few lessons can help sort out those bad habits and get you back on the straight and narrow. Book early and get the lessons arranged during those “in-between” days between Charismas and the New Year.
  7. Buy a Tin of Plectrums – they always get lost so you can never get enough of them.
  8. New Leads  – a good lead will significantly improve your sound so is a worthwhile gift. My advice is – don’t buy cheap ones (they can make you sound worse!). Think about buying some short high quality patch leads (for connecting effects pedals) – a lot of musicians buy expensive leads to connect their guitar but then degrade the signal with poor quality patch leads.
  9. Buy them a pack of New Strings – this could be from a single set to multi-set packs. Strings always wear out and need replacing so it’s a good idea to have some handy to switch in.
  10. A small Tool Kit is a great gift with say a string winder, string cutters and some polish. A bit of “TLC” on your guitar can give it a new lease of life.
  11. Ear Plugs are an often neglected item but are a real help towards the long term health of a players hearing – I find they make gigging much more enjoyable and you don’t drive home with muffled “woolly” hearing (not a good thing!).
  12. Buy them a Recorder – it’s a real benefit to personal development to be able to hear what you sound like. There are lots of good options out there ranging from hand help digital recorders, stand alone recorder/mixers, loop-stations and Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet plus Recording Software Packages.
  13. There are number of good Music Writing Software programs out there and these are a great help to any musician in capturing their work and improving their skills.
  14. Purchase a good quality Music Stand – apart from being an essential piece of kit for any musician it helps with minimising repetitive strain injuries (RSI) by improving your posture whilst practising (now that’s got to be good and cheaper than a series of visits to a chiropractor).
  15. A good Music Book – either a Music/Tab book or a book on their favourite instrument can be a good read over the holidays.
  16. A couple of Blank Music Notation or Tab Books along  with some pencils (with erasers) make a good present.
  17. Think about buying them a sturdy Piano Or Guitar Tool for their practice room.
  18. Some Music Related Clothing – there are lots of tee-shirts, base ball caps and jacks out there that a fashionable and fun.
  19. Think out of the box! Make them a sound proofed rehearsal room. Maybe you can convert the garage, cellar or loft area. A mature student of mine has done just this so that he and his wife (who is a fine drummer) can rehearse together – no more having to load the car up with “tons” of kit and hiring a rehearsal room.
  20. Buy them some time at a Rehearsal Room or Recording Studio – it’s nice to be able to turn up and make your amp sing or have a keep-sake of your work

Well these were my first 20 thoughts but I’m sure you can come up with more ideas. Have fun hunting down great presents for the musician in your life.

 

 

Buying a Strat Style Guitar – SUMMARY

Welcome back to the web site of Colin Berrido, an independent guitar teacher based in Surrey, England.

So, on my previous articles I took you through the basic things to look for in selecting your Strat Style Guitar. To tie off all the loose ends let’s try to summarise and give you a check list to work from:

  1. Budget – set yourself a budget and try to stick it! Your shiny new “way over budget” guitar may look fantastic but you still have to eat until your next pay day (or you Dad has to feed the family). Hunger whilst seldom fatal in the first twenty four hours is still not good! If you really want that dream guitar it may be better to hold on to the cash and wait until you have saved up for it.
  2. Where to buy – my personal preference is to go to your local friendly music store. In my experience no two guitars are quite the same and you need to try them out and let them “speak to you” – be careful of those expensive ones, they can keep whispering “buy me!”. Also, take a friend who can play (or your guitar teacher – we are here to help, honestly!).There are some great bargains on the internet but the down side is that reading a specification does not tell you how a guitar feels.
  3. Key points to look for: colour (doesn’t make it play any better – except red ones so I’m told) but it’s important to you (and can affect re-sale value). Weight – I personally like light weight guitars (getting old I suspect). Feel of the neck: skinny, wide, fat, large radius or flat radius fingerboard, small or tall frets? No one type is best – it’s what it feels like to you.
  4. Check out the hardware: make sure everything works – machine heads, tremolo, no loose strap buttons etc.
  5. Check out the electrics: try to play it through a “quality” amp AND a small practice amp (which is what your budget will probably direct you towards). Why try both: well if it sounds good through a quality amp then it’s basically a good guitar. If it still sounds good through a small low budget amp then it’s still a good guitar plus you know the budget amp is also good piece of kit (not always the case sadly). Couple the two together and you’re like to be a “happy camper” and still on track re the money. Listen for any crackles and pops from the volume & tones controls and the pickup selector switch. You may get told that they just need a squirt of switch cleaner – yes it can work but in my experience it is only a temporary fix (the parts really need to be replaced with quality units – which is not cheap if you include getting a guitar tech to fit them for you).
  6. Sound: how does it sound to you? There are what may be considered classic Strat tones – does the guitar you’re checking out capture these to a lesser or greater extend? Again, I’ve been surprised at how good some budget guitars sound. In the final analysis – use your ears and personal judgment. Pickups can be upgraded – but they are not cheap!
  7. Playability: what is the action like? I’m not a huge fan of ultra low actions, measured at the 12th fret – 3/64’s top E and 4/64’s bottom E (usually only easily achievable of a flat radius neck). I prefer the original 7.25 inch fingerboard radius and an medium low action – of 4/64’s top E and 5/56’th bottom E – I like to be able to get hold of the strings and “feel” them when string bending. The down side of many budget guitars that I see my students bring along to lessons is that they are basically good guitars but that they’ve been set up properly. Again fixable but is an extra cost. If you buy from your local music store (who perhaps know you and your buddies – or your teacher), they may set it up for you prior to selling it (which I believe they should do any way – but margins are tight for retailers in these tough economic times and time is money). Always worth smiling and asking though! If they are nice to you, you will go back – two-way loyalty is always worth building up: you never know when you might need help (to change that pesky top E string that’s just snapped for example).
  8. Finally: try to include in your budget a gig bag. You don’t want your shinny new guitar getting “relic-ed” on the way home (or perhaps you do!).

Well I hope I’ve been of help pointing you the right direction – enjoy your new guitar and your playing.  A guitar is not just for Christmas – it’s for life!