Things That Other Music Schools Won’t Tell You

It takes at least 3 months to get ‘good’.

With a perfect storm of hard work, consistent practice, talent, a good teacher, and a good teaching method, it takes at least 3 months to see permanent and significant results. Many other schools, in an attempt to load up their teachers and teaching facilities, will take anyone willing to pay for a week or a month. This sets expectations unreasonably low and often leads to frustrated, impatient students and abandoned dreams.


Enjoyable lessons are productive lessons.

When students are passionate about what they’re working on, they will work harder, longer, more focused, and more intensely than if they were working on something less exciting to them. Most other music schools will drag you through months of boring public domain songs (Hot Cross Buns, London Bridge, Go Tell Aunt Rhodie) and poorly designed method books before helping you with something you actually like or that your friends will recognize. Along the same lines, Rockwell teachers are not going to show off or talk about themselves for your entire lesson, they’re happy and fun people that enjoy their lives and are happy and excited about teaching you.


To most other music players, teaching is a side hustle.

In other words, it takes a back seat to performing. In other words, it’s just something to fill the time until they play. In other words, not the kind of teacher that’s going to prioritize your learning. Rockwell teachers prioritize teaching as much as performing.


Amazing players don’t always make amazing teachers.

When something comes naturally to someone, it’s easy for them to lose sight of the struggle that a beginner might experience when they learn it, or the amount of time that a beginner might take to grasp it. An “amazing player/inexperienced teacher” will usually cope with this by adopting a disciplinarian attitude and hardline evaluation process.


Many career musicians lack viable business skills.

Let’s face it, musicians are not famous for their business skills. But in today’s day and age, it’s more important than ever— recording, publishing, and marketing are more accessible than ever. To a student, a teacher with poor business skills might translate to poor customer service, poor negotiation skills, being spread too thin as a result of undercharging for their services, and poor intuition for designing a teaching business that gives value to its customers.


Most music schools are either musical sweat shops or struggling to stay afloat.

Most other ‘churn and burn’ music schools sacrifice long-term success for short-term cash. They’ll take anyone that will pay for for their underpriced services regardless of whether they have a decent instrument, demonstrable commitment, or reasonable expectations for success. As a result, they pack their studios with flash-in-the-pan personalities, quickly burn out their teachers, and spread themselves too thin.


Most other music school curriculums are not song-based.

The overwhelming majority of players that have succeeded on their instrument did not begin with Rockin Theme #27 from Shmal Lennard Book 1, so why should you??? They heard something that sounded cool to them, and sought out someone to help them learn it or figured it out on their own. HOWEVER, most of them never learned how to teach and create an environment of learning, tried to patch it up with a poorly designed beginner’s method book, and called themselves a teacher for hire. Rockwell remembers the spark that started it all and seeks the song in every student that walks through the doors.

They Have A Guitar, What Can I Get Them?

There is plenty of stuff for guitarists to spend their money on. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if guitar players were the most marketed audience among musicians.

Maybe you know someone that just picked up the guitar, has shown a lot of potential and commitment, and you'd like to feed the dream a little with a well-targeted gift for the holidays. Here are some ideas to feed the dream.


Pedals are basically little electronic boxes that you can plug in between your guitar and amp and can give you different sounds like distortion, overdrive, echo or delay, reverb, modulation effects, and so on and so forth. Have they been learning Enter Sandman but their amplifier doesn't quite deliver the metal badassery that the song calls for? You probably need a distortion pedal.

A description of the popular sounds is a little beyond the scope of this article, but there are two types of pedals: a dedicated pedal and a multi-effects pedal.

A dedicated pedal will do one sound very well and offer a little variation on that one sound. A multi effects pedal will offer many sounds but might not deliver them as perfectly as a dedicated pedal. A dedicated pedal might cost anywhere between $30-300 for one or two good sounds whereas a multi-effects pedal might cost $100-500 for 10 or 20 good sounds and a lot more flexibility.

For someone just beginning to get their toes wet, I would recommend a multi-effects pedal. Then once they find the sounds they use the most, they can collect the necessary dedicated pedals.

Boss Metal Zone (popular distortion)

Boss DD-3 Delay

Boss Tremolo (popular modulation effect)

Digitech RP55 Multi Effects Pedal (entry level)

Line 6 M9 Multi Effects Pedal (more advanced)


A pedal wouldn't be too practical for someone that only has an acoustic guitar, but a capo would be practical for both acoustic and electric. A capo is basically a metal bar with a pad on it that acts like an extra finger so that a player can move their open chords to other keys.

Capos can be very useful when you want to change the key of a song but not learn any new chord shapes. I'd say this is a must-have for players who learn songs to sing and play them, rather than just straight ahead guitar playing and no singing.

Shubb Guitar Capo-- the one I recommend most


Some of my favorite guitar publications are Premier Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player, and Guitar Aficionado. It's a great way to broaden one's exposure to new music, products, trends, artist interviews, gear discussion and analysis, and music lessons.

Guitar World

Premier Guitar

Guitar Player

Guitar Aficionado

Picks And Strings

A guitar player can never have too many picks or strings. Sometimes though, these things come with very personal player preferences. Make sure you check in or do some detective work before you spend money.

My go to source for guitar strings and picks

How To Be A Good Music Student

I've had hundreds of students, and I can tell you that success isn't always directly correlated to talent. In other words, I've had students that just weren't built for guitar playing surpass ones with a lot of natural talent. Enough that I've seen patterns that you can use to succeed in your own lessons. Here are a few of the best.

Show Up

This goes without saying. You need to be there to get the most out of it. I don't mean that you should only take private in-person lessons, although I do agree that this is the best format to learn in. I mean you need to get up and go to meet success where it's at. Show up to your lessons. Show up to class. Show up to detention. Show up to your own success story.

Ask Questions

This is critical. Some teachers are highly knowledgeable and excellent at what they do, but if you don't ask questions they will just ramble and you will lose an opportunity to receive information you really need. It doesn't mean they're obtuse or anything, it just means you need to clue them in on what you are curious and passionate about.


Record your classes to audio or better yet, video. Take efficient notes. Sometimes I will take time after a session to jot down a few of my thoughts. I just retain things better when I document them in a couple different mediums. Make sure you get permission from the teacher though. I've never had a teacher say no but I still ask.

