Talking music with XIMXIA

How can you really make it in the music industry? 

XIMXIA is a Top 20 Billboard charting singer/songwriter/instrumentalist. She stopped by the Fret Zealot studio to talk about all things music, including how to make Spotify work for you, and balance music and a day job. 


Q.) What genre is your music project?

A.) My music project spans a lot of genres. Genre is such a hard question to answer because these days, like, what is a genre and does it even matter in so many ways?  But right now, I write a lot of pop music, I start on the piano with something acoustic and then I turn it into something electronic. At first, it was more EDM and more pop EDM, and now it’s a little bit more indie electronic and exploring and seeing where the different sounds are taking me. I love that.


Q.) How did you get your solo project going? 

A.) It’s taken me a minute to get my actual pop project started. I’ve played in indie rock bands a lot of my life and loved it, and been working with a lot of other people. And then, just different things happened that made me want to do my own thing because I had total creative control over my own project. And so when that happened, I started finding producers that I could work with because I didn’t know how to produce back then. I’m still learning how to produce, but I try to do more of it myself.


Q.) How long have you been playing keys?

A.) I started playing piano when I was like three years old and loved playing classical piano. I think classical piano is translated into my pop music a few different ways. I think one way is just in the way I hear melody. I’m so used to listening to Chopin or Mozart, these incredible melodic artists.And so I think I’m able to write melodies that really draw on all of that. And so they sound kind of familiar, actually, but they’re different.  I also think it’s made me so comfortable with the piano.  It’s just something that I can sit and just things come out of me at the piano, and I don’t have to worry about what it is or how it’s happening. And it’s just enabled me to really express myself because I have that really strong background.


Q.) What is your songwriting process like?

A.)  If I’m doing something on my own, I usually have either a topic or something that I know I want to write about, something that’s happening in my life, and then I sit down at the piano, play out some chords, think about some different melodies, and think about this theme that I have,  and how can I make it into a chorus. I always start with the chorus. When I’m writing with other people, because sometimes I’ll top line for other people,  meaning they’ll give me the track, and then I’ll write on top of that.  I always start with that theme or the topic, because at the end of the day, me as an artist is about what I want to say to people and what I want to communicate.

Q.) How were you able to crack the Billboard Top 20? 

A.) It was my very first track that I put out. It was called “Don’t Follow Me”, and I did it with this amazing producer out of LA. His name is Ted Currie, and he had some connections to a bunch of remixers, and so those remixers, they work with different DJs so they can get things played through clubs. We got the song remixed by Dave Audet, who’s this very famous remixer who’s remixed everything – Leanne Rimes and I think Celine Dion, all these amazing people – and Chris Cox, who’s this also amazing DJ out of Las Vegas, and we got these remixes together, and because of their connections, we were able to get it basically played in the clubs, and I guess people liked it enough that they kept playing it,  so it was very, very cool. It was very exciting to get that.


Q.) How has social media changed the way artists put out music?

A.) Social media obviously has been a huge game changer, including TikTok, right? You see people all of a sudden get big on TikTok, and then people really rely on their TikTok numbers for their streaming numbers, which has been amazing. It’s so amazing to watch artists who just really flourish from TikTok. But then also I think it’s the genre. I think it’s the lack of genre that we have because people are so open to hearing different things and are so open to hearing new things on social media that now genre is really—those lines are erasing, and we’re able to see a lot more crossover, which I think is really fun.


Q.) What are your tips for being successful on Spotify?

A.)  How to make Spotify work is a big question. I think there’s so many people out there that will tell you, too, how they can make it work or how you can make it work. The thing I’ve learned is that no one actually knows what is going to work for you. I think the thing I tell absolutely everyone is before you spend money on someone telling you how to make your Spotify work, really question whether they’ve done it recently and whether they’ve done it with an artist like you, because it changes a lot. It used to be all about play listing, and you would pay to get on playlists or do different things to get onto playlists. And now the play listing matters on some level, but not the same. I think the biggest thing to do that I’ve seen works for most people I know is to release consistently. If you release consistently, then the algorithm can pick you up. And if you keep doing things like sharing your music, I know so many people who release music, but then they don’t share it with their friends or ask their friends to stream it. And if you ask your friends to stream your song, it slowly, you start the momentum, and then the more songs you put out, the more you can get your stuff heard. 


