Category Archives: Guitar

Reading Music in Your Comfort Zone

00-42546By Tom Dempsey

As guitarists, for better or worse, we tend to approach the instrument from a visual and/or tactile perspective. We are first introduced to fingerings, grips, diagrams, and other references that we tend to internalize from either one or a combination of these perspectives. As a matter of entry to the instrument this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is in how we approach it as students, and eventually as teachers that allows us to harness the true power of this perspective.

When students first learn how to read music on the guitar there is a tendency to be disconnected from previous knowledge acquired on the instrument. A more effective way to approach reading on the guitar is to connect to prior knowledge or skills acquired. Consider this fingering of the F major scale:


As students practice learning this scale they should also practice reading the scale. This will help to connect the eyes, brain and fingers together so that when you see that first note you will know that it is an F played on the first fret of the 6th string. In doing so students will soon be able to connect something that is familiar, a scale fingering, with something that might be less familiar like reading music. Through making this connection reading music starts to be come a more comfortable experience.

Once a student begins to feel a connection with the scale fingering of the major scale and the notes on the staff, consider presenting a melody found in the Guitar 101, Book 2:

Guitar 101 Melody

When doing so a connection should be made to the previous F major scale fingering. This allows us to access a certain comfort zone and connect to prior knowledge. Through these types of connections we are able to feel more comfortable and confident reading music on the guitar. Once we start to move up the neck of the guitar learning additional fingerings for our F major scale we can begin to connect to those respective fingerings. In doing so we are now starting to read all over the neck of the guitar. This allows us to have a new level of freedom throughout the entire fret board.

Whether you are trying to look for new strategies to read music or you are searching for new methods to utilize when teaching students to read music consider the following:

1. Make connections to prior knowledge and skills
2. Practice scales while reading the music in an effort to create familiarity through these connections
3. Present reading examples of simple diatonic melodies
4. Connect those melodies to scale fingerings
5. Connect melodies to additional scale fingerings up the neck

When these types of methods are put in place reading music begins to become a less complicated experience. Through connecting to prior knowledge you will begin to read music in your comfort zone.

Tom Dempsey is a New York based jazz guitar performer, recording artist, and educator. He is the author of four books for Alfred Music and the co-author of both volumes of the new Guitar 101 series. Currently Tom is an Associate Professor of Music at LaGuardia Community College as well as an instructor at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Alfred Music Joins Peaksware To Help The World Experience The Joy of Making Music

Andrew Surmani

By Andrew Surmani
Chief Marketing Officer, Alfred Music

Alfred Music is excited to announce today that it is joining the Peaksware Holdings, LLC portfolio of companies. This group includes MakeMusic, Inc., the developer of Finale and SmartMusic, bringing together the leaders in educational music publishing and music technology.

Both Alfred Music and MakeMusic will continue to operate independently. By sharing resources within the Peaksware group, additional investments and innovations will provide additional content and distribution channels for both companies. Specifically, this relationship will not change MakeMusic’s long-standing commitment to work equally with all publishing partners to provide the highest level of quality content for musicians and educators within SmartMusic.

“We are excited to be working with MakeMusic. Alfred Music truly believes in the MakeMusic products which is why we took over exclusive North American and UK distribution of the Finale suite of products in 2013. We also believe strongly in the SmartMusic platform, evidenced by the fact that we are one of its leading content providers. This partnership provides the resources needed to significantly enhance Alfred Music’s mission of helping the world experience the joy of making music,” said Andrew Surmani, Chief Marketing Officer of Alfred Music.” “We are combining the leading music education publisher with the industry leader in music technology to benefit everyone, from our music publishing partners, to music dealers, composers, arrangers, educators, students and independent musicians.”

MakeMusic owns some of the most advanced and patented technology solutions to support the composing, arranging, teaching, learning, and playing of music. Regular updates and innovations to Finale make it the industry standard for music notation software and the trusted creation tool for composers and arrangers around the world. With more than one million students and 20,000 teachers, SmartMusic is at the forefront of interactive learning technologies for the classroom. And, with their recent acquisition of Weezic, an Augmented Sheet Music innovator, SmartMusic will now be available wherever musicians are – on the web, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and PC.

