THE STRAPGRAPHICS BLOG

February 23rd, 2017

Fake It ‘Till You Make It: How to Play Jazz Guitar

how to play jazz guitar

Are you a big fan of jazz guitar? There’s nothing quite like the dewy, resonating sound of jazz guitar being played in a dimly lit jazz club.

If you’re aspiring to be a jazz guitarist, you may be feeling like it’s impossible. However, it’s far from impossible– you just have to fake it until you make it.

To help you out, we put together a simplified guide to learning how to play jazz guitar easily with a bit of practice.

Check out these great tips!

How To Play Jazz Guitar – A Guide

Learning how to play jazz guitar may be easier than you think.

Learn the essential skills

There are three major skills you’ll need to at least grasp if you want to learn how to play jazz guitar:

Walking bass lines

The rhythms used while playing the bass vary widely across genres of music. When it comes to jazz, swing, and jump blues, bass players will play what’s known as a walking bass line.

A walking bass line is a pulse used when playing the bass that forms from playing a sequence of quarter notes in an “upwards” part.

A walking bass line quite literally walking through the scale of each chord with one note per beat at every beat of every measure.

This may seem a bit complicated, but mastering the walking bass line just takes a bit of practice until you get your “a-ha!” moment.

It helps to break walking bass lines down into beat steps:

  • B1 – This beat sets the tone, whether it be major, minor, dominant, or half-diminished. Play the root of the chord for this beat.
  • B2 – For the second beat, play a chord tone of the chord you’ve chosen or any one note on the scale of that chord. You can experiment quite a bit with this.
  • B3 – Do the same thing you did with the second beat, but choose a different note.
  • B4 – Play a ton that leads to the next root. A leading tone bridges the gap from the first chord into the next. A leading tone can be either chromatic, diatonic, or dominant.

As you can see, much of jazz guitar and bass is just improvising on the spot rather than strict adherence to a formula.

The solo

Soloing is a big part of jazz guitar and honestly can be one of the most entertaining parts of learning how to play jazz guitar.

If you’re just starting out, learning the five big essential soloing patterns for jazz guitar is helpful.

The more you practice and get used to soloing, then natural impromptu solos will begin to come out as you get more comfortable with this playing style.

Comping

Lastly, we have comping. Comping is one of the more elusive aspects of jazz guitar and even practiced guitarists don’t understand the term.

Comping is an abbreviation of the word “accompanying”. This jazz term is used to describe chords and rhythms that guitar players use to support the band.

Keyboard players and percussionists also comp in jazz bands as well.

Dedicate time to learning the standard songs.

How did you manage to learn how to play the guitar? Through practicing tabs, right?

The best way to learn any style of music is to practice and experiment with songs that exemplify the genre. This is especially true for jazz guitar.

It helps to learn the melody of a jazz song first and then learn the chords.

Mix these songs up when you start getting better at them. After you’ve mastered about ten jazz classics and have a good feel for jazz, give freestyling a shot.

Assess where you’re starting.

Can you already play the guitar pretty well? Do you know any jazz songs at all? Are you good at soloing?

You’ll want to eventually perfect your strengths, but try to focus more on learning the basics of your weaknesses and practice them often.

Remember these useful tips and tricks.

Listen to the greats. Just like you don’t become a great writer without reading a lot of great books, you don’t become a great musician unless you immerse yourself in music. Listen to Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, George Benson, and everyone in between.

Only practice what you actually enjoy. Jazz guitar is very broad and has many subgenres within it, and most of them differ quite a bit. Don’t focus too much on one technique and do your best to attempt the music you actually want to play.

Make sure you’re using the right equipment to play jazz guitar. When you’re starting out, you definitely don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars into jazz-centric equipment before you know that you really want to play this style seriously. But do try to spend some time learning about how to shop for equipment.

Don’t go nuts and take on more challenges than you should. Jazz is both fluid and complex– taking on a ridiculous practice plan is going to burn you out.

Schedule your practice time and choose the right spot to practice. Jazz is a chill, soulful type of music. Your environment should facilitate that, and dedicated practice time will make you more likely to make practicing jazz guitar a habit.

Follow this standard checklist every time you practice:

  1. Memorize melodies in two different positions on your fretboard.
  2. Practice singing the melody from just your memory.
  3. Play the root notes of every chord in time to a backing track, if possible. This is why investing in jazz albums is useful for practicing.
  4. Practice comping.
  5. Play arpeggios for every chord in one octave and two octaves.
  6. Play scales for every chord in one octave and two octaves.
  7. Practice walking bass lines frequently.

Remember that there is no ultimate jazz practice guide because jazz musicians tend to differ quite a bit. Practice the basics for a while and once you get good, start changing up your practice routine.

Learn How To Play Jazz Guitar Today!

Did you find our guide on how to play jazz guitar informative? Tell us what you think, along with your own tips and tricks for learning jazz guitar, below in the comments section.

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February 16th, 2017

10 Quotes About Guitars All Players Can Relate To

quotes about guitars

Since we’re talking about quotes, it seems appropriate to quote Issac Newton. Although he may not have been a guitar player, he said something we could all learn from as musicians.

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulder of giants.”

This attribution to greater people than him comes from a g

enius. No matter how incredible you are at your art, there are always people who came before you. And many of those people were both greater than you and gave you a boost so that you could achieve more.

Let’s take a few moments to listen to a few of the great guitar players and what they have to say about guitars.

1. Quotes About Guitars: Joe Pass Talks About Not Thinking

“You can’t think and play. If you think about what you’re playing, the playing becomes stilted. You have to just focus on the music I feel, concentrate on the music, focus on what you’re playing, and let the playing come out. Once you start thinking about doing this or doing that, it’s not good. What you are doing is like a language.

You have a whole collection of musical ideas and thoughts that you’ve accumulated through your musical history plus all the musical history of the whole world and it’s all in your subconscious and you draw upon it when you play” ~ Joe Pass

Joe Pass was a master guitarist who did some near-impossible stuff. This man played up-tempo versions of bop tunes and used a conventional technique in unusual ways.

His career lasted from the early 1940s until his death in 1994.