Q.) What are your tips for dealing with stage fright?

A.) Stage fright, I think, first of all, it’s very normal. I think a lot of people have it, and everyone gets it at some point, I really think. The best advice I got was from a friend of mine who’s a neuroscientist who explained that the same chemicals that produce excitement are the same chemicals that produce nerves. So it’s really about the story that you’re telling yourself. So when I’ve been very nervous or what I perceive as nervous, I tell myself, wow, Lauren, I’m really excited. I’m really excited for this performance, and then I imagine how I want to feel, especially how I want to feel at the end of the performance and how I want to make people feel. And so that way, if I keep focusing on, okay, for me, it’s always like I want people to feel love. I want people to feel really connected. I want people to feel really open, and like they’ve just witnessed something that is really honest and made them more connected to themselves.


Q.) What’s next for you, musically?

A.) I think the biggest thing I’m focusing on is trying to get more performances and figuring out how to connect with audiences more. I used to get so worried about, oh, I want to perform what I want to perform, and my music, I want it to sound like the way I want it to sound. And yes, of course I do want it to sound like the way I want it to sound. I’m not saying that. But I also want to know what affects people. I’m not saying like, also, what do people like to hear? Because I’ve fallen into that trap, too, of like, well, people are going to like it if I sound more commercial, so I should sound more commercial. That is like an empty feeling and really, at the end of the day, left me feeling really empty. So instead, right now, I’m just trying to think about what will connect with people and what will bring people that love and that honesty feeling that I want people to get from my shows.


Iconic guitars of famous guitarists

Famous guitarists often have many guitars – and some even have their own signature guitars made for mass production. However, some guitars are so famous (or infamous) that they have a legacy of their own. 

Here are some famous guitars and the musicians who wield them: 


Prince – ‘Cloud’

A true innovator, Prince played a number of unusual looking guitars, including his “Symbol” guitar. His most iconic instrument was the “Cloud” guitar, which was custom-built for him by a Minneapolis luthier, Dave Rusan, who had owned a guitar shop that Prince frequented as a teen. Prince commissioned a guitar from him for his film Purple Rain, but didn’t give him much to work with for parameters, besides using a bass guitar the musician owned as inspiration. “He said to take the bass as a starting point,” Rusan recalls. “It’s got to be white, it has to have gold parts, he already knew he liked EMG pickups, so it had to have those, he said it had to have spades on the fingerboard. A lot of people think they’re dots, but they’re actually little spades. He wanted one on the truss rod cover.”

Jimmy Page – double-neck Gibson EDS-1275

“Jimmy Page with Robert Plant 2 – Led Zeppelin – 1977” by Jim Summaria, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The double-neck Gibson EDS-1275 (created in 1963) was no longer in production when Jimmy Page wanted one, according to a 2007 biography – so he had one custom-made in the color cherry. Page popularized the guitar, especially during live performances of “Stairway to Heaven”. He would use the bottom six-string neck for the intro and first verse before switching to the 12-string top neck, and back and forth throughout the song. 


George Harrison – Rickenbacker 12-string

George Harrison got his first Rickenbacker 12-string during The Beatles’ first U.S. tour in 1964. The guitar’s unique sound can be heard on most of A Hard Day’s Night and several other songs, including “Ticket to Ride” and “I Call Your Name”. 

BB King – “Lucille”

The King of Blues famously named all of his guitars – usually Gibson ES-355 or variants – Lucille. King said the name originated in the late 1940s, when he was playing a show in Arkansas. A fight broke out in the venue, causing a fire and forcing King and the crowd to evacuate. King returned to rescue his guitar and found out that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. As a reminder not to fight over women or tempt fate by entering any more burning buildings, he named the guitar (and all the subsequent guitars) Lucille. 


