Category Archives: Teaching

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here Chords

Download here: Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here is a great song for working on mixing up picking individual notes with full chord strumming. The chords are fairly basic, the main challenge being the D/F# chord.

Slash Chords

With slash chords, the note after the slash (/) is played in the bass. So D/F# is a D chord with an F# bass note. On guitar this can be played like a regular D, with your thumb wrapped over the 2nd fret of the low E string. There are other ways to finger a D/F#, without the high E string, but the full 6 string version sounds great on this song if you can get it. If you’re struggling to get your thumb over or find another way to play the chord, a regular D chord will sound fine.

Strumming

Suggested strumming pattern for the verses:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D d DUd D d DUd

Suggested strumming pattern for the intro:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
B DUDU U UD

Beat “4” and the “and” of the intro are taken up by the single notes of the riff (see the tab).

To get the intricacies and variations of the strum, you really need to listen to the record – I’ve just given you a starting point. Pay attention to the small down strums (lowercase d’s) – these are softer strums. Also, on the record there are two guitars strumming slightly differently, one panned to each side, so you can take your pick when playing along.

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Fantastic Resource for Guitarists

DS Music have put up a very useful free resource page for guitar and reading music.

There are well laid out sheets on reading standard notation and tab, as well as a host of useful guitar fretboard chords and scales (useful for both students and teachers of guitar).

For beginners, you can find, amongst other tools:

  • Basic guitar chord diagrams
  • Fretboard note layout
  • Chord flash cards

For those going beyond basics:

  • A sheet to explain the CAGED system
  • A scale dictionary
  • A useful explanation and diagram of the Circle of Fifths

Master Each Concept

It is worth taking your time with these resources, making sure you have mastered one scale or concept, and explored and integrated it into your playing, before moving onto the next. It is much better to have one scale that you can actually make music with, than to know loads that you can’t use! Working with a good teacher can help you manage this process. Finding ways to test yourself without looking at the sheets is also a good idea, as you don’t want to become reliant on them.

Uke & Other Instruments

If you play ukulele or another instrument, the standard notation and tab sheets still have a lot of useful info that can apply to any instrument. This is one of the advantages of standard notation over other methods of notation.

Keep Exploring

Also handy are the pages of blank chord, practise and notation sheets for you to fill in yourself. These are great for checking you have retained things, or for keeping a record of other chords and scales that you discover along your guitar journey.

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Simon & Garfunkel – I Am A Rock Chords

Download here: Simon & Garfunkel – I Am A Rock

I Am A Rock is a great tune for practicing your B minors (it’s a bar chord both on guitar and on ukulele). It’s a little tricky, as you only have two beats each on Am and Bm, so it’s worth drilling that chord change until it’s comfortable.

Recorded in 1965, the song was featured on Simon & Garfunkel’s legendary Sound of Silence album, and before that on Paul Simon’s solo album The Paul Simon Songbook. As usual from Paul Simon, it features some wonderful songwriting.

Suggested strumming pattern:
DUDUDUDU

The trick to the strum is to keep your strumming hand moving steadily up and down, without pausing. Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can focus on feel – listen to the recording for emphasised strums and variations to the pattern.

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Otis Redding – (Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay Chords

Download here: Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock of the Bay Chords

Another classic, this time from Otis Redding. Recorded in 1967, just days before his tragic death.

It’s a great tune for beginner guitarists to work on open chords, particularly the open B7 chord shape (and bring in the oft neglected little finger!). Alternatively, for those new to bar chords, it also makes for a perfect chord progression to practise your 6th-string (“E shaped”) bar chords up and down the neck.

Strumming

Suggested strumming pattern for beginners:
D DU UDU

More advanced players can try a hit (X) or ‘chunk’ strum on beats 2 and 4:
D XU UXU

Bonus tip for ukulele players: If you are struggling with the E chord, try an E7! It often works instead of an E (but use your ears, it doesn’t always!)

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How to Actually Retain the Music!

So, you want to master that piece of music, that phrase, that lick, that scale idea, that solo? You want to learn it deeply, so it becomes entrenched in your memory for years to come, effortless to recall?

Well, just keep practising the same thing again and again until you nail it, right? That’s what traditional teaching ideas would tell you. But while there is something to be said for repeating something again and again to get it into your muscle memory (especially accurate repetition), long term memory is actually much more nuanced than that.

So say Brown, Roediger III and McDaniel in their new book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

They argue that learning in such a narrowly focused way yields only short term results. In order to retain information for the long term we have to keep coming back to it, approaching it in new and different ways. Here are some of their key ideas:

Spaced Practice

Spacing out your practice of a particular skill will consolidate the skill much more effectively than trying to get it down in a single practice session. The increased effort of retrieving the information from your memory each time you come back to it strengthens it. This certainly rings true for me – it makes sense that the effects of “cramming” for a music exam or performance won’t necessarily stick. A song I’ve played over a period of years, on the other hand, is entrenched in my memory.

Interleaved Practice

The idea here is that mixing up the order of subjects or skills is much more effective than mastering one before you move onto the next. So rather than moving through skills 1 to 7 progressively, you might jump from skill 1 to skill 4, to skill 3, back to skill 1, then skill 7, etc. I can see how this might have long term benefits – it certainly seems that you can get to a point with repeating the same thing over and over where progress seems to slow. This approach feels somehow more organic.

Varied Practice

The authors claim that varying your practice, rather than just drilling one skill, gives you a wider “movement vocabulary”, which enables you to transfer your learning to different contexts. So, to give a musical example, you might try different variations on a lick rather than just rote learning one lick. Or try going back and forth through different sections of a scale rather than playing it up and down the same way each time.

I’m definitely going to explore these ideas both in teaching and in my own practice. If you want to read more about the theories and experiments in the book this Salon article does a good job of summarising the ideas (Gladwell bashing aside!): http://www.salon.com/2014/04/20/ditch_the_10000_hour_rule_why_malcolm_gladwells_famous_advice_falls_short/

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