Newsletter Vol. 3 # 8 – October 15, 2005


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #8 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • News and Announcements
  • New Articles and Lessons
  • Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow
  • Notes From Nick
  • Buried Treasure Of The Internet
  • Forum Findings
  • Email Of The Moment
  • Emails? We Get Emails!
  • Tutorial Tips
  • Digging Through The Archives
  • Reviews
  • Off Site Sightings and Works In Progress
  • Random Thoughts

News And Announcements

It seems that lately I’m starting each issue of Guitar Noise News with an appeal for disaster relief. Our thoughts go out to all the people who were affected by the devastating earthquake in western Asia last week. And again, I ask that our readers do what they can to help. You can still click on the Red Cross banner on our home page.

And while this is not on as big a scale as that, it’s no less important: I’d like to extend a wish for a full and speedy recovery to Shaun, who is the grandson of John, our Forum member who goes by “the Celt.” Shaun, who is seven years old, was hit by a pickup truck while crossing the street. The latest report is very positive and all of us at Guitar Noise want to send Shaun and his entire family our thoughts and prayers. John is kindly keeping us updated in the “News” section of the Forum pages.

Don’t forget our latest CD giveaway: In this month’s contest you can enter to WIN a copy of Sixty Six Steps, the second collaboration between famed guitarist Leo Kottke and Phish bassist Mike Gordon. Contest ends 10/22. GOOD LUCK!

New Articles And Lessons

Plans Are Not Goals
by Tom Hess

Knowing the difference between plans and goals can help you to focus your attention on important matters, and to not waste your time that might be otherwise put to good use. Tom Hess explains the importance of making this distinction and shows how focusing on our goals will make us plan better!

Chord Substitutions
by Tom Serb

At long last, Tom takes the mysteries out of chord substitution, giving you detailed and simple explanations that will make you wonder why you ever worried about it in the first place!

Don’t Panic
Songs for Intermediates #18
by David Hodge

“…We live in a beautiful world…” Yes, we do! Don’t let the “Intermediates” tag discourage you from trying out this cool single-guitar arrangement of the opening song from Coldplay’s Parachutes CD (also featured in the Garden State Soundtrack). It’s not at all hard and you might even learn a few things!

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

This week Darrin gives us Part Five of Scales and Soloing:

We’re exploring what scales to play over dominant 7 chords. Please see archives of this newsletter on Guitar Noise for details.

We’re working with this one-chord progression, which we’ve recorded into Band-in-Box or a tape recorder or something similar:

||: G7 :||

And let’s take look at a single melodic minor pattern to solo with. But before we do that, a bit of explanation on what the melodic minor scale is. Super simple explanation, though a big difference in sound: the melodic minor scale is just a major scale with its major third turned into a minor third. Example:

C Major: C D E F G A B

C Melodic minor: C D Eb F G A B

And here’s a pattern for D melodic minor. Why D melodic minor? Hang tight: play first and we’ll answer questions in a bit.


Get acquainted with this pattern and play it over the G7 chord. If you already know a few major scales, this pattern is real close to one you know: the D major scale. As just mentioned, there’s just one note difference between the major and melodic minor scales.

What did you think of the sound? That gets us into answering the question: why are we using a scale whose root is D to solo over a G7 chord? Is it magic, or are we just playing scales at random?

No, we’re not just choosing any scale. Let’s look at the notes in G7 and those in the D melodic minor scale:

G7: G B D F

D melodic minor (starting with G): G A B C# D E F G.

You see that the D melodic minor scale contains the G7 chord with no conflicts. That is, every note in G7 is found in D melodic minor.

But notice something else: The D melodic minor scale has just one accidental: C#. The whole scale is extremely close to the C major scale — just one note different. This means that if you’re playing a tune that uses the C major scale and come across a G7 chord, you can play the D melodic minor scale instead of the C major scale; you will sound interestingly different, but not so different to where you would consider the sound wrong or ugly.

Next time: another way of using the melodic minor scale to play over a Dom 7 chord.

Thanks for reading.

Forum Findings

I’d like to ask the Guitar Noise community to join me in welcoming Ken, who goes by the name of “Smokingdog,” to the ranks of Guitar Noise Forum Moderators. Ken will be focusing on the “Hear Here” and “Online Gigs and Jams” pages, but it’s a safe bet that you’ll run into him all over the Forum.