Stevie Ray Vaughan –  Fender Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughan nicknamed his favorite guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, “Number One” (also “First Wife”). He originally acquired the guitar at an Austin music store in 1974 and it was featured on almost every recording he did with Double Trouble. In 1992, Vaughan released a signature guitar model based on the guitar called the Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster. 

Eddie Van Halen – “Frankenstrat” 

“Frankenstrat” by Jared W. Smith is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Hoping to get the sound of a classic Gibson guitar with the tremolo bar of a Fender Stratocaster, Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen put his mad scientist cap on to create the “Frankenstrat”. Kramer Guitars – the first company to be endorsed by Van Halen – built a “Frankenstrat” replica, and at that time, Van Halen replaced the original neck with a Kramer Pacer neck. 

Brian May – “Red Special”

“File:Brian-May with red special.jpg” by Eddie Mallin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Queen guitarist Brian May also took a DIY approach with his most iconic instrument. Most of his guitar work, both live and in the studio, is done on a guitar he built with his electronics engineer father at age 16. The guitar, called the “Red Special” was made out of wood from an 18th century fireplace, as well as items like buttons, shelf edging, and motorcycle valve springs.

Slash – Gibson Les Paul

“Slash en Vivo!” by Edvill is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Slash is a prolific guitar collector, but he prefers the Gibson Les Paul – he called it  “the best all-around guitar for me” in a 2008 interview.  His main studio guitar is a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard replica and his main live guitar for many years was a 1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard. Slash has also collaborated with Gibson on 17 signature Les Paul models since 1997, including the Epiphone Slash “AFD” Les Paul Special-II. 


Kurt Cobain – “Jag-Stang” 

Left-handed Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain pitched the idea of a combination Jaguar and Mustang guitar to Fender by taking Polaroid pictures of both guitars and pasting them together. He received two prototypes from the company, one of which he used, and only for a handful of performances. 

Learn these songs by Irish bands on guitar with Fret Zealot

For St. Patrick’s Day, try learning these songs by Irish bands and artists with Fret Zealot! 


Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town 

“The Boys Are Back in Town” is Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy’s most popular song, but the hit wasn’t even among the ten songs chosen by the band for their “Jailbreak” album. Guitarist Scott Gorham said that two radio DJs in Louisville, Kentucky played the song constantly, until other local radio stations began to pick it up

Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars

According to Snow Patrol lead singer Gary Lightbody, the phrase “chasing cars” came from his father’s advice about a girl Lightbody was infatuated with. Lightbody said his dad said, “”You’re like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it and you just wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did.”


U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday 

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” is one of iconic Irish rock band U2’s signature songs, and it’s one of their most political songs. The lyrics are from the point of view of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland, focusing on the “Bloody Sunday” event of 1972 when British military shot and killed unarmed protesters in Derry. 


U2 – With or Without You 

With or Without You” was featured in NBC’s sitcom “Friends” as the theme song for Ross and Rachel’s relationship. 

U2 – All I Want is You

U2 released this song as a moderately-performing single in 1989. It was featured in the soundtrack for 1994’s Reality Bites, which made it popular enough to re-release as a single, cracking the U.S. Top 40 charts. 

Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl

A huge hit for Northern Irish singer Van Morrison, “Brown-Eyed Girl” is the most downloaded and played song from the 1960s as of 2015. 


These are just the video lessons available on Fret Zealot – check out the app, which has 250,000 song tracks available including Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and more! 


Learn these Jimi Hendrix songs with Fret Zealot

Want to learn how to play Jimi Hendrix songs?

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was one of the pioneers of utilizing guitar amplifier feedback artistically, and helped to popularize tone-altering pedals like fuzz distortion, wah-wah, and Uni-Vibe. 

Here are some Jimi Hendrix songs you can learn with Fret Zealot. 



Hey Joe

This three-part lesson will walk you through the intro, chords, and solo for “Hey Joe”. “Hey Joe” was one of the first songs Hendrix performed regularly with his group “Jimmy James and the Blue Flames”. It was the last song he played at Woodstock in 1969, and was the final song of the whole festival.

