Sep 17 2011

Using an Acoustic Guitar to Play Rock Guitar


Most guitarists use an electric guitar to play rock guitar but using an acoustic guitar can add more colour and texture to your rock songs and guitar playing. The acoustic guitar is quieter and does not have the distorted rock sound of an electric guitar. So why has the acoustic got a place in rock?

First I will talk about why you would play an acoustic guitar for rock and then I will give you in the next post some tips for picking the best acoustic guitar for you to play rock on.

Who Would Play Rock on an Acoustic Guitar?

Many famous rock bands and guitarists have used acoustic guitars in their playing. Band from The Who to Green Day have had acoustic songs. Bands often write rock songs on acoustic first. A lot of The Who songs by Pete Townsend have started life on an acoustic.

Acoustic guitar rock girl

Acoustic guitar rock girl

The great thing about an acoustic is it can add light and dark shades to your music easily. You can pick or strum softly for a light sound. Or you can strum hard or strum the guitar fast for a heavier or more energetic sound.

If you can change from soft and gentle sounds to hard and heavy on an acoustic it is very easy to replicate this on an electric guitar. You shouldn’t rely on guitar effect pedals all the time to get all the sounds you want when you play rock guitar. You should use different guitar techniques, picking and different types of strumming as well to change your sound. The acoustic is great for learning how to master all these techniques.

There is one big benefit for a guitar beginner in playing an acoustic. The strings are harder to hold down plus usually you are playing chords instead of power chords. It can build up left hand strength and teach you touch control. When you go back to the electric guitar you will find it easier to hold down the strings and play chords.

If you play rock guitar with an acoustic it can add more emotions and moods to your music. Your music will have many different textures, sound, feelings, mood and soul. It will be more interesting for you and you will find that you need to be interested in what you play or you will get bored. It will be more interesting for the listener too. It adds more to your arsenal of techniques and ability as a rock guitarist. It will help you grow as a musician and an artist.

All the best guitarists and rock bands have dabbled with acoustics. They have used them to add a greater range to their music or add new influences. Successful musicians and bands are successful because they did something new. So copy them and use an acoustic guitar for playing rock guitar sometimes as well.

Next I will talk about getting the perfect acoustic guitar to play rock guitar on and later I will give you a few good rock riffs to play on your new acoustic guitar.

Sep 10 2011

Picking an Acoustic Guitar to Play Rock Guitar


If you decided to play rock guitar on an acoustic guitar as well I will give you a five things to look out for in an acoustic.
You should pick based on this order:
1. Price.
2. Type
3. Quality.
4. Sound.
5. Style.

Price range for the guitar:
The price range I would recommend for a first acoustic guitar is between $200 and $350. A guitar below $100 will not be good quality at all. Between $100 and 200 it may not be great. What you want is a guitar that will stay in tune and not warp or bend easily. Paying over $200 will get you a descent quality guitar that will stay in tune and last you a few years. There is no need to pay over $350 for your first acoustic guitar. Many guitarists in fact never own an acoustic worth more than that.

Type of acoustic:
I would recommend getting a steel strung guitar unless of course you want the sound of nylon strings. Nylon strung guitars need to be handled carefully as they are quite easy to damage. The strings need to be changed carefully and regularly and have a very soft tone for rock. Steel strung guitar are a bit more robust. Also the steel strings suits the sound of rock better for those who want to play rock guitar. They can give a soft or hard sound depending on the pick attack or playing.

Quality of guitar hardware:

There are a few more things to the quality than the price. Get a guitar with good hardware, easiest thing to check is the machine heads.

play rock acoustic Guitar machine heads

Play rock acoustic Guitar machine heads

If you look at the top of the neck at the back of the guitar headstock where the tuning pegs are, you want to see individual enclosed machine heads. You don’t want to see any cogs. I take this as good sign of quality in an acoustic guitar. Enclosed machine heads last longer and are self-lubricating inside as well.

Electro Acoustic Guitar with pickup and tuner

Electro Acoustic Guitar with pickup and tuner

You can get acoustic guitars with electro pickups now. This not necessary but gives you more versatility, you can feed your acoustic guitar through an amplifier and effect pedals to give you more variety and sounds to play rock guitar.

