February 3, 2013

Circa 1992

Image for the guitar blog post about Mynameisace
If I remember correctly, it was my 6th birthday in 1992 in my hometown of Hull that I first got given a battered old acoustic guitar by my Nan. Two weeks before, I’d seen Slash on the TV and long curly hair, a top hat and a bottle of Jack Daniels looked too cool to be true!

As much as I love the feeling of home that Hull gives me, it wasn’t the best place to walk around looking like something out of a scene in Spinal Tap, especially when I was a teenager.

People to jam with in short supply, and the fact that I didn’t fit in at school, I decided that education was a waste of my time (hell, I’d probably be a lawyer or something by now if I went). There was an abandoned music room at the school I went to with a battered up nylon string classical guitar and an out of tune piano in.

Taking the too-cool-for-school approach, I’d leave my house each morning, say goodbye to my Mum and Dad then walk to school and sit all day in the music room and play guitar for 7 hours on the classical guitar. When the school bell went, I’d go deliver newspapers to fund strings and guitar magazines, head off home and play guitar again for another 4 hours on my Les Paul copy.

This went on for most of the duration of school in my teenage years. I had a lot of explaining to do to my parents when I finished school and didn’t have any exam results to speak of (but hey, I was a pretty good player – Note to anyone in the position I was in… That is not a very good excuse to tell your parents, apparently). I scraped into music college on my audition alone because I didn’t have anywhere near the qualifications but to me, it was worth it because I loved, and still love the guitar.

Fast forward a decade, 3 record deals, several tours and a million other musical experiences on the way and I still get that same feeling each and every time I see, play or think of the guitar. That feeling of strings on top of a maple or rosewood fretboard underneath my fingers is something I cannot explain.

But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, is YOU, the listener, that makes every failed tour, money spent and friendships neglected for several hours a day practicing that makes all of it matter.

I look forward to all of the difficult, ugly and always worthwhile experiences to come on this musical journey. Here’s to hoping you will be a part of that journey.

Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter!

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January 25, 2013

String-Skip Tapping Guitar Lesson

String-Skip Tapping
String-Skip Tapping is something you don’t see a great deal of, but can cover a huge spectrum of notes, over multiple octaves to give you a really big sound. Especially when your inspiration is a robot…

Yesterday, I Tweeted about building a robot out of Mega Blocks and being inspired to write a song about it. This morning, my Mega Blocks robot was sat next to my PS3 and Wii U looking down at me whilst I was playing and I came up with a mechanical sounding lick using String-Skip Tapping.

Download TAB

The lick in the TAB is based around B Dorian (B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A) and I tend to use the first and second fingers on both hands to achieve the sound, so that may be a good place to start. The left-right hand pattern is the same on every string, so if you play the first note on the E string by hammering on from nowhere with your second finger (this may take a bit of practice to get it sounding as strong as the other notes). The right hand taps 7 frets (a perfect fifth) higher, again with the second finger, then pulls off to the original note. The second part of the String-Skip Tapping lick is exactly the same as the phrase on the E string, but based on the G string with the first fingers of the right and left hands.

Now you can do the hard part, it’s time to repeat!

The original E string lick is then repeated, with the same fingering, on the B string. Follow that up with the second phrase on the D string and there is only the turn-around left to complete our robot inspired String-Skip Tapping lick! The turnaround becomes a little bit of a challenge towards the end. As you can see on the TAB, it is just the first three notes of the lick again, which is true, but gets a little bit tricky when we loop the phrase, because we are finishing with a left hand hammer on from nowhere on the G string. The first note of the looped lick would be on the E string, so I recommend just repeating the end-start of the lick a few times until it is sounding clear.

If you want to give it an even more mechanical sound, add in a second guitar playing the same thing a perfect fourth or perfect fifth higher (maybe both?!), using the same String-Skip Tapping technique and you will be in true robot territory – Please try and avoid performing your favourite 80s robot dance moves!

Tip: When first practicing this, it may be beneficial to wrap a sock around the neck of the guitar behind your left hand to mute the open strings (I know – people usually use hair-ties, but I’m not a girl, so a sweaty sock has to do).

If you are still having trouble with string noise when String-Skip Tapping, it may be worth replacing the left-hand second finger parts with your third finger and  first finger parts with the  second finger and using your first finger as a sock (just lay your first finger over the strings lightly to mute the unwanted sounds).

The inspiration of this lesson came from this robot that I built out of Mega Blocks!

The inspiration of this lesson came from this robot that I built out of Mega Blocks!

Have fun!

Ace

January 19, 2013

Into Element Studios with Dan Foster

Turning on the mojo lamps at Element Studios!
This week I went to Element Studios with Dan Foster to record my first instrumental rock single!