Purple Haze

This 1967 classic includes Hendrix’s inventive playing, including his signature “Hendrix chord”, also known as a 7#9 chord.

Wild Thing

This song was originally released by American band The Wild Ones and more famously covered by The Troggs. However, The Jimi Hendrix Experience took their version of “Wild Thing” to the next level at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, when Hendrix set his guitar on fire at the end of the song.

Foxey Lady

This track, one of Hendrix’s best known songs, also features the “Hendrix chord”, as well as amplifier feedback. 


All Along the Watchtower 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s cover of this Bob Dylan song took on a life of its own. In 1995, Dylan said that Hendrix’s interpretation of his song inspired him. “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”

Little Wing

According to a 1999 biography, the idea for “Little Wing” came about when the Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. “I got the idea like, when we were in Monterey and I was just looking at everything around. So I figured that I take everything I see around and put it maybe in the form of a girl maybe, somethin’ like that, you know, and call it ‘Little Wing’, and then it will just fly away,” Hendrix explained. “Everybody’s really flyin’ and they’re really in a nice mood, like the police and everybody was really, really great out there. So I just took all these things and put them in one very, very small little matchbox, you know, into a girl and then do it. It was very simple, but I like it though.”




Learn these ABBA songs on guitar with Fret Zealot

Learn these Lynyrd Skynyrd songs with Fret Zealot


Good guitar habits to develop

Whether you’re just starting out on guitar or have been playing for years, developing and implementing good guitar habits will help make your practices more productive and help you level up your skills faster.


Here are some good guitar habits to develop:


Play along with the radio 

Playing along with the radio (or streaming service, or another musician) is a great way to help make sure your rhythm is on point and consistent. It’s also a good idea to practice with a metronome.

Learn something new every week

Practicing the same scales and chords over and over again gets dull and doesn’t challenge you to improve. Try learning a new song that is more challenging, or learn a completely new style (flamenco guitar, anyone?) 

Record yourself (and listen back)

Listening back to your playing will help you see what’s working, and what needs improvement. It’s easier to be objective about how your playing sounds when you’re listening to a recording of it, rather than trying to listen as you’re playing. You’ll also get a better sense of how your tone sounds. To record yourself, you can simply use your phone’s voice recorder function, or use a simple software program like Audacity. 

Practice covers that are trending

Pick a song that’s going viral on TikTok, and learn how to play it on guitar. The song might not be your cup of tea, but learning and arranging new songs will keep your playing fresh. Plus, it’s great content! 

Practice playing standing up

If you’re a performer (or hope to be), practicing playing standing up will help you be prepared for the stage. 


Learn a guitar legend’s signature style 

Learning to play in the style of greats like Slash or Stevie Ray Vaughan can help keep your brain sharp – as well as teaching you some new tricks you can incorporate into your own playing! 

Practice good guitar maintenance

Your guitar needs some TLC to keep it in top condition. Check out this guide to guitar maintenance to make sure you’re taking care of your instrument. 

Famous songs that are actually covers

Sometimes an artist covers an already existing song and creates a version so iconic that it eclipses the original – think Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” or Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” (originally by Otis Redding). 


Here are some songs you might not realize are covers: 

“Hurt” – Johnny Cash (originally Nine Inch Nails) 

Typically you see newer artists covering songs from artists of a slightly older generation. Johnny Cash flipped that convention on its head in 2002 when he covered “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails (originally released in 1995) to much critical acclaim. Trent Reznor, who wrote the song, praised the cover to Alternative Press in 2004, saying “that song isn’t mine anymore”


“Feelin’ Alright” – Joe Cocker (originally Traffic) 

“Feelin’ Alright: was a huge hit for Joe Cocker – charting in the U.S. and Canada on its release in 1969 and again during its re-release in 1972. The song was actually written and released by English band Traffic for their eponymous 1968 album and was released as a single but failed to chart in the U.S. or the U.K. 


“The Man Who Sold the World” – Nirvana (originally David Bowie)

What did David Bowie think of Nirvana’s cover of his 1970 song? 

