It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n’ roll: A review of “Women’s Road To Rock Guitar”

By Martina Fasano of Playing With Chaos

Martina FasanoI have played the guitar since I was 16 years old. I took a long hiatus between the ages of 24-34 respectively, to “grow up” and get a “career” (my high school guidance counsellor’s words, not mine). The thing with playing an instrument is that it is NOT like riding a bike. If you don’t practice, you’re not maintaining your skills, you’re getting worse. If you don’t believe me, try taking a ten-year break from your craft like I did.

When I was learning to play the guitar, I was lucky to take lessons for four years from one of Toronto’s most sought after session musicians. He was also Tom Cochrane and Rik Emmet’s touring guitarist. Pretty cool stuff. However, not all of us are so lucky, and with the internet having taken over the music industry as a whole, music lessons are no longer the “go to” for many people learning to play the guitar. Many of our guitar heroes have learned to play “by ear”, but for every Lita Ford – a self-taught virtuoso – there are millions who have not been able to succeed without some direction from a reliable source. Those same millions put down their guitars in despair and sell it on Craigslist to addicted guitar fiends like me for a fraction of what they paid for it.

Do you really want to learn how to play lead and rhythm guitar? If so, you’re going to have to practice. A lot. I can’t tell you how many tweets, e-mails, and Facebook messages I get on a monthly basis asking me the same question: “Are there any books you can recommend for me/my son/my daughter/my dog to help them learn how to play the guitar properly?” There are very few “complete methods” out there that will truly help a beginner go from zero to a reasonably decent player. One of these “complete” books is “Women’s Road To Rock Guitar”.

Let me first start out by saying that I cringed when I heard the title of the book I was going to be reviewing. I hate when female guitarists are pigeon-holed by their gender, but at the same time, at least in this decade, we have our own category. I also recognize that for many women, they have not been exposed to the female guitarists out there, and O’Neill’s book allows the reader to get some advice from some pretty awesome guitarists including Jennifer Batten, Lita Ford, Nancy Wilson, Ana Popovic, and Orianthi Panagaris among others. Because of this, I approached the contents with an open mind, and I’m so glad I did.

Women's Road to Rock GuitarNikki O’Neill gets readers off to a great start by covering topics like how to sit/stand when you play, which fingers to use when guitar tablature indicates fingerings, how to hold your pick, and even goes through an overview of upstrokes and downstrokes for alternate picking. Rhythmic markings and time signatures are also covered before she gets into the core of her program.

Once you have those introductory formalities out of the way, we’re ready to rock! Nikki gets it right by dividing the book into two major sections: rhythm and lead guitar concepts. She then divides each section into short, succinct topics such as power chords, barre chords, learning riffs, the I-IV-V progression, and minor and major scale patterns for soloing. This is a brilliant move since it allows you to go over specific concepts without having to fish through an entire book.

The backing tracks that come on the CD included with the book are helpful while practicing and give you the feel of what it might be like to play in a band. That’s important since I doubt you want to be serenading your teddy bear collection forever – you’re going to want to hit a stage at some point to show off your skills!

Nikki O'Neill - photo by Laurel GeareO’Neill’s book also ventures into must-know topics such as amps and effects and practicing tips – an often over-looked topic in all instructional programs. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know your gear and basic setup concepts. This is often where us ladies get stereotyped into “not knowing what they’re doing”. O’Neill’s tips and knowledge will help when you show up at a music store and the salesman tries to sell you something you don’t need or want, or caoxes you into believing that a particular guitar is best for you, when your sound/tone is totally not in line with what he’s suggesting. She even provides a list of “essential listening” that highlights the abilities of some of rock’s most notable guitarists – that happen to be women.

My only criticism is that the riffs, chords, and progressions she provides are “in the style of”. That means exactly what is says: the riff or hook is in the style of a particular band/song, but it’s not the actual song you’re used to hearing. This is both a negative and a positive, depending on who you are. I found it difficult to go over some of the exercises because I was expecting to “hear” something different than what was written, but that is also good practice for learning to play what’s written. As a classically trained musician, I appreciate that. As a rocker, I want to learn to play the riffs I hear in my favorite songs.

Overall, Nikki O’Neill does a fantastic job of covering the most important things that someone who wants to learn the essentials of rock guitar. She’s clear, to the point, and goes beyond the beginner topics into the more advanced lessons that many of us might need to refresh our memory or break through a playing plateau.

I would recommend this book to anyone-man or woman- who wants to learn rock guitar or wants to improve their playing.

It is well structured and thought-out enough to grow with you as you improve your chops, while beginning with a set of skills and lessons that will help you develop your confidence as a player. If you follow Nikki’s tips and tricks, you’ll be opening for Lita Ford or Joan Jett in no time. Or not. But you’ll definitely have a lot more fun pretending to do so in front of your teddy bears.

The book is for sale worldwide through, and all other major online dealers, plus Guitar Center stores nationwide (USA) and Amoeba Records (Los Angeles).

About Martina Fasano
Martina FasanoMartina is a music blogger sharing her thoughts on music gear, concert reviews, interviewing bands & albums and sharing incredibly awesome photography. Read her blog here.

