Category Archives: Band

Learning Lyrics

As I told earlier we’ve been having some trouble in finding a singer for our band. We had two candidates but neither of them had the qualities we required. We even bought our own PA system, which was cheap but functional. So finally as I decided to sing few songs myself the band leader said that if it’s ok I’d be the singer for the time being. Sure!

Now, the thing with singing while playing guitar is that it requires quite a lot of practicing. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m horrible in remembering lyrics so I began to try and figure out how to more easily get the words to stick in my head.

One method I figured out was to learn, not the words, but the sound of each line of vocals. I tried to concentrate to what kind of sound comes after each line. When I get the beginning of the line going I can easily recall the rest of it. I think this is an auditory learning method (turned out I’m an auditory learner) so I can’t recommend it for everybody.

Another thing that kind of bothers me with singing is that I’m not that good of a singer technically. I mean I can get somewhat the right pitch while singing almost anything but things tend to come out just a little bit flat or a little bit sharp. While I always demand a lot from my band mates I also demand perfection from myself. That means practicing, practicing, practicing.

Third and the most arcane modifier that I need to address if I’m gonna sing for the band is my voice. I’ve got a great clean voice if I say so myself but the kind of music we play requires some sense of rasp if intended to sound authentic. I’ve never been able to do this and that’s what kicked me to do some research. I’ve had tough luck in finding anything concerning singing in the past but this time I happened to stumble upon some very interesting materials.

One of these materials was The Zen of Screaming program made by the internationally known singing instructor Melissa Cross.

Melissa Cross Vocal Studio (

I don’t know about anyone else, but the attitude of a teacher really makes all the difference for me when I’m trying to figure out where to put my money. I watched few of the videos I could find in the YouTube about Melissa Cross and this lady is just adorable. You could say that her smile opened my wallet. She really seems to know what she’s talking about, too (that’s always a bonus).

I also found a couple of really cool YouTube videos concerning this very same topic and you can see them below. Check out their channels, too, because there’s a lot more videos about singing found there.

This opportunity is really great because I’ve always wanted to learn how to really sing but never had the right kind of motivation to start practicing. Also trying to learn play guitar while singing forges my playing skills diamond hard. I’m optimistic to say the least and I’ll keep you informed about my progress with The Zen of Screaming DVD when it arrives.


Feeling-Based Training

I’ve been busy. That’s my excuse! There are a ton of things I want to talk about. My album project isn’t on hiatus — it’s definitely ON. I’m just producing it in phases. What I’ve been busy with, you might ask. That’s what I want to talk about today.

I’ve been training.

My training eagerness has been relatively low lately and the reason is clear. Whenever I get even a hint of a sense that I’m not progressing I don’t want to practice anymore. Progress is the greatest motivator on earth and the lack of it is the greatest turnoff.

I don’t really follow my progress by any charts (like the ones where you mark your BPM each day) and those might help if they weren’t such a huge project to work with. I feel that they are locking me down. Besides, just following your BPM can be even counterproductive.

In this case being a teacher is great because that forces you to pick up your guitar and start playing it. When you just start to fondle those strings the passion that has always been there starts to fire up again. This job gets me practicing regularly.

Recently I discovered a new method to approach my feeling-based training.

DISCLAIMER: I say MY feeling-based training because this is the way I approach training with guitar. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this anywhere and quite frankly am too lazy to do any actual research. If someone talks about a similar technique somewhere please note that I’m not in any way trying to steal their fame and fortune. I’m just talking about something I came up with myself while practicing in my own bedroom without anyone helping directly.

Also, I don’t claim that this is the best way to approach training with guitar. I’m just talking about my experiences and what I’ve found helpful with training. If you want to try it out then please do. If you don’t, then don’t. I don’t care. Just remember that this isn’t a post trying to sell you anything.

Feeling-based training is generally about concentrating on how it FEELS to play the guitar. No, I’m not talking about your emotions or your passion for playing guitar. I’m talking about the motions you do with your fingers and hands, the pressure, the strength, the distances and all that stuff.

To me playing some lick or riff fast requires three things: laxity, accuracy and the right motion. Sure you also gotta have some core strength, stamina and stretch in your fingers but if you’ve played actively for (let’s say) six months then you possess the core qualities for playing fast.