Review Documentation

When I record lessons I make it a point to review them at least once before the next one. It just makes learning more smooth. I'd say I pick up 15-30% more info when I review the recordings. Over a year of guitar lessons that's a lot of information! Plus, it's good to listen to yourself even if it's unbearable at first. Trust me, it's always unbearable in the beginning for everyone. That's because we are always our own worst critics. But that means you are in control of your own worst critic-- so tell them to be nice, and sit down and listen to yourself. You will progress so much faster when you come to terms with your progress or lack thereof.


Duh. You gotta put in the time, you gotta put in the work. You could have the best teacher in the world but at the end of the day you are responsible for putting in the work. They can't practice for you. Be comfortable with the fact that sometimes you might not feel like you're progressing at all. It's ok to feel that way, but make sure you check in with your teacher about it before you get all bent out of shape about your seeming lack of progress.

Stick With It

Be in it for the long haul. Don't get all wrapped up in your short term successes and setbacks. Just keep showing up. Be that cat that's always there when the door opens at your lesson time. I have also seen many students who lacked natural ability surpass naturally gifted students by coming again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Again.

10 Things That Require Zero Music Talent

Tools I Use For Guitar Domination

Fair Use Clause, Copyright Act of 1976

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include— 

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."

I'm not a lawyer, but this law gives you very generous flexibility if you learn from it and teach with it, with material that might otherwise be prohibited from copying. Use it wisely and respectfully.

YouTube Player Settings

This one is pretty easy and right under your nose. Anytime you watch a video, click on the little gear in the lower right corner. You can change the speed of the video right there in the player. It's a nice quick fix if you just need to slow a guitar part down but don't want to go through a bunch of steps to go to a youtube converter, download the file, download an audio program like Audacity, and slow down the file. The only drawback is that you're limited to half speed or quarter speed. If you want smaller increments, use a player like Audacity. Watching a long video? You can also speed it up to 1.25 speed and save yourself a couple minutes.

YouTube period.

YouTube has gotten to the point where all of the old vhs instructional videos have been uploaded to the platform already-- I'm talking about all the old REH and Hotlicks instructionals that are worth their weight in gold. Some of the VHS copies are so obscure they're out of print and/or selling for enormous amounts on ebay and amazon. And, there are lots of great players out there who have transcribed or covered many of your favorite solos and licks. Just go look!


Audacity is a totally free open-source audio program for Mac or PC that will slow down music, or change the pitch, or loop a section, or all 3 at the same time. It's really one of my favorite practice tools. Got a fast guitar part you want to learn? Audacity. Want to learn a baritone guitar part but you only have a normal guitar and you don't want the floppiness of the strings? Audacity. Want to practice that fast baritone guitar part a thousand times without taking your hands off the instrument? Audacity.

Here is a great tool for slowing down all those shreddy guitar licks and solos.

Band In A Box

I've really only scratched the surface of Band In A Box since I got it but here it is in a nutshell: It's like having a team of world-class musicians at your beck and call, 24/7, they don't mind if you take all the solos, they won't complain, and they won't get tired or steal your beer.

I think it's a great tool for learning how to improvise: plug in whatever chords you feel like, choose whatever style you want, and go. Learn a new scale and you need to put the time into getting to know it? Put it in BIAB. Need to polish up on your [insert name of super obscure style] licks before you sub for that one band? Put it in BIAB.

The best tool for learning improvisation for any instrument, not just guitar.


VLC is a great video player that will play just about any format, so you can spend less time researching video players and spend more time watching your old guitar video files. It's very versatile and has a wide array of playback speed options too for when you want to transcribe all of those old Guthrie Govan bluesjamtrack videos.

Slow down all those videos by Joe Schmoe YouTuber who is just unbelievably talented on the guitar.

I know, I might catch some flak for mentioning this. The truth is, there is just more amazing material popping up on YouTube than the publishing companies can keep up with. And in order to learn it, you gotta slow it down and practice it. There is just too much amazing information out there and at our fingertips to say no. This is a great resource for converting youtube videos to files you can download.

Download all those videos by Joe Schmoe YouTuber so you can figure out all his guitar parts.

Memorizers vs. Sightreaders

Two different student categories that I have encountered have been memorizers and sightreaders. There's pros and cons to each one, but nobody says you can't be both (not me at least). In fact, I think it would be best to develop each skill set well. I think it would be less wise to stick to one and ignore the other.


Memorizers tend to get a new piece of music, and study it until they don't need the sheet music anymore, and then they leave the sheet music behind. The good thing about this is that memorized music tends to be less restrained by the limitations of the margins on the paper, and it truly comes from the inside. On the other hand, a piece of music left memorized but unreviewed has the tendency to morph and change in the performer's head. I'm speaking from experience! So it's a good idea to bring out the music every once in awhile and make sure you're on the right track.


Sightreaders will get a new piece of music, read the notes accurately and interpret the piece well. For most gifted sightreaders, their sightreading is so good that they don't have to spend much time and effort internalizing a piece. Why memorize a book if it is sitting right in front of you? The good thing is that if you can write it, they can play it. The bad thing is that if they can sightread it, they're not going to memorize it.

The Yin and Yang

Beginning students often fall into a rut of one category or the other, simply because they don't need both to play music. This can also be caused by teacher oversight or neglect. But the truth is that one can absolutely develop both skill sets and be proficient in both categories, and music is exponentially more enjoyable when this is the case. If you think about it, sightreading at its core is quick, short-term memorization. Memorization requires reading or hearing of the music in order to stick in a brain. They overlap. So when you develop all of these skills, you'll have more tools at your musical disposal.

Here are some great sightreading materials for guitar.

William Leavitt's books are also great guitar sightreading resources.

For the best training, you really should try to read anything you can get your hands on. I've found the the more I practice sightreading, the better my memorization skills become.

All About Capos

A what? You've probably seen them but didn't know what they were called. Or, you've seen them and never quite understood them. Maybe you've seen them, you think you know what they do, but you don't have it quite right. Either way, I'm here to help you out.

First off, here are a couple of capos:

A capo (pronounced kay-poh) is simply a mechanical device that acts as an extra finger. Some people have said that capos 'change keys', but this is somewhat of a misconception. While allowing the player to play in different keys is an effect of the capo, it is not its core function. It is important that one understands the distinction in order to fully understand a capo.

Okay, So What Does A Capo Do?

I think most guitar players of many different levels would agree that the following chord shapes are very common:

What do they all have in common? Yup, open strings. Try moving each of these chords up one fret and playing them. How do they sound? Not as pleasing as before, right? The reason they sound different is because your fingers moved but the open strings remained where they were, leading to different distances between notes. Wouldn't it be nice if the open strings could follow your fingers when they moved, especially if these were the only 3 chords you knew?