Alfred Music’s customers, dealers, and industry partners should expect business to continue as usual with no immediate changes. Alfred’s main office will remain in Van Nuys, California and additional offices will stay in their current New York, Miami, UK, Singapore, and Germany locations.

To stay current with further developments, visit the SmartMusic blog or follow Alfred on Twitter and MakeMusic on Twitter.

Five Ways for Guitarists to Develop Their Ear

By Jared MeekerMeeker

Playing music can often be related to the visual elements: stage lights, clothing and appearances, visual shapes of patterns on the guitar up and down the neck and reading guitar tablature and notation. However, any great guitarist and musician will tell you that it all comes down to having a well-trained ear. Recently, I had an opportunity to meet Robert Montgomery, Wes Montgomery’s son, who told me stories about how his dad didn’t read music and would learn extremely complex songs and note-for-note solos by ear. This kind of listening led him to understand the highest level of jazz harmony by relying on his hearing and formulating his own vocabulary. It can be said for many great studio guitarists that they can hear melodies, chord progressions and forms and play them back instantly. How can a guitarist progress and practice developing their ear?

1) Sing what you play. One of the most important techniques is to allow notes to vibrate through you by singing them. If you are new to this, play a note on your guitar and then sing it back. Was it the exact note in the same register, or was it sharp or flat? Try to match precisely and, as you improve, eventually you can improvise anything on the guitar and match it with your voice. Often you can hear guitar greats doing this where they solo and sing with it. Once you have that mastered, try to harmonize with yourself—playing a scale on guitar and harmonizing it with your voice (for example, singing a third above).

2) Listen to the individual elements. When some people listen to music, it is just part of the background—they listen to the singer’s words and melody but the accompanying instruments are in the distance. There is so much more going on. First of all, there are five elements of music to be aware of: melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre and form. When you listen to music, be acutely aware of how these elements are used and combined. How is the melody shaped and contoured? What are the chord relationships and how do they evolve through time? What kinds of rhythms are being used by every instrument and do they contrast in different sections of the song? What is the timbre or quality of each instrument, the effects, natural tone and range and equalization that were used in the production? What is the form of the song from the beginning to the end and how many sections were there?

3) Practice ear-training exercises. Ear training exercises are essential for the developing musician. There are some great websites that feature a variety of theory related lessons and ear training interactive players. You should test yourself on the following topics: note intervals, chord qualities, rhythm dictation and melody dictation. Let’s talk about each independently.

• Interval ear training will help you hear and recognize the distances between notes, typically all 12 notes and their multiple spellings. This is particularly helpful when figuring out melodies. At a gig or studio session when an artist or producer plays a melody you need to be able to pick it up immediately without fumble.
• Chord qualities are hearing a type of chord, (typically four triads types and about 7 seventh chord types, built from any root). You should be able to identify the chord the first time, but in the beginning you may need to hear it several times or each note of the chord played separately.
• For rhythmic dictation you will probably have to do yourself if you have a way to record yourself. Record yourself clapping out a few rhythms—start slow with just one measure, but for more advanced training, do several measures—then write out the rhythm on a sheet of paper.
• Finally, for melodic dictation do the same thing, record notes in time and then listen back and write out your melody. Start with only a few notes in a short phrase but, after you improve on transcribing, try longer phrases of four measures or more.

4) Reading music that you’re not familiar with. This is just how it sounds: practice reading and understanding the notes on a page and how they turn into sound. Similarly to the previous lessons, it will get easier the more that you do it. Eventually all the musicality that we’ve talked about will come together and you will see the notes, intervals, and chords on the page and know how they sound before you play them.

5) Transcribing note-for-note. Everyone has his or her favorite players and musicians. If you’d like to like to learn from them the best way is to play along. Often you can write down the notes, chords and rhythms to understand them better, but listening, learning and playing along is good enough. Be careful to notice all the inflections, bends and ornaments. There may be great transcriptions and charts out there already but although it may take longer, and figuring it out on your own will ma ke you internalize it more.

Think about great musicians with an incredible musical memory like Wes Montgomery, who had all the melodies and chords of a night stored in his mind, or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who could hear a full symphony and go home and write down what he heard. That musical memory is related to ear training and identifying in a deeper way how you process sound. Good luck, and happy listening.

For products by and featuring Jared Meeker, click  here.

