Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar

Woman guitar players — go home and practice guys

When I first started playing guitar almost 40 years ago, it was very much a male thing.  Generally if females played guitar it would be classical guitar – read dots play Bach ( by the way I love Bach) or work through a Carcassi Method or the alternative was do the folk strummy thing (without a plectrum), lots of C chords and a cheap capo. 

Well, while you were sleeping some great things happened. 

  •  Joni Mitchell transformed from being a folkie to a superbly innovative open tuner and spawned generations of open tuners…David Wilcox, (the “how did you find me here” David Wilcox and not the other Canadian Blues player)  cites Joni Mitchell as a major inspiration. And if you think Joni Mitchell is about “Both sides Now”,  don’t kid yourself.
  • Ani diFranco threw away the manual on how to play and emerged with a very interesting array of guitars.  I still haven’t recovered from hearing “I’m not angry anymore” about 5 years ago”.
    One video of a live performane I saw, she was using a 4 string Tenor guitarBelow are a few of the tunings she uses“Studying Stones”  C, F, A#, D#, G, C.
     “Manhole”  C, F, A#, D#, G, C
     “Sunday Morning” C, F, A#, D#, G, A#
    “Seeing Eye Dog” D, A, D, F#, G, D
    “Lag Time” D, A, D, F#, G, D
    “Parameters” C, F, A#, D#, G, G#
  • The first time I heard of Kaki King, it was on the cover of a Frets magazine. It said something like “The new Michael Hedges”.  To me, comments like thast are a bit scarry, especially if you are familiar with his playing.
    Check out Kaki King on youTube
  • And just when you think it’s safe to go back into the guitar store. There’s Muriel Anderson 
  • And if you are currently working on the virtue ‘humility’, check out Badi Assad ..have a listen to her “Solo” album think I better go practice.
Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

How to play a song your way

Over the years I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of guitar players that are trying to make music but are not really happy with what they do.  There is a natural desire for many guitarists to be successful. Watching the Idol series will give you an idea what many people consider to be important.  Ok, to be fair they are not necessarily guitarists and not everyone has exactly the same desires, nor do we all think the same about music, or have the same attitudes and goals. But the Idol approach is an interesting approach to explore and it is fine if that’s what you want out of music, note I’ve said ‘out of music’.  But some of us have a desire to make music and hold that goal much higher than the offshoots of playing music.  E.g:

  • Being on television is not about music, it’s about being on television. 
  • Signing CD’s is not about making music, it’s about people worship.
  • Making a music video, is not about music, it’s about expressing through a visual media format
  • Winning a competition is not about music, it’s about popularity and commercial product

All of the above are valid…but I have difficulty locating music amongst it.  And for me music is about emotions, something expression from the core of us.

Ok, so the years  roll by, your playing’s got smarter, smoother and maybe more relaxed in the way it sits against the beat.  But here’s what I’ve noticed.  A lot of players are playing songs in what I’d consider to be an inappropriate key (I won’t say wrong).  By inappropriate I mean, the song doesn’t sit right.  Often you’ll find there are songs that you wanted to play but they never really worked for you but there’s something in it you wanted to express.  Whether the problem is the way your voice sits against the chord changes, or it might be that the chords are technically correct but it doesn’t quite do it for you, it may lack depth, there’ll be something that prevents the song from being a channel for self expression.

I’ve met many players who want to play carbon copies of the original tune.  Can anyone see a problem with this?  It seems obvious to me  but what I’ve noticed for years is that a lot of players are frightened to rip a song a part and rebuild it completely. 

Why not try playing the song in another key?  For me, other people’s songs are just a basic idea to work from. Songs are crying out to be interpreted in a different way, and chances are that at some point in your life a song that you like is expressing an emotion that you felt.

To be creative with a piece of music:

  • you only need a ‘rough idea’ of the melody – it only needs to be implied in some way
  • a basic set of chords…and really all chord patterns are sreaming out to be reharmonised
  • and an understanding of what you want to say with  the song

There’s nothing Sacred in music apart from being yourself.

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

Air Guitar – the acoustic set

It’s very easy to get over serious sometimes.  So as a type of music therapy I was considering the idea of air guitar for acoustic guitarists.   For anyone that is not up to speed on air guitar, think guitar performance minus one thing – the guitar itself.  A lot of us are familiar with the wonderful antics of virtual electric guitar but how deeply has air acoustic guitar been explored. 

 I’ll make a few suggestions on a particular style.  We’ll call it the air ballad.

 So how to play the air ballad?

