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You can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
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Ben Higgins
30 years old
Born Feb-26-1985
Guitar (surprise!), Karate, cars (American and European), reading, weightlifting (sometimes), horses.
Joined: 11-March 10
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Viewing Topic: New Schenker Track ....from The Old Maestro
Local Time: Mar 4 2015, 11:17 AM
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Ben Higgins

GMC Instructor

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3 Mar 2015
We've all heard of the expression 'Fake it until you make it'. It suggests a combination of doing your best and acting like you know what you're doing. Truly, most people are doing this all the time until they get to the point where they start doing things naturally without thinking about it.

This can be applied perfectly to music. Al of us are treading a path of no certainty. Apparently there is a Japanese saying which goes something like 'One inch ahead and all is total darkness'. This is related to not being able to predict the future but I think we can also apply it to any endeavours where we are learning something. There are no guarantees that this lick, this technique or this song idea will work for us but all we can do is try NOW.

A lot of people are scared of the idea of trying something in case it doesn't work and they've wasted their time. But you have to go through these processes as there is no other way to literally see if it works. We can look at others to see what is physically possible but just because somebody else isn't able to do something, doesn't mean it can't be done. Conversely, just because somebody else can do something, doesn't mean you can.. or a better way of looking at it is that it may not be your path. It may not be right for you. So the boundaries of possibilities can only truly be tested by you, me and everybody else.

I've been talking about the extreme edge of things but what I'm really on about is that we've got to bring some faith to the process, knowing that with time, results will show. It's like learning your first chord progression. It's so awkward, hitting all those horrible unwanted strings and WHY is my finger not fretting that note properly, it's just making a horrible pinging noise and why does it take 10 years for me to move from one chord shape to another ? Yeah, those first chords are a bit testing aren't they ?

The heart of the matter is the idea of 'fake it until you make it'. We've got a phrase in England called 'blagging it'. It means trying to get away with something even if you're not doing it 100% right, just 'seeing how it goes'.

I'll be honest with you. Every guitarist is blagging it to some degree. Don't think they know what they're doing all the time. I'm blagging it loads of the time. Doesn't matter how technical one gets or how much they write stuff in their comfort zone, they'll still be blagging it sometimes. Btw, that phrase comfort zone, it gets overused but it's still applicable. No guitarist is master of all. You cannot be a master of blues, jazz, rock, classic metal, death metal, black metal, metalcore, progressive metal, progessive death metal, technical death metal, technical progressive blackened metalcore (Ok, I'm just taking the piss now but that probably does exist).

I'll let you in on an open secret. Most great guitar players, (if they've got any sense) once they've found their strengths, they work to them. They write around them. In most cases, their techniques actually evolved from the music they were trying to write. In other words, instead of learning a bunch of technique, they chanced upon certain things whilst in the process of writing. There's a great quote from Pat Martino that illustrates this - "The music has generated all the techniques I use."

This doesn't mean that we should just attack the guitar without learning basic techniques. Of course we need to know how to hold a pick, to learn chords and lots of other fundamentals but once we're going, we don't have to follow a set path of 'speed picking, tapping, sweeps etc'. We can develop what we want to, write with it (if we want to write) and hone the things that we enjoy the most. That's what Vai meant when he talked about cultivating his strengths.

Why do people love Vai and think he's a musical genius ? Is it because he can play every technique and lick and song better than everbody else ? No, it's because he embraced what made him Steve Vai and made it bigger and bigger and bigger until his personality literally leaps out from his music. What you get from his music is 100% him. Fan of Steve will probably maintain that he's the master of every technique but, being respectfully realistic, Steve will have honed all the techniques he wants to use to the level of his personal satisfaction where he can get out his musical vision. And that is it. But I promise you, along the way he was blagging it big time. Because you have to. He wasn't the player he was today when he was Zappa or when he replaced Yngwie in Alcatrazz but would you have known it as an observer at the time ? No. Because only we ourselves know when we're 100% on something and when we're walking the line and blagging it until we can do something.

We learn on the job and as we all know, in music, we never stop learning. We're eternal students. So that's why none of us know what we're doing. We're all faking it together.
1 Mar 2015
So, you've had your guitar for a few years. You've learned how to play chords, how to strum, and you've put all your skills together to learn some of your favourite songs. You know you're better than you were when you started. You can do things you couldn't do before.

Maybe you've progressed onto working on lead guitar. This will mean you've started tackling scales, bending, maybe some vibrato. You no doubt will have wanted to learn solos.

But all this time you've only played to your four walls and the only time you get to hear what's coming out is in the moment. There may be things you're not aware of.

This is where recording comes in. It's not just something that people only do if they want to be a songwriter. It's a viable tool for any musician who wants to improve and has their mind on sticking with the instrument throughout their life.

When I talk of recording, it can be audio or video but to start with, let's just stick with the thought of recording your guitar playing audio only. For many of us when we started, this was done using the inbuilt microphone of our nearest stereo system, usually portable. Ghetto blasters, as they were sometimes cheesily referred to. There's a good chance some of you have never even had one of these in your house.. ever.

