Spook Strickland's Guitar Method

I thought I would start a page for beginer guitar players who are looking to expand on their technique but who are not interested in musical theory.  This is for the Classic Rock/Heavy Rock guys.  If you are wanting to learn how to sweep pick or squeal pinch harmonics there are many tutorials already out there just for this.  This is for the guys and gals that want to rock old school and to be able to solo and come up with cool riffs in any situation. Before we begin.  I'm asuming you know how to play pretty well already but are having dificulty with leads either how to play them or how to come up with somthing original and in key.

Lesson Number One

The Basics

Here are two things that will really help you solo like a Master.

Number One:  Exercise your hands and fingers so that you have increased dexterity and stamina.  This is so that even with out thinking about it your hands will have the ability to do runs that you normally could not do and some time on the spur of the moment when you tap into "The Big Sound" you will and you'll be so surprised how easy it was.

Number Two:  Start playing solos over your favorite songs.  Don't wait for the lead break to come, start soloing from the start to the finish.  What this is going to do is get you able to make your leads sound good in any type of situation.  It also makes for more opportunities solo instead of fast forwarding and rewinding and looking for lead breaks which are already taken up by some one else's lead work anyway.  At first just worry about staying in the general key of the song don't worry about any scales or chord changes after a while you will find all the right notes for that song at any given time then you can use that to build your own synthetic scale to use for soloing.  Just relax and don't think about the notes you are going to play your fingers already know were they are just let them start playing.  This is how you tap into "The Big Sound"

Once you get good at that and you apply it to your own songs you will be amazed at the stuff you can come up with all with out any real musical knowledge or technique.


Lesson Number Two



Vibrato is just about the most important technique you will ever learn on the guitar and the only one that you  will probably spend the rest of your life perfecting but it will be totally worth it.  Good vibrato can make a mediocre lick sound good and bad vibrato can make a great lick sound like crap.


Before we get into the techniques involved let’s talk about Vibrato types and examples of great Vibrato.  There are really just two types:  Deep slow Vibrato and Fast Shallow Vibrato.  BB King is a great example of the fast shallow vibrato and Eric Clapton is the premier example of slow deep Vibrato.  What type of Vibrato you choose is up to you.  What ever Vibrato sends chills up your spine and makes the hair stand up on your arms is the Vibrato that is right for you.  Trust your ears first and foremost when it comes to Vibrato.


Now how to do Vibrato.  Some shake their whole wrist.  Others shake there whole arm some just use their fingers.  Some try the side ways finger wiggle like a Violin of Cello player but for a fretted instrument like the guitar you just can not get enough of a change in pitch to really develop any kind of good Vibrato. 


There is no real right or wrong technique as long as you are not hurting yourself and you are getting good vibrato.  If it sounds good it is good.  What I would do is watch your favorite guitar player watch the way he does his vibrato and then start there.  Slowly you will start to develop your own unique technique.


Vibrato is unlike any other technique in that it is not really easy to teach you can’t just say do it like this and you will sound great.  It requires more of your ears than of your technique to have good Vibrato.  For example the way you stop your Vibrato is just as important as how you start it.  You want the last note to be in pitch with were it started.  If you stop and the note is bent slightly out of pitch it’s going to sound very bad.


You should also be capable of doing Vibrato with all the fingers on your fret hand.  This can take a lot of strength and training to pull of good Vibrato using just the pinky finger but it can be done and there are times when it is necessary in a quick or difficult passage to use the pinky finger for Vibrato.  99 percent of the time though you can just use your ring finger or index finger or do like Leslie west and lock your ring, middle and index fingers together for a much stronger and more aggressive Vibrato.  I really like to use this technique when I want very deep and fast Vibrato.  Listen to the Intro to Mississippi Queen and you will hear what I’m talking about.


Also you need to learn to get good Vibrato on each string and each fret.  The guitar has a sweet spot in the middle where Vibrato is really easy and juicy but don’t get stuck there you need to be able to apply good Vibrato on any part of the neck.  What I did in the beginning of my Vibrato training was start on the high E first fret with my index finger and did my Vibrato then same string same fret switched to my middle finger and then ring finger then pinky.  I would go back and forth making sure the Vibrato sounded the same every time for every finger if not I would do it again and again until I got it right then I would move on to the next fret and start all over going fret by fret al the way to the top of the neck then switching to the next lower string until I had worked through ever fret on every string with every finger.  It took me a very long time about a year before I could zip through it all with out stopping do to cramps in my fingers but it helped me make my Vibrato not only strong but flexible and like second nature.


I’m sure I’ve forgotten something but this will be a good start for you.  As usual if you have any questions feel free to ask.



Lesson Three

Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll

1)  Sex and Drugs will always be there.  Don't blow your big opportunity by being too wasted to play or screwing up your big solo by trying to show off for some Hottie you are trying to nail.

2)  You can't polish a turd but some songs are not meant to be polished either.  They are like a fine hand woven rug that has slight variations in color and thread size and maybe a few miss-tied knots here and there.  If you were to make it perfect however you would loose the soul and spirit of such a fine hand made creation.  We are humans, we are not Machines, we should not be trying to be perfect like Machines.

Lesson Four Soundmen:

How to work with them

I want to put together a quick list of tips I have came up with over the years to make things easier for you to get the sound that you want on stage.

1) If you like a really Bass Heavy “Woman Tone” or “Texas Doom Tone” and you are not getting it first try telling the soundman that you want more bass. If it's still not enough tell him you want your tone “muddy” soundmen tend to want things bright and clean sounding and for some of us guitar players that is just the opposite of what we want and we can keep telling the soundman more bass, more bass until the cows come home and he will just not get it because he considers that sound “muddy” and to him muddy is a bad thing. But if you tell him up front you want it “Sludgy and Muddy” more than likely he will comply. Another trick that I have discovered that works great is If you tend to play on the neck pickup, sound-check on the bridge pickup. After he has you dialed in to what he considers “nice and fat” you switch to the neck pickup and bam! you have Instant fat tone! Also ask him to give your a guitar a boost at 500HZ this will really make your tone cut through and sound nice and thick. Now if play on the bridge pickup you can sound-check using a coil-tap then switch over to the untapped sound for the show.

2) If you like to play really loud and the soundman always turns the monitors down on you this is what you do. Start out quiet in the sound-check I mean really quite and force him to crank the monitors really loud then you will only have to just nudge your volume right before you take the stage for the show. Be careful though because the soundman usually looks at the levels a few times during the show and if he sees the guitar Chanel all of a sudden boosted he is going to pull down the mains signal. A good way around this is to get a DI box and run it from an output on your amp that is not effected by the master volume that way after the show starts you can crank your amp and even though he might hear it get louder if he looks at he board he will see all the levels right where they should be and probably do nothing but go off and have a beer. I have used this trick myself in clubs where the week before I could barley hear myself because the soundman kept turning me down and the next week my stage volume was so loud my pant legs were flapping!

3) If all else fails have the guitar player and the bass player turn their amps inwards towards the drummer like you would do while practicing in your garage or rehearsal space that way you can crank them up with out blowing away the soundman or the people in the audience. I have done this a few times and it works really great. And one time the soundman even thought it was such a good idea he was going to have all his metal bands do it.

I'm sure there is more I could say on the subject but this will give you some good tools to work with the soundman instead of you working against each other. As always if you have any questions feel free to ask.
If you like the lesson or have any questions please feel free to email me spookstrickland@gmail.com

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