2. Eric Clapton Talks About Finding The Oldest Thing

“When I look for what I’m going to listen to, I go backwards. I’m always going the other way you see. Most people are trying to figure out ‘how do I get in the fast lane going that way?’. I’m going in the other direction. I wanna find the oldest thing to do.” ~ Eric Clapton

If you’re a guitarist and quotes about guitars like this don’t resonate with you, then maybe you need to start listening to the past a little more.

Eric Clapton is one of the most well-known rock and blues guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him second in their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time.” If you don’t know Clapton’s music, we suggest you give him a chance.

3. John Petrucci Talks About Getting Back To The Basics

“I do a lot of the stuff that I started out doing that I think any guitar player that’s concerned about the craft needs to do. It’s basic practicing of the basic elements.

I try to practice like a well-rounded regiment of things where I can kind of do whatever I wanna do and I also have to practice the actual songs to keep that under my fingers as well.” ~ John Petrucci

Part of the progressive metal band from the 80′s, Dream Theater, John Petrucci was named one of the “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shedders of All Time” by GuitarOne magazine.

And he’s still rocking out on stage and on tour now.

4. Paco De Lucia Talks About Taking A Rest From The Guitar

“Every July, August, and part of September I escape of the guitar, I escape of Paco de Lucia and I go to Mexico to the Carribean. I have a little house there where I spend two months listening to music, no playing because I don’t bring the guitar with me, fishing and cooking my fish and charging the batteries for new concerts.” ~ Paco De Lucia

Resting one day a week at least is more than a religious principle. It’s rare to find quotes about guitars that involve not playing the guitar.

But Paco is right. Your brain sometimes needs rest to assimilate what you learned.

5. John Williams Talks About Community

“I find that musically, looking back, I have learned much more from those relationships, people I have bumped into that I have admired, that’s the way I feel musically I have learned most in life.” ~ John Williams

John Williams is well known for his work as a composer and conductor of music for major films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter.

He won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and 22 Grammy Awards.

6. John Mayer Talks About Wasting Time

“I came from the last couple of years in a generation where we didn’t have a computer around so we didn’t waste as much time on the internet as we do now so I had large chunks of time which to devote to doing something.” ~ John Mayer

Today we have less time. Not because we literally have less time, but we give ourselves less time. If you want to be one of the greats. Take quotes about guitars like this one to heart. Give yourself the time to do something great.

7. Slash Talks About Taking At Least Half An Hour With Your Guitar Every Day

“I just play, just you know? If I just sit down with the guitar and just do whatever for, you know, a half an hour or an hour, whatever. That’s pretty much, that should do it for me.” ~ Slash

Nirvana came out of the west at a time when grunge music was in its infancy.

Slash is right. Give your guitar a little love each day, and you’ll end up rising to the top.

8. Larry Carlton Talks About Simplification

“I want to figure out how I can make the most important statement with the least amount of information, so I don’t run out of ideas by the time I get to my second or third chorus.” ~ Larry Carlton

If you’re a songwriter, quotes about guitars like this one will strike straight through to your marrow.

9. Paul Gilbert Talks About The Struggle

“I had struggled with alternate picking for a very long time. I never thought I could do it.” ~ Paul Gilbert

Even when you are a genius guitarist, you will struggle. Don’t give up. Always keep picking away.

10. Keith Richards Talks About Always Learning

“You’re always learning about this thing every time you pick it up” ~ Keith Richards

You said it, Keith.

Conclusion:

Quotes about guitars should inspire you to do better and practice harder.

What are you favorite guitar quotes? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, keep rockin’ those tunes.

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February 9th, 2017

7 Tricks to Learning to Play Guitar By Ear

learn to play guitar by ear

Ever seen someone play a song they’ve never heard before? They take that guitar into their hands and all of a sudden it’s like some sort of musical magic is running their veins. But, while it may be one of the most impressive skills out there, learning to play guitar by ear isn’t actually as difficult as it first appears.

For real!

It isn’t some mystical voodoo that only the special among us will ever understand. It’s not some special talent that you

either have or don’t have.

It’s a skill that can be taught and developed, and with practice, it’s a skill that can be owned.

Learning to Play Guitar By Ear

Of course, there are some musical Gods out there who can naturally pick up a guitar and rock the beat to any song on demand. These players have an innate understanding of music in their bones. Perhaps they ingested musical styles and chord progressions with their baby food?

Who knows!

But, for mere musical mortals, the great news is that learning to play guitar by ear is a skill that can be acquired over time. And, once you’ve got it down, it’s one of the most awesome skills you’ll ever have.

Can you learn how to improvise like your favorite guitar hero?

Yes, you can!

And, with a little dedication, you’ll be strumming your favorite tune, dazzling your friends, and wearing that guitar strap like a rock God!

In this article, we’re sharing some tricks and tips to help you learn to play the guitar by ear.

Read on for the full scoop.

7 Tricks to Learning to Play Guitar By Ear

1. Make Mistakes

Learning to play guitar by ear is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Small incremental changes are the order of the day.

At first, you’ll get it wrong way more often than you’ll get it right. This is something that you should embrace.

You’re going to make mistakes. In fact, you’re going to make lots and lots of mistakes.

Embrace them!

Mistakes are a natural and required part of the process. Actually, your mistakes will make you a better guitar player if you’re willing to give yourself the chance to make them.

Playing the guitar offers you the freedom to experiment. And we’re not just talking about customizing your shredder!

Experimentation is the bedrock of learning to play guitar by ear. And, this gig is a marathon, not a sprint.

The more you allow yourself to experiment, the more you’ll train your ears to not just identify the notes you want, but to creatively embellish those notes as well.

2. Start Small, Then Build

When you’re first starting out, the trick is to start small.

You wouldn’t think that you could operate on someone’s heart after your first lecture in med school, right?

The same is true for learning to play guitar by ear.

Begin with straightforward isolated notes, intervals and chords. Then start connecting these skills to real music.

You’ve got to get down with the basics first. Only once you’ve mastered those basics like a pro can you move on to more complex things.

3. Break it Down

When learning to play guitar by ear, you will need to develop your skills incrementally. The best way to do this is to break everything down into small, bite-sized chunks.

For each skill you need to acquire, break your practice down into small units.