That's what a capo is for. If you were brave enough to even attempt to finger what used to be the open notes as you moved the chord shape up the neck, you've discovered that these chords are very cumbersome to play. All you have to do is slap on the capo where you want your open strings to be, and then play your old chords accordingly. The capo is now the lowest possible fret, your new fret zero.

This is why a capo is very popular with singer/songwriters and people who sing, because it easily assists with changing keys, so you can find that perfect key for your voice or the one you're singing with. And, if there are only 5 or 6 chords in your entire mental chord dictionary but you know how to use a capo, you can play just about anything you need to.


The tricky thing with capos is that you need to think in two disciplines at once, especially if you're playing with other instruments. One of those disciplines is probably the most familiar to this audience, what I call the "Guitar Land Key". The other is what is commonly called "concert pitch".

Guitar Land key is the chord shapes you are playing, ignoring the presence of the capo. For example, I may play the above chord shapes with a capo on 2 and say I was playing in the key of G. That would be guitar land key, because if you communicated this to a piano player, they would plunk out the notes and give you a funny look.

That's because the capo acts as an addition tool. The fret number that your capo is on is the number of half steps that is added to the guitar land key you're playing. For example, if your capo is on fret 2, you are adding 2 half steps (1 whole step) to every chord you play. The sum of this addition problem is the concert pitch key that you're playing in, and the key that you should communicate to other instruments that don't use capos.

Capo Tips

Like I said before, a capo is like an extra finger. It's not a clamp, a vice, or a paper weight. So you want a capo that is going to apply just enough pressure to make the open strings sound good but not so much that it pulls your strings out of tune. The Kyser quick change capos put a billion pounds of pressure on your strings and pull them out of tune. I would not recommend them. My favorite guitar capos are made by Shubb and you can vary the amount of pressure that is applied to the strings by the capo. This is the guitar capo that I recommend to all of my guitar students. Plus, most neck thicknesses change from the first fret to the last fret-- it's essential that you have a capo that can adjust to it.

Another mistake that I see people making often is applying the capo incorrectly. Again, the capo is like an extra finger-- where do you place your fingers when you barre across the strings? It's not anything fancy, just across the strings parallel to the frets. You want to apply a capo in the same way.

Lastly, do not move or wiggle the capo once you clamp it down in position. Doing so will pull the strings in different directions and make them go out of tune.

'Cut' Capos

A 'cut' capo is one that has had the pad part that contacts the strings cut away so that strings can pass under the strings unclamped. This can allow for all sorts of interesting alternate tunings. Though I have cut some of my old capos, I haven't experimented with it a whole lot because I don't like cutting up my capos. There is a guitar capo called the Spider Capo that will let you vary the pass-through points of the capo, no cutting required. I've heard good things about it but haven't tried it myself.

Intro to Open Tunings

In order to understand this post, you need to understand standard tunings and drop tunings.

What is an open tuning?

An open tuning is called 'open' because when you strum all of the open strings, they make a chord together. Open D tuning, for example, makes a D major chord (DADF#AD). Open G tuning is tuned to a G chord (DGDGBD). Open E is like open D but one step higher. Drop tunings are not open tunings, they're basically half open and half standard.

When does one use an open tuning?

Technically you can use open tunings any time you want to, and I encourage you to because it will take you out of your comfort zone and force you to try new things in new ways.

On average however, open tunings are used a lot in slide guitar playing. Open tunings are very friendly to the across-the-neck nature that a slide necessitates. Anywhere you place the slide along the guitar neck, you can play a chord with one finger, and simply move one or two frets above or below to play notes in between the chord tones.

Who uses open tunings?

In order to learn the nuances of different tunings, I recommend two things: Experimenting for yourself and also studying the masters. Here are a few famous slide guitar players and what they used. Learn their licks and use it in your own playing.

Duane Allman, Sonny Landreth & Derek Trucks- Open E

Elmore James- Open D

Keith Richards- Open G

Johnny Winter- Open G, D, and A



Take Your Instrument On The Plane-- It's The Law

As a former employee of one of the top 2 major airlines in the US and a professional St. Paul guitar player and teacher, trust me: you do not want to leave your prized instrument in the hands of anybody but yourself when traveling by airplane. Plus, it's the law that airlines allow you to carry it on the plane with you.

According to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, section 41724:

There it is, signed by Barack Obama and endorsed by the FAA. Click here to view the official government document for carrying your guitar on the plane.

WHy Should I take My Instrument on the Plane?

Let me reinforce why taking your instrument onboard is the best choice for the safety of your instrument:

  • I wouldn't leave my instrument anywhere I wasn't comfortable. For those of you that don't know, wood is very susceptible to environmental changes such as humidity, pressure, and temperature-- things that fluctuate wildly depending on your point of reference in an aircraft. Cargo cabins can reach subzero temperatures and even if they get heat, it's manufactured air that is horrendously dry. Teaching guitar in St. Paul Minnesota is very similar: humid in the summer and bone dry in the winter, which is why I always have a humidifier with my guitar.
  • Don't chance it with airline personnel. Don't get me wrong: most airline employees are good, well-intentioned, and operate with the utmost care when they know the contents of what they're handling. However, there are just so many other things going through their mind on the job. They are being timed. They are out in the elements. They are understaffed. They are underpaid. They are thinking about where they're going to fly next with their flight benefits. Or they took the redeye from Vegas last night because that was the only one that was open. They are working long shifts. They are under tremendous mental and/or physical stress. Safety is their first priority, guitars come later. Even if they handle your equipment perfectly, things can shift inside the cargo bin, sometimes the bins are absolutely packed to the max, the pressure will change, and who knows what else is in the bin besides your instrument. I've seen pets that do not travel well (and all the biological substances that go with it), cadavers or body parts, dry ice, sweaty sports team equipment. Hell, a few employees are just total d-bags. What if they were assigned to your flight?

