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How Ask A Guitarist Works

Ask a guitarist has been designed as a knowledge base for guitarists to ask questions about guitar. It is a great way to learn from other guitarist’s challenges. Simply submit your question, and we at Insane Guitar will answer and post for everyone to see.

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 06/9/09 7:47 AM


Q: hi ware can i learn sweep Techniques

A: I would start with the master class on sweeping and then use the search function to look through the archives. There is tons of useful information on this site about sweeping techniques. – Joel

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 08/1/09 11:36 AM

Obtaining Speed

Q: hi how do i get speed?

A: To get faster, you need a lot of repitition to develop your motor coordination. You have a lot of potential speed, you just need to unlock it. When you practice a lick or technique for at least 10 minutes a day straight, your hands and brain will memorize these movements. Make sure you practice with perfect technique! Your brain memorizes everything and does not distinguish from sloppy playing from good playing. Practice perfectly at slow tempos. Once you engrain whatever technical movement you are trying to learn into your head you will be able to play the lick on “autopilot.” When you can do this, you can slowly start playing the lick faster and faster. Never play faster than you can cleanly! Also remember to remove any tension in your body. Tension slows you down! This should help you develop the motor skills and coordination necessary to increase speed. – Joel

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 08/11/09 7:20 AM

regarding keys

Q: Hello. I would like to ask about modes. They are really confusing. Do modes mean I can be on key by being all over the fretboard just as long as I hit the correct notes?

A: The best way to think about modes is a major scale starting on different notes. For example, let us use C major for simplicity as there are no sharps or flats. The notes are: C D E F G A B. If you wanted to play in the aoleon mode (6th mode) start on an A and play the C major scale starting and ending on an A. Example: A B C D E F G. It is the same scale, but the tonality is different. Aoleon is a minor mode and sounds dark as opposed to just playing C major. The notes are exactly the same, BUT the tone of the scale is different. Each mode has its own flavor. Each flavor is defined as follows:

The formula for chords in a major scale is:
1) Major
2) Minor
3) Minor
4) Major
5) Major
6) Minor
7) Minor

I hope this helps you! I would recommend looking at the music theory 101 master class by Mike Philippov. Also, www.musictheory.net is a great site! Good luck.

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 08/23/09 6:53 PM

How do I get better at soloing?

Q: Hey, Ive been playing guitar for about 2 years now and I can play pretty good. I’ve been wanting to get better at solos and playing faster solos. What are your suggestions for me to practice to get better at soloing in general?

A: To get good at soloing you need to first learn some scales (the major, minor, and pentatonic). Learning these scales and how to connect them across the neck is a great place to start. This way you will be able to visualize the fretboard in a given key signature. It is also advised to have basic techniques down like bending, vibrato, picking, tapping, and maybe even sweeping. Start listening to other people’s solos and learn a bunch of licks. You should also learn solos by your favorite guitarists as well. Once you get a good variety of licks down, you should practice soloing either over CDs or jam tracks. By constraining yourself at first to do things like only solo in minor pentatonic, it allows you to get comfortable with limited options. Focus on developing your rhythmic phrasing, your bends, and tastefully placing licks. The more you practicing soloing, the faster that you will get comfortable with it.

After you start developing a basic style, you should go out and learn some new licks or create a collection of your own. Try to incorporate these into your solos. Eventually you will start developing an identifiable, fluent style. As you get more comfortable with soloing, try doing solos over faster tempo songs. Also, try to write your own licks by combining your knowledge of scales and techniques. Again, you can always use how other guitar players placed licks in a solo as a reference. Key real key is to keep practicing your soloing and improvising every day. The more you practice, the better you will get at it. Good luck!

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 09/4/09 5:44 PM

Practicing Hard?

Q: Just wondering if practicing 16 hours a day is a requirement for virtuoso technique…if I practice perfectly for 2-4 hours a day is it still possible to reach insane levels of technique?

A: The short answer to your question is yes! Practicing 16 hours a day is definitely not a requirement to get virtuoso level technique, although, if done correctly that amount of practicing can definitely help. Every guitar player is different and there is no such thing as the perfect amount of time to practice. We each progress at our own rate and some guitarists need more practice time than others. What is really important is that you make your guitar practicing time high quality. By establishing a goal of what things you would like to accomplish in each practice session, you can get yourself on the fast track to insane guitar technique. Make each minute of guitar practice really count! By blocking out distractions and other interruptions, like cell phones, a lot more can be accomplished in a given time.

I would also recommend spending some time practicing soloing over actual music each day. You can either play over jam tracks, or try playing along to some of your favorite CDs. This will allow you to take the guitar techniques that you worked on in practice and use them in a real setting. You will become more fluid with your technique, improve your rhythm, and this will help you develop stylistically. Practicing things that cover a lot of ground is a great way to progress fast.

You might also want to check out Tom Hess’s article on getting the most out of a short practice time. You can find it in the archives. He has some fantastic advice! Good luck.

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 10/3/09 8:51 AM

Practicing exercises

Q: I was wondering…

I practice through a routine and was wondering if I need to practice the same things everyday? I mean like say I want to do sweeping this day, and legato the next, Etc, am I going to lose the chops I gain or is this a good way to practice?

Thank you

A: As long as you are practicing guitar, you are probably gaining abilities. It is pretty hard to loose chops. You could put down the guitar for a month and in a day or two get your chops back to normal with a bit of practice. However, I would recommend concentrating your efforts on practicing as efficiently as possible. Practicing only one thing a day doesn’t sound very efficient to me. Here are some ideas that you can put into play that will help you get more out of your practice time and progress faster.

I would recommend getting some sort of diversity in your practice each day. If you spend one day practicing only legato for example, you are only growing in one facet of your guitar playing. There is not a lot of transferability to other parts of your guitar playing learning only legato licks. Thus, you would make no gains in your rhythm abilities, song writing, improvising, ear training, and etc. Try to spend time working on a variety of guitar techniques and skills so that you will grow as a player smoothly, not lopsidedly. For example, by working on improvisation, you are practicing using a variety of techniques, phrasing, timing, and expanding your creativity. If you want to empathize a certain technique in your practice, like for example your picking may not be the best, then dedicate more time to it in your practice routine. It is very important to not neglect areas like vibrato, ear training, phrasing, improvisation, timing, and rhythm guitar work in your everyday practice. If you do not balance yourself in practice, you may find yourself one day become one of those guitarists that can pick and sweep like a maniac, but can’t hit a bend or play a riff to save their life. The result is that you will still be a beginner and not taken seriously. All of that practice will be in vain. So, make sure that you do not neglect some of the less fun techniques like vibrato in your practice everyday. It is essential!

Also, when practicing guitar, try to focus on learning things that challenge you. If you can already play something perfectly with solid consistency, there is no need to spend time practicing it, unless you are maintaining it for live performance (like practicing a song you wrote over and over because you play in a gigging band). If you are practicing to maintain, practice not to make mistakes, as opposed to being able to just play it good enough to get through it. I’m going to quote Tom Hess and say that this is the difference between a professional and an amateur guitarist. When practicing to maintain, make sure that you can play it perfect already. If you are practicing something new, again, try to focus on the challenging spots. If there is a particular lick, or part of a lick that you are still not able to play, it is best to spend your time on that. Practicing the exact parts of licks that give you difficultly will make your guitar practice more efficient and effective.

