B7 Chord Good for Blues Turnarounds

QUESTION:

Is it important to learn the B7 chord and when would you play it?

ANSWER:

The B7 chord is the classic turnaround chord in the style of blues and is very recognizable when you hear it played. This chord works well as a turnaround in the key of E especially. In another guitar lesson we worked on a turnaround lick which works great over the I, IV, V chords in the key of A when played in blues music.

Since we are focusing on the open position notes in this guitar lesson it is yet another example of a guitar chord which requires your fretting hand to actually mute one string. The chords will only use five strings so the open E (the sixth string) will need to be the one that is muted. When you do this you not have to worry about that particular note being heard and the chord will sound just the way it should.

The specific notes in the B7 chord are:

  • B
  • D#
  • A
  • F#

B7 Chord Chart for Guitar
Once you have learned this chord you can try strumming an E Major, A Major and then the B7 and you will be able to hear its distinctive sound and recognize just how great this chord is for a turnaround in this particular progression. You do not have to simply strum it though, you can try arpeggiating the notes and use them individually as well for guitar licks.

Using this I, IV, V blues progression where the B7 is the fifth chord has been done so often in so many songs that it helps it to sound as recognizable as it does. This is a great foundation for loose jam sessions where everyone can have a chance to display their chops, taking turns playing licks. This is just one of those fundamental guitar lessons that many students learn in the very beginning because of its importance and because of the versatility it brings in the style of blues and other popular forms of music as well. So if you ever hear the phrase “blues in E” then this is where this chord will be well worth knowing how to play.

How to Play the C Major 13 Chord using all Six Strings

QUESTION:
What is an easy way you can play the C Major 13 jazz chord without using any open strings?

ANSWER:
Let’s use a chord diagram here to show the way to play the C Major thirteen using all six strings thus without any need to skip, or mute any strings either. The only tricky part about this is the need to bunch your fingers together to play the G note on the 8th fret. Otherwise this is actually an easy chord to play and has a definite jazzy sound to it. This means that it fits well into jazz progressions and can be played among the many other chords of the songs it is used in with minimal effort.

This chord is played in the 7th position as the diagram shows. The C root note is highlighted in red. The notes involved with this are:

  • C on the 8th fret using your middle finger
  • E on the 7th fret using your first finger to barre these notes
  • A on the 7th fret barred
  • D on the 7th fret barred
  • G on the 8th fret second string using your ring finger
  • B on the 7th fret barred with the other notes
C Major 13 Chord using all Six Strings

What are Barre Chords on the Guitar?

Let’s use the F Major barre chord as an example here since it can be fairly tricky to play on the guitar because it is not easy to cover all of the six strings with your first finger, which is precisely how a “barre” or bar chord is played.

Additionally, to add to the difficulty factor is that the strings nearest to the guitar nut have the most tension as far as the feel of them goes and this makes things harder to play. Since the F Major chord is played in the first position you have to deal with both of these difficulties.

In other positions where you would play a barre chord, the strings are not quite as rigid as they are nearer the nut. So, even if you simply move up one whole step interval from the F to the G Major, barring all six strings will feel easier to play. The F chord is fourth chord in the key of C Major so it is important that you know how to play this chord. It is not always necessary to play all of the six strings when you need to play the F chord, but in this guitar lesson we will focus primarily on actually barring the full chord, the difficulties which it can bring as well as some useful tips that can make it easier to play.

F Major Barre Chord Chart

One nice thing about learning this pattern of notes is that you can move it around the guitar neck into different positions and the same pattern, or shape, will apply to any other key.

For instance if you move this shape up the neck to the fifth position it will be an A Major chord! Being able to move the bar chord shape around the neck is an excellent way to learn lots of chords with just one shape.

If you want to learn more about this, check out the guitar lesson on intervals here and you will see how this works. It really helps to understand whole step and half step intervals when you want to apply a single chord shape to any key that you want.

The idea when practicing this is to try to get every single guitar string to ring-out clearly as you pick (or strum) each note within the chord. Since you are actually using all six strings this can be rather challenging so some patience definitely helps. A helpful tip is to use some slight palm muting with your picking hand since this will prevent some unwanted noise coming from the adjacent strings. It can take a while to perfect this each time you play it, and even after years of playing you may find that you rarely use the full F bar chord in your playing. Like I mentioned earlier, there are other easier ways to play this chord but learning how to do it this way will provide you with something challenging to practice. Also, once you can play the barre chords on a guitar in the first position all of the others will be significantly easier by comparison.

What are the Best Electric Guitar Strings and why?