TIps For Happy Instruments

  • Buy the best hardshell case you can afford. Check reviews of the cases, do your homework. This is a guitar case that I would use with my instrument, and that I have seen used successfully.
  • Just to reinforce the above tip, don't settle for a gig bag when you're traveling. Just. Don't. Even if you're carrying it into the cabin. When I see an instrument in a gig bag at the airport, I know that person is not serious. It's almost a good way to encourage damage to your instrument.
  • Use a humidifier. I recommend the Oasis guitar case humidifiers.
  • Board first or as soon as you can. The FAA regulations depend strongly on available space. It's just easier for crew to accommodate you (and to get a safe space) if you tell them ahead of time what you're doing. So arrive early to the gate, politely introduce yourself to the gate agent and let them know what you need.
  • Be nice, polite, and firm. You practically have an ace up your sleeve with this FAA Obama signed government document, so don't get cocky. The FAA has tremendous clout at the airport, so if you need to, mention their affiliation.
  • Carry a copy or two of the relevant language in the Modernization and Reform Act. Most carriers are aware of this rule now, but some people still slip through the cracks, training-wise. The airline industry has tremendous personnel turnover.
  • If you check it, don't lock it. TSA is required to open it, and they will cut it. Even if you carry it, anything is subject to inspection.

So there you have it. Everything you need to play guitar on the beach.

Easy Guitar Hack: The F Chord

If I had a penny for every single time a student or scholar of the guitar came to me and told me that they quit taking guitar lessons or learning guitar because they couldn't get the F chord, I would be able to give my lessons for free. I don't know if it's a Minnesota thing or a St. Paul thing but it comes up a lot.

Many people have stuck with the guitar but skip over complete songs just because it has an F chord. It doesn't matter how head over heels passionate they were about the song, if they found out it had an F chord they dropped it like a bad habit.

Why Is The F Chord So Hard?

Unfortunately, the majority of guitar teaching materials out there give you the information without any consideration to how hard (or interesting) it will be for beginner fingers and brains. The author or publisher has forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. That means that you're going to get full-on bar chords on page 2 in between London Bridge (tacky nursery rhyme) and note memorization (boring subject).

Also, the F bar chord is located on fret 1 which is the hardest place to play a bar chord on the entire guitar neck. The frets are spaced the farthest apart in this area of the fretboard, so fingers need to stretch farther. And it doesn't matter if your hands are big, half of the equation is finger muscle control. The majority of new students have one but not the other.

Is It All Or Nothing?

It's not. And a good teacher knows that most things aren't.

Here's how to break it down into more simple, manageable, and achievable pieces (this is what we do at Rockwell Guitar School) :

A big-boy F major barre chord.

A big-boy F major barre chord.

Lowest note to highest note, the F barre chord on fret 1 contains these notes: F-C-F-A-C-F. So we have 3 Fs, 2 Cs, and an A. As you can see, there are repetitions of the same note. The bare minimum to construct an F chord is 1 F, 1 A, and 1 C. So, you can do without some of the notes in the original example. Leave out the notes on the 6th, 5th, and 1st string. That should leave you with F, A, and C on strings 4-3-2. Play these notes with fingers 3-2-1, respectively.

I'd love to show you how to do it on your guitar in my Shoreview MN teaching studio, but for some of you that's not possible so I'm going to leave you with a handy video:

A Simple Explanation of Drop D Tuning

There are a lot of cool practical things about the guitar. For example: it's portable, any chord or scale shape you learn is moveable, and you can also change the tuning on the fly.

One of the most common alternate tunings is Drop D tuning, but before we talk about that, we need to understand standard tuning.

Standard tuning is, from lowest sounding to highest sounding string, spelled E-A-D-G-B-E. 

In order to get your guitar in Drop D tuning, you need to drop your lowest string (E(The 6th string)) down a step to D. That's all. Then the notes from lowest to highest will be D-A-D-G-B-E.

There are a couple ways to do this. One, you can use a tuner but make sure it's a chromatic tuner. If you don't have a tuner, you can tune the 6th string 7th fret to the same pitch as the open A string, then you will be in Drop D tuning. Or, tune the harmonic on the 12th fret of the 6th string to the same note as the open D string (an octave higher.)

The most common reason to tune to Drop D tuning is to enable power chords to be played with one finger. That's why you'll see a lot of heavier bands using the tuning.

Just as common as Drop D tuning is to tune everything lower by the same amount to get tunings like Drop C#, Drop C, or even Drop B. For example, Drop C# is Drop D with everything lowered by a half step. Drop C is Drop D with everything a whole step lower, and so on and so forth.

The only drawback to tuning everything lower is that it changes the tension on your strings. Try it! Once you start getting into Drop C# territory or lower, your strings start to get really floppy and will have more trouble holding their pitch. But it sounds so badass with the right gear!

Here is a quick and simple video to help you understand:

If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to like or share! Or just visit me in Shoreview MN :)

Thanks for reading & watching


Top 14 Guitar Riffs For Harley Riders

The weather is getting warmer where I am (St. Paul, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Roseville) which means the bikes are getting louder. We've been working hard to collect a few of the artists and tunes that are most popular with Harley Davidson riders. Some of them might surprise you but remember, lots of different people ride Harleys. Other selections might come as no surprise. Have fun with this and share it with someone who might like it. Maybe you'll even find some new music that you like!

1. Bad To The Bone- George Thorogood

Nitty gritty danger, that's what this one's about. The no-holds-barred distorted slide guitar makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. George Thorogood's storytelling in this song is the stuff of legend-- bold, larger than life, sometimes almost comical.

2. Rebel Yell- Billy Idol

Written by Billy Idol and guitarist Steve Stevens, this song is said to have been inspired by an event that Billy attended where Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones were taking swigs from a bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon whiskey. He liked the name of the brand and decided to write a song about it. This single reached #46 in the US and was named one of the best hard rock songs of all time by VH1.

3. I Can't Drive 55- Sammy Hagar

Addicted to speed, or the power of having it available. You like to break the rules because you can. Or, the sheer command of having it and not using it. Have you checked out Sammy's signature Red Rocker Harley? You can also rock out to this as you ride along highway 55 in either Minneapolis or St. Paul.

4. Margaritaville- Jimmy Buffett

This one isn't as badass as the other songs, but it's a crowd pleaser and everyone at the party is bound to know it and sing along. Plus, you can connect with it on the topics of wasting time, long lost love, and partying to your heart's content. Songs about sunshine are also welcome for 5 months out of the St. Paul MN year.

5. Take The Highway- Marshall Tucker Band

Another road song from the great southern american songbook.

6. Here I Go Again- Whitesnake

If you were a teen in the 80s, you probably rocked out to this song once or twice. It peaked at #1 in 1987 and the music video featured iconic model and David Coverdale squeeze Tawny Kitaen. 

7. Born To Be Wild- Steppenwolf

This is pretty much your theme song. The open highway, heavy metal thunder, and the relentless pursuit of adventure all speak to you on another level.