If you want to learn to work out a melody by ear, start by firstly attempting to identify some common melodic patterns and then move on from there.

Small chunks of learning all add significantly to the whole picture.

4. Patterns

Once you’re able to recognize small chunks of music, you’ll notice something right off the bat.

Patterns occur frequently in music.

Melodies and chord progressions will almost always contain sequences of common patterns that you are now familiar with.

Once you start to notice these patterns, you’ll become better at remembering the chords to songs. You’ll be able to figure out songs by ear more quickly too.

5. Sing

One of the most important aspects of learning to play guitar by ear is being able to link the notes to the music you hear in your head.

How exactly do you do this?

You do it by singing.

Your voice is an important bridge between skills here and you’ll need to embrace the notion of singing simple melodies in the correct key.

If this is something that comes naturally to you, get singing!

If not, the good news is you don’t have to be blessed with an amazing singing voice to do this effectively! All you have to do is be able to hit the right note.

With this, break the learning down into chunks again. Begin by learning how to match pitch. Then move on to the tones of the major scale.

6. Work on Your Rhythm

Your sense of rhythm is not pre-set for life, it can, and will change over time.

When learning to play the guitar by ear, the pitch of a note is undoubtedly important, but so too is the timing of the notes themselves.

Focus on developing your rhythm. Listen out for rhythmic patterns.

Why?

Because to play songs by ear you’ll have to match the overall tempo and the timing of notes in the melody with your strumming pattern.

Work on your rhythm as much as you’re working on everything else.

7. Listen to and Study Your Favorite Songs

Once you start to build your skills, you might want to improve your learning by listening to and studying your favorite songs.

One of the things that will happen naturally when you’re learning to play by ear, is you’ll start to deconstruct the songs you hear subconsciously.

To improve your skills, do this consciously instead.

Listen to your favorite songs. Then decode them. Try to play the song. Match its rhythm. Pick it apart.

Not only will you become a much better guitar player, you’ll really enjoy the learning in the process.

Learning to Play Guitar By Ear – One Trick at a Time

Ready to take the guitar playing world by storm?

Like everything, learning to play the guitar by ear begins with a simple action and it gradually builds from there.

Got any questions or need any advice? If so, get in touch! We’re always happy to help.

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February 2nd, 2017

These Rockin’ Romantic Gifts for Guitar Players are Perfect for Valentine’s Day

gifts for guitar players

You’d probably rather be rockin’ your Strat than having to think about Valentine’s Day gifts. Or, maybe you’re in love with a guitar player and you’d rather be rockin’ his or her “Strat” than thinking about Valentine’s Day gifts.

Hey, we get it. Time is short. Gotta rock it till the grave calls, right?

That’s why we’re here for you. To give you a one-stop place to find what you need.

Guitar players actually aren’t that hard to shop for. But sometimes you need a little suggestion to knock the cobwebs out of the old creative gift-giving section of your brain.

We’ve got the gifts for guitar players list to top all lists. And by the time you finish this blog article, you’ll already know what you’ll get for your special music lover.

1. Gifts For Guitar Players: Customize A Strap

Guitar players like to strap it on. And, unless, they are sitting down, they have to strap it on. Their guitar, that is. Wait…what did you think we were talking about?

Your special music lover will totally be down for a strap custom designed by you. You can add whatever image or design or text you want.

You could even put pictures of your, your adventures together, or even their very own favorite artist.

Custom straps are the perfect gifts for guitar players, even aspiring guitar players. Everybody need a strap for their guitar. Here’s your chance to help your love stand out amongst the band.

2. The Guitar Pick Punch

Is your love constantly losing their guitar picks? I know we are. Dropping them inside the guitar, into the heat register. And sometimes our cat even steals them, we swear.

This is why the guitar pick punch is a perfect gift for guitar players. You can make replacement picks out of pretty much any sturdy material.

Thank god we kept all those old AOL CDs from the 90s. They make the most awesome guitar picks.

3. The Guitar Sidekick Smartphone Mount

Paper is so 20th century, man. Why would you even bother carrying around reams of paper just so you could play music? Music stands? What’s that?

Most of the time, we’re storing tabs and music on our phones. Which is probably why guitar players are buying stocks in human augmentation services. (Actually, we don’t know that, but it would make sense.)

Instead of giving your love an expensive third-arm surgery that might get botched anyway, why don’t you give them the Guitar Sidekick?

This sleek little mount attaches to the headstock right where you’d be able to see the screen while you play. These gifts for guitar players just keep getting better and better, don’t they?

4. The Closet Guitar Hanger

Does you guitarist live in a zero bedroom studio with only a little bit of closet space? Too bad there aren’t any gifts for guitarists that would help them maximize their space and protect their beloved guitar from harm.

Oh, wait, there is. The Closet Guitar Hanger.

They can now hang their guitar between all those soft leather jackets you so love the smell of.

5. A Guitar Pillow

Looking for something for that little guitar hero in your family? How about a guitar pillow with sequins?

What other gifts for guitar players let them play even into their dreams? Well, you know, you could cuddle with your guitar, but that would be mondo uncomfortable and your drool is probably not so great for the finish.

6. Canned Guitar Picks

Help your love with a gift for when plastic becomes scarce. Hell, you could buy them boxes of these things and they may not be enough for when the end of the world arrives.

Canned Guitar Picks from Whipping Post are the gifts for guitar players who are also preppers.

Does your loved one have a fully stocked bunker under the house? Bet they didn’t think of canned guitar picks to add to their canned goods.

7. A Guitar Shirt You Can Play

Ok, so this is kind of one of those gifts your kids might resent you for getting your husband. In essence, it’s totally a dad gift.

But don’t come after us when your kids burn it in exasperation. Your husband may love the fact that he can play “Highway To Hell” on his t-shirt all they way to your mother’s this summer, but you might regret it.

8. A Guitar Coffee Mug

A lot of us guitar lovers aren’t morning people. We need out coffee.

Why not give your lover the gift of notation with a twisted guitar on the side?

Guitar coffee mugs also make great gifts for guitar players who teach. They can show off their love of music and guitars while stimulating those brain cells. God knows their need all of them to resist throwing some students out the window.

