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Classical Guitar Study Books

This is the updated list of the guitar study books for Trinity College grade exams


1a) Trinity College London – Aural Tests Book 1 – Initial Grade to Grade 5 (2017):

1b) Trinity College London – Aural Tests Book 2 – Grades 6 to 8 (2017):

Scales & Exercises

2a) Trinity College London – Guitar & Plectrum Guitar Scales & Exercises – Initial Grade – Grade 5 (from 2016):

2b) Trinity College London – Guitar & Plectrum Guitar Scales, Arpeggios & Studies – Grades 6 to 8 (From 2016):

Guitar Exam Pieces Grades

3) Trinity College London – Guitar Exam Pieces Grades – Initial to 8 (2016-2019):

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Guitar Books

This is a short list of essential and classical guitar books (from Amazon) that I grew up on and teach from:

1) For acoustic guitar: Eric Clapton – Unplugged

2) For electric guitar: Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien

3) And for classical guitar: The Library of Guitar Classics

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Small but smart: guitar amps recommendations

These are 2 guitar amps recommendations which are compact and useful:

1) Roland Micro Cube GX Guitar Amplifier Black – this guitar amp by Roland is compact, light, has all the necessary effects and is ideal for every beginner. It’s also run on batteries so it can be mobile:

And here’s a great demo video of it…

2) Marshall MS2 Micro Amp – Blackthe second guitar amp I’d recommend is a micro amp by Marshall which is just perfect for traveling (run only on batteries):

As seen in School of Rock…

3) IK Multimedia iRig HD 2 – IK Multimedia have also some great solutions like the new IK Multimedia iRig Nano Amp and also a range of mobile adapters like the new iRig HD 2 (the following amazon link offers the cheapest price for this product):

Here’s a short video…

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Guitar Accessories: Essential Pack

I searched Amazon for quality guitar accessories at a good price and came up with this essential pack which will be enough for beginners. Click on the images to purchase it directly from amazon:

1) Capo – the following Capo will do its job. Some cost around £20 but they’re not very different. It can work easily with any type of guitar.

2) Guitar stand – this simple guitar stand is very useful and can easily be folded.

3) Guitar footstool (or footrest) – a guitar footstool is essential for classical guitarists, but not only.

4) Music stand – a music stand is another essential accessory for classical guitarists, but useful to all guitarists.

5) Guitar plectrum (or pick) – undoubtedly Jazz III picks are my personal favourite. Their small, thick and last forever. A pack of 12 at this good price is just enough.

6) Guitar strap – after buying your picks, this strap holds them for you. Great idea!

7) Slide  – Jim Dunlop’s Steel Slides are great. For beginners there’s no need to buy slides made of glass – they’ll break and your heart will break too…

8) Guitar tuner – Korg’s tuners are known to be a bit more precise. There are pricier Korg tuners but this one can do what it’s supposed to do.

9) Electric guitar strings – Super Slinky are my favourite electric guitar strings. A more competitive option is to buy 3 sets of strings.

10) Acoustic guitar strings – Elixir (11 gauge) are my favourite acoustic guitar strings (steel).

11) Classical guitar strings – D’Addario Pro-Arté (normal tension) are my favourite classical guitar strings (nylon).

12) String winder and cutter – a winder saves a lot of time when you need to quickly change your guitar strings with less fuss and a cutter will get rid of those annoying (and sometimes dangerous) loose ends.

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String Theory

String Theory

ernie ball guitar strings

You look at your guitar and see its rusty strings and you don’t really remember when was the last time you changed them. That means it’s probably the right time to get a new set of guitar strings… In this short guide I’ll recommend my personal favourites for each type of guitar and explain a bit about the different options.

My guitar strings recommendations:


For Classical Guitar – I really like the warm sound and feel of D’Addario EJ45-3D Pro Arte Classical Normal Tension. I also find them reliable and sustainable. There are 3 main types of tensions for classical guitars – Low, Normal and High. I would advise trying all 3 in order to experience the difference yourselves, since it is a matter of trial and error and personal taste. But to get the general idea; Low tension means a more mellow tone and less force you’d need to use in order to get a clear sound when you play. High Tension needs more force and the tone is usually brighter.

