At MI, you learn from a proven curriculum taught by the best guitar instructors in the world, augmented by visiting artists’ seminars, concerts, and lessons from some of the greatest players in contemporary music. At our guitar music college, you get to network with other players, find your creative voice, and get the training you need to become the player you have always dreamed of being.
Inlays are visual elements set into the exterior surface of a guitar, both for decoration and artistic purposes and, in the case of the markings on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th fret (and in higher octaves), to provide guidance to the performer about the location of frets on the instrument. The typical locations for inlay are on the fretboard, headstock, and on acoustic guitars around the soundhole, known as the rosette. Inlays range from simple plastic dots on the fretboard to intricate works of art covering the entire exterior surface of a guitar (front and back). Some guitar players have used LEDs in the fretboard to produce unique lighting effects onstage. Fretboard inlays are most commonly shaped like dots, diamond shapes, parallelograms, or large blocks in between the frets.
Picks come in many shapes and sizes. Picks vary from the small jazz pick to the large bass pick. The thickness of the pick often determines its use. A thinner pick (between 0.2 and 0.5 mm) is usually used for strumming or rhythm playing, whereas thicker picks (between 0.7 and 1.5+ mm) are usually used for single-note lines or lead playing. The distinctive guitar sound of Billy Gibbons is attributed to using a quarter or peso as a pick. Similarly, Brian May is known to use a sixpence coin as a pick, while noted 1970s and early 1980s session musician David Persons is known for using old credit cards, cut to the correct size, as plectrums.
Another class of alternative tunings are called drop tunings, because the tuning drops down the lowest string. Dropping down the lowest string a whole tone results in the "drop-D" (or "dropped D") tuning. Its open-string notes DADGBE (from low to high) allow for a deep bass D note, which can be used in keys such as D major, d minor and G major. It simplifies the playing of simple fifths (powerchords). Many contemporary rock bands re-tune all strings down, making, for example, Drop-C or Drop-B tunings.
Dots are usually inlaid into the upper edge of the fretboard in the same positions, small enough to be visible only to the player. These usually appear on the odd numbered frets, but also on the 12th fret (the one octave mark) instead of the 11th and 13th frets. Some older or high-end instruments have inlays made of mother of pearl, abalone, ivory, colored wood or other exotic materials and designs. Simpler inlays are often made of plastic or painted. High-end classical guitars seldom have fretboard inlays as a well-trained player is expected to know his or her way around the instrument. In addition to fretboard inlay, the headstock and soundhole surround are also frequently inlaid. The manufacturer's logo or a small design is often inlaid into the headstock. Rosette designs vary from simple concentric circles to delicate fretwork mimicking the historic rosette of lutes. Bindings that edge the finger and sound boards are sometimes inlaid. Some instruments have a filler strip running down the length and behind the neck, used for strength or to fill the cavity through which the truss rod was installed in the neck.
The musical theory of chords is reviewed, to provide terminology for a discussion of guitar chords. Three kinds of chords, which are emphasized in introductions to guitar-playing, are discussed. These basic chords arise in chord-triples that are conventional in Western music, triples that are called three-chord progressions. After each type of chord is introduced, its role in three-chord progressions is noted.
Archtop guitars are steel-string instruments in which the top (and often the back) of the instrument are carved, from a solid billet, into a curved, rather than a flat, shape. This violin-like construction is usually credited to the American Orville Gibson. Lloyd Loar of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co introduced the violin-inspired "F"-shaped hole design now usually associated with archtop guitars, after designing a style of mandolin of the same type. The typical archtop guitar has a large, deep, hollow body whose form is much like that of a mandolin or a violin-family instrument. Nowadays, most archtops are equipped with magnetic pickups, and they are therefore both acoustic and electric. F-hole archtop guitars were immediately adopted, upon their release, by both jazz and country musicians, and have remained particularly popular in jazz music, usually with flatwound strings.
SFCM produces some of the most successful and influential classical guitarists in the world. Spearheaded by renowned faculty and complemented by visiting artists such as Marcin Dylla, the department honors the tradition of the classical guitar while cultivating innovation. The Harris Guitar Collection, housed at SFCM, gives students a chance to see—and play—some of the most extraordinary guitars of the last two centuries.