#TwitterSmarter Case Study with Musician/Blogger Martina Fasano

#TwitterSmarter Case Study Webinar

It all started with a free webinar I hosted back in December.

I knew Martina Fasano, a musician/music blogger, from the GoGirls Twitter chat (#ggchat). She’s a regular on there, always friendly and eager to share valuable information. 

She stood out to me because she was more than a musician. She was a rock music blogger with a cool Twitter profile image. [Note: the image she has on there now is ever cooler!]

#TwitterSmarter Online ClassMartina recently took my #TwitterSmarter online class. She zipped through the 4 modules in less than a week. What impressed me is that she went right to work. She followed my instructions, did the daily homework and saw results. Amazing results. She learned how to streamline her content and in this process she increased her followers. And the best part, she got the attention of the people she sought out – the editors of music publications.

I’m going to let her explain this in her own words. I hope you enjoy this case study and I hope it inspires you.

“Remember, nothing will happen unless you put what you learn into action. (click to tweet)
If you 
follow what I teach, you will get results.” ~Madalyn Sklar

From Martina Fasano:

Martina FasanoI stumbled upon the GoGirls community some time ago on Twitter. I have to admit, I was not a very avid Twitter user. I simply followed some of my favorite rock stars and used to browse through my Twitter feed and check out what they had to say. I had no idea about how powerful a connection you could make on this social media platform because for the most part, I had never tried to connect with anyone for any purpose. I was what I like to call a passive user of Twitter.

I started to realize the importance of Twitter once I started my blog in June of 2013. I noticed that a lot of sites, PR reps, and bands had Twitter accounts and would “follow” me once I did a story on them or asked about a product. This got me thinking that if I could increase the number of people that followed me, I could increase traffic to my blog, and vice versa. Problem: aside from randomly adding people to follow, I had no real sense of how to go about extending this network of mine.

That’s where the name Madalyn Sklar comes in. I got to read some of Madalyn’s tweets and comments via the GoGirls chat that she hosts every Thursday on Twitter. I had joined in on the GoGirls chat several times, and each time I made new friends/contacts and I also noticed my Twitter following grew a little at a time.


Madalyn posted a free 1-hour webinar/case study about getting new followers on Twitter. I’m a busy person and I’m constantly chasing my tail, but I figured this might be something that will help me grow my legion of rock’n’roll worshippers, so I sat down and I watched/listened to the webinar. The strategies presented seemed simple enough, but I figured that if I did what Madalyn said, I may get some more followers, but not a whole heck of a lot. I started doing the smart searches she taught in the webinar, and I noticed that over the course of a week or so, I was up about 30 followers. That got my attention. I spent a little time each day (about 10 minutes) to add people that I thought had something in common with me and/or my blog. I was astounded when after month or so, I had gone from 67 followers to 180.

Martina Fasano Twitter

I kept using the strategies from the webinar but I wanted to make another leap. I enrolled in the #TwitterSmarter class and went through each module. The class originally was broadcast in 4 separate sessions a week apart, but I was able to watch all 4 modules and do the “homework” over the course of a week. Note: The homework never ends, and as a teacher, I appreciate the value in this! I’m still doing homework from the course on a daily basis, since that is how to #TwitterSmarter.

Let me explain.

Martina's Twitter listsMadalyn went over the creation of Twitter lists, integration with Hootsuite and Buffer, follower analytics and tracking through JustUnfollow, and the inclusion of quality content through newsfeed curation apps such as Feedly. As a result, I have a one-stop shop on my screen that I can visit just once a day to set up my tweets, follows, and contribution to my twitter account. I have also integrated my Facebook and Instagram posts so that I can have my followers “see” or “read” about my content on various platforms.

There is a lot of material and so much that you can do with the apps and sites Madalyn guides you through. That alone keeps people like myself happy because it streamlines my workload and allows me to do more in less time, and more effectively. I was also able to fine-tune my profile so that potential followers can find me and find out what I do. My Twitter page “looks” more professional than it did before I started, and the results have spoken for themselves. I was approached by the owner of another blog to write for him and he commented that “you know how to utlilize twitter which is a definite plus.” He was able to gather this simply by looking at my tweets, profile, and setup. All things I learned from the course.

Martina's massive user reach increaseWhat about my followers? Using Madalyn’s techniques, I am now up to 562 followers (as of 5-13-14). That number grows on a daily basis, and in the week that I took the course and did the homework she assigned, I was able to get on the radar of 4 editors-in-chief of major guitar and music industry magazines. I have gotten retweets, mentions and favorites from these industry movers and shakers, and I feel as though my following is starting to catch up to the quality content I have to offer on my blog. More important than followers however, is the reach that I am now getting with my Tweets. I signed up with Sum All some time ago, which tracks analytics and keeps statistics on the various tweets, retweets, etc. for various social media platforms. My reach for one week used to be only the people that followed me, if that! Implemented the things I learned in Madalyn’s course, my reach for the week of April 28-May 4 was 387,000! That means 387,000 unique Twitter users were exposed to one of my tweets in some shape or form. That is an incredible number for someone who had just 80 followers in June.

