Blog Archives

Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder is a guitarist, singer, and, songwriter.  He is known for his slide guitar playing in particular and also his interest in traditional American music.

He has collaborated with many musicians, including Larry Blackmon, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Randy Newman, Earl Hines, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart, The Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Pops and Mavis Staples, Flaco Jiménez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Freddy Fender, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Ali Farka Touré. He formed the band Little Village with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, and Jim Keltner.

He has also written and performed on many film soundtracks.  Have a look at 80’s guitar/road movie crossroads to which Ry Cooder provided all the slide guitar parts, terrible film but a great soundtrack.

Throughout his career he has played many different genres of music encompassing folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock, and much more.  To date he is still writing, recording, and putting down some awesome guitar parts.


2. Naming the notes

Musical notes are named using the letters of the alphabet.


The lowest sounding note would be the A on the left with the notes gradually getting higher towards the G. After the G the pattern would start again at A and continue getting higher, likewise it could continue getting lower before the A on the left like this.


These notes are known as natural notes. If you look at a piano keyboard the natural notes are the ones in white. If you pick any note from the list above and count along the line till you reach the same note again you should have hopefully counted to eight. If you got to seven make sure you counted every note including the one you started on. This distance is called an octave.


A to the next A is an octave

B to the next B is an octave

C to the next C is an octave


If you find the open E string on your guitar, this is the first or sixth string, then look for a double dot on the neck, this dot Indicates the 12th fret. If your guitar does not have a double dot count up to the 12th fret. Play the open E string and listen to the note produced, this is an E, then play the E string again but this time pressing down with your fretting hand on the 12th fret, this note is also an E and this is what an octave sounds like. The double dot is to indicate where the notes start again, or in other words is one octave higher than the open string.

Flats & Sharps

You have hopefully noticed that we have said that an octave is eight notes apart but to play an octave on the guitar we have had to climb up twelve frets. This is because in between the natural notes there are other notes. These notes are called sharp or flat notes. The symbol for a sharp is #, and the symbol for a flat is b. To avoid confusion I will always put the note names in capitals and the flat sign in lower case. For example Eb would be E flat. F# would be F sharp.

To flatten a note you need to go one fret lower down the fret board. For example, if we took the E at the 12th fret on the E string and moved it down one fret to the 11th fret this note is Eb.

To sharpen a note we need to go one fret higher. For Example if we took the D on the tenth fret of the E string and moved it up one fret to the 11th fret this note would be D#.

In the two examples above we ended up on the same fret but with two different note names. This is because D# and Eb are the same note. Every sharp note has an equivalant flat note.

There are sharps and flats in between every pair of natural notes except B and C, and E and F.

So if we put all the notes down now we end up with this.

A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A

If we transfer this to the guitar using the E string again we can play the notes using the following frets

Fret       Note
0               E
1               F
2           F#/Gb
3               G
4           G#/Ab
5                A
etc .

Try counting up the frets on the E string and naming the notes as you go along. You should be at E again when you reach the 12th fret.

Tones & Semitones

A distance of one fret on the guitar can be called a semitone and a distance of two frets can be called a tone. For example if we play the fifth fret on any string then move it up it by one fret, to the sixth fret, we could say we have raised the note by a semitone. If we raise it by two frets we could say we have raised the note by a tone.


Try naming all the notes on one string by starting with the open string and then working your way up the string. You should end up on the note name you started with by the 12th fret. If you dont something has gone wrong. Dont worry. Try again.

Next up:  Lesson 3 – Finding the notes.

1.What is music theory

Music theory is the language of music and the study of how music is put together. Having an understanding of music theory is helpful in many ways. For example, when teaching it is much easier & quicker to communicate ideas to a student if the student has a good knowledge of theory. If you play in a band ideas can be passed around and expressed clearly and concisely if the members have good theory knowledge. For lead guitarists theory helps you put the right scale with the right chords. For writers and composers it provides clear direction on chord progressions and melody.

