The first thing that ran through my mind before writing this series was, “Wait. Have I done this before?” The second thought was, “Wait. I could write about this every week for 20 years and still feel good about it since I believe that once you finish babbling away at the water cooler or ego fest, what it really comes down to is the pursuit of the craft and how you go about it. Whether your craft is singing, playing an instrument, composing, gardening, cooking, writing, or even full contact tiddly winks competition, there are methods and tools to use to perfect your craft.

 I intend for this series to cover my thoughts on honing the craft of playing guitar with the effective use of various approaches, techniques and tools, including tuners, metronomes, how to quickly and accurately memorize a piece of music, and the how and why about that scary thing called “practice”.

Let’s start with tuners. I cannot help but notice that every player I encounter uses their tuners exclusively for putting their instruments in tune. Now I realize that might sound a bit silly as in, “well what’s your argument there?” I have no issue with the use of a tuner during practice, in the studio, or on stage during a performance. However, many times students rely exclusively on the tuner and herein is my argument. As I once heard it put – “you run the risk of erasing your ear.” I believe the meaning is that without proper ear training as a solid base and knowing your personal pitch, the tuner becomes a crutch instead of an effective tool.

During my private lessons, seminars and master classes, I encourage all my guitar students to use their tuner as a checking device. Get one string in with the tuner and then put the instrument in tune by listening to unisons, octaves and intervals, such as a perfect 4th (ex. 4th to 3rd string open – D to G). Also, check partial chords. Many times the intonation may be slightly off with your instrument, perhaps sharp or flat for certain strings and a tuner will help you determine whether you tend to play on the high or low side of the pitch.

Students who are intrigued by open tunings appear very hesitant to navigate between these various tunings. But by training your ear and by using your tuner to confirm, this fear will subside and doors will open to explore these options with more confidence. You will now be propelled into a whole new arena of songs and you will no longer be locked into just one tuning.

The Intellitouch Tuners I’ve been using for quite some time seem to be just about dead on accurate though, particularly the newer model (PT30 Classic) with those four arrows on each side of that big ole glowing letter. I like that I can see it in the dark during performance, the quickness of it in finding the right spot, and that it doesn’t fly off my guitar. In fact, I actually had a student ask me during a seminar, as he stared at one attached to my headstock, if it was a mirror. I was speechless. But then I thought, well maybe so. It does mirror my ear.

Intellitouch Tuners: www.tuners.com/

The North American Tiddy Winks Association:  www.tiddlywinks.org/

Richard Gilewitz Web Site: richardgilewitz.com/

Originally posted 2010-08-05 22:11:13.