Instrument Pack: Guitar

Guitar Instrument PackThe guitar Instrument Pack provides video tutorials and practice MP3s to add instrument-specific guidance to the core musicality training provided at Musical U.

Resident Pro: Dylan Welsh

Dylan Welsh

Dylan Welsh is an impressive figure in the Seattle music scene. He regularly performs live and records in studio, so he understands both the practicalities of being a working musician and the importance of investing in the bigger-picture skills of musicality. Through providing online guitar lessons he is continually honing his own skills as a teacher and finding new ways to help students learn faster using the music they personally enjoy most.

Resource Pack Previews

Every month we release a new Resource Pack for guitar. Here are previews of the packs so far:

Pack 1: Beginning Improvisation

In this guitar Resource Pack our Resident Pro Dylan Welsh introduces the versatile minor pentatonic scale as a great way to start exploring improvisation, in both major and minor keys:


  • Introduction to the minor pentatonic scale
  • How and where to play it
  • How to learn from solos you hear
  • Limitation exercises to build your creativity
  • Additional tips and tricks for getting good results
  • MP3 tracks demonstrating the scale in two keys, providing two backing tracks (in major and minor) and two example solos over those backing tracks.

Dylan first teaches a simple fretboard pattern, and then shows you how to put it to real musical work in a variety of ways – all the while connecting your ears with your instrument. With a couple of examples in the accompanying quick reference guide, he also shows real solos from the rock world that use exactly this approach.

Pack 2: The Major Pentatonic

Pentatonic scales are popular among guitarists due to their versatility for improvising solos over a wide range of chord progressions. The trouble is that most guitarists end up feeling stuck and limited, playing solos which sound and feel robotic, time after time. Dylan reveals a fresh approach that can help you break free of those constraints and get to know the pentatonic scale in a deep and meaningful way on guitar:


  • What is the Major Pentatonic? What makes it different from the regular Major scale?
  • Three ways to practice the scale to really internalise it all across the fretboard.
  • How the major and minor pentatonic scales are related.
  • Why and how to sing along as you practice the scale.
  • Practice MP3s for the scales in two keys, plus some call-and-response exercises to practice playing pentatonic riffs by ear.

Getting “fretboard freedom” is a goal for many guitarists and in this tutorial Dylan teaches a versatile and effective approach which not only teaches you where to find the notes across the whole neck but also forges a strong connection between your fingers and your ears, allowing you to find the notes you imagine in your mind or hear in the music you that want to play by ear. Although the focus is the major pentatonic (and that’s a great starting point), in fact, Dylan’s method can be extended across any type of scale.

Pack 3: Audiation

Building on his teaching in the Beginning Improvisation and Major Pentatonic Resource Packs, Dylan explains the usefulness of audiation and singing for a range of tasks you’re already doing in your guitar playing:


  • Why singing and audiation are important for guitarists, even if you don’t feel confident in your voice.
  • How to use audiation and singing to learn new melodies by ear.
  • How to use the same technique for playing chords by ear.
  • How audiation can help you memorise new songs faster.
  • Using audiation and singing to improvise in a way that breaks free of fretboard patterns.
  • Practice MP3s for playing melodies and chords by ear, and improvising.

As Dylan puts it: this is a powerful tool for pretty much anything you’re doing on guitar, so if you want better results faster, it’s time to audiate and use your voice.

Pack 4: Scale Degree Recognition

Guitarists are used to thinking in terms of scales – the fretboard patterns for a major scale, a major pentatonic, or a minor pentatonic will be familiar to any intermediate-level player. But can you identify all the notes of those scales by ear? Can you go from hearing a tune to playing the right notes of that fretboard pattern.

In this Resource Pack Dylan reveals a clever chord-based way to develop the framework you need to recognise scale degrees flexibly and reliably by ear.


  • A simple scale sing-along exercise to get you oriented
  • How to use the tonic chord to internalise scale degrees
  • A powerful concept to help you spot the non-chord notes
  • A play-through exercise you can use in every key to really master this
  • MP3 Practice Tracks with melodies in three keys to try playing by ear

Pack 5: I-IV-V Chord Progressions

In this pack Dylan explains how major, minor and seventh chords can feature in I-IV-V based progressions and provided a set of exercises to get deeply familiar with how that works in each and every key.