8. Rockin Into The Night- 38 Special

This song was the first big hit for this southern rock band, off of their album by the same name. Written by members of Survivor: Jim Peterik, Gary Smith and Frank Sullivan. Jeff Carlisi and Don Barnes are both credited with playing guitar on this album.

9. Midnight Rider- The Allman Brothers

This is your song for riding off into the night without a care in the world what might happen. You love the open road, the cover of night, and not getting caught.

10. Green Grass and High Tides- The Outlaws

Outlaws founding member and guitar player Hughie Thomasson describes how this song was written: I wrote that song in St Augustine, Florida. We went to a cookout on the beach and everybody forgot to bring their guitars. I was standing by the ocean and there was a breeze and the words kept coming to me. It’s about all the rock stars I liked that died had come back and were playing a show just for me. Like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. And eventually more of course.

11. Bad Reputation- Joan Jett

This one and the next song are for the girls out ride too! VH1 named "Bad Reputation" the 29th greatest hard rock song of all time, making it the highest ranked song on the list by a woman. The music video is a reenactment of Jett's rise to the top and the 23 record labels that rejected her.

12. Crazy On You- Heart

This was Heart's first commercial hit and it became one of their signature songs for the rest of their career. It features hall-of-fame worthy guitar work by Nancy Wilson.

13. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)- Jimi Hendrix

This one is a shoo-in. With its raw guitar tone and fiery guitar work and lyrics fit for a legend, Jimi Hendrix gets a pass :)

14. Welcome to The Jungle- Guns 'N' Roses

Come on, who doesn't like Slash?!?! Plus, this has an epic echo-laden guitar intro. 



There's More!

Running Down a Dream- Tom Petty

Released in 1989, this song achieved moderate commercial success and topped out at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's a great driving/riding song and you've probably heard it at major sporting events too. Mike Campbell is Tom Petty's long time guitar player.

Man In Black- Johnny Cash

How much black is in your closet? Or should I ask, what percentage of your closet is black? From Wikipedia: 

The song is a "protest statement against racism, the treatment of poor people by wealthy politicians, the condemnation of drug users and prisoners, and the war in Vietnam."

Real talk.

Cat Scratch Fever- Ted Nugent

A song about cats! Mostly the stray ones that go from place to place.

Full of innuendos and double entendres, this one is as raunchy as they get. The original shock rocker, Ted Nugent has made his own special brand of rock. Don't forget he's also a very skilled guitar player. Have you listened to the Pantera version?

Black Dog- Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is the original supergroup. Each member is a legend on their instrument with a very unique and famous sound.

Robert Plan describes the inspiration for this song: 

"Let me tell you 'bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he'd "boogied" and everything else he couldn't get back. And we used to carry him back."

Whole Lotta Love- Led Zeppelin

This song's release in the US was the band's first hit and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was later certified Gold for having sold one million copies. A lawsuit was settled in 1985 which decided that parts of the song originated from "You Need Love" by Willie Dixon, resulting in a payment and credit on subsequent releases.

That Smell- Lynyrd Skynyrd

Probably my favorite Skynyrd song, the guitar playing and production are solid on this one.

The reason the song was written is perhaps not so positive. Culminating with the evening when guitarist Gary Rossington got drunk and high and crashed his new car into an oak tree in Florida, singer Ronnie Van Zant was inspired to write the song as a warning against the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Three days after the song was released on 'Street Survivors', the band was devastated by a plane crash that killed several members including Van Zant.

Simple Man- Lynyrd Skynyrd

Since becoming available for digital download, this song has become Skynyrd's third best selling song after Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama. It describes life wisdom passed down from mother to son, emphasizing spirituality, love, and simple living over wealth and life in the fast lane.

Enter Sandman- Metallica

Enter Sandman was the first song that was written for Metallica's self-titled album, famously referred to as 'the black album'. The lyrics revolve around the themes of a child's nightmares.

Sad But True- Metallica

I couldn't choose just one Metallica song, so I chose this one too. It's heavy, it's scary, it's dark. What's not to like?

Thunderstruck- AC/DC

What would testosterone-fueled rock and roll be without AC/DC? They're old-school, larger than life, and still going strong. And they're loud too! Just ask Brian Johnson.

Back In Black- AC/DC

If you've heard this song, and I still need to explain it to you, you're in the wrong place. But you made it to the end! Congratulations.



6 Reasons To Quit Guitar... And How to Overcome Them

This post isn't for the faint of heart. I'm going to shoot straight with you because I think that's the only way to properly address these topics, and I might step on some toes in the process. I think it all comes down to one thing: How bad do you want to get good?

"I Don't Have the Time."

Let's be honest: It's not that you don't have the time, it's that you don't want to make the time. If your approach to practicing is just waiting for all of life's events to fall where they may and fill up any spare time with guitar practice, you're never going to have time. You need to make practicing a priority and you need to make time to practice.

How many TV shows did you watch this week? Movies? How much time did you spend on facebook? YouTube? Snapchat? Video games? Those things can wait. Do you think you could have woke up a little earlier? Gone to bed a little later? Plus, my guitar students hail from Minneapolis and St. Paul, do you think they're enjoying the great outdoors between December to February? Everybody has the same amount of time, it's how you use it.

"I Don't Want to Waste The Teacher's Time."

No offense if you've used this before, but this one is kind of weird. Have you broken down what it actually means?

Any teacher worth their salt should have determined a rate of compensation that they deem a valid exchange for their time, no matter how hard the student. So to say that you're wasting the teacher's time is to say either they don't charge enough, or you're not paying enough, or you've gotten worse since you started. Either way I don't think anyone really means any of the above when they use this, they're just saying something without thinking a whole lot about it. I've found it to mean, "I don't want to waste my (the student's) time."

So, how do you address this issue? Often times with this particular objection, people need to be brought down to earth. Figure out your goals and break them down to small, manageable pieces. Think about what kinds of music or songs are interesting to you and try to create or re-create what is so exciting about them to you.

"It's Too Hard."

Guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn. Unfortunately a lot of books and even teachers don't give you the easy stuff first. So first, talk to your teacher about why what you're learning feels difficult and maybe talk about some easier material or topics. Sometimes different things are difficult for the same reasons and we don't realize it. For example, maybe there is a physical limitation. Talk to your teacher about it and show them-- maybe there are exercises that they can show you to get past this physical limitation.

Keep in mind, difficulty is always a precursor to learning and breakthroughs. Resistance is always part of the recipe to getting stronger.

"It's Not Interesting Anymore."