9. The Picker’s Wallet

So, we’ve established that guitarists lose their picks all the time.

And sometimes you just need a pick on the fly. Plus, picks just aren’t designed like pencils or drumsticks.

You can’t just stick them behind your ear and forget about them. You need someplace to keep them just in case. Someplace safe where you won’t lose them and they are easily accessible.

Giving your guitarist a wallet with a secret pocket designed specifically for their pick might be the best thing you could ever do for them. Especially for the dreamers who have their heads in the clouds.

Just tell them to be careful what material they use to make their picks. If you gave them the pick punch, tell them to make them out of something not very magnetic.

You don’t want them unable to pay for that next rock show, do you?

10. A Gift Certificate To Strap Graphics

If you have no idea what to get your guitarist, never fear! As we pointed out above, a strap is always a great idea. And you may not be the creative type, so a custom strap designed by you might be the worst idea in the world.

But you know your lover could totally design their own strap. So why not get them a gift certificate to Strap Graphics so they can do that?

See, gifts for guitar players is as easy as picking from a list. Really, the only way to screw it up is to just get nothing.

What are the best gifts you’ve either received from or given to a guitarist? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, keep rockin’ those tunes.

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January 26th, 2017

Don’t Leave Any of These Guitar Accessories Behind

guitar accessories

There’s no doubt about it – if you love to play music, you just have to have the right gear.

And if your weapon of choice is an axe, that means checking out the longest list of guitar accessories!

From strings to stands to straps, there are so many must-haves – and what you choose says an awful lot about you, and your music!

Let’s take guitar straps for example.

Sure, you could just pop down to Walmart and see what’s on special. But does that really symbolize who you are and what you aspire to be? Is it the guitar strap of legends? Pretty unlikely!

The Best Guitar Accessories

There are plenty of guitar accessories out there, howdo you determine which ones you need?

Functional and Beautiful

A guitar strap may be a requirement – it’s pretty uncomfortable to play

without one – but it can still be a work of art, a collector’s item, your signature.

Durability and price are important, but so are good looks – and nothing rocks more than a personalized guitar strap. Unique guitar straps are not only eye-catching, and a great conversation starter, but they scream creativity.

They also give a little peak into who you are. if you’re a hard rocker, you may opt for skulls, flames and daggers! In which case, you’ve more than likely checked out the

If you’re a hard rocker, you may opt for skulls, flames and daggers! In which case, you’ve more than likely checked out the Darkside Collection from Strap Graphics. And if you haven’t, you should.

Match Your Guitar Style

But if you’re a country crooner, it’s pretty hard to go past the Red Buffalo Plaid guitar strap, or the Burlap guitar strap.

Guitar straps come in just about every color and style these days, but even those old originals retain a certain charm.

And they can sell for a pretty penny, too! An old leather strap belonging to Jimi Hendrix sold for thousands.

Whatever cool guitar strap you choose, it needs to suit not only your style of music, but also your guitar. And the guitar you choose, well, that’s a whole other story!

Design Your Own Artwork

A new kid on the block is custom sublimated polyester guitar straps. What’s super cool about these bad boys is that you can provide your own artwork, to be printed onto the strap using new RIP software. The

The colors are amazing. Just be sure to send a high res version of your art.

That said, leather still remains the most popular choice for a customized guitar strap, due to its strength and durability.

It’s a material that won’t let you down, however hard you rock. And that will give you the confidence to play even better.

Leather is the guitar strap for the stage strutter and the big personality, like Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters.

And it’s not just for the boys, either! Joan Jett rocks the leather every time she hits the stage.

Great Gifts For Friends and Family

One thing’s for sure, if you have a family member or a friend who plays guitars, birthdays gifts are taken care of for the next millennium!

There are so many must-have guitar accessories, you’ll never run out of ideas.

Do they have a tuner? Or how about a guitar string cutter? A capo is always useful and as for picks, you can never have too many.

That’s all great, you say, but I don’t know the first thing about guitars, never mind guitar accessories!

Yep, that can be a problem. Especially as guitarists can be very picky about their picks, and outrageously choosy when it comes to guitar straps.

But there are solutions to this problem.

Be Hip With Ed Hepp

A guitar strap that is also a collector’s item is always worth adding to the collection. And right now you’ll find the most amazing and artistic straps in the Ed Hepp Collection. A renowned illustrator and guitar player, Ed’s designs can be found on famous brands of clothing and footwear – and guitar straps.

Or, for the guitarist who has everything, how about a personalized guitar strap. And if you’re not sure what they’d like, you can give them a gift card, so they can design their own. If you’ve got a guitar-playing grandchild, that would have to make you the coolest grandma ever, right!

Or maybe you’re a rocker yourself, and just need a little help choosing the right guitar strap. Just remember, these straps are not just functional; and they’re not just used for guitars. They are a thing of beauty, an extension of your guitar, and yourself.

Guide To Guitar Straps

The earliest guitar straps came from Spain in the 15th century. Mostly made from a type of string, these were used to hold the early versions of guitars, and mandolins.

Remember, at its most basic, a guitar strap is there to hold and balance your instrument, leaving your hands free to play.

The cheapest guitar straps on the market are usually nylon. They come in many different colors and suit a range of stringed instruments. Next up the scale are guitar straps fashioned from suede. There’s a certain earthiness to suede, a hippy vibe perhaps, that sees them maintain their popularity.

Leather is the real deal, of course. The feel, the smell, it just screams rock and roll.

There’s still plenty of variety in styles and color, and you know that leather always ages well.

From the design to the strap locks, there’s plenty of scope for customizing your leather guitar strap.

Famous Guitar Straps

A guitar strap can range in price from a few dollars to a few thousand, depending on its brand and provenance. It’s generally recommended to buy the best that you can afford.

Alternatively, if you are a collector, you’ll need a couple of good sturdy workhorses, in addition to your most special straps.

To get ideas, start taking a closer look at what your favorite rockers are using. For example, Hall and Oats guitarist Paul Pesco, Daryl Hall and Taylor Swift are among the many musos who favor Strap Graphics guitar straps.

For Taylor, a true individual, the strap created reflected her personality perfectly. It was a simple white strap, with all her song titles written on it in brown text.

