December 2013

Music and Intelligence

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Effect Music on IntelligenceHave you ever wondered if music has any effect on intelligence? Some baby boomers may remember their parents telling them that Rock and Roll would lead to permanent brain damage. But, kidding aside, is it possible that music may have a positive impact on cognitive thinking?

Recently I learned about an experiment several scientists conducted in 1994 using three
groups of preschoolers…

The first group received private piano and keyboard lessons
The second group received private computer lessons
And the third group received no training at all

After four months, the children who received piano and keyboard lessons scored 34%
higher on abstract reasoning tests than the other pupils!


These studies show that music training does improve cognitive thinking. Somehow music helps the brain develop “synaptic connections” that are related to abstract thought.

Music has also been shown to benefit kids with learning disabilities. Not too long ago I saw a special on PBS about a young man with autism who was learning to play a musical instrument. After a short time his speech improved and he began interacting with people in a more positive manner.

Different types of music can produce different kinds of affects on the listener. Slow, soothing music, for instance, can lower a person’s heart rate and help them relax. Music with an upbeat tempo can provide an energy boost which can stimulate and motivate people to action. A friend of mine likes to listen to music while cleaning her house because it seems to make the time go by faster.

All this just goes to show that music is good for you!

It improves your intelligence
Relieves stress
Increases energy
Enhances mood
Develops coordination skills
Stimulates intuitive thinking

The list could go on I’m sure. But the important thing is to let music become part of your life experience. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Benefit from it. Dance a little. Why not be really adventurous and try some free guitar lessons? Afterall, it could be fun!

Author Bio:

Kathy Unruh is the author of the ABCLearnGuitar eBook.

She has been teaching guitar to students of all ages for over 25 years.

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How To Choose A Guitar?

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Choosing a guitar is an exciting but sometimes confusing undertaking because of all the
variables that you might feel are involved. What brand, what wood, electric or acoustic, what style,
size, string-type, color and then what about all the things you don’t know about guitars, right?

Let’s simplify the process a bit.

Firstly, you probably have an idea whether you want an electric or acoustic guitar. Acoustic
guitars are those guitars (typically with a sound hole) that are loud enough to be heard without
amplification. Sure you can hear an electric when not plugged in, but it sounds pretty wimpy
without an amp.

To seemingly complicate the matter, we have acoustics that can be plugged in for
amplification, making them electric and there are semi-hollow electric guitars, making
them “acoustic” to a degree. The style of music and how you will be playing will often times be the
determining factor as to what type of guitar you will want to get. Usually the heavier the music, the
more an electric will suit you. There are not a lot of screamo bands playing acoustically these days
and not a ton of bluegrass players shredding a Les Paul through a Marshall half-stack.

With that being said, the rules have been broken so there is nothing holding you back from doing either of those or anywhere in between. Let’s talk a bit about the differences between the two before going any further.

Acoustic guitars don’t need an amp to hear them well, so they are nice and portable. The
action (distance from string to fretboard) tends to be a little higher than electrics and the strings are
typically thicker making bending and intricate licks/noodling more difficult. They sound great
playing open chords and fingerpicking.

On the other hand, electrics usually have lower action making soloing and subtle movements easier. I’m asked a lot about what beginners should start with. For different reasons I would choose both, but most of the time, I would say an acoustic would be my choice. There is less to be distracted by with an acoustic and you can play so many different styles easily on the acoustic. When directing a student to a new guitar purchase, the main variables for me always come down to: budget, feel and sound (in no particular order). Trying a bunch of guitars in your price range will give you a great education on feel and sound. I KNOW you want the pretty red guitar, but don’t pick the guitar because it’s red if it sounds or plays badly. The prettiness will get old. Bad sound or feel does not go away.

If you have a $300 budget, there is no need in seriously looking at the $1000 guitars,
although knowing what they feel and sound like would be helpful to your education. I have some
expensive guitars and some cheapos.

Sometimes more money gets you more guitar and sometimes more money just makes you think you are getting a better guitar. I recently played two different  classical (nylon string) guitars. One was $5000 and the other was $100. Can you guess which one sounded and played better? You would be surprised. For one, I was not in the mood to drop $5000 on a classical, so that price range was not a consideration. However, if I did not look at the prices or brands, the $100 guitar played and sounded as good as the $5000 model.

Now this does not always happen, but it happens often. There are great cheap guitars and terrible expensive ones.

Higher prices usually equates to better woods, craftmanship etc., but manufacturers are getting
really good at producing good guitars at cheaper prices. DON’T let the price alone dictate a guitar
purchase. You will be sorry. So, figure out what your budget is and try to stick to it. You can get
an acceptable $150 acoustic or electric if you know what to look for.

I have guitars priced from $100 to several thousand dollars, but none were purchased regarding price alone. Let me clarify; more expensive guitars TYPICALLY equate to better guitars, but be careful in using that to determine a guitars worth.

