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What is that strange squeaky sound when I slide my fingers on the guitar?

Have you ever noticed that strange squeaky sound coming from your strings when you move your fingers between the chords or when you do slides? Are you doing something wrong or is it normal?

One answer to calm your mind is that it is normal. When you do a slide from one fret to the next one, there is some friction between your fingers and the string and that is what causes this squeaky sound. When you look at the anatomy of the guitar strings, you will notice that some strings have something wound around the core of the string. They are like small bumps on the string. This is the biggest source of that squeaky sound. The sound is more audible on some strings rather than others, so it really depends on the types of the strings you are using.

A lot of guitarists consider this extra squeaky sound as part of their music creation. Listen to acoustic music performances, you will hear it all the time. Some guitar players like it, some don’t. I really love it, and in my opinion it adds some kind of the human touch to our playing.

When you watch my video lessons you may not hear that strange sound so much because I don’t use the microphone to capture the sound of my guitar. I use the built-in piezo and magnetic pickup to catch the sound of my guitar (it is a combination of both). It picks up the vibration of the string rather than the overall acoustic sound. That way, it is easier for me to separate the voice and the guitar sound during the recording process, although I lose a little bit of that natural acoustic sound.. As a result, when you try to play along to my videos, these sounds are more prominent on your guitar than they are on mine. However, if you would be in my teaching studio, you would hear it all the time.

To wrap it up: I would consider this squeaky sound as a natural part of our guitar playing. Some people try to apply a lighter touch to the strings to get rid of it. For sure it may work, but it may sometimes affect the way you play the guitar. I would ignore it and just focus on the music itself.

Even if you apply excessive tension to the strings, over time as you get more experienced you will get better with controlling it, so don’t worry too much.

Enjoy your squeaky sound 🙂

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Muscle tension – relax when you practice the guitar

One thing that I struggle a lot with whilst practicing the guitar and performing is excessive muscle tension. Many times I simply tense my muscles too much. As a result, my speed goes down and my hands get tired much faster.

It happens when I play an unusually difficult passage, complex chords or simply as a result of stage fright and excitement. Excessive muscle tension not only tires out your hands but also increases the friction between the strings and your fingers. Your lack of progress on the guitar could sometimes be a result of excessive muscle tension. Of course, we need to tense our muscles to some degree in order to get sound from the guitar, but the question is how much is too much?

One thing that really works for me is to rotate my focus. I simply try to think about what I am playing and occasionally I try to notice what is happening to my body. Are my arms too tense? Am I pressingly fingers too strong on to the fretboard? Simply being aware of what is going on with your upper body during practicing and performing, may help you progress on the guitar much faster

The moment I notice that my hands are too tense I try to relax. Almost instantly, I can feel the relief in my fretting hand, at the same time my strumming / picking hand is getting more relaxed. This brings us to a very interesting observation.

Have you ever noticed that our hands are kind of linked together? If you are tensing your strumming hand, it will also affect your fretting hand and vice versa. Complex picking patterns may affect your fretting hand in a great way. Simple awareness about tension may help you develop your guitar skills quicker and in a less painful way.

I have to admit, it is not something that was natural to me. I had to constantly remind myself to relax. I used to write on a piece of paper ’relax your muscles” and I placed it in front of me whilst practicing the guitar. It helped me to remind myself to relax during my practice session.

You may not be aware of the tension in your body, so let me give you an exercise. Whilst sitting with your guitar, try to flex your upper body muscles and then relax them. Can you feel it? Can you feel the difference between being tense and relaxed? You can repeat it a few times and then start practicing the guitar. After about 1 minute of playing, try to observe your body. Are you tensing and flexing your muscles? If yes, relax. Imagine that you are a balloon and want to get rid of the excess air, drop your arms, feel it.

Have fun and RELAX 🙂

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Don’t look at your strumming hand

Are you struggling with your strumming hand and chord changes? Welcome to the club, you are not alone. Let me give you a tip on how to improve chord changes and improve your guitar strumming skills.

My advice is: stop looking at your strumming hand. It is as simple as that. If you are a beginner guitarist you may be tempted to constantly rotate your attention between the strumming hand and fretting hand. This is normal. I need to clarify that this advice applies to complete beginner guitarists or people who are very fresh with learning the guitar. It could be you studying with a local guitar teacher or doing online guitar lessons. At some same stage in your guitar development, it will be crucial to watch your strumming / picking hand, because it will become a weak link. But for now, focus on the fretting hand.