What would you put on your customized guitar strap? How would it truly reflect who you are? And why haven’t you got one yet!

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January 19th, 2017

How to Create a Sweet DIY Personalized Guitar Amp

When you turn on the tube, you aren’t going to sit there and veg out. You’re going to rock out.

Because, silly kids, tubes aren’t for TVs! They’re for electric guitar amplification!

And what better way to feel good about your sweet vibes than to build your own personalized guitar amp? To know that those beautiful notes are possible because of your own handiwork.

This is what it’s all about. Getting your riffs to sound phenomenal and exactly the way you want them. Let’s dive in and find out exactly how to blast out those chords in exactly the right way.

A quick warning: This project involves electricity. Make sure you learn safety measures on how to work with electricity before attempting this project.

1. Personalized Guitar Amp: The Tubes

What are tubes? They’re tiny vacuums. Spaces where all the air has been sucked out and there is negative pressure.

This keeps combustion from happening when electricity is applied to filaments within the bulb. This is essentially how the original light bulb worked.

The tubes you are are going to use during this build is called tetrodes and triodes. A tetrode has four electrodes inside, each doing something different to direct the electric current.

This is where the amplification happens.

Triodes are used in the preamplification section of the personalized guitar amp. They use three electrodes that do various things with the electricity inside.

2. Find a Schematic

To build an amp from scratch, you’re going to need a map. There are plenty of free schematics out there for you to use.

The best way to learn how to build these things is to grab a bunch of schematics and study them. Find the similarities between schematics.

Another way to learn is to get an old tube amp and tear it apart. Look at circuits. See how they flow.

When looking for a good schematic, start with something someone else has built. Don’t try to mix and match when you first start out.

3. Finding Parts

Getting the parts you are going to need for the personalized guitar amp can be a treasure hunt. But it doesn’t have to be super expensive to build a personalized guitar amp.

But you’re going to need some money to build this. It’s not going to be as cheap as going down to the junkyard to grab parts off an old jalopy.

Enclosure

Picking an enclosure, the best enclosure, takes a little bit of consideration.

You need to consider ventilation when looking for a good enclosure. You probably want something with a vent out the top.

You also want to find something with thinner panels as you’re going to mount stuff on the walls of the case.

Don’t go too cheap on this either. You want plenty of room to work. In essence, don’t make building harder than it has to be.

So, if you have enough space, get as big of a block as you can. It doesn’t have to be as small and slick as a Bose speaker.

Depending on heavy your transformers are, you might need a steel enclosure.

Transformers

No, not the toys you played with as a kid. Audio output transformers.

This is the most expensive part you’ll buy. And the quality of the transformer will affect the performance of your personalized guitar amp.

You can actually find some older transformers for bargain prices. These are actually sometimes better than newer parts.

I guess the “they don’t make them like they used to” still applies to guitar gear.

When picking transformers, pay attention to values and ratings in the schematic. You want to observe the safety specifications.

Tubes and Other Things

You can find most other things you need online. You can even find some non-critical parts at your local Radio Shack.

Again, finding parts can be a treasure hunt. If you stick to schematics with common parts, it shouldn’t be too hard to find or order the parts necessary.

If you want rare parts in your personalized guitar amp, you’re could be searching for months to years for your parts.

4. Working On The Enclosure

This is where the creativity really comes in. You should look at photos of amps other people have done to get a feel for how amp chassis should look.

Now, once you’ve picked your layout, you want to review to make sure it’s logical. Components should be wired from input to output.

Seems common sense, but a lot of people don’t use common sense in their daily lives.

A logical flow in your layout means placing consecutive components next to each other whenever you can manage. Your wiring should be short, simple, and neat. Consecutive placement will ensure this.

Before you drill your chassis. Place the components on the iron in a practical and creative way.

After you have the layout the way you want it, mark it out with pencil or marker. You want to mark out all the holes.

Drilling

Metalwork is a big part of personalized guitar amp creation.

You’ll need a good drill powerful enough to drill through metal. And some WD-40 to keep that drill bit from burning up.

Finish

After you’ve drilled for all your components, you have free creative reign to add finish to the chassis.

This means you get to paint it however you like.

Make sure you apply primer if you’re going to paint. And then wait a few days after you paint it up before wiring stuff in.

5. Just Wire It

Here is where you need to pay close attention to the schematics. You will need confidence that it’s all going to work out in the end even if you get frustrated.

As much as you can, wire directly between components. If you did your layout well, then wiring should be simple.

Do exactly what the schematic says in regards to wiring. There are only schematics, no creative experimentation is allowed in this step.

Conclusion:

Deciding to create a personalized guitar amp yourself is a big step in a very awesome direction. You won’t regret it or ever turn back once you do.

If you’ve built an amp before, let us know about your favorite schematics in the comments below. And, as always, don’t stop rockin’!

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January 12th, 2017

The Absolute 10 Best Guitar Tabs for Beginners to Get Strummin’

You’ve been wanting to learn guitar for as long as you can remember.

You’ve got your first guitar – thanks to the holiday season or the resolve of a new year. Maybe you’ve even got an awesome custom strap to match.

Now what?

You’ve got to learn how to play it.

How?

Find some guitar tabs for beginners, and dive in.

Lucky you. We’ve gone ahead and done that for you.

These 10 guitar tabs for beginners are sure to get you strumming.

When you’re learning a new skill, you often have to move more slowly than you want to, and work harder and longer than you want to, before you get any good and really have any fun. It’s true that some of your early guitar

It’s true that some of your early guitar playing will feel painful and boring. At least, if you let it.

The good news is that so many of the songs you love are simple enough on the guitar (or come in simple-enough arrangements to suit you where you’re at) that you can learn to play them from your very first lesson.

The best way to learn guitar is to learn to play a song you love. So pick one, and get started. Then pick another one, and another one. Soon you’ll have a repertoire of songs you love, and you’ll be one mean guitar player. Especially if you practice correctly, for a little while every day, you’ll build muscle memory pretty quickly.

Soon you’ll have a repertoire of songs you love, and you’ll be one mean guitar player. Especially if you practice correctly, for a little while every day, you’ll build muscle memory pretty quickly.