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As Kris and co. have discussed in this thread, recording video is a great way to improve. Obviously, video provides you with many visual clues as to what you may be doing wrong and is a valuable tool for feedback from others.

If you don't have the ability to record video, you will still benefit massively from recording your own playing. How ?

-You're listening back without the distraction of actually playing the instrument so you can 100% listen to your results
-You can hear what your timing is like
-Pitch problems with bending can be identified, assuming you can identify them of course.. but like anything, the more you listen, the more you hear. So practising listening to guitar playing (yours and others) can help you tell when things don't sound quite right.
-You can start putting ideas down and practise licks and solos over a chord progression
-You can get feedback from others
-Even if you don't get feedback from others, you can start to develop your own critical ear, which is.... ummm..... critical for a musician !

I remember that I was always really pleased with myself whenever I recording something, no matter how naive it may have sounded in reality. The satisfaction of putting a riff down and then tracking another guitar over it was incredible. It also helped me develop the ability to create guitar harmonies so I could indulge in my Friedman / Becker fantasies even if they did sound as rough as a badger's ass, as we say in England !

So, I would reiterate what Kris says about recording yourself. If you can manage video, then brilliant but even if you can't, then it won't be a massive stretch to get yourself set up to record audio. In as little as one piece of hardware, any guitar software program and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation like Cubase etc) you can be up and running. Let's face it, if you're on GMC then you probably have a pc or laptop. All you need is an audio interface that enables you to connect your guitar lead to the computer... and from there, it's just the software of your choice which we could all help you with... and a DAW which we can also help suggest. If you're wondering what else you could be doing to improve your guitar playing apart from practising more then look no further.

You should be in no doubt to how useful it will be if you start recording yourself ! You know you want to cool.gif
26 Feb 2015
The Devil is in the Dyad

Some of you may remember one of my lessons from way back in history, when the Romans still had their empire. That lesson is The Devil is in the Diad. Turns out, I spelt the word dyad wrong ! Duh ! Anyway, a dyad is something you've probably already been using anyway but let's take a look at them.

A dyad is a grouping of 2 notes. Essentially a 2 note chord. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyad_(music)

It could consist of root+5th, which we would usually refer to as a power chord. Many people would include the octave in a power chord to make it 3 notes but many people use the 2 note version.

Anyway, forget the root+5th a moment because things get a bit juicier when we start putting together a root+3rd combination. These are lovely little critters that are perfect for moving around the neck. I've composed many a riff around these shapes and a lot of songs in metal make use of these bad boys:

The main riff in The Zoo by Scorpions makes use of dyads in the key of Em. Check it out from 0:37 onwards. That's also a totally badass crunch as well. Marshall + Gibson. Enough said.

The main riff in this track by the Filth, starting at 1:36. Killer chord progression, I love it.

Declaration Day by Iced Earth demonstrates one of the coolest and most popular melodic sounds in metal, the change from root+5th to root+augmented 5th (or minor 6th). You can also see first hand how easy it is to move these shapes around the neck and it still sounds large.

My first question to you is, if you're not using these shapes already, why ? Get on it !

If you want some ideas on how to find these dyads then look no further than the scale you're using. If you want to compose something in the key of Em then get the GMC Scale Generator fired up if you need a reminder on what the intervals for the Em scale are.

Try this: Play through the Em scale using dyads. Start on root + minor3rd on the following position:

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From there move to the next intervals in the scale. So, for the A string, you'd move a whole tone to F# on the 9th fret. For the finger on the D string you will just need to review what intervals are in the scale and move up to the next one.

Repeat this process through the scale and you will find yourself playing through a progression of minor and major dyad shapes.

My second question is what songs can you think of that use dyads ? Share some examples here.
22 Feb 2015
I was having a random chat with our very own Wee Pee and the subject randomly turned to draft horses. A draft horse is a heavy horse bred for working, which included activities such as pulling logs to clear areas of woodland, ploughing fields and pulling wagons laden with beer from a brewery to local pubs. As the world became more mechanized, the need for working horses has decreased dramatically. These heavy breeds can still be kept just like other horses, being ridden or taken to shows, but their former roles are no longer important to certain industries.

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However, there are still quite a few breweries in the UK (and many more abroad) who use draft horses to deliver beer to pubs in the local vicinity. Even though it may be more convenient for them to use lorries to deliver, they've chosen to maintain the tradition of using horses. Not only does it give a purpose to maintain these fit and healthy animals but people enjoy seeing them and it's a link to our past. It's in cases like this where I think tradition is a good thing. People are using an older method out of personal choice and they feel that it has its benefits, not just to them but to others. In much the same way, cultures around the world maintain their age old traditions which serve to educate, entertain and ensure the survival of their history.

