Newsletter Vol. 4 # 9 – August 15, 2011


Welcome to Volume 4, Issue #9 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
  • Events Horizon
  • Random Thoughts

Greetings, News and Announcements

Don’t look now, but summer (or winter, if you’re south of the border) is rapidly drawing to a close. In just over a month we’ll be celebrating the start of autumn or spring, depending on where you happen to live. In other words, “Hello and welcome to the August 15 edition of Guitar Noise News (your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise)!” Where does the time go?

And speaking about not knowing where the time has flown off to, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Songwriting is now out at bookstores, both online and in the physical world.As mentioned in the last newsletter, this is the first book I’ve co-written, working with Nashville based songwriter, Casey Kelly. Any of you who’ve seen George Strait in concert will be familiar with Casey as his song, “The Cowboy Rides Away,” is usually George’s closing number. Casey has also written hit songs for Kenny Rogers and Dottie West and Tanya Tucker, among many others and he’s also been nominated for Grammy Awards.

We put in a lot of time and effort into this songwriting tutorial and I hope that those of you who might happen to buy it find it worth you while. As always, you can email me with any questions you may have about the book at

Guitar Noise Featured Artist

Guitar Noise’s Featured Artist for the month of July is Jeff Healey, a remarkable blues-rock artist whose unique style of playing the guitar flat across his lap won him many admirers. Read all about him on the Guitar Noise Profile Page.

Topic of the Month

A lot of people pick up the guitar in order to play and sing songs with other people. Singing is something that anyone can learn to do. Much like learning guitar, it’s a physical activity that you can improve with the right practice.

And there are many articles and lessons here at Guitar Noise to help you get started on singing. These lessons look at singing and playing guitar at the same time. Not only is this something you can do, but with proper practice, you can even learn to do it quite well.

Visit the Guitar Noise home page and check out all the lessons and articles you’ll find about singing (both while playing the guitar and without) by clicking on the latest “Topic of the Month” up at the top of the middle of the home page, just below the blue banner.

New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff

The Fabulous Flea Market Band Live at the Black Cat
by Nick Torres

Nick Torres reviews Oslo’s The Fabulous Flea Market Band at their August 9 show at the Black Cat in Washington, DC. See GN member Lars Kolberg play trombone!

What’s In A Word
(or “Repetition Bears Repeating”)
by David Hodge

One easy way to improve as a guitarist and musician is to simply change your approach to practicing. Here’s the first step to avoid avoiding practice!

Great Advice From Great Teachers

In this issue of Guitar Noise News, we conclude Tom Serb’s multi-part series on “Speed Secrets:”

Speed Secrets – Part 5

Now that we’ve covered all the basics of speed playing, there are a few practice strategies that I’ve found useful over the years.

First, you’ll need to practice with a metronome. A metronome is a great way to measure your progress, and it helps keep your rhythm honest – you don’t want to become sloppy as the speed increases.

A metronome is useful for two types of drills. The first, which I call ‘laddering’ involves playing with a metronome at a given speed until you can play a drill perfectly. At that point, you’ll increase the speed of the metronome clicks, and start over again. Metronomes come in two basic flavors: mechanical and digital. Mechanical metronomes are basically clocks with a sliding weight that allows you to adjust the speed of the ‘click’ it produces; they typically have divisions ranging from 40bpm (beats per minute) to 208bpm. Digital metronomes, which are available as stand-alone battery or electric units, and as software for computers or iPhones. They can have various whistles and bells – literally. I’ve got one that rings a bell for beat one, and clicks on the other beats in various time signatures. Some will give you other sounds for divisions or subdivisions of a beat, and some will give you the option of a flashing light to accompany the click.

In a laddering drill, you might practice at 60bpm until you have a pattern down solidly, then move to 63, 66, 69, 72, 80, and so on. When you reach the top end of the metronome’s range, just cut the time in half and use subdivisions – eighth notes at 208 are the same speed as 16th notes at 104, so you can start there and move up to 108 and keep building your speed.

The other type of drill is one I call “leaping.” This will build your speed faster than laddering, but there’s a downside: because it forces your speed along, it also risks introducing sloppy behavior. I’d advise doing this leaping strategy only periodically – twice a week at most; the rest of your speed drills should be done with laddering, where you can focus better on your technique.

In a leaping drill, you start by playing at a speed you’re comfortable with. Then adjust the metronome to TWICE that speed and try it again. You won’t be able to keep up. Do your best with it, but just do it ONCE. Then set the metronome to slightly faster than your starting speed – if you started at 80bpm, try it at 84. You might find that you can now play it – in contrast to the frantic pace you were just trying to play, 84 seems a lot slower, even if 80 was your best effort to date. If you can play it properly at 84, leap up to 160 again and try it ONCE. Then try it at 88 – if you succeed, keep repeating until you find the speed where you fall apart.

If you make a mistake at the slower speed, stop! You don’t want to be practicing your mistakes and making them habits! Instead, go back to your original speed (80bpm in this example) and start over.

Finally, keep a log of your progress. Jot down the exercises you did, and the speeds you’ve achieved. That will give you a record of your achievements, and that can help you keep at it when you hit the inevitable plateaus.

Events Horizon

Australian band, The Wishing Well wraps up the month of August with a number of gigs in Scotland before crossing the Atlantic for their first shows in the United States. They’ll be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing at Bannerman’s (212 Cowgate in Edinburgh) on Wednesday, August 24, starting at 9 PM. The next night, Thursday, August 24, you can catch them at Hootananny’s, located at 67 Church Street in Inverness. That’s another 9 o’clock show. And they’ll be in Glasgow on Sunday, August 26, playing at the Clutha Vaults on Stockwell Street.

Tom McLaughlin and Life is drama have got two shows this upcoming weekend.This Friday, August 19, they’ll be at Sullivan’s Irish Pub & Eatery (4660 W 147th Street in Midlothian, llinois, between Knox Ave & Kilpatrick Ave.). They’ll play from 10:00pm-1:30am.

And then on Saturday, August 20, catch them at Boobens Bar & Grill (109 East Chippewa Street, Dwight, Illinois). Tom and Life Is Drama play here on a two- month rotation so if you can’t make it this time, try to see them when they come back in October!

And Lee Hodge and Doesn’t Madder have two shows to close out the last weekend of August. On Frday, August 26, they be at Mayo’s Restaurant, located at 321 North Center Street in Statesville, North Carolina from 8:30 until midnight. The next evening, Saturday, August 27, you can hear them at Horsefeathers Roadhouse (3746 Mt. Pleasant Road in Sherrills Ford, NC) from 8:30 to 12:30.

Random Thoughts

Until our next newsletter, play well and play often. And for those of you going out and about, my best wishes for safe travel.

And, as always,