Guitar Lesson 13: How to practice without a guitar, further rhythmic ideas and alternate tunings



This lesson is mainly as a result of some of the feedback which we have had from listeners, namely that they found lesson 5 on rhythm playing really useful and wanted more of this. As a result I showed up to Dan with the two questions:

PART 1 – This was to revisit chord melodies and song writing ideas.  What we covered in this section of the lesson organically grew and we added in some ideas about alternate tunings, including DADGAD.

PART 2 – Here, Dan really helped me out by giving me some superb ideas for what to do while unable to practise and how to develop my musical understanding of keys and the fretboard without needing to use the guitar.  Very helpful as I currently have some tendonitis making it difficult to play. Check out this post on this topic by TITU:

the Blogging Musician

Listen to the podcast here:

PART 1: Rhythmic and songwriting ideas revisited, more chord melodies and alternate tunings including DADGAD:

PART 2: How to practise without a guitar and manage injuries which affect your playing:

These clips are both of Dan’s rhythmic playing:

Breakdown of lesson and shownotes:

PART 1We start with some interesting thoughts which Dan had about how to gain inspiration for playing the electric guitar from how you might play an acoustic.  This certainly makes sense and I have played both in different ways, but to hear this put into words is affirming and will influence me moving onwards.

  • At 6 minutes 20 seconds we start to think about the progression and at 6 minutes 30 seconds I suggest [D – G – A – D]
  • At 6 minutes 40 seconds we think of how an acoustic guitar player might use open position chords, particularly using the open strings
  • At 7 minutes Dan suggests holding the second fret on the G string (A) and 3rd fret on the B string (D) across all the chords to maintain a common sound which can be harmonically very pleasing.
  • At 7 minutes 30 seconds – we then interject a melody on the B string (I can enter this as a tab if anyone would find this useful?)
  • At 8 minutes 30 seconds – we use barre chords (as below)barre chords for lesson 13
  • After this you can hear a very unpractised version of the two strumming versions over each other
  • At 10 minutes we drop the top e down to a D and the B string down to an A.  We start with the same shapes as above with the new open notes ringing out.  A useful note is that if your guitar is a tremolo locking nut guitar (as mine is) when you detune strings it also sends the other strings out of tune, so it is better to have a guitar with standard machine heads or a stop-tail guitar which then won’t go out of tune.
  • At 11 minutes and 30 seconds, Dan shows me an arpeggiated idea of using the top strings and allowing them to ring out.
  • At 12 minutes 50 seconds – we tune to DADGAD.  Now with the bottom E dropped by putting your first finger on the second fret of the G string you now have a D5 chord.  Then if we hold down the bottom three strings at the fifth fret the you get the Gadd9 or Gsus2.  Up two frets is the A7 with the added 11th or A7sus4. DADGAD chords for lesson 13
  • At 14 minutes 35 seconds Dan shows me the second set of chords to create a simple line which you can then play a melody over (with the fingers you now have free) on the top string.  At 16 minutes an alternate way of looking at the same thing is to use fingerstyle technique.
  • At 17 minutes 30 seconds – Dan talks about how you can see altenate tunings as ‘textures’, also how a recording artist might use them and finally as inspiration for songwriters and the creative process.
  • At 18 minutes we conclude my lesson with an improvisation over a Country backing track in D (good for the mixolydian mode which I am going to ask Dan more about in lesson 14, as this certainly needs some more work).


