Category Archives: Connecting Your Guitar

How To Make Your Guitar Play Better Instantly

I have a dream.

My dream is to make your guitar play better without spending big dollars.

Why? Because I have experienced what so many new beginners experienced. To have with me a guitar that is hard to play. Fingering chord becomes painful, barre chords traumatic to say the least. You want to be a guitar god but you just can’t get yourself to finger another chord. What should you do?

The trouble is real and it affects too many players. Recently I have 3 people came to me in the last 2 weeks to ask for help to setup their guitar to be more playable. And I have done it for them. And they are happy and gave me a raving review for what I have done. One of them even told me this the guitar I setup for him helped him secure a recording deal when he used the newly setup guitar to play an inspired tune to his client on the same deal he collected it from me.

That’s why my dream is not a daydream, it’s rooted in reality. A guitar can play better without spending a lot of money. You just need to know what to do and then learn to do it or get someone who can do it for you.

Here are 3 ways you can make your guitar play better.

Shave some height off your guitar saddle

The number 1 issue guitars that are brought to me is – The action is too high. By high action, I mean the distance between the string to the fretboard when not fretting is too high that holding the string down becomes unpleasantly hard. The culprit is always that the saddle and the nut first.  The saddle is rightly made to be high. It’s normal to have them this way from the factory because being tall it can be shaved to be made lower. However, the other way, to have a low saddle made high again is impossible without adding additional things to it.

With a high saddle almost expected from the factory, it is essential for guitars to be setup at the shop before bringing it home. Sadly not all stores do that for their customers.

That’s why its important to know, the very first thing I do is to shave some height off the saddle. The work is not complicated but its not easy because it requires you to remove the strings or loosening it enough to be able to take the saddle out of the slot at the bridge. I shave it with sand paper and get it to the right height to make the action lower. This work itself solve at least 70% of the action problem.

Shave your guitar nut too

While lowering the saddle height solves the general issue of high action, lowering the guitar nut solves the specific issue of high action at the lowest end of the fretboard (the part closest to the guitar neck). Like how you have shaved the height of the saddle, shave the nut as well. But be careful, there’s usually lesser to shave on the nut compared to the saddle. Keep shaving and putting it back so that you don’t over-shave that may create buzzing on the first fret.

With both your saddle and nut adjusted to the right height, you will find your guitar instantly more playable. If you have over-shaved and experience buzzing, a shim can be used to heighten it again by placing it under the saddle/nut. You can buy a “shim” which is just a piece of small plastic or wood from your local guitar stores.

Adjust your truss rod

You can find tune the playability of your guitar after adjusting the height of both your nut and saddle by adjusting the truss rod.

The truss rod is the metal part of the guitar that runs through the neck of well built guitar. Its function is to make the neck straight through adjustment made using a L shaped Allen wrench key.  To adjust the concave or convex nature of the neck we can adjust the rod to either straighten it or bow it back.

Change your strings wisely

Someone brought a guitar to me recently complaining that “twanginess” of his guitar. My first suspect was the nature of the guitar was built bright. So the twang comes from how the guitar was built. But I was wrong. After setting up the guitar and playing it for a few days, I suspected that the string choice presently installed in the guitar is of the bright kind.  So knowing my guitar string brightness chart, I went out and bought a mellower string. I tried the GHS silk and steel set (Affiliate Link) and immediately the twang was gone and it played like how the owner wanted it to. You should see the gladness in his face when he came to collect his guitar. So next time you want to rule off your guitar sound, put another set of carefully chosen strings.

Being a jazz player, below is the chart I used. Google “[Brand] guitar string chart” will return the chart for strings of other brands.

Clean your guitar, especially the fretboard

You will play better when you have a clean guitar, especially in the fretboard. A clean fretboard helps you slide through easily without the stickiness of one full of dirt. Besides psychological effect of a clean guitar has proven to be real. Why not serve your mind by playing better with more clarity. I used the Gibson Gear Stringed Instrument Care (Affiliate Link).

