Nigel Elliott Guitar Tuition

Guitarist - Musician - Tutor

Jam tracks...

Jam tracks are great... they're the perfect way for you to try out your licks and scales in a musical context when you're practicing at home. Here's some that I found on YouTube that will be useful for some of you... 

A great one for practicing the guitar parts to 'Sunshine Of Your Love' by Cream. Great for mixing your major and minor pentatonic scales.. this track is in D just like the original.

 

I hope these are useful for you. I've tried to include as many common keys as possible so you don't just get stuck on one spot of the neck. Let me know how you get on!

 

Take a Snapshot...

Sometimes it’s difficult to see our own progress. Even when you practice every day it can sometimes feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. I’ve had a few students come to me over the years feeling a little discouraged that the song they’re working on hasn’t come together how they imagined. 

The thing is, when you’re monitoring your own progress it’s difficult to see the little improvements that you make all the time. For me, the improvements in your playing are always apparent and I can always find positives from week to week if you’ve practiced. 

Here’s one way to look at it (strange analogy incoming)… You look in the mirror every day and what do you see? You see yourself and that’s how you’ve always looked for as long as you can remember, right? Wrong. I’m sure we’ve all had a relative or a friend who hasn’t seen us for a while tell us how much we’ve grown or how much older we look. That’s kind of what it’s like week in and week out with me. I haven’t been with you all week as you practice and because I haven’t been with you all week it means it’s much easier for me to hear the improvements in your playing. 

Sometimes we’ve got to look at where we came from to see how far we’ve come. So a good tip is to make periodic recordings of your guitar playing. Maybe record yourself playing the song, chords or rhythm you're working on during a practice session. When you listen back after a while (be it a few weeks or months) you will be able to hear how much you have improved. It’s just like taking a snapshot of your current level at that time.

You’re not alone... I even get this way myself sometimes and have to check back on videos I made a couple of years ago to see how much I’ve improved since then. I’ve even found it beneficial to just try and organise in my head what I know now that I didn’t know 6 months ago or a year ago.

For some of you reading this you may still be a beginner and you may still be within your first year of playing guitar. Think back to last year… you hadn’t even picked one up yet and now look at everything you know. 

Take care

Inspiration...

Inspiration comes in many forms. For myself, it sometimes comes on in waves. It's not always there and occasionally I feel like things take a dip until something else comes along and inspires me to try harder to better myself. 

A few years ago I remember telling a few people that by the time I reached 25 I wanted to be able to look back and see that I'd given things a good go. That I'd tried to be the best guitarist that I could possibly be. I see now that perhaps I was initially a little naive in my thinking. 

Every day I can try a little harder to be the best I can be. Every day I can try to cop the tone of a favoured guitarist or a lick from a legend. There's always more knowledge to be gained and more experimentation of how to apply all of the things you've learned to develop your own style. 

So what is it that inspires me? Almost everything. I try to look beyond things at face value and try to take something away from it that can inspire me as a guitarist.

I look at other people, bands, artists, photographers, illustrators, sports teams, athletes, engineers, companies etc. and I see their desire to be great and to try harder and to better themselves and that inspires me to try and achieve the same thing with my playing. I listen to other musicians and try to work out not only what they played but why they played it. I ask myself the question 'what if I try this?' A LOT when it comes to playing guitar and as a result I feel much less scared to try new things. 

Whilst all of this inspires me, the thing that inspires me most is the feeling I have within me that I've got more to give and perhaps I'm just getting started. I feel like I have the potential to be a better player than I am and that drives me to keep going. 

All of this coupled with a completely positive attitude is what makes me the player I am today.

I hope that from reading this you can take a little inspiration and perhaps look in other places that you may not have considered before to find your own inspiration. There are no rules.

8 Tips for Better Practice...

A question I get asked often is ‘How do I practice?’. Sure, it comes easy to some but for everyone else, here’s a few tips to help get you started. 

  1. Make it accessible. If you’ve got a guitar stand, keep your guitar out of the case and on the stand. If it’s in the room of your house you frequent most you’re more likely to pick it up and play it even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  2. Keep your practice sessions short and consistent. There’s nothing I love more than spending an afternoon working on a new song or concept on the guitar but that doesn’t always suit everyone, especially not beginners. The idea of spending hours practicing may seem like a drag when you’re starting out. Aim to spend about 10 minutes every day practicing your instrument and the task won’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll make more progress in those early stages rather than trying to cram all your practice in the day before your lesson.
  3. Slow it down. It can be difficult to try and play a song or passage you're learning for the first time at the correct tempo. This can sometimes be disheartening if you're struggling to change from chord to chord. Generally, it’s a good idea to learn the song at a slower tempo than it’s actually played and when you’ve got that down gradually bring it up to speed.
  4. Have more than one thing to play. We’ve all felt the frustration of just trying to get that one chord, strumming pattern or song right but it just feels like it’s not working. When that happens, it’s a good idea to have something else you can go to and play for a couple of minutes just to take your mind off of it for a bit. When I’m struggling with something new myself I’ll always take some time to go back and play something much easier that I really know how to play almost just for the fun of it and for me that keeps things enjoyable. 
  5. Memorise. It’s important to be able to memorise all of your chords. It makes learning new songs so much easier when you don’t have to look up any chords. This also applies to songs. Unless you’re playing jazz or with an orchestra, almost every song you learn will be from memory. 
  6. Practice the stuff you’re struggling with. Sometimes we can get into a rut where we only want to practice the things we’re good at. As a result, we end up ignoring the stuff that we really need to work on. Whether that be a new chord, a technique or part of a solo, you’ve got to work on it to improve overall as a guitarist. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
  7. Visualise. When you’re away from your guitar you can still practice. This is one of my favourite practice techniques. I visualise the guitar neck and try to visualise where it is I need to put my fingers to play whatever it is I’m working on at the time. You can do it for chords, scales, solos… anything really. The best part is you don’t even need to have your guitar with you to do this. You can do it anywhere!
  8. Awareness. Try to be aware of your mistakes. Ask yourself ‘Does this sound right?’ If the answer is anything other than ‘yes’ then you’ve got to observe what it is you’re currently doing and work out how to fix it. For example, If you’ve got a chord that’s buzzing or there’s a few muted strings in there, you can try repositioning your fingers, make sure you’re using the tips of your fingers or try squeezing a little harder. If something isn’t working for me I’ll always ask myself ‘What if I do this…’ and try adjusting things to get a better result.

These are just some of the ideas and habits I’ve become used to using over the years and they’ve certainly been effective for myself. I hope all of them are useful for you too. Happy practicing!

Happy New Year!

So I'm kinda late with this... We're now 2 weeks into the New Year. It's been a busy couple of weeks for myself though. Lots of new students and lots of organising and making sure everyone's got a time slot that suits. It's been hectic!

If you received a gift certificate for guitar lessons over the Christmas period at all please do get in contact with me to get your lessons arranged. Make 2015 the year you learn how to play guitar! (does that sound too cheesy? I'm gonna run with it anyway) 

I think this year is gonna be great.. I've got lots of personal goals with my own guitar playing and I'm sure this will be the year some of you really take it to the next level as well. Hopefully I can detail as much of it as possible on this blog. 

Anyways, as I type this it's snowing a blizzard in Coleraine so I'm gonna make some coffee and stay warm!