Guitar Bloggers Roundup: 5 of the Best

Finger picking technique

With just a little searching, you can find more than a handful of blogs about learning and playing guitar. Here I’ll give you just one handful of some of the best that includes several different styles of guitar playing – from classic to fingerstyle to blues.

You can learn a lot from each of these guitar bloggers. Some of them have full-blown courses and online communities. Some offer advice on guitar gear, life, and more.

I think you’ll find something; that is, someone of interest in the list below no matter how advanced your playing is and no matter what style(s) you prefer.

The list is presented in alphabetical order with no preference to one guitarist over another.

Bobby Davis – The Guitar Answer Guy

Bobby Davis has been playing, teaching, and tinkering with guitars for over 30 years. He gives gear recommendations, teaches you how to care for your guitar, reviews various models, and offers advice and inspiration.

You can get to his Guitar Answer Guy home page here or his blog here. If you’re interested in the tools you need to “setup” your guitar, you can see Bobby’s suggestions here. If you’re looking to trade in or sell your guitar, check out his advice here.

Christopher Davis – Classical Guitarist

Christopher Davis is your go-to guy if you play classical guitar. At his Classical Guitar site, you’ll find lessons, interviews, news, and much more. There are guitar societies and festivals in many countries of the world. Christopher has lists of them for you to explore.

You’ll find all this and even free stuff here at Christopher’s blog.

Adam Rafferty – Funky Fingerstyle

Adam Rafferty says he’ll teach you “funky fingerstyle guitar”. Adam was once featured on the cover of Acoustic Player magazine. You can read his thoughts about using a thumb pick here or find his general blog here.

Fingerpicking

Justin Sandercoe – A Teacher with a Great Reputation

Justin will also teach you to play guitar. Famous guitarists such and Brian May, Steve Vai, and Mark Knopfler all give him kudos. Justin was born in Tasmania but now resides in the United Kingdom. Fortunately you can use his training videos no matter where you live.

Justin has been producing online videos for over 15 years. You can get his Chords for Beginners here and a unique Beats per Minute tool here.

John Tuggle – Blues Guitar Man

John Tuggle is the guitar blogger you want if you’re interested in playing blues guitar. Here is his blog at Learning Guitar Now. Read his popular post about blues rhythm guitar here. John also offers free blue backing tracks here.

The 5 Best Drummers Today

A while ago (2017), Music Radar took a poll to see who listeners thought was the best drummer today. They came up with a list of 17 drummers which is way too long for anyone to care about. Most people really want to know who’s the best or if their favorite drummer is even in the running.

Here I give you the top 5 best drummers in the world today, based on the results of that same poll. I actually had heard of 3 of the top five bands – Foo Fighters, Nickelback, and Blink 182. I’d never heard of Alter Bridge or The Killers, but that’s because I’m old.

I had never heard of the individual drummers’ names from any of these bands. Like I said, I’m old.

From 5 through 1 then, here are your leaders in the drumming world today.

5. Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters

Taylor was briefly the drummer for Alanis Morissette. He volunteered to be the Foo Fighters drummer when Dave Grohl (formerly of Nirvana) was looking for someone to replace William Goldsmith.

4. Scott Phillips of Alter Bridge

Scott may be best known for his work with Creed and Alter Bridge. Some of his earliest recordings were with Creed in 1997. Even though he recorded with Alter Bridge starting in 2004, he was still working with Creed through 2009.

3. Daniel Adair of Nickelback

Daniel appears to have worked with as many as nine bands, but he is primarily known for drumming with 3 Doors Down and Nickelback. He has recorded three albums with 3 Doors Down and 5 with Nickelback.

2. Ronnie Vannucci Jr. of The Killers

Ronnie is chiefly known for his work as the drummer for The Killers, who have released five (consecutive) number 1 albums in the UK. (Maybe that’s why I’ve never heard of them.) That said, they have also sold over 22 million records worldwide, so maybe it really is just my age showing here.