So what are you waiting for? Either do some DIY or send it to some good people to do them for you. You can end up with a guitar that easily plays 2 or 3 times better than before.

If you like this and would like me to write on “How to make your guitar sound better instantly”, drop me a comment.

Setting Up A Home Guitar Practice Space

Good guitar playing and tone are bred from home. Your guitar personality should be a result of experiments you have regularly made with the right gear you have in your home guitar practice space.

No, you don’t need a whole room space but just a corner that can be used for daily practice is enough. A place where you can look forward to coming home to practice is worth the effort or cost of setting it up.

Today I’m going to explore how to get the right basic guitar setup for your practice corner for a small budget. Hope everyone can get a chance to enjoy a guitar practice space of their own.

Step 1: Get Your Basic Tone

Your Good Guitar + Your Good Amp + Your Good Effects Loop is the starting point. Have fun and go crazy with getting your signature sound. Yes, most of the time, it is an endless quest. But to be able to seek for that tone is itself an exciting journey worth taking. When you are near, it is very rewarding to pick up your guitar with that that ‘righteous’ tone you that is ‘uniquely you’.

Step 2: Get A Rhythm Station or A Looper

Invest in a good rhythm station. It can be a drum machine, an mp3 player or your laptop playing a track off iTunes. This is so that you can practice on a rhythm track or other interesting ways to play along with a backing track. Better start playing by practicing with correct timing than random practice without. Then, you may find yourself spending longer time correcting the habit.

I recommend using a looper instead. There are many benefits to using a looper as your rhythm station. For an important one, it is a device that will help you learn to play rhythm and also solo equally well. So I suggest to go this route.

Other alternatives are rhythm generating devices that comes in pedals like Digitech Trio or software like Band in A Box or even a good old turntable. They are excellent gears for a highly effective practice space.

Step 3: Get It Connected

Wire up with quality cables because cheap cables are after all, cheap cables. They are usable. But when trouble comes (which can be quite often), the time taken to fix a hiss or a crackling sound is takes you away from the time to practice.
I have in the past invested in a lot of cheap patch cables. I admit I was attracted to them because they came in different bright colours. Who doesn’t think, multicoloured cables will not liven up a dull pedal board? But beautiful coloured cables will rob your joy when one fails and you have to go on a hunt down to identify which one.

Investing in good patch cables such asCanares cables using Neutrik plugs as an example. If you custom make it according to the exact length needed you also reduce deterioration of the signal in the chain.

That’s the general rule about cables is that the shorter the path you create for your audio, the higher fidelity it will be. So use quality cables in the shortest (and hence most economical) way.

Step 4: Set It Up To Record

As your goal is to develop into a musician, you should consider routing your signal to a recording device. It’s good to make music to play-back whether it is a demo or just to hear or evaluate how you sound at the end of the day. It’s a great thing to train yourself to practice ‘play to be heard’.

It helps to just keep it as a simple recorder so that its not too complicated to operate. I’ve been using analogue tape recorders since it’s available years ago. Then I moved to using a computer based DAW (or Digital Audio Workstation).

Today, its as simple as connecting it directly to my Macbook with GarageBand fired up. Garageband is a software that is already bundled when you buy your Macbook.

Step 5: Invest In Good Furniture

As you connect your instrument to your pedal board and then to your amp or your recording device, pay attention to the human connection as well.

Invest in how your body is connected to the space. A good place to seat with the right height connects you to how you play sitting down. I recommend swivel chairs (one that rotates and turns around) to give you better movement. When the rhythm gets you and you need to respond to it, the extra space and bandwidth helps.

I dream of a classy tulip chair, but for budget reasons, right this moment, I am using a Cajon as my sitting place. It doubles up as another instrument to lay a rhythm track I input via a microphone.

Step 6: Invest In Inspiration

Posters of your guitar heroes, decorations or inspirational paintings you can hang on the wall gives you that extra inspiration to play everyday.

