Posted by Mike Cramer on 1:39 PM

One of the tunes we've covered in the Swing Jam at All 12 Notes has been the classic Sweet Georgia Brown. This tune is a great vehicle for some hot pickin'.

Soloing Tip

The tune is primarily made up of Dominant 7th chords. A common chord scale for the Dom. 7th chord is the Mixolydian scale. The Mixolydian scale is nothing more than a major scale with a lowered 7th. The formulas is: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7 8.

Take a D7 and record yourself playing the chord. Now that you have a practice track try playing the D Mixolydian scale over the D7 you just recorded. Listen to how the notes of the scale fit with the chord.

Reference Recordings

Below you'll find 10 different recordings of Sweet Georgia Brown. Taking ideas from recordings is great ear training and it will help you develop vocabulary that you can use to create your own solos.

You can also find many of these tracks on Emusic...

Download 25 FREE songs at!

Posted by Mike Cramer on 7:32 PM

I've had a few people request a written version of my tune Adventures of Superball. So, for those who are interested, you can download a copy here. There are two versions one for guitar and one for mandolin.

This tune is on my latest CD, Open Spaces. You can purchase the track, Adventures of Superball and the rest of the CD below.

Have fun with it!

Posted by Mike Cramer on 7:19 PM

Here's a free lesson on playing the blues shuffle. If you've never played the blues before, you'll want to check this out. It's a great place to get started!

Click here to go to the All 12 Notes site and view the lesson. To view it you'll need the Scorch plug-in, available from Sibelius (click here for the plug-in).

If you would like to spend a week with me learning the blues, I'll be teaching at the Chicago campus of the National Guitar Workshop, from July 12-17. The workshop has great teachers, great students, and awesome guest artists. Pamper yourself and sign up for a week of nothing but guitar!

Posted by Mike Cramer on 6:20 PM

Playing in time, with a good time feel, is a must for every musician regardless of the style you choose to play. If your time feel is solid, then people with want to play with you and you will be an asset to any group.

The Metronome

The tool that helps us develop a solid time feel is a metronome, so let's add it to our toolbox! A metronome is a device that generates a short sound at a specified tempo or speed. Many have a dial you turn to adjust the tempo, others have buttons that increase or decrease the tempo.

Choosing a Metronome

Metronomes all work pretty much the same way. Some have a needle that moves back and forth, others a digital needle on a display, and a few simply have a light that blinks with every click. They vary in price and size.

One thing to check out before buying, is the sound. Some metronomes generate a beep and others have a wood block sound. I've had students comment that the beep becomes annoying after a while and that the wood block is less grating. It's really a matter of personal preference.

Most metronomes have a headphone jack. This is handy if you play a loud instrument or if you want to use it with a group. I've run the output of my metronome into an amp so the whole band could lock into the beat. If you are practicing on your own most metronomes are loud enough to be heard.

How to Integrate into Your Practice

Students often ask, "How do I pick a tempo?" Picking a tempo depends on a variety of things like technical difficulty, length of the passage, and the goal tempo, just to name a few. But remember, set the tempo to only as fast as you can comfortably, accurately play the piece or exercise. Playing an exercise sloppy only reinforces bad habits and inaccuracy. Slowing the tempo down allows your head and hands the opportunity to truly learn whatever you're working on.

Once you've selected an appropriate tempo here are a few things to try:

  • Clap your hands or tap your foot to the beat. You need to lock into the beat and really feel it.

  • Play a single note with the beat. If you're a guitar play, start by playing an open string. Make sure you can lock into the click before proceeding to licks or phrases.

  • Select a short passage, lick, or phrase and play the phrase with the metronome. Repeat the phrase until you are consistently playing it accurately and in time. Once you've got the phrase down, then increase the tempo by a few beats per minute and start the process over again.

  • If you are comfortable with the metronome clicking on every beat, then try adjusting the tempo so that it clicks on every other beat. For example, if you are playing at 100bpm and it's clicking on every beat and you want to feel the metronome click on 1 & 3 or 2 & 4, then set the metronome at 50bpm. This is helpful for developing a relaxed feel at faster tempos and can be a real eye-opener at slower tempos.

  • Playing at really slow tempos is sometimes more difficult than fast tempos, so vary the speed at which you practice your material.

I can't stress the benefits of metronome practice enough. If you don't already have a metronome, get one. If you already own one, dust it off and use it daily. Your playing will improve and the people you make music with will thank you!

Posted by Mike Cramer on 11:15 AM

Welcome to the start of a new series entitled the "Practice Toolbox." Every great carpenter has a toolbox stocked with tools that are necessary to get the job done. We as musicians need to have a toolbox filled with the necessary items to practice effectively and efficiently. In the posts to follow I will suggest some of the tools I use and how to effectively use them in a practice session.

To start, we need a place to put all of our tools. If you haven't already done so, pick a place that will become your practice space. This is where you'll keep all of your tools. Having a centralized practice space will help to minimize excuses and maximize productivity.

The space doesn't have to be large or fancy; it could simply be a corner in your bedroom. Try to pick a space that will have few distractions. When you step into your space you want to get into practice mode and the more distractions the harder it is to get into that practice mode.

Here are a few practice tools that are a must.

  • Your instrument (It seems obvious, I know!)

  • Music Stand--Setting your music on the floor is not ideal.

  • Chair--Practicing on the couch or your bed won't do.

  • Practice Materials--Lesson books, songs books, etc.

Stay tuned for more tools to add to your toolbox!

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