We think there’s sure to be a song or two here that’ll send you on your way…

All The Small Things by Blink 182

Can you believe that All The Small Things by Blink 182 is more than fifteen years old? Missing the punk pop sound of the turn of the millennium? Maybe you’re too young to remember it and you’re looking for some punk pop schooling.

Maybe you’re too young to remember it and you’re looking for some punk pop schooling.

In any case, it’s hard to get more basic than this one. And you’ll have 80s and early 90s babies singing along by the first few chords.

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Not quite had your fill of 1999’s very best? May we recommend Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers?

The song may sound laid back, and it’s easy enough to pick up. But the message burns deeper than you realize at first. The lyrics will give you something to think on while you’re practicing the chord changes over and over again. Interpreting the lyrics will help you keep your performance fresh.

The lyrics will give you something to think on while you’re practicing the chord changes over and over again. Interpreting the lyrics will help you keep your performance fresh.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones

Let’s throw it back even a bit further to 1965. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones features an iconic three-note guitar riff that never got replaced by horns like was intended – and it drives the whole song.

Seriously, can you imagine the riff any differently? What a happy accident.

Day Tripper by The Beatles

Let’s stay in 1965 a moment. Do you still have Beatle Mania?

Day Tripper by The Beatles is your guitar-tabs-for-beginners jam. Oh, you’re sounding bluesy already.

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard

Just as soon as you read that song title you were humming it, and tapping your feet. Admit it. Classic rock will do that to you.

Admit it, classic rock will do that to you.

Check out these Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard guitar tabs for beginners and start strumming a treasured piece of themid-70s.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

Sick of strumming, strumming, strumming?

Want to try some finger picking? Want to honor a musical legend who recently passed?

Learn Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, and made uber popular by Jeff Buckley in the 90s.

This is an especially great one to know if you’re a serious singer. There’s so much room to show off your emotional depth and range.

Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel

What’s that? More finger picking? And you like accompanying yourself while you sing?

Go on back to the mid 60s with Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel. So classic. Every solo singer/guitarist should know it.

Got a guitar-playing and singing friend? Simon and Garfunkel always sound better in harmonious duet.

Wonderwall by Oasis

It seems everyone who has ever played a guitar has learned this tune early on. Some people never learn any more than Wonderwall by Oasis.

Anyway…that won’t happen to you. Not with all the suggestions to go on here.

You’ve got permission to live in 1995 for a while, is what we’re saying, but not forever.

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

Maybe you’re looking for something a bit chiller after all that rocking out? Maybe you’re looking for something more recent.

How’s 2006 sound?

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol it is.

Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People

Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People is Dm – F – C – G. Over and over. You can handle that.

And just like that you’re playing indie pop from the current decade.

Have you picked up your guitar yet?

Did you seriously make it through that whole list of guitar tabs for beginners without even picking up your guitar to try one?

What are you waiting for? That instrument is not going to play itself, and your brain isn’t going to magically learn how to read a guitar tab.

Pick that new baby of yours up and play it. That’s one of the best ways you can care for it.

Do you have a guitar strap yet?

Want to design a custom guitar strap? Want us to create something for you?

Either way, you oughta know what your guitar strap says about you. And you have to get a guitar strap that fits your body as much as your personality, because it’s hard to play guitar comfortably without one.

And you’re going to be playing a whole lot – right?

Guitar straps make a good gift to yourself or a loved one.

Got guitar questions? Got more guitar tabs for beginners to share?

We’re here to talk all things guitar. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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January 3rd, 2017

Here’s How to Pick the Best Acoustic Guitar for Beginners

There are a lot of reasons to learn to play guitar. Perhaps you want to impress a lady – or a guy. Maybe you enjoy music and want to create some yourself.

Or, perhaps you know about the many scientifically proven health benefits to playing guitar. Studies show that music reduces stress, and playing music can help take your mind off pain while also keeping your brain sharp.

Once you’ve decided to play guitar, it’s important to pick the best acoustic guitar for beginners. A guitar is a serious investment, and you want to make sure that you choose a guitar that will set you up for success.

Everything from the type of wood to the shape of the guitar and quality of the build affects which model is the best acoustic guitar for beginners. Here’s what you want to look for.

Look for Reliable Build Quality

While the best acoustic guitar for beginners isn’t a $1000 model, you also don’t want to pay good money for a junk guitar. Instead, look for a brand known for reliability good build quality.

The build quality refers to things about the guitar that can’t easily be changed – the wood type, bridge installation, neck pocket, and more. A poor build quality can result in uneven tone from the guitar, as well as an unstable guitar neck, misaligned strings, and other problems.

The Yamaha FG700S/FG800 is a good choice here. Yamaha is known for its reliable quality. New, this model comes in right under $200, and it has a Sitka spruce top. It is formed in the classic dreadnought body shape and has a great tone quality.

When it comes to getting the classic dreadnought experience without breaking the bank, the Yamaha FG700S/FG800 is a great option.

Choose a Warm and Clear Tone

The very best tone in acoustic guitars will be on very expensive models, but that doesn’t mean that the best acoustic guitar for beginners sacrifices good tone quality.

Even as a beginner, you don’t want a guitar that sounds dull. You don’t want one that has a buzz to it. You want a quality guitar that stays in tune, has good range, and has a warm, clear tone.

The biggest impact on the tone of an acoustic guitar is the wood of the guitar top. A solid wood top will have better tone quality than laminate, so look for a solid wood top that you can afford.

A Seagull S6 is a great choice for a solid wood-topped acoustic guitar. A solid cedar top with a wild cherry back creates a dynamic sound that projects well. The unique mix of high-quality tonewoods in this guitar will make it stand out in a crowd.

The Seagull S6 has a hand-crafted feel that makes it seem like a much more expensive instrument, but it’s easy for a beginner to pick up and enjoy playing, which makes it one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners.

Pick a Guitar That’s Comfortable

Different guitar shapes and sizes will be comfortable for different players. When choosing the best acoustic guitar for beginners, you can’t afford to ignore your personal playing comfort.

The point of having a guitar is to make music and enjoy the process. As a result, having a guitar that doesn’t fit your style or size doesn’t make sense, whether you’re an amateur or an expert.

