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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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Local Time: Apr 18 2015, 08:47 PM
12.979 posts (7 per day)
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Ben Higgins

GMC Instructor

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My Content
15 Apr 2015
Guitarists That Are Similar But Carved Out Their Own Identity.

We all know that, in order to develop as a musician, you borrow a lot from other players. You can't avoid this. Just by picking up a guitar with strings and plugging it into an amp we're already following a path that others have trodden before. By playing chord shapes that have been universally used and recognised for centuries we are imitating others that came before us.

To a certain extent, we have to copy.. it's how we learn. Just like learning to speak our native language, or another. We listen, we see, we imitate. We've all learned other people's songs and their licks. We may still use their licks now, alongside the rest of our repertoire. But there are many famous guitarists out there who are notable for sounding quite similar to other players. If it's an obvious case of sounding like a clone then it's not really a good thing. What value is there in replicating somebody else's personality and art? I mean, Eddie and Yngwie certainly had their imitators, right? Still do, as Youtube shows us......

But there are many players who have obvious similarities to others but which still went on to forge a unique identity which is respected in its own right. I'm sure we can come up with a few examples between us. I'll start off with a couple...

Vito Bratta - obvious similarities with: Eddie Van Halen

Let's be honest. It's just the tapping and dive bombed pinch harmonics that sound like EVH. But, as I've said before, techniques are just vehicles for delivering music. We can't all use completely unique techniques. That would mean that we all had to develop different ways of strumming, fretting, bending... it goes on. So just because you use two handed tapping, what's the difference between you and a guy who uses palm muting or accented 16th note funky strumming? Somebody had to invent and / or popularise a technique. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be used by others.. does it?

So get a load of Vito's outrageously melodic playing. Forgetting the tapping for a moment, his approach is refreshingly tuneful, given that he was writing this stuff in the 80's - the height of guitar self indulgence. It's a crime that he never recorded a solo album because my guess is that it would be one of the most coveted albums we would have ever had.

Vinnie Moore - obvious similarities with: Yngwie Malmsteen

Ok, this is the wild card of the bunch. In truth, Vinnie didn't sound like Yngwie at all. It was the music he was composing on his first 2 solo albums that sounded like Yng, due mainly to the record company's insistence that he tap into the current popularity of neo classical guitar. So Vin delivered oodles of harmonic minor / phyrgian dominant runs and arpeggios a plenty, all with typical Baroque inspired chord progressions. And it's got nothing to do with a certain guitar player from Sweden, you hear? Total coincidence, ok? Thankfully, Vinnie showed us his real self with his subsequent albums and showed us that not only was he NOT an Yngwie impersonator (in fact, there were others who were much more guilty of that) but that he possesses some of the tastiest phrasing ever. Win-win for guitar fans, I'd say!

Early Vinnie:

Later Vinnie:

I'm sure you can think of loads more players who've taken obvious cues from other players but who carved out their own unique style.. so let's have it!
12 Apr 2015
What things have you done lately that are new to you? Maybe it's a new hobby or something that you've had to learn or do out of necessity. I've been in a few situations lately where I've been a fish out of the water and starting new things at the bottom rung of the ladder. Although this is usually an anxious situation, the rewards for putting oneself through 'the fire' are usually greater than the initial discomfort but finding the will to work through the discomfort is not easy. However, by allowing ourselves time to take a small bite each time we can break down a seemingly massive task into small steps.

Manageable steps. Even a mountain is climbed a step at a time.

It's like guitar playing. There's always new things to learn and there's usually one 'nemesis' that people struggle with for years. But whether it's the old nemesis, a new technique or a solo, they can all be approached by making them seem less overwhelming. We need to take the sting out of the tail and we do that by breaking it down into small goals that are realistic and achievable with a moderate amount of concentrated effort.

Realistic means not expecting to nail hybrid picking in two weeks. Being realistic requires us to understand that all goals take time and are applicable to our current ability and time spent on the activity.