When's the last time you went out to see live music? I'll bet it's been awhile. There is certainly no shortage of live music for every taste and price range at any time of day, especially in the Twin Cities. Did you know that Minneapolis and St. Paul have the second highest number of performance seats per capita? New York is number one.

So, do you need to perform? Go to for a great way to find free and welcoming performance opportunities and a chance to put your guitar lessons to good use. Nothing makes it more interesting like applause from a crowd of people. Or think of some guitar players you like and google similar artists, you might find some inspiration. Talk to your teacher about doing a different topic for one lesson. Any teacher worth their salt is going to understand the place you're at and your need for diversity.

"The Kid Isn't Practicing Anymore."

First question: are you making practice a chore? It's a weird thing that I observe every day but kids just so often do exactly the opposite of whatever their parents tell them to do. The worst thing is that I know it will happen to me when I'm a parent! My recommendation is just let them foster a love and appreciation for the instrument on their own and they will hold onto it for a long time. If it's not for them, they'll tell you!

Don't get me wrong, guitar isn't for everyone. And there isn't anything wrong with asking about your kids guitar lessons every once in awhile, or negotiating practice time for something more epic like... ice cream!

This issue could also fall on the teacher. Make sure they're open and in tune to the music that you or your child are interested in. Sometimes simply changing songs will do the trick. Another thing that might work is getting your child involved with other kids that play music-- a "band" type situation.

Second question: how many other things is your kid doing??? I don't know if it's an american thing or a midwest thing or what, but I see kids with a billion things on their plate and no time to just be a bored kid left to their own devices. I'm all for getting kids to try a variety of things and find that thing that they are passionate about, but you don't need to stretch them too thin. Plus, I am a huge believer in the principle that desire reveals design and kids will find their own way no matter what the circumstances.

"We Need to Take A Break."

I've spent a lot of time studying music and guitar, and there have been many times where I just felt like I was going through a routine, saturated with information, and it seemed like I wasn't progressing at all. I realized that I had a solution to all of my guitar problems and an answer to all of my music questions, and it was just a matter of time and execution to integrate it. That was also boring to me-- the fact that I didn't have any unsolved mysteries that I was chasing. But I stuck with it and when I look back on it I realized too that even though I felt like I had enough, I was still learning like crazy. I think this is what Steve Vai calls "The Ultra Zone"-- it's a mental overload situation that can be stressful yet immensely effective.

I realize that not everyone wants the Ultra Zone for themselves-- that's cool too. Maybe you need to take more frequent rests when you practice. Try setting a mandatory break timer. For example, set a timer for every half hour and when it rings you must stop anything you're doing and do something completely different for  5 minutes.

You also might need more inspiration. Try getting out to see live music more. There are plenty of shows happening every day and even if your schedule or pocketbook is tight there are plenty of free shows during the day. Heck, go look at youtube.

Bottom line, if you've made up your mind that you absolutely don't want to play anymore no matter the circumstances, you shouldn't play. But I often find that people's reasons for stopping are exaggerated and dramatic. In other words, they would say of themselves, "If I could only ____ , then I would play all the time!" 

Fill in that blank, and make it a reality.

Was Stairway to Heaven copied?

By Alex Born

Some of the biggest and most controversial music news as of late has been whether the chords in the intro of Led Zeppelin's famous song Stairway to Heaven were copied from a song called Taurus by the band Spirit. Family members of the late Spirit frontman Randy Craig Wolfe are seeking monetary damages and a writing credit from Led Zeppelin. If the jury agrees that the part was copied, Randy Wolfe's estate could get up to 50 million dollars.

Some Things to Consider:

  • Wolfe's lawyers need to prove that Jimmy Page, who wrote and played the intro that is under scrutiny, had prior knowledge of 'Taurus' and deliberately neglected attribution. 'Taurus' was copyrighted in 1968 and 'Stairway' was copyrighted in 1971. The bands toured together at one point and were therefore familiar with each other's music, so it will be hard to disprove that.
  • Led Zeppelin's lawyers need to prove that either Page had no prior knowledge of the Spirit song, or that the passage in question does not belong to anyone. In other words, they need to prove that the intro is simply a chord progression and not unique enough to be considered intellectual property.
  • The music in question is a simple chord progression dictated by chromatically descending bass movement: A min - A minor (maj7)/G# - A minor 7/G - D/F# - F major 7.
  • Jimmy Page & Robert Plant have a history of copying material and they've admitted to it. Namely, 'Dazed and Confused' from Jake Holmes, 'Whole Lotta Love' from Willie Dixon by way of The Small Faces, and 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' from Anne Bredon in a song sung by Joan Baez.


I'm usually pretty hard to convince on these copyright cases, because it usually goes something to the tune of: Musical juggernaut of a song and/or band accused by lesser known artist or estate thereof, seeking monetary compensation and/or songwriting credit, long after the fact. It comes down to this: everyone wants a shot at the champ. 

But I think the Wolfe estate has a case. I don't think that a chord progression can be copyrighted, however I think that Stairway copied much more than just the chords and deliberately neglected attribution.

If You're Gonna Cheat, Don't Be Sloppy About It

When I was going to engineering school and commuting from St. Paul, I had a teacher in who I admired because he was just the straightest shooter I have ever met. He used to say, "If you're gonna cheat, do it right!" because some students would turn in work that was obviously copied from somewhere else because they neglected to change the font characteristics from the web page they copied it from. It was insulting to the teacher's intelligence to overlook such trivial and easily fixable details.

Let's be honest: copying is a part of playing and learning music. When you are learning your instrument and your craft, you learn things played by other people in order to better grasp a style of playing, a way of navigating a musical grid, or just what has been done before. There is considerable value in having the ability to reproduce a groove, mood, or even lick. That being said, there are so many things a musician can do to change every other element except the notes: change the tempo, change the key, change the groove, change the other instruments, change the instrument the notes are played on, change the role of the passage in the structure of the song, etc.

Yet 'Stairway' has so many similar elements besides just the notes that I think it is a case of sloppy copying. Same key, same tempo give or take 10%, same instrument, same mood, both are intros. First impression is a solid indicator and I made the connection right away. With other lawsuits like the Robin Thicke & Pharrell 'Blurred Lines' lawsuit and Joe Satriani v. Coldplay, my first impression of the passages in question were, 'Yeaaaaahhhhhh that's kind of a stretch.'