What I do is to install a guitar wall hook. It’s not a lot of money but that avenue to have every time a ‘featured’ guitar on the wall helps to inspire me to pick it up and play. I have many guitars but the one that is out of the case and placed on the wall works well for me.
That way I have a corner that not only looks good and also one that enables me to grab a guitar and play it instantly.

It has helped to inspire me to play more. Every few weeks, I change the featured guitar and the rotational system also ensures all my guitars get my attention.

If I find any guitar in my collection never featured, I know its time for that piece to go to someone who will love it more than I do. Hence it’s a space saving exercise to make more space for creative practice and play.

Here you have it, the right gear for your home guitar practice space.

What do you think? How do you setup your home guitar practice space? What kind of gear do you have in yours? 

The Foundation of A Good Connection When Playing The Guitar

Ever feel like something is missing in how you play? You play and practice, sometimes for hours but you cannot get it why you feel like it doesn’t sound or feel right.

Here I want to help you understand the foundation of a good connection. When you have good connection with your guitar and later your music, you have half the battle won. Without it, you will always feel something is not right.

In playing Good Guitar, the feel or the vibe is an essential component.

First of all the guitar has to feel right and a part of you. The guitar and yourself vibrates as one. That’s key component to a GOOD Connection.

The feel also comes from your inner timing! So the foundation of GOOD CONNECTION is …

“rhythm, rhythm, rhythm”

Some call it groove. So I’ll confirm it again in another way.

“groove, groove, groove”

Get everything vibrating together as one and you have GOOD CONNECTION.

Check out our other posts
Tips To Connect With Your Guitar”
Playing Good Rhythm Guitar

In summary, the good connection checklist

Check out the other 2 Foundations:
Good Guitar &  Good Music

Best Guitar Practice Routine

One of the most joyful time in my day is when I grab the guitar and be prepared for the best use of my guitar practice time.

Vince Lombardi’s famous quote says ” Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect “. So finding out what’s the best guitar practice routine is essential in your journey to play good guitar.

While it is true perfection robs our joy in many aspects of life, perfect practice is what creates the most enduring joy that gets better every time you pick up the guitar. Not only can practice time be enjoyable, you’ll enjoy playing more, the better your practice time becomes.

So let’s dive into finding out the best guitar practice routine for yourself.

Get Connected First

Remember just like in a relationship, the better a marriage, a working partnership or a friendship is, the more connected two persons are. So in practicing, you have to practice being connected with what you do. So what’s your true goal of playing? Get connected there. What’s your love for your guitar? Get connected there too. You may want to do The Guitar Meditation If You Have A Looper. But without it, you are still fine as long as you know that being present and connected is the great first place to start.

And finally, do you love your practice and your practice routine? You have to work out the meaning and how to be connected there too. Well, if you made it here, you are in the right place to start your practice time.

Have Fun With Your Major Scale

The basis of practice the guitar has to be knowing the major scale and knowing where the 1s, 2s, 3s … and the 7s are in that scale.

Playing scales may seem boring to some but for many professionals, striving to play it well and make every note clear, smooth and with feeling is essential practice. It boils down to if you are personally connected even with one note. The major scale is the mother of all scales so playing it and getting connected with it is irreplaceable.

With the major scale, you can play the minor scales and many other scales. Do you know that the natural minor scale (otherwise known as the aeolian scale) is found within the major scale (also known as the Ionian scale)? So is the Dorian, the Phrygian, the Lydian and the Mixolydian and the Locrian scales.

Let me know if you want me to share the trick to find them in the major scale in the other post. For now, just know that major scale helps us play the rest without needing to memorize more.

When You Play, You Hum

I first learn this from Jimmy Bruno while studying in his online institute. He said if you play and connect your fingers with what you hear, next time you hear something, your fingers automatically go there. So hearing your note as your fingers play it is the key, humming it or singing it out as you play enhances the listening. So as you practice, try to hum it along. The good thing about humming it is the when you go out without a guitar, your can hum and play air guitar.