When it comes down to entrusting somebody with my music, it’s a no-brainer, I always turn to Dan Foster. Dan and I have spent years working on my guitar sound in the studio with the many projects that we’ve done together. I always try to get the most expressive tone possible and usually the end result tends to be us keeping things really simple. It’s never been this simple though, yet we got the biggest  sound we’ve ever had!

I turned up at Element Studios on Wednesday with that fresh project excitement (on the way down Dan and I spent most of the car journey chatting about what was to come). I had the car packed out with different guitars and basses (all of which I had the misfortune of changing the strings on Tuesday night), my guitar rack and a whole load of other things that it turns out, just weren’t needed. I didn’t have a bass part written, so after the drums were done, I put down the clean arpeggio rhythm part using a Strat sound with the middle/bridge pickups on my Line 6 Variax running through a Blackstar 5 watt head and my 1960 Vintage Marshall 4×12 cab. Tracking was done within a few minutes, so it gave us time to experiment with the lead tone.

First port of call was to try out the rig that was already set up, so I plugged my Ibanez JEM FP-2 into the Blackstar HT-5 and began to warm up. I was blown away by the tones coming out of the monitors. It sounded like a cranked full-stack, but it was a 5 watt amp! It’s hard to leave your misconceptions at the door and want your Messa/Boogie heads and 100-watt Marshalls, but the sound just suited my playing style completely and was really responsive to the tone/volume controls on my guitar. We used a Blackstar overdrive pedal as a volume boost for the very last part of the track, but other than that, it’s just my guitar plugged straight into the HT-5. An extremely valuable part to my tone though, was the use of the mojo lamps in the control room (see image). Without them, my playing and Dan Foster’s mix just wouldn’t be the same!

For the bass, I kept it simple and just played tastefully. Dan and I wrote it as we were tracking it, so we could hear the lead track over the top and bring out some harmonies, but the majority of the time, it’s just locking down with the drum groove. Dan then laid down a pad and string part on the keyboard and we were done. On the full track, all that is there is:

1 drum track
1 clean guitar
1 lead guitar
1 bass
2 keyboard parts

Dan did a fantastic job with the mix/master and we are set to do more tracks together at Element Studios within the next couple of months, so keep your eyes and ears out for them!

Turning on the mojo lamps at Element Studios!

Turning on the mojo lamps at Element Studios!

The mixes may be great, we may have a brilliant creative relationship, but only one thing’s for certain; Dan Foster has the best mojo lamps in the world. Period.

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January 5, 2013

Arpeggio Hammer-Ons Guitar Lesson!

Arpeggio Hammer-Ons
With so many guitarists using sweep picking and tapping for their arpeggio fix, this Arpeggio Hammer-Ons lesson gives you a way to play your favourite 7th arpeggios with a smooth legato sound!

Arpeggios have always been a main-staple in guitar playing, and the trend for the past 30 years has been to sweep pick or use two handed tapping. I use both of these techniques in my playing, but also prefer mixing smooth sounding legato with the attack from a plectrum. Sweep picking does a great job of adding a burst of notes, and tapping is taking advantage of both hands to voice the arpeggio smoothly.

Download TAB

The guitar is set out in a way that lets us take any two string lick on the E & A strings and repeat them with the same fingering over 3 octaves just by moving 2 or 3 frets higher as we ascend the strings. This can be seen throughout the included TAB as I show you every 7th chord arpeggio in G Major.

I have taken a none-traditional approach to playing arpeggios in this lesson because we actually start on the 7th of the chord as opposed to the more traditional root, 3rd or 5th. This gives you a unique flavour that will separate you from other players that are sweep picking straight major and minor arpeggios.

The main technique here that will need focus is getting used to picking a note, doing a hammer-on, then switching strings. Once you have got the two string lick down, knowing where your octaves are and switching positions are all that are needed to perform the lick over 6 strings/3 octaves!

If you are on the low E string, you will find the next octave by moving up 2 frets and 2 strings. To get to the final octave, you still move up two strings from G to B, but this time you move 3 frets higher.

Have fun!

Ace

January 2, 2013

Lydian Pentatonics Guitar Lesson!

Lydian Pentatonics
Modes can be confusing to guitar players, yet they can help you break out of a rut in your playing and give your riffs and solos interesting sounds. Welcome to the Lydian mode…

The lydian mode is one of my favourites and you can play it by raising the 4th note in the Major Scale. Whilst you get your head and fingers around that though, why not move the first position Pentatonic scale around and play the licks you already know, but with a Lydian flavour?

Download TAB

Download Backing Track

The Lydian mode is based around the major scale, so in the lessons we will basing the positions on E Major.

Example 1 – A good place to start would be with the Major Pentatonic. If you’ve not played the Major Pentatonic before, it is the same fingering as the Minor Pentatonic, but starts 3 frets lower than the root. If we are playing in E (12th fret), we will move down 3 frets to C# (9th fret) – This won’t give us a Lydian sound, but will give us a good Major vibe. Playing your Minor Pentatonic licks in this position and over a Major chord progression will sound different because of the relation of the notes to the underlying chords (try it over the backing track!).