Final Thoughts

I am wary of copyright trolling and concerned about how it would affect music, but I think the resemblance is just too close to deny. I mean come on, there are only 12 notes in the western system of music, how bad are we going to let it get? But it's another thing to copy something and be sloppy about it, without asking for an expert musical opinion before laying something to track. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself, cover your bases.

Hear it for yourself: here is a good mashup of the two songs back to back, make sure you listen to the guitar part.

Strings for Beginners

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: guitar string brands don't matter as much as string materials, construction, and size. 

I know, "but the guy at Guitar Center said..."

What Are They Made Of?

It depends on what guitar you have, and what string you're talking about. For example, acoustic strings are different than electric strings. E, A, and D strings are going to be different than the G, B, and E strings on an electric. On an acoustic, the B and high E strings are different than the rest.

There are wound strings and plain strings on a guitar. On an acoustic, the G is wound. On an electric, the G is plain (not wound). The E, A, and D strings are always wound. A wound string consists of a steel core with another smaller steel wire wrapped around it. The outer steel wire is usually plated with nickel on an electric, and bronze alloy on an acoustic.

Plain strings are just a steel wire with plating on it-- usually nickel for an electric and bronze for an acoustic. Plain strings are easier to bend than wound strings which is why the G is usually plain on an electric.

Sometimes strings are 'coated'. The composition of the coating depends on the manufacturer, but generally it is a variation on a polymer or plastic. This coating helps to keep the dirt and grime of of your strings, and lets them last longer. Usually coated strings are more expensive than uncoated strings.

How Do I Know When To Change Strings?

Pay attention when your strings are new because the aging process happens so slowly you might not even notice. When strings are old, they lose their shine, can become somewhat sticky, and sound a little less bright and jangly than they did when they were new. You probably won't notice a huge difference until you put new ones on.

The amount of time needed between string changes varies with the individual. It really depends on your body type (and indirectly with things like diet, fitness, composition, etc.). If your skin is acidic and oily, you will go through strings quicker. If you are dry, fit and consistently clean-handed, your strings will last a long time. It could be a matter of weeks or months. If you are a nashville player, you might change strings as frequently as every couple of hours.

How Can I Take Care of My Strings?

There are a couple of things you can do to maintain your strings so they last as long as possible. Most importantly, wash your hands before you play and wipe down the strings with a clean polishing cloth after you play. There are also string conditioner compounds that will help fight dirt, grime, Minnesota elements, and string-to-finger friction. Also, keep your guitar covered when not in use so that dust doesn't settle on it, and take care of your own body too. If you're desperate, you can boil your strings like Eddie Van Halen to make them last longer.

How Do I Know What Is Best For Me?

Like a lot of guitar products, the best way to know is to play it and/or experience it. The marketers want you to believe that all you have to do is buy the product your guitar idols use, but that's a stretch. Make a note of the players you like and what they're using, but don't forget to try it for yourself and put it through a somewhat organized evaluation process. For the best idea, record yourself to audio or video and review it, and also check out the documentation of other guitar players on places like YouTube or more independent record labels. 

Tired of the guitar store not carrying your favorite brand? This is my go-to website for buying that special set of guitar strings, especially in bulk.


Guitar Picks for Beginners

Why are picks important?

Guitar picks are very important. They are like the tires on your car-- they are the contact point between the driver and the instrument and they facilitate the function of the two together. You get in your car and drive it because you want to go somewhere, right? You pick up your guitar and play it because you want to make music, right? Tires and picks are the contact point of the function.

What are the options?

Guitar picks come in so many sizes, thicknesses, shapes, materials, textures, brands, and prices. There are even more exotic options: picks made of wood, stone, metal alloys, complex construction techniques, etc.

How do I find the best one?

The best way for you to find the right one is to buy a variety pack or assortment of the above variables, try all of them, and find the one that you like the best. That way, you only have one of each version that you don't like. When you find the one you like the most, buy a pack of those. The ideal variety option is going to have an assortment of brands as well, the only problem is that most brands aren't going to sell packs with picks made by other companies. The Dunlop variety pack has the best assortment of picks for any one brand, in my opinion. I just found a variety pack like this and shipped it to my guitar teaching studio in St. Paul Minnesota.


What should I avoid?

DON'T begin with a 20-pack of the same pick that you've never tried before. If it's not the best pick for you, that's money you could have spent finding something better. 

The Super Educated Guitar Player

The times are changing.

Forty years ago, we didn't have the internet as we know it. There wasn't any YouTube, Ultimate Guitar, Premier Guitar Rig Rundowns or Jam Track Central. If you wanted to learn a song, you had to go to the record store and buy it, take it home and figure it out. If you wanted to learn a style of playing, you better have hoped there was a teacher in your area who knew it well. If you wanted to see what kind of gear someone was using, you had to buy tickets to their concert, wait for the date to arrive, go to the concert, and hope that you could get close enough to see or talk to them.

Now, everything is at our fingertips. Guitar players today have access to a wealth of information more quickly and accurate than they ever have had before. They can communicate faster, easier, and more affordably than before. They can access video footage of stars themselves talking about a variety of common topics, without setting a foot outside of St. Paul. These are the times of the super educated guitar player.

What Does This Mean?

More competition, less excuses.

Guitar players are more skilled at younger ages than before. The only difference really is having more information quicker, and technology to make things easier.  The players that will get ahead are going to be the ones that develop effective systems for information management, disciplined practice routines, focused goals, and working smarder. Yes, smarder. Smarter AND harder. If you examine all of these characteristics, you'll notice that they are very A-type traits...historically not often found in artists. But there are some that have it, and they are few and far between.


Ear Training

You've seen it happen before: someone you know can just hear a song and play it right away. No sheet music, no teacher in their pocket to tell them where to put their fingers, just sheer talent.

Brace yourself: this skillset can be learned and taught. It's called ear training.

Being able to hear something and play it isn't some lost magical gift that some are born with and others aren't. Anyone can train their ears to analyze sounds just like they can train their eyes to analyze colors. Here is a short description of the most common method of ear training: relative pitch.

Relative Pitch

Relative pitch doesn't mean 'give or take' pitch, 'plus or minus' pitch, or approximate pitch. Someone that has good relative pitch can identify a mystery pitch given a known reference note. In other words, they can identify a note given a tonal center.

For example: play middle C, then a mystery note and identify it relative to C. Does it sound like a flat 5? Does it sound like a sharp 9? If it sounds like a major 7 then it must be B natural. That's relative pitch with interval analysis. Solfege is similar only it uses syllables.

