Newsletter Vol. 4 # 27 – May 15, 2012


Welcome to Volume 4, Issue #27 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • Greetings, News and Announcements
  • Guitar Noise Featured Artist
  • Topic of the Month
  • New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff
  • Great Advice from Great Teachers
  • Random Thoughts

Greetings, News and Announcements

Hello! And welcome to the May 15, 2012 edition of Guitar Noise News, your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise.

In case you missed the announcement in our last newsletter, we’ve got another one of our old song lessons back up online. This month we are welcoming the return of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” This particular arrangement uses both fingerpicking and strumming and is a lot of fun to play! We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

Guitar Noise Featured Artist

For obvious reasons, our Guitar Noise “Featured Artist of the Month” usually is a guitarist. This time out, though, we’re putting the spotlight on a man who did a lot of drumming. And a lot of listening and tinkering. He may not have been known as a guitarist, but Jim Marshall has probably done more for rock guitarists and bassists than just about anyone! You can read about “The Father of Loud” in the latest bio on the Guitar Noise Profile Page.

Topic of the Month

Having Jim Marshall as our May Featured Artist naturally led to us choosing “Performing and Playing Guitar Live” as our new Guitar Noise Topic of the Month. You can find many great lessons on this topic here at Guitar Noise by popping over to our homepage and clicking on the “Topic of the Month” link up at the top of the page, just below the blue banner.

New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff

Counterpoint – Part 1 and 2
by Tom Serb

Counterpoint is a style of music where you have multiple instruments doing different things at the same time, adding up to something bigger than its parts.Tom Serb explains the intricacies in this new series:

How To Make A Lot Of Money In The Music Business
by Tom Hess

To make money in the music business, you have to think about music as a business. Tom Hess provides you with insights on how to start making your musical monetary goals come true.

The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need – Part 3
by Jim Bowley

Learn how to harmonize the major scale and create diatonic chords in the final part of Jim Bowley’s trilogy, “The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need.”

Ukuleles – Separating Instruments From Ornaments and Toys
by David Hodge

If you’re going to take up the ukulele, be sure to get an instrument and not a toy! Here are some tips on finding your first uke.

Great Advice From Great Teachers

Making Dynamic Changes in Volume

The art of communication or expression often lies in the little touches. In conversation, whether a friend or a stranger, your voice is alive. It may be loud and laughing one moment and hushed and secretive the next. Your volume and tone helps give weight to your words. The same idea applies in music. Think about the intense changes of emotion that occur in a song like My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade,” as it morphs from a classical lullaby to a thrashing rocker in the blink of an eye. Or how Eric Clapton’s quiet acoustic arrangement of “Layla” (from the “Unplugged” album) brings an entirely different intensity than the original (and no less powerful) electric version.

As a musician, your guitar is your voice and it’s capable of a wide range of emotions. Adding dynamics, such as a simple change of volume, is an incredibly easy way to impress listeners with your song arrangements! Let’s examine some very simple ways to bring dynamics to your playing…

Vary Your Volume

The easiest way to get started on dynamics is to play a song using different volume levels at specific parts of the song. You can be quiet on the verses and loud on the chorus. Or play loud on the verses and louder on the chorus. If your song has a “bridge” section, that might be a good place to vary the volume, perhaps getting really soft at this point before returning to the normal volume level for the rest of the song. One time-honored approach is to get really quiet on the last verse of a song and then coming in as loud as possible for the final chorus. Another idea would be to repeat the chorus (or even the last line of the song) a final time at a very soft volume.

For practice purposes, take a song you know well and work out three different arrangements. Try to use the song itself give you clues as to where to raise and lower the volume. If you begin with a bang, find a logical spot to bring things to a more intimate tone. If you start out softly try out different louder volumes. Be sure to experiment with different levels of loudness and not just settle for one setting of “loud” and one of “quiet.”

Simplify (or Complicate) Your Strumming

Another way to create a change in dynamics is to alter your strumming of the guitar, changing from your basic rhythm pattern to something else. This technique is both easy and a lot of fun.

For example, suppose for the most part of a song (in 4/4 timing) you’re playing a rhythm of first a quarter note and then two eighth notes each on the second and third beat, leaving the fourth beat open as a rest. This sort of strum establishes a driving rhythm that you can play at a good volume. Try breaking it up at various points with a measure consisting of a short eighth note followed (after an eighth rest) by a half note and is played much quieter.

Or you could go in a different direction and offset that first measure with a measure that is all sixteenth notes or just sixteenth notes on the first and fourth beats. That will change the dynamic intensity!

You can also vary your volume from beat to beat, creating crescendos and descrescendos within a single measure. Anything’s possible when you put your mind and energies into it.

Switch to Arpeggios

Besides altering your strumming of chords, you can switch from strumming full chords to playing arpeggios and pieces of chords (one or two strings) to create a change of dynamics. Think about “Ticket To Ride” by the Beatles. The verses have a simple arpeggio pattern that hooks you in and the chorus uses a full chord strumming attack to bring the emotion a step higher.

Sounds of Silence

There is one last incredibly easy and remarkably effective dynamic technique: total silence. This can be just the instruments or both instruments and vocals. Think about the Who’s version of “Summertime Blues” where the whole band drops out on the last line of each verse, leaving the vocals to stand on their own before all the instruments come storming back. The silence makes the band’s reentry more powerful.

As you’ve hopefully discovered in this brief discussion, creating dynamics through varying your volume is pretty easy to do. Be sure to go through your personal repertoire of songs to see where you can make some arresting and intense changes in your arrangements. People will soon be complimenting you on your ability to express yourself through your music.

Random Thoughts

It’s Sunday as I write this, Mothers’ Day here in the United States and Canada and other countries as well. Yes, it’s one of the easy-to-laugh-at holidays but at its heart, like most observances (shall we say instead?) the sentiment behind it might be one we should think about more often than on a once-a-year basis.

As a teacher, and as a human being, I am totally in awe of parents. Whether mothers or fathers, they are braver than I will ever be. Creating a life and then, much more importantly, helping to shape it in such a way that it can both stand on its own and yet be a contributing part of the community – that takes something special.

Many of my good friends are parents. Some of them purposefully put their music aside as part of parenting, thinking that perhaps there wasn’t enough time for both. Others included making music as part of their parenting, giving their children firsthand experience of the joy of creating and sharing songs with others.

I know musical parents whose children don’t play or listen to music that much at all. Likewise, I know parents who are not in the least bit musical but who have children who live for making music. There doesn’t always seem to be a rhyme or reason to who has the talent and who develops it later.

Maybe it’s simplistic on my part (and you can cite my not being a parent as part of my reasoning) but it seems that parenting is a huge lifelong relationship that is all about balance and harmony, whether because both are there or because both or one is lacking. A parent is a guide through life and there are an infinite number of fine lines between leading and coaxing, demonstrating and allowing for exploration, sharing and dictating. And, perhaps the toughest part of it all, as with almost all relationships, one never truly knows how one is doing. At least when one wants to know!

So to all the mothers out there, not to mention all the fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and what have you – I wish you patience. And balance. And harmony. Whether you’ve been a parent seemingly all your life or have just started out on this incredibly wild trip.

Until our next newsletter, play well and play often. And listen to any music that comes your way.

And, as always,