Fretboard 101—Five Octave Patterns

Nikki O'Neill

By Nikki O’Neill 

Teaching the five octave patterns is the easiest way for your students to see how the notes are laid out on a guitar. They’ll be able to find their way around the neck, play with more confidence, and broaden their creative palettes as rhythm and lead guitarists.  Here is an in-depth, step-by-step approach for teaching the five octave pattern.

The Five Octave Patterns in C

“Fretboard 101” excerpt from Women’s Road to Rock Guitar by Nikki O’Neill

Grab your guitar. We’re going to locate every C on the guitar with the five octave patterns. Some patterns include two C’s, others three C’s. Notice which strings are included in each pattern. Some have a two-fret distance between the C’s (use your index finger and ring finger to play them); others a three-fret distance (use your index finger and pinkie.)

Once we’ve played through all five patterns, they’ll repeat again in the same order until we run out of frets. Notice how all five patterns overlap each other.

Pattern #1: The two C’s are located on the second string (fret 1) and the fifth string (fret 3), two frets apart. If you play an open C-chord, you’ll find the two C’s located in the same spots.

Pattern #2: The two C’s are located on the fifth string (fret 3) and the third string (fret 5), two frets apart. Play a barred C-chord (at fret 3): you’ll find the two C’s in the same spots.

Pattern #3: The three C’s are located on the third string (fret 5) and the first and sixth strings (fret 8), three frets apart. 

Pattern #4: The three C’s are located on the first and sixth strings (fret 8) and the fourth string (fret 10), two frets apart. If you play a barred C-chord (at fret 8), you’ll find the three C’s in the same spots.

Pattern #5: The two C’s are located on the fourth string (fret 10) and the second string (fret 13), three frets apart. This C-chord shape is common and useful: the two C’s are found in the same spots.

Click the visual at the top to see the guitar neck with all the five octave patterns in C .

Exercise: Find the Five Octave Patterns in A 

Here’s another visual for the octave patterns in A. In this case, you’ll start out with pattern #2, and one of the A notes will be located on the open fifth string. The order sequence of the five patterns remains the same. Pattern #2 is shown to get you started. Now, fill in the other four patterns.

“Exercise: Octave Patterns in A” from Women’s Road to Rock Guitar by Nikki O’Neill

Why Learn Octaves?

-The fretboard will be less intimidating when you play/write a solo, riff or fill.

-Playing a melody in octaves creates a sonic change — the notes get thickened up. This can raise the energy in a song or solo. You can also emphasize a melody this way. Try using an effects pedal for even greater contrast.

-If you want to learn any scales, knowing where the octaves are makes it much easier to learn and remember the scales.

-If you’re not big on scales, you can instead improvise around the notes of the chords you’re playing. The octaves can be really helpful guideposts.

-It helps you break away from just playing open chords and barre chords. It lets you easily locate smaller chords (on fewer strings.) Smaller chords can open up space in a song arrangement; make for more creative guitar parts, and better complement the bass/keys/other guitars.

“Playing Hendrix-Style Octaves in Solos” excerpt from Women’s Road to Rock Guitar by Nikki O’Neill

Exercise: Playing a Melody in Octaves

Some octave shapes are easier to move around than others. Try this exercise and click here to listen to the audio demonstration.



About the author: Nikki O’Neill is a performing artist, guitar instructor and author of Women’s Road to Rock Guitar. The book covers rhythm and lead guitar for different rock styles, gear, song structure, how to figure out songs by ear, and more. Eleven guitarists (incl. Orianthi and Kaki King) share tips in the book. It also features a discography of great female rock and blues guitarists.

For more information, check out Women’s Road to Rock Guitar.

For additional books on related topics, also check out Fretboard Knowledge for the Contemporary Guitarist and Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist.

A Dynamic Approach to Guitar Instruction

The Shearer Method

The Shearer Method

By Alan Hirsh & Thomas Kikta

Aaron Shearer’s books have been the benchmark of classical guitar training for over 55 years. His efforts and his students’ efforts have created some of the most prestigious guitar programs in America, earning him the title from the Guitar Foundation of America as “the most prominent pedagogue of the twentieth century.”

