Sunday, 30 April 2017

Guitar Solo Tips

Even though most modern guitar solos are typically just simple contextual musical interludes with little relation to the classic masterpieces of the past, there are still some basic principles to follow when soling in todays pop and rock tunes.

I will break things down to 3 basic elements in your soloing to think about as you record or perform some lead guitar.


 Let a simple 3 or 4 note melody or motif be a good starting point 
to your solo. It can be something inspired by the song's melody or just
a line that adds to the existing material in the parts of the song.


Try to follow some of the outlines of the chord tones
throughout your soloing. Sometimes it's just a targeting the
first or last chord of the progression and highlighting those notes
to create resolution and musical poetry.


One can really tie things together with classic blues
and pentatonic runs. They seem to fit in almost any occasion
and give soling that classic element that everyone knows
and loves about the guitar. 

Put these three elements together next time you get to solo, and you will be pleased at the outcome. You'll have to work a bit to become quick at hearing and making melodies, know the locations of some basic triad (chords) shapes, and memorise some classic bluesy runs to begin playing like a pro.


Friday, 14 April 2017

Guitar and Technology

I think I could walk into any music shop anywhere and with a guitar off the rack,
 a couple of basic pedals and an amp I could sound just like me. There's no devices, customized or otherwise, that give me my sound. David Gilmour

Personally, I don't know too many guitar players that could make this claim in the present age. Technology offers an endless horizon of options for guitarist and we spend a great deal of time and money in a never ending cycle of developing our sound through a revolving door of guitars, amp, and pedals. 

While many of our guitar heroes had their own historic tone journeys, they all seemed to stumble onto a path of realisation that their fingers held the secret to their success and to their uniqueness in the world of guitar and music.

In a world of a somewhat unlimited technology boom, test your mettle by regularly plugging straight into an amp and using your fingers to create multiple tone options and dynamics. Play a gig with little or no effects and you'll see that it challenges you to problem solve the role(s) of the guitar in a music context without artificial ambience, texture and dynamics. 

In a world of all these endless choices I still play a '62 reissue strat through a plexi-style amp and I never tire of the sound. Just some thoughts to wrestle with the next time you go to the music shop. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

More Thoughts on Speaker Simulators and Impulse Responses

I just flew to and from the Breakforth Conference in Edmonton. I was performing at the Canadian Gospel Music Awards show and doing 3 guitar clinics the following days at the conference. On top of the regular plane fare there was a baggage fee added for each additional piece of luggage beyond my carry-ons. To take both an acoustic and an electric guitar cost me about $135. I don't know what an amp would cost but the extra cost is surely a deterrent for the near-present and the future flights I take with my guitar gear.

A little while back I did a conference in Downtown Vancouver with an in-ear monitoring system for stage and a request to play without amps on stage. I ended up taking a couple of guitars, my pedalboard and a speaker simulator. I could pack my entire rig in in one trip.

These types of scenarios are becoming commonplace at least in the circles that I work in. The footprint of what I need to play a show seems to be growing smaller. The question for me seems to be; 'how do I build my setup to get great tone, versatility,  quick setup and tear-down, but also have the tools I need to fit in one gigbag and a small padded case?'.

The answer for me, is to have one great guitar and about 7 or 8 boutique pedals, chosen with great care and able to fit on a tiny pedalboard, both small enough to be carryons on a plane.

It does seem to take a bit of the fun out of what guitar playing and collecting gear is all about but I prefer it now for most of the gigs I do. Once in a while I will arrive at a gig and there will be stereo Fender Deluxe's, a Blues Deville or a Vox AC30 waiting for me onstage and I do get excited to crank up a bit. I will give you some more particulars in the future of the ins and outs of using a small system.

Below is the Tech21 Flyrig. What a cool idea this is. It has everything you would need for a basic gig and you could fit it in your gig bag. They have a few different styles to choose from. Wow!

