Don’t leave home without these guitar accessories

Heading out to jam with friends, play an open mic, or perform at a gig?

Don’t leave without taking these four items with you: 

Guitar pick 

Guitar picks are so tiny, they’re easy to forget – but you don’t want to have to strum without it! Most guitarists have a specific type of pick they prefer, so make sure you have the type of pick you like the best with you before you leave. Always leave an extra pick or two inside of your guitar case. 


Being in tune is crucial to sounding your best, and meshing with other musicians. Make sure your guitar kit includes a tuner – you can buy a clip-on version, or use the tuning function in the Fret Zealot app. 

If you’re playing in alternate tunings, the Fret Zealot app has every tuning available – right in the app! 


A guitar capo is especially useful if you’re playing with a singer and need to easily transpose the key of a song. It’s a clamp that goes onto the guitar neck to act as a “barre”, raising the pitch of the strings.

Guitar strap

Playing with a guitar strap will make it easier to stand up while you’re playing. It will stabilize the guitar against your body so that you can focus on playing, and not worry about accidentally dropping your instrument. 

@fret_zealot Don’t leave home without these! #Guitar #GuitarTok #Guitarist #Musician #FretZealot #stereotypes ♬ original sound – Fret Zealot

Famous left-handed guitar players

Are you a left-handed guitarist? If you are, you’re in good company – some of the biggest guitarists in history are southpaws. 


Jimi Hendrix

“Jimi Hendrix Experience-‘You Got Me Floatin”-1967″ by scottallenonline is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The most famous left-handed guitarist of all time is Jimi Hendrix. Unable to find a left-handed guitar, Hendrix used a right-handed guitar and flipped it over, making some changes to the hardware and switching the strings to make it playable. 


Tony Iommi 

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi is left-handed like his musical hero, Jimi Hendrix. Left-handed guitars were hard to come by in Iommi’s native England, so he played a right-handed Gibson SG upside down. Then, he met a person who played a left-handed guitar upside down, and the two decided to swap guitars. 


Paul McCartney 

The Beatle plays left-handed, although he’s not a true lefty. McCartney is right-hand dominant – however, when he started learning guitar, McCartney was unsuccessful playing right-handed. After seeing a picture of American country music artist Slim Whitman playing left-handed, he realized he could reverse the guitar. He told Guitar Player in 1990 that he can play right-handed, “only enough for parties”. 


Kurt Cobain

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was a natural lefty who was forced to write right-handed. He learned guitar left-handed, and eventually Fender made him left-handed Mustang guitars once the band hit it big. 


Albert King

One of the all-time great blues guitarists, Albert King was left handed and played with his guitar flipped upside down. 

Courtney Barnett

Australian indie rock artist Courtney Barnett plays guitar left-handed. She uses mostly left-handed guitars (low strings at the top, high strings at the bottom). 


Tim Armstrong 

Rancid/Operation Ivy frontman Tim Armstrong  is left-handed and has collaborated with Fender and Gretsch for models of left- and right-handed signature guitars. 

Otis Rush 

Blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Otis Rush was a lefty. He played guitars that were strung with the low E at the bottom. 


Want to learn to play guitar like Kurt Cobain?

Want to learn to play guitar like Kurt Cobain? 

Simply “Come As You Are” with your guitar and take the Kurt Cobain Player Study. This course will teach you Cobain’s signature, genre-defining style, including his use of power chords, pedal effects, and more. 


Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 to a family with a musical background – his uncle, Chuck Fradenburg, played in The Beachcombers. His aunt, Mari Earle, played guitar in local bands throughout Washington state. His great-uncle was an Irish tenor. 

Cobain developed a love of music at an early age. He reportedly started singing at two years old, and started playing the piano at age four, composing his first song – about a trip to a park. 

For his 14th birthday in 1981, Cobain’s uncle let him choose his gift – a bike or a used guitar. Cobain picked the guitar. He learned to play some songs by Led Zeppelin and Queen before starting to write his own songs. He played guitar left-handed, despite being forced to write right-handed. 