If you have small hands, you’ll want a guitar with a smaller diameter neck. If you have a smaller frame, you may need a guitar that’s sized down.

A great guitar if you need a smaller size is a GS Mini by Taylor. It features the grand symphony body shape on a reduced scale, with a solid mahogany top. Despite its reduced size, you won’t notice a reduction in sound quality – the warmth and clarity of tone are part of what Taylor guitars are known for.

While you’re choosing a guitar that feels comfortable, be sure to personalize it too – consider choosing a guitar strap that showcases your personality.

Choose Nylon or Steel Strings

Remember that the choice of guitar is a distinctly personal one. You shouldn’t choose simply because someone tells you “this is what you should use.” While it’s important to understand quality, tone, and size, ultimately you want a guitar you love to play.

One area where this comes into play is the strings. You may be told that nylon strings are easier to learn to play and won’t hurt your fingers. However, the type of string really determines the guitars you get and the type of music you play.

You can’t switch from nylon to steel strings on the same guitar. So, choose strings based on what you want to play. If you enjoy playing classical or flamenco-style music, nylon strings are perfect for you. They have a softer, more mellow tone.

Traditionally, however, acoustic guitars feature steel strings. These are used in rock, country, and pop music. If that’s the music you want to play, you should start with and learn steel stringed guitar. Steel strings create the louder, bright tone commonly associated with acoustic guitars.

All the acoustic guitars for beginners mentioned so far have been steel-stringed. If you’re interested in a classical guitar, the Cordoba C5 Classical Guitar is a great choice for beginners. It has a beautiful sound and good projection, and Cordoba is a well-respected brand.

Choose a Guitar You Love to Play

Ultimately, it’s important to choose a guitar, and accessories, you love. People may try to tell you that a particular guitar is best for a variety of reasons, but the ultimate decision is yours.

You want to make sure your expectations match your budget and skill, that you understand what factors make an instrument the best acoustic guitar for beginners, and what features you can expect at a specific price level.

However, in the end make sure you choose a guitar that you personally like. It should feel comfortable, whether you are sitting or standing. It should sound good to your ears and respond well to the way you play.

When you choose a guitar with great sound and quality construction that is comfortable, and it’s an instrument you truly enjoy, you’ll not only build your skills but you’ll truly enjoy the process of playing.

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December 27th, 2016

Cool Guitar Picks You Can Make Yourself

Whether opening for a huge band, performing at the local bar or tinkering in the living room (or possibly the basement at the request of an irritated roommate/partner), guitar players set out to establish their own unique style.

If you play guitar, you get it. And yeah, you establish your style through your playing. But the kind of guitar and sort of strap you choose lend just as much to your style.

So then what about your guitar pick?

Maybe you’ve never considered your pick as anything but a utilitarian afterthought. Are cool custom guitar picks even a thing?

The answer is yes.

There are many methods for making cool guitar picks that speak to your style.

Or maybe you’re looking for the ideal customized gift for the guitar player in your life (or basement). Either way, consider any of these three ways to land yourself a guitar pick that says something.

Method #1 – The Recycling Method

The cool thing about making your own pick is that it can be done from any number of things you already have lying around the house or apartment.

The first step is picking out the material.

Here are a few ideas and considerations:

Metal – If you have any kind of sheet metal lying around, you can use this. Keep in mind that metal picks can give a sharp, bright tone on electric guitars, but they aren’t ideal for acoustic guitars.

Leather – Do you have an old belt you no longer use? Leather picks are great for times when you don’t have a bass guitar. With a leather pick, you can pick those low strings of your acoustic guitar to get some solid bass sound with a muted, thick tone. Plus, a leather pick could go hand-in-hand with a customized leather guitar strap.

Plastic – Grab an old CD you never listen to, an unneeded credit card, or even a plastic lid from a jar. You’ll want to experiment a bit, because the thickness and cut may change the sound.

With all three of these materials, you’ll trace a pick on the material and then use the appropriate cutting tool (exacto knife, heavy-duty scissors) to extract the shape. If you’re using plastic or metal, you’ll want to sand down and smooth the edges with a rough scrap of sandpaper or a file.

And if you don’t have a pick, print a picture of one from the internet. It’ll still work as long as you scale it. and it’s no big deal if it ends up being asymmetrical.

If you choose, you can either paint the pick with spray paint, or grab some tape and put it on the back of the pick. Don’t fold it over to the other side. Instead, cut off any excess tape and repeat on other side.

You can use masking tape or “duck” tape, which now comes in all kinds of custom colors and patterns.

If you’re up for a real adventure and you have a hand saw or hacksaw and TIME, you can use a retired desoldered circuit board.

In this case, you’ll need to plan out where exactly you want to cut it out at and then sand and file the picking side down to a rounded edge. These cool guitar picks turn out nicely when done correctly. Just note though that most circuit boards are around 1.5mm – 2.5mm thick and have nearly no flexibility.

In other words, the desoldered circuit board is not for the faint of heart.

Method #2 – When You Can Be Trusted With An Oven

This method is completely custom because you’ll be making these cool guitar picks from scratch. They’re totally homemade.

Here’s what you need:

  • Permanent markers
  • Foil
  • A guitar pick
  • A copy machine
  • #6 plastic, such as you might find on clear takeout containers or disposable cake pan lids from any dollar store
  • Nail file or sandpaper

As an important side note, the fumes from melting #6 plastic fumes can be dangerous, so stick to a single small batch and ventilate your kitchen.

1. Trace the pick and enlarge about 250% to make a template

2. Cut the plastic into a flat sheet and trace your guitar pick template on it. Consider lightly sanding the side that you are going to draw on as it makes the marker adhere better.

3. Use the markers to color/design/write/draw crazy pictures to transform them into customized cool picks that may even compliment a guitar strap you designed yourself.

4. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Make a cookie sheet from the foil.

5. Cut out your picks and place them on the foil tray. Slide them in the oven. After about a minute they will start to bubble, shrink and curl up. This is normal and they’ll flatten as they cool. (Remember Shrinky-Dinks?)

6. Carefully remove them from the oven. If they still aren’t flat enough to make you feel secure, then place something flat and heavy on them while they cool, but not for too long. They’ll cool quickly.