Hopefully you find this useful! Good luck.

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 10/8/09 10:18 AM

guitar question

Q: I am about a 6-8 month player somewhat progressing along.I currently use a lower level fender strat. it\’s a bit cumbersome only being 1 5/8 nut.being that I have meaty fingers. I was looking at a Davidson it has a 1.75 nut Trying to keep it around 2-3 hundred. is this a piece of crap or is it ok for a first year player. it looks like a knockoff les paul.

A:  Hi! You can find some good answers to your question on our message board here:

Insane Guitar Message Board

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 10/20/09 4:56 PM

If I Knew

Q: I play by ear. I can basically play with music playing. (good I think)

How can I play good without music playing? (bad at the moment)

A: When playing along to anything, the background music is going to cover up any inconsistencies in your technique. For example, if you are playing a riff with a lot of palm muting, your strings may be ringing out and causing a droning noise due to improper hand placement. If you play along to a track, you may not notice this. The key to playing guitar accurately is to practice exercises/songs/riffs slowly with good technique. By focusing your efforts on playing cleanly, you are training the proper muscle memory into your brain. You brain learns everything you do. The trick is to do it correctly so that it is perfect every time you do it. I hope this helps!

  • Joel Wanasek
  •  | 
  • 10/28/09 3:29 PM


Q: Hi. I’ve been playing the guitar for 2 years and I solo pretty well. But, my solos sound the same mostly. I try to compose solos as well and they sound sound as well as I like. How can a add some flare and harmony to my soloing?

A: The good news is it sounds like you are starting to forge an identifiable style. It is those same tenancies toward certain licks and phrases that make your playing identifiable. The bad news is that this is something that every lead guitarist must constantly battle. There are a few things you can do to add some new influence to your playing.

1) Start learning some new licks. By bringing new licks into your arsenal or even new techniques, you can break your habits. Focus on using these new licks and ideas in your solos.

2) Listen to new music. Try listening to some different guitarists for inspiration. If you find a guitarist that you really like, then learn some of their licks. Incorporate these in your solos. See how it sounds. You may borrow some ideas and actually find out that you improve upon them.

3) Take some influence from other instruments. For example, listen to the way a vocalist phrases and uses vibrato. Try incorporating phrasing that is vocal like in your own solos. Personally, I like to listen to pop mega hits and learn the melodies on guitar. You can learn a lot about writing catchy melodies, leads, and motives from this. Singers phrase much different then guitarists.

4) Try practicing what I call “applied technique.” To do this, limit yourself to a constraint when soloing. For example, solo playing straight 8th notes and using only slides without stopping for 3 minutes. Another example could be limit yourself to only using 3 notes in the same position. Try to come up with as many rhythms as possible. There is an endless amount of ideas you can try with this. All of them will improve your soloing.

5) Experiment with harmony. Play a melody over a track. Record it. Then try different types of counter melodies. See what sounds good.

    Good luck with your soloing! Hopefully you find this reply helpful.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 11/11/09 7:54 AM

    Picking Hand Tension

    Q: Hello, I have been playing for about 4 years now. I have good chops, except for my picking technique. Just like Joel Wanasek said in his picking masterclass lesson. But this is regarding a specific detail of picking. When I hold the pick with my hand, how do I stay relaxed? Whenever I try to pick fast, My whole arm tenses up. Paul Gilbert is my favorite player, and he picks very hard and fast. Is he always tense? Anyway, I am at my wits end, please help!

    A: Don’t you just love alternate picking? :) I think it was invented just to irritate every guitar player who attempts to learn it! I know I definitely have had my fun with it in the past! I can relate to your frustration.

    First off, when you grip the pick, you have to find that happy medium sport where you are holding it so it will not move, but yet keeping your hand tension free. You want to have a decently firm grip between your fingers (don’t let the guitar string push you around, you pick the string), but a loose wrist, arm, and body. It is natural to want to tense up when you try to pick fast. The only way to over come this is to pound into your brain’s muscle memory that you don’t need to be tense to shred. When you practice alternate picking, slow way down and pick with no tension (except the one spot your 2 fingers meet the pick). This means that you should have no tension in your feet, legs, torso, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, and head. Pay attention to each of these areas when you pick. If you notice tension, relax yourself and start again. Make sure you are sitting comfortably too! Bad posture creates tension. Concentrate on playing very slowly with perfect technique and no tension. Get really comfortable at that tempo and then increase it a bit. Find the tempo where you start to tense up. Now scale back the metronome and play as close to that tempo as you can with no tension. Practice at that tempo for a good period of time (like 5 – 10 minutes). Now try increasing the speed back up. See if that helps. If not, repeat. Practice makes perfect. Be sure to only use 1 lick when doing this. Good luck with it!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 11/16/09 9:36 AM


    Q: Why can’t I strum like how others do? I pressed on the strings hard enough, but when i start to strum, the just not good, it\’s filled with external sounds (the sound that you hit the guitar string with ur plucker)? How can i do to reduce that sound?

    A: Getting clean strumming is all about having solid fret hand muting technique. When you place a chord down on the fret board, look for ways to use your hand to mute the unused strings. For example, if you are playing an open D chord, you can wrap your thumb around the neck and mute the E and A strings from ringing. If you were playing a C barre chord (3rd fret on A root), use the tip of your index finger to mute the low E string by pushing it up against it. If you are playing an octave chord (say 5th fret on the A string and 7th Fret G string) use your index finger to mute the high strings. Use your middle finger to mute the low e (just arch it over and place it on top of the string). These should give you some examples how to clean up your fingering. This is the trick to clean playing. As a side note, it helps to have a closed fist when you strum on your picking hand.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 12/22/09 5:04 PM


    Q: Hi. I have been playing guitar for about 6 years now. my instructor is moving me into music theory now. I take lessons once a week and want to find some exercises I can do to increase my speed and coordination and a way to memorize chords. Does anyone know where I can get some detailed info on these subjects? Sites, books, anything?

    A: Well, since you are already here :), I would recommend going through the archives on this site. There are tons of great exercises and licks to work through.

    Memorizing chords comes down to practice and repetition. I would take a major scale and build chords around it (remember the formula: Maj, min, min, Maj, Maj, min, min7b5). Start with simple barre chords and run though every key. Then try doing 7ths, add 9s, etc…. Try doing this in open positions as well. This will help you learn the chords forms and practice quick switching. You can then take chord progressions and practice switching different chords/inversions in them. Once you get that down, take triads and run through the inversions on the same string set. After you’ve mastered that turn these in to bigger chords and run the inversion on that. Once you’ve gone through all this, you should have a pretty good control over playing chords and then you can get into the more advanced chordal stuff.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 12/22/09 5:14 PM


    Q: Hi, I’ve been working on metal arpeggios for a while now, but I just can’t seem to get a clean sound! Whenever I turn on the distortion it sounds really messy and disgusting. The problem I’ve found is whenever I lift my finger off the string to go to the next note the open string sounds. How do I stop this?

    A: I can definitely understand your frustration, I remember being there myself once! The answer to this question is quite simple in theory, however challenging in practice. Once you master it though, you won’t even have to think about it to execute it.