“[Repost] Kurt Cobain 19yrs from his gone. I still listen you. Rest in peace.. #kurtcobain #nirvana #5thapril #19yrs #1994 #kurt #cobain #rip” by Takeshi Life Goes On is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As a teen, Cobain met  Roger “Buzz” Osborne, singer and guitarist of the Melvins, who introduced him to punk rock and hardcore music. He formed the band Fecal Matter after dropping out of high school, before meeting Krist Novoselic at The Melvins’ practice space. Novoselic eventually agreed to form a band with Cobain, the start of Nirvana. After putting out their debut album, Bleach, with drummer Chad Channing, the band dropped Channing in favor of Dave Grohl on drums for their 1991 album Nevermind. Nevermind’s lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, catapulted the band to fame. It brought the band to the mainstream and helped bring national attention to the grunge genre. 



Rather than playing with Eddie Van Halen-style speed or intricacy, Kurt Cobain mostly relied on power chords. He played on guitars tuned a whole- or half-step down, and most of his solos were plays on the song’s melody. 

His gear collection was eclectic and made up mostly of budget gear. For the Bleach recording sessions, Cobain had to borrow a Fender Twin Reverb as his main amp was being repaired. The amp’s speakers were blown, so he had to pair it with an external cabinet and two 12” speakers. He played Hi-Flier guitars that were $100 each. 

Cobain was playing an Epiphone ET270 at the start of their 1989 tour before destroying it on stage – as a result, their label would often have to call local pawn shops in the area to find replacements. Cobain’s first acoustic guitar cost $31.21 and the tuners were held together with duct tape, however, it sounded good enough that it was used to record “Polly” and “Something in the Way” on Nevermind. 

“[Repost] Kurt Cobain 19yrs from his gone. I still listen you. Rest in peace.. #kurtcobain #nirvana #5thapril #19yrs #1994 #kurt #cobain #rip” by Takeshi Life Goes On is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


Cobain died in April 1994. He’s often referred to as the spokesman of Gen X for his angst-fueled songwriting. His songs also helped widen the themes of mainstream rock music to more personal reflection and social commentary, 

The 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic-electric guitar Cobain used for Nirvana’s iconic MTV Unplugged performance sold for $6 million in June 2020, making it the most expensive guitar and piece of band memorabilia ever sold. Two years later, Cobain’s Lake Placid Blue Fender Mustang sold for $4.5 million, the second most valuable guitar ever sold. 

Once you capture Kurt Cobain’s signature style, put it to work with these Nirvana song lessons. 

Smells Like Teen Spirit
The lead single from Nevermind, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is considered the “anthem for apathetic kids” from Generation X.

Come As You Are

Cobain originally was reluctant to release “Come As You Are” as Nevermind’s second single due to its similarities to “Eighties” by Killing Joke, but when it was down to “Come As You Are” or “In Bloom”, they eventually went with “Come As You Are”.


About a Girl

Featured on Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, “About A Girl” was reportedly written after Cobain spent an afternoon listening to Meet the Beatles! on repeat. It debuted at an Evergreen State College dorm party in Feb. 1989.


Man Who Sold the World

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.”

All Apologies

The Fab Four played a role in the composition of this Nirvana song. According to Cobain’s manager Danny Goldberg, Cobain played “Norwegian Wood” over and over again for hours while writing the song. 

Guitar terms you need to know

Guitar terminology can sound like a different language when you’re first starting out! Here is a list of terms you’ll need to know. 


Action – Guitar action is the height of the guitar strings over the fretboard. Guitar action is important to pay attention to – if it’s too high, the guitar will be hard to play. If it’s too low, you’ll hear strings buzzing. A common mistake first-time guitar players make is not checking the action.

Alternate Picking – A picking technique that uses alternating downward and upward strokes. If you use alternate picking on a single string, it can be referred to as “tremolo picking”.

Alternate Tunings – There’s standard tuning (EADGBE) and there’s alternate tunings. Alternate tunings involve tuning your guitar in other ways. This can make it easier to play some riffs or power chords, and also change how chords sound. Check out this guide to alternate things here.

