Chris Cass                                  
guitarist   instructor   author/publisher    student resources


If you have questions regarding a particular page in Sensible Guitar, please see the "supplemental material" at

What's on this page:

Recommended Accessories:

For beginning (and often intermediate to advanced) students, there just isn't much hope of getting your instrument in tune without the help of an electronic tuner. It's probably the single most important guitar accessory. If you don't have one, please make the investment at your next lesson. (I recommend a "chromatic" tuner. The one pictured here is the clip-on Snark tuner, a poular choice that's easy to use.)
If you do not own a metronome, please consider purchasing something like the one pictured here from The Gig Center at your next lesson. (I like the Seiko SQ-50.) Of course, there are also metronomes available for your laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. But I recommend a dedicated, battery-powered metronome. (I prefer ones that offer a nice hearty "click" rather than a "beep"...but a metronome app on your phone will do!)
Most students will benefit greatly from having a capo. For students who wish to sing (or accompany a singer), or play along with recorded music, a capo may be a necessity. I like the Shubb or Kyser models pictured here, but any functional capo will do.

YouTube Links
DISCLAIMER: YouTube and other websites are fantastic resources for guitarists. Students are encouraged to seek out advice or supplemental material. (I use online resources to re-enforce lesson material whenever practical.) However, please exercise caution and common sense. Useful, insightful information is available, but there's also lots if inaccurate posts and bad advice. Please consult directly with me if you have questions or concerns.
I have included some links dealing specifically with form: proper hand position, how to hold a pick, etc. This is an area that often benefits from reinforcement beyond the scope of the lesson, and where bad advice can be especially detrimental.
Please note that these recommendations are largely in line with my own, but do not necessarily represent the only possible way to play the guitar successfully. That said, following these guidelines will generally increase your chances of developing useful skills on the guitar. ~C.C.

Supplemental Note-reading Exercises
Try sight-reading these for extra practice...
These start with very simple etudes on the first string for absolute beginners and get progressively more advanced.
Page 1 (1st string: E, F, G); Page 2 (Rests, F#); Page 3 (2nd string: B, C, D); Page 4 (1st and 2nd strings);
Page 5 (C#, key signatures); Page 6 (Three-four time); Page 7 (Three-four and four-four time);
Page 8 (Two notes at once); Page 9 (3rd string: G, A)

Solo Transcriptions

Come Together (Beatles; George Harrison's licks at the end of the song)
So simple, but so effective! The rhythm and phrasing are repeated as the four-note melody is played in various spots. A great lesson in the effectiveness of repetition and simplicity, and the expressive quality of a note well bent. Great for beginning lead players working on bends and releases.

All Along The Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix; intro solo)
Not the famous tour-de-force solo in the middle, but the shorter, simpler opening statement. Hendrix is tuned down and playing in C# minor on the guitar, but I've opted to transcribe this solo in C minor, so it matches the recording without having to retune. With that in mind, move it to various keys including C# minor once it can be played comfortably.

Statesboro Blues (The Allman Brothers Band; Dickey Betts solo)
Twice around a blues shuffle in D: first time major pentatonic, second time minor. Fantastic bends, great phasing, nice use of repetition and motivic development.

Franklin's Tower (Grateful Dead; Jerry Garcia intro solo)
Jerry's tasty phrasing and fluid rhythmic sense are in evidence here. The A, G, D, G progression calls for A mixolydian, and Jerry serves it up. Subtle bends, slick position shifts and nicely incorporated arpeggios are all employed in a listener-friendly, melodic introductory statement.

Thank You (Led Zeppelin; Jimmy Page Guitar Solo)
I like that this is played on acoustic guitar with no string bending required. Also, it doesn't use the pentatonic scale at all. The chords are D, C, G, D, making D mixolydian (notes of the G major scale) an obvious choice. However, Page plays in D major, and simply avoids the C# note during the C chords (but uses it for extra color against the D's and G's). This solo sits well in the 4th/5th position with no difficult shifting or stretching. The only problem is that some of the phrases are quite fast. However, I think this one has merit as a teaching piece even if it can only be played a bit slower than the recording.

Play-Along Rhythm Tracks
One approach that I use in teaching improvisation is to play on various pairs of chords. As a result, I have complied lots of two-chord jams to practice soloing on. Here are some examples:
STEPWISE JAMS: Chords are a WHOLESTEP apart.
Ascending, Dom7 to minor, in every key:
G7 to Am; Ab7 to Bbm; A7 to Bm; Bb7 to Cm; B7 to C#m; C7 to Dm; Db7 to Ebm; D7 to Em; Eb7 to Fm; E7 to F#m; F7 to Gm; F#7 to G#m

Ascending, Major to minor (triads), in every key:
G to Am; Ab to Bbm; A to Bm; Bb to Cm; B to C#m; C to Dm; Db to Ebm; D to Em; Eb to Fm; E to F#m; F7 to Gm; F# to G#m

Ascending, Maj7 to min7, in every key:
GMaj7 to Am; AbMaj7 to Bbm; AMaj7 to Bm; BbMaj7 to Cm; BMaj7 to C#m; CMaj7 to Dm; DbMaj7 to Ebm; DMaj7 to Em; EbMaj7 to Fm; EMaj7 to F#m; FMaj7 to Gm; F#Maj7 to G#m


Manuscript & Tab Paper
If you're writing your own notes or tabs, click to download printable sheets with staves optimally spaced for legible transcriptions.
Standard notation ..... Tab paper: 5 stave, thick lines ..... Tab Paper: 5 stave, thin lines .....Tab Paper: 6 stave .....Tab Paper: 7 stave .....Tab Paper: 8 stave

Historical Perspectives
Compiled anecdotes related to some of my favorite music or guitarists. (Listening to a wide variety of styles and learning some music history are critical parts of any musical education. The following stories/quotes are offered in the hope that they might spark some interest in the subject matter.) ~C.C.

Two good starting places for learning some of the history and mythology of early American Blues music:

1. The story of W.C. Handy "discovering" the blues in Tutwiler, Mississippi, from Father of the Blues -An Autobiography: Handy's recollection of first hearing "the blues" sung by an anonymous Southern bluesman waiting for a train in 1903. Includes photos & links.

2. Michael Bloomfield's take on the legend of Robert Johnson at the crossroads.

Excerpt from Me And Big Joe by Michael Bloomfield: Bloomfield recalls his travels with bluesman Big Joe Williams.

Recollections of John Lee Hooker, Mike Bloomfield and Big Joe Williams, by Art Thieme. On-line press clippings describe Art Thieme as a "Midwestern folk singer, punster and raconteur", and "America's best-loved troubadour". He was a witness and contributor to the Chicago folk & blues scene in the early 1960's, and often shared his well-told recollections on the web. The stories included here are culled from a thread on the Mudcat discussion forum.

Bob Dylan's Grammy Acceptance Speech, 1998. In this brief clip, Mr. Dylan neatly connects nearly a century of American music, acknowledging Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson as inspirational in making his Grammy winning album Time Out of Mind.