1. Travis Barker of Blink 182

Rolling Stone magazine called Travis “punk’s first superstar drummer”. I have no idea if that is an accurate statement, but I won’t argue against it. They also featured him in their list of the 100 greatest drummers of all time. He just barely made the list at number 99. (For reference, John Bonham and Keith Moon were numbers 1 and 2, respectively.)

Rosewood! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rosewood. Do We?

As you may know, just over two years ago back in January of 2017, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) moved rosewood from one of their no-no lists to another making it virtually impossible for guitar makers to get their hands on this wood which historically been so often been used, especially in guitar fingerboards.

In May of 2017, Fender said they would no longer be using rosewood for the fingerboards of its guitars made in Mexico or in its American Elite line of instruments. The former switched to Pau Ferro, and the latter changed to ebony.

What makes the change by CITES so difficult for rosewood users? Let me quote an article from Music Radar on this subject.

“…CITES is legally binding for its Parties, but does not supersede or replace national legislation. That means that legislation is enforced by different departments and with different levels of severity from country to country, even from province to province. That inconsistency in administration and enforcement is what’s giving the guitar industry such a monumental headache in 2017.”

MusicRadar.com

Yuck!

But wait! There’s a new hope on the horizon. Some of the leading guitar makers – Fender, Martin, PRS and Taylor (and others) – are trying to get an exemption to the CITES listing for musical instruments.

They say that what CITES did was intended to prevent abuses in the furniture industry, not the music industry, so they should be allowed to import and export rosewood as they had in the past. As of this writing, the jury hasn’t convened on this case yet.

Even if the powers that be decide in favor of guitar makers, that doesn’t mean said makers will automatically switch back to using rosewood. After all, they’ve been using something else for about 2 years now. Why make another change?

Why make another change? Because guitar buyers want rosewood.

There are arguments on both sides of the issue, but I’m not really on either one. I guess you’d say I’m sitting on the fence then. I understand why those who want the return of rosewood do want it, but I think you have to be a real connoisseur to even notice or care that much. I mean, is your average listener (and most of your listeners are average) able to tell whether your fingerboard is rosewood or Pau Ferro? If they can make the distinction, do they care?

I don’t think so.

Who Plays Ed Sheeran Signature Guitars Besides Ed Sheeran?

Sheeran by Lowden W04
Sheeran by Lowden W04

I’m not really sure who else plays Ed Sheeran Signature guitars, other than Ed himself. I’m sure there are plenty of guitarists who have bought one and use it, but I just don’t know who they are.

However, Mr. Sheeran would like to increase the number of young guitarists who own these signature instruments, according to a recent report.

Continue reading “Who Plays Ed Sheeran Signature Guitars Besides Ed Sheeran?”

Where to Learn How to Play Guitar

You got your new guitar.

Now what?

You want to learn to play it, of course. But how do you go about finding a good place to learn?

That’s what this article is about: Where to learn how to play your guitar.

You currently have 3 (maybe 4) general options.

  • Teach yourself through experimentation.
  • Hire a guitar teacher – a real, live person.
  • Watch videos online.
  • Get an app for your phone or tablet.

Let’s take a look at each of those choices, so you can decide which one(s) will work best for you. We’ll also look at some common problems or objections new guitarists sometimes have related to learning this awesome instrument.

Note: Any prices mentioned below were accurate at the time of this writing but may have changed since.


Teaching Yourself to Play Guitar

I’ll cut right to the chase here. Unless you want to risk learning poor technique, spend more time on less than optimal strategies, or don’t care how long it takes you to sound like you know what you’re doing, don’t try to teach yourself solely through experimenting in a room by yourself.

Moving on.

Okay, wait. There is a time and a place for that kind of experimentation. After all, that’s how some of the greatest guitar players learned to do some of the special things they can do with their guitars.

