Play guitar, ukulele or bass this year

cropped-guitar.jpgThe school year has started and lesson slots are filling up rapidly. If you are thinking about guitar, ukulele, bass, (jazz) theory lessons, stop thinking and contact me for a free trial lesson. There are a few bi-weekly slots open too. Don’t miss out! 

I look forward hearing from you.



1753 Chord Melody: back to basics


Students regularly ask me about my approach to solo jazz guitar and especially the improvisational part to it. Do I learn licks, special chord runs, is the improvisation actually more like an arranged variation of the piece, can you still play single line and the list goes on. In this post I will have a look at one of the approaches I may take playing a piece and creating room for added lines. I will refer to it as the 17 53 approach.


17 53

While accompanying someone or when you are playing and improvising as a solo guitarist, it is good to remember that a lot of guitar playing in those situations is more about implying than actual playing. Chord melody does not mean that every note needs to be played using a chord. One thing that has helped me through is the so called 17 53 approach. I look at the chords of a piece and rather than playing all these fancy chords I stick with the basic seventh chords. These chords always consist of 4 tones: root, 3rd, 5th, 7th. One way of implying harmony and movement is by using the combination root (1) seventh (7) and fifth (5) and third (3) as combination double stops to imply the full chord. the great thing about playing just two notes is that you’ll free up at least two fingers to add in some melodic lines. Besides that the third and seventh of the chords are perfect guide tones for any melodic improvisation that keeps outlining the underlying harmony. You can do this fingerstyle as well as with a pick.

Below I worked out this combination for a Fmaj7, F7, Fm7, Fm7b5 and Fdim.

fmaj7 f7



Application in Bb Blues

If we use this in a Bb blues this could be one of the outcomes:




Now of course you don’t need to keep it rhythmically stale as set out above, remember that it is an illustration of how things could work out on the harmony side. Also remember that this is a great way to add a sense of movement without going overboard on fancy chords. The options only grow when you start adding in chord substitutions and chromatic passing chords. It creates a nice canvas waiting to be painted upon and leaves at least two fingers free to start painting a picture. In a next post we”ll have a look at this conceptual approach and start making real music.

All the chord examples are available as a pdf here >>>

The blues example can be downloaded as a pdf here >>>

Try it out on your favorite jazz standard. Have fun!


Eric Johnson unplugged: a big wow

Eric Johnson, a well known guitar ace, especially known for his Grammy Award winning rock instrumental “Cliffs of Dover” has come out with a new album “EJ”, which is a collection of thirteen completely acoustic songs. We knew that Johnson knew his way around the acoustic guitar from songs such as “Song for George” and “Tribute to Jerry Reed” but his new acoustic album took me by surprise.

Check out this capture of Mrs Robinson (the opening track and a well know Simon and Garfunkel song) live from the House of Blues Houston.


Check out the complete album on Spotify.

Get more out of that G-run, yeeh-hah

guitarWith  many of my students I work on improvisation and developing  runs. In this lesson In will use a classic bluegrass run to show how you can get much more out of it in terms of developing solo ideas and phrases.  In this lesson we will use a standard run from the bluegrass genre and see where it might take us when creating our own break over a standard chord progression. 

The run we’ll use is a G major run, essentially a G major blues scale (G major pentatonic plus minor third or so you wish the E blues scale started on the G note). Ultimately we will use the lesson material to play a break over the following common chord progression ( BIG SANDY RIVER).

||: G  |  G  |  D  |  D  |

  |  G  |  G  |  D  |  G  :||

||: G  |  C  |  D   |  G  |

  |  G  |  C  |  D   |  G  :||

The G major blues scale run

Ok,  here  we go.

Ex. 1


We could also do this run in a closed  position (no open strings)



First of all transpose the run to C and D


Play it backwards

Ex 4


I’ll leave it up to you to play this in closed position and to transpose it to C and D.

Playing around with these six notes we can come up with alternatives.