Here is a typical scenario, you look at your fretting hand trying to find the chord, once you have got it you switch your attention and look at your picking hand, then you are ready and start strumming. After you have finished the sequence you look again at your fretting hand, you try to find another guitar chord and you repeat the cycle.

By switching attention from one hand to the next, you lose a lot of time. The gaps between the chord changes and strumming get bigger – simply because every time you switch attention it takes some time to assess the situation. As a result, your strumming and song that you want to play will sound inconsistent.

For some reason you may feel like it is necessary to watch your strumming hand but maybe it is not. The guitar strumming you are performing are usually just simple repetitions of the same movement (a sequence of up and down strokes), so there is no need to constantly check what your strumming hand is doing.

You might be afraid that you will not hit the strings properly, or you will miss the strings. Don’t worry, guitar playing is always full of inconsistency, sometimes we may strum harder, sometimes we may miss some of the strings, this is what makes our guitar playing alive and dynamic.

You can always practice your strumming technique in isolation – without any chords at all, just by strumming empty guitar strings. That way it will prepare you to strum in a more relaxed way. But once you are integrating it with the chords and chord changes – force your full attention on your strumming hand.

So remember try not to look at your strumming hand. At least test if it works, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Don’t over practice, play more music

We all know that exercises are designed to bring our skills to the next level and beyond. But there is a fine line between playing too many exercises and not enough music. Music is the reason why we play the guitar in the first place.

Lets take the scales as an example. At first, you may struggle to play scales, your picking is not smooth and you have a lot of excessive right-hand movement (if you are left-handed, it will be your left hand- the picking one). It might also be difficult to synchronise both hands. Many times one hand doesn’t want to ‘listen’ to the other one. Once you pass this initial frustration, it will start sounding better and better, and of course will start to feel more natural. It will become so easy that you will start doing it more and more … We don’t like to struggle, we love easy stuff. This is where this potential problem may arise from. To be honest, I wrote this article as a reminder for myself, as I am just as guilty as everybody else.

The exercises are predefined, structured and predictable, are easy to use and are the basis for our practicing plan. Of course, we have to use them to bring our technique to the next level (and we should!). On the other hand, playing music, improvising or learning new songs may not be as enjoyable as doing exercises. It requires more of your mental focus.

After a busy day at work, it is just easier to pick up the guitar, play a few chromatic exercises, a couple of scales and have the feeling that we have done the job. This is the moment where we need to change the balance.

Learning and playing songs, improvising and playing with others should be the major focus of our playing. This is the stuff that will make us better musicians and will increase our repertoire and understanding of music. Using the scales in a creative way (for example: selecting the notes that sound good and resolve around the chords instead of playing it up and down the fretboard) – this is where the majority of our focus should be.

I would aim for more than 60% of your time spent on playing actual music. Give it a go for 2 – 3 weeks and see if it works for you. Suddenly you might find out that playing the guitar is more fun, more enjoyable and you are inspired to pick up the instrument!

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Funky Friday – A minor pentatonic lick – shape 1

Let’s put our A minor pentatonic shape into action. Once you are comfortable with the scale, you can try to use it in an improvisation. In this lesson, we will play a very simple lick based on the A minor pentatonic scale shape 1. Pay attention to your finger choices, for example, you don’t want to use your second finger on the 8th fret, first string – this is the space for our 4th finger.

You can practice this lick at a slower pace, just to get used to it. If you are a beginner, you may struggle playing it at full speed at first. Spend some time practicing it without a backing track, remember – pay attention to the quality of your notes. Apply it to different A minor backing tracks and you will be surprised how different it will “feel”.

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A minor pentatonic scale – shape 1

The pentatonic scale is very popular amongst guitarists, especially the first shape. The position of it makes both the lower and higher notes on the fretboard easily accessible. 

This particular shape is called the A minor pentatonic scale shape 1 (there are 5 different shapes). The name of the scale (A) comes from the fact that the very first note of this scale is A (the 5th fret on the 6th string is A). The minor part of the name is related to the sound this shape creates.

So basically the A minor pentatonic scale shape 1 means that we are starting this scale from the note A and it is going to sound like a minor scale. The great thing about the pentatonic scales is that they always have two notes on each string – which makes it easy to memorise (especially shape no.1).