My point is that you don’t want to rely on this technique exclusively. There are just too many other options that are better than that.

Later, when you’ve mastered some of the basics (or perhaps along the way), you can certainly conduct your own experiments in guitar playing. Who knows? You just might develop something no one’s ever heard before. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Now moving on.

Hiring a Guitar Teacher

The kind of guitar teacher we’re talking about here is someone you actually meet with in person, probably weekly, who will impart his or her knowledge of guitars and playing them well.

We’re not talking about watching a video online or even doing a video chat long distance. The former I’ll cover below. The latter just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. It’s certainly possible these days, if you have a decent Internet connection (and the teacher does too), but I still don’t recommend it.

I would instead recommend meeting your teacher in person at your local music store, at a local school, or even at your home.

If you hire a guitar teacher through a nearby music store, you’ll most likely find that they want to conduct lessons at that store. (I’m sure there are exceptions to this.) This is no different, though maybe a little less common, that hiring a piano teacher via such a store.

If you find a “private” teacher; that is, someone willing to give lessons on their own time, then you most likely will meet at your home. In some cases, you might meet at the teacher’s house.

There are obviously other possible scenarios here. In any case, the main thing is that you are in the same room with another human being. The immediate feedback you can get from this type of contact is something you just can’t get any other way, at least, not with today’s technology. (When holograms or robots become vastly improved, this may change.)

If for any reason this option is not possible for you, you still have many other good choices.

Watching Online Guitar Teaching Videos

When it comes to online guitar videos, I’m not talking about randomly searching YouTube to find something suitable. You can do that, if you want, of course, but I think there are better offerings on other websites. (Note: These sites may employ YouTube to get their message across, but they do so within the structure of their own site.)

Guitar Lessons

GuitarLessons.com has videos for the beginner and for the more experienced guitarist. For beginners, they recommend their Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series. You’ll learn how to hold the guitar properly, tune it, and strum it. You’ll learn basic chords and everything else needed to give you a solid foundation for other lessons, should you decide to continue past their initial offerings.

These lessons are free. If you exhaust all the possibilities here, they suggest you continue at Guitareo.com.

Guitareo

Guitareo.com has some free lessons too, but they also offer more personalized instruction for a fee. You need to register for this course and can only do so (apparently) at certain times during the year.

The course is 26 weeks long and is hosted by Nate Savage. Each week on Monday, you get a new lesson. Lessons include topics such as tuning, timing, open chords, strumming patterns, how to play specific songs, music theory, and more.

Chord Buddy

ChordBuddy.com exists mainly to offer the Chord Buddy gadget. It’s a chord-learning device that you attach to the neck of your guitar. It uses color-coded buttons to help you learn chords quickly.

Chord Buddy claims that you’ll know how to play within 2 months using the package (under $50, as of this writing) that includes the gadget itself, an instruction book, a DVD, and a songbook.

ChordBuddy.com does have videos available for free on the site too, but the intent is that you have the Chord Buddy in place on your guitar when you watch them.

How To Play Guitar

HowToPlayGuitar.com is basically the same as GuitarLessons.com. It’s another site by Nate Savage that leads you to Guitareo.com.

Guitar Lessons for Beginners

Guess what! GuitarLessonsForBeginners.com is more Nate Savage.

Nuf said.

So looking back at the list above, it would seem that there aren’t that many online sites for learning guitar. However, these are just a few I happened to come across. You can probably find other video sites with just a little searching.

Note: I am not affiliated with Nate Savage or his sites in any way.

If phone or tablet apps are more your thing than full-blown websites, take a look at the list below.

Getting an App for Learning Guitar

Now, I have not downloaded or tried any of the apps in this list, but I can tell you what others have experienced with each of them. As with Mr. Savage’s sites above, I am not affiliated with any of these apps or their designers.

Guitar Tricks

Guitar Tricks is an award-winning app that has apparently been in existence since 1998. That’s like forever in app-years.

