Total Guitar's 2008 review

Season's greetings, guitar dudes! 2008 was another great year for axe fans, as guitar bands continued to penetrate the charts and dominate the nation's musical psyche.

I honestly believe we're in the middle of one of the great golden ages of guitar music and that, years from now, we'll look back on the noughties with rose-tinted Aviators.

I must admit, I do find it odd when I go to gigs and see young guys dressed from head to toe in the kind of gear that wouldn't have looked out of place on Sunset Strip circa 1987. But really, I'm just glad these guys are reaching for guitars as well as spray-on jeans and mirrored sunglasses.

Besides, the hair metal heads aren't the only ones strapping on axes (although you'd hardly guess from looking at TG's top 5 albums of the year below!).

Love it or hate it, the Guitar Hero videogames have played a significant part in the axe revival. Research by Youth Music shows that up 2.5 million British kids have learned to play guitars or drums as a result of playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. 2.5 million!

An influx of this size into the scene means we can expect plenty more new guitar bands in the 2010s - 60 years since Leo Fender invented the first mass-produced solidbody electric.

Here's to many happy new years to come!

Steve Lawson
Editor, Total Guitar

Total Guitar's top 5 albums of 2008

1. Slipknot - All Hope Is Gone

Slipknot's return to the scene after a four-year hiatus delivered everything we wanted to hear from a modern metal album: screaming pinched harmonics, heavy thrash riffing and blistering shred solos! As well as the high octane displays of guitar mastery, this was also an album full of ace songs.

From the melody of Dead Memories to the synchronised blasts of the title track, it's easy to see why All Hope Is Gone is TG's No 1 album of 2008.

2. Metallica - Death Magnetic
Five years of away time was well spent with Hetfield and Hammett unleashing arguably their most vital record since 1991. Debatable sound quality aside, Death Magnetic is a return to their 80s thrash heyday.

3. Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night
The Tennessee boys make a stride from indie also-rans to bona fide stadium fillers. The guitars sound like The Edge on coke on this, their best and most ambitious album yet.

4. Opeth - Watershed
No stranger to the upper echelons of Best Album lists, Opeth follow up the seemingly un-followable Ghost Reveries with more grandiose, darker prog metal crafted around Åkerfeldt's trusty PRS.

5. Mötley Crüe - Saints Of Los Angeles
This is easily the best thing the Crüe have done since 1989's Dr Feelgood (the hair metal Sergeant Pepper). Killer choons with guitar-toting cadaver Mick Mars still kicking ass.

Total Guitar's top 5 riffs of 2008

1. Avenged Sevenfold - Afterlife
2. Opeth - Heir Apparent
3. Black Stone Cherry - Blind Man
4. The Subways - Girls And Boys
5. Extreme - Star

Total Guitar's top 5 solos of 2008

1. Slipknot - Psychosocial
2. Opeth - Hessian Peel
3. Fall Out Boy featuring John Mayer - Beat It
4. The Mars Volta - Goliath
5. Protest The Hero - Bloodmeat

Total Guitar's top 5 best buys of 2008

1. Epiphone Slash Les Paul Goldtop, £600

Slash epiphone les paul goldtop

Slash epiphone les paul goldtop

Total Guitar said: "The 'Slash neck profile' really does feel different to other LPs and its palm-filling shape is perfect for Slash's sneering bends and chunky pentatonic solos. It's not for shred, but it's fast enough to pull of the Paradise City outro."

2. Line 6 M13, £398
Total Guitar said: "The M13 sounds bloody brilliant! Gigging guitarist will love its professional spec (including true bypass) while creative types will go nuts for its smorgasbord of effects."

3. Blackstar HT-5, £249

Blackstar ht5-s

Blackstar ht5-s

Total Guitar said: "The HT-5 sounds every bit as good as Blackstar intended, and with its emulated output, effects loop and multiple speaker outputs, you get some high-end features that justify its price tag."

4. Dean Dime Stealth Snakeskin, TG181, £899
Total Guitar said: "The Dimebucker pickup is amazing… Its inclusion would make an average guitar good; with the rest of this spec, the Stealth is irresistible."

5. Jackson Demmelition King V, TG180, £1,119
Total Guitar said: "The EMG 81 pickup in the bridge position supplies a level of bone-crunching authority that would make the sound desk man at Download empty his bowels. It's the icing on a ferocious cake. Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel's signature V is so good it hurts."

Total Guitar's top 5 playing tips

1. Buy a metronome
Practising with a metronome will improve your speed, your timing and your appreciation of the rhythmic structure of music. It's an invaluable piece of kit.

2. Perfect your intonation
When practising string bends, fret and play the target note (the pitch you're bending to) first as a reference. This will ensure your intonation is accurate. Poor intonation is the guitar equivalent of somebody singing out of tune.

3. Scale down your scales
There are thousands of scales you can learn, but concentrate on mastering the major, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic and the blues scales first. Learn to play all of these really well instead of learning loads more scales that you don't understand.

4. Quality, not quantity
It's better to play a few notes really well than a ton of notes really badly. Focus on your picking or legato (hammer-ons and pull-offs) as well as your vibrato. Think about articulating every note perfectly and achieving a killer tone.

5. Alternate pick or die
Alternate picking (down, up, down, up) is an important technique to master. If you play with all downstrokes (and if you're a beginner, it's possible that you do) then make alternate picking a priority in order to increase your fluency, efficiency and speed.

Total Guitar's blog