Back to Back Issues Page
Learn To Play Rock Guitar!, Issue #001 -- Get your timing down!
January 25, 2009
Whassup, Peeps???

Happy New Year!!!

First off, I want to thank you subscribing to the new "Learn To Play Rock Guitar" Newsletter. It's taken a while to get this first edition out, but here it is. Thanks for hangin' in there!

New Site Design

Whew! I think it's finally done. It's taken quite a while, and I've been using up my nights and weekends, trying to get it wrapped up. Now I can get back to working on new pages and new lessons! Check out the new design here.


Well, here we are, the first few weeks of January, 2009 are already gone. Hope 2008 was good to you.

What are your playing goals for 2009? Did you reach your 2008 goals?

Personally, my goals are to get back into playing shape after an 'over twenty year' hiatus from playing with a band. I want to be playing in a working band by the end of the year.

My influences have changed - I used to be strictly rock, but after listening to some metal, punk and emo, I've had my eyes opened. I definitely want something to lead to eventually recording and possibly touring.

I recognize I need to really focus on some fundamentals to get back into shape. Things like timing and scales. Chords are a big staple in writing, so learning how to get a mood or feeling from the chords I play is a critical skill. I've got my work cut out for me - wish me luck!

What about you? What are the things you need to work on to reach your goals?

Improve your playing

You've got this axe and amp. You want to rock out and show your chops. But you gotta learn some songs first!

One of the toughest things about learning new songs is sometimes it's just so hard to figure out what they're playing. If you could just slow the song down enough to hear what the notes are, it would be so much easier.

Used to be in the old days, we'd sit there with our cassettes or vinyl records and listen to them over and over again to pick out the notes so we'd play a decent rendition of the song. Countless hours of lifting the needle off the turntable or rewinding the cassette to trying and figure out every note so it sounded good.

Even so, when you have a guy like Eddie Van Halen, with his blinding speed and riffs, you had to be near genius to get the licks and be able to play songs like "Eruption" or "Hot for Teacher".

Thankfully, today there are ways to get around that dilemma.

What if you could slow a song down to half-speed (or slower) so you can hear every note without affecting the pitch? Do you think you could pick a song apart and learn what each guitar is doing?

The great news is you can. Song Surgeon is the tool to help you accomplish this. You'll be able to open just about any audio file and slow it right down to a manageable tempo (speed) so you can get every note.

You can check out Song Surgeon at

This issue's lesson…

As I mentioned in my goals above, I want to improve my playing to enable me to get back into a band. One of my biggest challenges right now is to get my timing back in shape. This means being able to stay with the rhythm of the song and consistently keep the tempo.

So I'm going back to the basics. Starting with some basic exercises to improve my timing and rhythm. While these might seem like boring exercises, they'll go a long way in helping me be able to play any style of music.

First off, some requirements. You gotta have the basic equipment on hand to fully benefit from these lessons. Obviously, a guitar is the most important. You don't necessarily need to have an amp (even if it's an electric guitar), but it would be nice.

Something critical to getting your timing and rhythm in shape is a tool to mark time, or set a beat. As far back as the early 1800s, when musicians learned to play they would use a metronome to mark time. A metronome is a simple device that keeps a steady tempo (beat), measured in beats-per-minute (BPM). Standard variable tempos can be set from between 40 BPM and 208 BPM.

There are free online metronomes available. I like these for their simplicity and accessibility:

These will work in a pinch, but if you have any speed issues with your internet connection, you may not be able to rely on an online metronome to keep accurate time.

You can also find free downloads of simple metronomes you can run on your computer - here's a couple:

However, it's always a good idea to have a physical metronome on hand. That’s why I recommend heading over to your favorite local or online music shop and picking up an inexpensive metronome (around $20 US). You can even get combo units that have tuners built in, although this raises the price a bit.

For your entertainment, there's a dude from Brazil that holds the guitar speed record of 320 BPM. His name is Tiago Della Vega. Talk about getting control over your timing! Check out the YouTube video of his record-breaking performance. The speed test begins about three minutes in...

Once you have a metronome, use it when you practice your scales or chords. Start at 70 to 75 BPM and work through a scale or chord progression. Once you have that down, increase the speed to 80 BPM. Play that perfectly then increase the speed again.

Now take a song you'd like to learn. If you read sheet music (and get lucky), there will be a time signature at the beginning of the score, showing what the BPM should be. This gives your goal. Slow it down and play the song at a manageable speed like 80 BPM. Play the song perfectly at this speed, then increase to 85 BPM. Repeat until you get to the actual song tempo. The Song Surgeon tool I talked about before is awesome for learning songs and practicing your rhythm.

This might seem like a tedious method, but you'll be surprised at how much you improve. You're not just learning one song - you're actually training your ears and fingers to stick with the tempo and rhythm set by the drummer (metronome). As you build up that speed, you'll also be building your confidence.

After a short period of time, you'll be able to play many songs at normal speed without any trouble. You'll be jamming along with your favorite artists. Watch out! You'll soon be taking that next step to jamming with real people!

Upcoming good stuff…

In the coming months, I'll be covering more guitars and amps, effects and accessories, and let's not forget the heroes and lessons . I hope to have audio and videos up shortly to help you learn to play guitar. We'll cover the basic chords and scales, and get you some easy songs to learn with those new chops.

Keep on rockin'! Peace~


Back to Back Issues Page