The owners claim that over 3 million people have been taught using Guitar Tricks. I assume this means the app has been downloaded over 3 million times. Whether everyone who downloaded it actually learned to play guitar by using it is something else.

Guitar Tricks includes over 11,000 lessons. That seems like overkill, even if you account for all the different styles of music that it covers. Each lesson is only a few minutes long though, so I suppose it does add up quickly.

You can try Guitar Tricks for free by downloading it from either the Apple App Store or Google Play. In-app purchases, which are required to get more than the basics, (as of this writing) range from about $20 for a monthly subscription to about $180 for one-year access to the full course.

With a 4.2 out of 5 star rating, Guitar Tricks is among the best in its class. Other sites, such as Guitar Fella, also rate them very highly and have trouble finding any fault with them.

Guitar World Lessons

In February of 2015, Guitar World (magazine) produced the Guitar World Lessons app for iPhone and iPad.

The app itself is free, but you’ll pay about $15 each for the guitar (or bass guitar) lessons.

Overall, users (as of this writing, only 39 of them) rate this app 2.8 out of 5 stars. That’s less than stellar, to say the least. I’m guessing the cost has a lot to do with it.

Fretboard Hero

Fretboard Hero is more of a game than lessons. You use it to learn the notes on your guitar fretboard.

While it rates over 4 stars at the App Store, Google Play, and appgrooves, the comments seem rather mediocre. Users say it does what it was designed to do, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

The app costs $1.99 and you can pay about a dollar more to get rid of in-app ads.

GuitarTuna

First, I just want to mention that I love the name of this tool: GuitarTuna. This free app does have 6 learning games and 4 songs you can learn, but it’s mainly a tool for tuning your instrument.

It’s also a metronome and has a chord library so you can see and hear what chords look like and should sound like.

For advanced guitarists, you can use this app for other tunings such as Drop-D, half step down, 12-string, open, and many more (over 100 total).

You can also use GuitarTuna with bass guitar, mandolin, ukulele, violin, banjo, and many other stringed instruments.

Some of these extra capabilities require in-app purchases ranging from about $4 to $13.

GuitarTuna is very highly rated with 4.8 of 5 stars on both platforms, Apple and Android.

GuitarTuna was developed by Yousician…see below.

Yousician

Yousician, just like Guitar Tricks, is a free app that requires about a $20 monthly subscription or a $180 payment to access all of the lessons available.

This app is rated a little higher, at 4.4 or 4.5 stars, than Guitar Tricks. It also received the Editors’ Choice award in the App Store.

Besides guitar, Yousician has lessons for piano, bass guitar, and ukulele.

If you want another reviewer’s take on some of the offerings above, plus some other guitar lesson websites, check out Tyler’s thoughts at Voices Inc.

But…But…But…

In general, there are two classes of concerns, objections, problems that beginners have about starting to learn guitar. One has to do with the shape or size of the hands. The other is about the potential pain involved.

Whether you have small hands, short fingers, fat fingers, or long fingernails, you can still learn to play the guitar.

There are ways to compensate for or to get around all of these so-called problems.

Long Fingernails

The most severe problem is actually long fingernails. If you really, really, really want to play guitar, clip those nails! This is the only real solution.

If you really, really, really want to keep your long nails, take up a different instrument where length of fingernail doesn’t matter.

Small Hands and Short Fingers

The solutions for those with smaller than average hands or shorter than average fingers are the same. You can get a guitar with a smaller than average neck. You can learn to adjust the position of your wrist for easier playing. You can use the very tips of your fingers, instead of an area nearby. You can use lighter weight strings so less pressure is needed.

Fat Fingers

If you have fat fingers, there are ways you can adjust your guitar, hand, and finger positions to compensate for your size. There are many fat-fingered folk who still play the guitar as well as anyone else.

What about the pain?

