Here’s an excellent lesson on using chromatics from the ever-helpful, ever-great guys at TrueFire. Check out the original TrueFire page here.

The lesson is part of TrueFire’s ‘My Favorite Thing’ series. It features Tom Dempsey showing how it’s done in his straightforward, no-nonsense way. Tom is a fantastic guitarist with a cv to die for.

Check it out!

Ovation Balladeer

Ovation Balladeer

I had an Ovation Balladeer for many years. It was a great guitar – played well, good tone and projection, and equally at home fingerstyle, picking or strumming.

But there’s something of a ‘frozen in time’ quality about Ovations now – as much a part of the ’70s and ’80s as long hair and four (or less) channels on the telly. They’ve dropped out of fashion and sales are low, so I guess it’s no surprise that Fender – who took over Ovation’s parent company in 2007 – have pulled the plug on US production.

They’ll still be made in China, South Korea and Indonesia, but I wonder this is the beginning of the end.

Read the full story here.

I first saw John McLaughlin in the first incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. That’s going back a long way, but in all that time he’s never stopped exploring and pushing the boundaries and his incredible technique are always at the service of the music, whether that’s jazz, fusion, indian music, flamenco-influenced music…

He’s a great collaborator, and one of the most productive unions has been with the great flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia – often with others but also, as here, simply in duet. Well, perhaps “simply” isn’t the best choice of words…

This is a recording of a concert in Freiburg in 1987

Songs & composers:

  • 00:35 Spain (Chick Corea)
  • 10:25 Chiquito (Paco de Lucia)
  • 19:44 Florianapolis (John Mclaughlin)
  • 31:00 Caña de azucar (Paco de Lucia)
  • 36:42 Frevo rasgado (Egberto Sigmonti)
  • 45:33 David (John McLaughlin)

Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald live in concert

I’ve said before that I’m a big Joe Pass fan, and I love his duet recordings with the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald; so it was a great treat to find this concert recording on YouTube.

The first half features Joe playing solo, as brilliant as ever. Then Ella joins him, and seeing (as well as hearing) the two of them together is just unbelievable. Quite apart from their skills as a player and a singer it’s a great demonstration of virtuoso listening, the way they lock together and play off each other.

Ella gets the words wrong on Nature Boy – so they just do it all over again! Reassuring for us mere mortals…

The tracks are:

Joe Pass solo:

With Ella Fitzgerald:

Chord voicings on guitar

Chord voicings on guitar

I like Jimmy Bruno’s approach to developing chord voicings. Which is that you can derive almost everything you need just by knowing your dominant 7ths really well.

On each string set (i.e. group of four strings) there are four different forms of the dominant 7th. Knowing them gives you a vast range of options for your chord voicings, without the drudge of learning them from a ‘chord book’. I share Jimmy Bruno’s dislike of such books and his love of simplifying things.

But I think it can be even simpler.

There are four dominant 7th chord forms for each string set. But you can derive each one from a single diminished 7th shape (I’ll cover how in a later post). Essentially each string set has only one useable diminished chord form. Know that shape and you can develop a universe of different chords from it.

That’s very high leverage, and it makes it worth getting closely acquainted with the diminished chord forms. There are only eight in my reckoning, so it’s a huge simplification and a powerful way to develop your approach to chords.

Here are the eight diminished chord forms.

8 diminished chord forms

8 diminished chord forms

And here are some exercises for practicing them (credit due to the great Joe Satriani for the first).

Diminished Chord Relay 1

Diminished Chord Relay 1

Diminished Chord Relay 2

Diminished Chord Relay 2


With only 33 days until Christmas here are some ideas for gifts and stocking fillers for the guitar-person in your life. If that’s you, then drop some hints to your significant other!

All these items are available through the Ashdown Guitar Lessons Store, powered by Amazon.co.uk

(Prices may vary. Correct at 21st November 2012)

Stagg SGA108BJ Stand Stagg SGA108BK Foldable Universal A Accoustic & Electric Guitar Stand
From Stagg. Avoid guitar accidents with a safe stand.
List Price: £14.99
Price: £9.89
Yamaha_F310_pack Yamaha F310 Acoustic Guitar Pro Pack
From Yamaha. Excellent starter pack.
List Price: £149.99
Price: £131.42
Dunlop Lok Straps Pair of Jim Dunlop Lok Straps
From Jim Dunlop. Protect your electric or acoustic guitar by using a Lok Strap to secure the strap properly.
Price: £3.30
Yamaha Pacifica 012 Yamaha Electric Guitar & Basic Pack – Pacifica 012 (Black)
From Yamaha. Great package for a first electric.
List Price: £232.00
Price: £185.00
Korg TUAW2G guitar tuner KORG TUAW2G Guitar tuner
From Korg. Accurate clip-on tuner to help keep your guitar perfectly in tune.
Price: £16.95
Fast Fret Fast Fret Strings cleaner
From GHS. Keeps strings bright and lasting longer.
Price: £6.99
Farleys Stageplayer II Guitar Stool Farleys Stageplayer II Guitarist Stool and Stand
From Farleys. Revolutionary, folding guitar stand & stool with foot rest.
List Price: £62.95
Price: £50.26

These and thousands of other gift ideas are at the Ashdown Guitar Lessons Store, powered by Amazon.co.uk

I want one of those…

So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong!


Some useful thoughts on improvising over minor chords posted originally by :>)azzTechs#


In this tutorial we’ll have a look at the guitar scales, arpeggios and substitutions we can use to improvise over minor guitar chords, so we can make our guitar solos more interesting. Unless specified, we take a Dm chord as example. Here’s a roundup:

1) The Dorian Scale

 The 3 minor diatonic scales (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian) are the obvious choice for playing over minor chords. Which of the 3 scales you play depends on the harmonic setting and the function of the chords you are playing over.

The Dorian mode is played over II chords, like in a II V I chord progression.

We’ll take a 2 5 1 in C major as an example:

|Dm7          |G7           |Cmaj7        |%             |
|II           |V            |I            |              |          

Over the Dm7 we play the D Dorian scale:

D DorianD     E     F      G      A     B      C
Over Dm71     9     b3     11     5     6      b7

Here’s the scale chart for D Dorian mode in its root position:

The Dorian scale is also…

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Or to rephrase: Bellowhead. The best live band. You’ll see…

…or you will if you catch them on their current tour. Bellowhead in full flight is an awesome thing – my favourite live band by a mile. And – smugly – I saw them again this week at the Brighton Dome; simply stunning!

They are incredibly tight, and their arrangements are brilliant and sophisticated and they’re just huge fun. Jon Boden in particular is mesmerising on stage.

Here’s a clip of them at Shrewsbury folk festival earlier in the year. They’re playing their version of Haul Away, a typically inventive and driving arrangement.

Catch Bellowhead live if you can! (And add their new album, Broadside, to your Christmas list…)