  • Sit quietly on the edge of stage.
  • Start with …”this is a song about a woman I once loved, anyone that has ever loved will know what I’m talking about ..”
  • It’s got to be a very mournful expression
  • I think fingerstyle is the go
  • I guess it’s ok to sing along …yes?…or do we do the air vocals as well
  • Expression…maybe meaningful in the chorus
  • A virtual tear in the bridge

Or…maybe there’s people out there already doing it.  Do old air guitarists eventually do an acoustic set or do they just do a reunion tour?

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

The bardo – dedicated to Joshua

Every now and then we do some daring things.  And this is one of them

This is about music that comes from another place or part of ourselves.  In 1999 my teenage son suicided.  A short time after I decided to express my emotions through music and I locked myself in a room for an hour with a guitar, an ADAT and a mixer.  I recorded what at the time was to be a solo guitar piece called ‘the bardo’.  The bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist term that I call the ‘gap between the worlds’.   The piece is rather loose in structure and it is in DADGAD tuning.  I felt the piece wasn’t quite finished so I recorded the second track. It was hard to follow the first track because it is quite loose because  I had never considered adding any other parts..   I happened to have a  synth  module on hand, so I recorded a few effects that represent the sounds floating around in the Bardo.

I built the guitar at a guitar making workshop in 1994, it has a Dana Bougeois pickup system and it plugged straight into the desk.  There is a bit of distortion here and there because at the time I was more interested in quickly capturing the emotion that wanted to come out and not overly interested in audio fidelity at that moment.

I have uploaded the audio file.   It’s a musical poem of the heart and I’ve only ever played it to a couple of people because of the fragility of the situation.

There is a gentle eeriness to it but that’s fine I guess.

It can be downloaded from this address

The best option on a windows machine is Right Click> save Target As> decide where you want to save it > save >

or If  SNAP Shots (which works in conjunction with Adobe Flash player) is runing on your computer, when you mouse over the player an option to play the file will pop up .

Tony Hogan

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, MUSIC

Learn the guitar fretboard

I have uploaded a guitar fretboard tutorial.  It is to help guitar self learners understand the notes on the fretboard.  It is in MS word. I will make the pdf version available over the next 24 hours

 Click on the  Acoustic guitar fretboard to download > Select save > choose a location to save and remember the location > always scan for virues when downloading from the web


 Tony Hogan

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, MUSIC

Acoustic guitar blog

I’ve been looking around at a lot of the other guitar blogs to see what people are writing/ blogging about.  There’s a lot of people trying to sell their lessons, I guess ‘why not’ because guitar players need to make a living, but I guess the question arises about whether they can play or teach, that’s not a criticism but more a curiousity.  A bit of the theory I’m seeing is a bit skewiff, but it’s a bit rude for one guitar player to comment that some the theory they are teaching is incorrect and has errors in it.   Typos are forgivable but incorrect information is a worry.

But  after digging through a lot of articles, i’m finding it really hard to find any really good inspirational blogs, and they are out there somewhere, I’m sure of this.  So please, if you find any, don’t hesitate to recommend them, even after 38 years on guitar I’m open to learning, I guess that’s a good sign.

The approach that I’ve taken in this blog relates a lot to the headspace / mindset of guitar players.  I guess this has come about by playing in so many different musical combinations and styles, and also from studying with exceptional players.   

I’ll be blogging soon about studying with the guitar master Ike Isaacs, the former Stephane Grappelli guitarist and the Indian Sarod player Ashok Roy, the student of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.  The fascinating thing about Ashok was he knew nothing about the guitar and we ended up with the tuning (bass up) B F# B F# B F (natural), yes an odd tuning but I think it’s important to discuss what I learnt, it was only recently that I heard that Ashok had passed away and I’m not sure if any other players were studying Indian music on the guitar with him.   There are  other ways of learning that I think could help players open up a bit.  Neither of these players specialized in acoustic guitar, that’s why i think it’s important to discuss their approach to music.

 So drop in with some guitar blog links if you think they are inspiring in some way, and let me know why you think they are good.

 Oh yeah, is there any acoustic air guitar happening out there?

Tony Hogan

p.s Also I have been wanting to update my simple guitar theory blog at blogspot but there’s been some techy issues. 

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

Acoustic Guitar Players

It’s worthwhile every now and then to take a listen to some different guitar players.  In America in 1976 it was estimated that there were appromiately 16 milion who owned a guitar.  Thirty years later we could only guess how many guitarists there are now, and many people will know an unknown guitar player of exceptional standard.