Playing  around with the notes

Ex 5  Start at a different place in time


Ex 6 Leave out the root


Adding notes

Ex 7 Adding the flat 7th


Ex 8 Adding the flat 7th


While all examples are in G I leave it up to you to transpose.

Application of what was learned: Big Sandy River break/solo

Time to apply what we have been doing so far to a real life situation: a break over the chord structure of Big Sandy River, a bluegrass standard. A melody arrangement of the tune can be found here >>>









Experiment with hammer-on pull-off etc, remember that this is alternate picked (on the beat down, off the beat up) and if you have a question let me know. Below a you tube video of Big Sandy River for some extra inspiration.

All the examples and the break are available as a pdf here >>>


Have fun!

Lesson: using the different timbres of the guitar

What many string instruments have in common is that you can play the same note in different places. If you try this out, you’ll find that while playing on paper the same note, they sound a little bit different in the different places.

All tab examples can be played finger-style or with a pick. By clicking on the image it will open in a new tab. All examples are available as a pdf here >>>

Ex. 1


When I talk about timbre here I am talking about the tone quality or tone color produced by playing a note or a chord on your guitar. Over time I have found that using the timbre is important for your guitar playing and assists in adding expression to your music.
I suggest you play Ex. 1 with a pick, with your fingers, with your thumb so you may become aware of how much difference this all makes.

When I am to play a melody (a solo) and or an arrangement of a piece, I consider the different options. In this context, I might also look at the question of having notes of a melody ring together, can I use open strings. Choices to make include but are not limited to:

  • key
  • pick or fingers
  • what type of pick
  • closed position playing, open position playing or a mix of both
  • capo to facilitate specific open string positions

Mary did you know?

In example 2 we will look at the opening phrase of Mary did you know and work this out in different places on the neck to compare timbre and tonal quality while also looking at the option of letting certain notes ring together.

Ex. 2

Let all notes ring together for as long as you can.
The pos. III type of phrasing already sounds slightly warmer and allows for the option of letting notes ring together most notably the last three notes before striking the chord.

We’re going to move up a little bit more on the neck, and see how that sounds.





Adding in a Capo

In think we have a clear idea of how different fingerings make a difference for how the melody will project. Since there is something really beautiful about open strings, Example 3 makes use of a Capo on the 3rd fret.







As for me personally, I prefer to play the song as in the last option, which gives the melody a harp like quality especially when we let all notes ring as long as possible.

Here is how Andres Segovia explains it with some more options added in:




Merry Christmas!

Just a quick merry Christmas to all of you and may Christ’s blessings be all over your 2017!



14907046_10154708358728216_7909603958584298655_nYou landed on the blog of John Dierckx Music Studio, thanks for coming here and checking things out! This is the place where I will be sharing general information about guitar, bass, ukulele and theory tutoring, free lessons and over time subscriber (and enrolled student) only material. It will be the place to go to check out any news about live music, whether it be a concert, a commercial or private engagement, newly recorded material. This site is the hub to lessons, my live music agenda, anything of importance to the tutoring practice or music videos that I believe are important to share with my students and the wider audience.

So go and explore and of course let me know what you think!

I look forward to getting to know you (better)!

Spring is here, time for a clean-up

14907046_10154708358728216_7909603958584298655_nIt’s been a very long time since I posted here. That’s not because I did not care but because I was busy teaching and playing live. It is spring here and thus time for a big spring clean-up and major overhaul of the site. In the coming year there will be lesson tabs, arrangements, video and audio recordings (plus tabs), easier navigation. There will be subscriber only content and I am working hard on instructional booklets that can be purchased, materials that go deeper into certain aspects of guitar, ukulele and bass playing. 

There will be less categories and better use of tags (f.i. blues, jazz, bluegrass as a tag to lesson together with the applicable instrument).  Smart phones have made live so much easier and the recording quality is so much better!

