Monday, February 28, 2011

Which are the most popular guitar chords?

Zipf's law basically suggests that the frequency of the number one item will often be double that of number two and so on. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule but it's surprising how often it shows up. For example when we think of successful bands it would be hard to argue the success of The Beatles. They are without a doubt the most successful band of all time. In the UK No.2 is Queen as far a record sales are concerned. The Beatles had 17 No.1s and Queen had 6.

We can apply Zipf's law to chords. There are certain chords that pretty much rule the pop music world. To explain this idea and also allowing for the beginner let me explain the 7 basic chords you will find in any key using the key of C as the example. They are as follows;


In this case C is considered chord 1, DMIN IS 2 and so on. So the most popular chord combination of all time is the 1, 4, 5. In the key of C this would be C, F and G. Below I have listed the most popular keys and 1,4,5 combinations.


See how many songs you can find that use the 1,4,5 combination.

The next step is to add the 6th which is a minor. In the key of C this means adding the AMIN chord. E.g. The Beatles song 'Let it be' has the following chord progression.
C / G / AMIN / F / C / G / F / C.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We don't need another Hendrix.

I find it amusing when someone is hailed as the next Hendrix or Segovia. Why be the next when you can be the first. With success on guitar one can easily get lost in the idea that by possessing the same level of skill as Hendrix you will rise to the same level of success. Unfortunately this is a myth. As a child i would listen to Jimi Page (Led Zeppelin) and believe he was sent from the Heavens and no one could possibly come near him. Then i heard Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Van Halen, Joe Pass, Larry Carlton, Al Di Meola, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and so on. I came to realize that they were all unique and all amazing in their own way. I also realised that it was not just their skill (although important of course) that brought them attention but their unique style. We are all unique and all have the ability to become great guitar players but what makes a great player and a combination of many hours of practice, passion and a focus on creating their own style. You should of course recognize what your strengths are and run with them when forging out your style. It's good to emulate great players but your goal should not be to clone them.

In summary it is best to learn the fundamentals and constantly develop them but get to know what is important to you and where your strengths lay and of course follow your musical passions. Most of all be the best you! We don't need another Hendrix. We want something new and fresh.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Choice is not necessarily a good thing

In recent years there have been many books written on the subject of choice. Probably one of the best reads is 'The Paradox of Choice'. The basic message is that choice is not necessarily always a good thing. We believe that no choice is a bad thing and that the many choices are good. In fact we associate choice to freedom. In many cases choices are positive and should be available.

When raising children the experts advise giving children positive choices rather than direct orders. E.g. "Would you like carrots or potatoes with your meal?" If a child was given unlimited choices they might choose ice cream or chips.  In one example a study where people were either given the choice of deciding whether to turn off the machine that was keeping their relative alive versus those who were not given a choice and the doctor choose to turn off the machine showed those who were given the choice were more likely to suffer from depression and guilt later on. In this case being given no choice was the better option.

So how does this apply to learning guitar. There are so many options for learning guitar that the choices can leave us overwhelmed and often directionless. Sticking to one method or program will have its drawbacks of course but it will create a clear direction and as the research clearly shows your chances of success will be dramatically increased.

In another example of a similar nature they found people who were on diet programs (almost any program) lost more weight on average than those who just tried to lose weight through improved eating and exercise. They believe the programs had the effect of instilling confidence into the dieter that they were on a path that would lead them to success so were more likely to stick with it.

Programs make choices for you and reduce the chances of getting off track. When it comes to succeeding on guitar a program like the G4 GUITAR METHOD will keep you on a clear path and limit the usual distractions that students face when learning guitar. Its not the be all and end all but it will get you to the first level which often the most important.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Right handers should mimic while lefthanders should mirror

I received an email from a left handed guitarist wanting lesson materials specifically for left hand players. While this is great the reality is 99.9999% all books and learning material are written for the right handed guitarist. I then suggested to the following;

I understand how you feel as I have taught quite a few left handed students over the years and developed techniques for teaching them using right hand materials. The problem I found was exactly as you say they were trying to mimic rather than mirror. At first it felt like a step backwards but once they learned to mirror suddenly everything became a lot easier. Jimi Hendrix actually became the most amazing guitarist through this very technique. He was able to watch guitarists on stage and quickly learn what they were playing through mirroring. In recent years scientists have discovered our brains actually have what are called mirror neurons. This means when we watch another person our brains fire in sympathy as if we were doing the actions of the person we are observing. With some actions we switch this around so we mimic and in other actions we mirror. You have developed the mimic approach as any right hand guitarist would but by switching to mirroring you will in effect learn much faster. It is worth the effort to switch because you are left handed. Right handers should mimic for best results and left handers mirror unless of course you are watching a left handed guitarist.

I hope that helps and who knows you might become the next Hendrix or Paul McCartney.

Friday, February 4, 2011


The majority of students who take up guitar will give up in the first 6 months. In fact I was go as far as to say that 80% of people who take up guitar will give up lessons in the first 6 months with most of them putting their guitar in some hidden cupboard. Sorry to sound pessimistic but its just a reality.

In my early years of teaching this would worry me and although I accepted it as a fact it continued to bother me. I had began reading books on successful coaches and found that while some coaches had low success rates others had consistently high rates of success. The famous American basketball coach John Wooten is one very good example. He beat almost every record in his sport.

I then decided not to accept the 80% failure rate among my students. My aim was to turn that number around and have an 80% or more success rate. I began keeping stats and found the critical period was the first 6 months of course. I also discovered that most student's short term expectations of themselves was often unrealistic even if they were not aware. Most were expecting to play songs within weeks and many expected after 6 months to be competent guitar players. I will stress that 6 months is possible if you practice 4 hours or more a day but most students are not prepared to do more than an hour and most do less.

Expectations seem to be one of the deciding factors so I worked at bringing things into perspective. First of all students should not look so much in terms of weeks, months or years but in hours of practice and of course quality of practice. A top professional guitarist will have done around 10,000 hours but to reach a reasonable level 1000 hours will be enough. My advice is simple. Track the hours you spend practicing and make sure you have a teacher who can ensure your practice is quality practice.

Hope that helps.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4 GUITAR METHOD Website