A minor pentatonic scales shape 1

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Introduction to guitar power chords

Power chords can be a very cool addition to your chord library. They consist of only two notes ( without going too deep into music theory – the distance between these two notes is called the perfect fifth interval). You can hear it in a countless number of recordings and across many different music genres (but commonly used in heavy metal and hard rock music).

Because of their simple structure, it is very easy to use power chords. These type of chords are neither major or minor. Because of their two note structure they miss the 3rd degree of the scale that gives the minor or major identity to the chord. The simplicity of the layout makes it very easy to write a song using power chords. You don’t have to think about whether the chord that you want to use should be minor or major. Just play the shape and let magic happen. There is only one problem with this however, as the power chord only has two notes, it may sound a bit weak but you can give power chords a full and rich sound by simply using overdrive or distortion. Lets have a look at the diagram:D5 power chord

To play the chord, position your first finger on the 5th fret, 5th string and third finger on the 7th fret, 4th string (and you play only those two notes ). In this example, the name of the chord comes from the 5th fret, 5th string. We call this position, the root note (and the root note in this example is the note D), so the name of the chord is D5 (The 5 in the name simply refers to the perfect 5th interval) . If you move this chord to the 7th fret, 5th string the name will be E5 – because that is the note E.E5 power chord

But what happens if you want to play the power chord in an open position?A5 power chord

Now the root note (the place from which the chord takes its name ) is on the open 5th string. So to play this chord, you need to position your first finger on the 2nd fret, 4th string and then play the open 5th and 4th strings. The shapes are movable and you can play them from the 6th, 5th, 4th and 2nd string (the root note is on these strings) , if you play from the 3rd string (because string B is tuned differently), you will have to slightly alter the shape (the second note has to be played one fret higher).A5 power chord

You can also play these chords starting with the root note on the 6th string. Simply take this shape and bring it to the 6th string. In this example we have an A5 power chord :

A5 power chord

As you see these are very mobile shapes, you can move them to different strings. One example of power chords in action, is the song “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton – Click here to learn “Cocaine”. Try to learn this song and apply the knowledge from the article. One tip: when you play this song try to think in terms of the root notes – always remember which note you play at the given moment. It will really improve your fretboard knowledge!

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Where to Put Your Thumb on the Guitar Neck

Probably you have noticed that guitar players place their thumb on the guitar in many different ways. Some wrap the thumb around the neck and others just keep it at the back. The question is which way is correct?

I believe they are all to some degree correct. It comes down to the size of your fingers, the chords that you are playing (some chords require the use of the thumb to play certain notes) and the guitar techniques that you are using.
The most important thing to remember is, our thumb is there to support our fingers. They work together as a team. So different chords will require different thumb placements. Many times it won’t be a huge change, just small tweaks to make our fingers feel more comfortable.

For the majority of open chords, I would keep my thumb at the top of the neck (watch the video for the full explanation). But you may notice that it feels more comfortable when you wrap your thumb around the neck a little bit more especially when you have longer fingers. One point to consider is, if you squeeze the guitar neck too much, you might start to mute some of the strings and this is not a good idea when you play chords (although it might be the desired effect when playing solo techniques, as sometimes you need to play one note at a time).

The most important thing to remember is, our thumb is there to support our fingers.

When it comes to playing scales, I would position my thumb in a slightly different way. I would probably place it more towards the centre of the neck because it allows me to reach some stretchy notes. But if I would want to bend a note from the scale, I would reposition my thumb more toward the top of the neck. That way, my grip will be stronger and it will be easier to make bends and vibrato techniques.

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Example 4 – Finger Gym – Guitar Techniques

This lesson is about finger independence.  We are going to use the same 4 notes, but the approach will be a little bit different.  We will play these notes in the following order, 1 3 2 4 (these are your finger numbers). 

It may take a little bit of time to get used to these variations.  Start slowly, if you notice that you are loosing your concentration – stop, relax and try again.



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Lesson 4 – Travis picking – Fingerpicking for beginners

Let’s do something new today – Travis picking. It is a very cool technique that will add a nice rhythmical variation to your chord progressions. 

The term “Travis picking” is used to describe a variety of fingerpicking styles, but in a simple form it is a style of fingerpicking that involves a steady rhythm of bass notes played with the thumb while the 1st , 2nd and 3rd fingers play the melody on the higher strings.




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