So the next time you run into Ken, extend him a note of congratulations and try not to make his life as a Moderator too taxing!

Nick’s gone and changed the “Opinions and Polls” forum to “The Coffee House.” I can’t even write his introduction to the “new” page because it makes me laugh too hard! Let’s just say we’re opening up our discussion board by having a place for non-guitar topics. But, having said that, let’s remember that we’re all on our best behavior. No religion or politics or anything that you wouldn’t say to your best friend at dinner.

As always, I look forward to seeing you all on the boards.

Email Of The Moment


I read with interest your article “A Question of Balance” and I would like to ask you a question.

I have decided, after many years of loving (but not playing) music, that I would like to learn to play a steel guitar of some type. I specify “steel guitar” because I love the sound of these instruments above others; it’s no more complicated than that. This could include dobro, lap steel, or other lap instruments, or a steel guitar held in the traditional upright fashion. I am leaning toward a lap instrument in part because my hands are on the small side and I am not confident of my ability to reach difficult chordal patterns around a wide acoustic neck. The downside I see to the lap instruments is that finding good instructional material or a good instructor may be much more difficult. Still, it is really that “twangy” resonating sound that I love above all, and I sense that my ability to stay with this will ride heavily on my ability to play sounds that I love.

Do you have any advice for me? Specifically, am I putting myself at a terrible disadvantage trying to learn a less standard instrument? Would it be a more promising approach to learn a basic acoustic guitar, even if my ultimate aim is to play a lap resonator?

I appreciate any thoughts you may have time to provide.

Hi and thanks for writing.

If your ultimate aim is to play a lap resonator, there is no reason not to start there. There are good points and some tricky points and I’ll try to cover them as best I can.

First off – getting an instrument. You can play any guitar on your lap. Obviously, you won’t get the twangy sound you crave (or any twangy sound at all!) from a classical guitar. Acoustics and electrics will provide you with some, depending on the other equipment you use (type of slide, fingertips, etc.,). But a resonator guitar is probably the best way to go.

Having said that, though, remember that there are many out there of varying degree of quality and price. If you’re not sure you are confident you’ll be playing, you might find it smarter to get a cheap one (or even a cheap acoustic) and learn on that before investing in a more expensive instrument. But a cheap instrument can often turn off a player with its sound. If you go that route you have to keep in your mind that it’s just the first (of many) steps in your progress toward being a lap resonator player.

Personally, I would even though lap steels are the cheapest way to go, I’d start out with a Dobro or resonator style guitar. Mostly because, as an acoustic instrument, you won’t have to worry about amplification and you can also learn the basics from most guitar books, since you essentially are starting with a guitar. Lap style is usually done on a square neck. Having a round neck Dobro or resonator style guitar allows you to play both ways – lap and “regular.” They even make little devices now that you can fit over the nut of your guitar to raise the action so that playing lap style is an easy option.

Learning the basics of guitar will give you a good foundation to be a good lap player. Don’t worry about small hands as, for the most part, it affects such a small percentage of the population when it comes to playing guitar that you’d be surprised. The “Myth of Small Hands” (or “Big Hands” or “Clumsy Hands” or whatever you want to put in there) is very much a myth. Don’t let it stop you.

Getting a Dobro teacher won’t be easy, but starting with a teacher who can help you with the basics, particularly with chord shapes and tunings, would be very beneficial. There are lots of “specialty” books and CDs and DVDs and videos on Dobro and lap steel available (particularly check out those offered by Homespun Tapes), but the more you know of the basics of the guitar, the easier it will be to make use of those.

The bottom line is that if this is what you want to do, you either should do it or take steps so that you’ll be doing it quickly. Also try not to get caught up in the “it’s not a Dobro song” line of thinking. You want to think of playing anything and everything, from blues to country to whatever your imagination tells you can work. That way you won’t think of yourself as playing a “limited” instrument. For example, a lot of Celtic pieces or other songs that are done with open and other tunings sound great on a resonator.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to write with more questions and also remember that you can post on our (relatively new) Slide and Open Tunings Forum page. There’s a lot of people there who would be more than glad to help you out.


Emails? We Get Emails!

Hello David

I am forty-seven years old, my nationality is Scottish, but I live in England.

I just wanted to write a thank you letter to you.