“I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering ‘The Man Who Sold the World'” and that “it was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest,” Bowie said. “It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking with him would have been real cool.”


“Black Magic Woman” – Santana (originally Fleetwood Mac)

“Black Magic Woman” is one of Santana’s biggest hits, but it started out as a song for another huge band. The song originally appeared as a single for Fleetwood Mac in 1968 – founding band member Peter Green wrote it, inspired by his former girlfriend Sandra Elsdon, whom he nicknamed “Magic Mamma”. For Santana, the song charted at number four in the U.S. and Canada, making it the better-known version. 

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix (originally Bob Dylan)

“All Along the Watchtower” is actually a Bob Dylan song, but Hendrix’s 1968 version is so iconic that it influenced the way Dylan performs his own song, to the extent that they’ve been called “covers of a cover”. 


“Girls Just Wanna  Have Fun” Cyndi Lauper (originally Robert Hazard) 

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is synonymous with 1980s chanteuse Cyndi Lauper, but the playful song was originally written and recorded by musician Robert Hazard, who had a completely different interpretation of the song. 


“I Love Rock and Roll” – Joan Jett (originally Arrows) 

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts popularized “I Love Rock & Roll” – the song is the group’s highest-charting hit. It was originally written and recorded by British rock band Arrows, as a response to the Rolling Stone’s “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).  Jett saw the band performing their song on their weekly UK TV series while she was in England touring with The Runaways.


“Me and Bobby McGee” – Janis Joplin (originally Roger Miller) 


Guitarists who don’t use a pick

Most guitar players use a pick – or plectrum – but some find it more comfortable to simply strum with their fingers. Using just your fingers is known as “fingerstyle”  or “fingerpicking”, and is used in classical guitar, as well as folk, country, blues, and rock music. 

Here are some guitarists who said “no pick, no problem”. 


“Albert King” by mtphrames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.


Albert King



One of the three “Kings of the Blues” (alongside B.B. and Freddie King), Albert King is revered as one of the most influential blues guitarists ever. As a self-taught, left-handed guitar player, King flipped right-handed guitars upside down and used open drop tunings in his playing. He also played without a pick, because he couldn’t hold onto one, King told Guitar Player magazine.” “I started out playing with one, but I’d be really gettin’ into it, and after a while the pick would sail across the house, King said. “I said to hell with this. So I just play with the meat of the thumb.”






Jeff Beck

Starting his career as one of the members of The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck stopped using a pick in the 1980s. Instead, he used innovative fingerstyle methods, using his thumb to pluck the guitar strings and his ring finger on the volume knob, while his pinky finger worked the vibrato bar. By adjusting the volume while playing the string, he was able to replicate a human voice. 

Lindsay Buckingham

“Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks” by dhaun is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsay Buckingham shuns using a pick, outside of occasional use in the studio.”I started playing very young and from early on, the people I was listening to had some element of finger style,” Buckingham told Guitar World in 2012. “It’s just the way I came up. I wasn’t taught. I just sort of figured things out on my own terms. I guess that was one of the ways that I became comfortable and it just kind of set in.”

Derek Trucks

“Derek Trucks” by CLender is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Former Allman Brothers guitarist and current Tedeshi Trucks Band guitarist Derek Trucks plays fingerstyle, like a lot of slide blues guitar players. Using your fingers while playing slide allows you to mute the strings that you aren’t playing to avoid buzzing.

Mark Knopfler

“Mark Knopfler en Bilbao” by aherrero is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Guitarist and singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler, who played in British rock band Dire Straits, started developing his signature fingerpicking style while playing in a band called Brewers Droop. He was hanging out with friends and picked up the only available guitar, an acoustic with a badly warped neck. He found the guitar impossible to play unless he used his fingers. “I was doing things with my fingers that I couldn’t do with a pick – really fast things and what have you,” Knopfler told Guitar Player.

U.S. presidents who played musical instruments

U.S. presidents are typically famous – or infamous – for their policy decisions or notable quotes. However, many past presidents also had musical abilities. 


