Challenge Yourself: Learn This Essential Guitar Exercise

December 1st, 2011

You Can Do This: Work this exercise like crazy and you will soon be flying up and down the fretboard like a pro!

This is an excerpt from my free online video guitar course:

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Challenge Yourself: Master B.B.’s Box and the 2nd Pent Pattern

November 1st, 2011

If you want to solo well, you’ve got to master this pattern, which includes B.B.’s Box:

This is an excerpt from my free online video guitar course:

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How Can I Improve My Tremolo Picking and Palm Muting?

October 19th, 2011

This video guitar lesson, an excerpt from my free online guitar course, will teach you methods of improving two important guitar techniques: tremolo picking and palm muting.

For all the hours and hours of videos, and the tab, sheet music, and more that go with all those hours of videos, visit my site:

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An Excerpt from the Blues Guitar Handbook

October 18th, 2011

When I was writing my new book, The Blues Guitar Handbook, for publisher Backbeat Books, one of the coolest parts was the lengthy “History of Blues Guitar” at the beginning of the book. They had asked me to write about 5,000 words, but I really had fun researching and writing this history, and instead I gave them 20,000 words, for a 50-page blues guitar history. The publisher laid out the material with some great vintage, rare, and in some cases, full color photos.

Here is a little excerpt:

Chapter I: A Historical Overview of Blues Guitar

The history of blues guitar is almost synonymous with the modern history of the guitar itself. Beginning in the early 1900s, blues guitar players laid the foundation for nearly every style of guitar playing to follow. Jazz guitarists, country guitarists, and of course rock guitarists – all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the original blues pioneers of the early 20th century. It was these players – colorful characters such as Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Son House – who brought not only their musical genre, but the instrument itself, to the forefront of popular attention and admiration.

In the earliest days of the recording industry, blues recordings often sold as many as a million copies, and blues performers became widely known to the general public. In addition to the heartfelt, sometimes aching, and regularly joyous vocals early performers committed to disc, it was the driving rhythms and plaintive cry of the blues guitar that captured the hearts and minds of would-be musicians everywhere. The raw emotions and exhilarating musicianship pouring from their radios and Victrolas inspired guitarists by the scores, sparking an increase in guitar sales never seen before. It would be decades later, after the hysteria of the Beatles and early rock, that guitar cemented its place as, arguably, the world’s most popular instrument – but that trend began with the blues. Of course it didn’t hurt that guitars were largely inexpensive, highly portable, and could serve as all the accompaniment a vocalist would ever need.

And those early amateur blues vocalists had plenty to sing about. Long, hard days spent sweating it out in the cotton fields of Mississippi, Arkansas, and the “Delta” region of the southern United States certainly inspired them to pursue some sort of emotional release, and had many seeking an easier and more enjoyable way to make a living. For many early blues guitarists and performers, their journey began simply as a weekend diversion to help them escape their lowly place in life, and to gain at least some level of notoriety that set them apart from their fellow farm-workers. That they may earn a buck or two extra spending cash at a plantation house party or local juke joint was a bonus.

At the time, extreme poverty was the norm among many of those African-Americans who embraced the emerging blues guitar lifestyle. They largely subsisted on sub-par incomes which they might have earned doing back-breaking work picking cotton or building levees behind a mule-driven plow. Their place in life might have offered them more freedom than their enslaved ancestors of only a few generations before, but they were taken advantage of in nearly every way by the landowners for whom they worked. They may have been paid for their labor, but their plantation landlord and his “company store” kept them as close to broke as a person could be. Fortunately, the music set them free, figuratively at first, and later – after their acclaim grew and they began to earn more playing guitar than working for “the big boss man” – quite literally.

You can find out more about the book here:

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Guitar Finger Exercises Question Answered

October 16th, 2011

I have a lot of friends, subscribers, and followers on YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and all those places…

I get a lot of questions through those sites, and I like to give people answers and encouragement to keep on practicin’ and havin’ fun with the guitar!

Here’s a question about guitar finger exercises I got through YouTube from Sully, and my answer to him about these all-important exercises:

Here’s what Sully had to say on 10/16/11:

I just wanted to say thanks for the videos. I’ve been doing many of the exercises that you posted before I even seen your video. I thought maybe I was nuts because they where kind of off the wall but really works my hand. Do you think doing these everyday will help improve my playing, strength, etc. How long do you think before you notice a difference? I notice some already but nothing huge yet. I’ve been dedicated to it for a little over a month now. Thanks for any advice. I am also struggling with some wrist pain so I am trying to work through that as well.


