Barrett’s New Album Now Available

From Barrett’s “Guitar Q&A

The title is Throttle Twister. Eleven tracks of rock guitar instrumentals.

Guitar: Barrett Tagliarino
Bass: Alexis Sklarevski
Drums: Jon Rygiewicz
B3 on tracks 5 & 9: Steve Welch
Guest appearances by Paul Gilbert and Scott Henderson.

You can order it straight from the CD duplicator here. Check it out even if you’re not buying! The cover is very cool, done by Ari Baron & Plushie the Pinstriper. Click the “Rotate Case” button at the upper left to see the back of the CD box.

You can stream all the songs in their entirety and download one for free at, and I will rotate free tracks on a monthly basis so you can download them all for free — if you are willing to take eleven months to collect them! Contact me if you want to be notified of those mp3 releases.

There will also be a complete transcription book of all the guitar parts, expected to be available in a couple of weeks. I wrote it all out myself, so: what appears in the book will be what was really played.


Update: Check out this extensive interview with Barrett at


How To Think About Modes

Intermediate Level. This post assumes you have a basic understanding of major and minor scales. If the following information doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t sweat it. Read it over just to hear the terms. That way you start to know a little bit more about what you don’t know–and in any learning endeavor–that’s half the battle.

I can really say this in a few sentences. So I’ll do that first. Then I’ll explain myself in more detail.
A Phrygian mode is not E-E in the key of C.
A Phrygian mode is a minor scale with a flatted second. i.e a scale consisting of the tones 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7.

Typically when someone first learns modes out of a book they’re taught that C to C in the Key of C is an Ionian mode. D to D in the Key of C is the Dorian mode, etc.
You’re often told exactly that- Ionian starts on the first degree of a major scale. Dorian on the 2, Phrygian on the 3rd, Lydian on the 4th, Mixolydian on the 5th, Aeolian on the 6th and Locrian on the 7th.
The problem with this approach is in how the ear hears the ‘modes’.
Because if you start with C and play a major scale/Ionian mode, and then progress to D Dorian etc, the ear is not hearing D Dorian at all. It’s hearing D to D in the key of C. The ear is still hearing the key of C Major.
And it’s the sound of a mode that makes it special.
So the first step towards hearing and understanding modes it to play them from the same root note.
Use your eyes to help you find the notes E to E in the key of C.
But play a low E to provide a strong root tone. Your ear now hears E Phrygian.
Now play a big fat C and then play E to E in the key of C again.
Hear the difference?
Pretty profound really.
I like to think of the modes as soundtracks for imaginary movie scenes. What does the mode sound like? What does it evoke?
When you play a Phrygian mode can you see the hordes of desert warriors coming over the dunes in Lawrence of Arabia?
When you play a Lydian mode, can you see the dancing girl at the victory celebration toying with that 7th veil?
Do you ‘hear’ Tool when you play Locrian?
Or ‘the funk’ when you play Mixolydian?

So here’s my recommendation:
Go ahead and learn the shapes of the modes by playing them as you see them in most books, in the key of C, one after another up the neck. Just know that you’re not really hearing the modes yet. Once you have some muscle memory of how the shapes feel in your hands, learn them again from E on your A string with a low E resonating underneath.
And then play them one at a time from E, thinking of them according to this formula which compares each mode to either a major scale, or the natural minor scale.
Ionian- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, IS the major scale.
Dorian- 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7 is a minor scale with a Major 6.
Phrygian- 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7 is a minor scale with a b2.
Lydian- 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7 is a major scale with a #4.
Mixolydian- 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7 is a major scale with a b7.
Aeolian- 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7 IS the natural minor scale.
Locrian- 1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7 is a minor scale with both a b2 and a b5.

Once you’ve got them, sing along as you play them. What sort of movie scene do each of them evoke?
NOW you’re hearing the modes.