Amplifier – Also known as an amp, an amplifier is an electronic device that amplifies the sound of your guitar. It works by strengthening the electrical signal of your instrument’s pickups and produces that sound through a loudspeaker.

Arrangement – A musical adaptation of a piece of music. For example, artists performing a cover song might switch up the rhythm, key, or other aspects of the song to create a unique arrangement.

Arpeggio – Arpeggios are when the notes of a chord are played individually, one after the other, instead of at the same time.

Barre ChordA barre chord is a chord that you play by pressing down multiple strings across the fretboard with one finger (creating a “bar” across the neck). Barre chords are used to play chords outside of the restrictions of the guitar’s open strings – F and B are some examples.

Beat – In music theory, a “beat” is a basic unit of time. If you were tapping your feet to a song, the “beat” would be each time you tap.

Bend – “Bending” a guitar string means pushing it across or over the fretboard so that the string gets tighter and the pitch gets higher. It’s a technique that’s frequently used in lots of genres of music.

Body – The guitar’s “body” is the part that contains the soundbox or pickups. There are different types of guitar bodies, and they can be made of different woods including rosewood, maple or walnut, which impacts their sound.

BPM – “Beats per minute”. The BPM tells you how fast a song is – the higher the BPM, the faster the song.
Bridge – A device that supports the guitar strings and transmits the strings’ vibration to another part of the instrument.

Bridge Pins – Bridge pins are used to anchor the strings to the bridge.

Capo – A capo is a small device that clamps onto the fretboard of a guitar to effectively shorten the strings, raising the pitch of the instrument. This allows you to play songs with open chords that you’d normally have to play with barre chords.

Chord – A chord is three or more notes played simultaneously. Chords are the building blocks to playing songs.

Chorus – Chorus is a type of effect that splits your guitar’s signal into multiple voices and slightly changes them, creating an effect that sounds like a choir of voices.

Cutaway – A cutaway is a part of the upper guitar body that’s indented near the neck, allowing easier access to the top frets. Different guitar designs have different styles of cutaways (or none at all).

Effects Pedal – An effects pedal is an electronic device that changes the sound of your instrument. Common types of effects pedals include distortion or overdrive pedals, compressors, “wah-wah” pedals, and reverb.

Fingerstyle – Fingerstyle means plucking the strings of your instrument directly with your fingers, rather than with a pick.

Fret – Frets are the strips of metal embedded along a guitar’s fretboard (found on the guitar neck). By holding the strings tightly against the fret, the vibrating length of the string changes, creating a specific note. Fretting can be a noun or a verb, meaning playing a note using a fret.

Fretboard – The part of the guitar where the finger presses the strings down (against the frets) to vary the pitch. It can also be known as the fingerboard.

Hammer-on – Hammer-ons are when you pick a note and “hammer” a second finger onto the same string on another fret to get a second note, without strumming a second time.

Harmonics – Harmonics are the overtones that are produced every time you play a note, however, you’ll rarely hear them over the fundamental note. A way to hear the overtones is by playing “pinch harmonics”.

Headstock – The headstock is the top of a guitar where the tuning pegs are kept.

Interval – An interval is the distance between the root note and another note on the fretboard. It’s the musical distance between two notes.

Intonation – Intonation means pitch accuracy – the extent to which the notes are in tune rather than being flat or sharp.

Inversion – An inversion is a chord where a different note than the root of the chord is the bottom note of the chord. It stays the same chord as the root position, but has a different voicing.

Key – The key of a piece of music is the scale, or group of pitches that makes up the song. A key can be in “major” or “minor” mode.

Lead Guitar – Lead guitar is the guitar part that plays the melody, licks, and riffs, rather than the chords.

Lick – A “lick” is a quick musical phrase played over a chord progressions. Licks are embellishments to a song.
Modulate – When you change keys within a composition.

Neck – The guitar’s neck includes the frets, fretboard, tuners, headstock, and truss rod. It’s the thinner piece of wood connected to the guitar body.

Open Chord – An open chord is a chord that is played with one or more strings not fingered and playing openly.

Open String – An open string is a guitar string that’s played without putting your hand on any of the frets.