A year ago, I decided to take a year off work (I needed to take a year off work). I decided to put my mind to achieving some things I wanted to in life.

I bought myself an Acoustic guitar and set about learning chords.The early months were extremely difficult, as I wanted to get a good foundation so I focused on the basics of building chords and finger movement.

I then looked for websites where I could start to pay some basic stuff. I found “Guitar Noise” and I have not looked back.

I progressed through lots of your “beginner” songs and found myself steadily progressing and enjoying the journey.

I have an apartment in Spain, which I visit as much as possible. One month ago, I decided to take the plunge and try to learn my first “intermediate” song. As David Gray is one of my favourite singer/songwriters, I took your tabs for Babylon to Spain with me to learn the song. I persevered, sitting on a sun terrace getting to grips with the song. I learned it completely after a week of perseverance. I have now progressed to play this better and better.

I then got to grips with Losing My Religion, which again, practice has made me able to play this better and better.

In short, the amount of pleasure I derive from playing and learning and continually progressing is immeasurable. I wish I had taken this instrument up years ago.

I just wanted to take the time to write a thank you note to you as it is your song lessons that have taken me on my musical pleasure and learning journey.

Thank you

Kindest Regards

Thank you for writing and for your kind words. If you’ve hung out at our Forums for any length of time, you probably know that many of our members started their guitar journeys this very same way. Welcome and I hope that you enjoy the experience. As I’ve mentioned many times, I can’t think of a much more pleasant way to spend the rest of my own life than to do so learning more and more about playing. And playing!

Tutorial Tips

This note actually came via a PM on the Forum, as opposed to the usual email route:

Hiya David, hope you’re well.

After reading your comments about Coldplay’s album X and Y, I thought I would ask you something. I am trying to figure out Speed of Sound at the moment (track 7 I think) I have a half decent intro, the chords for the verses, etc. But for the life of me, I can’t get a decent strum pattern for the verses. I am looking for something that will keep it driving along. On the CD the drum pretty much does that, but on acoustic it lacks a lot of punch.

Look forward to hearing from you – hope you don’t mind me asking.

Hi and I’m doing fine, thank you very much!

On Speed Of Sound the bass drum and toms are chugging out eighth notes while the snare is accenting the second and fourth beats. So when we play this on the acoustic guitar, we have to provide whatever “punch” there is going to be. We also have to be careful, though. If we’re going to sing and play this at the same time, then we can’t have a pattern that’s so complicated we can’t play and sing at the same time!

So the easiest thing to do, strangely enough, is to simply things so that we get the accents and drive we want while being simple enough to play. The thing is, we also need to be willing to accept that our single-guitar strum is not necessarily going to sound like the original recording. But we should be able to play it along with the original recording and feel that it’s part of the song.

And that’s where we start. I tried a couple of ideas out, but this is the one I like the best (so far, anyway), and remember that each beat is two eighth notes:

  • Beat one – Downstroke on full chord, no upstroke
  • Beat two – Percussive downstroke followed by upstroke on chord
  • Beat three – Downstroke on full chord, upstroke on chord
  • Beat four – Percussive downstroke followed by upstroke on chord

Now there are lots of other possibilities. Personally, I think that making beats three and four a pattern of crosspicking notes gives even more drive to the song while still making it kind of airy. And it also allows you to play the single notes of the Intro, which also happens between the verses, with a little more ease.

Hope this helps.


Digging Through The Archives

In case you didn’t know, each author bio (that box close to the top of any article on the right hand side) will connect you with the “author page” of the writer in question. For instance, let’s say that you wanted to read more of Tom Serb’s pieces, then you could find all of the ones he’s had here at Guitar Noise at this URL.

And if you’re interested in more of Tom Hess’s work, just go here.

It’s a pretty cool way to catch up on the articles of a writer you like!


Hess: Opus 2
CD Review by David Hodge

Opus 2, by Tom Hess’s band, HESS, is quite an achievement – technically intense guitar interplay, challenging rhythms and tempos and a lot of pure emotion.

Chris Kalkbrenner and Tom Hess: Rock Tracks Volume 1

Rock Tracks Volume 1 is a CD of 11 “songs” to jam with. The music is wonderfully produced and each title gives you the key so you can know how to go about soloing. The inner notes also include scale suggestions for soloing.