The #Twitter Smarter course was definitely something that I would recommend to anyone wanting to jumpstart their Twitter account or to see results. If you put in the work for even 15 minutes a day, you will begin seeing results that you never thought possible.

#TwitterSmarter Online Class
Elevate your presence on Twitter with leading social media industry expert Madalyn Sklar. She’ll teach you how to be a Twitter Rockstar. Learn her tips & tricks that make her stand out. No fluff, just good stuff! Click here to sign up.

Sign Up For The #TwitterSmarter Case Study Webinar REPLAY Video!

Learn how musician/music blogger Martina Fasano went from learning strategies on a FREE webinar, to taking Madalyn Sklar’s #TwitterSmarter course, to dramatically increasing her followers, reach and getting the attention of industry leaders.

Click here to register!

Why Twitter? Madalyn Sklar On Indie Music And Building Relationships

I was recently interviewed by the fine folks at Brown Paper Tickets for my thoughts and advice on helping indie artists with Twitter. As you know, I’m a big Twitter fan and advocate on a quest teaching people how to become #TwitterSmarter. I’m thrilled to share this interview with you.

Madalyn SklarMadalyn Sklar is a music business and social media coach. Though her focus is do-it-yourself for independent artists, she creates, curates and shares content that could be a resource for any small business, especially those working in events. Sklar’s over-arching goal in everything she does (and it shows) is: to enable people to “work smarter, not harder.”

Brown Paper Tickets Q: We came across an infographic about how certain bands were “break-outs” at SXSW if you look at the Twitter numbers around their shows. Since you were in Austin for SXSW and have been in the music industry, would you say that musicians use Twitter well?  If not, what obstacles or misperceptions do they have?

Sklar: There is a segment of musicians using Twitter quite well; however, I have found that a good number of DIY independent artists have not fully embraced it. It’s because they either don’t get it at all or they are somewhat using it but don’t see the real value or benefit. They are not getting a return for their time spent. I have made it my mission over the last several years to teach artists why Twitter plays an important role in their overall marketing for their music. I show them how to reach new fans and music industry professionals. Once they see the real value in Twitter, they begin to invest time on the platform.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: For bands or musicians you’ve worked with that resisted mightily at first, what finally converted them into Twitter fans?

Sklar: I run a popular Twitter chat (#ggchat) for musicians and music biz. I find that a good number of our first-time participants are new to Twitter. There is such a big buzz about the chat that it piques their interest. They are using the Twitter chat to get their feet wet on the platform. What better way to learn than to surround yourself with like-minded musicians and music industry professionals! And the best part is you make instant connections with people. You see immediate results. The chat is fast-paced and really keeps you on your toes. After an hour of discussion in this format, you start learning how to maneuver in Twitter. This is part of taking small steps to learn. From there I have seen participants really blossom on Twitter.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: How do you coach people to allow for an organic momentum-building route to Twitter success when they are in a big hurry to make their names known?

TwitterSklar: When it comes to social media, you rarely see overnight success. I teach people how to create a social media plan but nothing happens unless you take action. Once you do that the key then is to work it consistently. That’s really the secret sauce in all this. Have a plan, take action, be consistent. You do that, you’ll attain Twitter success. The more you put in, the more you get out of it. Consistency is incredibly important. I started the GoGirls Twitter chat in 2011 as a way to bring people together in the music industry. It started small and grew over time. Three years later we are consistently hitting 18 million timelines each week, reaching over 300K people, businesses and brands. Another key component to Twitter success is to listen. Listen to conversations and find opportunities to contribute. Twitter’s advanced search is one of the most underutilized features and is so powerful. When people educate themselves on how to properly use Twitter, they will see amazing results. I did a recent case study with a rock band looking to organically increase their Twitter followers. I gave them two simple strategies to employ. They saw dramatic results. We recorded a free webinar, which is available here.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: Whether involving social media or not, which are the most painful business and promotion lessons for all bands and musicians to learn?

Sklar: The music business is a relationship business. It’s all about making those key connections with industry professionals as well as fans. There are no short cuts. It’s building one fan at a time. I encourage musicians to attend music conferences and events so they can educate themselves and also make valuable connections with people who can help their music career.  Show your appreciation to everyone you meet. After an event, be sure to send a handwritten Thank You card to the promoter or booker, whoever helped you. It’s little things like this that will make you stand out.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: What one thing could almost any indie band do right now to start selling more tickets to their shows?

Sklar: Hustle! So many musicians are waiting for opportunities (and ticket sales) to fall into their laps. The best way to sell more tickets to your show is to get out and spread the word. Generate a huge buzz. Find something that makes you stand out from the masses. Come up with a contest. Find ways to involve your fans. They love to help. Get your “super fans” on board to help sell tickets. Whoever sells the most wins a prize or maybe a private party with the band. Send them your swag. You make them feel special, they will become a driving force in selling tickets.

Madalyn Sklar hosts a GoGirls Twitter chat #ggchat Thursdays at 3 PM and 9PM ET—all musicians and music business people are invited.

Use Brown Paper Tickets to sell tickets to any music event.