Palm Muting – Palm muting is a guitar technique in which the side of the picking hand is placed against the guitar strings as they’re plucked, creating a “dampening” effect. It produces a muted sound.

Pedal – Guitar effect pedals are also known as “stomp-boxes”. They alter the tone or sound of your guitar with various effects.

Pentatonic Scale – A pentatonic scale has five notes per octave (pent) versus the seven notes per octave of the major or minor scale. Pentatonic scales can be major or minor, and are crucial to learn for most blues and rock music, as well as for learning to improvise.

Pick or Plectrum – Guitar picks (or plectra) are small objects used to pluck individual notes or strum chords of a guitar. Check out this guide to learn about different types of picks.

Picking – The group of hand and finger techniques that a guitar player uses to make the strings vibrate, creating notes.

Pickups – A mechanism located on the guitar that captures the vibrations of the strings and converts them to an electric signal. The signal is then amplified through an amplifier to produce musical sounds.

P I M A – these letters represent the Spanish names for the fingers of the right hand: pulgar (thumb), indice (index), medio (middle), and anular (ring). They are used to indicate fingerings in classical music.

Pinch Harmonics – You know the “squealies” you sometimes hear during guitar solos? They’re created using pinch harmonics. Playing a string harmonic isolates the overtone of the string, creating a sound much higher than it would normally produce. Check out this guide to learn more about pinch harmonics and how to create them.

Power Chord – A power chord is made of two different notes – a root (1st) and a 5th note. It will be written with a 5 next to it (i.e. A5, C5, etc.) Check out this guide for tips on using power chords.

Pull-off – A pull-off is like a hammer-on, but backwards. If you’ve done a hammer-on with your finger on a second fret, pull that finger off, lightly pulling on the string as you do it and letting the note ring out.

Reverb – Reverb, short for “reverberation”, happens when soundwaves reflect off of surfaces in a room causing the soundwave reflections to hit your ear closely, so you can’t tell them apart. Effect pedals can create reverb for your guitar.

Riff – When referring to guitar, a riff is a short, memorable musical phrase which is memorable and creates energy and excitement. A riff is often the main hook of a song and is repeated throughout the song.

Root note – The root note is the first note of a chord (on guitar, it’s usually the lowest-sounding note). The root note defines the key of a chord.

Rhythm Guitar – A guitar part that consists of the chords of the song.

Scale Length – The scale length of your guitar is defined as the measure of distance between a guitar’s nut and its bridge. The “nut” is at the top of the neck, near the headstock, and the bridge is the device that supports the string below the neck. Check out this guide on scale length.

Setup – Adjusting a variety of guitar physical characteris to optimize the sound and can include changes to the action, bridge, and neck truss rod.

Slide – Slide guitar is a style of playing guitar often used in blues music. It involves playing guitar while using a hard object against the strings, creating vibrato effects.

Sustain – Sustain on a guitar refers to how long the guitar strings vibrate after you pluck them. This phenomenon can be enhanced with an effects pedal.

Standard Tuning – The typical tuning of a string instrument. For a guitar, standard tuning is E A D G B E.

Strap – A piece of material that holds the guitar onto your body. This makes it easier to focus on playing, as well as protecting your instrument from drops.

Strings – Made of metal, nylon, or other materials, strings on a guitar vibrate to create sounds.

Strumming – Strumming is playing a guitar’s strings by moving your fingers lightly over them.

Tablature – Also known as “TABs”, tablature is a way of notating music that shows you which notes are being played on which string. It’s great for beginner guitarists to learn music quickly and easily.

Tapping – Guitar tapping is a method of playing that involves using your fingertips from your picking hand to hammer-on and pull off strings in the same way you would use your fretting hand.

Tempo – The speed of a piece of music.

Toggle Switch – On a guitar, the toggle switch controls which pickups convert the vibrations of the strings into electric signals. This allows the guitar to produce different sounds depending on which position the toggle switch is in.

Transcription – The process of arranging a piece of music for guitar.

Triad – A set of three notes that can be stacked in thirds.

