Q and A – 5/11
Last week, I asked some “likers” on FaceBook to give me their burning questions to answer!
Qu: What are the best strings for an acoustic? I buy a new brand every time and don’t have a favourite yet. I play mostly acoustic rock, with a hint of crappy emo (Dashboard Confessionals I suppose would be the best example)?
Answer: I’m not endorsed (or ever have been) by anyone, so all I can talk about is what I use and have paid for. I personally like Martin 80/20 strings – I use the 12 to 54. They are bright but full sounding, plus you’re still able to bend them a whole step. I know others who swear by Elixir strings as they are meant to last longer. However, at three times the price, I’ve never bought them.
If you are going to just be strumming chords I’d go for a set around a 12/13 gauge on the high E, as you’ll get a set that has a clear and full sound without it being too light or bright on the top. I would advise trying different gauges within one range and see what really makes your guitar sing.
Qu: Explain how the strings and frets relate to the scales/chords. Wind instruments play a note at a time and not chords. How do you make the transition?
Answer: Great question! First off, each string is tuned to a certain pitch, traditionally from low to high – E, A, D, G, B, E. Of course you can tune it in a 101 different ways, but that’s the standard.
As it’s a transposing instrument, it is written in notation up an octave. So middle C on a piano would actually be written for guitar as a C note in the third space. Hopefully that makes sense to you.
The fretboard is like taking the piano and moving the keys apart and then placing them back together in one long row. So the black keys would be moved down to a space in between the two notes they sit on top of, rather than sitting on top of them. So you would have all the notes laid out like so – C C# D D#/Eb E F F# G G#/Ab A A#/Bb B.
Knowing this allows us to create chords and scales. Chords are usually built in 3rds and you can play all your favourite scales – like major, minor and pentatonic.
I would make the transition by drawing out the fretboard on paper and then writing a scale out across it. Then I would learn that, as well as learning some basic chords. (see my books on Scales and The Encyclopedia of Scales for a great selection).
Qu: Maybe a little bit of history of the instrument, where/when it was first invented, how it evolved, all the existing “guitar”-like instruments around the world, etc?
Answer: To save you having to read pages of a reply, I suggest you turn to Wikipedia! (why re-invent the wheel!) Try here – Guitar, Electric Guitar, The big names in guitars today are Fender and Gibson. It’s worth doing searches on these names too, depending how much detail you want!
Qu: As someone who self-taught guitar back in the 60s (think the days of Peter, Paul and Mary) – – how hard do you think it would be to ramp up and learn more than just strumming?
Answer: If you are prepared to put some work in, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you are into people like Carol King, James Taylor etc. I suggest you buy a song book, learn the chords they use and listen to how they use them in their finger style playing. Then imitate what you are hearing ad infinitum until you have got it embedded. Working things out slowly and then practising until you can get them up to the correct speed is the way to make progress.
You may find you need a good local teacher who can keep you on track with this. (and also ensure you’re holding the guitar right, and that your tuning and timing are OK.
Let me know how you are getting on!