Yes, your fingertips (and perhaps your hands and wrists) will hurt for a while when you first start to play. This is one of the cases where the phrase “no pain, no gain” is pretty much true.

You’ll play until your fingers hurt and then play a little more. You’ll play each and every day, even though you’re still a little sore. Within a couple of weeks at the outside, your fingers will form calluses, and you just won’t feel the pain anymore. If you keep playing, you’ll never feel that pain again.

That’s a small price to pay for learning how to play this wonderful instrument – something you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.

What Is an Acoustic Guitar?

Yamaha CGX102

An acoustic guitar is one that does not have electric amplification of its sound.

But it’s not as simple as that. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this article for you.

This article is really going to be a comparison of what is traditionally known as the acoustic guitar versus the classical guitar and the acoustic-electric hybrid guitar.

Let’s first look at what is generally considered the oldest of the three, the classical. Then we’ll see what makes up an acoustic and finally the acoustic-electric guitar.

What Is a Classical Guitar?

There are two main distinguishing features of what we call a classical guitar.

One is that it uses nylon strings. Strings made of nylon exert less pressure on the guitar neck, so the maker doesn’t need to reinforce the neck structure in any way. The neck can hold its own versus the pressure the strings produce when you tighten them with the tuning knobs.

I managed to explain that first feature without comparing it to one of the other types of guitars we’ll be looking at later, but I really can’t get away with that when talking about the other main distinguishing feature which is the guitar’s overall size.

A classical guitar is smaller than the standard dreadnought acoustic guitar. It’s usually about ¾ the size of an acoustic guitar. True, I could have said that a typical classical guitar measures between 38 and 40 inches, but I don’t think that gives you as much information (when you don’t have one in hand) as the comparison does. In any case, now you have both pieces of information.

There is another feature that is often true of a classical guitar. The neck is usually wider than that on an acoustic guitar. There I go again making a comparison, but I think it’s another good one to know.

It almost goes without saying, but I better mention it anyway. A classical guitar does not have any electrical amplification on board. If you need to broadcast the sound far and wide, you have to place a microphone near the sound hole where you’re strumming the chords or picking the melody.

Now, on to the acoustic guitar.

What Makes Up an Acoustic Guitar?

For the description of an acoustic guitar, I’ll go full bore into the comparisons.

An acoustic guitar uses steel strings instead of nylon. Because the steel strings exert much more pressure on the neck, the maker inserts a metal truss rod inside for reinforcement. Otherwise, the neck might just collapse on you when you tighten up the strings.

An acoustic guitar comes in several sizes but is normally larger than a classical guitar, especially when you’re talking about the most common style, the dreadnought.

An acoustic guitar has a narrower neck than a classical guitar. Acoustic necks do come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, though.

An acoustic guitar has no electric amplification built in.

Or does it?

That brings us to the final type of guitar, the hybrid acoustic-electric guitar.

What Is an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

An acoustic-electric (sometimes called an electric-acoustic) guitar is the same as an acoustic in every aspect, except that it does have electric amplification on board. You can plug it into an amplifier and be heard for miles around, if your amp is big enough.

Unless you make special adjustments, either to the guitar itself or to the sound after it travels out the electric cable, your acoustic-electric will still sound like an acoustic guitar, not like an electric guitar.

For many players, this is what makes an acoustic-electric so valuable. When you’re practicing at home, you don’t need to be plugged in to hear yourself play. When it’s time to go on stage with the rest of the band (or solo), you can easily amplify yourself so your whole audience can hear you (and maybe even sing along).

What Acoustic Guitars Do the Pros Play?

Speaking of singing along, that’s what professional guitarists hope you’ll do when they write songs with lyrics. So you might be wondering at this point, “What guitars do the pros play?”

Many of the stars play both electric and acoustic guitars. After all, that’s a huge part of their business, so why not play both kinds?

I did a little research and found some acoustic guitars that some of the more popular artists of today (and the recent past) have been using?