Tremolo – Tremolo can either refer to an effect that creates a change in volume or the “tremolo arm” on a guitar, which creates a vibrato effect (varying pitch).

Truss Rod – The truss rod in a guitar is a steel bar or rod that stabilizes the neck. It’s located below the fingerboard.

Tune – It’s of critical importance that your guitar is in tune – meaning that all of the strings are in the correct pitch for the tuning you’re playing in. Check out this guide to tuning your guitar like a rockstar.

Tuning Pegs – Usually located at the guitar’s headstock, tuning pegs are short sticks that are turned to make the strings looser or tighter.

Voicing – Voicing is the expression of a chord based on the order in which the tones are arranged. Playing E minor in the open position will give you a different voicing than E minor in a barre chord position.

Whammy Bar – Another word for a tremolo bar, a whammy bar is a lever attached to the bridge or the tailpiece of an electric guitar. It can be pushed to increase the tension of the strings, creating vibrato and other effects. Try this with the Dimebag Darrell Player Study Course.

How to play pinch harmonics

Pinch harmonics are a great tool to add a little extra flare to your guitar playing. It creates a high pitched “squeal” on an electric guitar. You usually hear pinch harmonics used in heavy rock or metal songs. 

You can hear a good example of pinch harmonics in Van Halen’s “Panama”. Listen for the “squealies”.

What is a pinch harmonic?

When you pluck a guitar string normally, the sound you hear is mostly the fundamental frequency, or the lowest frequency of the soundwave. You’ll also hear overtones, which are frequencies greater than the fundamental frequency. 

Playing a string harmonic isolates the overtone of the string, creating a sound much higher than it would normally produce. 

How do I play a pinch harmonic?

To create a pinch harmonic, the thumb of your picking hand will lightly catch the string after it’s played. 

You’ll need to “pinch” your pick, letting part of your thumb hang out over the top. As you strike the string, let your thumb graze the string, slightly muting it to cause a harmonic. 

When it comes to using pinch harmonics, it’s all about location – find the spot on your guitar’s body where the string harmonics ring out most clearly. On the fretboard, the harmonics ring out most clearly on the third and fifth frets. 

You’ll also want to use a lot of gain on your amplifier to help the note ring out. A tip – using the bridge pickup will help get more squeal out of your guitar! 

Practice combining picking and muting the string in one fluid motion.  It can take some time to get it!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Fret Zealot (@fret_zealot)

Other types of harmonics 

Pinch harmonics aren’t the only type of harmonics you can use on a guitar. 

Natural Harmonics – Natural harmonics are created by gently touching the string (rather than using pick) as you pick a fret. Natural harmonics are created using only the picking hand.

Artificial harmonics – This technique involves holding down a note with your fretting hand while using your right hand to create the same “soft touch” to create an open-string harmonic. 

Tapped note – To create this effect, fret the note and use your picking hand to tap the harmonics further down the fretboard. 

If your guitar heroes include Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag Darrell, Steve Vai, and other legendary shredders, learning how to use pinch harmonics is key to getting their sound. 


How to use the features in the Fret Zealot app

The Fret Zealot app has tons of tools to help you learn guitar – or sharpen your skills!

The Notes and Scales section contains every note and scale possible on a guitar! Pair your app with the Fret Zealot LED system to show you exactly where to put your fingers. You can display notes and scales vertically or horizontally on the screen.

In the Chords and Arpeggios section, you’ll find every chord variation and arpeggio – great for practicing your skills.

And in the song tabs feature, you’ll find tablature for thousands of songs. They play in real time on your phone and on the Fret Zealot LED strip. You can slow down a tab as much as you want to learn note-by-note!

You’ll find other useful tools like a tuner and metronome in the Fret Zealot app. Download today and start learning guitar on your terms!

REVIEW: Yamaha BB234 bass guitar

We reviewed Yamaha’s BB234 bass guitar.

Check out the review here! 

Check out the Yamaha BB234 in our store! 

Here’s a transcript of the review: 

 Hey what’s up everyone, this is Shane from Fret Zealot and right now I’m rocking a Yamaha bas.  This is the Yamaha BB234. 