    The trick to playing arpeggios cleanly is to use the tip of your finger for each following note you pick to mute the string as your finger leaves it. What that means in practice is this:

    Let us use an A minor 5 string arpeggio starting on the 12th fret of the A string as an example. This is a very basic 5 string form. On a tab it would look like: A 12 D 10 G 9 B 10 E 8 hammer 12. You would finger this 4, 2, 1, 2, 1, 4 etc. When you start the sweep pick with the 1st note (12th fret A string), you will then lift your 4th finger off the string to help mute it. While you are doing that, your middle finger should already be on the 10th fret of the D string and the tip of it touching the side of the A string that you just played (this is the KEY!!!!). This will choke the A string from ringing out. Now, do this with every finger and you have a clean sweep! The key is just to practice the muting technique slowly and pound it into your muscle memory. Once you get this down, you can then work on gaining speed. This is the key to sweeping cleanly.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 01/3/10 9:13 PM


    Q: Hey guys. I hear famous guitarists time and time again talk about scales. Some people say that you don’t need to know all the scales, you just have to know a few scales really well; some say the opposite. My question was, what scales do you believe are most important to master across the fretboard in order to improvise play better?

    A: I would say that it depends on what your goals as a guitarist are and what sort of music you would like to play. If you want to be a jazz master, than having an extensive knowledge of every possible scale and mode is pretty important. If you want to play in a commercial group and sell tons of records, then you really only need to know a few scales well (all major and the pentatonic). Or, if you are into unorthodox music, then learn a bunch of exotic scales. I would say that it is more important to learn the basic theory behind the scales and modes than to learn the scales themselves. If you know the rules of construction and the notes on the guitar well, then you can just create scales at will to suit your needs when improvising or soloing. This also goes for writing music (chord progressions, melodies).

    In my opinion, and I speak from a commercial point of view, the most important scales are the major (and its modes, especially natural minor) and the pentatonic. Most scales are derived from major anyways. I’ve sold a ton of songs using these simple scales and a whopping zero every time I’ve tried using anything else. This goes for chord progressions, solos, vocal melodies, about everything else derived from them. Other guitarist’s may have different experiences. So, I would say that the most useful scales for you to need to know, inside and out, are these. If you can command the major scale and its modes, you will have a very solid foundation.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 01/23/10 10:00 AM

    Guitar Effects

    Q: Hey guys I was just curious about some guitar tubes. I recently decided to start saving up for a 6505+ and never realized there are so many tubes to choose from. I play pretty heavy drop C. I like a good whine for the melodic overlays but a really brutal bite for the break downs. Have any good ideas? I am using an SG Loaded with EMG 81/85 and a maxon 808.

    A: Two great places to find information on tubes is: http://tubefreak.com and http://www.eurotubes.com. I would give Bob a call at Eurotubes.com and ask him for his advice. I’m my experience, he has always been extremely helpful and knowledgeable. In my own experience as an audio engineer, I would say that I generally prefer JJ tubes. I like the 6L6s a lot when doing the heavy stuff. I will say that I’ve had luck with about every brand of tubes on the market though. A good head is the most important thing. Tubes are just like adding spices to an already tasty dish to polish it off. A 6505+ is a great head for this style of music and will not let you down no matter what brand of tubes you put in.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 01/27/10 7:25 PM

    Practice Sessions

    Q: Hello, I’m writing u guys because I have a question about effective practice sessions..I want to be the ULTIMATE guitar virtuoso, and I was thinking about dividing my technique exercises into 30 minute “Mini-sessions”..For example, I would spend 30mins on a warm-up routine, 30mins on alternate picking, 30mins on sweep picking, 30mins on legato, 30mins on tapping, 30mins on finger picking, and finally, 30mins on string bending, which all adds up to a 3 1/2 hour totally intense technique session..And my question is, do yall think that this is all just a bunch of wasted time and non-sense?? Or do yall think its actually worth it?? Could I get the same results from doing just 15 minutes on each subject so that my technique session would only last an hour and 45 minutes so that I could go on 2 other important things such as ear training and learning songs/chords/scales/arpeggios??

    A: As long as you are practicing to get better, you are not wasting your time. How much time to exactly allocate on any particular technique or concept is a matter of preference. There is no correct answer. You must try out a few different methods and find out what is the most efficient for you. However, I think it is extremely important for you to concentrate at least half your time on ear training, theory, vibrato, song writing, transcribing, learning songs, and the like. Having beastly technique is only one part of the package. When I was younger I thought that to achieve this goal, I would just have to get insanely precise technique. As I got older I learned really quickly, the hard way I might add, that no one wants to listen to that technique you’ve worked so hard on unless you can write songs that they are going to enjoy (Unless your only goal is to make Youtube videos to impress people with how crazy you can play!). The point is that it is easy to overlook things like vibrato or writing a decent melody. This is the really important stuff, so it is critical for you to add it to your routine. The key to success with this is to set benchmarks for yourself that are realistic. Work towards them daily and ruthlessly. Practice efficiently and with full concentration. Most important, don’t forget to have FUN! Good luck to you!

    p.s. Don’t overlook techniques like strumming, rapid chord changes, and the like either!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 01/27/10 7:38 PM

    regarding tweaking guitar processors

    Q: Hi, does anyone know any site where one can get tips on how to tweak their guitar multieffects processor to get the exact sounds of one’s favourite artistes through their guitars?

    A: Line 6 has a really good database of presets at their website if you have a line 6.

    On a side note: Keep in mind that what you hear on a record is not necessarily how the player’s guitar amp sounds in a room. In mixing, guitar tones get radically EQed (more than most people probably imagine) by the engineers to fit into the mix. Sometimes, what a guitar tone sounds like coming through an amp sounds NOTHING like what it does after it is mixed. A lot of a guitar player’s tone is also in the hands. The way you pick the strings for example has a large impact on how your tone sounds.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 02/7/10 1:21 PM

    perfect playing sense

    Q: Hi,
    I am Soumojit. My question is How Can I play anything with perfectness, clearly & sensibly. I am playing guitar since last 2 yrs. I want to know better techniques of playing.

    A: The most important element of playing cleanly and accurately is your approach to practicing. When you are practicing a lick or riff, it is extremely important to play it with perfect technique, SLOWLY, every time until you have mastered it. Your brain memorizes everything you do, right or wrong. Many guitar players get impatient when they practice and therefore glaze over difficult parts of riffs. This causes them to play these riffs sloppily at higher speeds as well as not be consistent. Make sure that you concentrate on the more difficult sections when learning something as opposed to the easy parts. You don’t really need to work on the things that are already easy for you to play. It is also important to practice to not make mistakes, as opposed to practicing to be able to play the riff once. Try playing the riff or lick in different settings so that you are more consistent in your performance. For example, try practicing a riff on several different guitars every time you practice. Try practicing the riff sitting down as well as standing up. All off these little details add up to more consistent and cleaner playing. Great guitar playing is a game of being attentive to small details.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 02/7/10 1:27 PM


    Q: Hello, I am writing because I was wanting to ask u guys a question about technique….What r ALL THE TECHNIQUES that I must practice to become the ultimate guitar virtuoso?? I know that I must practice Alternate picking, Sweep picking, Legato, Tapping, String bending, and Fingerpicking, But r there some techniques that I’m leaving out of the equation?? Thanks, Brian.