That practice without a guitar alone is going to increase your practice time multiple fold and you’ll get connected with the sound and your finger.

Practice The Songs You Are Most Connected With

I’m not a proponent of playing too many songs and playing it mediocrely. I will go easy on playing too many songs and focus on the song you are most connected with. Once you have that song, you get into the following

Step 1: Chord Structure.

Find out what is the chord sequence. I usually go with the numbering system. Like for example, I’m trying to memorize Wind of Change by the Scorpions so I’m going.

4 2 4 2 6 5 1 (singing with the tune of the intro)
1 2 1 2 6 5 1 (singing with the first verse)

Again this way of singing it helps me be able to practice without the guitar.

Step 2: Play or Sing The Melody

I will practice the melody of the song either by playing the notes to the song or singing the song (even if I have a bad singing voice)

Step 3: Play the chords and sing.

I will attempt to do it together. But not at one go. I will play in parts. Master the verse, then the chorus, then the bridge.

The key thing about playing songs is to enjoy the song. If you don’t, go look for one that you’ll enjoy playing. I know sometimes in band situations, you are forced to play songs that doesn’t resonate with you so much. I know its tough but if you want to be in the band, that’s the joy of sharing things and experiences, but you should have a chance to ask them to consider playing songs you like too. So get your repertoire of songs you like through practicing the songs you are most connected with.

Practice Parts That You Struggle With

Now after practicing your playing and your songs, there will be parts that you find you struggle with. There should be time dedicated to work on those. I find a lot of times, the struggle has to do with the timing of the song. So I used a looper or a metronome for that.

I may even work on the part I most struggle with that is not even related to playing the guitar. A lot of times, I find I can’t play a song because I’m not familiar with the song. So the exercise may just be to myself more familiar with it through listening to the recording or just closing my eyes and imagining myself or the original artist sing it.

End With A Doxology Kind Of Song

Just like they do in a traditional church, they end the service with a Doxology. Get to play a phrase or a song that you know very well so that every practice sessions get ended well.

The reason to do it is because your brain gets stuck with the last feeling you have of each session. So if you end with frustration rather than success, your brain is going to associate practice with trauma and that’s not going to help you progress you later when you practice. You will just freeze up and conclude that practice is drudgery.

So always end well with a song or a phrase you can play very well. Or you can just end with saying “Thank You” to God or to your guitar for serving you.

I, being a Christian with a love for tradition, I just really just play The Doxology.

Hope you have found this post helpful to find your best guitar practice routine. Remember at the end of the day to not take things too seriously but to let go and enjoy the process. It’s not an EGO trip and you are not going to be the next Van Halen or Carlos Santana, you just want to be yourself and play good guitar. So enjoy finding your perfect practice routine because you are playing guitar your own way.

Drop me a note about your guitar practice routine? I’m interested to hear how you do it.

Tips To Connect With Your Guitar

You guitar is musically a part of you just like your voice is.

When you speak or sing you express and communicate to others. When you play and strum the guitar, you are also expressing and communicating to people.

If your vocal cord is a part of you and can do the work only if its fully represent you, we have to ensure the guitar is part of you too.

The challenge is that the guitar is a tool of a different physical entity compared to our vocal cord which is already a part of us. Therefore, it is essential that some form of connecting is needed to begin with.

If we spend time connecting with our guitar before we play it, we embrace it as a part of our ‘communication arm’. We extend ourselves with a guitar in our hand. The great thing is that if we do it with proper respect and honour, it will rewards us with amazing expression.

Here are several ways you can do it.

Gratitude to The Tool

Saying thank you to the guitar may sound weird in a meta physical way. But yes talking to your instrument is a way to really treat it not as a thing but as a friend that is a part of you.

It is not so much that the guitar needs it but we do. We know gratitude changes us more than the things we are grateful for.

