Newsletter Vol. 3 # 85 – March 1, 2009


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #85 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
  • Forum Finding
  • Tutorial Tip – Acoustic or Electric?
  • Event Horizon
  • Random Thoughts

Greeetings, News and Announcements


The calendar says that (yet) another month has passed by, so here (right on schedule) is the March 1, 2009 issue of Guitar Noise News, your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise ( in case you’d forgotten). We’ve more than our usual bits of news to give you, so let’s get right to it:

For starters, it’s contest time once again at Guitar Noise. We’re giving away three copies of Len Collins’ Guitar Breakthrough. What is that, you ask? Guitar Breakthrough is a two DVD set of guitar lessons unlike anything else you have ever seen. We’ve already reviewed Guitar Breakthrough on here at Guitar Noise and we have three copies to give away to our readers.

This contest is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. All you have to do is send an email to us and answer one simple question. The question is: “What is the name of the studio where the Guitar Breakthrough DVD was filmed?” The best place to find the answer to that is over on the Guitar Breakthrough website. The deadline for entries is March 18, 2009. Good luck.

And speaking of Len Collins,

You can read all about that on the Guitar Breakthrough pages as well. The URL, in case the internal links aren’t working, is

Sometimes it seems there’s so much going on with Guitar Noise that I can’t even keep up with it all. Fortunately, Paul is posting updates on Twitter – and that makes things a little easier. For instance, if it wasn’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have even known that Guitar Noise now has both a Facebook and a MySpace page!

Our Guitar Noise Facebook page, which can be found here, is updated regularly with links for our latest lessons and podcasts and even the latest issue of Guitar Noise News. Come on by and sign in as a fan!

And while our MySpace page is not as new, it’s still a cool place to visit and to catch up with friends from the GN Forums as well as many of the contributing writers. So please come visit when you’ve the chance.

Last time out, I also mentioned the Community Blog at Jemsite and what a very cool place it is, full of lots of short pieces by quite a number of writers, from guitar teachers to performing musicians to everyday guitar enthusiasts. They’ve recently started posting “the Guitar Hero series,” a number of interviews with guitarists, performers, writers and teachers that are simply regular folks doing their best to bring music to the rest of the world. Ava always manages to find very interesting subjects for her interviews and the stories of these “heroes” are often very inspirational. They are definitely worthy of your time.

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 during March, you will notice, up on the left hand side, close to the top, a list of articles all to do with guitars themselves, specifically buying them and getting gear such as amplifiers and effects.

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 on this topic.

And speaking of educational and interesting material – let’s take a look at the new lessons and articles that have gone up online since we last chatted…

New Lessons and Articles

The Gear (and How to Keep It)
by Mark Mills

Here’s a very useful article from Mark detailing how easy it is to keep all your gear under control, especially if you play gigs. Wish I’d read this thirty years ago!

Play With Fire
Easy Songs for Beginners Lesson #38

by David Hodge

Here’s an easy, yet slightly challenging take on a familiar strumming / picking pattern featuring a fun Rolling Stones’ song that you’ll be playing well in no time at all.

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: Comfortably Numb, Sweet Home Alabama, Ziggy Stardust, Mister Bojangles

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

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,” the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and the Ventures’ classic surf anthem “Walk Don’t Run” as well as many others.


Tip for March 1 – Practicing Modes (Part 3)

We’re going to continue with our mode study in this issue. We’ve been looking specifically at how to convey the C Ionian or C major sound. So far, we’ve achieved that sound through arpeggios and chords. Let’s look at different ways of using scales to convey C major/C Ionian.

As usual, we work this out at position V, but remember to practice in all positions. Here’s your basic C Ionian sound in scale form.


Notice when you play this that the second time you hit a C note, it’s on the off beat. Generally, when you’re thinking in terms of modes, you want the root of the mode, C in this case, to be on the beat, not off it. You also want notes 3 and 5 of the mode on the beat, in this case E, and G. Putting the important notes of a mode on the beat ensures the mode’s mood doesn’t get diluted. But, because we’re so used to hearing the C major scale played straight up and down, we’re not fully hit with the mood. Toward restoring the mood of the C Ionian mode, try this alternative take on the scale:


The next time out, we’ll play through other ways of using a scale to produce the C Ionian sound.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2009 Darrin Koltow

Forum Finding

On one of the threads posted on the “Repairs and Maintenance” page of the Guitar Noise Forums, someone was looking for a place to repair guitars in New York City. One poster put up a link to a “guitar repair search site” with this URL:

This is a good news / bad news sort of situation where, fortunately, the bad news isn’t all that bad. Because the guitar techs / music shops / luthiers / etc., have to register to be part of this search, you won’t find every possible repair person in your area. The good news, though, is that you’ll find a lot and having to go through a registration process, not to mention that there’s a place for customers to place reviews and opinions, you’re less likely to find a disreputable place.