    A: Hi Brian, it depends on what sort of guitar virtuoso you would like to become as there are many virtuosos, excelling in many different styles. For example, if your goal is to play metal/rock, you probably want to have all the techniques you mentioned under your belt. You should also really concentrate on vibrato! It is the number one thing that you guitar playing will be judged on. You may also find value in learning all sorts of abstract stuff like slap guitar or crazy 8 finger tapping stuff. It sounds to me like you are on the right path. Just remember, practice that vibrato!!!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 03/2/10 9:42 PM

    sweep picking

    Q: Hi, is it necessary to palm mute with the right hand while sweep picking? I find that when I try it, the notes simply get muffled out….

    A: No. I personally semi palm mute the low e and anchor my hand on the bridge most of the time when sweeping. Obviously, if you are playing 6 string sweeps you won’t be able to do this. In that case you can just anchor your forearm on the body of the guitar and float your hand. Do what feels the most comfortable for you and sounds the cleanest.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 03/4/10 7:22 AM

    double locking trems

    Q: Hi,
    recently i bought a new guitar with a low profile Floyd rose tremolo. I’m into metal and use whammy bar very much but the guitar tends to go out of tune after a little use.
    so is there any solution to this problem that doesn’t involve changing the trem????

    A: That is a good question. In general, every Floyd I’ve personally owned has been pretty rock solid. I would try maybe a slightly thicker gauge of strings. Also, break in your new strings a bit with your bar before you start playing on them. Strings that are brand new or too old tend to go out of tune easier. You might want to look at how your bridge is set too. Make sure it is level and there isn’t too much string or spring tension.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 03/4/10 7:28 AM

    how to get these tones?

    Q: Hi, I want to know what settings to make on the amp and processor to get a sound suited for goth metal and death metal (I use korg guitar multieffects). Thanks for any help anyone can give.

    A: To be honest, about every professional band in this genre uses distortion directly from their amp heads. Amps like Peavey 5150’s are extremely popular in these genres. It is extremely hard to get a multi effects processor to sound as good as a legitimate head. Some amp modelers like the Fractal Axe-FX or the pod can come close if you know how to tweak them. So, start with the amp. Generally if you are playing an extremely low tuning like drop A (common in the genre), then you may have to put some mids in you tone. I would say that on a tube head, having your bass at like 4, mids at 2, treble at 6 would be a good starting point. Tweak to taste. Use the effects processor for effects, not distortion. Try to keep a nice balanced sound that isn’t too bass heavy or has too much treble. You definitely want to back off the presence knob if you have one. Also, don’t crank your gain knob all the way up. Find a nice spot where you’ve got enough distortion to do techniques like pinch harmonics, but it doesn’t sound like sloppy mush. This should get you in the ball park with your rhythm tone. For solos, increase the mids a bit. If you don’t like the tones you are getting, get a different head or speaker cab. Cabs with vintage 30s tend to be very popular for this kind of music. The other thing to keep in mind is that the tones you hear on records are extremely equalized in the studio. Engineers will greatly change the tone of the guitar to get tit to fit in the mix and play nicely with the other instruments.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 03/4/10 8:00 AM

    Finger Strength

    Q: Hey, I just read through your Master Class “Legato 101” and have been trying to exercise my hand doing trills for the last few days. Now you say you should feel the burn in your hand, But I usually don’t feel any burn…It’s more of a weird kinda tired feeling in my wrist. Is that what is supposed to happen? But sometimes I’ll feel a little burn where my tendons are in my wrist/arm. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, -Kyle

    A: If you feel a tingling in your wrist stop for the day. Sounds like a symptom of Carpel Tunnel. That is not good. The burn I was referring to was like when you lift weights and your muscles fatigue and fill with lactic acid. The key to building finger strength is to have as little tension as possible. Make sure you are breathing and not holding your breath when playing too. You absolutely do not want to have any tension in your arm and hands when practicing. If you tense up, you will hurt yourself.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 04/14/10 12:30 PM

    Sucess With My Band

    Q: I have been playing guitar for 3 years now and I can”t seem to get anywhere with my band when we play in pubs etc. Could I have some help please!!

    A: What a lot of musicians do not understand is that music is a business. If your goal is to have commercial success with your band, a few things need to happen:

    1) Your music needs to be undeniable. This means that people have to like it, want to listen to it, and want to be associated with it. 98% of bands fail right here. They write music that no one wants to listen too. Most bands are not honest with themselves. I’ve yet to meet a band, and I make a living as a producer, that thinks that they don’t write some of the best music ever. Try listening to your music and ask yourself objectively, is it really any good or do only we like it?

    2) Your image needs to be spot on. Your entire image, website, myspace, etc… needs to be well thought out. Everything from the way you dress to the colors your website uses needs to be consistent. If your band looks like another local band, no one will take you seriously. If your band looks totally pro, people will take your music seriously.

    3) Get your stuff recorded professionally. If your mixes don’t sound in the same league as the stuff you hear in your genre coming from the labels, you will NOT make a good impression with any potential fan. If you sound like a local band, you will be treated like one.

    4) Have an undeniable live show. You need to have all the cool gimmicks and image live for whatever genre you are in. A band’s job is to entertain.

    5) Marketing and sales are everything. You need to sell units and the only way to do it is if people hear your music. Making personal connections with your fans and treating your band like a “brand” is critical. Remember, your goal is to make people want to identify with your brand. People wear band shirts and wear your band’s name proudly, it defines who they are to other people.

    6) Want to get signed: Write hits, have good market timing, build a huge buzz, sell a few thousand units in a short period of time, have a great image, kill it live, get a good manager, a little luck, … and done.

    These are just a few things that will help you. There are many more. Good luck!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 04/14/10 12:50 PM

    Sweep Picking Help

    Q: I am studying classical singing in high school. I’m in senior year and I’ve been also teaching myself guitar from the eMedia Guitar Methods. I can say that I master strumming and chording. I understand chord theory and so on. I play guitar for almost a year and a half but I began studying electric guitar for 5 months now. I am getting the hand of alternate picking but when it comes to sweep pick, I tend to get discouraged. I’ve seen MAB and Malmsteem… they rock. How much time will it take to master this technique?

    A: This is a difficult question to answer because there is no answer. Every guitarist has different results. That being said, if you practice perfectly, correctly, and with discipline, I see no reason that you won’t be able to get it down in a few weeks. It may only take you a few days. The goal is to program your brain to execute a perfect sweep every time you attempt. To do this you need to master each arpeggio very slowly with perfect technique A lot of guitarists screw this up because they are impatient and glaze over the lick. This results in sloppiness and your brain having to recondition itself from the poor habit you taught it. Break each one down into 3 note sections and master each section so that it becomes a habit. If you play the part each time perfectly, your brain will memorize the motor skill and store it in your subconscious. Once your brain learns this repetitive movement, your muscles will be able to speed up the lick. When this happens, you will be blazing clean arpeggios. Every large task can be accomplished in small, manageable sections.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 04/15/10 12:31 PM

    Writers block

    Q: When writing music, I often have a long time between the music/lyrics being written to the time the solo is written. How do you approach writing solos? I often find myself waiting for inspiration rather than trying to write a good line. Is this approach beneficial to me as a musician?