Here are some U.S. presidents who played musical instruments: 

Thomas Jefferson

“Biography of Thomas Jefferson (Third President 1801-1809)” by Tony Fischer Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Third president and Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson called music “the favorite passion of my soul”. He played violin and cello throughout his life. Jefferson claimed that as a young man he practiced three hours a day and performed at weekly concerts at the Governor’s House while studying in Williamsburg, Virginia.


John Quincy Adams

While serving as secretary of state, Adams helped to shape the Monroe Doctrine, a foreign policy that opposes European colonization in the west. He was also an accomplished flutist. He wrote his own songs while attending Harvard, where he participated in the Musical Society of Harvard. 



John Tyler

Before he became the tenth President of the United States, John Tyler dreamed of becoming a concert violinist. He eventually gave up the violin to practice law, but returned to the instrument following his presidency, playing with his guitarist wife, Julia. 


Harry S. Truman 

Truman began taking piano lessons at age 7. His instructor once took him backstage at the Shubert Theatre in Kansas City to meet famous pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski. At age 15, he gave up studying the piano, resigned to focus on work. However, he did occasionally tickle the ivories in his professional life, including playing piano for the Kennedys and their dinner guests in 1961. 

Richard Nixon

“NixonPiano,1962” by Los Angeles Times is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Nixon was able to play five instruments – piano, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, and violin – though he never learned how to read music. His mother had insisted that he practice the piano every day, and in seventh grade he took lessons with his aunt, who had attended the Indianapolis Conservatory of Music. During a 1963 appearance on the Jack Paar Program, the then- Former Vice-President Nixon played a song he wrote. During his presidency, he played “Happy Birthday” for Duke Ellington at the White House.


Bill Clinton 

President Bill Clinton famously plays the saxophone – he famously brought the instrument out on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 after securing the Democratic Party nomination. Clinton participated in school band throughout his early years, attending band camp in the Ozarks every summer. He even won first chair in the saxophone section for the Arkansas State Band. 


Barack Obama 

The 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama showcased a talent for singing during his presidency, singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a 2014 fundraiser and then joining an all-star lineup of artists at the White House – including B.B. King and Mick Jagger – to sing the Robert Johnson classic “Sweet Home Chicago”. He also puts out an annual summer Spotify playlist.

Black guitarists who pioneered music genres

Music as we know it today would not exist without Black artists. Black musicians of the 20th and 21st created the genres of what we now call rock, house, country, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, blues, and more. 

While musicians like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and the Beatles are acknowledged as rock pioneers, their musical inspirations – African-American rock and blues artists – are all-too often left out of the conversation. But without the creativity of guitarists like Chuck Berry, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Robert Johnson, there would be no Led Zeppelin, no Cream, no Rolling Stones. 

Black musicians created ragtime (which gave way to jazz), blues, and gospel music – the foundations for rock music. The banjo, a signature of American country music to this day, was created by enslaved Africans and their descendants. Many early country hits were taken from the melodies of hymns performed by Black preachers in the Southern United States. 

Here are just a few of the Black guitarists who pioneered music genres as we know them today. 


Robert Johnson 

Few figures in American musical history have inspired more mystique than Delta bluesman Robert Johnson. Born in Mississippi in 1911, not many details are known of Johnson’s early life. He recorded just 29 songs in his short life, but that body of work proved to be a powerful influence on musicians who followed, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards.

Johnson perfected a method of sounding like two guitar players at once. He played rhythm on the lower strings and melodies on the higher strings, while singing. He pioneered the boogie bass pattern, which was later used by artists like Chuck Berry. Johnson has been described as “an orchestra all by himself” (by Richards). Most famously, the lore around Johnson is that he “sold his soul to the devil” at a crossroads in exchange for legendary talent, a story he recounted in his song “Crossroads”. Johnson died at the age of 27. The definite cause of his death is unknown, but legend says that he was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman he had flirted with. 


                              Chuck Berry 


With songs like “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode”, Chuck Berry earned the nickname “Father of Rock and Roll”. His lyrics spoke to a generation of teens in a way that hadn’t been done before – “He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers,” tweeted Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. “His lyrics shone above others & threw a strange light on the American dream.”

