Thursday, December 11, 2014

Silent Night Blues

Play the rhythm track with the typical blues shuffle groove (A5  - A6 –  A5  -  A6, etc.), then lay down the melody with a shuffle feel as well, and emphasize those “blues” notes. Make it an “Un-Silent Night!”

Audio here: Melody and Backing Track

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How to Find a Good Guitar Teacher by Shawn Persinger

How To Find a Good Guitar Teacher: Advice for Absolute Beginners by Shawn Persinger

When seeking a qualified instructor to help you with the basics, make sure you ask a few key questions during a polite but pointed interview. Here are some questions you should ask and some ballpark responses a conscientious teacher should have.

  • How long have you been playing?10-plus years.” There are exceptions of course, but 10 years is a good place to start.

  • How long have you been teaching?Five-plus years.” I know from personal experience it took me at least five years to become a halfway-decent instructor.

  • Do you have a set method or does your approach depend on the individual student?The approach depends on the student.” A teacher with a set method assumes everyone learns the same way. This is not true.

  • How long will it take me to play a song? A tricky one. I can teach almost anyone to “play” a four-chord song in a single one-hour lesson. But to make it sound like a real song with changes at tempo, clean execution of chords, and perhaps some melodies thrown in, can take up to two, even three, months. And that is with the student committing to 20 minutes a day, four days a week of practice time.

  • What styles do you teach? The instructor should teach the style you want to learn. If you want to study rock, blues, metal or folk guitar, do not go to a jazz teacher! But if you want to learn jazz, avoid your local metalhead unless you know for sure he/she can play “I Got Rhythm,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “All Blues.”

  • Do you give handouts?Yes.”

  • Do you use tablature or standard notation?I teach and use both, depending on the student’s needs.”

  • Do you teach songs, theory, or technique?All three.”

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions of any teacher – from the private instructor with a good reputation working out of his own studio to the guitarist teaching at the local music store. A good teacher won’t be insulted by these questions and will appreciate the fact that you have thought your lessons needs through.
One final bit of advice for beginners: Start your guitar journey by learning songs you like, and the chords they contain. Scales, theory, etudes, and so on all have long-term value but they can come later, in the context of your favorite tunes. Learning a song will inspire you to practice more than any exercise will. So pick a few songs, then start learning the chords and strum patterns. Songs are the foundation of a good guitar education.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 50 Greatest Guitar Books

In case you didn't know, I have a new book out: The 50 Greatest Guitar Books

Long story short: In February of 2012 I published a blog entry titled "The Only Guitar Chord Book You'll Ever Need." A few months later I realized there were most certainly more guitar books that people should know about, and that is more or less where the idea came from. Well that and Tom Butler-Bowdon's fabulous book 50 Prosperity Classics, which I highly recommend. 

I am very happy with the final result. I hope readers will be as well. Here is a bit from the book's preface and the dust jacket. Below you will also find a link to the book's 104 Free mp3 audio lessons. 

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced player, weekend hobbyist or seasoned professional, have never read a guitar book in your life or have written a couple of your own, every guitarist feels he or she could get a little better. But where to start? Wending your way through the jungle of guitar instruction can be a daunting prospect – it was for me. I have researched more than 2,000 guitar books, in every style and with every approach. The 50 Greatest Guitar Books is the result of that research. The authors featured herein will do more than make you a little better. They will enlighten, educate, entertain, and inspire.

The 50 Greatest Guitar Books will expand your guitar education, no matter your level of ability, stylistic interests, preferred learning style, age or personal background. With that in mind, let me state that this is not a history of guitar education or pedagogy. No single teaching method suits all students. As a result the books featured herein deliver their material using a multitude of diverse approaches: academic and anecdotal, effortlessly and diligently, factually and hypothetically, physically and spiritually. The common thread running through every book is that they embody the same hopes and desires I have for you: to have fun, to develop into the best guitarist you can be, and to become a more thoughtful musician. 

The 50 Greatest Guitar Books is both an indispensable reference and one of the finest tutorial books ever penned. You’ll find insightful commentaries and more than 100 individually tailored guitar lessons – in all styles – that will provide beginner, intermediate, and advanced players with a lifetime of knowledge, insight, and inspiration.
Unlike any other guitar method, The 50 Greatest Guitar Books is part guitar instruction, part music appreciation, and part literary criticism. Persinger delivers as much practical musical content as he does analysis and educated insight.
Includes contributions from legendary guitarists and educators:
Featuring More than 100 Stylized Guitar Lessons
Chord Voicings, Arpeggios, Two-Handed Tapping, Fingerpicking, Slide Guitar, Walking Bass Lines, Improvisation, and much more.
Featuring All Styles
Blues, Classical, Funk, Metal, Rock, Jazz, World, Ragtime, Flamenco, Bluegrass, Gypsy Jazz, Pop, Latin, Fingerpicking, Country, Fusion, and more
Includes Free mp3 Downloads
The mp3s that accompany the book’s lessons are available in a single zip file. These are free, no codes or emails necessary. Click here to: Download Audio Examples. All examples are performed by Shawn Persinger.
(Please note: Your download will start immediately. There are 104 mp3s, the zip file is approximately 120MB, and it will take 2-3 minutes to download depending on your internet service. If you experience any trouble with the download please contact: presterjohnmusic(at) In iTunes sort the mp3s by “name” for them to line up in order.)