These stars have been seen playing these guitars. These aren’t the only ones each of these artists have ever played (or own), but it gives you a good idea of what the pros tend to go for. (Note: These are probably more expensive than anything you’ll want to get for yourself.)

John Mayer plays…

  • Martin 0045
  • Martin OMJM – 45SC (Stagecoach Edition)
  • Martin ECHF Belleza Nera
  • Martin D-45

Bruce Springsteen plays…

  • Gibson J-40
  • Gibson J-45
  • Takamine EF341C
  • Takamine EF350SMCSB

Dave Matthews plays…

  • Taylor 914CE (Grux) – his “signature” instrument

Brad Paisley plays…

  • Gibson J-45

Noel Gallagher plays…

  • Gibson ES-345
  • Gibson ES-355

Slash plays…

  • Martin D-18
  • Gibson Sheryl Crow
  • Taylor 616CE

Paul Simon plays…

  • Yamaha LS400
  • Martin OM-42PS

Dave Grohl plays…

  • Gibson Elvis Presley Dove
  • Martin D-28
  • Taylor 612CE

Neil Young plays…

  • Martin D-45
  • Martin D-18
  • Martin D-28

If you look back at that list, you’ll see that Martin, Gibson, and Taylor are rather dominant. That doesn’t mean they’re the best guitar makers around for every occasion – though they are very good.

The guitar you like best might be made completely differently from those the pros play. Much of what makes a player like his or her guitar is in the wood(s) used in construction.

So before leaving the topic of acoustic guitars, let’s examine the kinds of wood that they (especially the tops) can be made of.

What Is an Acoustic Guitar Made Of?

Some types of wood are much more commonly used than others, both because of their sonic qualities and their availability.

Note that it’s especially what the top of an acoustic guitar is made of that gives it its special sound.

Spruce is the most common wood for an acoustic guitar top. (The top is the area where the hole is, where you strum or pick the strings.) Makers can use a relatively thin piece of spruce that will still be both strong and resonant.

Cedar isn’t as strong as spruce, so it’s often used for classical guitars as well as for the sides and backs of the instruments.

Rosewood is a dark material that gives you more warmth and richness of tone than the above. It’s also more expensive and is popular for fingerboards and bridges.

Mahogany falls somewhere between spruce and rosewood, tone-wise. Many country western and blues artists like its sound.

Maple is commonly used for sides and backs of guitars because it has a lower resonance than the other woods. It won’t interfere as much with the tone that the top wood is trying to produce.

Cocobolo is also used for sides and backs. It’s a Mexican hardwood that produces a bright sound.

Ebony is great for your fretboard.

Koa is another pricey wood that can be used throughout a guitar but is most often employed as side, back, neck, and bridge material.

Ovangkoi is an African wood that gives you the warmth of rosewood but the brighter midrange of mahogany or koa. As such, it’s great for backs and sides.

Sapele, another African wood, is similar to mahogany and is used primarily for sides and backs.

Walnut is a decent alternative to mahogany and koa. It works well for all parts of the body.

Then there are the synthetics. Makers like Ovation and Rainsong, for example, use a fiberglass composite and graphite, respectively. Other makers may use other non-wood materials. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se. The main thing is that, while woods tend to improve with age, synthetics do not. That said, synthetics are less susceptible to climate changes. If that’s important to you, go for it.

Choosing Your Acoustic Guitar

I’m not going to actually give you any specific advice here about selecting an acoustic (or classical or acoustic-electric) guitar. That’s really beyond the scope of this article.

However, based on what you’ve learned above, you should be able to search for a guitar that would suit your purposes and desires in a knowledgeable way. For example, if the guitar you’re researching has a spruce top, you’ll know that’s not unusual. If it doesn’t have a spruce top, you might want to find out what the maker was trying to accomplish with that particular design.

You saw that even the pros don’t all agree on a “best” guitar. Each of them have guitars they like for different reasons.

You will too.