    A: There is no right or wrong way to write solos. The problem with waiting for inspiration is that sometimes it can take a long time. I write and sell songs to various outlets and often I don’t have time to really try to get inspired. I have to turn out a high volume of material in a short period of time. This means that sometimes I’ll write a track, record it, and have 1 hour to do a solo before I turn it in. Personally, I’ve always just recorded a riff that I’m going to solo over and then looped it in the computer. I then like to listen to it and absorb into it. Pick up the guitar and just jam over it. See what comes out. After some time you will start finding licks that you really like in certain places. Record your rough ideas like a skeleton and then try to bridge them together. Another technique that is similar is to just try to write a few bars at a time. Record it in and then move on to the next section. After you’ve gotten everything down, then learn how to play the whole solo. If you have lots of time on your hands, you can always record a rough version, put it into your car, and just keep jamming on it in your head over and over. Eventually good ideas will come to you and you will then have some good material to start with. This is one of those skills that you will get better at as you get more experience writing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to write the world’s most brilliant guitar solo every time you write a solo.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 04/15/10 12:46 PM

    Leo Kottke style Acoustic….

    Q: Hello again, its Brian, I put up the GUITAR BEAST question a few months ago..In ur answer u guys told me that the techniques that u need 2 practice 2 b a virtuoso all depended on the kind of virtuoso u wanted 2 b..But I dont want to be a monster metal guy like u mentioned in the answer u guys posted, Im more into acoustic stuff, u know?? like Leo Kottke type stuff….So what kinds of things would I have 2 practice to be the greatest acoustic player alive?? Just Finger Picking, Legato, Sweep Picking (With the thumb), Tapping, String Bending, and Vibrato?? I know that I would have to spend the rest of my practice time learning songs, jamming, learning theory, and practicing ear training..But do I pretty much have all the bases covered as far as technique is concerned?? Thanks alot, Brian..

    A: Sounds like you have the right idea. I would add percussive techniques, strumming, and slide guitar playing to that. There are a lot of really cool players on youtube that do a lot of tapping, harmonics, and percussive techniques. Getting a good handle on those techniques will be a great addition to your tool box. You are definitely on the right track. Just watch videos of amazing guitarists and if you see something really cool, then learn it.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 04/16/10 11:26 AM


    Q: What should I do to become relaxed before practicing?

    A: First, take a few deep breaths. Inhale through the nose and then exhale through the mouth. Doing some basic stretches and joint warms ups are a great way to loosen up as well. Try to calm your mind of any distractions (turn off your phone). Listening to relaxing music always helps. I recommend classical music. You can dim the lights and darken the practice space too. This has a nice calming effect on the body. All of these things will help get you into a relaxed state of mind so that you can practice effectively and efficiently.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/11/10 8:40 PM

    Light Gauge Strings

    Q: Recently I have switched to light gauge strings on my acoustic Gibson. How often do you suggest a change of strings? I play everyday and have noticed a I am constantly twisting the tuning keys to achieve proper attenuation on upper 3 strings. I never had a problem with medium gauge strings. Are the light gauge stretching out over time?

    A: Light strings are often finicky when it comes to tuning. Depending on what tuning you are in and how much tension is on the strings, they can be difficult to keep in tune. In my experience, I haven’t noticed lighter strings taking too much longer than heavy gauge strings to stretch. Just make sure that when you replace them, you pound on them really hard for the first 15 minutes you have them on the guitar. A heavy dose of vibrato seems to really help this process. You can also try switching brands and see which brand of strings works the best.

    There is no right or wrong amount of time to replace strings. I generally keep them on for about a month. Then again, I have a pair of 8s on my Ibanez that has been on it for a year and a half and they are still in good condition (it really helps to always wash your hands before you play guitar). So, you can get pretty long life out of strings sometimes. If you play the same guitar everyday for a few hours a day, you probably want to change them every month or few weeks. Experiment and see what works for the brand of strings you buy and your playing style.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/11/10 8:48 PM

    Sweep Picking

    Q: How to do sweep picking?

    A: I recommend you go through our sweep picking 101 master class on it. If you have specific questions after spending some time working on it, I’d be happy to help.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/11/10 8:50 PM

    Late-Night Practice

    Q: I am a busy dude, and I have time only at night…..Should I practice all night? (I already did a few times, without much fatigue)
    How should I build my body to overcome the recklessness of a busy guitarist’s life??

    A: I feel your pain. Life is extremely busy and  sometimes no matter how much you want to, it can be hard to find time to get your hands on your axe. There is nothing wrong with night practice. Most gigs are between 8pm and 1am anyways so the sooner you get used to playing late, the better. I wouldn’t practice all night though. It is important to get sleep. Concentrate on quality of practice rather than the quantity.

    Building your body to overcome the stresses of a guitarists lifestyle is a whole different issue. To keep it short and get to the point, there are a few things that are extremely important to daily function:

    1) Eat well. Your body needs the fuel to repair itself from the daily punishment you put it through. Fast foods, processed foods, and the like are not good for you. If you want to take care of yourself, start eating lean meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and grains. Getting a wide diversity of nutrients into your body is essential for peak performance. I highly recommend introducing sprouts into your diet. They are extremely cheap and very easy to grow (wheat and rye berries are the best). These are the greatest food I have ever discovered and they will do more for your energy levels and health than about anything else you can put in your body. Look up “sprouting” on google. I eat them every morning with fresh fruit.

    2) Exercise. You need to exercise about three to five times a week to keep your body strong. I recommend getting a diversity of exercise. Avoid repetitive motions which can wear out your joints. Alternating different types of cardiovascular exercise and strength training should be sufficient. I also recommend a little yoga as it is easy to do anywhere, at anytime. The best way to keep your joints strong is with circular motions as they lubricate the joints but don’t wear them down. So, adding some simple aerobics style exercises using circular motions to a routine is great for the body too.

    3) Sleep. Get eight to nine hours of solid rest every day. This is very important!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/29/10 8:25 AM

    Getting clean notes in distortion

    Q: Hey I was wondering how i could get clean notes in a heavy distortion mode like Bullet for My Valentine does along with As I Dying any tips?

    A: Cleanliness is all about good pick attack and good muting technique. For example, if you are playing a thrash part with a lot of galloping in it, simply by moving your wrist back and forth on the bridge into different zones of the palm muting area will drastically alter the tone of the chugs. Experiment with this and see where it sounds the cleanest and the best. Also, try playing with the firmness you are holding the pick and the way you are striking the string with the pick. Finding the balance between solid pick attack and clarity is key. This is how you clean up your rhythm playing. For each riff, find the best way to do any muting and pick it so that it sounds cleanest and the most aggressive in the pick attack. The same goes for soloing except the muting is in the fretting hand as well.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/29/10 8:31 AM

    Soloing Issues

    Q: One thing that has bothered me, is when I solo, I constantly tend to stay on the last 2 strings. I would like to be able to solo all throughout the neck and be free from my 2 stringed-ness!! Please help me!