The End.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The $100 Guitar Project and J.S. Bach by Shawn Persinger

Thoughts on the $100 Guitar Project and J.S. Bach by Shawn Persinger

I won’t rehash the story behind the $100 Guitar Project, it is all over the Internet (click the highlighted link for the home page, even more below), but I would like to put my two cents in regarding the project as a whole, and talk a little bit about my contribution:

First things first: All proceeds from the sale of this recording go to C.A.R.E. I won’t drone on about this…so I’ll stop there.

I was lucky enough to be the second guitarist to play the $100 Guitar (second on the project). This was due only to my physical proximity to Chuck O’Meara, the man who ordered the guitar. By the time I received the instrument I knew many of the names that had agreed to participate (Nels Cline, Mike Keneally, Elliott Sharp, Andy Aledort, Henry Kaiser) and I felt this set the bar pretty high to deliver something unique and interesting. 

I improvised on the guitar for about an hour, recording everything I played, and I did everything I could think of. I “power chorded” (0:01), strummed (0:08), swept, (0:14), swung (0:19), shredded (0:31), sustained (0:45), fingerpicked (0:47), clicked (1:01), banged (1:14), bent (1:24), I even played some melodies (unused). I was dissatisfied.

I pulled out some J.S. Bach sheet music. I was told “no cover tunes” because Chuck and Nick didn’t want to deal with licensing fees, but who was going to try and collect on Bach? I unplugged the guitar, put a two microphones in front of it and played the “Siciliano From Violin Sonata No. 1 BWV 1001 (see music below).

“Ah…that was nice.”

The next day I delivered the guitar to, the then stranger to me, Marty Carlson (we met at Gerosa Records).

I went home and began mixing. Any dissatisfaction I may have originally felt after my hour of improvised chaos began to slowly fade as I collaged and “effected” my $100 musings on my computer.

The result is what turns out to be one of the weirder pieces on the record (this surprised me greatly). And I was delighted to see this three-word review of my piece, “Eclectic Ear Movie.”

Siciliano From Violin Sonata No. 1 By J.S. Bach

Go to 1:39 of my piece, this is where the Bach excerpt begins. It last for a mere eight measures (the full 40 measure transcription is below), it’s a little out of tune, a little buzzy, and lo-fi, but I find it utterly delightful. It’s Bach.

I am happy to share with you my transcription of the piece, originally composed for violin (thus the title). It is in standard tuning, but capoed at the 3rd fret, allowing the opening, tonic, Bb chord to be played as a first-position G chord.

No doubt I have left out some of the chord indications (maybe I can get David Starobin to edit this for me) but overall I am quite happy with this transcription and basic harmonic analysis. Enjoy.


By the way you can get your copy of the $100 Guitar Project from most of the usual on-line stores, including: Amazon and iTunes.

A few more $100 Guitar Project Links: N.P.R.All About Jazz, Harmony Central, Facebook, and Metal Injection.

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The End.
See you soon. 
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Weird Guitar Lessons Hype

Let’s cut to the chase: I use the word “weird” broadly and with all respect and affection. Essentially what you will find on this page are unusual guitar lessons. I have nothing against “normal” or “traditional” guitar lessons, playing, or composition. I love it and do a lot myself. But I have found that there are no resources on the internet for guitar players who are looking beyond the normal rock, blues, jazz, etc. playing styles common to most players and teachers – music that many people might call “weird.” But I know as a performer and teacher there are countless guitar players out there who love this type of music.

This site is dedicated to teaching guitar music in the styles of such players and composers as: Shawn Persinger is Prester John (that’s me), Henry KaiserRobert Fripp (King Crimson), Fred FrithJanet Feder,BucketheadNels ClineEugene ChadbourneCaptain BeefheartFrank Zappa, and many, many other interesting and so-called “weird” guitar players. I will also make note of weird guitar playing that has shown up in the music of mainstream artists such as: The BeatlesR.E.M.Pat Metheny, and others.

This page is for the adventurous guitarist. It is also for the curious. Some of the lessons will be unquestionably weird. Other lessons will have hints of the mainstream but usually in an “outside” context. I hope all players will enjoy these lessons and find something new to add to their guitar vocabulary. Thanks for visiting.

Why a webpage for weird guitar playing lessons? Because there aren’t any! Go ahead, google “weird guitar lessons” or “avant-garde guitar lessons.” This is all you will find. Even the usually extensive Wikipedia seems to be at a loss.

All of this lack may lead one to believe that there is little interest in weird guitar. But I personally believe the lack of educational materials is due to a few salient points.

1. Most weird guitar player spend most of their time playing and recording, not teaching, certainly not teaching weird guitar.

