Turning Guitar Playing into a Side Hustle | Part II

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Continuing from Part 1


Next up on the list of things to learn is some simple scales. The scales given here are a part of almost all music you will ever hear. These scales are the major and minor scales. Major scales tend to be more happy-sounding, and often are used in more upbeat, jangly, and happy songs. Minor scales tend to be used for darker-sounding songs. 

Let’s start with a C Major. It’s one of the most common scales and easy for a student to learn because it has no sharps or flats. The notes of a C Major Scale are C, D, F, E, G, A, and B. Consult your map, find these notes, and play them individually. You can often start on a lower string, moving up the strings and the neck to find the rest of the notes in the scale in a particular area. Experiment around and find what suits you best. Remember the finger pattern you use for this, as you can move this scale shape up and down to find different major scales for different notes. Try some of the earlier chord shapes you were shown with the notes within this scale. You might come up with a cool-sounding riff or even a whole song based off just this.


Now that you’ve gotten familiar with C Major, let’s go a little darker with the minor scale. The minor scale is used for a darker, possibly more dreary sound. It’s common with sad or slowed down songs, but can still be used to create some wild and crazy music that will have a mass appeal. Just ask your local heavy metal or punk rock band.

Since you’re familiar with C Major, let’s switch things up a bit. Repeat the major scale shape you’ve found, but on G (G Major is the relative major scale of E Minor, so playing these two sounds good together). Remember these G Major notes. 

Time for the E Minor. The E minor scale consists of the notes E, F#, G, A, B, C, and D. Find these notes and play them out up and down the neck until you’ve memorized where they all are. Try the chord shapes you learned earlier on this scale and see if you can write your own song with it. You may also notice that this scale gives you access to the open E and open A chord shapes. Many rock and metal bands prefer this scale because it gives them access to these chord shapes that let them belt out heavy, loud, dark chords. 


Muting strings is very important for both acoustic and electric, but even more so for electric players to avoid unwanted feedback. Rest the side of your palm on the strings. It will keep you ready to pick at any time, and you electric players won’t have to worry as much about feed back unless you’re playing at high volume.

Let’s mute a note, a common and easy technique. With your hand still resting on a string, pick a note. It can be an open one or one on the strings. You can mute whole chords this way. The important thing is that the sound is muted and almost sounds choked. Electric guitar players will immediately recognize this as the famous muted chugging that their favorite rock and metal guitar heroes use in many of their songs. For extra effect on muted open strings, rest your pointer on the open string above the 1st fret (just touching it, don’t hold it down). 


So, you’ve learned the major and minor scale shapes and can play them anywhere on the guitar. You’ve probably written a few cool riffs or even a few future hit songs. But it’s time to make yourself stand out among other guitar players. It’s time to learn how to do some cool lead guitar. Whether you’re a country picker, a smooth jazz cat, or the next upcoming headbanger metal king, you’ll need to know some cool stuff to show off your skills

Let’s start with the simple tricks first, then move into more advanced techniques.

Tremolo picking is very fast, but super easy! Just pick the note as fast as you possibly can! Use this technique with either chords or individual notes in a minor scale, and you may be contacted by your local black metal band (I assume no responsibility for any behavior or memes if you join them).

Now to hammer-ons. Find a note you want to play. Find the next note in a scale that your chosen note is in. Put your pointer finger on that root note, pick it, then use your middle, ring, or even pinky finger to hit the next note without picking it. A very simple technique to rapidly raise a pitch or note. 

Now for the opposite of a hammer-on. Time to do a pull-off. Do the hammer-on again. This time, pull your finger off the note you hammered on. You should be back at the note you started with. Combine these two techniques together (hammer-ons and pull-offs) and you might catch yourself making some interesting sounds. For a reference point, check out the main riff to Black Sabbath’s self-titled song

Next, let’s learn how to bend strings. This technique is immensely popular in blues, country, and rock music. Choose a note and pick it. Now while the string is sounding, bend the string with your finger. Be careful not to pull it off (both your finger and the string!). You will notice that the pitch of the string changes as you bend it. Aim to bend the string to the next note in the scale of whatever note you originally chose. 

Okay, you can do some bends and some hammer-ons and some pull-offs. That will certainly impress the casual onlooker and listener, but to another guitar player you’ll need to step up your playing. Fortunately, the upcoming advanced techniques will not only really woo an audience, but it will catch the attention of the other musicians. 


A very flashy technique known as two-handed tapping turns heads and looks very cool! Guitar virtuoso Eddie van Halen was known for doing this, spawning a legion of guitar players who were doing this same technique. Now you can as well! Start by choosing three notes on a scale you want to play in. Next find the first note you want to use. Go up the string until you find the next closest note you want to use. Then, go up even higher to find your third note, bring your picking hand over, and use the middle finger on your picking hand to perform a hammer-on and pull-off of the third note you’ve chosen. Then perform a pull-off with the notes your fret hand is holding. Do it again several times and you may start to come close to what van Halen did. 