We often try too hard and make enemies with tools (or even people) we work with. So a deep sense of thankfulness makes us use it and play it more that fight it. Many people fight the instrument they play with; they curse it when they have a bad practice day. Some even smash it like Hendricks. While superstars can do such thing (often for different reasons than learning to play), I don’t recommend it for you.

Maybe saying ‘thank you’ is too creepy for you, try the rest

Care for Your Tool

How is the condition of the strings? I have seen too many people say they don’t have a good instrument and that hey want to change it when what is needed is just a change of strings. If we don’t care for our expression arm, its not going to give you the love needed to play good.

Caring for your tool could mean also to set it up to play optimally. We may spend the money getting new strings but if the action of your guitar is not right, you may find that the money spend on new strings don’t bring about a better connection with your guitar. I suggest you send your guitar regularly for a check up so that it plays the best if finance allow it.

Clean it if you care for it. After every practice session, giving your guitar a wipe with a piece of lint free cloth and maybe use some guitar cleaning products  will make us love and connect with our tool more. Invest in a cloth and dirt remover to clean your guitar and maybe a polish to get it back to the shiny condition.

Caring for your tool makes us connect with our guitar better.

Accessorise Your Tool

You may just want to accessorise your guitar by buying a nice strap for it. A good strap not only customises it and makes it personal to you but it helps to make playing while standing up easier. It’s a sure and easy way to connect with your guitar better.

You may also want to accessorise your guitar by giving it some sort of modification. It could be a change of pickups if its an electric guitar or it could be some hardware change that will make your guitar play better. It could of course just be something not permanent like customise stickers.

I have to warn you that doing certain modifications would mean lowering the resale value of your guitar but if it helps you connect with it more and its a going to be keeper guitar, I would say to consider the balance of the resale value to how you value it eventually.

The guitars that stay with me for a long time are the ones I will never sale as it has too much sentimental value to me.

Tune Your Tool

Another way that will really help you connect with your guitar is to never let it play out of tune.

Sometimes all it takes for someone to overcome their frustration with their guitar and playing is to have that thing tuned.

I suggest investing in a tuner, those clip on type that makes it permanently attached it to your guitar is a good way.

I’m not for those apps when it takes too long to whip out your phone and tune as sometimes one more step to get to practicing is a step too many. A clip on tuner helps us consider to tune our tool often so that every time we play we are playing in tune.When your guitar is in tune, it serves you better. And it makes the relationship you have with it so much more harmonious. Tuning your guitar is like making sure that your tool is in the best “communicative” state. And when it is, the connection is so much better. Well that’s the 3 tips I have to connect with your guitar more. I hope you enjoy this and if you have other ways you can suggest. Maybe you can drop a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Guitar Pedals To Loop Like BB King

Today I’m going to talk about Guitar Looper Pedals…..

Wait, BB King doesn’t loop.

It’s what Ed Sheeran and KT Tunstall do. But hang on… isn’t the 12 bar blues like a long 12 bar looping song? Sure it does and I’m sure BB King would have one in his private practice space even if he doesn’t perform with one.

So what’s a looper pedal? What does it do? and Which looper pedal should I buy? Hope to help you in this article.

I was first introduced to the world of loopers 3 years ago. I was instantly hooked and it quickly became the most useful pedal in my collection. I can go without any other pedals but not without a looper pedal.

There are many loopers out there and in this post I want to introduce these that I have used and share why it is I believe the most important pedal you can have.

I am using a “EHX 2880 Super multi-track looper”. My reason for picking this is for very personal reasons. Other than the features, my 2 reasons help make instant connection with an essential tool for my playing.

#1, It looks like multitrack recorders I used to use in the past, when multitrack recorders were cool.

#2. It has a super cool long name. 2880 Super Multi-Track Looper!

These 2 are my reasons. You should have your reasons to pick up your looper.

But first why do I think that a looper is the most important pedal?