Here’s a few players that you may not have heard of if you have mainly listed to to mainstream music and I have listed some  albums that are worth exploring.  We all get a bit musically dry and some new input can send us off on a new direction, even if the albums have been around for a while.

Michael Hedges – Aerial Boundaries, Breakfast in the Fields

 Alex de Grassi – Slow Circle (“hint hint – I’d love this for Christmas, I only have a vinyl”)

Pierre Bensusan – Intuite

Tim Sparks – One string leads to another

 Pat Metheny- One quiet Night (on baritone acoustic)

 Ansgar Dalken – Llaneza

The albums listed above are worth exploring because each of them in some way has some sort of beauty about it. 

Wheras I can also find incredible enjoyment in listening to Tony Rice, Mike Marshall, Chet Atkins and Russ Barenburg.

It’s very healthy to listen to and appreciate players of all different genres and not get stuck in a tiny musical box.

Posted in acoustic

Acoustic guitar on growth steroids

Acoustic guitar design has changed a lot of over the years.  I was going to continue my article on ‘what makes a good guitar player’ but the workload took over.  So I thought I’d write a short post about some of the changes happening in guitar.  One of the most notable ones is the Baritone guitar…think guitar on growth hormone steroids mixed with good things musical and you’ll get an idea about what I am talking about.  The Baritone guitar looks, smells and acts like a normal guitar but is bigger and is tuned a little lower, in fact, instead of bottom E, think bottom A and move all the other strings up in ratio  A D G C E A.  As a solo instrument this is an obvious advantage, because it enables the soloist to have an extended range in the bass, as the fingering is the same, there is no need to relearn the instrument.

The best baritone guitar I’ve heard to date is the one that Linda Manzer (a great acoustic and semi acoustic guitar builder) built for Pat Metheny.  Metheny used it on his recording One Quiet Night.  No doubt this is only the beginning of a new generation of instruments.

I remember sitting in a room with Don Andrews, George Golla and another guitar player Mark(?) over thirty years ago and each of them had a seven string semi acoustic guitar, at that time they were unheard of, but over the last so many years we’ve started to see them  in guitar catalogues from various makers.  Both the baritone and the seven string allow solo musicians greater creative opportunities.  The acoustic guitar is beautiful and complete within itself as it is but as musicians we are always looking for new ways to create music. 

Check out Linda Manzer’s guitars, it’s worth a visit to her site.

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, MUSIC

What makes a good guitar player?

So what does make a good guitar player?  Depends on who you ask, doesn’t it?  And maybe there needs to be an understanding before we get too far into it, that the question wasn’t  ‘what makes good music?’ Occassionally those two questions can meet, but not always.

If you really want to find out how good the music is then maybe it’s not a good idea to ask a guitar player.  Does that make sense at all? 
Here’s why. A lot of guitar players have a tendency to analyze the technical side of music; they’ll often stand in the front row and watch the the guitarist’s fingers and comment on the compexity of the music. This is all very well if we are trying to sort out how good the player is at finger gymnastics, understanding chord substitutions, harmony or the knowledge of scales etc.

I highly recommend that if you want to find out how good the music is, ask somebody that has ‘a good ear’ but does not play a musical instrument, otherwise the judgement might be a little too colored by the persons musical education. 

I remember when I was talking to the guitar great Ike Isaacs about a certain guitar player that is rated at the top of his field.  His comment was a turning point for me as a musician.  Here’s an overview of what he said, ‘He’s brilliant, the best but the problem is he plays everything he knows in the one song’.  Now as a young musician that wanted to be as good as the top guys, I had to rethink everything and decide what was important for me, and in the end, the only conclusion that I could come to was that the final result when playing music, is it needs to sound good (to a non musician this statement may possibly seem obvious but a lot of musicians miss this point), and ‘cleverness’ needs to be avoided.  Good music obviously means something to each individual but in the end it has to listened to without the intellect getting in the way. When we get our ‘head’ out of the way and drop our musical bias and listen without judgement, it’s easier to enjoy the music more.

It took me a long time to like Bluegrass guitar. it wasn’t til I heard players like Tony Rice playing with David Grisman, Russ Barenberg, Norman Blake and Doc Watson that the ‘penny dropped’ about how good it was. And then when I tried playing it, it made a lot of sense on how brilliant it is for not only in developing a better ear but for my musicality. What I found was that while working through the Bluegrass tunes I could develop a fluency in my playing that was much more enjoyable than playing hours of scales that  were monotonous and non-musical.  And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t play scales but they need to be kept in their place. An over emphasis on scales can make a guitar player sound like they are a brilliant scale player, get it?

