Richards Guitar Studio

Premium Music Lessons and Rock School

Tag: music

RGS Podcast 6 – Facts and Myths About Learning Music

RGS Podcast 6 – Facts and Myths About Learning Music with Nate Richards and Colin Ainsworth

Episode #6: Facts and Myths about Learning Music with Nate Richards and Colin Ainsworth. Recorded at Nate’s place old-school pass-the-mic style. 0:00 – Disclaimer on who is the target audience is for this episode (every age group and everyone who isn’t a once-in-a-generation genius, and doesn’t have synesthesia), matching goals and expectations, the deference between knowledge and skill, and introduction to the episode’s topics – choosing an instrument, technique, music reading, playing by ear, and learning songs 5:47 – Colin’s background on choosing an instrument when growing up in a major music region 8:59 – Nate breaks down the pros and cons of classical, steel string acoustic or guitar for students starting out 15:07 – Colin introduces the technique topic (and attributes the “right way, wrong way, Yngwie” phrase to Ben Eller, who was one in a long line of people to use it), Nate gives examples of why everyone needs to develop a clean technique regardless of musical style, and Colin compares the RGS Rock Mastery Program with the Philadelphia guitar style of Dennis Sandole 25:50 – The need to tailor technique to students based on their hand size and shape, and a brief comment on avoiding the dreaded problem of pulling barre chords out of tune 29:30 – Nate clarifies the question of music of music reading – it’s not if but when – and lists the benefits of learning to read for those who won’t need to use it regularly 33:50 – Nate transitions music reading into learning songs by ear – being able to hear patterns when figuring out songs by ear due to music reading experience, Colin compares the roots of “education” and “erudition” and how to it applies to approaching guitar, Nate talks about overcoming his own frustrations of returning to reading music in high school 42:49 – Colin and Nate discuss what you see on a page and what you hear and use Randy Rhoads as an example 45:40 – Nate breaks down the pitfalls of playing solely by ear, including the “mysterious extra half of a beat” in the bridge of “Stairway to Heaven,” Colin extols the virtues of figuring out simple pop tunes to build your ear and Nate talks about predictability of current pop country songs 54:13 – Nate compares learning songs note-for-note versus coming up with a new arrangement, how learning a song note-for-note is like taking a master class from the guitar player on the record 1:01:30 – Colin talks about how the memory builds on itself and taking skills away from music by playing as much material as possible, and how you always think your band’s arrangement of a song is better than the original – whether out of familiarity or ego, and the dangers of picking up bad habits from your favorite guitar players

Music Theory Lesson – What Makes a Song in a Mode

New YouTube Music Theory Lesson – What Makes a Song in a Mode

Nate Richards talks about what makes a song in a mode in this music theory lesson. 

So, what exactly is a mode? Let’s start with the Major Scale – which is the overarching parent scale in all Western music. To be brief, the Major scale has 7 notes that climb up the alphabet one letter at a time (a-b-c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c-d-e-f-g-a-etc), and we number them 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. The G Major scale is the key I used in the video, and the notes are G-A-B-C-D-E-F#, numbered G-1, A-2, B-3, etc.

A mode is a variation of the scale note order, and each variation comes with really fancy Greek name (these scales are very old, dating back well over 1000 years used in Gregorian Chant sung by monks – they thought the Greeks invented music so they gave all of the notes and scales Greek names). Take a look at the scale variations below and see that the idea is simply a circling around the same notes – the only difference is the starting note.

(BTW – modal theory goes way, way beyond this initial stage. But, this is a start at the general concept. Each mode eventually will become it’s own little world within the solar system of the Major Scale, with each mode having it’s own idiosyncrasies, chord progressions, emotions, colors, and applications).

I – G Ionian: G-A-B-C-D-E-F# (a.k.a. G Major. “Ionian” is just the Greek term referring to the Major Scale)

ii – A Dorian: A-B-C-D-E-F#-G

iii – B Phrygian: B-C-D-E-F#-G-A

IV – C Lydian: C-D-E-F#-G-A-B

V – D Mixolydian: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C

vi – E Aeolian: E-F#-G-A-B-C-D (a.k.a. E Natural Minor, or the “Relative” minor)

viio – F# Locrian: F#-G-A-B-C-D-E

This is just a start, and you are not expected to be an expert on modes at this point – that takes a long time of lessons, study, practice, and experience.

If you’ve made it this far, you might be confused and wondering what this all means. Here is a good follow-up video to this one to try applying the modes, and hopefully you will start to see how they work. Below that is yet another video from another angle:


3 Shred Guitar Licks

CLICK HERE for Tabs – May open in new window. Click link in new window to view tabs.