  • How the leading tone being present in the V chord creates a strong tension and need to resolve to the tonic note in the I chord
  • How to easily find/play a I, IV, or V chord in any key
  • Ways to practice playing and recognising progressions using the I, IV and V chords
  • MP3 Practice Tracks for playing through I-IV-V progressions in different ways in every key

Pack 6: Rhythmic Precision

In this pack Dylan tackles the topic of rhythmic precision by going back to basics and explaining how the 16th-note grid can be your skeleton for precise and flexible rhythmic playing on guitar.


  • How to count quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes
  • A slow scale-based exercise to push your rhythm skills to the limit
  • Adapting these ideas to improvising with interesting rhythms
  • MP3 practice tracks you can use to practice the exercise and improvising

Adding rhythmic interest is often a challenge when improvising, but Dylan’s approach here will equip you with a solid sense of the beat and a creative framework for coming up with your own original rhythmic ideas.

Pack 7: The Power of Dynamics

In this pack, Dylan covers three different ways you can control your dynamics effectively, with each hand and also your equipment.


  • Use of the right hand in playing single note lines, and how to make a simple adjustment to your technique and mindset to give you more control over your dynamics.
  • Use of the left hand in playing chords, in order to reduce the size of your voicings and help you sit back in a mix.
  • Use of your equipment to dial in your setup in a way that will allow you the maximum amount of dynamic control.
  • Practice MP3s covering a dynamic scale exercise and the altered chord voicings covered.

If you’ve ever felt like strumming through chords was a bit dull or your solos were a bit monotonous then this pack will show you a way to bring new life and interest to it in a variety of ways!

Pack 8: Improvising with Chord Tones

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh believes that soloing using chord tones is an awesome way to sound more melodic in your solos, and to improve your choice of notes when soloing over chord progressions:


  • How to play every diatonic triad and seventh chord arpeggio in the key, all based within the major scale box you already know.
  • How to use these arpeggios to target chord tones while soloing.
  • How to use diatonic notes from the scale to connect chord tones while moving from chord to chord.
  • MP3 Practice Tracks that include recordings of Dylan demonstrating the exercises, and backing tracks so you can practice your own chord-tone targeting.

As usual, Dylan is ready with a wealth of well-organized guitar wisdom to up your fretboard fluency to higher and higher planes.

Pack 9: Syncopation

Syncopation can be heard in all sorts of popular music: Funk, Jazz, R&B, Soul, and even most Rock and Pop songs derive their rhythmic excitement from syncopation. Resident Pro Dylan Welsh will show you how to recognize these rhythms and accurately produce them in your own rhythm and lead playing:


  • The definition of syncopation, along with a few examples found in popular songs.
  • An exercise to develop your syncopated rhythm playing.
  • An exercise to develop your syncopated lead playing.
  • Practice MP3s to cover all the exercises for both rhythm and lead.

Add some rhythmic pizzazz to your guitar playing, especially if you want to play these heavily syncopated styles of music.

Pack 10: Swing Rhythm

Swing rhythm feel varies considerably from blues to rock to jazz. To add complexity to complexity, swing style varies from artist to artist and even from tempo to tempo within a genre. Resident Pro Dylan Welsh does the math and breaks it all down – as he shows you where to start on your guitar to explore these different feels while remaining right “in the pocket” with your rhythm:


  • Swing Basics: The definition of swing and what it sounds like.
  • Interpreting Swing: How a swing rhythm is commonly interpreted (incorrectly), and how to break it down properly.
  • Unique Styles: The reason why the best players have their own unique swing “feel.”
  • Exercises: A few scale exercises to help you get into the rhythm at different speeds while never losing the beat.

Geek out on Dylan’s awesome metronome trick and discover your own unique swing feel with this month’s Guitar Resource Pack.

