Studying Rock Guitar
By Tennyson Williams, Author of The Essential Guide To Guitar Virtuosity
We all know those great rock songs very well. From the groovin’ drum beats, to the insane guitar solo, they are simply timeless. When it comes to studying a particular type of music, there are certain techniques, chords and scales that a guitarist will have to know in order to produce the right sound. Though this article may seem at first to be redundant, I instead decided to write it for the completely fresh guitarist.
Every day I encounter tons of newbie guitarists who are so excited about learning to play the guitar, and they naturally have musical preference, but a lot of times they simply don’t know where to begin. Well, that’s why I wrote this, because if this is you as well, then I’m going to spell out for you what you need to study to become proficient at rock guitar.
The first thing are the chords themselves. Though I highly advise any beginning guitarist to devour as much information about chords and their makeup as possible, there is a set of chords that are used over and over again throughout every form of rock music, not excluding heavy metal.
These chords are called power chords, and are excellent for this form of music, because they promote a sort of one size fits all approach. The formation and overall creation of a power chord is very simple, and the formation can be maintained and repositioned to create power chords in different keys. I can’t spell out for you how to create a power chord in this article, but at least you know what to start off with.
You should also take the time to learn a lot of major and minor 7th chords, as they too can be used in this style of music. Even at times, and specifically in the case of bands like Led Zeppelin, jazz chords have been favored.
2. Scales and Modes
Well, you should take the time to learn every scale and mode, but just to get you started, you’ll want to start with the Major scale. After that, work on both the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales, as these are used more than any other scale or mode, and frequent the rock and hard rock scenes. Also take the time to learn the blues scale, and possible some Harmonic and Melodic minor, which will give you a darker sound.
The Harmonic and Melodic minor scales have a very classical presence to them, and both work exceptionally well with the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales. As a side note, you might also want to study the Japanese scales which have a really erie sound to them.
Traditional rock guitar playing tends to utilize a more traditional approach to technique. You should work on your string bends, slides and especially alternate picking, which is the process of picking a lick starting with a down stroke, followed by an upstroke. This process repeats over and over again. It would look something like this:
This is sort of a form of economy picking, because its a more economical approach to picking that just picking a string with strictly down strokes or upstrokes. This allows you to get pretty fast on the guitar.
You’ll also want to do a little investigating when it comes to learning harmonics. Pinch harmonics are very common in music that feature distorted guitar work.
You could also work on guitar tapping and legato if you wanted to, and this would take you into a broader world.
4. Study the Blues
The Blues and many forms of music share a wonderful correlation. Even Heavy Metal has roots in the blues. Jazz also has blues roots. Imagine that? Heavy Metal and Jazz having something in common, but in actual fact – all music is universal. Artists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Zakk Wylde, Jimmy Page, and Jimmy Hendrix sport some amazing straight Blues licks. Take the time to learn these licks, but do it on your own. If you try to pick some of it up from the actual albums, as opposed to the tablature, you’ll learn a lot more about how to construct these same licks and how they work.
All in all, the formula that I gave you is a great way to really rock the house, but as I have told many students before, studying as many styles of music as possible brings a real quality to your style of choice. Keep rockin!
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