Check out our post on Adam Harkus’ great website – the Blogging Musician

  • 1 minute 50 seconds – Dan’s rationale behind nailing some theory and thinking about the things which you play before you get into it.  Practising with thought and intelligence behind the practice and goal-directed strategy.  The idea that you don’t always need a guitar in order to be developing your approach.
  • 4 minutes 20 seconds – RIP with respect to Allan Holdsworth and his drive and motivation towards using the guitar as an instrument (that he couldn’t afford a Saxophone).
  • 5 minutes 25 seconds – the music factor
  • 5 minutes 50 seconds – do you write things down?
  • 6 minutes – the guitar can be a distraction.  “once I pick up a guitar I just want to rock the ass off the room” 🙂
  • 6 minutes 50 second – write out all the notes and then apply them to the guitar (see the blog link the Blogging Musician for further ideas…).  Look at the notes in the 12 major scales
  • 8 minutes – look at minor scales
  • 8 minutes 45 seconds – look at the major modes
  • 9 minutes – start all the modes from C
  • 9 minutes 30 seconds – look at the intervals…all pertain to other major scales
  • 10 minutes 10 seconds – take it to the guitar
  • 11 minutes – don’t learn in scales in a straight line from C – C, etc. but learn from the lowest position on the fretboard to the highest.
  • 13 minutes 20 – visualising the guitar
  • 13 minutes 40 – story about Guthrie Govan writing music on the train
  • 14 minutes 55 seconds – write music, get the riffs into your head.
  • 16 minutes 35 seconds – “if you can hum it, you can play it”
  • 16 minutes 55 seconds – I explain briefly about my tennis elbow / RSI / tendonitis injury
  • 18 minutes 35 seconds – occupational health review and some suggestions from Dan on how to approach my practise.
  • 19 minutes 30 seconds – identify the issues in guitar playing and reduce those areas while also bearing in mind that it can sometimes be better to rehearse for a performance or jam away from the guitar, resting your injury and allowing more strength when you do have to play.

Useful YouTube videos for further studies:

An excellent interview from Justin Sandercoe.  Pierre Bensusan has some brilliant tips for using DADGAD:

I love Lars Jensen’s videos:

There’s probably not enough emphasis on the following:

Our philosophy:

As a result of some feedback we decided to break our lessons up into two parts, releasing part 1 each fortnight and part 2 the following weekend. Hopefully, this will make the length of the lessons a bit more digestible and bite-size. This may mean that there are references in each part to the other, but we will try to ensure that our lessons have two sections.  As always get in touch to let us know your preferences, suggestions and feedback.

We’d love some direct engagement: What lessons do you want us to cover? What would you like us to do? How would you like us to aim to develop TITU?

Our podcast and blog has organically grown and I do appreciate all feedback, follows, likes and suggestions. It is now meant to be used as a way of introducing some ideas and themes which are useful to be aware of as you develop your practice on your guitar. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful in the audio format which we release them in as this way you can listen while doing another task and then use the suggestions we raise in each episode to do some extra research and practise of your own. It is my hope that you find this a useful listening exercise, to support the development of your musical ear. It is good to think that you, our listeners, are not immediately looking for tabs, but rather using your ear to find the notes yourself. This is so important to develop your feel,phasing and dynamics and can be lost if you spend too much time relying on tabs.

The way I myself find these lessons useful is to study in great depth what Dan introduces me too, including guidance on who or what to listen to, and I feel lucky that I can return to each lesson and not forget all his excellent advice as was the case prior to the recording of our lessons. I also find studying my own mistakeshugely valuable, I hope you do too.

I plan to continue producing posts for each podcast episode, linking in some guitar lesson videos from online tutors and guitar covers from players out there. I hope that you will find our lessons and blog useful and that we help you to see the big picture. I certainly think that I could have organised my own practice to be more effective earlier in my own learning and if this had been the case, then I would have developed my skills more quickly and easily. For further ideas about this I would encourage you to spend some time looking at my article on guitar practice, apps and software and then dedicate some time NOW into learning to recognise intervals, rhythms and chords by ear. This will hugely fast-track your learning.

I hope you enjoy this lesson as much as I did and that you keep listening. If you want to support us further, then like us on Facebook, follow us on SoundCloud, Twitter or Google+ and subscribe, rate and review on iTunes to help us conquer the Apple algorithms. You can also follow my online magazine: Lessons and Gear for Guitar Geeks and Fanatics

Good luck on your musical journey!

Gary and Dan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s