The guitarist’s hand should always be as lax as possible. Always relax, relax and relax. If you start to think that what you’re about to play is hard then you will tense up. When the mind feels threatened even in the most basic way it will tense up the body. So I’ll say fake it. Tell yourself that the lick you’re about to play is as easy as having a glass of water.

You also need to build some real accuracy. If you keep your fingers as relaxed as you can you won’t be able to guide them when they are falling on the neck. It’s gonna feel a little bit like throwing darts. You keep your finger nice and loose (like a Slinky) and throw it at the fretboard. I like to practice some licks with hammer-ons both up and down. And when you’re using a hammer (your finger in this analogy) you don’t try to press the nail down with it as hard as you can. You use an ACCURATE and loose swing. The power of the strike comes from the fast motion of the swing. This is quite challenging but the feeling-based training eases it up a bit.

Lastly you need to realize that you need the right motion for playing fast. You can’t have the required motion for playing fast if you practice picking the notes one by one. If you want to go fast you gotta stop walking and start running (i.e. change the motion). Don’t move independent fingers separately that much but rather try to spin them in place by rotating the hand. The more fingers you can get in place with one motion (rotating the hand) the faster you can play those notes. The right motion also means cutting the fat off i.e. economy of motion. Be tidy and only move the hand and fingers as little as possible. Bigger distance means longer travel time.

Now, I described those qualities with the fretting hand but the same goes for picking hand too. Be lax, tidy and accurate. The right motion is always wave-like. Chunky on/off moves tend to be quite awkward. When playing fast try to keep the hands always in motion.

That’s what you need in order to play fast. Nowhere have I mentioned actually practicing fast. That’s the other thing I don’t care about marking down your BPM for the day. You don’t have to practice stuff fast. Practicing fast if anything is counterproductive. Now, I can hear you screaming: “But I’ve always practiced fast and got great results!” Yes, I understand. I’m not saying you can’t get great results with that. I’m just saying that you can get the same results more easily.

If you practice fast there’s no time to pay attention to those three key elements: laxity, accuracy and right motion. In worst case scenario you start playing the lick wrong and before you know it you’ve played it like that 300 times and then your brain already thinks that’s the way the lick should be played.

Also if you’ve played the lick 300 times and still don’t get the results you want it’s gonna be depressing. At least that’s how I feel.

The feeling-based training concentrates on how playing a certain progression of notes with certain techniques feels inside the hand. When you concentrate on the feeling and teach the right feeling to yourself then you’ll automatically play the lick right. You see, if you change a motion even just a little bit IT WILL FEEL DIFFERENT.

On the other hand when you discover what it feels to play the lick with your hands and fingers relaxed and with a motion that you can apply when playing fast then there’s no stopping you. Just replay the feeling and the fingers will find their places on the neck automatically.

If you think you’re inputting the right feeling for the lick (or riff or a chord etc.) and get the wrong result then you didn’t get the feeling clearly enough. It’s a bit blurry. The way to work around this is to execute the lick right and then the way you previously did it and compare those two to each other. How do they feel different?

This was giving me results but not quite quickly enough. So I ditched my training routine for a month or so. That’s depressing, let me tell you. Each week we decided with the band to practice two new cover songs and I barely got around learning their base structures. Then after another day of guitar lessons I again found the willingness to get myself training all those songs in more detail.

I’ll talk about my routines later but let me just mention this. I decided to train all of the stuff that required practice with 50 BPM in metronome. I forbid myself to play more than one note for each click. After six hours of practicing my attention about the feelings started to change.

Before I had focused more on the results i.e. how the lick felt when I played it. After all that playing I noticed that I had started to focus more on with what feeling to try and execute the lick.

This seemingly minor shift in focus made all the difference. I actually learned the feelings A LOT faster. Now I was teaching the feelings to myself in oppose of just reacting to my practice results. I didn’t really need the metronome anymore. In fact it was getting in the way.

I took the first note of the lick and started to feel and see in my mind how the next note would feel. I already had the feeling I had played with before in there and that’s what came in mind first. I scratched it and started to create the feeling from nothing. I noticed how my hand rotated and how my finger moved in slow motion and mark the feeling. I noticed how the picking hand moved and where it stopped and how much pressure I should apply for it to make the move perfect. This took me about five to ten seconds. Then I executed the moves.