Pack 11: Improvising with Phrasing

Like any trip, melodies gain more meaning when they have a destination. Resident Pro Dylan Welsh shows how to choose your musical “target” on your guitar, taking you and your listeners on a memorable musical journey.


  • Definitions, context, and examples of musical phrasing.
  • Strategies to relate music to conversation, in order to help you bridge the gap between the two in your mind and ears.
  • A trick Dylan teaches his private students, regarding “target tones” and setting up intentional notes to focus each phrase around.
  • A strategy that combines phrasing and musical conversation in order to keep your solos interesting and engaging over long periods of time.
  • Exercises, MP3s, and a PDF to learn phrasing and musical conversation in your own practice room.

Learn how to guide your improvs to their destination, and “speak” their story in Dylan’s phrasing and form workshop.

Pack 12: Intervals

This month is all about intervals, and Resident Pro Dylan Welsh has prepared a ton of material for you to dive into! If you’ve explored the many learning materials available on Musical U, you’ve probably spent a lot of time with intervals. In this month’s resource pack, Dylan will be showing you some exercises and tips for understanding, finding, and using intervals on the guitar itself:


  • The universal shapes for every single interval as they lay out along the guitar fretboard/how to find every interval on the guitar.
  • A melodic interval exercise, within the G major scale.
  • A harmonic interval exercise in the key of G major.
  • Exercises, MP3s examples and backing tracks, and a PDF with pages of tab and notation to take you on a complete intervallic tour of G major.
  • Tips on transposing these exercises into all other keys.

Take a giant step to fretboard freedom, all the while enjoying musical-sounding exercises with great backing tracks, with this month’s Intervals Resource Pack.

Pack 13: The Blues

The blues is an incredibly vast style of music with a rich history. While many guitar players learn the basics of the blues very early on, most never take it past these basics. Additionally, any guitar player who hasn’t explored the blues yet will see great benefits from doing so. Resident Pro Dylan Welsh has got you covered:


  • The basic 12 bar blues form.
  • Essential blues phrasing that will help you sound more legitimate.
  • Additional ways to improvise over the blues form, using scales and shapes that you already know.
  • MP3 files with a blues backing track for you to practice over.
  • Dylan demonstrating various improv techniques that that cover the methods seen in the video.

The blues makes a great vehicle to practice many different rhythmic and improvisation concepts – plus, you can play the blues with almost any musician anywhere, making it a great tool for communication and jamming.

Pack 14: Major and Minor

According to Resident Pro Dylan Welsh, 99% of Western Music falls into either a major or minor key. Thus, it’s really important to be able to tell the difference between the two, and be able to control and change back and forth on the guitar. Fortunately, the guitar fretboard layout offers many handy ways to visualize and transpose these patterns:


  • How to hear the difference between major and minor scales/chords.
  • How major chords are built, and how to change them into minor chords on the fretboard.
  • How to convert a major scale into a minor scale.
  • A major/minor scale exercise, based on one that was originally introduced in Major Pentatonic Resource Pack.
  • Six MP3 tracks that demonstrate the exercises on each string.

After Dylan’s thorough run-down of major and minor chords and scales, you’ll have a thorough fretboard mastery of the subject, take a huge leap forward in your understanding of theory, and take your ear to the next level.

Pack 15: Timbre

Without even getting deep into pedals and amps, Resident Pro Dylan Welsh shows you how hand placement, finger techniques, and a little twist of a knob can radically change your guitar tone from one musical moment to the next:


    • Different ways we can control how “bright” or “dark” our guitars sound (which is a very important element of timbre control).
    • Different flavors of “distortion” or “overdrive,” which is a vital timbreal element to control for guitarists specifically.
    • The way that different types of guitars have their own inherent timbre that can differ widely from one to the next.
  • As for MP3’s, Dylan plays through a basic major scale, but altering the timbre of his guitar in the ways that he describes in the video

After Dylan’s timbre techniques and demos, you’ll be on your way to creating your own expressive sounds

Pack 16: Chord Voicing

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh confesses that he is a chord voicing nerd. Dylan first shows you how the principle of chord voicing works and provides practical exercises. A very actively gigging professional, Dylan has heaps of wisdom to share on how to deploy chord voicing in a band context:


    • The theory and practice of chord voicing.
    • Exercises for finding and practicing new chord shapes on your fretboard.
    • How to harmonize a melody.
  • A myriad of practical applications for chord voicing.