Achievable means that they can be done in a relatively short amount of time; a few days or a week, maybe. Setting small, achievable goals means you see progress which is needed when you're in the early stages of taking on any task. In order to have faith in a process you need some positive results so these small goals can give you that.

Concentrated Effort means that you honestly set aside some time to put in the work. If you know what to aim for and how you should be going for it then do stick with it. Be disciplined. If you find it difficult to set aside time for guitar playing that's cool but adjust your small, achievable goals accordingly so they reflect the amount of time you're able and willing to give to it. If you only put in 10 minutes then just stick with those 10 minutes every day and let the goal be realistic in relation to the time spent. Appreciate that it will take longer but that's ok.. it's about moving forwards, no matter what time it takes.

One thing that I started in the latter part of 2014 is running. I've always hated running. Ever since I stopped playing football around age 11 (and found the GUITAR!) my aerobic fitness has been pretty poor. So, you can imagine my first few sessions were not exactly making me feel any good. But the key to me taking this on was that I knew that and was prepared for that. My expectations of my current abilities were realistic so I set goals that were in relation to my ability and how fast I could reasonably expect to progress in the activity.

I've stuck with it and I have progressed. I'm not ready for a marathon yet but if I wanted to do one then I would be ready. I would carry on as I am, giving concentrated and consistent effort to the process. I will allow progress to occur. It's like I'm always telling you guys; "Give yourself time to get it right".

I will have good days and not so good days. I'll have moments of disillusion and lapses of motivation. But I've already accepted them. Part of being successful in any endeavour is accepting the bad before it happens. If you know it will happen and that you will suck it up then you are less likely to be knocked back for long when it does happen.

So, even though I get people asking me advice on here, YT or FB about guitar.. in many other aspects of life I am where they are now. A beginner or an intermediate, needing guidance. Learning, making mistakes. It's good. How about you? Are there any aspects in life where you're learning and undertaking something completely new to you?
9 Apr 2015
I used to be confused by the concept of runs. No, not the thing you get when you need to keep visiting the bathroom with an upset stomach but guitar runs. A lick that starts in one place and ends up in another.

I always wanted to know how people knew where to place their fingers (well, scales eventually solved that conundrum) and how did they know how many notes to put into a run? It's that last question I'm focused on with this post.

The thing is, you can put as many or as little notes into a run as you like. It can follow an exact amount of note values or it can be very random, gliding over the beat.

A good example of a guitarist who does very exact runs is Michael Angelo Batio. Very rarely will you hear him play anything off piste.. it's nearly always exact triplets or 16th notes to the letter. His runs are very scalar based, usually following the diatonic interval patterns that are adjacent to the scale position he's in. For an example, listen to around 0:44. We can all agree that these runs are all very accurate and stick to the sextuplet format.

Now, a guitarist who does mostly the opposite is Yngwie Malmsteen. His approach is more about what sounds good to him and to hell with having an exact amount of notes during a run. If anything, it's 'fit as many notes in as possible and land on the target note'. Playing like this is not easy if you use strict alternate picking which explains why people who develop awesome picking speeds still don't flow quite like Yngwie does. His use of picking, economy picking and legato enable him to fit extra notes in that just wouldn't be possible if using alternate picking all the way through.

So, here's some Yngwie to remind yourself what a run with no specific parameters sounds like. Notice from 0:22 he starts chucking in some rapid runs that just blast over the beat with no defined timing.

I've recorded 3 runs over an A5 chord. The scale is A Mixolydian. The first example is using strict timing. After the bend and initial lick, I perform a descending sextuplet run that stays strictly in time. So, forgetting about speed for the moment, this shows the most basic way of making a run. Use a scale and determine the note values.

Attached File  Run1.mp3 ( 301.64K ) Number of downloads: 30

The 2nd example starts off with a bend and then slows things down with a staggered phrase before descending with loose legato. The strategy here was to get to the ending note as quick as possible so I just pulled-off until I reached the last note. Nothing refined about this. This is starting to use the 'Yngwie' approach of cram as many notes in as you can and go for the effect.