The BB stands for “broad bass” and this is the 234, which is the classic rendition of the BB Yamaha bass. It’s stripped down and versatile is what I would say. It’s got two pickup selections to choose from – the J pickup on the bridge position and then the P pick up in the middle position, giving you a variety of really nice tonal options. Each pickup is individually controlled by a volume knob, so you can dial back the volume on both of these and run them at the same time, one or the other as well and then the tone knob back here, which when you when you roll that down it pulls back a little bit of the low frequencies and sort of just tightens up the sound of the bass a little bit. It gets a little a little cleaner sounding a little less extra bass I usually like to leave it wide open. 

You definitely get the most brightness when you leave the tone knob up all the way. When you turn it down, it sort of it sounds like outside the club, like a little bit more softer sounding. I think it would be nice for a bit more of a mellow sound. Moving on to the to the features of the guitar itself, the pick guard on the body with the black gloss finish just looks classy and I find it very comfortable feeling as well. This cutaway body the cut on the back of the body which just rests up against you and very ergonomic. Again, the cutaway up here, as well easy fret access up to the 21st fret. There are 21 frets on this guitar but just gives you a nice comfortable scale length to work with. If this is your first bass, I think it’s a really good choice because it’s very very comfortable. And if it’s not your first bass,  you might be interested in the different pickup options that you’re going to get when you try the BB234.

The body wood material is alder, the neck maple, and then on the top of the neck the fretboard itself rosewood. It has a  matching black headstock painted black with the four Yamaha tuners, strap pegs, bolt-on neck construction, and a surface mount bridge back here. Other than that, you get a really nice variety of tones from these ceramic Yamaha pickups.  Again, with the P pickup you get a really sweet sort of heavier sound.  I think it sounds a little darker.

Turn that knob all the way down and then we’ll turn up the J pickup. It definitely gives me a bit more treble. It kind of sounds both of them sound like like a nice woody, sort of clean bass sound, which I really like.  All passive hardware, there’s no battery compartment to run these pickups, so it’s not very temperamental.  It’ll give you an easy playing time, very comfortable and and fun to play with.

 Bass is not really my main instrument so I was picking out some of the options at our shop on for what I wanted to pick out and review first. This one sort of jumped out at me as approachable, but also kind of versatile, and a fun way for me to sort of learn the ins and outs of bass.  Getting to play with both the J pickup back here and the P pickup, learning about the differences. It’s got a nice pick guard too. I know that I would probably as a guitar player, use a pick to play bass. I  think the combination with the p pickup, the pickguard works really great for rock. If you want to dial it back and play some more mellower tones, you have all the options of doing that.  This bass will really do a good job from anything – hard rock, classic rock, all the way down to jazz and blues.  I believe I can tell from playing the time that I spent with this bass that is very versatile.  I’m definitely a fan of the BB234. It comes in a couple different color options.  We have black and red at and when you buy an instrument at, it comes pre-installed with the LED system, so you can get access to our learning tools which show you how to play and light up the way to learning.  You can learn how to play any song you want on bass. 


REVIEW: Epiphone Les Paul Custom Koa

REVIEW: Dean MDX and Dean Thoroughbred X

Guitarists who started off playing another instrument

Lots of famous guitar players started off playing other instruments. Taking piano lessons at home or any musical instruction in school helps create a good base for learning any instrument! 

Here are some guitarists who started their musical journeys with instruments that aren’t guitars. 

Dave Grohl (drums)

Foo Fighters frontman and guitarist Dave Grohl famously played drums in Nirvana starting in 1990. After Kurt Cobain’s 1994 death, Grohl formed the Foo Fighters, moving to lead vocals and guitar. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins tragically died in 2022, and Grohl provided the drums on the band’s newest album (coming out June 2). 

Eddie Van Halen (piano)

“Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum” by Carl Lender is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The future founders of Van Halen, brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, started taking piano lessons at a young age – Eddie was six when he started playing. He even won first place at multiple piano competitions in Long Beach, Calif. The boys’ parents wanted them to become classical pianists, but they were enamored by rock music. Originally, Eddie was playing the drums while Alex played the guitar, but after he heard Alex play the drums on “Wipeout”, they switched. 