To reinforce your understanding of modes, try this:
Play an E Dorian. Focus on what makes it special- the Major 6, especially with the b3. Now, play it again, counting the first note as 2 and counting up the scale until you get to 8. 8 will be the root of the key, or major scale that associates with the mode. If you did it right you should have ended up with D. With D in your ears, play the mode again, but now try to hear the notes as part of D major, not E Dorian.
See if you can teach your ear to switch between the two sounds.
Try that for all the modes.
Phrygian from 3.
Lydian from 4.
Mixolydian from 5.
Aeolian from 6.
Locrian from 7.

And finally… go to and try to hear the modes away from your instrument. Note: You can turn a scale off by clicking on the check mark. If all the modes seem overwhelming at first, try to only hear the difference between Ionian and Lydian. Add Mixolydian when you’ve got that etc.
Hope that helps.


Unfortunately the MP-GT1 has been discontinued. You can find the vocal version available in a few places and it’s basically the same unit. If you find something comparable to the MP-GT1 that you like, please drop me a line in the comments.

I’ve been waiting for something like this for a LONG time. Yes there is excellent software out there for your computer that will basically accomplish most of what the MP-GT1 will, but I wanted a stand alone contraption I could take on the road with me. I also use it teaching and would rather carry this around than my laptop. I can plug my guitar right into it and the built in effects make practising with it tolerable. But what I’ve mostly been using it for is to transcribe solos. Typically I can skip the VSA (variable speed adjust) and simply drop the pitch and octave and the speed by half, to work on a solo. The sound quality is excellent using this method. I can set an IN and an OUT point and loop that part of the phrase I’m working on. How cool is that?! After I’ve got the solo together I can gradually up the speed- now at the original pitch using VSA. Build up speed and bring it up to tempo! It’s so much more practically easy to do that I’m actually doing it instead of having those solos on a list I’ve been meaning to get around to.

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Play Guitar – What To Do Before You Go To A Pro Music School

Is it time to get serious about playing guitar? Could I make a living as a ‘pro’ guitarist? Music school is a lot more than I can afford right now, but perhaps something I ultimately want to do–how can I get ready for it? If you’re in your late teens or early twenties and playing music for fun, you might be asking yourself these sorts of questions.

Young guitar players seem to fall into one of two camps. There’s the ‘I want to play in a band on the Van’s tour and that’s all I really care about’ crowd. And then there’s the, ‘I’d like to be a studio musician making a good living recording records for people and doing the occasional tour if the money’s right’ group. If you fall into the second category, you’re going to need another level of skills than you can get reading tab and learning tunes off records– you’re going to have to get serious about studying music.

But before you take out loans or talk your parents into shelling out upwards of $18k a year for a pro music school, I advise acquiring a strong set of basic skills. Before you arrive at school you should be able read and write 1/4 and 1/8th note rhythms. You should be able to recognize by ear major scale intervals up and down. You should have at least a beginning understanding of music theory and have memorized the order of sharps and flats and key signatures. That may sound daunting, but actually, a few months practice with the right private instructor, community college class, or home/internet guitar course is all it will take to master those skills.

Most community colleges will offer a fundamentals of music course, sometimes combined with fundamentals of piano. Larger schools will also have guitar classes. If you have the time this is a great way to get started acquiring theory basics.
A private instructor is another way to go, but it can get expensive–with the average guitar lesson now costing around $40 an hour. If you can afford it AND you can find an instructor who’s a good match, this is a terrific way to advance your guitar playing. One problem you’ll run into though is that it’s hard to maintain the discipline it takes to plod through the music theory and reading part of the lesson when you’re having so much fun learning licks and tunes.
Of course these days you can find a lot of information online for free. Perhaps my favorite free music instruction site is Ricci Adam’s Ricci’s online lessons in music theory are excellent. But the ear trainers are my favorite. Like playing a game, the trainers keep score. You can turn intervals on and off in order to focus on the ones you’re having trouble with (i.e. turn everything except the 4ths and 5ths off). You can have the intervals played low to high, high to low or harmonically. There are also chord and scale ear trainers.