*Tip – Never change a single string, always a whole set. Unless it’s in the middle of a concert…


For Acoustic Guitar – When playing acoustic guitar we usually look for that rich and expressive tone and I found Elixir Nanoweb E16052 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings 12-53 Light to answer that need. 12 Gauge should be enough, while 13 can be too difficult to play, especially for solos, and it’s also tiring after playing for a while. 13 has a great tone but 12 (or even 11) don’t fall short.

*Tip – Don’t change your strings just before a gig – allow at least a week in order to decrease the high-pitched sliding sound and to let the strings settle nicely in your guitar.

ernie ball guitar stringsFor Electric Guitar – From my experience, Ernie Ball 2223 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings 09-42 Super Slinky have less tendency to break and no one likes playing something like the famous David Gilmour’s 2.5 tones bend and then to get stuck with a broken string (and heart) when you can’t complete the rest of Another Brick in the Wall’s solo (unless you’re lucky enough to have a quick guitar technician near you…). Thicker sets of strings change the tone a bit and they are harder to bend (that’s why many guitarists prefer to tune their guitars half-step down), but with an electric guitar the tone is more influenced by the pickups, effects and amp. So you basically want to get reliable strings that are easy to bend.

*Tip – Your electric guitar is set-up (assuming you did a set-up) to a specific Gauge, so changing the strings to a different type of Gauge (like 10 instead of 09) would require a new set-up for your guitar.

*Final tip – Like most things, guitar strings are cheaper online and out of the different online stores I would recommend Strings Direct – Click here. They also have free delivery on orders over £30 and you can use the code STRINGS50 to get 10% off when spending £50 or more. I have bought guitar strings and other accessories myself from them and now I am also part of their affiliate programme.

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Van Gogh playing guitar

You can never understand or analyse a piece of art just by using words. Language is limited. That is why painters like Van Gogh expressed their feelings, emotions and thoughts through colours. This is the meaning of art – communicating through different mediums. Music is the same because music, in its most “basic” form, is Art – The art of communication. Birds probably invented music. We just copied and turned it into something else.

I wanted to explore the use of music as a mixture of art criticism, interpretation and translation from colours to notes. To create a dialogue that cannot exist in real life, but can be real in this virtual existence. Not only in literature, exchange of ideas can sometimes be hidden between the notes.

I recorded the following improvised piece while looking at Paul Gauguin’s painting of Van Gogh (1888), since this is a very deep dialogue between two painters about art itself. Obviously, focusing on the face area is almost a given. But the hand is also very eye-catching and full of movement although it looks still. The flowers are a bit gloomy however there are some glimpses of optimism. For me, brown is represented well by using the note ‘D’, while the different textures can be expressed by alternating between a few modes, like Dorian 4# and Aeolian, and blending them with other musical shades and some chords…

But what am I doing?… I should let the notes speak for themselves:

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The Dinosaur song

This is one of the songs from Daphodil’s music project of extinct animal songs. The person behind this project is the most amazing musician and music specialist, Daphne (Daphodil) Sarnat, who wrote and composed some really cool children songs. We recorded these talented young children at our home studio and the following song is just one of many.

Check out for more children songs here.

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3 Important tools for any guitar student

The first one I would like to recommend is the website – www.songsterr.com – which has TABs with stems and also includes a playback option of different instruments. TABs on the web would never be accurate, however this site might be one the best free TABs you can find these days. It also includes premium features like speed and tuner, but they’re not essential. I refer my students to this one, which for me replaced my old recommendation – www.ultimate-guitar.com

The second is www.guitarbackingtrack.com which has almost 800 tracks that you can play with. One of the major problems that any guitar student encounters is the lack of playing with other musicians and although it’s always best to play with live players, backing tracks are a good way to practice, especially in terms of rhythm. In addition to known songs you can type ‘Blues’ in the ‘Song’ search bar, for instance, to find blues tracks which a guitarist can’t live without. Also, there are many jam tracks here: http://www.guitarbackingtrack.com/bts/Jamtracks.htm

Another nice website is www.guitar-tube.com which consists of guitar videos but requires registration in order to see them. It’s a great tool if you are looking for videos of a specific guitarist like Paco de Lucia, for example, to get some insperation http://www.guitar-tube.com/guitarplayers/paco-de-lucia

Hope this helps!