Learn Eddie Van Halen’s signature style with this player study course!


Prince (piano) 

“Prince NSJ” by PeterTea is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Prince was known as a multi-instrumentalist, often playing all the instruments on his records, although he’s best remembered for his guitar and vocals. The child of a jazz singer and a pianist/songwriter, Prince Rogers Nelson wrote his first song, “Funk Machine” on his dad’s piano at age seven. 


Joni Mitchell (piano) 

Prolific singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is known for her guitar playing (and her use of alternative tunings), but she started out playing classical piano. When she was older, she wanted to learn guitar to play country music (which was rapidly growing more popular), but her mother discouraged her, so she initially played ukulele. 


Mick Mars (bass) 

“Mick Mars” by Casey Hugelfink is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Longtime Motley Crue lead guitarist Mick Mars joined his first band – a Beatles cover band called “The Jades” at age 14, playing bass guitar. 


Jeff Beck (vocals) 

“Jeff Beck” by MandyHallMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Before he became one of the most influential guitarists of all time, Beck sang in a church choir at age ten. 


Chris Cornell (drums) 

“Chris Cornell” by christopher simon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Legendary Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell took piano and guitar lessons as a kid, but started his professional career with Soundgarden on drums. The band had another drummer come in a year after their inception to allow Cornell to focus on vocals and rhythm guitar. 


Great guitarists who learned later in life

Great guitarists who learned later in life

What Ed Sheeran’s court case tells us about four chord songs

You probably have heard Ed Sheeran’s name in the news recently. The English singer-songwriter was named in a copyright infringement case involving a Marvin Gaye song. 

A jury decided that though the chord progressions between the songs are similar, the similarity didn’t constitute copyright infringement. 

If you’re a songwriter, you’re probably wondering what is covered under copyright law and what isn’t – and how to avoid running into a situation like this.


In May 2023, a New York jury decided that singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran didn’t infringe on the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On” with his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud”, which won the English singer a GRAMMY. 

The family of Ed Townsend, the late co-songwriter of “Let’s Get It On”, alleged in a 2017 lawsuit that Sheeran had taken the rhythm and chord progression from the song for “Thinking Out Loud”, which was released in 2014. 

During the singer’s in-court testimony, Sheeran picked up a guitar and played both songs to demonstrate how similar they are. His lawyer said in her closing remarks that the shared characteristics of the songs were “basic to the tool kit of all songwriters” and “the scaffolding on which all songwriting is built.”

Sheeran had said that he would have “quit music” if he was found guilty of plagiarism during the trial. 

According to the NYT, after the jury cleared him, Sheeran said in a statement that he was happy that he wouldn’t have to quit music, but expressed his frustration that the case, which was about a simple four-chord progression, happened in the first place. 

“We have spent the last eight years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day, all over the world,” he said. 

He added that “These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before ‘Let’s Get It On’ was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone.”


Here are some other cases involving copyright of songs: 

In 2021, singer/songwriter Olivia Rodrigo gave songwriting credits to members of Paramore and Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and St. Vincent for her songs “Good 4 U” and “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” and “Deja Vu” after the songs had already been released. 

In 2019, a jury decided that Katy Perry’s 2013 song “Dark Horse” sampled a six-note melody from Christian rapper Flame, awarding the rapper $2.78 million. 

In 2015, a jury decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had infringed on the copyright of another Marvin Gaye song, “Got To Give It Up” with their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines”. They had to pay the late singer’s estate $5.3 million. 

The attorney who represented Gaye’s estate in that case, music attorney Richard Busch, told Variety that copyright infringement cases are proved two ways. First, the judge listens to expert testimony and decides if there are enough similarities between the works to take the case to a jury trial, and if there are, it goes before a jury trial, where members listen to the song to decide if they’re similar. 

Judges and juries are generally not made up of musical experts, so many copyright cases following the “Blurred Lines case” are handled out of court. 


What does the law say?

According to, parts of a song that are protected under copyright are lyrics and melody. (Sometimes artists will interpolate the words or melody of another well-known song in their work, usually with a song credit for the other song’s writers). 