However you decide to master guitar and theory basics before heading off to music school, you’ll be glad you did– with that out of the way, you’ll be able to concentrate on the playing (fun) part.

Finding a Private Guitar Instructor

Do you ever teach long-distance private lessons via webcam, emailing files, or anything along those lines? I’ve been frustrated by a few recent experiences with teachers in my area whose method or temperament didn’t suit me.

This is just my opinion, but in spite of your difficulty in finding a satisfactory instructor, I still think a few one-on-one lessons are the way to go. If you live near any medium-to-large-sized city, there must be a teacher with whom you would get along. Maybe it’s just a matter of looking in the right place. Try asking around at your local music stores.

Especially for working on rhythm guitar playing, as you mentioned, you need immediate feedback from the instructor—saying “No! That’s not it! Stop rushing! Tap your foot, damn it!” or “Yes! That’s it!”—as he watches your hands, feet, and body, and plays along with you in real time. It’s hard to make that happen online.

Look for somebody who has most of these things:
-is formally educated in music with at least a year at Berklee, MI, or a university,
-is articulate and a good listener,
-is drug-free,
-has played lots of different kinds of gigs,
-is commercially published, or has some charts and/or handouts that he’s accumulated for teaching purposes. This shows a commitment to teaching.
-keeps track of your lesson activities
-gives homework, especially when he sees you lack focus.

It’s not really necessary that he’s an astounding player, unless you’re desperate for that kind of inspiration.

Lots more tips at Barrett’s

Electric Guitar – Playing With Distortion

Can you guide me a little regarding controlling distortion?

Actually I find it almost impossible to play with distortion, except when playing power chords. When I try to play a few lead notes (melody) the distortion just becomes uncontrollable and it sounds really very bad. It’s like the notes sound bad together with each other (when they mix or sound together).

I really want to practice a few leads, scales, etc., with distortion to learn to play a bit of rock and metal, but I just can’t figure out what to do. I tried to mute every note before going to the next note, but it sounds very ‘broken” and non-continuous.

How do people play such beautiful and smooth solos with distortion ? Thanks.

Try this experiment. On your distorted electric guitar I want you to wrap a soft hand towel or a big tube sock around the first few frets of the neck. It should be tightened just enough to completely damp the sound of the strings. If you strum this guitar, it will just go “thunk” and then stop.

Now try playing on the frets above this “damper.” If your playing sounds much better than it did before, then you need to work on damping the unwanted noises with your fretting-hand fingers and your picking-hand palm. Instead of completely damping each note before moving on, you should practice an overall mentality of keeping a close grip in either hand, where you are almost muting the note that you are actually playing (or maybe even so that you are muting it, a little) so that all the other strings are definitely damped.

If, on the other hand, it still sounds pretty messy even with the cloth there, then you may have a problem with the number of strings you are pressing down at the same time, or picking accuracy. Practice slowly, making sure that you’re lifting your finger off one string just as you depress another, and that you’re only picking the one string at a time that you want. Eventually this will become a habit, and you’ll have cleaner execution without thinking too much about it.

It is also possible that you are simply using too much distortion. Many beginning players use more than is needed. Try setting it so that a cleanly played note stays at the same apparent volume for about 3 or 4 seconds before it starts to decay; in other words, about twice the subjective amount of sustain as your clean tone.

Try turning down the tone control on the guitar itself. The more “in your face” (bright and trebly) the tone is, the more details in the guitar’s sound will be heard, including finger noise, fret noise, and incidentally-sounding strings.

I often play leads with my tone control set at nearly zero when I’m forced to use a solid state amp with a built-in lead channel. There are also many possibilities for improving the tone by turning down the volume knob on the guitar itself. It does many more things than just make it quieter or louder. Depending on the pickups you are using, restricting the guitar’s dynamic range by lowering the volume knob can act as a sort of compressor, again smoothing out the sound. Compensate by adding a little more gain at a later stage, like on your distortion pedal.