Usually if they have pickups they have built in tuners as well which I am a big fan of. Not being able to tune the guitar is one of the biggest things that stop people learning and playing a guitar so an electronic built in tuner takes care of this. Or else just buy a hand held tuner along with your guitar.

Sound and tone of guitar:
Sound is down to the size and the wood. Bigger bodied guitars are louder than smaller bodied acoustic, but smaller acoustic can be easier to handle. The wood can determine the sound. Once you are an experienced guitarist you might start picking the type of wood to get a certain acoustic attribute or sound but as a beginner I wouldn’t worry about this at the moment. I know when I had a $150 guitar and then bought one for $350 you could immediately hear the difference it made when plucked. The $350 guitar had a rich, fuller sound with beautiful bass tones.

Style of acoustic guitar:
Style is down to you and really is the last thing to consider. What colour, shape, style, single or double cut away doesn’t really matter, it is what you like. You can get different size bodies on the guitar. A smaller body will not be as loud as a bigger bodied guitar. Some people think that a smaller body guitar is easier to play, but if you are of average size then it really doesn’t make a difference. I would stay away from the jumbo sized guitar; they are more associated with mariachi or country music.

You can get a guitar with no sound hole in the body, they look very nice but acoustically these will not be as loud as a guitar with a sound hole and you would really need the built in pickup in this case. But be aware that some of these lower priced guitars are more looks than quality especially if you never heard of the brand.

Take a look around and see what you acoustic guitar like the look of but stick to the guidelines above.

Summary for picking an acoustic guitar to play rock guitar:
1. Price. $200 to 350.
2. Type. Steel strung guitar.
3. Quality. Check hardware especially machine heads.
4. Sound. Stick to price range in number 1 and it will be good.
5. Style. Your choice.

Once you have an acoustic guitar here is an acoustic rock guitar lesson to get you started playing rock guitar.

Mar 7 2010

Playing Rock Guitar, getting from beginner to advanced.


I found that with Playing Rock Guitar, it was very hard to get beyond being a beginner. After having taken some great guitar lessons, I would now class myself as an intermediate guitar player. And I aim to improve my guitar playing more towards intermediate/advanced and then advanced playing.

Click here to visit the site where I got my Guitar Lessons.

Before that it wasn’t so easy learning. I would be totally embarrassed as soon as someone asked me to play the guitar in front of people. I also found it hard to learn the correct techniques (especially string bending) as I hadn’t got good instruction. There is no set way of learning or lesson plan laid out there so I didn’t know which thing I should learn next. There is so much information out there but not much on the type of rock I wanted to play. By the way, free information will only do you as a beginner and not much of it is based on playing rock music.

I had tried a few ways of learning to play the guitar. First I bought tab books. I couldn’t hear what I supposed to play or understand how it was supposed to sound or even see what my hands were supposed to do. I just found the books too advanced. I bought videos and DVDs, which had no books. I found these were very expensive and you had to buy a few videos in the series to get any progress at all. I also needed to use the sitting room to watch the videos instead of my computer which was awkward.

On the videos I found the guitar lesson difficult to learn as the instructor was a great player who I couldn’t follow or keep up with. Next I got one on one personal tuition from a guitar instructor. I wanted to learn to play rock guitar, but he didn’t know the songs I wanted to learn and to find this out, I had to buy 10 guitar lessons upfront for over $250. He wanted to show me strumming and older stuff which I knew a bit of already.

In the end I got a Guitar video course from Guitar Superstars. I started taking the lessons in a structured manner and my playing improved so much. Basically they have a online members areas where there hundreds of videos. All the videos are downloadable so I have been able to save local copies to my computer as well.

Guitar Superstars

Learn to play rock with Guitar Superstars

The course covers all styles of music and both electric and acoustic guitar and even bass guitar. I got the course more for the Rock, Hard Rock and Metal lessons but I have tried a few of the blues and acoustic guitar lessons too.

There are about 7 or 8 instructors in total, but for the most part I prefer to stick to watching Gene and Ben for the rock and metal. I will probably try more instructors later on.

How I use it is, I watch and learn each lesson on my computer, learn the technique taught, practise it and then move on to the next lesson. When I know enough to tackle a song, I learn one of the rock songs. Then I move on with next set of lessons and next song. The videos and lessons are so clear and easy to follow. I have learnt quite a few songs by now.