I have long since settled on D’Addario EXL120 guitar strings. These are 9 gauge electric guitar strings and the pack consists of .009 thru .042. For me, these are the easiest string sizes to work with, on the electric guitar that is. The problem I have with the .010 gauge strings is that they are just too hard to bend. In fair comparison, the issue I have with the .008 gauge strings is that they are just too small and notably lacking in tone as well. Like a lot of guitarists, I tend to play a lot of bends, pinch harmonics and some whammy bar tricks etc.

D'Addario EXL120 Guitar Strings

The 10 gauge string is just slightly larger then the 9 gauge yet it really makes it feel slightly “off” because I am not used to them. If you don’t happen to do many whole step bends or you have fingers like Super Man then maybe the 10’s would be better for you! I still play with 10 gauge strings on some of my guitars though but I don’t like them for shred guitar, they are best when you will be using them for mostly rhythm playing. The point is that the 9’s are just more comfortable; they simply feel better to my fingers for everyday all-around playing.

A lot of guitar players will say that “the bigger strings are going to deliver more tone”. But that is not the definitive component to a huge tone! Larger strings are obviously going to deliver larger tone, but I have decided that the feel is simply more important than the degree of heavier tone that 10 gauge (or larger) guitar strings are going to bring to the table. There are simply too many other ways to address tone than without having your fingers be uncomfortable when you are playing guitar licks and leads etc.

If you think about it there is a lot more involved in your tone than just what string gauge you happen to use right?

There is your guitar, the wood it is made from, the era it was made in, where it is made and on and on. Cloth wire vs. rubber wire can mean a ton in the vintage guitar market after all. Then of course you have the pickups. There is an endless variety of humbuckers and single coil pickups out there, and each has its own very distinct personality when it comes to tone generation. You can also get really picky when it comes to how you setup your guitar and this includes the distance each of the pickups is from the strings themselves!

So like I said, it all comes down to the feel of the strings when you are playing the guitar. That should be the main point. I just happen prefer the .009 thru .042 D’Addario strings.

To be more specific the string set includes:

  • E .009
  • B .011
  • G .016
  • D .024
  • A .032
  • E .042

I have used them for so long I know them inside and out. I buy them buy them by the box which saves a bit on price. Have I tried other strings? Yes, I have tried all of the major types of guitar strings like GHS, Dean Markley, Elixir, Martin, Ernie Ball, boutique and so-forth. Also, many lesser known string brands (even so-called generic) as well. Also I have tried multiple gauges and custom string size packs too.

In the end, I want something that I know is going to give me what I want. I need the strings to be long lasting, affordable and in the right size that I am comfortable with. The things that you do on your electric guitar are ultimately what make up your own individual style of playing. Find the electric guitar strings that suit your needs and stick with them. It is obviously important to try a variety of them so that you can honestly say that you have settled on the best electric guitar stings for your needs. Then stick with them and forget about it. If you want to work on finding the ultimate tone, take a look at your other gear like your guitars, pickups and amps. Trust your strings and move on to actually playing your guitar!

Is Sweep Picking hard to Play?

QUESTION:
Is sweep picking harder to play than alternate picking?

ANSWER:
Actually sweep picking is an intermediate to advanced guitar technique so it is considered hard to get used to. As an example, the pattern for sweep picking in this guitar lesson shows an idea in which you can also use tapping. In the diagram you can see which notes are used.

Sweep Picking Guitar Lick

These notes are not too difficult for the fretting hand, but the picking pattern does require the sweep picking technique and that is what most students have troubles with when they first start to learn how to play these kinds of licks. The primary idea behind this technique is to use multiple upstrokes and multiple down strokes. This is done instead of the more common alternate picking approach.

With alternate picking each note is played up and the next is played down. This helps you have more control over your picking, especially when playing fast guitar licks. Sweeping the guitar strings allows you to cover a whole lot of notes with minimal picking motion. This lets you conserve movement so that you actually get more guitar notes out in a shorter amount of time when you are playing a lick or lead.

Here are the Guitar Tabs for this Lick

So to properly sweep pick this guitar lick you should start in the 7th position (your first finger at the 7th fret), and also begin with an upstroke on the first note in the guitar tabs shown here (your ring finger on the fourth string).

Then the next three notes should be down strokes. Next, do a hammer-on to the 10th fret with your pinky finger and then use your right hand tapping finger to do a hammer-on to the 15th fret, then a pull-off back to the 10th fret.

Then do one more pull-off back to the 7th fret where your first finger should be holding position. The last two notes are upstrokes. This completes the entire lick including the sweep picking pattern as well as the right hand tapping part of the lick. Just repeat all of these notes exactly the same way, for practicing purposes or as many times as you need to for the lead guitar part to fit into the song or picking pattern you are working with.

