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Don't Skimp on Your Cabling
June 28, 2011

Learn To Play Rock Guitar Newsletter:

Resources, ideas, and tips for improving your rock guitar chops. Thanks for subscribing!

June 28, 2011

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*** Learning Guitar Beginner Chords ***

Guitar beginner chords are one of the first things you need to learn when getting started. While there are literally thousands of possible guitar chords, you can get by with a just a handful. In fact, most famous musicians rely primarily on basic chords to write their songs.

The easiest chords are most commonly known as open chords, or you may have heard them called "cowboy chords". This is because they are relatively simple to play, and are played at the top of the guitar neck where you can allow open strings (strings that don’t have one of your fingers pressing it) to ring clear when you strum the chord.

To learn guitar beginner chords, you need to know that there are a number of chord forms that determine how a chord sounds. At the base level, you have major chords and minor chords. These two chord forms will make up the structure of the majority of popular songs.

When your hear a song, you can typically tell the difference between a major and minor chord by the tonal quality. A major chord will sound complete, and emote a ‘happy’ feeling, whereas a minor chord sounds a bit sad.

As an example, if you’ve ever heard The Beatles song "I Want To Hold Your Hand", the song starts with an upbeat feel, then you hear the tone change from a happy sounding chord (the major chord ) to a sad tone (the minor chord). Just listen to the first verse as it switches – "Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something" starts with the G and D major chords, then transitions to an E minor then B minor chord for "I think you’ll understand". Check it on YouTube…

Major and minor chords are just the beginning and more than enough to start you down the road to playing guitar. By getting a handle on just these basic open chords, you will be able to play many songs, and you’ll have a strong foundation from which to build your skills.

*** Cool Website of the Month ***

Everyone loves a good contest, especially when it comes to guitars! A great place to get a new contest opportunity every day is GearGiveaway365, which is part of

Just some recent contests include a ZT Amplifiers Lunchbox Amp, a James Hetfield ESP LTD Truckster, guitar pedals and multi-track recording software. I've seen brass and woodwind instruments, drum sets and other gear.

Sign up to receive a daily email with the contest of the day here.

*** Guitar App of The Month ***

How cool is this?! Get guitar practice tools on your cell phone? This just shows how mobile and portable things are these days, not to mention the direction of web usage.

We got converted from Windows Smartphones to Apple iPhones at work, and I have to say I'm totally addicted to this new gadget. It's a complete computer in the palm of my hand, and I'm continually amazed at all the cool stuff I keep finding.

I don't have any experience with the Android devices, but it looks like if you can find an app for the iPhone, there's also one for Android. I'll be sure to pass on a link for both iPhone and Android if I find one.

Because we chat about guitar here, let me bring us around to subject of getting some tools you can use to improve your playing skills.

Some basic things you need and can get for free are guitar tuners, metronomes, chord charts, scale charts and backing tracks. You can also get tied in to guitar lessons.

Some of the coolest apps are guitar and amp modelers. Basically these apps allow you to use the phone as an amplifier and guitar effects pedals. These have been available for computers for a long time, but these turn your phone into a practice amp.

You do need to buy a special adapter (IK Multimedia iRig - Audio Interface Adapter for iPhone, iPod, iPad) that will let you plug your guitar into the iPhone, but these aren't too expensive. Or you can try to make your own with this DIY iRig. Now you can literally practice anywhere!

As I find cool apps to try out, I'll send along a link so you can check 'em out, too.

*** Don’t Skimp on Your Guitar Cords ***

Talk to any guitar player and you're sure to get a different opinion on what the best guitar is or hottest amplifier. We love our gear and can talk for hours about pickups, tone woods, tubes and effects.

One gear item we don't think about much is our guitar cord (cable), and yet this is one of the most important links in the guitar tone chain.

When we started playing guitar, we didn't give a second thought about cord quality. We just needed a cable to plug the guitar into the amp. In fact, many guitarists, after playing for years, still don't give much thought to the instrument cables.

What they fail to realize is this: the cable is responsible for transmitting the signal from the guitar to the amplifier. If the signal is crappy, there's a good chance the sound coming out of the amp is going to be crappy as well.

Many musicians agree that tone starts in your fingers. The guitar strings, wood, electronics and pickups, even the pick (plectrum) you use all contribute to your sound. But the one thing that carries that sound is the instrument cable. The cheaper you go, the more likely your guitar signal will suffer (as will your music).

So when you decide to replace your instrument cables, invest in a decent set. It's OK when you're starting out to buy the value priced cables, but as you improve your playing, don't cheap out. You'll notice the difference!

Dave "Eddie" Vance is a rock guitar enthusiast and gear nut. He has been playing guitar for over 30 years and enjoys tormenting the neighbors every chance he gets. When he's not slaving for the man, you can find him rocking out with his B.C. Rich Bich guitar, a cold beer and some sweet tunes.

He also runs, but you knew that already!

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