Something For The Weekend

For the St. Patrick’s Day Weekend here’s some Irish music played on the Guitar that I’ve been working on recently with some of my students.

There’s two tunes here, one slow and one quick. There’s ‘The Rakes of Kildare’ which is a Grade 6 RGT exam piece and before that ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. These are two nice contrasting pieces for the guitar. I’ve seen the second tune sometimes paired with another called ‘The Black Stick’ so if you’ve been working on ‘The Rakes…’ then do look that one up too.

Hopefully you like listening to these. If anyone would like a tab sheet for either of these do get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

BBC Young Jazz Musician 2014


A 17 year old saxophonist has won the first BBC Young Musician Jazz award.

The BBC Young Musician contest was started in 1978 and has always had classical music categories for brass, keyboard, percussion, strings and woodwind. I was really happy last year to see a new Jazz category was to be added.

I have a lot of young guitar students who may never have even heard any jazz music before we work on that style in their lessons. But moving into jazz playing can really let some musicians develop in a completely new way.

Jazz music can allow students a new type of freedom in their learning. Some of them respond to the improvisation elements of the music and I often see an acceleration in those students learning when they begin studying this style in depth.

So those students will be happy to see their music being held up alongside and judged at the same level as that of classical styles.

In this, the first year of the jazz category, saxophonist Alexander Bone was singled out by the judges for his musicality. He beat two other saxophone players, a trumpeter and a double bassist in the final. He was also praised by the judges for his passion and sound.

The final of the jazz competition will be shown on BBC Four on 23 May.

Maurice Ravel

Maurice_RavelThis weekend there are lots of events on radio and TV commemorating the birth date of Maurice Ravel, March 7th 1875. BBC Radio 3 had dedicated a full day of broadcasting to his music in their ‘Ravel Day’.

So all day I’ve been hearing versions of Boléro, his most famous piece of music, though a piece he wasn’t particularly fond of himself. He called it ‘a piece for orchestra without music’.

He never wrote any music for guitar, only for piano, orchestra, strings and voice but I’ve been looking for arrangements of his music for guitar. There aren’t many but I’ve come across this really amazing arrangement of the Prelude from ‘Le Tombuau de Couperin’. It’s amazing listening here to the Henderson-Kolk Guitar Duo that this piece wasn’t written for guitar. The tone of the instruments suits the music perfectly here.

Don’t forget about the deals page

Every month new deals will be offered on my Guitar Lessons. Details of these will appear on the Prices and Deals Page.

This month the New Years Deal will be ending. Until the 28th of February 2014 any New Adult or Teenage Student (over age 12) who books 10 daytime lessons (before 4pm) can get them for €165. That’s 25% off the regular price.

It’s probably to late to learn a song to serenade your other half on Valentines Day but you can get started for next year.

Guitar Technique for Beginner Guitarists

Guitar Technique

There have been lots of books and articles written about “Technique” for the guitar. That is, the best way to actually hold and play the instrument in different situations. The best technique can be a bit of a personal thing and different players may have their own ways of doing things. In the next few posts I’ll give some of my thoughts on what I think about when I’m playing and when I’m teaching my students.

There are different things to think about on this depending on if you are a beginner guitarist or if you are an intermediate to advanced player. I’ll start with some of the tips I give to beginner acoustic guitar students.

All of these examples are the fundamentals of good guitar playing technique and they should apply to all musical genres and styles of playing.

Acoustic Guitar Technique for beginners

The guitar can be held in a few different places. The most common way for the guitar to be held for a beginner guitarist is to rest it on the right leg. The elbow of the strumming arm should be close to the highest point of the main body of the guitar. It should be held almost straight across the body.


It should be possible for the guitar to be balanced like this without holding it at all with the left hand. If this is not possible then a smaller chair may be needed or a strap can be used around your neck; again this to allow the instrument to be balanced without needing to grip it with your left hand.

From this image you can see too that the right hand will now be picking or strumming the strings above the sound-hole which will create the best sound.


3 rules for the fretting hand

The aim of these three rules is to make sure that the fingers are used to play chords and notes as cleanly and effectively as possible. If the hand is used to grip the neck and hold it in place too much then the sound created will be affected. In these images you can see a G chord being held showing good fretting hand technique.

1)      -      Fingers on their tips, allowing open strings to ring out.


2)      -      Thumb at the middle or lower on the back of the neck, in general aiming to be behind the second finger


3)      -      There should be a gap between the palm and the neck of the guitar.


Bad Habits to Avoid

These bad habits are ones to avoid both because they may affect the sound being created and also that they may cause strain in joints and muscles which can cause pain in the short term and can cause serious, lasting injury in the long term.

Make sure to hold the guitar quite straight across the body. This is to avoid the fretting arm elbow moving in across the stomach. This in turn forces the wrist to move forward causing a severe angle which will strain the muscle and tendons there.

Good Technique

The guitar held straight across the body with the fretting arm elbow to the side of the body and little angle in the wrist.

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Bad Technique

The guitar held forward at an angle and the elbow in across the stomach which creates a severe angle in the wrist.

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Other bad habits to avoid are in the fretting hand when holding down the strings. These are the opposite of the 3 rules for the left hand given earlier.

The thumb held over the top of the neck, causing the fingers to not be on their tip which in turn causes the notes to be badly played and open strings to be blocked. This is usually caused by the guitar being badly balanced. The player is trying to grip the guitar and hold the instrument in place instead of being able to concentrate on playing the notes as well as possible.


Here again the thumb is in the wrong position along the back of the guitar with the palm is held against the neck. As in all of the other examples this causes the fingers to hold down the strings badly and so notes not to sound clearly. Also in this position it will be impossible to move effectively from one chord to the next.

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