Harmony and chord progressions are generally not protected under copyright law – which is good, since most pop songs are built on simple chord progressions.  Rhythm and structure of a song are generally not protected under copyright either. 

If you’re wondering about copyright law, you can find the most up-to-date information on the U.S. Copyright laws here. 


Why you should use a guitar backing track

REVIEW: Epiphone Les Paul Custom Koa

REVIEW: Epiphone Les Paul Custom Koa

Check out the Epiphone Les Paul Custom Koa in our store!

Here’s a transcript of the review:


Today I’m reviewing for you one of the higher-end Epiphones that we carry at Fret Zealot. This is the custom Koa, the Les Paul Custom model by Epiphone. The custom Koa is one of the higher-end models offered by Epiphone, going past just the base level, beginner instruments.


This custom Koa offers a lot more of the premium features that you see with the higher-end Epiphones, and even the Gibson guitars. I’ll be talking you through some of the differences that you get when you pick up the custom Les Paul KOA by Epiphone.  This guitar is a mahogany body with the Koa top, which is what you see on the front, but the wood, the main wood of the body, is a rich mahogany, which is a really sought after tone wood. It has a mahogany neck as well, and then the ebony fingerboard. Epiphone is not messing around when it comes to the wood selection. This is a combination that’s favored by many Les Paul enthusiasts.  You get a lot of beautiful attention to detail with this guitar. I would call it classy and curated.

Everything about this guitar is just no-nonsense, all classiness. It’s  really good looking. and no really nothing really that doesn’t sit out of place to me. You got the beautiful natural wood – in my opinion you can’t go wrong, especially with like nice piece that you see on the front. There’s multilayer binding across the body and then binding on the neck and the headstock which really frames the instrument. It has gold hardware, which is a sweet combination, and then some of the black pickup rings and the black pickguard, which sort of just looks consistent with the with the ebony neck. The whole thing just really comes together beautifully. It’s got 22 medium jumbo frets with the block pearl inlays, so you’re really getting that Gibson vibe.  It’s got the  slim taper neck, so it’s really nice and playable without being quite a c-shape. I’m finding it is actually a really nice and easier neck to play on. I prefer a slimmer neck, so this is nice to see from the Epiphone or Gibson brands.   It’s a similar neck but it’s slightly tapered in, so if you’re not familiar with the slim taper neck on the Epiphones, this would be a great guitar to check out.  Shout out to the tuners as well, also really nice gold tuners, and these say “Grovers” on them.  Grover tuners are really nice.


I just think the guitar is super sturdy feeling. I could call it “responsive and snappy”.  Even when I’m not plugged in, I think it sounds good, which is a sign of a great-sounding guitar. It’s just resonant, even when I’m not plugged in, so that’s always something that I look out for.  This guitar really rocks. Some of the things that you get with this guitar that you don’t get in the entry-level Epiphones is the full custom Les Paul shape with the curved top. This is not a flat slab, it’s got the curved model top that you get with the Gibson Customs, it’s got the binding. This is the set neck, so there’s no neck screws here.  This is not a bolt-on neck, this is a set-neck design, which is a really nice construction. It gives it a little bit more resonance and sustain, which is contributed to as well by these really nice tuners. That’s helping you with the tuning stability.  I’m finding this guitar to be really sort of substantial-feeling, responsive but also very like resonant, and it’s kind of a beast, but it’s not too heavy. It’s a little bit heavier than what you would expect for an entry-level Epiphone, but it’s not going to break your back.  I think they did a good job of balancing out the weight, I’m finding it really comfortable to play. It looks awesome, sounds great, and you can’t forget the pro-buckers. We got the pro bucker two and three in the bridge in the neck with the gold plate covers. These are modeled after the old Gibson PAF humbuckers which are the patent applied for humbuckers. These Pro buckers by Epiphone are modeled after that sound of that era the PAF humbuckers from the early Gibson years so you’re getting a lot of classic accoutrements, a lot of classy vibes from the construction, the look and the premium features that come with this guitar.