Attached File  Run2.mp3 ( 301.13K ) Number of downloads: 25

The last example takes it further and just fires notes all over the place with no heed paid to how they sit over the beat.

Attached File  Run3.mp3 ( 300.52K ) Number of downloads: 25

Works, though, doesn't it? This sort of stuff you just develop yourself. It's a very personal thing. You know how your fingers move and you develop a way of emphasising certain pick strokes and maybe missing others. This Paul Gilbert-esque picking/legato approach occurred naturally for me after pushing myself to play more challenging licks. I didn't strategise (I don't that's even a word) which notes to pick etc, it just happens with trying to cram notes in. You eventually see what you can get away with and what you can't.

I've used two 'shred' guys as examples here but look no further than the blues for an example of playing your runs with feel instead of exact note values.

All blues guys play around the beat, slowing down & speeding up at will. Just have a listen to what Frank Marino can do with the pentatonic scale here from 6:19 onwards... would you fancy tabbing that out? Hell, no.


It's this un-teachable, almost indescribable quality that many people describe as 'feel'. That's why anyone can learn a blues track but it takes much longer to let it flow the same way the masters do. Oh and what do blues players have in common with Yngwie? They use a combo of different techniques in their phrasing.. picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends.. they're not stuck to strict picking runs etc. Just something to think about... wink.gif

So.. runs. How many notes? As many as you like.
5 Apr 2015
If you've heard of bending from 'outside' notes then chances are you've heard of Marty Friedman. Many of you will know it from a jazz perspective but for us rockers Marty was the first one who attuned our ears to this new phenomenon.

What is it exactly? Well, an 'outside' note is any note not found within a scale.

So, if you were playing the B Minor scale like below, the outside notes will be any that is not indicated by the circle markers.

Attached Image

If you play an outside note over a chord then it will sound obviously out of place. I hesitate to use the word 'wrong'. It's not wrong as such but it will probably be noticeable to the listener, whether it's to their taste or not. If you play several outside notes in a row then it will definitely be noticeable!

If it's not on purpose then it's a mistake.. if it is on purpose then it's jazz wink.gif

I digress. An outside note will be noticeable by the fact that is draws the listener to the fact it doesn't harmonically sound quite right. So when you play that note and bend it up into another tone that IS within the scale, it resolves the tension.

So, you've caught the listener, suggested a moment of discomfort and then totally blown that away by reaching a harmonically 'correct' tone. It's incredibly effective (as long as it's not overdone).

Going back to the B Minor scale diagram, you could try this for an example. Instead of playing the first 3 intervals as they are play the root, then the 2nd, then play C (which is the outside tone) and bend it up a whole tone so that it becomes the minor 3rd, the note of D. This is a popular Friedman trick which I stole for myself a long time ago and so should you!

And that's just one possible.. you can do pretty much anything with this. Aaaand, if you're particularly sneaky you can use it when you accidentally slide up to a wrong note. How many times have you slid up only to be a semitone too short? How annoying is that? Well, start being prepared to bend any note up a semitone just in case you don't land where you wanted. You might actually start doing it deliberately anyway just to get that outside bend effect. If you happen to slide up to a note that's 'in' and accidentally bend it up into another 'out' tone, just shift your finger up a fret and follow it up with yet another semitone.

I deliberately haven't accompanied this paragraph with any examples because I want you to try it for yourself and maybe you'll discover something different anyway smile.gif

If you've understood and been intrigued by this concept then try out this lesson I made specifically to practise it.


So, if you hit a wrong note, bend it into a 'right' one. If you don't, just pretend it's jazz.
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Todd Simpson
Welcome! :) Great to have ya!
9 Jun 2010 - 2:11
Ben Higgins
Thank you man !! :-)
5 Jun 2010 - 15:24
Welcome to GMC!!!!!!! I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to cool lessons! :)
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