Here’s my answer:


Thanks for writing, and thanks for checking out my videos. You know there is tab and sheet music and a whole lot more to go with each video on my free online guitar course site:

Hopefully you’ve already joined the mailing list to get those weekly lessons!

Yes, these exercises will help improve your playing exponentially over time, and you’ll see more and more improvement in finger coordination, strength, stamina, and accuracy the more you work the exercises. Also, you will see improved synchronizatioin between your pick hand and your fret hand the more you do the exercises. Remember to always use alternate (down-up) picking!

I actually have been using the basic exercises (as in 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-3-4, 1-2-4, etc.) as my main warm-up for many, many years. Whenever I am feeling a bit slow in my fret hand, I get back to them. Plus, they’re so easy to do, you can watch tv, read a magazine, talk on the phone, even surf the web while you’re doing them.

Try to find spare minutes here and there to just do these, in between your normal playing and practice time, and you’ll see even more improvement!

Rock on Sully,


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Backbeat Books Publishes the Blues Guitar Handbook

October 14th, 2011

A complete blues guitar course in techniques and styles

Montclair, N.J. (October 13, 2011) – Backbeat Books, publisher of books for performers and fans who are passionate about music, has published The Blues Guitar Handbook ($29.99), by leading guitar authority Adam St. James. This comprehensive book and CD package provides everything a guitarist needs in order to understand and master finger style acoustic blues, bottleneck, post-war electric blues, jazz blues, and modern blues-rock.

The Blues Guitar Handbook

“The Blues Guitar Handbook will help players quickly make more sense of the blues and realize there is so much more to the blues than most players think. It isn’t all just 12-bar, I-IV-V chords or minor pentatonic scales”, said St. James. “In writing the book, I really wanted to help players have more fun with their guitar, and gain confidence that they can become the ‘hot’ blues player in their neck of the woods!”

This latest entry in Backbeat’s bestselling handbook series starts by exploring the humble beginnings of blues guitar through the early decades of the 20th century, moves into the ’40s and ’50s, then it’s the blues-rockers of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s before the story comes up to date, with today’s blues flame-keepers. Profiles of such players as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Keb Mo’ highly the evolution the this great American artform.

The Blues Guitar Handbook contains a comprehensive section for mastering electric and acoustic blues from the very basics and leading into more advanced rhythm and lead techniques before examining four key styles: acoustic blues, classic electric blues, blues rock, and jazz blues.

The Blues Guitar Handbook includes:

• A step-by-step course in playing the blues, from 12-bar to advanced soloing
• Advice on guitars, strings, picks, and amps
• Practical guidance on reading both TAB and traditional notation
• Essential theory for blues guitar
• Instruction on bends, harmonics, tremolo, and tapping
• Extensive chord and scale diagrams
• Complete songs to listen to and play
• A CD of the books key examples and exercises
• An encyclopedic history of blues guitar and its players

The many exercises in the book are supported by specially recorded audio tracks on the accompanying CD. The Blues Guitar Handbook can be purchased here:

Also, the author is making a special offer of additional blues jam tracks with every copy of the book purchased directly from him here on this blog or at: This offer is not available through any retail store or any other website.

About the Author:Adam St. James is a leading authority on guitar and guitarists, and the author of numerous books and DVDs, including 101 Guitar Tips: Stuff All The Pros Know And Use and Logical Lead Guitar. A musician for more than 30 years, he currently fronts a blues-rock band that plays throughout the US Midwest. He lives in Chicago.

The Blues Guitar Handbook
Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard
October 2011
Hardcover spiral bound
256 pages, 9.25” x 11”
$29.99, ISBN 978-1-61713-011-3

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Mastering the Exercises in the Tips and Tricks Book

October 4th, 2011

Logical Lead Guitar student Dagan from Tulsa wrote with some good questions about practicing the exercises in the “Tips and Tricks” section of the Logical Lead Guitar course. He brings up some good points, which I hope I’ve answered satisfactorily below.

First, here is what Dagan wrote:

—–Original Message—–
From: Dagan
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:37 PM
Subject: LLG Exercise Mastery


I’m getting started with your Logical Lead Guitar program and had a question about benchmarks. I already know the Pentatonic patterns quite well, so I’m working on the “Tips, Tricks” exercises 1 through 9 as recommended in “How to REALLY use this course”. I start each pattern in each exercise at the first position and work my way up the entire fretboard until I run out of room, as you suggest.

It is suggested that we do this at least 10 times for each pattern, presumably at which point you’ve “got it”. However, it seems to me that ideally you would be able to play the exercise consistently and perfectly at a certain tempo in order to conclude that you’ve mastered the exercise. Would you agree? If so, what tempo would you suggest? I have been using triplets at 100BPM (i.e., 300 notes per minute) as my benchmark, fyi.

