Newsletter Vol. 3 # 84 – February 15, 2009


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #84 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • Greetings, News and Announcements
  • Topic of the Month
  • New Lessons and Articles
  • Coming Attractions
  • Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow
  • Email? We Get Emails!
  • Tutorial Tip
  • Random Thoughts

Greetings, News and Announcements


Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Actually, today, that is the day I’m writing and putting together all the items for this issue of Guitar Noise News, is Valentine’s Day. February is half-over and it’s hard to remember that, as much as I might like, spring is not quite around the corner. There’s still most of March to enjoy before the Vernal Equinox does arrive.

Two things I’m trying to get a lot better at this year are keeping up with my email correspondence and being better at juggling all the different tasks that seem to need to get done. I’m currently closing in on being less than two weeks behind with the email, and that in itself is quite the accomplishment!

For whatever reason, it seems the busier I am, the more I actually get accomplished. Not really sure why that works, and it’s certainly not always pretty (as those of you who found MP3 files for my Dust in the Wind lesson in the new Hey There Delilah lesson at Guitar Noise can attest!), but it seems to work.

So when Ava, the coordinator of the Community Blog at Jemsite recently asked if I might write a short piece for them, I said sure! And though it took me longer than planned, I did manage to put together Two Tenets to Live By, a short musing on the importance of going out to listen to music as well as the importance of playing with others whenever you can.

The Community Blog at Jemsite is a very cool place, full of lots of short pieces by quite a number of writers, from guitar teachers to performing musicians to everyday guitar enthusiasts. The rest of Jemsite is worth the visit, too.

And writing up a quick piece for them has gotten me going on a lot more here, as you’ll be pleased to see in the remaining two weeks of February. Not to mention through March and April as well. So let’s get going on the latest here at Guitar Noise. But first, a quick visit to:

Topic of the Month

In case you’ve not been on the Guitar Noise home page of late. And in case you’ve managed to miss the notices here in our newsletter, 2009 saw the return of this timeless Guitar Noise feature. If you happen to visit the Home Page of Guitar Noise, you will notice, up on the left hand side, close to the top, a list of lessons under the header, “Practicing,” which is the “Topic of the Month” for February.

Under the “Practicing” header, you’ll find links to some of the many wonderful articles and lessons we have here at Guitar Noise about practicing, written by a wide range of contributing authors. You’re bound to find a lot of interesting and educational material.

In keeping with our theme, Darrin has the second on his series dealing with the practicing of modes and I’m adding an old-but-still-useful Tutorial Tip that I first published in Play Guitar Magazine, back when that magazine was still around…

And if you’ve any requests for future “Topics of the Month,” feel free to drop me an email about it. My Internet address, as I’m sure you know, is [email protected] and please try to put “Topic of the Month” in the subject line of your email.

And now let’s take a look at what’s new since the first of February here at Guitar Noise:

New Lessons and Articles

Funky Monkey Blues
by Peter Simms

Here’s a catchy little number written for you especially by Peter Simms, integrating a funky rhythm with some tasty blues lines.

Hey There Delilah
Easy Songs for Beginners Lesson #37

by David Hodge

Here’s a great example of how a simple pop song can help you to build up some solid technique in using partial chords, playing with finger-style or pick, and making some interesting chord changes on the fly. And to top it off, it’s even got some very easy (and short!) walking bass lines. Not to mention it’s a great work out for your basic rhythm…

Coming Attractions

I can’t promise you what order these will eventually come out in, but here’s the current “short list” of upcoming lessons I’m in the process of finishing up for Guitar Noise:

Easy Songs for Beginners: Play With Fire, Comfortably Numb, Sweet Home Alabama, Ziggy Stardust

Songs for Intermediates: Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, If I Had A Boat, Homeward Bound, Hello In There

Plus more on the “Turning Scales into Solos” and “Beyond Up and Down” series as well as a return of our “Chord Melody Song Arrangements,” which will deal with pop and rock songs, like Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as well as many others.

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

Tip for February 15 – Practicing Modes (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of articles on modes. Specifically, we’re building exercises that focus on getting the Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Phyrgian sounds into our ear and under our fingers.

We worked out C Ionian sounds last time, via chords in the fifth position. Let’s keep with the harmonic theme by presenting some C Io arpeggios this time out. Here’s C major 7, position V.


Let’s do C pentatonic and C6 while we’re at it.


All these sounds convey C Ionian.

Here are some ideas for mixing up this routine once you get the patterns down: descend from string 1 to 6 6 on C major 7, then come back to string 1 through C pentatonic. Or descend on C6 and ascend on C major 7. Mix it up. The goal is to convey the same C ionian or C Major sound in different ways.

Next time, maybe some scalework.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2009 Darrin Koltow

Emails? We Get Emails


As an ancient (late 50s) novice guitar player from across the pond in England I must compliment you on the quality of your lessons in the Guitar Noise web site. They are without a doubt the best around, and through them, my playing has improved considerably. Please keep up the good work.