Sweep Picking and Tapping on Guitar

The urge to use down/up picking patterns is strong in the beginning, so taking it slowly is a good idea. Remember that the key to this technique is picking multiple notes with a sweeping motion, either up or down depending on where you are within the lick.

As a further example, this sweep picking video lesson shows an idea in which you can also use tapping and what this all looks and sounds like.

How often should you Change Guitar Strings?

If you really want to get all that you can out of a set of guitar strings you could play them until one of them breaks. You could replace the one that breaks and then keep using them but at this point you might as well change the entire set. Basically the strings will begin to loose their bright tone after they have been played for several days or even hours if you do a lot of heavy, sweaty playing. Under normal playing though this is really not so noticeable on electric guitars and a set should last for weeks or months even, again depending on how often you play.

On acoustics however, I have always been somewhat of a stickler for keeping the strings fresh. The reason is that the acoustic guitar is capable of producing such a natural, woody and raw sound that I actually expect it so sing and ring-out crystal clear so once they start loosing their crisp sound I will change them, especially when recording.

Under conditions where your hands sweat a lot, or in really humid conditions, the guitar strings can actually begin to rust a bit. I have seen some brutally rusty strings before and they are definitely not playable when they get to that condition. One suggestion to actually help prolong the life of a set of strings is to simply wipe them down with a soft cloth after each time that you play your guitar. This will help prevent any rust issues and it will also help keep any crud from building up on them.

There are also products which you can wipe on or spray on which will also work towards keeping the strings clean, bright and longer lasting. For those players who do not really play their guitar very often, if you keep the stings wiped down than a set could last for many months and still sound good whether on an acoustic or an electric.

What is Vibrato on the Guitar?

Using vibrato when playing the guitar is when you rapidly move a note on a string up and down while remaining on one fret. The upwards and downwards movement can be very minimal, or it can be what is known as a wide vibrato. The more that you move the string, the wider the vibrato will be, however it is not really the same thing as a bend.

This is what the vibrato symbol in guitar tablature legend looks like:

Vibrato in Guitar Tablature

The difference between a bend and the vibrato technique is that the bend is used to move the sound from one note to another. For instance if you play a C note and bend the string up one whole step then you will reach the D note. The vibrato technique is simply to add the feel of movement to the note you are playing. This technique can give the guitar a very vocal quality which has a soulful sound as compared to just playing a note statically. It also has a way of bringing life into the lead guitar notes you are playing.

This movement in the string can take some practice to get really good at controlling the amount of movement which is appropriate for what you are playing. The best way to practice this is to play a note on a string, and then gently bend it up and down repeatedly. This will produce a nice variance while still remaining on the same note.

There are a couple of other types of vibrato which you will find in the world of guitar playing. There are vibrato effects pedals, and this effect can also be found built into some guitar amplifiers. Also there is the vibrato bar which some guitars are equipped with and it is also known as a tremolo or whammy bar. This actually makes the same sound as physically bending the note up and down yet it is accomplished using the bar which can increase and release tension on the strings resulting in the tonal movement of the note.

How to Play the A Chord with One Finger

QUESTION:
How do you get all three fingers on one fret when trying to play an A chord in the second position on the guitar? It is really hard to do.

ANSWER:
This is a good opportunity to explain how using a one finger bar chord shape to play the A chord is a better solution than trying to place the tips of three of your fingers on one fret. By simply using your first finger to bar the notes you are going to make this much easier to play. Strumming the fifth (open), fourth, third and second strings give a good robust sound, and you do not even have to play the first string.

How to Play the A Bar Chord

As you can see in the diagram, you can simply use one finger to press down on the fourth, third and second strings instead of having to squeeze three of your fingertips onto the single second fret.

Sometimes however you will want to play the A chord with the tips of your first, second and ring fingers all tightly fit onto the second fret because you want to have the open high E string ring out along within the A chord. This would require strumming all strings except for the low E string. This is harder to do physically though so use the bar chord approach as the diagram shows. This will make it much easier for beginners to be able to play the A chord.

The bar chord approach works well with all other chords yet the A is somewhat unique since it only require the use of one finger to play it this way.

Other ways to use this technique with only one finger can be applied using open tunings. Otherwise you will need to use more than just one finger to actually bar most other chords.

You could however do this with a root/fifth E and D chord as well in a variety of chord progressions. Obviously i-iv-v or i-v-iv-v progressions are good examples in this instance. Double stops and power chords also come to mind. This works with root/forth too and putting a lot of double stops into licks and guitar runs can really add some style to your playing. Anyway, try it out, you should find it makes it a much easier way to play the A chord this way.