New videos appear fairly regularly on the site so there is still much more for me to learn in the future.

Click here to visit Guitar Super Stars video website.

The one thing I would like to see in the members area, are more rock songs in the library but they have actually taught me how to learn songs from just listening to them on CDs or MP3, so it is not a major drawback. You do actually need to follow the program and work at your playing. It is not a magic bean but is easy to follow and is a very enjoyable course.

The Guitar Superstars program has improved my playing more in the last few months than all the others courses have in the last few years. I have even begun playing rock guitar with friends and other people and actually enjoy playing a few songs in front of people. I wouldn’t have done that six months ago.

Click here to visit Guitar Super Stars.

Feb 16 2010

Soundcheck for Rock guitar playing


Here are a few guitar tab riffs to test out your sound. You need three sounds for playing rock guitar, distorted rhythm, lead guitar and a clean acoustic sound.

First riff is for a good dirty rock or distorted rhythm guitar sound.
Play this with overdrive and or distortion, either pedals or a push in switch on your amp.

Volume knobs on the guitar and amp can be turned up high. On your amp set your Gain to 4 or 5, Bass and Treble to around 6 and Mid to 4 or 5. (Secret is to have both your bass and treble higher than the mid setting).

You can put the lead for your guitar in to the high impedance input of the your guitar amp or if using pedals in to the low impedance input.

Set your guitar pickup selector switch to use the bridge pickup. The bridge pickup is sharper than the neck pickup and will give a good heavy, sharp, precise sound for rock riffs. This will be your main sound for your guitar lessons.

Rock rhythm guitar is mainly played on the EADG or 3, 4, 5 and 6 strings. This riff is based on two open powerchords (an E and an A powerchord) and a B powerchord.

Distorted Electric Guitar Rock Soundcheck

Distorted Electric Guitar Rock Soundcheck

Second riff tab is for a lead guitar sound.

Play this with any effects that add to the sound you want, overdrive or distortion, chorus, delay, doubler etc. Experiment till you get a sound that you like. Keep the same amp settings as above with the lead for your guitar (high) or pedals (low) in the same impedance input of your guitar amp.

Switch the guitar selector switch to the bridge pickup to get a mellower warm rock sound. You would also want to get a sound with some sustain to the notes, a compressor pedal can help with this.

Lead guitar is usually played on the DGBe or 1, 2, 3 and 4 strings. This is played on the first few strings of the guitar, it is nearly all single string riffs except for the end. Play it slow and slide where indicated in the tab with the symbol /

Distorted Lead Guitar Rock Soundcheck

Distorted Lead Guitar Rock Soundcheck

With the Multi-effect guitar pedals you can set up 3 separate patches. Have one patch for each sound (rhythm, lead and clean) and you can switch quickly and easily between the three sounds as required. For this leave the guitar lead in the low impedance input on your amp the whole time.

In the next part we look at getting a clean acoustic sound in an acoustic guitar lesson.

Feb 15 2010

Soundcheck acoustic guitar lesson


Here is a set of tab riffs to test a clean or acoustic guitar sound. It intended to be played on an electric guitar. You often need a quieter sound when playing rock guitar.

Play these tablature riffs with no overdrive or distortion applied. No effects are neccessary. You can put the lead for your guitar to the high impedance input of you ramp. Or if you choose to use pedals change to the low impedance input of your guitar amp.

Adjust the volume knobs on the guitar and amp to a lower volume setting to get the right sound. Keep the gain on your amp down at lower at 3 or 4. It should sound like an acoustic guitar or a quiet electric guitar. You can pick the notes singly or gently strum the chords for an acoustic guitar lesson.

Use the guitar selector switch to select the neck pickup. The neck pickup is not as sharp as the bridge pickup and will give the right blended, bassy, muffled sound for a clean rhythm guitar sound especially for the strumming and a bassier sound. But do try the bridge pickup for a brighter sound, especially for the picking riff. If adding any effects use low gentle settings and non-distortion effects (switch the lead back to the low impedance input when using pedals).

Pick the first part of the riff and then strum the second half. These two riffs are basically the same, both parts are played with a sliding three fingered powerchord and an open E string and the same chord progression.