So what does make a good guitar player?  … be continued on the 17th Sept…..

Posted in acoustic, MUSIC

acoustic guitarist

Acoustic Guitarist, that looks good on a business card doesn’t it?  If you are planning a career in music, sitting around practicing 12 hours a day and woodshedding to get your skills up, it is not enough, there are pieces missing.  You could be the greatest player of all time (and even look good as well) , it still won’t get you there.  Traditionally artists of any type are considered ‘air heads’ by many people in the community, it’s not always true and generalizations fall into the ‘limited thinking’ zone but anyone that has ever had to coordinate a group of artists to do something could possibly see a hint of the truth with the label.

One of the major things missing with guitar players is the ability to organize themselves, and maybe it runs through a lot of other aspects of our lives. They can be simple things like:

  • Turning up on time
  • Keeping a diary of things to do
  • Prioritising what needs to be worked on
  • Planning what to practise
  • Setting some small goals

And I’ll say it again

  • Turning up on time

This is starting to sound scarily like business does it not? Mmm, yep.  A lot of us don’t like the business side of music, all we want to do is play, and maybe the money might magically materialize.  Here’s something to consider, if you want to get ahead and be a better player and take your music out of the bedroom and onto the stage, big or small, there needs to be a plan.  Plans aren’t hard to do but they are a bit alien to some of us. 

Maybe the first step is to start to fill in the musical gaps that exist.  example:

  • If you can’t read dots, why not start
  • If you can’t read or write tab strat (now that’s a real guitarist’s typo) to sort it out
  • If your ears aren’t fine tuned for hearing chords – put some time to it
  • If you can only play half a song – learn a few tunes front to back

A lot of what you need to know, you could easily identify because know what you don’t know and where the weak spots are in your playing.  If you don’t work on the weaknesses it’s hard to be confident, and when you are in front of people playing you need as much confidence as possible, because if something goes wrong it’s your confidence and self belief that will help you through. 

 So if you need to start to make sense of musical notation, why not start now?  There’s a very simple blog that covers this at that may be useful. I’m still working on a simple layout for it and am currently putting a site together that has a bit more room onscreen than the blogs.


Posted in acoustic, MUSIC

Acoustic Guitar Player Competition

Guitar players as a rule can be very competitive.  There’s an up side and a down side to this of course.  The upside being,  it can be part of the motivating force that drives us to be better guitar players,  the down side is, that if we’re not careful we can end up being over critical, arrogant and under appreciative of other players achievements.  And when you look at it carefully, the way we feel about and treat others is often the way we feel about and treat ourselves.  I’m confident that the major element missing in music education / learning / tuition is to do with the emotions.

Getting a balance right about competitiveness is what I think is one of the best kept secrets in music.  It’s possible to learn from every guitarist that you encounter, regardless of skill level.  It’s a matter of looking at the player from a different angle and analysing them closely, it’s impossible to do this if we are busy criticizing them.  I’ve learnt as much from the beginners that I’ve taught, as I have from some of the guitar greats.

This is something I’ve learnt

A lot of people in the initial stages of learning have great trouble in coordinating their fretting hand and getting their fingers to move fluently from one chord to the other.  As a guitar teacher I had to look very closely at the movement of the hand. What I have found is that most players were concentrating on where the fingers needed to be and not on the path that the fingers take from one fret to another.  This is best demonstrated by doing the chord movements away from the guitar (a-la air guitar).  You’ll see if you try this that the movements are very subtle because the distance travelled by each finger is very small.  You’ll probably also notice that by relaxing the hand it can move more freely than if it is tense.  Be aware of the many rotation points there are on the hand as well and how when you move one part of the hand it impacts on other parts.  The secret here is relaxtng the hand into the position it wants to go.

So, how to make competitiveness a healthy thing?

The best solution that I can find is that we need to compete with ourselves; and no this doesn’t mean beat yourself up.  It means more about setting our own musical goals and doing what takes to achieve them.  It’s all about being organized

And yes, if another player can do something on a guitar, why not learn it if you have the time?  But it’s better to learn things because it can enhance your musicality.  I like the idea of taking what someone else is doing and turning it into something of my own.

It’s a good idea every now and then to ask ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and don’t stop at the first answer.   Dig around a bit and you may find a whole new area or pathway to follow in music.

