Happy New Year! At this time of year we set some goals for the year ahead, or at least we think about it a little more than usual.

I would like to pass on the best guitar learning advice I ever got, and if you do this, you will see a massive improvement in your playing in a short period of time. This one thing improves your ability to play over chord changes, your phrasing and dynamics, your intuitive understanding of scales/intervals, and your inner ear. It is simply this:

Learn vocal melodies

Go to Youtube, look for a karaoke version of a song you like, and see if you can work out the vocal melody. Then record yourself, this can be as easy as a microphone app in your phone that picks up the karaoke track and your guitar. Don't waste time getting hung up on audio quality, all you are after is accountability. You are committing to be able to play the vocals of an entire track.

If you can't work out the vocals straight off, then theres a few things you can do.

  1. You can listen to the original version of the song with the vocals, and like you would for a guitar solo, see if you can learn it, using software to help you if needed.
  2. You can search for the song in Guitar Pro and see if somebody has written up the vocal tracks.
  3. You can find/buy the original transcription where the vocals will be in notation and accurate, and this will force you to learn the notes.
  4. Go to your local library and see what guitar song books they have with vocals notated.

Give this a try, vocal melodies have all of that theory wrapped up in phrases that have a beginning and an end, they play melodically over chord changes, and what you will find is that when you play a guitar solo over chords, you will phrase like a vocalist.

Then you can start to analyse - what interval is being played over the chord. Do they start the melody on the root note, the 3rd? the 5th? what interval is targeted on the first chord change? Is it on the beat, before or after?

I would suggest you start with something vocally easy, like a Green Day song. Don't worry about de-tiuning your guitar, just adapt your fingers so that you are playing the right notes and melody over the chords.

If you are really committed, record a video of yourself playing along and post it in the comments below.

Jason Vearing.