I have also been a little concerned about leaving these exercises behind once I’ve hit my benchmark… of course, there is no reason you can’t continue to work on Exercise 1 every so often after you’ve moved on to Exercise 3, for example, but given time constraints, eventually even the most dedicated student will have to start leaving some things behind. What are your thoughts on leaving these exercises behind as you progress with your program? Do you have a tight grouping of exercises that you consider to be essential that you basically do them every time you practice?

Thank you,

Here’s my reply to Dagan, and my thoughts on practicing the scale exercises I teach in Logical Lead Guitar, and which I did spend years of my life working on:


Thanks for writing, and thanks for studying with my course.

Benchmarks are sort of a personal decision, and based on your own circumstances.

It sounds like you’re doing the right things to really improve your playing. To use the metronome and make note of where you’re starting, and how you progress from there is a great motivator. I always enjoyed being able to do these exercises just a few BPM faster today than I did yesterday.

But at what point is it fast enough? That depends on what type of music you play.

If you’re into slow blues, then you’re probably already there. If you’re trying to keep up with metal shredders such as Yngwie Malmsteen or Dragonforce, then your goal will be the fastest setting your metronome has!

And, if you’re also spending time playing actual solos, either your own improvisation or note-for-note versions of some other artist, then you are also exercising those fingers and mastering those patterns outside of simply doing exercises.

Remember, the exercises are a means to an end, that being to be better able to solo.

At some point you may spend more of your playing time actually soloing — or at least playing songs — rather than working on exercises, depending on whether or not you are in a band, or performing solo, or just playing alone at home.

At this point in my life, I spend most of my guitar time playing songs with my band, plus a little playing songs or solos as a demonstration for a student, and not as much time working the exercises that I previously spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours on earlier in my life.

Do I sometimes feel like I could use another good dose of those exercises?

Yes, I do.

Honestly, I’m not as fast as I once was, though I know more and make better note choices. It all comes down to time, though, and as a parent, I certainly don’t have as much time to play guitar as I did when I was younger.

I don’t know where you’re at in your life, but it sounds like you are practicing diligently, and putting in solid work on exactly the kinds of things that will really fire up your playing over the coming weeks and months.

You also asked if there are a group of exercises that I consider essential. I always seem to fall back on the most basic of chromatic exercises, as in walking fingers 1,2 across the fretboard, then fingers 2,3, then 3,4, then 1,2,3, etc. I probably do this because it is almost brainless and I can do it while talking to my students (I frequently find myself doing it while teaching group guitar classes), but also because I feel that it is the most basic exercise to loosen up my fingers, which I feel a need for, rather than a need to continue working on scale patterns.

Since I already spent so many years of my life mastering the 5 Pentatonic and 7 Diatonic scales, I also sometimes put some effort into more exotic scales, such as diminished patterns, which I throw into solos once in awhile. But you’ve got to master the Pent and Diatonic patterns before those others will be of any use (though I do teach them in the Advanced level of my free online course, …

I hope this helps to clarify and inspire.


ps. Please tell some friends about Logical Lead Guitar!

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Challenge Yourself: Learn this Arpeggio Riff!

October 1st, 2011

Go ahead and challenge yourself with this lesson showing arpeggios and picking patterns and how to combine them in your soloing:

This is an excerpt from my free online video guitar course:

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How to Use Dorian licks with Mixo-Blues Licks

September 21st, 2011

This is a quick video lesson demonstrating how to use the Dorian mode together with the all-important Mixo-blues scale:

This is an excerpt from my free online video guitar course:

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About Songwriting…

September 21st, 2011

I recently received a question from one of my YouTube friends about songwriting. Yogee complained that he is unhappy with his songwriting, that he can write great riffs, but they don’t fit together well to make complete songs, and he can’t seem to write complete songs he really likes…

Here’s what I had to tell him:

Yogee, You have the same issue with songwriting that most musicians have until they have spent a lot of time with the instrument, tried to write a lot of songs (complete songs, even with the frustration you are experiencing), and perhaps most importantly, learned hundreds of other artists’ songs.

And I do mean hundreds.

If you are in your first few years of playing guitar, or your first few years of writing songs, you should be focusing on learning new songs, as many as possible, as fast as possible.

The process of learning all these new songs — even songs you aren’t all that crazy about — will teach you an incredible amount about how to write songs.

Don’t skip this step in your learning process!

If you want to improve as a player and songwriter, you would definitely benefit from my completely free online guitar course:

Did I mention that it is absolutely, completely free of any charge whatsoever?

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