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

how to make your guitar practice musical

Practicing the guitar is a bit like life, you can do it the hard way or be easy on yourself.  If you do it the hard way you’ll end up being frustrated and your music won’t feel right.  Believe me, there are ways of making guitar practice enjoyable.  But like many things that we wish to master in our lives, you will need to put in a tiny bit of effort to get some sort of decent result where there’s measurable progress.  I’ve seen some people put hours and hours into the guitar and work really hard at it and they get really tense about it all, there is another way of doing it that might suit you better.

First of all, I’ll assume you play music for fun, yes?  Whether it’s professional at the highest level, as a job or just for you and your dog, it’s got to be enjoyable.  If not, maybe you went to wrong teacher or at a young age you were pushed into it by well meaning parents that misunderstood music or had the agenda of music helps your maths, and then I really feel for you and hope the suffering finishes soon.  It’s important to find a balance between  a good technique and creativity. And by good technique I don’t mean that you need to be flashy, and yeah that’s fine if that’s your nature, but it shouldn’t be the end goal..the goal is good music, right?  Good music comes in every style,  shape and size.  And when I say creativity, I don’t mean frigging  around for hours as if you are lost in space, I mean doing something that has some sort of outcome.

 Here’s what I worked out years ago.  You might find it useful. 

There are days when you are not feeling musical.  There is a tendency for people not to play on these days.  When I’m not feeling musical I have a good look at what  things I can work on to develop my skill level, I’ll set myslf a task like starting work on a new arrangement of a song by someone else, or look at other ways of playing chords, find  a new scale or chords, or sometimes I’ll try playing in an open tuning e.g bass E B D F# A D.   I work on things that when I put the guitar down at the end of the session, I feel like I’ve moved ahead.  I’m a firm believer that the days when we don’t feel musical is definitely the time when something inside us is telling us to UP the skill level. 

On the other hand, if all we do is play scales and modes at a billion miles an hour and aim at two billion by Christmas, we probably won’t be getting much back from the music, it feels like a chore or maybe a great ego hit.  I once worked with a sax player that had a beautiful tone, his turning point was when a member of the audience came up to him and said “Gee you play great scales”, he changed his focus to music.  And yes, to have a giant toolbox of musical possibilities is great because it enables us to create without be disadvantaged by a limited skill set, but it should never outweigh the music. 

When you’re feeling creative go with it, music comes in waves, it’s not something you can just turn on.  It’s possible to play well at all times, yes, but not always possible to play great music. When you’re going through a creative phase, go with it, don’t bog yourself down with technique too much when you’re in your creative mode, it will just get in the way of the music. 

The ability to move comfortably between the creative mode and the study mode is what will ultimately help you be a great musician, one that is unique and not just a bad copy of your favourite player.

Learn from others but be yourself  most of all.  There’s room for everyone

Posted in acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, MUSIC

great playing …that was a really good half a song

Ever noticed how lots of guitar players sit around and start playing a song…and stop…and doodle on the guitar and then play another half or sixteenth of a song, then a bit of an intro and so on.  Does this sound familiar? 

One of the things lacking in many players is the ability to complete, to follow through and turn what they can do on a guitar into a musical package that defines who they are as a unique musician.  What many guitarists have is a bundle of bits and pieces, this is extremely common.  Fortunately someone was kind enough to point this out to me about thirty years ago, and it helped me prevent catching a bad habit very early in my musical career. 

So how do we deal with this issue of bringing all our musical bits and pieces together?

I have a strategy that has worked for many students, and the reason it worked for them is because they followed through and acted on some very simple advice.  We often bypass the simple things but it’s astounding how the small things can make a massive impact on what we do.  So here it is:

  •  Get a piece of paper, a ruler, an eraser, a pen and a pencil

  • Draw three columns on the piece of paper in PEN

  • Create a heading at the top of the first column:


  • Create a heading at the top of the second column 


  • Create a heading at the top of the third column 


  • Write a list of the songs you can play in the 1st colum in PEN

  • Write a list of the songs you’re learning in the 2nd column in PENCIL

  • Write a list of the songs you’d like to play in the 3rd column also in PENCIL

When you select songs for the third column make sure that a number of them are achievable.

As you learn a song completely, or get it to the point where it’s reasonably good,
move the song from the second column to the first.

  • The next step is to sit down and play a concert to yourself, from start to finish.  The concert will consist only of the songs from the first column.  No doodling around.

Even if you can only play one or two songs, it’s OK you’ll build on it. If you follow the simple steps I have recommended, you’ll find that you’ll be developing a repertoire of songs for performance. Your style will gradually become more defined and more refined.

Click the link on song_list.doc to DOWNLOAD a simple list template

In my next blog I’ll be discussing how to practice so it’s not a painful non-musical experience.