    A: You should practice soloing using constraints then. For example, take the riff you are soloing over. Take the scale you are using and map it out vertically in the D string. Now, only solo on that string. Force yourself to come up with good phrasing using this constraint. This will force you to become creative. Now, after maybe 5 minutes of that, try it on a different string. This will help you learn to think vertically in a key as opposed to in horizontal boxes. The next step is to take a horizontal box, like a pentatonic scale, and try soloing in it using only the bottom 3 strings. Then try the top. Then try using the whole thing. Now, stack 2 boxes together and see if you can take 3 strings and work in between the different patterns. You see where I am going with this? You need to force yourself into uncomfortable situations for your brain to learn. After spending some time doing all these things, try soloing again and see if you can incorporate some of these ideas into your solos. You will be surprised what you come up with.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/29/10 8:40 AM

    Breaking out of Positions

    Q: I have been trying to find creative and economical ways to break out of the 7 positions in the modes, any suggestions? I already have the diagonal thing going for me, but I’d really like to be able to move about the neck like I see people such as Marty Friedman, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrruci, where it seems like they will be able to play anywher.

    A: Since you’ve got your modes down, you should try approaching soloing like a jazz guitarist then. What I mean by that is treat each chord, or group of chords as its own key. So, for example if you have a iv – IV – V progression in a key, you can treat each chord as its own key. Let us pretend you are in the key of C major, so then the progression is Ami, F, G. Try using different minor modes on the Ami chord instead of natural minor. For the 2 major chords, see what other keys you have a F and G in. Then look at the keys and find out what notes can be used as “out notes” in your solo. As you practice this more, you will become very good at it and find yourself doing exactly what you are asking about. If it sounds good to you, then it is good.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 05/29/10 8:51 AM

    Practice Routine Question

    Q: Hey Joel I had a question about practicing. For a long time I practiced with timers with sessions but then I came up with an alternative method that I’ve been using for a long time now, but I wanted to ask you if you think its the best way or if I could find a better one. My method is that I make out a check list and I set a goal number of times to practice/play each item on the checklist, ie. alternate picking exercise (play 20 times), and then I’d move on to the next exercise, etc. My question is regarding whether or not the amount of time you practice a lick with focus or the amount of times you actually practice the lick. Sorry if it sounds a little confusing but I got tired of timers because I felt they made me think i was going by how much I time I practiced and not how efficient the practice was.

    Thank you,


    A: Hello Matt. I would say that this sounds like a great way to practice and if it works for you then it is absolutely correct! Essentially, you are accomplishing the same thing, repetition in practice. I see no reason not to do it this way. If you feel like you are not progressing in a certain area of your performance, then just up the amount of times you practice it. Good luck!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 07/26/10 7:51 PM

    Scale Question

    Q: I have been playing electric for about 3 1/2 yrs. and I can play along with a lot of stuff but sometimes I find myself using the same scale in the same area on the fret board. In your honest opinion what would be a good scale to learn to vary from scale to scale?

    A: When learning a scale, you should learn it in all positions of the neck. In general, there are something like 5 positions for every scale, so it isn’t exceptionally hard. I would start with the pentatonic scale and then the major scale. If you know the major scale, then you know all the modes as they are just a major scale starting on a different note. From their you can branch out as you please to suit your musical tastes. Learning to connect scales vertically is extremely important as it teachs you to get out of the box and gives you total freedom to play the entire neck as you choose.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 07/26/10 7:56 PM

    Ear Training

    Q: I’ve been playing guitar now for about a year. I can play loads of chords and barre chords really well. I just don’t have the musical background to get any of the theory of how chords, scales, etc are made. I’d really really like to become a professional guitarist. I’m just wondering how I can achieve a level were I can listen to a song and workout by ear how to play different parts, and be able to improvise solos.

    A: I hate to say it, but you should really take the time to learn basic theory. It isn’t as difficult as you think. There are plenty of great resources online. Just learning the very basics like notes, keys, intervals, chord formulas, basic scales, etc is all you really need to know to make money as a guitarist. It is a tremendous advantage to know this as it makes taking the music out of your head much easier to do. For example, you can hear a song on the radio and know what chord progression it is automatically. Maybe you then try to write something with similar chord movement.

    That being said, learning to play by ear takes a long time. Personally speaking, this is by far the most valuable skill I’ve ever acquired. I make a living as a  producer/song writer and having the ability to hear something in your head and immediately turn it into music is priceless. For example, pretend you are sitting in a restaurant eating and suddenly an amazing hook enters your head. You can immediately write it down without having a guitar to figure it out. This way you don’t forget it. Forgetting costs you big money sometimes. This is a skill honed with much practice.

    The easiest way to learn is to simply start transcribing music you like. Start very simple. Here again, it helps to know how some rudimentary theory as it makes transcribing much easier. A good trick to use is to get a basic audio editor with a solo function. I use Cubase’s speaker tool. If you can’t figure out a note, you can just play it over and over again until you find it. Once you get the notes figured out, then try to come up with the best way to finger the notes so that it is easy to play. Once you get better at transcribing, work on trying to transcribe simple melodies you write in your head. This can be developed into being able to write full orchestrations with time, for example. Make it a priority to practice this everyday.

    As for learning to solo without knowing theory, this is much more difficult. When I was learning guitar, learning a few scales was the key to the soloing mystery. Knowing basic scales is a huge time saver. I learned scales before soloing, so I’m not the best person to ask about developing this skill without them.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 07/26/10 8:30 PM

    Guitar Tone

    Q: I own a telecaster and was wondering whats the best pick up to get the red hot chilli peppers sound

    A: Honestly, getting a sound like this is doable from about any single coil guitar pick up. The stock ones in your guitar should be fine. I’m not sure exactly what amps they use, but that might help as well. The most important part of your tone though is your pick attack. Watch how the guitarist plays and mimic it. You can get a massive range of tones from your guitar with just your pick. Learning to do this will save you hundred of dollars playing around with different amps, pickups, and pedals.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 07/26/10 8:34 PM

    Creativity and Songwriting

    Q: Hey Joel, I had a question about songwriting. If you’re a writer you pretty much have to face writer’s block sooner or later; I took theory and music lessons for a very long time so I know theory, how to put a song together, how different forms work and what not and I’ve read bundles of articles on creativity, so I guess I was just wondering what some of your ways to be creative and avoid writer’s block. Thanks, Matt

    A: Matt, creativity and avoiding writer’s block come with practice believe it or not. The more songs you write, and more you force yourself to be creative, the easier it is to knock out tracks in a fairly reasonable amount of time. In my own situation, I often spend 10-12 hours a day locked up in the studio with bands. I am being paid as a producer to be super creative every day. It can be hard to bring your A game every single time. I think a very important part of this is taking care of your body and getting enough sleep every night. When you are burned out, it is hard to be creative. The only way to keep yourself going in a high stress environment is to treat your body well. Keep yourself energized with healthy food and always go to bed when the sun goes down so that you can make the most of your body’s natural sleep cycle. It is also important to take one day off a week from trying to be creative and do things that relax you. At all costs, avoid thinking about work/music/etc. Applying this to song writing, if you are in top physical shape and feel good everyday, you will find yourself with much less writer’s block.