Tradition can sometimes hold us back, though. There's not much that man fears more than change. The response to change is often stubborn refusal to acknowledge another way. I've touched upon the issue of extended range guitars recently, and how many people can't stand the idea of guitars with more than 6 strings. I've seen some Facebook discussions get intensely personal with the threat of violence just because people have been so opposed to the idea of even a 7 string. Our very own Todd Simpson and Uncreator will back me up on that one, they were in one of them ! smile.gif

Sometimes, it's just a case of If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's cool. You don't have to do something differently, just because something new has come along. But you should allow yourself to be open to the idea, at least. Then you might still decide it's not for you anyway but it can be an informed decision rather than a knee jerk reaction, right ? You tried it, didn't like it. A bit like tofu.

To Hell with you, tofu.

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From non threatening activities like guitar playing to another world where tradition has an effect;

If any of you are into Martial Arts you'll be aware that all styles are basically founded on, and grow around, tradition. There's nothing wrong with keeping some tradition out of historical respect but a lot of what gets taught may not be relevant in 2015. Some of it may not ever have been relevant because it wasn't even tested. Many of the teachers themselves have never looked beyond the tradition and questioned what they've been taught and are teaching themselves. A lot of MA instructors are hamstrung by having to maintain tradition instead of growing and evolving.

Having said that, many people practise martial arts FOR the tradition. I think it's important to distinguish between learning a martial ART and learning self defence or modern combat. They are completely different. Different parameters and different goals. Different results. If you're going into it knowing you're learning a traditional ART then it's fine. But if your goal is to learn combative techniques that may work in a civilian world, which won't get you arrested or killed, then I think it's in cases like this where tradition can actually be a burden. Real, dynamic roles such as the military, law enforcement etc are always having to adapt to new threats. They can't afford to be taught something based on tradition. It has to be based on effectiveness. So in this case, tradition loses out.

So, tradition can be both good and bad. It can help us maintain an emotional bond with the past, help to educate people about history. It can also provide roles to those whose way of lives depended on these outmoded activities.

Tradition can also tie us to outdated practises which, in non 'serious' cases don't cause any harm but in serious cases, can actually get you killed.

Can you think of any traditions which you think are beneficial or any that you think hold us back ? Should we be constantly evolving, casting away all the old ways ?
19 Feb 2015
I've just recently read that Bruce Dickinson has been through treatment for cancer.


Thankfully, it seems like they've caught it early and all the signs are positive that he'll make a full recovery, which is excellent. Frankly, a world without Bruce and Maiden isn't a world I like the sound of so here's to seeing him back with Maiden later in the year !

This news got me thinking about two things. Firstly about the role Bruce and Maiden have played in my life.

As it says on my GMC profile, Maiden's 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' album changed my life. Up until that point, I'd been listening to Guns n Roses and Van Halen. Before that it was, errr.... Michael Jackson. Kids, eh ? But I discovered a cassette tape of 'Seventh Son..' and started playing it. I was blown away.

It sounded so much more 'out there' then anything else I was listening to. It's a cliché to say it but it transported me elsewhere. And the vocals. Man, Bruce is obviously highly rated by anybody who knows anything about this genre of music but to me, that particular album is his best performance. On other albums he's sounded younger, he's sung higher notes on 'Number..' and 'Piece of Mind' but on 'SSOASS' he sounds like a giant. There's so much presence there. It's like he's 20ft tall, bellowing lines like 'Lucifer's my name !' and so on. To a kid like me, that was powerful stuff. Still is.

The second Maiden tape I uncovered was Piece of Mind, which sounded totally different to SSOASS but was still brilliant. The guitars are more prominent in the mix and it has Where Eagles Dare, The Trooper and To Tame a Land on it. I thank almighty Zeus I found those albums first. I was lucky. I had a good start.

The other thing I started thinking about was how our lives can be totally turned around by unforeseeable and unchangeable events. One thing we like to do is make plans, set goals and achieve them. We work towards them, not thinking that they can be rendered superfluous at any moment by some serious event. If we constantly went around thinking 'Oh, I might get ill or be in an accident' then we could easily start living day to day and not striving for anything. But when that shiz does happen it totally makes you feel as in control as a rag doll. Forget your plans, dude, you gotta deal with this. But it's not just bad or difficult things that can come into your life it can just be something that heralds change. Basically, anything unexpected or unplanned for. We like to plan.

But I read an article recently where the middle aged and above offered some wisdom for the things they'd learned about letting go and accepting that we can't know what's around the corner all the time. It is interesting and I recommend reading it:


This has kind of wound up heading in an 'appreciate life while it's here, you never know what's gonna happen' kind of direction. It's such a cliché but it really is true. But I would clarify it by adding that we shouldn't just appreciate and give to all and everything regardless of whether it deserves it. We should spend our energy on the good things and the good people. Be selective about what we give our most precious commodity (time) to.

Up the Irons !
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Welcome! :) Great to have ya!
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Thank you man !! :-)
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Welcome to GMC!!!!!!! I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to cool lessons! :)
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