Feel is an important variable in choosing an instrument. In fact, there are so many other
variables other than the guitar itself that dictate sound (strings, pick, technique, etc.), whereas feel is a harder thing to change on a guitar. For smaller folks and kids, there are 3/4 and 1/2 size guitars
that might be easier to reach around. There are different full-sized acoustic bodies like jumbo,
dreadnought and parlor as well. But you don’t need to know the names. Use your common sense.

If a guitar body is too big, try a smaller one. Electric bodies usually run much smaller than acoustics. String action is also imporant as high action (string height) can make chording and
fretting difficult and discouraging. The only way for you to know what is “normal”, or “high” is to
try a bunch of guitars. Try some expensive ones too, so you can get an idea for different price
ranges and what the extra money may or may not buy you. Keep in mind that string action can
usually be adjusted, if everything else works for you.

Many electric guitars have adjustable bridges.
Acoustic guitar bridges can be “shimmed” or trimmed to give optimal action. Most guitar necks are
also adjustable. However, neither of these adjustments are ones that beginners will probably want
to attempt. I prefer to have an expert adjust them, however with experience and trial/error you can
get pretty good at this type of thing. Okay, so all that said, make sure the “feel” of the guitar is the
best out of all the guitars that you try.

Sound is the other important variable. Different woods and their ages, string types, pick
type etc., are some of the variables that dictate the sound of the guitar. Make sure that you are
comparing apples to apples, such as comparing guitars with the same pick, playing the same songs,
etc. Even playing in different rooms will make the guitar sound differently. If playing several
electrics, make sure you are playing them all through the same amp with the same settings. A bad
sounding guitar through a great amp will typically sound better than a great guitar through a bad

Buying a first guitar is best done at a store where you can get an education in the process.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, try a bunch of guitars and get what you want. Be polite, but you
are getting ready to spend some money, so don’t be rushed or talked into something that does not
resonate with you (feel, sound and budget). It’s okay to consider other prices and find out about
different woods, etc., but ultimately it’s what YOU are most happy with, not the sales person.

Take brand names with a grain of salt. There is not a best guitar, only what’s best for you. There may be more suitable guitars for specific jobs, but keep an open mind. That is, don’t buy a guitar just
because of the name. I have brand name guitars that you would know and others that you would
not, but I love them all for different reasons. BUDGET, FEEL AND SOUND…repeat the mantra
after me…BUDGET, FEEL AND SOUND…BUDGET, FEEL AND SOUND. Now go fall in love
with a guitar!!

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Improve Your Guitar Strumming

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Strumming the guitar is easy for some, but can be quite difficult for others. Add singing and/or chord changes to the mix and things can get really interesting! It’s like trying to chew gum and walk at the same time. So, what should a person do who is having problems strumming the guitar?

– First of all, you must learn how to RELAX. Tension in the body will only contribute to an uneven, choppy, abrasive sound.
– Second, you must learn how to SIMPLIFY. Don’t worry about singing or chord changes. Give yourself a chance to learn one thing at a time. Focus only on strumming.

You can do this by holding one chord while you practice different strumming patterns using various combinations of whole notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Begin with simple 3/4 and 4/4 rhythms. When this feels comfortable, experiment with 6/8, 12/8 and other Time Signatures.

Once you are able to maintain a smooth, even strum while holding one chord, try adding a simple chord change such as: G D7 G, or A E7 A. Be sure to begin with chord changes that are easy for you to execute so that you can continue to keep your primary focus on strumming.

As your strumming improves, try playing a few common chord progressions. Then find an easy song that you would like to learn how to play.

Another important aspect of strumming the guitar is learning how to FOLLOW THROUGH. Most beginner guitar students tend to emphasize the bass strings when they strum and miss the treble strings altogether. So, when they play a series of open, “primary” chords, it becomes difficult to distinguish one chord from another.

When you’re are playing primary chords in and around first position, you should be emphasizing the treble strings when you strum your guitar, not the bass strings.

Try this simple experiment:

Part 1:

1. Hold an open D chord
2. Strum down using only the 3 lower bass strings (don’t strum the top 3 treble strings)


3. Now move to an A chord
4. Strum down using the same 3 bass strings

Did you hear a difference between the two chords? Probably not.

Part 2:

5. Go back to the D chord
6. Strum only the 3 higher treble strings


7. Move to the A chord
8. Strum the same 3 treble strings

Did you hear a difference this time? Yes, you probably did.

If you do the exercise correctly, you should notice a distinct difference between the two chords when you strum the treble strings. The exercise given above is simple, but it illustrates the importance of FOLLOW THROUGH. In summary, if you apply the three things mentioned in this article to your strumming…


… you should begin to notice an overall improvement in the sound of your guitar playing.

Author Bio:
Kathy Unruh is the author of the ABCLearnGuitar eBook.
She has been teaching guitar to students of all ages for over 25 years.

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