Another advanced technique is known as the pinch harmonic. You can do this on the oddly-numbered frets (the dotted ones and the 12th). Pick the note, but as soon as you do make contact with the string using your thumb on your picking hand. If you do this right, you’ll hear a high-pitched squeal from the string. This technique is super popular with hard rock and heavy metal players such as Zakk Wylde. 

The vibrato is a more simple thing, but still requires some effort. Bend the string, but let it return to the original note and pitch, then bend again. You can do this rapidly to make an interesting little noise that will catch people’s attention. 


For electric players, your electric guitar may have a tremolo/vibrato system. This has a bar that sticks out near your picking hand. Hit a note and move the bar up and down. What a weird yet interesting noise! Go above the fret rail on a dotted fret, rest your finger slightly on the string, pick the string, and immediately remove your finger. Do it quickly enough and you’ve hit a regular harmonic. Do this again, but now rapidly move the bar up and down afterward. You can do this with a bend, a pinch harmonic, and more. Be creative! It sounds wild and crazy and was made famous by Dimebag Darrell Abbott.

Have you wanted to play as if the strings were their own symphony? This one requires a serious scale knowledge. Use the lower strings to play bass and harmonizing notes, but use the free fingers on your picking hand to play melodies on the higher strings. This sounds best on acoustic guitars and entire songs have been written in this manner. 


Now you know basic scales, you know three chords, you know the techniques. Time to show the world what you can do. 

For acoustic players, learn popular acoustic songs. Mix them up with some of your own creations. Ideally, you should have an hour-long set list. Take some videos of you playing the songs at home. If you feel comfortable and brave enough, sing the lyrics to the song if it has any. If it sounds good, put it online. Social media is great for this. Next, go out in public in a popular public place like a park or a busy street and play songs out there. Get a piece of paper that says TIPS and tape it to the inside of your guitar case. This is called busking and is considered a street performance. Some places have municipal laws on the books about busking and street performances, so check the laws, and if you’re in front of a business and the owner/manager requests you leave, do so and try somewhere else. If you can get video of your performances, get it, ESPECIALLY video of you playing in front of an attentive audience. This video will be crucial in your next step.

Next up, start contacting local coffeehouses, restaurants, and venues. Show the owner or booking manager videos of you playing in front of an attentive crowd. Your goal is not to show how good of a musician you are. Your goal is to convince the owner or manager that you can bring in money. They’re business owners and need to make a living, too. Your guitar skills won’t pay their bills, but a crowd you attract that buys from the venue owner will certainly pay the owner, and make sure you get paid too. 


While the section mentioned above works great for an acoustic player, if you want to be an electric guitar hero, you have a little extra work to do, and by that I mean a lot. After you’ve proven you’re gonna be the next best thing that ever happened to the electric guitar, it’s time to network with other musicians. Video yourself playing songs you wrote and covering other songs. Next, print out some flyers advertising you are looking for musicians and include your name/stage name and contact info and out them up on the bulletin board in music stores and any store catering to rock and metal fans. Go online and post up ads as well. If you can, attend shows of artists you like, make friends, and ask if they play anything. Someone will say yes! Arrange a time and place to play, and maybe a few songs to agree to jam out on. Come with some of your own written, and be ready to show them off. Your jam partner will be impressed. If you have recording gear, record your songs the way you want them to sound, and let your bandmate hear them. If you don’t have recording gear, use a cell phone or your computer mic. Teach them the songs as well. Record yourselves. Network with your other local artists, and ask if they’re playing any shows. Show them your music, and ask to open for them. They usually won’t have a problem with it, and will be happy to introduce you to the venue owner. If it’s a backyard or garage show, video your band ad you playing in front of an audience. Make sure you get the crowd, or find a way to make the crowds seem bigger than they are in photo and video. Take this same thing to a venue owner and to a record producer. If they like what they hear and see, you’ll be on the fast track to success. 


I hope you enjoyed and learned things from this article. Hopefully it’s taken you from being a beginner to a competent and sought-after player! By no means should you stop just with what’s in this article. There’s so much more scales, techniques, and equipment than I could ever hope to cover in one article.

You can always learn from a guitar teacher as well, learn from other players, the internet, and just jamming around with any musician you can find. Whether for recreation, for social reasons, or for money, music can be a powerful and catharthic release that can make you a network of people and a little bit of spending money. The practice and effort you put in will pay off when you play publicly. If you’re talented and make a hit song, you may even make it up to the musical big leagues or stardom, where the money will really roll in. You have the article and hopefully the tools you need to succeed. I look forward to reading about you in Guitar Player Magazine!

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There’s some important aspects missing here I think. While doing it for a “side hustle” is fine there are other aspects more rewarding. Being creative and bringing something new in the world is its own kind of reward. Being proficient at guitar requires discipline. You have to be practice regularly to be any good. Discipline, creativity, and expression of ideas are important skills in many areas of life.

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