Off Site Sightings And Works In Progress

You can find Guitar Noise folks at other places besides Guitar Noise! I’ll try to keep you updated about the things that I and other staff members are working on in this section.

The Winter 2005 issue of Play Guitar! Magazine should hit the newsstands sometime in the next two weeks. Besides having song transcriptions of I Walk The Line.

As I mentioned in our last newsletter, I am in the process of writing a piece for their “Spring 2006” issue (where does the time go?) about coming up with “second guitar parts,” focusing mainly on the use of arpeggios and different chord voicing as a way to play guitar with other guitarists. This last lesson will include examples that can be used in the songs Sounds of Silence and Wake Me Up When September Ends, both of which will be transcribed for this issue.

Random Thoughts

This time of year, (okay, it’s a little early, but there’s a reason…) we tend to look forward to the holidays. Usually in December, we put up a sort of “Guitar Noise Fundraiser,” taking down all the ads and giving our readers a chance to send some money to Paul in order to help with the upkeep of this site.

This year, perhaps because of all the natural (and other personal) disasters that have happened, maybe it’s because of age and wisdom, but we’d like to try something very different.

Some years ago (quite some years ago now, actually), one of my good friends told me she didn’t want to get Christmas gifts anymore. So she asked me, and all of her friends and family, to take the money we would have spent on a gift for her and to give it to a charity. Any charity. And so we have been doing for some time now.

It seemed such a simple and wonderful thing to do that I started asking other friends of mine to do the same. It’s actually a lot of fun because finding a charity to match a particular friend can almost be as much of a hunt as finding a Christmas present. For example, I have one friend who’s very much into cats, so last year I gave money to a local pet adoption agency in her name. For a friend who is in the construction business, I donated to Habitat For Humanity.

Throughout 2005, we at Guitar Noise have been promoting “Playing With Others.” I can think of no better way to end the year than to give of ourselves what, and where, we can.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that giving is something only certain kinds of people can do. There are more ways to give than there are reasons and excuses not to.

Those of you who are old enough (and healthy enough) can donate blood. In virtually every city around the globe, there is a serious shortage of this precious commodity. A half hour of your time and a pint of your blood could help save someone’s life.

With winter coming on in the Northern Hemisphere, there is also no shortage of people needing basic necessities simply to get by. Old clothes, especially winter jackets and hats, non-perishable food items, even books and toys for children – all would be truly appreciated by someone.

If you’re at the music store and there’s a two-for-one sale on guitar strings (and you were going to buy some anyway, weren’t you?), give the extra set to a music school or some kid you know that could use them.

You can even use your talents and sing for shut-ins or folks at hospitals.

For those of you who prefer the old-fashioned give to charity approach, pick one you know and like. We’ll be posting some worthwhile institutions, like the Red Cross, here at Guitar Noise for your consideration. And if you feel weird about making the fuss about a donation, then donate in our name. Nothing would do your community prouder.

And remember there are all sorts of charities. In September, I had the honor of participating in a fundraising concert for a local medical center, which provides free health services to those who have no insurance. If you think about it, how many musicians do you know with insurance?

As I mentioned, maybe it’s because we started the year with a tsunami, maybe it’s because of all the hurricanes, or maybe it’s because it’s impossible to live in this world without knowing that everything could disappear in a heartbeat – whatever reason works for you, pick one.

And, as a personal favor for me, do it because you want to. Not just because it’s a good thing to do. If you do it because you want to, you will also get the benefit of the gift. Because, as anyone knows, a true gift gives both ways – both the giver and the recipient benefit from the act of giving.

I also mentioned earlier that we’re starting on this kick a bit early this year. That is because, for the next two months anyway, I am going to be handing over the reins of the newsletter to Mister Mojo himself, Nick Torres. November and December will be filled with writing (and recording) deadlines for The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Bass Guitar and I simply can’t handle all that plus the newsletter. So, thankfully, Nick has graciously accepted the challenge of putting together the last four issues of Guitar Noise News for 2005.

That’s quite a gift he’s given me!

I’ll still be around and handling the editing and a bunch of other stuff, but the next time I see you here will be on New Year’s Day 2006. That seems so strange…

Until then, please stay safe and play well. Have the greatest holiday season and don’t be afraid to give of yourselves. It’s amazing how you always get back more!

And, as always,