Newsletter Vol. 3 # 40 – March 15, 2007


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #40 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • News and Announcements
  • New Articles and Lessons
  • Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow
  • Random Thoughts

News And Announcements

If I can’t start the newsletter with an apology, how about a cliché? “Beware the Ides of March!” Welcome to the March 15, 2007 edition of Guitar Noise

A funny thing happened to me while trying to get the last newsletter out. Actually, a lot of funny things…

I’m sure you’re all aware that I have to write these newsletters at some point before the date they are sent. Sometimes (like now) a lot closer than I should! But I was attempting to get the March 1 newsletter out by February 25. Why? Because I was leaving that day for a vacation, one that would take me away from the computer for about two weeks.

So I was working on getting the newsletter written, as well as finishing the last Songs for Intermediates lesson, the long awaited piece on Time After Time. Much to my amazement, I did manage to get all my work done on schedule. But that doesn’t mean things went smoothly.

It turned out that Paul had trouble with the music notation file I sent and the Intermediates Song lesson was, for the moment, scrapped. And Paul was good enough to delete the blurb I’d written about it from the March 1 Guitar Noise News.

But I did cite the lesson in other places that weren’t edited, which, understandably, led to all sorts of confusion. So if you were one of the many that couldn’t figure out where the lesson was, don’t panic. It wasn’t there.

As soon as I got back from vacation and began going through my emails, I realized what was up and sent Paul new files. Keep your fingers crossed… We’re hoping to get the lesson up by the time you read this newsletter. And if it’s not, it should be online sometime very soon.

To top it off, we’re still experiencing a lot of difficulties getting some of the MP3 links going, especially two on the Horse With No Name lesson. I can’t thank you enough for your patience with these technical difficulties.

So, bearing in mind that this lesson may not yet exist in cyberspace, let’s take a look at what is (hopefully) new on the Guitar Noise website:

New Articles And Lessons

Time After Time
Songs for Intermediates #20
by David Hodge

There are seemingly limitless ways of playing any one song, so why should someone ever say “I can’t play a song?” Or worse, “I’m waiting for someone to show me how to play a song…” In this lesson, we’ll start out with a simple strumming arrangement, spice things up a bit with arpeggios, and then wind up with an arrangement that’s close to chord melody.

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

Tip: Improvising Better through Composing

I got the following letter not too long ago. Maybe you can identify yourself in here:

Darrin: I can plan out solos just fine but when it comes to improvising I am totally in the dark. What can I do about this?


Hi, D. Thanks for your message. This is a common problem. And it’s great that you can write or plan your solos — which is already something a lot of guitarists have no clue about, but have a great desire to do.

Improvising involves a different but related set of mental muscles from writing out solos. Improvising relies on memory of the right notes to hit, ingrained over thousands of repetitions of practice. But besides playing scales and patterns, writing out solos is excellent preparation for improvising. It gets you thinking of melody, which is what an improvising soloist thinks about.

There are lots of approaches to improvising. Many share some common elements: playing with scales that relate totally or closely to chords. William Leavitt’s Volume III of Modern Method for Guitar has info on scales that relate to chords. Not always easy to digest, but with practice it hits the target.

The basic idea is to play a scale that runs through the chord that’s playing. Simple example: C major scale over a C major chord.

Much of what you’re going to read about chord scale theory is just fine for playing the correct harmony over a chord. But rhythm can really be the key for you. If all you can find is three good notes to solo with, you might sound great if you lay those notes out in rhythmically cool ways. That’s why scatting or singing a rhythm — with no concern for pitch — is a great way to build improv chops.

So, summing it up: study “chord scale” theory. Check out Leavitt, and this is also highly recommended: Laporta’s Guide to Improvisation, published by Berklee. He’ll get you to work out the rhythm thing.

Another resource just jumped into my head, with regard to composing solos: John Abercrombie. Definitely a force in guitar improvisation and teaching the same. I believe he has at least a DVD available.

Above all, stay with it and play *something* over chord changes. Even if you think you suck, at least your ear is sensitive enough to make that determination. And with desire, growing understanding and practice, of course, you will cease to suck.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

Random Thoughts

As noted in the introduction, I’ve been away on vacation the past two weeks and now find myself in the middle of trying to catch up with everything at once. Not to mention looking at my calendar and thinking, “Oh yeah! Newsletter needs to go out tomorrow!” I told you that sometimes I cut things way too close…

So we’re going to be a little short this time out. Hopefully, we’ll make up for it in April and the following months.

And, if all goes according to plan, you’ll see quite a few lessons and articles go up online between now and April first.

Until our next newsletter, play well. Play often. Stay safe.

And, as always,