Towards the end of his life, he was compelled to write his magnum opus—his final say on his approach to teach the guitar.  The Shearer Method would once and for all be defined in his words and bring his experience of 70 years of teaching to the table.  This work was over 500 pages and was ultimately split into three volumes creating the opportunity for future students to experience his definitive thoughts on how to approach learning the classical guitar.

Here are companion videos and curriculum outlines for the three volumes of the Shearer Method:

Beginning Guitar—Book I Classical Guitar Foundations

To watch a video and hear music from Book I:

  • Setting seating position and optimal hand positions
  • The six-note introduction of basic technique and music reading:
    • Establishing basic right-hand technique—p on strings 2, 3, 4
    • Establishing basic left-hand technique—A on 3, C and D on 2
    • Introduce basic musical concepts—reading six notes
  • Free stroke fingers—dyads i-m
  • –Alternation of dyads i-m and p
  • Sympathetic movement—arpeggio: p,i,m; introduction to chords
  • Triads, i-m-a. (develop chords from this point forward)
  • Alternation of triads i-m-a and p
  • Opposed movement—p, i, m, i
  • Introducing a—p, i, m-a, i
  • Sympathetic movement—p, i, a
  • Opposed movement—p,i,a,i
  • Music of the Masters (simple pieces by Sor, Carcassi, Carulli)
  • Developing Scales
    • Single string Alternation i, m (m, a)
    • Single string alternation with string crossings
  • Open-position scale
  • More Music of the Masters

Intermediate Guitar—Book I, Classical Guitar Foundations and

Book II, Classical Guitar Developments

To watch a video and hear music from Book II:

  • Rest stroke and playing scales in keys
  • Developing music reading in a variety of keys across the fingerboard (this is an ongoing focus throughout the year)
  • Developing response to rhythms—all meters, including mixed and irregular (ongoing focus)
  • P-i-m chords
  • Combining rest and free stroke
  • Slurs
  • P-i-m-a chords
  • Arpeggios without p
  • Music of the Masters (simple pieces by Sor, Carcassi, Carulli)
  • Ensemble music prepared for end-of semester concert performances (not part of the Shearer Method)

Upper-level Book III, Learning the Fingerboard

To watch a video and hear music from Book III click: 

  • This is a resource for developing reading skills up the fingerboard. Material may be assigned to one student, pairs of students, or divided among large groups
  • Book may be used for learning the fingerboard or—for more advanced guitarists—developing sight-reading
  • Book organization by fixed position and available (typical and guitaristic) keys.
  • Five scale forms: 2 on 5; 2 on 6; 4 on 5; 4 on 6; 2 on 4.
  • Sequence:
    • Position II—5 major keys, 4 minor keys.
    • Positon IV—4 Major keys, 2 minor keys.
    • Position V—2 major keys, 2 minor keys.
    • Position VI—2 major keys, 0 minor keys.
    • Position VIII—4 major keys, 4 minor keys.
  • Learning module for each key:
    • Scale presentation to be learned, visualized, and memorized.
    • Harmony patterns learned, visualized, and memorized: I—IV—V—I.
    • Three two-part inventions of graded levels of rhythmic difficulty:
      • Easy (simple rhythms—quarter note half note).
      • Moderate (eighth-note subdivision).
      • More challenging (syncopations, 16th note rhythms).
    • Comprehensive Scales—the vertical connections along the fingerboard.
    • Repertoire of the Master—each of the musical selections applies multiple positions.

To learn more about The Shearer Method, click here.

Beginning Lessons that Rock

By L.C. Harnsberger

It would be easy if every student wanted to learn the same songs and had the same goals, but who wants easy when you can have fun! The traditional note-reading methods like Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method are perfect for a student who simply knows they just want to learn guitar. It covers everything they need to gain a great foundation of skills, learn familiar songs, and have a good time doing it. But what do you do about a student just starting from scratch who wants to play rock songs?

One approach is to find out their favorite song and structure lessons to give them just the knowledge they need to play that song. You work on one section at a time and slowly it comes together. The end result is a student that knows one song.

Ideally you want to give them enough skills to have great technique, theory knowledge, and be able to put emotion into their performances. Alfred’s Basic Rock Guitar is a new method I wrote with Ron Manus and Nathaniel Gunod that gives guitar teachers the material that will get students playing in the rock style right away while still providing a methodical approach that gives them a solid foundation that will keep them playing! Here are some principles in the book that can apply to any lesson.