Example 2 – Starting the Pentatonic scale from the Major 3rd (G# – 4th fret) gives another nice major feel using the same scale shape and licks. Again, this will sound different because of the underlying chords.

Example 3 – The previous two Pentatonic positions can be used in the place of a standard Major Scale and don’t have that Lydian feeling. Starting the Pentatonic Scale a semi-tone down from the root (D# – 11th fret) gives us some really unique note choices and has 2 positions that contain the Lydian note (#4). Playing your favourite Pentatonic licks in this position will give you some really interesting sounds.

Where all of these Pentatonic positions really start to shine is when you switch between them. Moving between Example 1 and Example 3 will give you a great Lydian base to build upon and Example 2 will have you exploring the neck.

If you thought you didn’t know the Lydian mode, every single note in E Lydian (E – F# – G# – A# – B – C#- D#) has been covered here with one Minor Pentatonic scale box!

Have fun!

Ace

January 1, 2013

Increase Your Alternate Picking Speed by 35 bpm in one Week Guitar Lesson!

Increase your alternate picking speed by 35 bpm in one week!
Alternate picking always seems to scare players, yet with only around half an hour per day you could get 35+ bpm faster in just one week.

When I play, I like it to be as expressive as possible and not just be a showcase of mechanical techniques. I always write my melodies and solos with drum loops instead of a metronome, so I have a groove to play over. Alternate picking on the other hand IS a mechanical process and needs to be performed many times before the brain and hands sync up and the muscle memory is there enough to play it cleanly and consistently.

Download TAB

Pick any alternate picking lick, the one I have included in the tablature for this lesson is based on a run in E natural minor, but you can use anything that you want to improve the speed of. Once you have your lick, play it at a speed that is comfortable – the key here is being honest with yourself, plug into an amp with all of your effects turned off and really listen to what you are playing on clean as well as overdriven and on every pickup configuration will give you a clear indication of where you’re at. If there are open strings ringing out, unwanted noise or the timing is a bit off, strip the speed back. Alternate picking is really where the metronome comes in handy. I have Guitar Tools installed on my iPhone so I can play anywhere, but there are plenty of free alternatives online such as Web Metronome and Metronome Online that work just as well. Pick a tempo that is around the speed you’re comfortable alternate picking at and adjust accordingly.

Remember: You’re not playing in front of thousands of people, you’re practicing alone, so don’t be put off or afraid to start really slow and work your way up slowly, your playing will be a lot cleaner because of it!

Let’s say, for example, that you are using the triplet lick from the included TAB and you are starting slow and focusing on every note at 65 bpm. All we have to do to get our alternate picking up to 100 bpm in one week is to increase each day by 5 bpm… Easy, right?!

People get frustrated playing something that is supposed to be frighteningly fast at such small speeds, but it is this, and only this, that will allow you to get to your physical limit and have every note clear and precise when alternate picking. It will also be tempting to jump up in 2,3, 5 or more beats per minute, but to really get this tight, I recommend playing this for half an hour per day (could be longer some days and shorter on others) and increasing 5 bpm each day. If we are at 65 bpm on day 1, then I would play that until every note sounded out and there was no unwanted noise, then increase the metronome to 66 bpm and repeat until you hit 70 bpm. Always practice with your amp and make sure it sounds great with a clean setting and an overdriven setting at every bpm.

If you are doing the half an hour alternate picking exercise in a morning, I would have a quick play (no longer than 5 minutes) of the lick at your day’s limit before you go to bed.

Increasing in such small increments and playing for smaller, frequent periods of time will give the brain chance to absorb the information and make a connection with the muscles, which is needed to execute the picking precisely.

Have fun!

Ace

January 1, 2013

Hello World!

Mynameisace… I had a dream at 14 years old to create an instrumental guitar album and after 11 years, countless bands, session gigs, tours and students, here it is… Well, sort of.

I finally took the plunge to start creating my dream record and through the past few weeks I’ve been building this site, planning out my goals with Mynameisace for the next couple of years, writing songs and recording demos. 13 has always been my favourite number, so 2013 seems the right time to start this journey.

Currently, I have one song fully written and a demo recorded for it, as well as 15 other half written songs and god knows how many riffs and ideas recorded on my iPhone. I’ll be going into the studio in 15 days time to track the song properly with my good friend Dan Foster, owner and producer at Element Studios. I’ve worked with him on all kinds of projects for years and he knows my sound and playing style almost as well as I do, so expect to hear a lot of him in the coming years on all of my releases.

So there we have it. Over the next few months I’ll be adding more features to the site and will have more music every month as well as free weekly guitar lessons on my blog.

Everybody have a great 2013!

Ace

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