Guitar Lesson Four - Notes on the First String
Knowledge of the notes that are on each string is necessary for understanding guitar theory. The first string is also known as the high E string. The main notes in the first position on the first string are E (open), F (1st fret) and G (3rd fret). The first position refers to the first 4 frets of the guitar.
We will use these notes in the following exercise to introduce to you the concept of note picking.
Note picking is a skill that is used in all types of music. For now, we will use it to familiarize ourselves with the note names on each string in the first position. Pluck these first string notes with a downward picking motion. Notice that your fingers should match the fret number when playing in the first position:
Try listening to audio for this example.
Picking the notes on the first string mp3. (310KB)
We will leave it there today in terms of guitar theory. Next time I want to get you strumming a whole lot more, but right now I want to look at something else and that is how to get a 'that' sound.
Getting ‘That’ sound – blues/rock guitar solo a la Jimi Hendrix.
Many people around the world love blues, and many people love Jimi Hendrix, infact some would argue that he is the most influential guitarist to ever grace the planet. Blues/rock guitar tends to have a characteristic sound to it. Sure there is a style of playing that characterizes blues guitar, infact we cover this style in the Jamorama course thoroughly. There are blues Jam tracks and blues songs, the course will teach you HOW to play the blues guitar, but a question that often pops up is ‘Once I know how to play the STYLE, how do I get that ‘sound’ out of my amp?’.
Ok, firstly let’s look at the aspects of a guitarist’s set up that have an effect on the final sound.
- Ability of player to play that style.
- Choice of guitar (i.e. Electric or acoustic?? Solid body or semi-acoustic, single coil pickups or humbucking pickups??)
- Choice of amplifier
- Settings on the guitar
- Settings on the amplifier
- Other miscellaneous items (e.g. strings, effects pedals etc.)
So, from this list we can see that there is simply no ONE aspect that will directly change the sound, it’s the use of all of these things that point to the final outcome. A nice way of looking at it is to treat all of these aspects as ingredients to the sound recipe. By changing the ingredients or amount of, or order in which they are used you end up changing the final product. Obviously one of the most important of the ingredients is the ability of the player themselves. There is no point in having all of the ingredients to play blues guitar if the player can’t actually play blues style guitar… make sense?
Let’s start with the guitar itself, the best choice of guitar would be a solid body electric guitar such as a Fender Stratocaster, or a Gibson lespaul, pretty much any solid body electric guitar will do. Once you have selected the guitar let’s look at the settings that are to be used on the guitar itself. You will want to select the neck pick up (the pickup that is closest to the neck of the guitar). This pickup gives a more rounded natural sound, often called the rhythm pickup. The on board controls of the guitar (the volume and tone knobs) are also very useful. To achieve a bluesy sound you should slightly roll off some of the tone knob, roll it back to about 7 or 8.
Ok once you have this set up, look at the amplifier. Blues guitarists have a slightly overdriven or distorted sound. To achieve this I want you to make sure that you are plugging the guitar into the ‘Hi-gain’ input of your amplifier (if you only have one input then use that one. What you need to do next is to turn up your amp gain to a point where the sound coming out is slightly distorted (on most amps this would be just after halfway). If your guitar amp doesn’t distort or overdrive then there are other alternatives, you could purchase and use a distortion effect pedal.
Ok, the amplifier’s EQ settings??? What do I do with those? Basically I want you to leave all the ‘EQ’ knobs in the middle (i.e. don’t boost or drop any of them). The bluesy sound really comes from having selected the neck pick up and by having the amp slightly distorting. Follow these tips, and I guarantee you that your next blues solo will now actually SOUND like a blues solo. Get into it! See you in the next lesson.
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