Finally, consider that your guitar sound is going to be eventually fit into an overall mix that includes drums, bass, and maybe another guitar or keyboard part. While I do recommend learning to play cleanly as possible, a _small_ amount of extraneous guitar noise will not stick out as much in that situation as it does when the guitar is listened to alone.

Barrett’s extensive performing experience includes tours of Asia and Europe. In Los Angeles, Barrett has appeared on every stage from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go to the Viper Room.

Barrett has written four instructional books: The Guitar Fretboard Workbook, Chord Tone Soloing, (both MI Press/Hal Leonard), Music Theory: A Practical Guide for All Musicians, and Play Ukulele Today! (Hal Leonard). Classic Rock Guitar Soloing is his DVD, also available from the Hal Leonard Corporation.

Lots more tips at Barrett’s

Guitar Major Scale Fingering Patterns

If you’re a guitarist moving into the area of scales and fingerings, chances are you’ve acquired a few books on the subject. Sometimes this can be confusing because different authors use different scale systems. Some use a 3-note-per-string/7-position system. Another book uses three patterns for diatonic scales (and two patterns for pentatonics), while my own Guitar Fretboard Workbook recommends five positional patterns. Should you learn them all? Here’s my take on it.

The short answer is that the five-pattern system is most important, but I do also practice the popular 3-note-per-string/7-position scales, along with other patterns. They are all useful in some way.

The five-pattern or CAGED system is easiest for relating melodies to the underlying chords, which you’ll find out more about when you look at Chord Tone Soloing. You’ll probably agree that melody should take precedence over physical concerns.

That said, the 3-note-per-string scales have a certain symmetry that makes them easy to learn and practice. They also let you economy-pick and use lots of hammer ons and pull offs, so they’re good for playing fast.

Take your time and really learn the five patterns. After the five patterns of scales are ingrained you will know where the notes are, so then it’s not so hard to connect one pattern to the next. While playing pattern 1, you have to be visualizing pattern 2 so you can move up into it without a glitch. The 3-note-per-string patterns do exactly that: cross from one root shape to the next.

D Major Scale Patterns 

 Pattern 1


Pattern 2

Pattern 3

Pattern 4

Pattern 5

I like knowing where the root is, keeping track of it when playing any pattern. Try yelling out the word “root” whenever you hit that note. Remember, the root is not the lowest note in the pattern. It’s the note that is circled in the diagrams, it’s the point of musical resolution, it’s the “bits” in “Shave and haircut, two bits,” and so on. I’m sure you knew that, but I’m playing it safe here.It’s also cool to (later) work out some 4-note-per-string scale fingering patterns. These use all 4 fingers on each string and move through most of the guitar’s range. You could crudely call this “Holdsworth” fingering.

Another thing that’s useful (but somewhat counterintuitive) is to start high up on the neck (say F on the 13th fret with your 2nd finger) and then play up a major scale using two notes per string only. This forces your hand to move away from the body as you ascend, moving you down from pattern 4 into pattern 3, and so on. You could crudely call this “Django” fingering.

As the patterns become memorized (master the five-pattern or CAGED system first), make small variations in your approach, like starting a scale from each of its possible notes, starting from the high notes and descending, using different tempos, different rhythms like triplets, applying it over chord progressions, and so on.


Barrett has performed extensively in the US, Asia, and Europe. In Los Angeles, Barrett has appeared on every stage from the Whisky-a-Go-Go to the Viper Room, and has been a Musicians Institute instructor for 18 years.

Barrett’s books include The Guitar Fretboard Workbook, Chord Tone Soloing, and Music Theory: A Practical Guide for All Musicians. Classic Rock Guitar Soloing is his DVD, published by the Hal Leonard Corporation.

Lots more tips at Barrett’s
You can also get Barrett’s Crash Course In Harmony And Theory at the main site: