Mark Hopkins is an Online Student Advisor at Berkleemusic. He finished his studies at Berklee College of Music, as a Guitarist/Songwriting Major, in 2009. Mark is a regular gigging musician who has toured extensively and released 6 albums in the past 10 years. You can hear some of Mark's music at www.markhopkinsmusic.com.
This blog is all about what is currently going on in my guitar life (most of the time). Today’s discussion is a technique that I learned 3-4 years ago, but has recently cropped back up into some songs I am currently writing. It’s a technique that I found very challenging at the time I was shedding on it and I think a lot of you can have some fun with this lesson!
I hope you have fun working on these finger picking exercises! Remember to stay loose and fluid while practicing. Tensing up can ruin your time and flow which are two very important things in this style.
This little installment of the Guitar Woodshed is all about tone and toys. I will let the video speak for itself. That being said, I would love for you guys to share pictures of your favorite guitars and pedals so we can all nerd out and see what you are using as well!
As a guitarist and performer I get a lot of other guitarists asking me questions about how to improve their dexterity and hand strength. There are many ways to achieve this, but ultimately I’d like to start with muscle memory.
Muscle Memory is an important part of playing any instrument, or sport for that matter. The more you practice the more your hands will start to adapt and more easily land where you want them to on the neck. The first thing most guitarists grapple with is playing barre chords.. They are the first big hurdle and can be very frustrating when it comes to switching chords and cleanly landing the changes.
Here’s a technique that I developed to cure that issue without much effort:
I hope that helps your barre chord woes! The more you do these as daily exercises, the more your hands will start to cooperate. Stick with it, but be safe and don’t hurt your hands by over doing the exercises. Oh, and don’t forget to stretch.
In this blog we’re going to examine a topic that is a life long search in 11 minutes. Well, the video is 11 minutes, so it’s a start. In all seriousness Phrasing is a very deep pool and we’re going to skim the shallow end today. It’s not an easy thing to write about, so here’s a helpful video on Guitar Phrasing:
I hope you guys got something from my 16th note grid idea. Plug away, find your voice and fight the good phrasing fight!
Yup, the title says it all… we have to take care of our hands if we want to have a long musical career. It doesn’t stop there either; we need to take care of our bodies and general health too! We should all try to exercise every day, drink plenty of water and make an effort to keep your brain active as well.
That is a long laundry list, so I wanted to concentrate on one thing in particular…our hands. Below is a video of a few exercises I find extremely helpful when stretching/warming up before gigs.
As you can see, these are simple stretches. That being said, they have made a world of difference on how my hands feel from night to night. Stretching and warming up before playing is crucial when it comes to making sure your body is nice and relaxed and ready for the stage battlefield ahead. In my opinion Physical/Mental wellness is completely tied to superb musicianship. Stretch every day and keep those limbs nimble and ready to rock!
In this blog I wanted to give you some insight into using your modes as well as pentatonic scale when improvising – which in turn will help you learn your fret board. There is a little theory involved in this, but once you get it… it’s a game changer.
Okay, so let’s break down what the modes are (at their most fundamental level). Learning the modes is as simple as understanding the Major scale. Since the video deals with G Major let’s examine it from that key. In essence, what we are doing is playing the G Major scale over and over, but starting from the next scale degree. Let’s start from the root and write out every scale:
G (1st scale degree “Ionian”) – G A B C D E F# G
A (2nd scale degree “Dorian”) – A B C D E F# G A
B (3rd “Phrygian”) – B C D E F# G A B
C (4th “Lydian”) – C D E F# G A B C
D (5th “Mixolydian”) – D E F# G A B C D
E (6th “Aeolian”) – E F# G A B C D E
F# (7th “Locrian”) – F# G A B C D E F#
Then we arrive back at the root note G for Ionian. For simplistic learning purposes let’s just look at learning these modes as playing all of the notes of the G Major scale to help you expand you fret board knowledge. When you dive into the modes deeper you will be able to analyze a scale like Mixolydian and notice that it is a D Major scale with a flatted 7th – very useful in the blues/Allman Brothers vibes.
Now let’s take a look at the video below, where I improvise using the modes and pentatonic scale. This will involve knowing a little theory for it to make sense.
I hope you enjoyed this one! Let me know if you have any questions. Get in that Woodshed and work on these modes. It will vastly expand your knowledge of the fret board!
So in my last Blog I talked about ways to make that little five note friend sound more interesting… let’s continue the color and flavor journey by adding arpeggios into the mix.
Usually when guitarists are faced with a vamp they find it hard to keep things interesting; I like the challenge and have had many years to develop different ideas to keep things fresh. In the video below I take a simple stab at using an A-7 arpeggio, E- arpeggio and a G major triad arpeggio to color up the vamp. These are very effective ways to skirt the lines between blues and jazz.
Just like we discovered in the last blog, the 6th and 9th scales degrees can add a lot of impact while not departing too much from the tonic feel. Next Blog, we will discuss the relationship of what we have been developing (pentatonic wise) to our modes and I will give you some cool ideas to help you expand your knowledge of the fret board.
Welcome back to another misadventure at Guitar Woodshed. In this Blog/Vlog I’d like to discuss the Pentatonic scale.
As an avid user of this five note wonder scale, I often contemplate how to make it more interesting- figuring out ways that can help me sound more like…me. How do I do that? Well, simply by adding and taking away notes…mostly adding. I don’t add a ridiculous amount of chromaticism or anything close to that; I add the b5, 6 and 9 for more color. I find that when adding those notes, in conjunction with specific chord changes, it can really make my soloing more colorful and expressive.
Below is a video explaining my use of these notes in the context of the pentatonic environment:
I hope you guys enjoyed that! I have a lot of fun shooting these quick videos and hope you are taking away something that can help you grow as a player. Until next time…back to the wood shed for me!
I wanted to take a quick minute with this Blog/Vlog to discuss a very simple idea… choosing the Guitar Pick right for you. It’s an amazing way to help with your practice routine (correcting bad habits etc…) while also enabling you to experiment with your Guitar tone at the most fundamental , and inexpensive, level.
A lot of folks may not realize that by simply approaching your string attack with a different pick or even pick angle can drastically change your tone. I find that I alternate a lot during live shows between my pick and fingers. The pick is for more attack and the flesh is for the warmth. If you have never experimented with these ideas I definitely suggest you give it a whirl this week.
Here’s a video I did explaining my journey to find the perfect pick. Obviously things change constantly but this is what works really well for me at the present moment:
Picks are relatively inexpensive so buy a slew and see what works for you. I wish you all the best of luck in your pick of destiny quest.
Howdy folks, I am back at you again with another Guitar Woodshed installment! This time I’d like to discuss fun ways in which we can enhance our practice routines. I have been lucky enough to meet some of my guitar hero’s in person one way or another; which has helped me dig into their brains about rehearsal tips and other fancy schmancy guitar lore. One of the things all of my faves preach is practicing with a metronome or some sort of rhythmic device. That being said, they all said to stay musical in my rehearsal time. Make sure you do the same. Don’t just sit for hours and practice bebop scales… make music! Explore ideas with both hands and make sure you know where the 1 is in every bar.
Let’s take a look at some ideas I have about practicing and see if it might be something you can identify with as well:
Practicing with the drum machine really works well for me. Give it a shot and see if you feel the same way. I have noticed a big difference practicing in different grooves and time signatures; plus it has lead to me writing two new songs which I am in the process of recording for my band’s new album. The sky is the limit! Be creative, be fearless, work hard and results will happen.