    Another trick I use is deadlines. I’m always amazed at how creative I can become when there is time limit on the table. For example, I license a lot of sports music. I may not really write anything for months, but when the company calls and says “we need a track tomorrow for _____,” I get all pumped up and am always able to produce. Another example in my life is when I have to write orchestrations for bands. If I’m screwing around on my own with the computer trying to write a symphony, usually I don’t get anything good. However, when I’m looking at my watch and it says that I have 15 minutes to write a killer part over this breakdown and there are 5 guys staring at me, waiting for me to produce something, it always flows very easily. There is something in your subconscious mind that turns on that kicks your brain into overdrive when events like this take place. So, experiment with setting deadlines for yourself. For example, have no songs written, but book time in a few weeks to record a demo. Watch what happens when your money is on the line. Find ways to pressure yourself into producing. Deadlines often give amazing results!

    My final tip is to not over think it. When you think about writing too much, usually the music turns out not as good. Just pick up the guitar, jam, and let it flow. Usually the best songs are written in really short periods of time when you aren’t thinking about it or don’t care. It is weird how it works, but it does. hopefully some of these ideas help you!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 08/22/10 3:49 PM

    Want to Get Better At Guitar

    Q: I’m learning songs, but how can I be a great shred guitar player and make up runs and make great music. I want to learn how to play like Rob Balducci or Randy Rhoads. I want to learn my own style and shred like them. Please help on what I should learn, like songs and stuff. – David

    A: David, the best place to start out is to actually learn solos from these guitar players. When I was 16, the first tab book I bought was the Randy Rhoads Tribute CD tab book. I took it into my guitar instructor and ask him “how.” I learned nearly every note of that record. So, I can definitely relate. It is very important to learn these solos in small parts. Once you master each small part, put them together, and before you know it, you will have the whole solo down. You should also hone your techniques like alternate picking, legato, sweep picking, etc. You will also need to learn basic scales like the major, pentatonic, harmonic minor ect. Guitarists use scales to make runs.

    Once you learn a bunch of licks and scales, you will start to create your own licks and style. A great way to dial in your own style is to work on playing over jam tracks every day. By practicing soloing, you will develop, over time, your own unique way of soloing and phrasing. Just keep your mind open to ideas, keep practicing, and learn everything you can about playing the guitar. In no time you will be ripping solos like the guitarists that you mentioned. Good luck to you!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 08/22/10 3:58 PM

    Prog Rhythm

    Q: Although there a vast bounties of metal guitar rhythm lessons scattered throughout the depths of the internet, I have yet to see a progressive rhythm lesson, so my problem is that I really enjoy prog music (blotted science, liquid tension etc, etc) and I would like to write some really awesome prog riffs, but I don’t know where to start, and when I do it sounds like pure nonsense.

    A: This may sound really obvious, but you should probably start by learning/transcribing every possible prog riff that you like. Once you get the feel for what makes a “desirable” prog riff in your eyes, you can start writing them and putting your own twist on them. In my experience, many years ago, when I was really into prog metal, I remember really spending a lot of time trying to write cool riffs with ridiculous time signatures. Find a meter with an interesting feel and see what sorts of ideas you can come up with. Start simple, for example, and just play one note rhythms. See what you can come up with. When you get some nice grooves, try adding some nice chord progressions to the riff. See where it takes you. The cool thing about prog is that it doesn’t limit you to playing any particular type of song structure. I would start there. Hopefully this is at least somewhat helpful!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 08/22/10 4:15 PM

    2 Questions

    Q: Is the intro for the song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC  legato since its just hammer ons and pull offs?

    A: Yes.

    Q: and how do you make a dive bomb last long?

    A: To get a dive bomb to sustain you need to have a decent amount of gain coming out of your amp. You also need to pick the string hard so I resonates longer. Using thicker strings will also help. You should also be using pickups that have good output.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 09/25/10 4:00 PM

    Effect Pedals: Need one or don’t?

    Q: I want to know if I need effect pedals to play metal? I have my own songs. My friend who swears up and down says all metal guitarist use pedals I think that’s bogus and not true. Eddie Van him self said he does not use one. He used to till he learned how to get the sound from the amp and guitar alone. Please put this topic to rest and my friend in his place. Pedals cause too much feed back. My guitar teacher says you don’t need pedals.

    A: No, you do not need pedals. I played in a metal band for 8 years. Never used a pedal. Only guitar into amp. Get a good tube amp and enjoy your tone. Great tone is in your pick attack. If that sucks, then no box will make you sound good. I’ll also say that I record bands for a living and NEVER use pedal distortion. I only use them for odd effects and wha wha.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 09/25/10 4:08 PM

    Alternate Picking Wrist Strength

    Q: I’m a very weak man, how can I get my wrist to be stronger so I can have a more aggressive attack when I pick?

    For the record, I have decent picking chops (up to 205 bpm 16th notes on some chromatic exercises) It’s just that my picking sounds wimpy.

    A: While it is important to be totally relaxed while you play, it generally leads to wimpy pick attack as you have described. The solution is simple. Hold the pick harder. Do not let this tense your wrist up though! Remember, the pick is the master of the string.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 5:30 AM

    Technique: Cleaner Notes

    Q: I was wonder if there was a technique to play notes cleaner and more defined. I have been playing for quite a while and never really thought about this till recently listening to my guitar tracks. Any info would be great thanks for your time guys!

    A: Clarity in notes comes from good pick attack. Holding the pick hard, but keeping the wrist and the body loose. It also comes from muting technique. Examine how you play each riff you want to clean up. Find ways to use both hands to keep extraneous strings from ringing out. E.G. On certain barre chords you can use the thumb to mute low strings. Or if you are playing a metal riff you can keep your hand in palm muting position, only letting the string you are playing not be muted. Etc…

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 5:34 AM


    Q: Need extreme help with timing, keeping time, not loosing rhythm, staying on time… Any techniques or ideas or methods to help learn songs, or even just stay in time when improving?.. my ears don’t seem to listen to drummers at all

    A: Being a guy who sits in a recording studio 60+ hours a week I can tell you that I see this a lot. I think that the most important thing is to simply count when you play. Tap your foot if you have to. Play each riff that you are trying to master really slow and keep time with your foot. Then put on a metronome. Make a mental effort to count each beat. Once you get your timing down, it should start coming easier. You can also turn on a CD and tap your foot, tap on your table, or try dancing to the beat. All of these things will help your body get into a rhythm.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 5:40 AM

    Trills and hand muscles

    Q: Hey Joel, thank you for having such an awesome place where I can finally get questions answered instead of being referred to more lessons! 😀

    Anyway, my question is about trills; I’ve been playing/practicing for about 8-9 years, I’ve taken an abundance of lessons from different teachers and read articles including your legato article yadda yadda, but I still have a problem with my pinky.

    The biggest issue is holding a note down with my index and trilling with my pinky, see:


    I practice it very slowly and precisely, not tensing in my body whatsoever, and I usually set a timer for 5 mins, and just repeat the cycle. I’ve also practiced holding the first note with my ring finger so it’s like a trill from your 3rd to your 4th finger. All of this helps but I feel like my pinky is just tight and won’t memorize the movements to speed up on its own, and when I practice slow for awhile I start to speed it up to see what it feels like and it’s still kinda tight. I don’t know if that’s the way the pinky naturally is, but I doubt it I’ve enough player whip ass with their pinkies before hehe.