With Dylan’s chord voicing guidance, you’ll open your mind and fingers to a world of chordal bliss.

Pack 17: Play it with feeling!

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh believes that “feel” is a word that seems to get thrown around a lot, but it can be a little ambiguous as far as musical adjectives go. Generally, it’s used to describe guitarists that play very “expressively” – in other words, they seem to be expressing a genuine emotion or feeling through their playing. Dylan draws from several strains of thought as he describes how to achieve a deeper connection with the guitar:


  • What it means to play expressively, and how we can break that down in a way that makes a little more sense for the sake of applicable practice.
  • The three primary ingredients for expression on the guitar – the prerequisites to playing expressively.
  • A few good techniques and exercises that you can incorporate into your practice routine that will allow you to start expressing yourself faster.
  • Why and how singing is your most powerful tool for making that deep connection with your guitar – even if you’re not such a good singer.
  • Multi-purpose MP3 backing and demo tracks to practice your mind-instrument connection.

Check out Dylan’s Resource Pack as he reveals the most important and surprising tool for any guitarist to bridge the gap between the amazing music you hear in your head and your ability to bring that expression all the way out on your guitar.

Pack 18: Improvisation 1, 2, 3

When learning to improvise, it’s alarmingly easy to put all of your focus onto note choice and scale work. While important, this sort of work is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other facets that need to be developed if you want to sound like a true master of the instrument. Resident Pro Dylan Welsh demonstrates how three little notes can open up a world of musicality for guitar players:


  • The most important individual elements to develop outside of note choice.
  • How to work on each element individually and in isolation, so nothing gets left out of your routine.
  • How to combine all of the elements while still limiting note choice, thus allowing you to experience just how much freedom you have even when only using 1, 2, or 3 notes.
  • MP3 backing tracks in two different keys and time signatures

This kind of practice is very, very structured and targeted. It may feel like work, but if you put the time in, it will make a massive difference in your improvising (as well as in all other aspects of your guitar playing).

Pack 19: Harmonic Tension and Release

Using tension and release deliberately in your improvising provides the listener with a sense of satisfaction and really helps to take them on a journey through your solo. Once you understand the basic concept, you can apply this to various degrees on the guitar.

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh demonstrates different kinds and levels of harmonic tension, and how to drive them forward to release:


  • How to get the most out of scale and chord tones to really take the listener on a journey.
  • How to use various amounts of chromatism to increase the tension of your solo, thus increasing the feeling of satisfaction from the release of tension.
  • How to play all the wrong notes and still sound good.
  • Bonus: using rhythm, rather than note choice, to introduce additional tension into your solo.
  • MP3 backing tracks to hone in on your improvisation skills with harmonic tension and release.

This kind of practice is very, very structured and targeted. It may feel like work, but if you put the time in, it will make a massive difference in your improvising (as well as in all other aspects of your guitar playing).

Pack 20: I, IV, V, vi Chord Progressions

The various chord progressions with the I, IV, V, and vi chords are so valuable for learning songs fast and playing songs by ear, that Resident Pro Dylan Welsh thinks of them as one of the ultimate guitar hacks!

Dylan unveils a systematic mega-approach to mastering I-IV-V-vi all over the fretboard in every key:


  • How you can very easily find out what the I, IV, V, and vi chords are in any key using patterns found on the guitar fretboard.
  • Running through each of these chords in every position on the guitar.
  • Expediting the process of learning and executing songs efficiently.
  • Practice with memorizing the fretboard.
  • A brief overview of the super-handy CAGED system of fretboard organization.
  • A nice long MP3 backing track for you practicing pleasure.

Getting the I, IV, V, vi chord progressions under your fingers and all over the fretboard like this will free you up tremendously in your ability to learn songs fast and play be ear – even songs you’ve never heard before!