7. Have at ‘em.

Method #3 – Spare Change

If you’ve got some spare change, you can make cool guitar picks using coins. And if you have a lucky coin or one that has sentimental value, it can make for a really special pick.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • A coin
  • A marker
  • A Dremel tool or a belt grinder
  • Dremel cut-off wheels & sanding disks
  • Pliers
  • Safety Glasses

Place a regular guitar pick over your chosen coin and color around the edges so you know what to cut off.

Then unless you want sharp metal flecks grazing your cornea, you’ll want to put on safety glasses.

Use the Dremel to cut out the pick.

Clean up the edges with the flat edge of the cutting disk.

Then use the sanding disk to clear off all the sharp edges.

There are a few things to think about if you decide to make a guitar pick from a coin.

Picks made from metal can damage your strings. Practice a soft picking style to minimize the damage to the strings, pickguards and your guitar’s body and finish.

If you’re using a quarter, use a pre-1964 one. Modern quarters are copper and nickel, but those produced before 1964 are 90% silver so they’ll look nicer and be easier on your strings.

And finally, you may encounter folks who want to tell you it is illegal to alter coins. The law states that it is illegal to fraudulently alter money. And since this is not the case here, it is completely legal.

Making your own cool guitar picks is an easy way to demonstrate your unique style.

And they make great gifts too – either as a stand-alone or as part of a package deal with a customized guitar strap. Perfect for the guitar player who has everything.

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December 20th, 2016

Guitar Care is Easy With this Guide

The more you play your axe, the more you’ll need to think about guitar care. After all, a clean guitar sounds so much better than a filthy one.

Sweat and grime from your fingers become a magnet for all sorts of dust and moisture. That is definitely not going to improve your playing.

You can take your guitar to your local technician for maintenance. Or you can follow these tips and perform your guitar care yourself. It’ll save you money and give you real satisfaction!

So read on to discover the easiest ways to keep your guitar singing for years to come.

Start with the absolute basics – storage!

Don’t put your guitar on the ground when you’re not using it. Buy a floor stand, or put it in its case.  Either option should lessen the chances of your guitar being knocked over or dinged.

Prevention is better than cure. So using a good quality strap is an easy way to avoid your guitar coming loose while playing and having an accident.

It’s also a good idea to keep your guitar in its case when you’re not using it. Exposure to sunlight can damage the finish on the body.

Storing the guitar in its case also helps to keep the dust and any random grime away. It just means you’ll need to clean it less often.

Some players also recommend using a humidifier in the room where you keep your guitar. Overly dry conditions can warp the wood. It’s best to keep your guitar at around 70°F and 45% humidity.

Wherever you keep it, make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Avoid damp and overly humid places too. Remember your guitar is made of wood, and wood responds to changes in the environment.

You have to take care of the strings

The most obvious aspect of guitar care comes down to your strings. They get dull over time and really wreck your sound.

Yes, it can get expensive, but it’s the very least you can do for your guitar.

So change them now if you can’t remember the last time you did change them. When you remove them, do it two or three at a time. You don’t want to cause any damage to the neck.

It goes without saying, but when you do change the strings, make sure you have the right ones for your guitar!

But if you really don’t want to change the strings too often, you can at least clean them. Get into the habit of wiping them every time you play.

A dry lint-free cloth is all you need. Loosen them a little so you can get the cloth around the whole string. Just pinch the string using the cloth and move your fingers along the string.

Keeping the strings clean will definitely help them to last longer.

Guitar care for fretboards and bodies

The fretboard is pretty easy to deal with and doesn’t need constant care. If you play regularly, you might only need to clean it 2-3 times a year.

Once you’ve taken the strings off to change them, give the fretboard a rub down with a soft damp cloth. You can use a soft toothbrush or toothpick to get any grime from the edges of the frets.

If your fingerboard has any hairline cracks, it’s a sign that the board has dried out. Linseed or almond oil will help condition it. Just use one or two drops and wipe off any excess oil.

But if you have any problems with wear spots on the fretboard, see your local technician. You don’t want to use sandpaper to try and remove them if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Guitar care for the body is simple. Use a clean lint-free cloth to remove any dust. Then use guitar polish on the whole body, avoiding the electronic components.

It goes without saying, but never use a furniture polish on a guitar. Ever.

If you really want an amazing finish, there’s one final step you can try. Add a tiny amount of carnauba wax to a micro-fiber cloth.

Polish the whole guitar body. Once it’s dried, rub the body gently with a polishing cloth then remove the wax.

What about the hardware?

Unless it’s all gotten really icky, you shouldn’t need to touch the hardware too often. It generally just attracts dust and fingerprints.

You can use basic glass cleaner on a clean cloth to polish your metal tuners, and a slightly damp cloth will sort out any dust or prints on the bridge.

Just make sure you let them dry out thoroughly before you put the guitar back in its case. You don’t want to introduce any dampness to its storage area.

But it’s vital that you keep any kind of moisture away from the pickups. Use a bone dry cloth, or compressed air, to remove any dust.

Failing that, you can always use a clean paintbrush that you keep solely for the pickups to brush away dust. Choose a good-quality paintbrush as you don’t want it to shed hairs all over the place.

And for players into more advanced guitar care…

Keep your old strings!

You can actually use them as backups for 1/2 or 3/4 size guitars. They also work as backups in case you break a string. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than nothing.

You should also start a stockpile of guitar parts. It might sound strange but pretty much anything from your guitar can be kept as a spare part. Pickups, electronics, jacks, bridges – keep everything.

That also includes the neck or the body. You never know when you might need any of them!

These parts will also come in handy if you decide to build your own guitar.

It’s also worth putting together a kit you can use for touch-ups. You might be horrified at the idea of using a magic marker on your guitar. But what would you rather have – a visible scratch, or an inked in line?

Besides, Sharpies are a great way to customize your guitar.

Even if you don’t want to slap sticks on your axe, starting a guitar care habit is really easy. Practicing a regular maintenance routine is a good way to keep your guitar in tip-top condition.

So start by changing your strings and try out these tips. You’re sure to hear the difference a clean guitar makes!

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