Also, how about doing the James Taylor version of “You’ve Got a Friend?”

Kind Regards,

Hello and thank you for writing!

And a hearty “thank you” as well for your kind words concerning our lessons here at Guitar Noise. We also like to think they’re among the better lessons the Internet has to offer, but we tend to be a little biased in that area!

Although I didn’t include “You’ve Got a Friend” in the “short list” of the Coming Attractions section, there’s a very good chance that there will be a James Taylor lesson (or two or three) out sometime this year. If things go well, I’m hoping to have “Sweet Baby James” for the “Easy Songs for Beginners” while I’m still deciding between “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Fire and Rain” for the Intermediates. Usually when I can’t decide, both songs end up becoming lessons, so it’s just a matter as to when. Also, even though these last two songs may become Intermediate lessons, they are not hard for a beginner to handle. It’ll just be a matter of being comfortable with some finger picking work, so use “Dust in the Wind” or the upcoming “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” lessons as a warm-up!

I hope this will work for you and I appreciate your patience, not to mention that I also appreciate you making time to write and say hello.

Looking forward to chatting with you again.


Tutorial Tip

You may not be able to practice guitar as much as you’d like, but don’t think you can’t be improving your skills just because you don’t have a guitar in hand. Here are four easy things you can practice when you’re away from your guitar:

Rhythm. Do you tap your foot along with the beat of a song? Take that a step further and use your strumming hand. Tap out a strumming pattern on a desk or table, or use a pick to strum on your leg. It’s a great way to get a rhythm into your hands before you try it out on your guitar.

Ear Training. Chances are you listen to music pretty often. Take a little time to concentrate on what you’re hearing. You can do this in a general way, such as trying to pick out major or minor chords, or in a more specific way, trying to figure out what the guitarist is doing. Are they chugging out power chords, fingerpicking, or playing a riff to help out the rhythm? As you learn more about intervals and chords, you might even find that listening in this way helps you learn songs by ear.

Chord Makeup. What’s six times four? Twenty-four, of course. What notes are in a G major chord? If you couldn’t automatically answer “G, B, and D,” then you might make it a point to learn three or four chords a week. Soon, you’ll know your chords as well as your multiplication tables. You’ll find this very handy when you’re trying to come up with different chord voicings (alternate ways to play chords). Combining chord knowledge and ear training makes it easier to let the music you hear in your head come out in your playing.

Sight Reading. Reading music notation is another thing that gets incredibly easier with a little practice. When you know you’ll have time to read, carry a piece or two of sheet music along with – or even instead of – your newspaper, book, or favorite guitar magazine, and try to listen to the music in your head while reading it. If you can’t read the notes, tap out the rhythms, which brings us back to step one again!

Random Thoughts

One thing I’ve not been doing a lot of late is reading. I love to read books of all sorts – fiction, nonfiction, almost anything I can get my hands on.

When life gets so rushed and hectic that I don’t make time for a little reading, then I know I’ve let things slip away too much. It means I’m spending way too much time at a computer screen and too little time doing the things that give me pleasure, like reading, or practicing, or cooking. Or simply talking to friends. Notice the word “talking,” and not “emailing” or “texting.”

It sounds incredibly simple and naive, but taking time to make yourself happy usually results in your treating others well, too. When you’re worried and agitated and irritable, you tend to respond to others in that mindset, often without even realizing that you’re doing so.

Not surprisingly, you find all sorts of wonderful little philosophical bits in the strangest places. A book I’m often lending out to friends is “Mike Nelson’s Death Rat,” by Michael J. Nelson, whom some of you may know as a writer and actor who was on the cable show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s a laughing out load book about publishing, marketing, writing and Minnesota, that also gives an important philosophy on dealing with the craziness of life, as related in this passage:

“You allow events to influence you too much, Mr. Bromstad. Evenness is the key. We Danish have long understood that. In fact, there is an oft-cited Danish proverb, Ingen ko pa isen, which means, “No cow on the ice.” He shook his head meaningfully.

” ‘No cow on the ice’?”

“Ja. Ingen ko pa isen,” Stig repeated.

The men looked at each other. “Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that I was waiting for you to explain that,” said Bromstad.

“It means that there is no problem. If one of our cows was out on the ice, that would be something to worry about. As it is, our cows are safe on land. No problems. Do not become agitated until your cows are out on the ice.”

Yes, it’s silly. But it’s also true. We make a big deal about way too much stuff that, at the heart of it all, isn’t that big of a deal. Putting things into focus helps immensely and the best way to do that is to be in a calm and reasonable frame of mind yourself.

So read a book. Sing a song. Play music with others. You knew I was going to get here eventually, right?

And if you did manage to forget Valentine’s Day, then make tomorrow better than Valentine’s Day. That’s not that hard.

And until that next newsletter, play well. Play often. Stay safe.

And thanks for putting up with my moods…

And, as always…