    Anyway sorry for the long explanation but do you have any possibilities?

    A: Dude, that sucks! This is definitely a hard one! Honestly, I would say just keep at it. You might want to find other ways at using it too. For example I always play power chords with my index and pinkie finger. Doing something simple like that will help. The muscle should/will train. You just have to untrain years of uncooperative movement out of your brain/hand. The more you use it, the better! Good luck with this!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 5:50 AM

    My playing is horribly sloppy.

    Q: Ok so here recently I’ve been learning (trying to learn) some Avenged Sevenfold, and I have found out that Synyster Gates is an insanely amazing guitarist. And also that my playing is horrible. I’ve been playing for 5 years now, and no matter what I do, I just can’t figure it out. I really need to clean up my playing. I need some information on this. Nothing seems to be working. Do you have anything at all you can tell me about this?

    A: The brain learns by building neural connections every time you do something. When you do something habitually, it reinforces those pathways and kills off ones that you don’t use. it is like mini natural selection in your head. Applying that to guitar, if you learn a riff or technique sloppily, you will always play it so. It is VERY important to learn everything slowly and perfect. This reinforces proper neural paths and will allow you to play these riffs/solos at higher speeds cleanly. It is very important that you go back to the basic techniques of guitar and find where you are having difficulties. Isolate the mistakes you are making and start retraining your brain to fix them. It takes time and patience, but you can CAN do it! It is always easier to learn something right the first time. I cannot emphasize that enough!

    Clean playing is all about good picking technique and muting technique. When you watch a really good player jam, what you don’t see is all the little things the hands are doing to clean up the string noise. For example, if you are playing riffs (non strumming) like rock/metal, always keep your hand on the bridge in palm muting position. That keeps strings from ringing out. You adjust your hand accordingly to the riff you play so that you don’t let anything that you are not playing ring out. There are many tricks like this. You have to really learn this yourself. Find ways/strategies to make this work for your hands and then program them into the brain so they are effortless.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 5:58 AM


    Q: I just got an Ibanez Gio and when I tune it down to drop b, it doesn’t stay in tune. I don’t know if its the neck or the whammy bar part.

    A: There are several factors here. B is a low tuning. You may need a baritone guitar to get your intonation correct on the neck. If it is a 7 string, you should be fine. Take your guitar into a shop and have it set up properly. Trem bridges are difficult to learn to reset. That being said, you may need more string tension in back if the bridge is popping up too far. Different gauge strings and tunings require different amounts of tension. The trick is to figure out how much you need. Get it in tune without locking the nut down. Once you get the bridge “set” then lock it down and you will be good. Also make sure you use a good gauge string. In B you probably want a 56-12 gauge set or thicker depending on preference.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:04 AM

    Playing with soul

    Q: I was wondering how to add soul to playing, and how to play with felling?

    A: When you play/write music, try not to “think.” I find that really helps. A lot of technical players over think everything. Music is about fun and emotion, not about scales and theory.

    • Joel Wanasek
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    • 06/7/11 6:07 AM

    Help with the modes

    Q: Please suggest some simple way to remember the modes on any scale. Does it apply only to major scale or ALL scales?

    A: Simple, if you know the major scale, then you know all the modes. They are just a major scale starting on a different note. Approach it like that. Way less stuff to remember!

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:09 AM

    Regarding rhythm guitar domination

    Q: Hi Joel
    This is in regard to your article on mastering rhythm guitar.

    Instead of using ONLY down strokes to play every note in the first riff you have given in part 1 of your article

    Why not play the notes 2,3 5 with an upstroke, and the rest open notes and pedal notes with down stroke? I find that to be easier :-)

    A: Then pick it like that if it works for you. Down picking usually sounds better though! More/fatter attack.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:10 AM

    Hand Pain/Soreness.Tiredness

    Q: Great work on the site, keep up the great work. I have a question that 99% of pros avoid answering or beat around the bush when I approach them.

    Hand pains or soreness when practicing a lot. I studied physiology and know that there’s no chance in hell a person can practice for long periods and not experience any type of pains or soreness. It’s just not possible but there are always exceptions. What do you do when you experience this? Most pros tell me the same thing..”stop playing”. they don’t tell me how long to stop for and if it takes 3-5 days sometimes. So that’s my question how long to stop when you get pains and soreness. I progress at satisfactory speed with all (yes, I must be lucky) techniques I practice but the catch is, eventually I get sore and some strains after 5 days or so to the point that the top of my hand over the 3rd and 4th finger feels very fatigued and also my wrist. If I rest for 3-4 days I’m good again but is that normal for most pro guitar players or are they hiding it? I don’t want to rest for more than 1 day or 2 but it’s not enough when I’m really fatigued.

    A: I wish I had the answer for you, but I don’t. Everyone has a different body. You need to honor yours. I have tendinitis myself. A combination of guitar playing and drum editing in the studio (clicking 10,000 key commands a day) for years. It only really bothers me when I play for too long or with too much tension. If it starts flaring up, I back off and play things that don’t irritate it. The most important thing is to not play with tension. That tension accumulates and is at the root of all these things. Tension can be relived with breathing techniques and massaging. Find what works for you, honor your body. We are only human after all, not machines.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:17 AM


    Q: Where should i start to learn the blues on the guitar?

    A: I would start by learning the blues scale, what common chords are used in the blues, and learning tabs of songs you like.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:19 AM


    Q: I’m in a band now and I have to write a song for my band. My band play Death metal. I want to know how to get a creative thing to write my own song and about ear training too. because it’s important for writing song. I can’t hear any note in my head a lot of time. Because of my pitch is bad? Sorry for bad grammar.

    A: The best way to write good riffs for metal songs is just to jam with your guitar. See what you can come up with. Learning to hear music in your head and then transfer it to your instrument takes years to develop. You can practice things like singing a random note and matching it with your guitar. You can play a note in your head and match it on guitar. Exercises like this will help you. You will get better at it as your practice. One day you will be able to write entire songs in your head without a guitar in your hand.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:23 AM


    Q: What are the modes? How it is help in guitar solo? plz send me good reference and lesson to help me improve my guitaring.

    A: Read the music theory master class on this website.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:25 AM

    My mind and training

    Q: Hi, my name is Jędrzej. At first i would say that my English is very bad (I’m from Poland and I don’t like learn English in my school). I would like to ask about playing my own riffs and solo. I want to play my own music and after 2 year of playing I have some problems. That I don’t know much about scales. I play only with my mind and I know now it’s not all what I want. I know how to play hard rock, blues, heavy metal because its easy if you feel it. I would like to play technical metal (death/thrash) what I would to do and what I have to train?

    A: The most important thing is to learn songs in your genre. There are many great tabs on the internet. Learning the style while learning good techniques like alternate picking, sweep picking, etc… will help you learn this style. You should also learn some music theory. There is a great master class on this website that would be a good place to start. I also recommend google. There are many great articles on the internet.

    • Joel Wanasek
    •  | 
    • 06/7/11 6:28 AM