Another song lesson video: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen / Jeff Buckley

Here's my latest free song lesson video: A beginner lesson on Leonard Cohen's amazing "Hallelujah." My arrangement is inspired by the gorgeous Jeff Buckley cover.

If you enjoy it, please subscribe to my new YouTube channel.

Here's the chord chart.

It's been so fun releasing these free song lesson videos over the past couple weeks. I remember the excitement my blog generated almost 10 years ago--at that time, there wasn't a whole lot of support for guitarists on the internet, especially if you were just starting out. I'm sensing that same excitement again. I'm loving producing the lessons, and people are loving learning from them.

Thanks for all the great feedback!

Song Lesson Video: “Let Her Go” by Passenger

Here's my first-ever free song lesson video: "Let Her Go" by Passenger, for beginning and intermediate guitarists who want to learn how to both sing and play the song. This gorgeous tune is already hugely popular, and now that it's the soundtrack to Budweiser's cute Super Bowl puppy-and-horse-are-buddies commercial, the hugeness will only expand.

Here's the chord chart.

Some background...

For the past year and a half, I've been shooting footage for a video-based beginning guitar course I'm calling "Rob's Totally Awesome Guitar Crash Course." The course won't be done until this fall, and in the meantime, I'm hungry for feedback.

So I've decided to shoot some free song lessons on the side: Stuff I can release, and get feedback on, now. Any feedback y'all give me on what's working and what's not would be tremendously helpful. Should I make more of these?

Words of encouragement motivate me to make more free lessons like this one. Share with your musical friends, and thanks for checking this out.

Free Christmas Caroling Songbook

Rob's Totally Awesome Christmas Carol SongbookThis past Saturday I attended SMooCH, a fantastic fundraiser concert for Seattle Children's Hospital. Macklemore headlined. Free drinks and food. It was a religious experience.

Well, religious except that I was freeloading. The ticket was a gift from a student, I took advantage of the open bar, and I didn't give a dime.

We're on a tight budget this year, so I'm not kicking myself. All the same, the generosity I saw at the concert made me want to do something to give back this year.

Here's the result: Rob's Totally Awesome Christmas Caroling Songbook. It's free, it's professional-quality, and it'll get you singing with your family and friends quicker than you can say "Wenceslas".

And if you dig the book and can spare a few bucks, please consider donating to Seattle Children's Hospital. You can read more about their Uncompensated Care Fund on the download page.

Go to Songbook Download Page

Thanks, and have a magical Christmas.

Looking for an Awesome Practice System

checklistMusicians and teachers, I need your help.

Have you used a system for tracking guitar practice that really motivated you or your students to stick with it? I’m hoping to integrate a proven tracking system into the online guitar course I’m creating. Plus, it’d be awesome to use something like this with my private students.

I know how to teach students to practice mindfully and develop good muscle memory. And I understand the motivational power of providing performance opportunities for students. What I’m looking for is some kind of checklist, or point system, or game that will help students measure their progress and amplify their sense of accomplishment.

Bonus points if you can point me toward websites that have used a system like this.

Can’t wait to hear your ideas.

We Have A Winner

Congratulations to Wesley for winning the 2013 Summer Cover Competition. Wesley won a $100 gift certificate to Musician’s Friend.

Here’s his incendiary performance of Link Wray’s “Fire and Brimstone” that earned him first place.

You can see the full results and the other competitors (who were also excellent) on the Summer Cover Competition page.

New Chart: “Fires of Edinburgh” by Nick Keir

Cowgate Arch
The Cowgate Arch of George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, 1860
Source: National Galleries of Scotland Commons

Here's a special treat for traditional music buffs: A chart for a gorgeous, epic tour of the history of Edinburgh written by the obscure Scottish songwriter Nick Keir.

"Fires of Edinburgh" by Nick Keir (the first of the two songs)

Transcribing this song was a big task, but immensely rewarding. Almost always there are lyrics available for the songs I chart, but because this is an obscure tune, the lyric-deciphering was up to me. And because I knew nothing about Edinburgh before the project, getting the many place names right required that I dig deep into Wikipedia. I had become a musical archeologist for a day.

What I unearthed brought the song to life: The "trail of gunpowder," for example, refers to the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots' second husband, whose house, located near the catacomb-riddled Cowgate neighborhood pictured above, was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion but who appeared to have been strangled, his body unmarked by the explosion. Discovering these details was a thrilling treasure hunt.

The musicianship and songwriting is top-notch. Keir (who, according to YouTube comments, tragically died recently) was a skilled flatpicker, playing fast, clean arpeggios at the beginning and ending of the song. The melody in this song is lovely, and his voice is clear and honest.

I don't expect I'll ever teach this song again, and I'd be surprised if more than a handful of people will ever use the chart I've posted. But those who do are in for a great adventure.

New Chart: “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John

Elton John

30 Charts in 30 Days continues!

Up next we have a paradox packaged in a bubblegum wrapper: Mr. John is yearning for those golden days of his youth, when he and Susie used to rock to…the song he just wrote.

Careful, Elton–just because no one’s created a black hole while writing a song doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Here’s the chord chart.

New Chart: “June Hymn” by The Decemberists


Here's a chart of "June Hymn" by The Decemberists.

What a gorgeous song. Lovely bass-strum technique on the guitar, the accordion and Wurlitzer interweave elegantly, and the lyrics are lush poetry. Plus, if you're a high school student with your eyes on a competitive college, this song, and really any Decemberists tune, makes for great SAT prep. English major rock stars represent!

Here's the song's vocabulary list. How would you score if you took the test today?

  • heralding
  • bleating
  • reverie
  • arbor
  • garland
  • panoply
  • barony
  • ambling

If you need a study break, check out this video of my student Rahul and his kids performing "June Hymn" with me at a recent Coffee Shop Jam. The beginning of the song's cut off, the footage is shaky, sound is bad--and it's still one of my favorite jam videos.

This is what the Jam is all about: Different generations getting together to share the joy of music.

New Chart: “I Got Stripes” by Johnny Cash

Here's a chord chart for "I Got Stripes," originally written out for my student Wesley, the biggest Cash fan I know. Check out his great strumming in his Coffee Shop Jam performance. Part of what makes that groove sound so good is that he's accenting the 2nd and 4th beats of the measure, called the "backbeat." These are the beats the drummer normally plays on the snare drum. When you're lacking a drummer, and you really want your strumming to chug with momentum, accent the backbeat.

This is a tough strumming skill for beginners to learn. Wesley's ability to do it while strumming at lightspeed is pretty incredible.