Category Archives: Guitar

Three Christmas Songs to Suit Any Level – Piano-Guitar-Ukulele

That seems like a bit of a boast, doesn’t it! Three songs to suit players of any level on piano, guitar or ukulele… and I probably need to qualify this claim.

Firstly, if you are playing guitar or ukulele, you’ll need to know either the first ten guitar chords (C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G, G7, A & Am) or first position treble clef notes. If you’re on the piano, you’ll need to know at least how to read treble clef notes.

Beyond that, the music is your plaything – play chord accompaniment on the piano below the melody, fingerstyle guitar and ukulele… whatever you fancy.

The three songs in question are:

  1. Away In A Manger
  2. We Three King
  3. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Click on the link above to download the free PDF of the song in question – and have a great Christmas!

Taking suggestions for next year’s three songs

DIY Guitar Pedals

The Effects AreaI spent this summer building a number of guitar effects pedals, both for my own education and for my pupils to get an idea of what various effects pedals do. It’s been great fun working with schematics and layouts shared on various internet sites – it’s also been frustrating at times trying to suss out the many mistakes I’ve made along the way.

To date, I have built the following pedals, housing them in old tobacco tins purchased on eBay – for that retro look:

  • Compression pedal: this ‘squahes’ the output signal from the guitar, making quieter notes louder, loud notes quieter and giving greater sustain to long notes/chords.
  • Clean Boost pedal: this acts like a preamp, boosting the signal from the guitar – especially good for single-coil pickups. It also allows an extra boost in higher frequencies for playing solos.
  • Fuzz pedals: I made two of these, one based on the classic Fuzz Face the other on a Big Muff Pi. They both alter the guitar signal’s waveform to make it harsh and buzzy.
  • Overdrive pedal: this is similar to the fuzz pedal, but less so. The signal is only slightly rounded off to give the effect of an overdriven amp.
  • Tremolo pedal: this is a bit like turning the volume up and down repeatedly – it can be sent at different speeds and depths
  • Phaser pedal: not sure how to describe this apart from that it makes a swishy sound. Again the speed and depth of the swish can be changed.
  • Reverb pedal: using a special chip, this pedal adds an echo as though playing in a large room or church.
Compression Pedal Fuzz FaceFuzz Face Overdrive PedalOverdrive Pedal
Tremolo PedalTremolo Pedal Reverb PedalReverb Pedal Phaser PedalPhaser Pedal
Booster PedalBooster Pedal Big Muff PiBig Muff Pi

If you’d like to know how to make these guitar effects pedals yourself, or want to know more about them, please get in touch.

What Guitar To Buy When You Start Lessons

Whether you’re an adult or a child, if you’re thinking of starting guitar lessons please don’t make the mistake of rushing out to your local charity shop or Argos and buying the cheapest guitar you can find.

Because that’s exactly what it is: a mistake.

It’s a mistake because that guitar is almost definitely going to be a nylon-strung classical guitar for around £20-40 – like the Pure Tone Classical Guitar shown further down this page.

Here are a few reasons why guitars such as this aren’t good for beginners (or anyone else):

  • They are hard to tune and go out of tune very quickly, making anything you play on them sound ‘wrong’.
  • They have wider fretboards than acoustic and electric guitars, which make them hard to play, because you have to stretch your fingers further than other guitars (especially difficult for children)
  • Because the materials are of poor quality and build, they sound dull and toneless, which contributes to that ‘wrong’ sound
  • They don’t look nice. They aren’t the kind of thing anyone would actually want to pick up and play, which makes practice an arduous chord, rather than a pleasure (and it should be a pleasure!)

In summary, they are not nice to play and so they end up not getting played much… if at all. That said, there are those with enough motivation that they will manage to learn on such an instrument, but in my opinion that is not a reason to buy one – if anything you deserve a reward for such diligence in the form of a decent guitar. And anything under £100 is NOT a decent guitar.

So what would I recommend?

The simple answer is that it depends what guitar you most want to end up playing.

For example, if your dream is to play like Ed Sheeran, go for a decent acoustic guitar. You don’t have to shell out £650 on the Martin ‘Ed Sheeran’ Signature guitar (though if you can, do it!), but a nice Epiphone or Fender acoustic can be bought for around £150.

On the other hand, if you want to be the next Eric Clapton, go for a Fender Stratocaster. Again it doesn’t have to be an American made (MIA) Strat or the ‘Eric Clapton’ Signature one (which costs a mere £1800), but a new black Squire Bullet Strat will only set you back £120 or so. NB – Don’t be tempted by the Encore versions – remember anything under £100 is not a decent guitar.

The main argument against splashing out on a decent guitar when you’re starting out is that you might not get into playing the guitar, in which case the money will have been wasted.

Nope.

In my experience, it is more likely that trying to learn on a poor instrument will stop you “getting into playing the guitar”. Conversely, having a decent guitar will help you get into playing. Be thankful decent guitars only cost a few hundred pounds. When I took up the violin, I ended up paying £15000 for mine… but it sounds AMAZING (except when I play it!)

Think of it as in investment in your guitar-playing future.

So there you have it – if you’re thinking of starting out on the guitar, do the right thing and buy yourself a decent guitar, one you’ll want to pick up and play, because that’s exactly what you’ll do with it!