Berry pioneered rock star swagger before the term “rock star” was a thing, with his signature “duck walk”, punchy solos, and signature guitar (a hollow body Gibson ES-350T). His guitar playing welded together country, blues, and R&B to create the distinct “rock & roll” style we know today. 





Freddie King 

Blues legend Freddie King combined Texas and Chicago blues styles – from Texas, the open string style, and from Chicago, the bellowing tones he used.  He incorporated both thumb and fingerpicking in his style. A singer who often recorded instrumental tracks, King’s playing often included vocal nuances, as if the guitar was doing the singing. His attack style and explosive onstage presence – plus his 6’5” frame – earned King the nickname “Texas Cannonball”. 

King provided inspiration for generations of blues and rock guitarists, including Mick Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Lonnie Mack. He was one of the first blues artists to employ a racially integrated group onstage with him. 


Elizabeth Cotten 

Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, born in North Carolina in 1895, was a master of American folk music, although didn’t record her first album until she was 62 – more than half a century after she taught herself to play guitar and banjo. She would secretly borrow her brother’s instruments when she could, flipping them to play left-handed. Cotten created a unique style of playing – simultaneously plucking the bass line while playing the melody on the higher strings. The technique later became known as “Cotten style”. Her song “Freight Train” – which she wrote when she was 11 or 12 – was one of the blueprints for “open tuning” in American folk guitar.

Cotten’s music – including her song “Freight Train”, which she wrote before her teenage years, was beloved by the folk revival moment in the 1960s, and she toured and performed up until her death in 1987. She won a Grammy for her live album in 1985, and her songs have been covered by Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, among many other artists.


Jimi Hendrix 

“Jimi Hendrix 1967-cropped waist” by A. Vente is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named Jimi Hendrix the “greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”. Hendrix was of the pioneers of utilizing guitar amplifier feedback artistically, and helped to popularize tone-altering pedals like fuzz distortion, wah-wah, and Uni-Vibe.

Rather than using standard barre chords, Hendrix fretted notes on the 6th string with his thumb. The technique let him to sustain the chord’s root notes while playing the melody, a method sometimes called “piano style”. Hendrix drew from diverse genres including blues, jazz, American folk music, 1950s rock and roll, and soul to create his trademark style, and his music has helped shape the development of heavy metal, hard rock, post-punk, hip-hop and grunge music.

Hendrix influenced many great artists who came after him, including Prince, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robert Smith of The Cure, Black Sabbath , A Tribe Called Quest, Run-DMC, and Halsey. The Greenwich Village studio he commissioned, Electric Lady Studios, has been used by artists like U2, Kanye West, and Lady Gaga. Hendrix received many awards throughout his life and posthumously, including 1968’s “Performer of the Year” by Rolling Stone and was ranked #1 on the same publication’s list of greatest guitarists of all time. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and his debut album, Are You Experienced, was added to the U.S. National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress in 2005. 


Sister Rosetta Tharpe 

With a powerhouse voice and innovative electric guitar solos, Sister Rosetta Tharpe blazed a trail for rock music in the 1930s and 1940s. She included “shredding” in her performances before there was a word for it.  

Sometimes called the “Godmother of rock and roll”, Tharpe was one of the original great recording stars of gospel music, and one of the first recording artists to use distortion on her guitar. She was born in Arkansas in 1915 and started performing gospel music with her mother at age six. At 23, she signed with British label Decca Records and released songs like “Rock Me” and “That’s All”.  Her gospel music also was loved by rhythm and blues and rock and roll audiences, influencing Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Little Richard, among many others.She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. 

BB King

Known as the “King of the Blues” B.B. King is acknowledged as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time. He released over 50 albums over his long career, utilizing his trademark phrasing, use of vibrato, and incredible tone. 

Riley B. King grew up singing in the gospel choir in his Mississippi hometown. The minister there played guitar during services, and taught King his first three chords. King bought his first guitar for $15, a month of his salary at that time. He joined a gospel group to play at area churches before following Delta blues musician Bukka White to Memphis for nearly a year. He performed on local radio programs and had regular gigs at a club in West Memphis. 

