For your musical journey to continue progressing, you need to be constantly updating your musical toolbox – that is, your set of skills that allow you to express yourself through your playing.

This week, we’ve got four incredibly useful tools for your consideration: a unique guitar technique from one of the key musicians in the Nashville scene, the concept of swing rhythms and the interest they add to your music, the skill of seeking out and finding your own musical opportunities, and the art of arranging music.

Double-Down on Music

Brad Davis has been on quite the ride throughout his musical career. Not only has he worked with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, but he is a successful recording artist in his own right who has developed some killer guitar techniques and tools.

In Doubling Down on Your Craft, with Brad Davis, he gives us an in-depth look at his journey in mastering guitar, how he ended up collaborating with some of the biggest names in music, and how he developed his unique guitar method, the double-down-up.

Brad has even patented his own guitar invention, a B-string bender known as “The Brad Bender” to get at some crazy country links.

Understanding augmented chordsThe “double-down up” picking style is a must-try for guitarists – it’s amazing how big of a difference this slight variation on picking style can make in the sound of your playing! Perhaps we have been neglecting picking hand technique as we learn guitar! For another approach to accentuating the up strums, Matt from Country Song Teacher shows how he adds interest and variety to his chord progressions with a simple, yet powerful, method.

Now that we are talking about right-hand technique, let’s continue exploring other ways that you can improve your guitar picking. Our friend David Andrew Wiebe’s guest post on Music Industry How To describes some simple exercises that you can use to strengthen your picking hand

Brad mentioned a technique that is probably new to anyone that is not familiar with the style… flatpicking. In addition to his double-down-up, perfecting his flatpicking technique opened up a lot of doors in his musical career. Read more about how to flatpick and its history on!

Swingin’ Rhythms

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” isn’t just the name of a timeless jazz standard – it’s proven to be quite a prophetic line!

Uneven or “swung” rhythms are found everywhere from rock and pop to country and jazz. Though you may think that swing is rhythmically elusive, fear not: our resident pros are here to demystify the concept of these groovy rhythms.

Understanding augmented chordsHead to Swing Rhythm: Resource Pack Preview to learn how our guitar, bass, and piano experts break down this feel-based rhythmic concept into accessible parts!

The Musical U Resident Pros offer some great tips on how to get your instrument into the swing of things. While learning how to swing on your instrument is important, Band Directors Talk Shop offers an alternative on how to get started – and it all starts before the first note is even played!

To be successful at playing swing music, you need to make sure that you have a solid rhythmic foundation. As we’ve talked about previously on the podcast, you can begin to develop a feel for rhythms, which will take you a long way to swinging success. Our friends at Learn Jazz Standards have put together five exercises that will help you get there.

When we think of swing, we often reminisce of the 1930s and 1940s, at the height of the big band era. Or, we fondly remember the all-too-brief revival in the 1990s. But if your zoot suit is getting a bit dusty and you have a sudden urge to jitterbug, no need to fear! There are still plenty of fantastic musicians creating new swing music to be enjoyed. Check out this new album of original swing music from Keenan McKenzie.

Centering Music

For some, music is a hobby…for others, it’s an all-consuming passion that they are compelled to practice.

For Stan Stewart of Muz4Now, music has been a life-long compulsion leading to an career in  songwriting for any occasion – with his own improvisation-based touch!

Understanding augmented chordsIn our interview with Stan, he provides some fantastic insights about seeking musical opportunities, and gives valuable advice for anyone seeking to dabble in musical improvisation. Seeking Musical Opportunity, with Stan Stewart is an absolute must-read for any independent musician looking to find their sound and get their music out there!

It was incredible to hear how early in his life Stan began to compose music. While not everyone is fortunate to have such an early start composing, it is a fun skill that you can pick up at any age! To get started, here are some helpful tips from Flat.

What do you need besides a little bit of inspiration when starting to write a song? If something is missing from your composing toolkit, perhaps you just need to find a better tool. Learn about how to use Noteflight, and how it can enhance your compositional experience!

For many musicians, music has been a powerful force in their life that has healed many of their pains. Some musicians will even profess that playing music has saved their lives! Music can be that powerful. Philanthropy is a great way to give back to your community, and one record label has found a way to turn their love of music into a force for good – read more about how Sino Studios gives back!

The Art of Arranging

If you think musical arrangement is an art reserved for classical composers and orchestras, this episode of the Musicality Podcast is for you.

This skill is not reserved for advanced musicians, and can be as simple as figuring out how to play your favourite blues rock anthem on your acoustic guitar.

Understanding augmented chordsIn About Arranging Music, we look at the elements that arranging can encompass, and how you can dive into arranging yourself – no advanced theory or musical expertise required!

We hope this podcast has convinced you that arranging music is not something that only professionals do. The truth is that anyone can start arranging music with a little bit of training and motivation. David Wallimann shares his tips for any beginner wanting to get into the arranging game.

Christopher mentioned in the podcast that one way to arrange music is to simply play it on a different instrument. With a little creativity, there are almost no limits to what you can do when arranging music! One young musician is particularly fond of a musical style that’s near and dear to the hearts of all of us at Musical U – a cappella. Take a behind-the-scenes look at how Dan Purcell makes a cappella arrangements using Garageband.

To wrap up this roundup, we travel to the beautiful Hawaiian islands for a lesson on arranging music for the most lovely of instruments, the ukulele. Ukulele Tricks outlines four things that you need to master to arrange a chord melody song. Get strumming with this fascinating lesson and we’ll see you at the beach!

Same Musician, New Tricks

We hope this week’s content has inspired you to add a new skill or two to your arsenal, whether it’s Brad’s double-down-up technique or some basic arranging skills. With new skills come new musical opportunities. And that can come in the form of interpreting your favourite music your way, finding new places and people to play to, or even writing your own tunes.

Which new musical skill will bring you up to the next level in your expression? Pick one and start learning and practicing today!