For the first part, pick each single string once, going up and down the strings. Use the time spent picking the open E or 6th string to slide to the next position. Try the riff with different pickups to see which one gives the best sound for you.

Clean Picking Acoustic Guitar Rock Soundcheck

Clean Picking Acoustic Guitar Rock Soundcheck

Put the pickup selector switch back to the neck or neck and middle pickup. With the bridge pickup it can sound a bit sharp and jarring.

For this one strum the top four strings together. The open E string acts a drone note. Strum down, up, down, pause and slide to the next powerchord position and strum down again. Use the down, up, down, down pattern for each bar. Slide back and repeat.

Clean Acoustic Guitar Strumming Rock Soundcheck

Clean Acoustic Guitar Strumming Rock Soundcheck

Hope this has helped with getting your clean acoustic style sound right. Remember if you are using multi-effect pedals keep one patch aside for your clean sound.

As I said, the first distorted sound will be your main sound for playing rock guitar. As you learn to play rock guitar
you will also need the lead guitar and clean sound at times so have a go at these now (see the other soundcheck post for rhythm and lead guitar soundcheck tips).

You can also have a read of the two part series on getting the right rock sound below (Getting the right sound and getting the right effect).

So next thing is to improve your playing rock guitar.

Feb 5 2010

Iron Maiden Guitar


Following the post on the Iron Maiden Guitar auction in the last post on Playing Rock Guitar Lessons, the auction has finished. It was only open to Fan Club Members.

Iron Maiden Guitar auction

Iron Maiden Guitar auction

The guitar had just 10,000 views. The winner of the guitar was LoneWolf127 with a bid of £16,691 sterling. Over 19,000 euro or over $26,000. It originally cost $1300. That bid was placed last Tuesday a week before the auction end. I don’t know who the winner was, found someone on the net, a 48yr old religious women from the US with that username. Don’t think it was her.

Iron Maiden Guitar final price

Iron Maiden Guitar final price

The bidding for the other two items went on till the end. A signed poster for the Iron Maiden movie Flight 666 went for £925 (over 1000 euro or $1500). I thought this person may be from India and had seen Maiden in Bangalore.

The third item a personalised Flight 666 framed platinum DVD disc went for £2091.66 (US $3270 or 2400 euro). This belonged to Rod Smallwood Iron Maiden manager for sales of the disc of over 100,000 in the US. This person looks to be a big buyer on the net, busy on EBay and other forums.

By the way the movie Flight 666 is a great documentary. Really shows the happy side of being a real rock star as opposed just playing guitar video games.

Jan 1 2010

Learn to play rock guitar? Little secret to progressing with Guitar Lessons.


There is a little secret to playing rock guitar or guitar lessons.  In fact this little secret applies to learning anything.  It is the one thread that ties the 3 steps to success together.  It can really improve your guitar playing.

The secret thread is focus.  You need to focus on your lessons when you want to learn to play guitar or learn anything else.

Focus is not just about concentration, as I said there are 3 steps where you use focus to progress and improve your guitar playing.

First you need to set your goals and targets.  What you are trying to achieve.  The type of music, in this case your goal is probably to learn to play rock guitar.

Choose your style

Choose your style. Rock?

You also need to look at how good you want to get.  Do you want to play for fun, play at parties in front of friends, or play guitar professionally.  (Sorry to dampen your dreams but you also need to be realistic about the standard you want to play at also.  Some guitarist have extraordinary natural talent and practise for hours every day.  You will need time to reach a certain standard of playing.)

Which bands do you want to learn?  What songs do you want to learn?  What type of guitar?  Acoustic guitar or electric guitar?  The electric has a rockier sound but the acoustic is also good to know.  (Although once you can play one type it is easier to pick up and learn the other.)

Write your goals down, make them solid, tangible, visible to you.  Now you have your goals you set targets now to focus on your goals. 

You can also break your goals down into smaller steps or targets to reach your final goal.  This makes it easier to attain.
For example, smaller steps would be:
Play your first guitar note.  Then your next note.  Learn and play your guitar chord.  Then a second and a third chord on the guitar.  Learn your first guitar riff and the your next riff.  Learn different rhythms.  Learn small lead guitar parts.  Learn a first guitar song in full, then the next song and so on.