Pack 21: The Play by Ear Process, Part 1: Melody

For Resident Pro Dylan Welsh nothing helps you really own the song that your learning like playing it by ear. And even though you may be ultimately playing chords, transcribing the melody on the fretboard of your guitar will give you a deeper understanding of what the music is all about:


  • Why it is so important to transcribe melodic figures.
  • How it will make you a better musician and guitarist.
  • Why it’s important to figure out vocal melodies by ear on your guitar.
  • Dylan’s own process for transcribing melodies.
  • A couple of quick tips to help make the process go faster when you’re first starting out.
  • How to use scales to make the whole thing much easier.
  • The relationship between playing by ear and improvising.
  • A play-by-ear and improvisation/phrasing exercises.
  • Two MP3 tracks that go along with the exercises.

Playing melodies by ear doesn’t have to be so hard if you learn a little about how music works and how it all maps out on your guitar fretboard. Enjoy Dylan’s refreshing approach!

Pack 22: The Play by Ear Process, Part 2: Basslines

You may be surprised to learn that there are tons of benefits to learning basslines by ear, even as guitar players. It’s an important skill to develop if you want to be able to see the big picture of a song. The entire dynamics of the melody and chords can be unlocked by the understanding the bass.

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh shares the many ways learning basslines by ear will expand your playing and musical awareness:


  • How learning basslines by ear will improve your musicianship and ability to learn chords by ear.
  • How it can actually bring about benefits to your guitar playing.
  • Dylan’s own process for figuring out bass lines.
  • How to figure out chord progressions (or at least get close) using only information that the bass line provides you.
  • Five crucial exercises with MP3 tracks to take you step-by-step through the process.

Pack 23: The Play by Ear Process, Part 3: Chords

We can often predict the next chord in a progression – our ears intuitively just know what should come next. However, sometimes you hear a chord in a song that just… throws you off.

Thankfully, there are numerous ways you can figure out the mystery chord. In this month’s instrument pack, Dylan Welsh shares his intuitive, ear-based approach:


  • A description of various chord qualities you’ll come across besides major and minor
  • How to use the bassline to hear the root of a chord
  • How to use emotional qualifiers to determine the quality of a chord
  • MP3 tracks with modified chord progressions so you can hear the differences in chord quality

By listening for the moods or emotional qualifiers of chords, you can easily and intuitively determine what kind of chord you’re hearing – and contextualize it in the progression you hear it in.

Pack 24: The Play by Ear Process, Part 4: Chord Progressions

Coming soon!

Pack 25: The Play by Ear Process, Part 5: Rhythm

Rhythm is an intrinsic and important part of playing guitar – strumming is percussive, and lends character and structure to your playing. Guitar pro Dylan Welsh dives into the rhythmic aspect of playing guitar, using examples to show how you can break down complex rhythms into their constituent upstrokes and downstrokes.


  • Relating upbeats and downbeats to upstrokes and downstrokes on your instrument
  • Breaking down the rhythm of a specific guitar part to make it easier to learn
  • Tips and tricks for composing and improvising your own rhythm guitar parts
  • Exercises and MP3 tracks with rhythm guitar examples in three different styles

Dylan’s method for recognizing and playing rhythms works for everything from simple riffs to complex solos, and really gets to the root of the connection between strumming and rhythm.

Pack 26: My Play By Ear Process

An excellent trick for learning anything is breaking it down into smaller parts – smaller – smaller… perfect!

Dylan’s approach to learning Bass Pro Steve Lawson’s tune relies on breaking the song down into workable pieces – part-by-part, chord-by-chord, and in some places, note-by-note.


  • Honing in on three key elements: melody, harmony, and structure
  • Counting measures to determine the lengths of different parts of the song
  • Extrapolating a chord progression from a bassline using solfa
  • MP3 tracks of the original, plus various arrangements created by Dylan for you to practice playing along with

Dylan’s clear-cut, structural approach makes use of music theory and intuitive techniques to learn a song by ear without getting overwhelmed.

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