Relative Ear Training

The simplest way to describe how to train your ears to get to this point is this: listen and get to know the sounds. For some people this might mean many hours of listening, for others this may mean a day of dedication. Here are some ways to get started:

-Find a buddy (Identify the mystery note). Have a buddy (that knows their note locations) sit down at an instrument and play a C for you, then a mystery note. You try to guess the mystery note. Repeat over and over, buy your friend lunch.

-Two instruments (Identify the mystery note). If you both have your instruments, have your buddy do the same thing as in the previous suggestion, then you find the mystery note on your instrument. Bonus points for finding the note on the first try.

-Find a buddy/Two instruments (Identify the mystery key) play a II-V-I in a mystery key, then play the note C. Identify the mystery key.

-Use recordings. There are many ear training recordings out there (Aebersold & Bruce Arnold's titles come to mind), I suggest buying one, loading them onto your mp3 player, setting it to shuffle, and just practice while you're driving to your guitar lesson in St. Paul :)

-Transcribe lots of stuff. Improve your ears by using your ears to figure things out. It's that simple.

It Takes Practice

I'm not gonna lie, it takes practice to get good at this, but the payoff is enormous: you spend less time figuring things out and more time playing, you can execute musical ideas faster, you will know whether an idea will fit before you play it, and so on. Plus, it's an envious skill!

Bruce Arnold's materials are the best and most exhaustive on the subject of ear training that I know of, for any instrument, guitar or otherwise.

Why Do I Even Need A Teacher?

It's a valid question. The internet has revolutionized the way we access and have access to information. Transcriptions to your favorite music are available quicker and more efficiently. Tabs for just about anything musical exist. There are a plethora of videos out there that will show you how to play everything note for note. If you look hard enough, you can find method books or transcription books available for free or little cost.

But there is still a need for the live, one on one lesson in the basement of a church in St. Paul MN. If you find the right teacher, it can even be a more effective use of your money.

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

This is the biggest reason why you need a teacher: you don't know what you don't know, but a good teacher will be able to find out. There is considerable value in having an intelligent individual ask the right questions to figure out what the next step is for you, and develop a plan of approach to get you there. That is what a teacher does.

Entertainment Value

It might sound funny, but a good guitar lesson is half entertainment and half education. Many teachers laugh at the notion that half of it is entertainment, but I would bet that group also has terrible retention, frustrated students, and 'just teaches on the side' so they can pay the bills.

Why is entertainment value important in a guitar lesson? At every age level, attention is held & retained the best when it's funny, enthusiastic, and keeps you on your toes. The same goes for a guitar teacher! I have known some world-class teachers who went unrecognized because of their lack of these qualities in their teaching routine.

Experience Is The Best Teacher

Remember that hard place you were in where you were looking for your first job but they required 5 years experience to be considered? Well how do you get experience when you haven't even had a job yet? A teacher makes that easier. They have experience. It's their job to share it with you. Learn from their mistakes.


Internet Tabs vs. Published Materials

Just about everyone that plays guitar in the modern era and has sought to learn something, or turned to the internet to get their musical fix, has come across guitar tabs. Nearly everyone who has encountered this internet phenomenon has probably been frustrated with the vast variation in quality that this format provides.

What Are Tabs?

Tablature, or 'tabs' for short, is a very straightforward and basic way of writing out guitar music. Basically it consists of six lines each representing a string on the guitar, and numbers representing the fret number of what is supposed to be played. The lowest line in the group of six is the lowest sounding string, and the highest in the group is the highest sounding. One simply reads them from left to right, like words on a page, and plays them in that order.

What is needed to make tabs?

On a computer, all that is needed is a simple word processing program like wordpad or notepad, and a little bit of familiarity with the program in order to place the notes where they need to be. Need an example? Just google your favorite song and append 'tabs' to the end of the query.

Pluses and Minuses

There are pros and cons for guitar tabs. In the most common formats, it's pretty hard to know by looking at the paper what the song is going to sound like if you haven't heard the song before. So in most cases you should have a recording of the song handy so you can follow along and play it like you hear it.

The other drawback with guitar tabs is that there is hardly any sort of regulations or checks and balances to filter out inaccurate tabs. Anybody can publish a guitar tab. So it's critical that you have some sort of experience with guitar in order to know what is worth paying attention to and what isn't.

On the other hand, since it's so easy to publish a tab on the internet, they can also be available much quicker than alternatives like published materials (books, magazines). Did your favorite band just release a new album? Chances are you can probably already find tabs for their songs online.

Published Materials (Books & Magazines)

Conversely, there are many more filters and checks and balances in the publishing industry to make sure that the transcriptions you're getting are accurate and educational. Think about it: If you are a major publisher, you have a reputation to uphold and it is in your best interest to make sure that your publications are accurate, thorough, and complete. Often times many of the transcribers have a wealth of education, experience, and insight into playing that allows them to make well educated decisions in the transcription process.

Most publications also provide rhythm notation with the tablature as well. This is good because if you know how to read music, rhythm notation will give you a good idea, if not exact, of how the music will sound. Even if you haven't heard the music before.

The Bottom Line

I know how to read music, but my personal favorite notation to teach with is tablature with rhythm stems attached to it-- it's most accessible and also has the most information in the format. One can tell what the song sounds like without hearing the recording, and it's presented in a straightforward way that is easy to learn.


Like what you read? Please share it with someone who needs it! It would mean the world to me. Just copy and paste the URL into your favorite platform. Better yet, come visit me at my teaching studio in Shoreview!

Let's Make Some Mistakes!

Our society stigmatizes mistakes. All the way through school and careers, kids are penalized for missing a question, forgetting something, misstepping, wrong answers, breaking rules, questioning the norm, and the list goes on. The next step is a retest, review, do over, redo, retake, etc etc.

Societal Programming

So when they first get into my St. Paul teaching studio and they make a mistake, like a human does, they stop. And start over. Every. Time.

In my room, this is a habit we have to unlearn. Think about if I let it continue: They would stop every time they made a mistake, just like they practiced, and their neurons and muscle memory would deem that the correct reaction every single time, including when they perform for people.

What Not to Practice

Guess what? You can't stop and start over when you're playing for people. Especially when you're playing with a band. The band isn't going to stop the music and wait for you to catch up, so that's an impractical method to practice. But so many (frustrated) people practice that way for the entirety of their musical experiences.

My approach to making mistakes is this: Make them and learn from them. Mistakes are going to happen, you're going to mess up, BUT practicing how to recover from mistakes is a far more practical approach than restarting so you can play it perfectly.

So practice recovery skills, not perfection.