Learning to play fast is something many guitar players strive for. I wrote these 3 shred guitar licks to demonstrate a way to get more mileage out of the speed licks you learn, rather than feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel over and over and find millions of new licks all the time. Great classical composers used repetition, sequence, and motivic development to get more out of the musical elements within a piece of music (think Beethoven Symphony 5; da-da-da-dahhh / da-da-da-dahhh then after that the melodic motive is used over and over for the entire movement as a motivic theme). So, for shred guitar we can do the same thing to make longer and longer strings of notes, just by repeating the licks up or down an octave in one seamless phrase. A few tips:

  1. Go to this post and apply the instructions on developing speed to the licks in this post.
  2. Use a metronome! Practicing with a metronome has been around for centuries because it works. Subdivide the beat correctly, focus on rhythm and articulation, and speed will happen later.
  3. Speed development is not a perfect line graph, it’s more a a “hockey stick” graph. That means that you practice slow to moderate for a long time and then BOOM speed starts accelerating dramatically later on. Basically 80% of your time developing speed will be slow and the last 20% your speed will increase exponentially. Your hands have to build the reflex and muscle memory – once that happens the speed comes naturally.

Nate from Richards Guitar Studio and Richards Rock Academy shows you how to play 3 shred guitar licks using octave positions. Great for taking small licks and getting way more mileage out of them by extending them across the fretboard. Learn speed picking, alternate picking, legato hammer ons and pull offs, fast guitar scales, and more. In the style of John Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani.

Richards Guitar Studio provides professional guitar, drum, and bass lessons and rock band school in Aston, PA. Serving Delaware County – Media, Swarthmore, Springfield, Ridley, Garnet Valley, and Wallingford.

Drill of the Week #43 – Single String Pentatonic Guitar Scale


Nate shows you how to play a single string pentatonic guitar scale. If you haven’t learned the pentatonic scale yet – and you should right away as it is the bread and butter of rock guitar playing – go to this post here. The pentatonic “boxes,” especially the classic root position box, can get stale over time. Also, being locked into one position, and only having the trajectory of your solos being across the strings horizontally rather than along the strings vertically, can limit the creative potential of any guitar soloist (no matter how good they are). Using a single string is an easy way to learn guitar soloing and scales that create interest, and have potential for further creative exploration. Here are a few tips:

  1. Name the notes in the scale. Use this as an opportunity to name the notes in the scale. Come on, you only have 5 letters that repeat A-C-D-E-G. This is a great start to basic theory, and also a good mindset to put yourself in when approaching the neck – by letters, not by numbers.
  2. Practice the scale improvising with as many creative techniques as possible – but stay on ONE string. Sticking to one string focuses your attention to other details besides the same old tired licks. Articulations and guitar techniques (slides, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, tapping, tremolo picking, and on and on) can be utilized in completely new ways that you may never have come up with in any other environment. Watch Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc – they move around the guitar neck constantly to get just the right phrasing in their guitar solos.
  3. Learn the lick – then change it. Adapt the lick to your own tastes. Add, delete, substitute ideas. Keep the beginning the same but continue on your own to a new creative space. Basically – use my lick as a starting point and then find your own voice on a single string in the process. Think singing – your guitar sings closer to a human voice on one string than in any other fashion.


Nate from Richards Guitar Studio shows you how to play a single string pentatonic guitar scale and lick. Great for improving soloing and adding interest and something new to your solos. An easy way to learn guitar soloing.

Richards Guitar Studio provides professional guitar, drum, and bass lessons and rock band school in Aston, PA. Serving Delaware County – Media, Swarthmore, Springfield, Ridley, Garnet Valley, and Wallingford.

Drill of the Week #37 – Bach Gavotte Classical Guitar Lesson


Drill of the Week #37 – Bach Gavotte Classical Guitar Lesson

Classical guitar – an indispensable element to many great guitarists training. Think Randy Rhoads or Chris Broderick, for example.  The music of J.S. Bach has been performed consistently for 300 years and has stood the test of time as some of the greatest music ever written. I consider playing his music an honor and a privilege, and a gift. The cerebral and structural perfection, and the beauty of  it’s architecture is what musicians will continue to appreciate for centuries to come. Here are a few tips:

  1. Follow the right hand fingerings (P-thumb, i-index, m-middle, a-ring). Efficiency of motion is a key element to making the music flow without interruption. If your finger picking is disjointed and inefficient, the flow of the music won’t capture the beauty of the composition.
  2. Break it up. If you are having trouble learning it at the start, try taking away all the bass notes (thumb notes) and just practice the high notes. Once you have that down, try adding just the first bass note, then the next, and so on.
  3. Feel it in 6/8. Make sure you feel the pulse in 6/8 – that is, 3 notes per beat (so it feels like triplets). Take a look at the notation and see how the notes are grouped into 3’s. Find the first note of each grouping and feel an accent on that note, and the following 2 notes feel less emphasized. This will help you find the pulse.

Nate from Richards Guitar Studio shows you how to play Bach Gavotte II BWV 995 in this guitar lesson. Refer to the tabs and then use the video for performance tips. Techniques include fingerstyle, two-voice counterpoint, and holding bass notes while playing a melody.

Richards Guitar Studio offers professional guitar lessons in Aston PA. We serve Delaware County PA towns such as Swarthmore, Media, Springfield, Ridley Park, Garnet Valley, and Brookhaven.