Tutorial Tip – Acoustic or Electric

One of the many questions asked on the Guitar Noise Forums goes something like this:

“I’m just starting out on guitar. Do I buy and acoustic or electric (or classical) guitar?”

Most guitar teachers, not “all” but “most,” will recommend starting on acoustic. For all sorts of reasons. So will many folks around my age (and in case you don’t know, I’ll be turning fifty-two at some point in June), but for different reasons. You see, back when I was growing up – and yes, we walked fifteen miles to school each day in the snow (and it was always snowing because it was the ice age) carrying my younger brother and a saxophone – even the cheapest electric guitars cost a lot of money. And, just like now, parents would look to buy guitars not from guitar stores but rather from Sears or Woolworths – that era’s equivalent of WalMart and Costco. So when I saw guitars and drums being sold around the holidays at a local grocery store, I had to smile because some things never change, we just don’t remember them correctly.

Nowadays, though, there’s not a lot of cost difference between what one might consider as a “beginner” or “starter” electric and lower end acoustic guitars. So cost doesn’t enter into the equation as much as it once might have. And there are no end to the deals for an “electric starter kit,” which packages the guitar together with a small practice amp and other useful accessories. Even most mom and pop place will often put together a deal of this sort for a customer.

The “teacher reasons” for starting on an acoustic are still sound. It takes more effort to play an acoustic or classical than an electric. As a student you learn the importance of accuracy and subtlety when playing. You don’t find yourself being distracted by all the dials and settings and spend more time learning your instrument instead of tinkering with your sound.

But there are compelling reasons to go electric, too. The strings are easier to fret. And barre chords will be easier to learn at the start. And if you’re able to distinguish between “fast” and “sloppy,” you’ll also very quickly learn the importance of playing with finesse.

And let’s not forget that It’s easy for the classical guitar to get lost in the list of possible first guitars, and that’s a bit of a shame. The nylon strings seem less intimidating, the wider fingerboard often helps to cleanly fret notes, and the smaller body size usually allows most players to develop better posture and positioning.

Eventually you want your choice to be not what type of guitar do you want to learn on, but what type of guitar do you want to play. After all, the whole point of getting one is to play it. The guitar is a highly personal instrument. One can learn the basics on any type of guitar, but a student who loves his or her instrument will usually play (and practice) more than one who’s hoping for a different guitar. As teachers and guitarists, we know that the first guitar is simply that – a first guitar, one of many more to come. People take pride in their instruments as well as in their achievements as guitarists. So by choosing a guitar that you will want to play, you’re helping yourself to get on a lifetime’s adventure on a very positive note.

Event Horizon

GN Forum member “Moonrider” and his band, the Southsidas, have gotten a slew of gigs that will be happening in the next two months. If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area, you can find them at the following dates, places and times:

Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 9:00 PM – Benny’s Tavern
3631 Boulevard
Colonial Heights, Virginia 23834
Description: The Southsidas will appear with Special Guest Houston Scott on Harmonica at this well known venue south of Richmond..

Random Thoughts

You may have noticed in our “Tutorial Tip” that I did something I often do – pose an “either / or” question and then totally ignore it. As I’ve mentioned in many of the articles and lessons here at Guitar Noise, I’m not much of a believer in “either / or” choices.

If someone asks “electric or acoustic?” or “play with a pick or fingers?” or “learn to read music notation or tablature?” my answer will inevitably be “yes.”

Nor do I care much for superlatives. If someone says to me, “this is the best day of my life,” I can’t help but feel sad for the person because every day to come won’t be the best one. Conversely, I feel terrific about someone having “the worst day of his life” because that means every day coming cannot be worse. That’s certainly cause for joy!

None of this is meant to be sarcastic or ironic or even the rambling of a smart-aleck. I simply believe that one can severely limit oneself by believing that there are only two options available to choose from. Worse, he or she can miss out on all the wonder of mixing the two things together.

Of course, it’s hard to argue with the old joke:

There are two kinds of people – those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.

Finally, a very random thought – Charley my cat has been clamoring to write another newsletter, so don’t be surprised if he shows up again. I think he want to do the first one in April.

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

And, as always…