Start on the 6th String

Where traditional methods start on the first string with traditional melodies, a student interested in rock will want to play riffs from day one. When I first started guitar, I picked one up and taught myself to play the opening lick from The Beatles’ version of “Money.” All I needed was the 6th string and a good ear. Starting on the 6th string will give your student an almost immediate ability to play cool licks and skip songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that populate traditional methods. Once the student knows the basic natural notes on the 6th and 5th strings, they can play licks that sound like “Louie Louie,” “When I Come Around,” “Iron Man,” and “We Will Rock You!”

King Louie

Riffs like this are fun to play and keep students’ interest. Honestly, who doesn’t like to be able to grab a guitar and play cool riffs endlessly!

Get to Power Chords Right Away

As you add more strings and notes to your repertoire, you can play more riffs. More importantly, you can play three-chord songs with power chords. Just by knowing the natural notes on the 6th, 5th and 4th strings, you can play an A-D-E progression with power chords.


Start them slowly and gradually your student will sound like the Ramones!

Have a Goal

Some students have a favorite song they want to play such as “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin. It’s great when students are driven to play songs, but it’s the teacher’s goal to make sure they are providing a strong musical foundation during that journey. Continue to introduce the fundamentals of playing while you work towards a song. Gradually introduce essential techniques like scales, full chords, changing positions, bending, soloing, etc.  Not only will they learn everything they need to play their song, but they’ll also have a vast array of techniques that will give them the ability to learn other songs they choose to play in the future.

This is just a taste of the approach used in Alfred’s Basic Rock Guitar Method.

Check out the digital version here.

Getting Started With SmartMusic and Sound Innovations for Guitar

Bill_PurseBy Bill Purse

Author / Chair, Guitar and Music Technology, Duquesne University


SmartMusic provides a solid guide for the beginning guitarist to personalize computer-assisted guitar instruction with practical materials they will use for a lifetime.  All of the exercises, examples, and approaches in Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar provide real world music skills for guitarists no matter their level. Let me share some thoughts on getting started as a guitarist with SmartMusic and tips for maximizing the educational impact it can provide. After this brief tutorial, you should be well on your way to enjoying and playing all of the music in Sound Innovations for Guitar.


Download the program from the MakeMusic site following this web address:

Once you download the program, you will be guided through the installation process for your computer or for the recently released iPad version.

One of the great features of SmartMusic is its interactivity and assessment of your Sound Innovations for Guitar lesson performances.  You will attach a clip-on microphone to your collar to input a take, in which the computer records and accesses your performance.  Keep in mind that you can practice and review multiple lesson takes and keep your best take.


My guitar input recommendation is to use either an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup or an electric guitar and USB to instrument cable. Note: these will require a USB port on your PC or Mac. Know that they are not expensive and work quite well.  Examples: Ion IUB3 USB Guitar Cable for $29.92 | ClearClick Guitar to USB Cable $9.95. Or one of the new electric guitars that have USB output. Examples: USB Fender Squire Strat | Behringer iAXE393 USB Guitar | Epiphone Ultra-339Guitar with USB Output.

If you only have an acoustic guitar, a mic is required. SmartMusic offers an instrumental mic with a 10-foot cable for $29.95.

Once you select the proper input for SmartMusic as prompted by the application, select the appropriate input, such as the mic or USB Audio Device. Then close this window with the Close button at the bottom of the screen.

SmartMusic Input Image

Launching SmartMusic   

Smartmusic iconWhen you launch SmartMusic, after registering as a student, you can go to My Library > Method Books > Sound Innovations for Guitar. When you select this option, you will see all of the available lessons and tutorials available to guide you through your guitar journey.

Each part for the Sound Innovations for Guitar studies/songs has an individual selection.  You will need to play the selected Guitar part (Gtr. 1, Gtr. 2 or Gtr. 3). SmartMusic will perform any the other parts. Be careful that you play the appropriate selected Guitar Part or you will not get an accurate assessment.

My Library


Once you areTuner Button getting a good signal on the Adjust Input Level meter, you will be ready to tune your instrument. Select the Tuner button  in the upper right hand corner of the screen, make sure it is set to Guitar in the upper left hand corner, and tune away with SmartMusic’s sophisticated tuner. Click the Done button when finished to launch into the SI Guitar Method.