In terms of live music; for the last years I have been trying to get a clearer view on my own identity (am I a Christian who happens to be a musician or a Christian musician?). I have now come to a point where I know what I am supposed to be doing both in terms of teaching and playing. It has meant a lot of (again) reinventing myself, which has resulted in a broader scope musically. 

Live music is now under the banner “Music With a Heart for God”. That does not mean that I play Christian music only but reflects the different focus I have when I come and play live. It is not to impress but to express, not to be seen and heard but to serve and entertain. I hope that you will notice the difference and if you did not know me before, I hope you enjoy! This change in attitude has had great results and has made the playing so much easier. When you are no longer out there to be seen (and admired) there is so much more freedom in your music and it has resulted in much more work live and better teaching results than ever. You know you are on the right track when parents email you to say that their sons or daughters seem so much more motivated and when students and/or their parents start realizing and expressing that they are moving forward faster than ever.


Anyway, I hope to see you all back and if there are any posts you particularly like, I suggest you save them as I cannot guarantee that they will be up there much longer.

Love and blessings to all of you!


Simple Chord Substitutions Minor-Major Parallel

You are working on a song and strumming away. Lets say C goes to F goes to A min goes to G. While it all sounds good, at the same time it sounds a bit familiar. It feels like you are playing a thousand other songs, yet you are trying to create something new. How can you shake it up a bit? How can you find that chord progression -and eventually song – that sounds like it is your own? One way forward is to use chord extensions and chord substitutions. Extending a few chords or substituting them for something else may just be your way forward to lift up your chord progression or come up with new melodic ideas. Particularly with so called diatonic extensions or substitutions you can subtly change the mood or sound of those same old chord progressions while leaving in tact the basic movement of the song. In this lesson we’ll try some simple chord extensions and substitutions.

Chord Substitutions: Minor Major Parallel Chords

Sometimes the atmosphere of a piece can be changed dramatically through the use of minor and major parallels. What I mean here is that a major chord could potentially be replaced by its minor parallel (three frets down) and any minor chord by its major parallel (three frets up). Amazing new colors can be made by just this one simple idea.

As an example: here is the first part of the melody of a song called “Ten Penny Bit”.








The chords to go with this melody are in its simplest form

||:  Amin  | Emin  | Amin |   D     |  Amin  | Emin | Amin Emin | Emin Amin :||


Now we could change this using the minor an major parallel chords for each chord.

  • Amin –> C
  • Emin –> G
  • D –> Bmin

This would leave us with the following chord progression

||:  C  |  G  |  C  |  Bmin |   C   |  G   |  C   G   | G   C  :||

Try it out and you will hear that the melody get a different character.

Now we could combine the two options and you would get something like this:

||:  Amin C | G Emin | Amin  C  | Bmin D  | C  Amin | G Emin | Amin Emin | G  Amin  :||


I have found this simple tool very helpful in songwriting and arranging (especially solo acoustic/ electric) so go and have some fun with this.


Student Testimony: Thanks so Much Bayley


 John is an amazing guitarist and guitar teacher, in the time that he has been teaching me I have noticed a massive improvement on my playing in all aspects of guitar. John is not just an amazing guitar teacher but he will also go out of his way to help students out with their performances or music help. I am currently doing NCEA level one and just today I txt John and said “hey would you be able to help me out with a composition” he was happy to help and we sat down at lunch break and he helped me to get it in on time, thanks John you’re the man!

Now for my part, it is amazing to be a teacher to a talented young man like Bayley and to see him grow as a guitar player, a musician and as a human. It is students like yourself that make me realize that being a mentor is an absolutely amazing job. Thanks for challenging me and getting me out of any comfort zone I may have. Thanks for making me steeping it up on a daily basis.

It is an absolute joy if you are learning new things, develop deeper into certain techniques because you have students that drive you there, maybe not from a playing perspective always but most certainly from a teaching perspective! It’s guys like yourself that keep me as a teacher on my toes, developing, eager to search for new materials and most of all happy.

Cheers bro!