As opposed to a very big single step:
Become a guitar rock god, master shredder after 1 lesson.  Maybe not a realistic step but with time and building on smaller steps, you could become very good at playing rock guitar.

In the next part we will look at the next 2 steps to using focus to achieve your goals of practise guitar lessons.

Dec 31 2009

Picking good Guitar lessons and practise routines


In the last part we set goals and targets and broke it down into steps to get playing rock guitar.

Second step you need to get a system to gain your goals to learn to play rock guitar.  In this case, the best system would be rock guitar lessons.  Pick the best guitar lessons you can get or afford.

Guitar lessons

Choose your Guitar lessons

 The focus part comes in here.  You need to stick to your chosen guitar lessons and keep your focus on learning from them.  Do not change programs from lessons to lessons, you will not progress your guitar playing and only become frustrated.  This is because you will not be following a structured approach to learning guitar music.  Each lesson should build on the last lesson.  This way you will improve your guitar technique and guitar playing.

Chopping and changing from a different program to program or a different system to system will impede your playing.  Your will not be learning the guitar lesson with the proper foundation of the correct lesson before it.

Final third step of the focus is to practise.  You need to give focus and dedication to your practise.  As a total beginner you should practise 5 to 10 minutes every day.  Use a stopwatch or clock to time yourself.  5 minutes can be a very long time but is good enough to begin your guitar lesson practise sessions with.  Make sure you are actually 100% doing and practising what is in your lessons for the 5 or 10 minutes and not just sitting watching TV while half strumming the guitar or messing on the guitar.

Doing this focused guitar practise will train your fingers, they get a memory of where to go on the guitar strings.  5 or 10 minutes with total concentration is much better than a 30 minute half hearted practise session.

As you learn more guitar chords and guitar riffs, you should increase the time to 20 or 30 minutes active practise time.  As you become more proficient your guitar practise session will be become easier and you may even spend hours playing guitar and learning guitar lessons.

The playing will become more enjoyable as you get better and learn more lessons.  At the end of the day that is why you are playing rock guitar, to have fun and enjoy it.  With the added practise you should be picking up new techniques such as hammer ons and pull offs, string bending, tremolo and vibrato, picking techniques.

Remember to keep your focus and you will learn to play guitar surprisingly quickly.  You will also as you get better, be able to pick up songs by yourself by ear and play them.

3 keys to focus:
1. Pick and set goals and objectives.
2. Pick program for guitar lessons and stick with them.
3. Practise.  Keep 100% focus during practise.
Result:  Success in your goals, playing rock guitar songs.

These can also apply to learning anything not just playing guitar music. 
So good luck with your playing and your lessons and rock guitar playing.

Dec 22 2009

Rock guitar music, getting the right sound.


The electric guitar is better for playing rock guitar and getting a hard or heavy rock sound.  The acoustic is generally not used used as the main guitar in rock is generally used for ballads or quieter songs.

First you want the right type of guitar.  The best well known brands, particularly for Classic Rock guitar music, are the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. 

Gibson Les Paul Guitar

Gibson Les Paul Guitar

Epiphone is the value version of Gibson and Fender also has a value version in the Fender Squier brand.  There are more modern guitar brands like Jackson Guitars, ESP, B.C Rich, Yamaha or Ibanez.

Try and get a guitar with a Humbucker pickup. Looks like a double pickup, see the pickups on the Gibson Les Paul guitar above. This will give you a fat meaty rock sound. Get a guitar with at least two pickups on it as well. Three pickups are nice but not totally necessary. One pickup will limit your sound.

One guitar to avoid which is not associated with rock is the Fender Telecaster, it has a bigger association with country music. 

Guitarists often use lighter gauge strings, 9’s to make it easier to play, string bend etc.  Lighter gauges also give a lighter sweeter tone.  Heavier gauge strings, 12’s can give a richer more solid heavy sound though.  The string gauge is up to individual taste.  As you learn to play rock guitar, you probably should start off with a lighter gauge for ease of guitar playing and then go up to 10’s, then 12’s or whichever gauge you choose, as you become better.