Well, every guitarist should have a looper because guitarists need to be first good rhythm players. Rhythm with wrong notes is better than right notes without rhythm. To reach good guitar playing, good rhythm is preferred. And a looper pedal really helps us develop decent rhythm. It helps us work on this one of the most important element of good guitar playing in a seriously fun way. Other than a metronome, I learned great rhythms and timing using a looper more than anything else.

So why a looper is the most important pedal?

Because ….

A looper developed my rhythm.

What is a looper pedal? Well, it is basically a device that will loop anything you play on it and it can play as many loops as you want on top of the earlier loops.

How it functions is simple.

Press footswitch,


Press footswitch again and it plays what you played over and over again.

With that track playing in the background, you can play a melody, a solo or another rhythm track over it.  Wonderful for practice and have fun. Because it loops in a regular interval, it can help you play in your timing. Very very much!

Here are some of the loopers I’ve used in the past and my relationships with them.

#1 TC Electronics DItto (My first looper and still my best recommendation for a simple looper). My first and still is my best recommendation for an easy to use and fantastic sounding looper. I must have used it for almost a year before I sold it to try something else.

#2 Vox Lil Looper (Forget it) My felt using it is the construction. It feels plasticky and it is made of cheap plastic. I had a hard time connecting with it which is the reason why I sold it only one day after buying it. I think the things that I can’t get pass was the tone suck. Especially compared to the Ditto I had, this is really not a good unit.

#3 Boss RC3  (Used for a week) OK this one is on the more robust side. Sturdy standard ‘built like a tank’ boss chassis. Never like the Boss/Maxon/DOD style switch, still like the standard small silver footswitchs. It’s a personal preference that the latter is more durable and easy to use despite the bigger foot surface area of the former. The sound quality is much better than the lil looper one but I was still thinking of the clarity of TC Ditto so out it went in a week.

#4 Digitech Jamman Stereo (Used for a year). I got this and had lots of fun with it. Because it has 4 switches, it has better flexilibity. I can lay more tracks and perform a full song with it using the expanded features. Used it to play a little family gig for my father’s 80’th birthday and it works beautifully. It sounds great and I got connected to it quickly after that. Compared to the Ditto, the sound quality is still not as good but in terms of functionality and ease of use. It has a built-in rhythm/drum section. It serves me well and lasted one year on my pedalboard.

#5  EHX 2880 Looper with foot controller (Currently using). This is the one that I had the most fun with. I can lay endless number of tracks using the foot controller. And the sound quality is on par with the Ditto. I’m currently using this one and have no intention to change to another. I’m quite happy with it. I do not recommend it because of its price and also the bulkiness of the unit. It does take up a lot of real estate on our pedalboard.

I have used the TC Electronics Flashback X4 which is a delay more than a looper. But the looper in this one is great. I like it if you need a delay to beef up your sound. I have performed with it using the looper function before and it simple to setup and sounds amazing.

However, if there’s one I recommend for a starter, it is TC Electronics Ditto

  • Easy to use,
  • Priced right for a beginner and
  • Sounds top notch.

It doesn’t have a lot of features which I think is redundant for a starter. As an experienced player I use the most basic feature of a looper 90% of the time, so this should be enough. If you are more experienced and have personal reasons like mine consider an EHX 2880 Super Multi-Track Looper. I will get the newer version the instead.

  • Nostalgic reasons of it emulating an analog multitrack recorder,
  • Great sound on par with the Ditto
  • Other features such as “Reverse”, “Octave” and ability to tweak the sound of each track as its recorded

Otherwise, for the most basic feature of a looper which is the ability to play a rhythm and loop it for some solo work. So for its simplicity, durability, price and sound, my first looper is my #1 recommendation.

Let me know if you need further elaboration of the loopers I have used. I love them all.

But to find yours, it has to be a personal reason.

Drop me a line in the comment below and share what you are looking for in a looper. I’m more than glad to help.

Best Looper Pedal