The new addition to my pedalboard will be the Radial JDX Direct-Drive speaker simulator/di combo pedal. It sounds fantastic and it will lighten my load, while sacrificing nothing in my tone, expression, and the versatility I need for the type of gigs I'm doing. Check it out at:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Speaker Simulator Options for Guitarists

Along with my busy guitar lesson studio, I am a fairly busy schedule as a professional session and live player. I used to have a big rack system with preamps, power amps, rack-effects and cabs, with flight cases and the sore back that went along with the whole rig.

For the last 5 years I have worked in all the same situations without the amp, rack and cabs. My rig consists of a pedalboard that can fit into a common briefcase; along with a speaker simulator and some in-ear monitors. I can pack my entire rig into a gig in one easy trip.

The positives of the setup are easy to see and feel: less stuff to pack; less stuff to maintain; less stuff to go wrong; less volume to contend with; less setup time; and certainly more flexibility in each different room situation.

I am not opposed to having amps and cabs; rather I'm choosing a strategy that makes sense given the musical situations I am generally playing in.

Here are some excellent options if you want to try gigging without a traditional guitar amp setup. Just put some pedals or a pedal preamp infront of one of these speaker simulators and you'll be surprised at how good the sound is through studio speakers, a PA or in-ear monitors.

Neunaber Iconoclast

BluGuitar Blubox

Lodigy EPSi

Digitech CabDryVR

Yes. Nothing else can completely replace a great tube amp cranked up, but
as a second backup rig, or flyrig, or just a lightweight alternative to the big amp
that you can't turn up anyway (because the room is too small); these small
cab simulators really do deliver a realistic tone and feel that can
even fool experienced guitarists in the audience.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

FACETIME LESSONS starting in 2017

Hey all Grove Guitar Friends:

In all my years of teaching students from around the globe that study at
Trinity Western University (located in Vancouver, Canada), I can now reach
 out to them and others through FACETIME or SKYPE technology. In 2017 I will be adding this opportunity for my expertise to be open to students all around the world. 

It's quite simple to use and in our busy lives and seemingly ever shrinking world 
it's a wonderful opportunity for me and students of the guitar that either know of me through the university or through live and session work that I have done. 

For information on lessons contact:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Rockband Class at Fort Langley Guitar Lessons+

I am starting a Rockband Class in the Fall 2016 for guitar and bass students in my studio here in 
Fort Langley. It will be a weekly one hour class in forming a Rockband and rehearsing and performing in that context. With the lack of opportunities for kids and adults to play and perform 
this will be a great class to be involved in and a good test to see if you have the knack for performance and working with other musicians in a band. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Use a Metronome.

I have spent at least a few thousands of hours playing and practicing with a metronome in my life as a guitar player. The benefits are nothing short of staggering and I would recommend it to any and all that play guitar and want to improve.

Music can be simply defined as 'notes in time' and that definition should compel me as a musician to take the 'time' part of the equation seriously. I remember a very famous respected studio musician saying that "notes are secondary", and that, from a modern perspective gives 'time' a little more weight and importance than 'notes'.

Using a metronome can be challenging at the start. To have a tempo or beat clicking in your ears as you play will take some time to get used to. Start off with simply hitting one note per metronome beat as you ascend through a simple pentatonic scale and then you can graduate to two, three or four notes per metronome beast in the future.

I use the metronome to practice scales, chord rhythm, song parts, and to develop speed and good phrasing in melodies and guitar runs. I usually practice with slower speed settings so my playing remains flawless but some guitarist really push the tempo to play as fast as they can for the purposes of their style of music.

If you buying a metronome, find one that has a pleasing sound that you will be able to listen to for hour without irritation or ear fatigue. I like small metronomes that can travel with me easily and that have the tone of a woodblock.

If you get to the place where you're playing music professionally, there is no way to avoid playing to some kind of metronome, so follow Vinnie's advice below.

Vinnie Colaiuta (drummer - Sting)