Almost all of the top guitarists today have a good knowledge of theory as well as strong technique. If you want to join them you will need the same.

Music was around a long time before theory came along so it could be said that theory is just a way of writing down and remembering things that sound good. I have come across students who have no musical knowledge what so ever but have written some great music. When we have sat down and analysed what they have written we have found that their music conforms with accepted music theory. The reason for this, I believe, is that we grow up listening to music and are conditioned to hear music in a certain way. Therefore when we write music it conforms to the musical patterns we have grown up listening to. If somebody can write music with no theory knowledge what is the point of learning theory? By learning why your music sounds a certain way theory can help you recreate that sound or avoid it. It should also open up new musical avenues for you to explore.

Finally, music theory will help you gain an insight into how your guitar works. Attempting to jam with other musicians without theory is guesswork usually. Theory gets you straight in and playing something cool which surely is what playing an instrument is about.

Next up:  Lesson 2 – Naming the notes

Andy Mckee

Andy Mckee started playing at age 13 but it was only when his cousin took him to see Preston Reed that he became serious with his guitar playing.  His style involves making use of the guitar as a percussion instrument, whilst playing bass notes with his left hand and melody notes with his right hand amongst other techniques.  Have a look at the video.

Andy Mckee found fame when the video of “Drifting” became a featured video on YouTube and MySpace and achieved over 48 million views.  Head over to his website for more information on this amazing guitar player.

Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius is probably the most influential Bass player of all time.  Playing a Fender Jazz with the frets removed Jaco had a unique and instantly recognisable style making use of harmonics, false harmonics, legato, and punchy lines .  Jaco recorded with Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, and, Joni Mitchell amongst others as well as recording his own solo projects.

Jaco had two Grammy Award nominations for his self-titled debut album. He won the readers’ poll for induction into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only four bassists to be so honored (the others being Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, and Ray Brown), and the only electric bassist to receive this distinction.

Andres Segovia

Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain. He is widely considered to be one of the best known and most influential classical guitar personalities of the 20th century, having a considerable influence on later guitarists, particularly because of important guitar works that were dedicated to him by composers such as Federico Moreno Torroba.

Segovia is credited for his modern-romantic repertoire, mainly through works dedicated to him by modern composers, but he also created his own transcriptions of classical works that were originally for other instruments. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive (often instantly recognizable) musical personality in tone, phrasing and style.

Steve Vai

Steve Vai recorded and toured in Zappa’s band for two years, from 1980 to 1982. He began a solo career in 1983, has released eight solo albums and won three Grammy Awards. He has also recorded and toured with Public Image Ltd., Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. Vai has been a regular touring member of the G3 Concert Tour which began in 1996.  One of the greatest ever guitarists with a seemingly total mastery of the instrument and command of music theory and composition.  A great example to other guitar players of the benefits of practice and total dedication Steve Vai is known for his long practice routines including his legendary 10 hour guitar workout.  Also famous for his connections with Ibanez guitars, his Jem series is one of the most sought after and popular signature guitars ever produced.

Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads was most famous for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist on the albums “Blizzard of Oz” and “Diary of a madman”, Ozzy’s first albums since splitting with Black Sabbath.  Randy played guitar for the band “Quiet Riot” before joining Ozzy’s band and was also a dedicated classical guitar player and would seek out classical guitar lessons whilst on tour.  Randy was one of the first “schooled” rock guitarists and had a deep knowledge of music theory, composition, and guitar techniques.  This coupled with his natural musicality combined to make him one of the greatest guitarists ever.  Randy was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982.  In 1987 Ozzy released “Tribute”   a live recording of Ozzy and Randy in concert plus some studio out-takes.  Have a listen to the clip above to hear Randy playing both in a classical style and also some great lead guitar.  The solo at around 2 mins 40 secs is a masterpiece.  Enjoy.