Use the View menu at the top of the screen to go into full screen, or press command f. If the music is smaller than you wish, you can simply use the power keys command + or command – to modify the size of the music to one you can easily read.

SmartMusic Controls

SmartMusic Window

  • The Start Take button gives you a count off and then allows you to play the example or song. The green bar will travel across the music to show you where you should play the notes or chords.
  • The Tempo numerical field and blue tempo slider directly below it allow you to set the speed of the playback. Highlight the tempo field; then simply type in the desired tempo or use the slider to change the playback’s tempo. Tempo alterations will change the speed of the playback but not the pitch. You can select a tempo at which you can play the music accurately and then slowly increase the tempo as your guitar playing improves.
  • The Pause button stops SmartMusic’s playback when you press it, freezing the music until you hit the space bar. This resumes playback from where the music was paused.
  • All of the square boxes in SmartMusic’s main menu have a yellow light to the left of the button illustrating that its option is on. These boxes are black when the option is turned off.
  • The location fields allow you to select where the music will start after a count off. The house icon can be set to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the example. The following numericals select the start and stop points in bars and beats within the score.  The loop button keeps the score playing over and over until the stop take button is selected.


SmartMusic lets you listen to your performance and even save it as an MP3 file to share with your teacher or friends. You can select the takes button to see all of the takes you have created for each exercise or song. In addition, the keep button inside and to the right of this pull-down menu gives you the option of keeping the takes you want to preserve.


I am an enthusiastic witness to SmartMusic’s brilliant realization of Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar method.  It is a wonderful educational tool where you will experience an interactive guitar course that uses our music, recordings, and concepts.  Aaron Stang and I want to encourage you to enjoy working with this innovative software, whether at home or in the classroom.

SmartMusic is a wonderful way to grow at your own pace as a guitarist, and it provides many options for you to develop solid musicianship skills. Good luck with SmartMusic, and have fun exploring many of the other works and improvisational opportunities SmartMusic provides.

Sing & Play Guitar at the Same Time—How to Teach It!

Nikki O'NeillBy Nikki O’Neill
Author, Songwriter, Teacher

While many guitar students want to learn how to sing and play songs, there are also many guitar instructors who don’t sing. The main challenge for most beginners in this area has to do with polyrhythms, not melodic pitches. It’s about singing the different rhythms of the vocal lines while keeping the strumming rhythm of the guitar constant. The most common mistake is when the strumming hand tries to mimic the various vocal rhythms. So if any guitar instructors are intimated by singing in front of their students, remember that it’s okay to just “talk-sing” the lyrics á la Tom Waits as you coach your students! Here’s my step-by-step approach:

1. Pick a slower song in 4/4 time with a very simple and straightforward rhythm guitar part. A ballad like “Let it Be” by The Beatles is a great one to start with; all you do is play two quarter-note down-strums for each chord. Next time, try “From Me to You”—also by The Beatles—and play it with a simple down, down-up type of strum.

2. Analyze the guitar part from a rhythmic perspective. Count the four beats out loud in each measure as you play. Which beats are the strums on?  Is every strum on the beat, or are some strums in-between the beats? Take a look at the excerpt below from Women’s Road to Rock Guitar for more on teaching strum patterns.

Excerpt from Women's Road to Rock Guitar

“Must-Know Strum Patterns in Rock”

3. Memorize the guitar part (chord changes and strum rhythm) and play it with rock-solid time before you sing anything. Then put the guitar away. Now it’s time to analyze the vocal part.

4. Start speaking the first lyric line of the vocal part. Don’t even worry about singing the notes — just speak the lyrics with the same rhythm as if you would sing them. Tap the four beats in each measure as you speak. Which beat does the vocal start on? Do a couple of beats go by before it starts? How many? Pay attention to rhythmic patterns (numbers of syllables could repeat in another line.)

5. Once you know how the guitar and vocal parts each relate to the beat, it’s time to try both together. You might need to work at it one syllable at a time. Next, it’s one line… and eventually you get a whole section. Talk-sing the vocals at first while you play, then you can start singing the actual melody notes.