2. Many weird guitar players are of a D.I.Y. mindset and perhaps think it is almost silly to teach “how to be weird.” (My intent is not to teach how to be weird, just to show you some interesting ideas).

3. Where to begin? Is weird guitar the “noise” of Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth or the individualistic composition styles of Frank Zappa and Janet Feder, the whole-tone heavy progressive music of Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Primus or the frenzied metal of Mick Barr and Buckethead, the acoustic musings of Robbie Basho and Shawn Persinger is Prester John or the free improvisations of Sonny Sharrock andDerek Bailey? For me it’s all of these and much more. So where to begin? Just begin. Here we go.

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The End.
See you soon. 
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guitar Blog on Hiatus

I started this blog the last week of 2011 with the intention of posting one blog a month for the year 2012. I figured this would be easy as I was planning on simply posting old, but still completely valid, articles I had written but that had never been published. A friend quickly suggested I post something once a week and I acquiesced, and I'm glad I did. In the past six months I have managed to post several old essays and lessons as well as write many more from scratch. As of this posting, which I shouldn't really count but will anyway, I have written twenty-eight pieces, more than twice as many as I had originally planned.

Currently I find myself in the final stages of a guitar book project that I have been working on for quite some time. In deference to the book's needs I have decided to put this blog on hold. I love writing this blog and I am sorry to have to put it on hiatus but the book...the book is really good! And I want to devote as much of myself to it as possible. Though the blog only takes up a small amount of my time every week, I do feel those hours would be best spent, for now, working on the book.

That said look for big news on this blog in the coming months and please stay in touch. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely, Shawn Persinger

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The End.
See you soon. 
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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Django Reinhardt: Six Essential Licks by Shawn Persinger

The following chart contains six of the most common licks used by the great Gypsy Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.  Below the chart you will a list of recorded songs in which Django used these lines along with some of the chords he plays them over. This is a very abbreviated list, so Django aficionados should feel free to send me more references. 

One Myth Regarding Improvisation

There is a myth regarding improvisation, especially jazz improv, in the thought that the musicians are constantly making up everything they are playing. This is not true. More often than not the players are varying, transforming and rhythmically manipulating ideas that they have practiced hundreds if not thousands of times. This makes the habit of learning and practicing licks, yours own as well as those of others, a legitimate use of your time.

Where to Hear Them

1. Diminished Arpeggio
    1. Minor Swing over E7
    2. All of Me over E7
    3. Belleville solo measures 9 & 10. D diminished over D / Em A / I ii V
    4. Appel Direct: In melody: C diminished over C major chord.
    5. Swing 42: Solo measure 20: E diminished
    6. Bouncin’ Around: C diminished arpeggio over Gm6 (he does it four times, though it is possible it is intrinsic to the originally melody, which is not Django’s.).
    7. Honeysuckle Rose: Three times.
                                               i.     F# dim. (also C) over a C7 chord and second time C# over the same C7!
                                             ii.     A dim. over F9
    1. Les Yeux Noirs: C# diminished over A7, twice.
    2. If you like this diminished sound I recommend the tune “Djangology” because he utilizes this sound throughout the intro, melody and solo.

2. Major Arpeggio
    1. Dinah (twice)
    2. Old Folks (six times in the same place! In the key of F#.)
    3. Ain’t Misbehavin’
    4. Rose Room
    5. Daphne
    6. Nuages
    7. Bouncin’ Around
    8. Honeysuckle Rose
    9. Swinging with Django

  1. Minor Arpeggio: You hear this lick played by everyone from Charlie Parker to Yngwie Malmsteen!
    1. Tiger Rag
    2. Rose Room
    3. Minor Swing
    4. Nuages
    5. Swinging with Django

  1. Major 6th or simply minor with the third in the lowest note.
    1. Old Folks at Home in two different positions (five times).
    2. Djangology (D6 arpeggio over a D7 chord)
    3. Swing Guitar (A6 arpeggio over an Ab7 chord: complex melodic movement b9)
    4. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (twice: A6 arpeggio over a Bm chord)
    5. Rose Room
    6. Minor Swing
    7. Daphne (Bb6 over G6, gives a bluesy sound employing the b3)
    8. Nuages
    9. Bouncin’ Around (twice, descending and ascending)
    10. Swinging with Django

  1. Combination Major to parallel minor.
    1. Daphne
    2. Also functional in All of Me F to Fm.

  1. Chromatic Movement: This lick and dozens of variations. Influence on Les Paul to Jeff Beck. 
    1. Dinah
    2. Djangology
    3. Limehouse Blues
    4. Minor Swing
    5. Rose Room
    6. Swing 42 (with open G string)
    7. Belleville: The melody (Django’s) is chromatic.
    8. Bouncin’ Around: Chromatic octaves
    9. Honeysuckle Rose: Twice: Once, more or less, as written and, earlier, a nice, two string, variation.
More Django Resources

I would like to note that I am by no means a Django expert. I like...okay I love Django's music but there are many, many, many more qualified Gypsy jazz players who have devoted their entire lives to the study of Django. Below are some links I highly recommend you visit.

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The End.
See you next week. 
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