This procedure made all the difference. The right feelings started to dwarf the previously forged false feelings and everything cleared up much faster. Of course some repetition of the right execution was still required to really burn the lick into the nervous system but no more trying to master two seconds of a song for 24 months. It’s easy to like playing guitar again!

From Tape to Tab

As I mentioned before, our band has been practicing some covers for now so that we can gradually move from them to our own songs as we get more gigs and more popularity. Due to recent additions our arsenal seems to be full for now. Last time we decided we’d practice two more songs with one of them being Iron Maiden’s Infinite Dreams.

The problem with that song is the first verse which is, to say the least, a bit messy. To further the confusion a proper guitar tabulature for the song was nowhere to be found. I tend to practice songs by ear but pretty much always check out the best guitar tabs in the Internet to see if there were some more logical fingerings I couldn’t figure out myself.

The other guitarist in our band said that he needs a tabulature for the song so I felt it was my obligation to transcribe one. There was just one problem: the first verse. It’s really messy and I can’t really blame the guy who made the previous tab for the song. Luckily there was a stereo mix of the song in YouTube so I just plugged my headphones in and turned the volume all the way down from the other channel.

While I could now clearly hear the separate guitar parts it didn’t help me much with the fingerings. That’s where the live video footage comes handy. Also in YouTube there was Infinite Dreams video from Visions of the Beast DVD which must be the Maiden England show from November 1988 in Birmingham, England. This edit clearly showed the fingerings of many of the licks played in the song. Particularly few of the similar sounding licks are played from different positions depending on the guitarist.

All of the official live Iron Maiden footage can’t be used in this sorts of tasks since the edits can be horrendous on some of the newer DVD’s. Don’t believe me? Watch Rainmaker from Death on the Road DVD and see if you can make any sense of it. I tried to count (failing miserably) and the camera switches about 100 times in a minute. That’s some seizure-inducing shit!

Anyhow, I also made the drum track for the song from a scratch since the earlier versions pretty much blew it. Proper drums make any Iron Maiden tabulature sound more authentic. The tab was recently approved in and you can download it from below.

Iron Maiden – Infinite Dreams (GP5)

For as long as I can remember I’ve been transcribing songs with Guitar Pro. I think I started with version 2.3 and soon after the version 3 was released. All of the text-based Iron Maiden tabs I could find when I started playing guitar were just awful and so I had to develop an ear for listening and transcribing the solos etc. myself.

This is a great exercise for developing your musical hearing and also developing song writing skills. If I ever wanted to write a classical piece I knew that all I had to do was to transcribe one and that got me into the mindset of that musical style.

Sure, you might not get the first song right but after you’ve transcribed 10 songs you’re getting close. Keep at it and you’ll learn a library of licks, riffs and a way to write them at the same time. If you want to start transcribing right away and don’t know where to start consider reading the article below.

How to transcribe music (

Singer Trouble

Our band has had a difficult time in finding a singer. Granted we haven’t been playing for that long yet but nonetheless it is getting frustrating. Maybe we’ll have to start singing the set ourselves. The horribleness of sound will be equal to a dozen of starving infants crying out loud but it’ll even out if we do it as a choir.

Still, it amazes me how hard it is to get just anybody to sing a few songs for a heavy metal / rock band. Every single candidate has had the same complaint: the setlist is too diverse. Ok, sure! We’ve got our Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe, KISS, Pantera and Edge of Sanity covers there but that doesn’t mean the singer’s gotta perform each of these pieces precisely as they exist in the albums of those bands. Heck! We don’t even have to play them all if it proves to be too difficult.

Besides, playing covers is just a phase we’re going through. I’ve had a ton of songs written for a long time now and the plan is to practice them and little by little start implementing them in the setlist too. Now, with our own songs the singer really doesn’t have to perform any miraculous feats but rather just give their input to the sound and feel of the composition.

I don’t know. We’ve been talking about going to hard rock karaoke nights and “scouting” some people out there. The frustration has really started to peak out and the clipping is very audible in our practice sessions. Maybe Finland is just a wrong kind of country to try and find a singer. You gotta have some serious balls to be a singer in a band and Finnish people (stereotypically) just don’t seem to possess that kind of ballsitude.

Maybe we should just be a heavy metal band without a singer. Sounds great, huh? Singers are overrated anyways. What we need is DANCERS!