If your student has trouble singing the correct pitches, let them play the melody on their guitar and try to match each pitch with their voice.

To help your students improve their rhythm and sense of musical time, while learning lots of great strum patterns in rock and pop, and getting rhythm-related tips from guitarists Orianthi and Ann Klein, check out Women’s Road to Rock Guitar.

Teaching Guitar: Metal-Malaguena Mash-Up

By Aaron Stang

Where do we go from book 1?

For the second level of Sound Innovations for Guitar we continued on the course set in level 1: Combine well-established systematic pedagogy with non-systemic creative and “experiential” learning. In other words, explore and play satisfying music; learn by doing, then explain and understand as the opportunities arise and as a students’ “need-to-know” develops; or even better, their “desire-to-know.”

Mash it up!

Most guitarists love many varieties of guitar music and enjoy everything from bluegrass to blues, jazz to country, metal to Mozart. So we try to present many styles and have fun with them as we do. “Spanish Metal” from page 22 of book 2 is a Flamenco/Metal mash-up that combines everything the students have learned to date—simple fingerpicking, strumming, interesting Flamenco chords, and rock power chords—all combined into one trio arrangement.

How do you do that?

Guitar 1 plays a simple fingerpicking pattern that constantly alternates thumb-index-thumb-index. The index finger is “glued” to the open first  string, while the thumb plays the classic “Malaguena” melody on the inside strings.

Example 1

Guitar 2 plays a basic strum pattern using the Flamenco-style chord voicings that the students began playing way back in book 1.

Example 2

Guitar 3 gets to have a lot of fun. This is the metal-style part. Guitar 3 should be played on electric guitar, on the bridge pickup (aka “lead” pickup) with plenty of overdrive for a driving rhythm sound. Guitar 3 enters on the repeat. The first time through is all acoustic. The part starts very simple and then gets more rhythmic each time through (see the full TAB).

Example 3

The song ends with a rubato acoustic Coda. On the video the coda is also used as an intro. Have your students watch the video carefully and listen to the song a lot before they attempt to play it. This goes back to my opening concept that guitar is easier to play than read. I encourage students to play all they can, their understanding will follow.

Get the full version of “Spanish Metal” here.

Video Clip

If anything here resounds with you please check out the book. Click here to request a free desk copy, and please feel free to comment in the box below.

Easy Tips for Creating Guitar Music with Finale 2014

By Tom Johnson, Finale Product Specialist

TomJohnsonHave you heard this one?

Q. How do you get a guitar player to turn down the volume?

A. Put sheet music in front of them.

While I know some guitar players who are great readers, one way to get better results from any guitar player is to put great sheet music in front of them, and today we’ll see some of the ways in which Finale makes that easy.

Let’s start with a chord chart. Whether you prefer writing a C major seven chord as CM7, CMaj7, Cmaj7, or something else using a triangle, Finale’s got you covered. Finale allows each user to select, or even create, any chord name they wish.


Similarly, guitar fretboards can be added automatically by simply choosing Show Fretboards from Finale’s Chord Menu. And, if the resulting fretboard isn’t exactly what you want, you can choose from a large pre-existing library or create anything you wish using Finale’s Fretboard Editor.

finale2Creating guitar tablature is as easy as creating standard notation. In fact, the methods used are almost identical. Use Document Setup Wizard to add a tablature staff (in your choice of tunings) and an accompanying staff in standard notation, if desired.

In Finale, you can freely copy music between standard notation and tablature staves, and when you do, Finale translates automatically. Start with this example:finale3

Select the music in the standard notation staff and drag it onto the TAB staff, choosing a desired lowest fret. In an instant you see this:


Use the Simple Entry Tool to enter into a TAB staff directly. Choose a duration, click the string and type the number. That’s all there is to it.

You can even play on a MIDI guitar and the music will notate correctly as one performs.

As you can see, Finale offers much for the guitarist from chord charts to real-time entry and everything in-between. So pick up your guitar, start notating, and turn that volume back up!

For over 25 years, Finale has remained the world standard, in part because of its exclusive flexibility to create any anything you can imagine. While Finale 2014 is easier than ever to use, if you ever have a question, help is close at hand. Only Finale offers interactive tutorials, videos, searchable solutions to commonly asked questions, and FREE on-line support. To learn more, visit