The Guitar can also have a tremolo bar which used during lead solos.  The Floyd Rose tremolo is the best for keeping strings in tune.  The bridge floats when not used.  You won’t need a tremolo when you begin guitar lessons so it is not necessary at the very start.

The next piece in your sound is the guitar amplifier.  The amp amplifies the sound from the electric guitar.  Best known brand is of course the Marshall amp, which of course comes in a stack.  There are loads of other good brands such as Vox, Fender, Gibson, Roland, Peavey and Laney.

A 15 watt amp is good enough to begin with as a practise amp.  You can get a lot of noise out of 15 watts.  You can get bigger ones, 25 watts etc, when or if you plan to play in public.  Some amps come with built in effects such as distortion or more probably an overdrive switch which are handy for playing rock guitar.  Only thing is the effect are hard to switch off when you are playing.  You need to stop your guitar playing for a moment to hit the switch which interrupts the guitar music.

An amp is essential, doesn’t matter if you have a built in effect or not on it.  You should try and practise your guitar lessons on the amp as you learn to play guitar.  When you play the guitar amplified you get a different sound.  You also get unwanted sounds amplified such as the noise of your fingers sliding or fingers and pick hitting the strings wrong  (pick attack sounds) or buzzing of untouched strings.  Practising with the amp will teach your to damp these unwanted sounds. 

You can also buy a noise gate to cut off these unwanted sounds.  But you need to set it under a certain level or else you also cut off your wanted guitar notes as well as your unwanted sounds.

In the next part we will take a more in depth look at Guitar effects.

Dec 20 2009

Rock guitar music, getting the right effect.


We looked at the right guitar and amp in the last part, now to get the best sound out of these you can use effect pedals. Not essential but for playing rock guitar but you will probably get them eventually, are effect pedals. 

Effect pedals are used to change the sound of your guitar through your amplifier and are normally foot operated.  The effect pedals are made by many companies Boss, Danelectro, Ibanez, Digitech, Dunlop and more.

The most common pedals are distortion and overdrive.  Distortion changes or distorts, clips the sound of your guitar making it dirtier and heavier.  It is mainly used for rhythm guitar. 

Distortion Pedal

Distortion Pedal foot operated

The overdrive pedal will push or overdrive the signal, usually giving the sound of a Tube amp overdriving.  It gives a heavier but cleaner sound than the distortion pedal.  When the volume is quieter it will be a cleaner sound and it distorts and clips more for higher volumes.  It is used for both lead guitar and rhythm.  Having them on foot operated effect pedals makes them easier to operate than a push button on an amp if you need to turn it off while you are playing guitar.

Other pedals are the noise gate previously mentioned to keep unwanted sounds down.
Chorus, flanger, reverb (or echo) pedals are used to get even more fancy sounds.  Chorus will make your lead solo sound like two guitars by splitting off the guitar signal in two.  The second signal is delayed and can be changed in pitch and then mixed back in with the original first signal.

A compressor pedal is often used for lead solos also.  It dampens or attenuates loud guitar notes and increases or sustains the notes when they get quieter.  Just think of Gary Moore and “Parisienne Walkway” and you will know what heavy compression while playing rock guitar sounds like.

For your initial guitar lessons, all you would need is a Distortion or Overdrive pedal.

Multi-effect units are a very economical option.  They digitally produce the sound of all the pedals above in a single unit.

You can get ones made by Boss, Korg, Zoom, Digitech, Vox, Roland and more multi-effect pedals.  They will have preprogrammed sound or patch which use multiple effect to create a certain type of sound.  Most of these have several pedals so you can set them up to switch between three sounds. Your rhythm guitar sound, clean guitar sound and lead guitar at the touch of one pedal.  Only disadvantage is that you do not learn what each pedal does or how they interact to product the overall sound.  Programming your patches is a good way to learn what the effects do.

A quick note about leads for your guitar amp and pedals.  Buy the best quality one you can even as you learn to play rock guitar.  Decide the length (3 to 5m) you need in the cable and go for a thick cable with good plugs.  Don’t buy a thin long cable (9m) because it is cheap, you will end up replacing it as they will break easily and cause hassle and frustration.  Cheap leads also tend to introduce noise into your amp.  Spend at least $30 on your cable.
Now it is time to play guitar and try out the right sound and learn to play rock guitar.

Thanks for reading,