King’s nickname “B.B.” came from his nickname at a radio station, where he was a DJ and singer – “Beale Street Blues Boy”, shortened to “Blues Boy” and later, “B.B.”. He was a fixture of the Beale Street blues scene by the late 1940s and 1950s, playing in a group called The Beale Streeters. He was signed to RPM records, and began touring across the U.S. with his band, The B.B. King Review. 

King became one of the biggest names in R&B in the 1950s with hits like “3 O’Clock Blues”, “You Know I Love You”, and “Every Day I Have the Blues”. He started booking major venues like New York’s Apollo Theater, and in 1956 alone, he booked 342 concerts and three recording sessions. 

King prioritized quality over quantity in his playing, using his expressive phrasing to give his guitar a voice. “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille,” King famously said. (Lucille was the name given to all of King’s guitars). 

He utilized a style that became known as the “B.B. Box”, using a pentatonic minor shape down the neck of the guitar and focusing on ⅘ notes. He also stepped outside of the traditional minor pentatonic scale and used microtonal bending – bending notes less than a semi-tone for a subtle effect. 

King was one of the biggest influences for a crop of young musicians in the United Kingdom, including Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. King opened for the Stones’ 1969 American Tour. 



Prince Rogers Nelson possibly led the most innovative musical career of the century, beginning with his debut album – which, at 19, he was able to produce himself through an almost unprecedented clause in his Warner Brothers contract. With complete creative control, Prince pioneered the “Minneapolis sound”, which is a genre of funk rock with synth-pop and new wave elements. His music spanned funk, R&B, rock, new wave, soul, synth-pop, pop, jazz, blues, and hip hop. Prince’s sixth album, Purple Rain, was also the soundtrack to the film of the same title, which he also starred in. Purple Rain also inspired the first “parental advisory” warning label for an album. 

Prince is known for his skill at the guitar, which he taught himself – but as a multi-instrumentalist (he’s estimated to have played 27 instruments) he recorded most of the instrumentals on his albums himself. 

Prince struggled against Warner Brothers to protect his artistic vision over the years, during which he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. After his contract ended in 2000, he went back to his old name and was one of the first artists to put his music out online. Prince established Paisley Park Studios in 1987 – a first-of-its-kind record label to allow artists creative freedom. 


How much do guitar lessons cost?

How much do guitar lessons cost? Traditional private guitar lessons vary in cost based on factors like the length of the lesson and the city in which the lesson takes place. The teacher’s level of expertise also factors into the cost of the lessons. Highly skilled and experienced instructors who can take you beyond the beginner level of guitar will usually charge more for in-person lessons. 


Generally speaking, you can expect a 30-minute lesson to cost anywhere from $30 to $50. Hour-long lessons will of course cost more. 

Another factor to consider when weighing out the cost of guitar lessons is transportation. For in-person lessons, you may have to travel to your instructor’s home or studio, and potentially pay for parking depending on where they are located. Some instructors are able to come to you, however, that convenience may be included in the cost of the lesson. 

Depending on your musical aptitude and how much time you can devote to practicing, it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to a year to become proficient in guitar. If you want to learn advanced guitar techniques including improvising solos, it might take longer. 

Lessons in major cities will cost more than in small towns. Here’s a breakdown of the average costs of lessons in some large cities:


Los Angeles: $40 to $90/hour 

Chicago: $70/hour 

NYC (Queens): $35 to $60/hour 

Boston: $38/hour 

Dallas: $40 to $90/hour 

Orlando: $27/hour

Online lessons can be more cost-effective than in-person lessons, and cut out the cost of traveling. 

Recently, some cities began offering free guitar lessons online through their local libraries. Library streaming service hoopla is now offering free Fret Zealot lessons. You can choose from thousands of lessons from top-rated instructors, from guitar basics to song lessons, to player study courses. 


See if your city offers free online guitar lessons by checking out this map.