Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lazy Sunday Guitar Vid's #1

Another lazy Sunday afternoon in my part of the world. The guitar method "staff" is in the studio waiting for the Windows "SuperFast Quad Core Intel Duo Monstrosity of Doom" to unfreeze or at least flash a blue screen and give us a reason to break for baby back ribs and beer. I swear that soon I will include a post out of spite on why Mac rules Windows for audio production. I know it's been done a million times, but some things are worth repeating with all the spit and venom an inappropriately frozen OS can seep into ones pours.

In my spare time I have been feverishly reviewing most of the Amp modeling software packages sent to me last week, and you can expect the "skinny" on those by next week. In the mean-in between time however, I hopped over to YouTube for a little mindless distraction and some ear + eye candy. Look up my favorites if you want, there's some good stuff for your Sunday inspiration.

Wait one sec... Eureka!! Low and behold I have discovered that I can embed my fav's here on the blizog, so with some intestinal fortitude I think I will try and throw up some nice videos here for my loyal readership. Enjoy, and when you've finished watching, for the love of God go out and get some sun! You all look like vampires! :-) (Actually I'm the pale one, but I'm assuming everyone reading is cooped up in a dark studio somewhere as well.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

Here's another modern guitar methods opinion piece from our ever cynical guest columnist. We think he needs a hug, what do you think?

reprinted with permission by Harley Warren

Ah, Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll and all those marvelous bastards of the 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s that would drink themselves to death and destroy 5 star hotel rooms just because they could. The genuine article, they were. You couldn’t utter one good word about these hell-raising gypsies as they swooped into town like a parade of leather clad biker demons, stealing the virtue from “Daddy’s little girl” and consuming every illicit drug available to them. You couldn’t say a good word, but you always quietly hoped you would end up at their after parties. The upper crust of my day were always so worried that these purveyors of the “devil’s music” would poison the youth, turning us from docile, obedient lemmings into violent and uncontrollable monsters. Secretly we knew the power of our music simply because we knew they intimidated adults to such a degree. Secretly we cherished the power our music gave us.

Yes, back then Rock and Roll owned all of the true rebels and those rebels knew exactly why it was necessary to self destruct and poison their lives for us. It was never duplicitous with them, just par for the course. It was never contrived for an artist to be found screaming down Hollywood Boulevard, naked as the day they were born, it was simply the result of a bad acid trip or maybe a long night at the studio. These days it’s just a publicity stunt, often sponsored by Sony.

My heroes were the tragic but necessary personification of a generation’s moral indignance. They happily poked their fingers into the eyes of humanity in its callous pursuit of greed - by showing us all that regardless the amount of money happiness will always be elusive. They were trail blazers, musical martyrs, and they would succumb time and time again to the evils of living life’s excesses for their cause, in the same way religious fanatics scar themselves by flagellation. As such, we honored them with equal worship and praise.

Nowadays we send them off to wimpy $5000.00 a day, 5 star rehabs, or tell them to take up Pilates with their “sober buddy“.

I can remember once upon a time cherishing their world so much that I couldn’t wait to get done with the droning bother of daily life, just so I could crawl inside my speakers and be mystified by their latest creations. Let’s face it, what they created was more often than not, beautiful. It was beautiful because there was the weight of tortured souls behind every note they produced. Even when the new music of the day didn’t amaze and confound me enough to find and consume it as quickly as possible, I could still respect the artistry enough to revisit old albums while waiting feverishly for the next batch of their self-destructive gold.

Back then “commerciality” was always quietly laughed at by the elite and openly shunned by music’s insiders. This is what made music real for my generation. Back then when things became too “user friendly“, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana showed up in flannel hero-capes and a “back to basics” antibiotic and they magically cured us of the “hairspray rock“ crisis. Even before glam rock gave us cold sweats we had unfortunate conditions that left us feeling the tiniest bit ill. “Bay City Rolleritus Virus“, or perhaps “The Partridge Familyatosis” comes to mind. Yes, they did litter our musical lawns but they were never dangerous enough for us to need a gardener as they mercifully died of their own unimportance.

The twits of my generation were like a car accident that only slowed the traffic on a road you otherwise loved to travel; never would they add up to anything that could threaten the “cool” in popular music. Never in a million years would a musician “in the know” be caught dead supporting the homogenized, cookie-cutter entertainment industry we now see today, and as a musician back then you would risk a brutal, agonizing death from merely suggesting that your band just follow “the formula“. It’s not like that anymore.

There it is folks, exposed and in the open. Take it from someone with the keys to the executive washroom, there now exists a secret “formula” that can manipulate your mind into believing utter tripe is sheer artistic brilliance. Once airborne, the virus produced from this formula enters our bloodstream via aural cavities, where it multiplies and kills the brains ability to use self control and exercise common sense. If left untreated one can even find themselves watching E tv and wondering what Las Vegas party Paris Hilton is attending, shortly after which one will bleed from every orifice and painfully expire in a pool of their own sewage. There is no cure, but liberal doses of Korn and Foo Fighters has been known to slow the progress.

This “formula” is the successful viral end of an equation that continually failed over the years, but yet with each failure in the “formula” it was revised, honed and perfected until now, and now it infects the masses like the worst bird flu pandemic. This “formula” was modeled after Anthrax I believe. After all, it has the same toxic effects. The evil doers of the music world have made the formula so god-awfully effective that even something as horrid as Gwen Stefani’s last CD can be allowed to thrive. We all know that in the real world of music the dear, sweet Gwen couldn’t hold a creative candle to her old band “No Doubt“, yet after years of fronting an extremely talented group of musicians and writers Gwen and the evil doers have used the “formula” to successfully release today’s musical equivalent of Barney the Dinosaur.

I hate to harp on Gwen Stefani, but let’s take her, then add the concept of the "solo" career and make a nice and shiny example for my point. You see, back in the day the solo career was rarely a successful venture. When bands broke up they all usually just went home and counted money or died of drug overdose. With the exception of Sting, Annie Lennox, and possibly the first David Lee Roth album nothing much ever came from egocentric artists thinking they were bigger than their own britches. Now however, anyone involved with a mildly successful pop group has access to the secret “formula” and its dark purpose. Using this viral equation they can expect to make a disgusting amount of money by launching a "solo" career having virtually no fear of the public ridicule they deserve. Yes, gentle reader, our infamous “Hollaback Girl” is a perfect example of what is wrong with the music culture these days. The evidence of this epidemic is there, right before our very ears.

You don’t have to say it, I already know… Gwen Stefani is “so last year”, but it’s her kind of pop culture impetus that seeps musical insanity into our aural gene pool. If we’re not careful we will have 5000 Gwen Stefanis in a decade. It’s only been a year and we already have one more, just look at Fergie. (My apologies to the Fergilicious One - her CD isn’t all that bad). As for the current incarnation of Gwen, doesn’t anyone care that her musical misadventure has made millions of dollars from successfully spelling the word Bananas (B---A-N-A-N-A-S) for us? That song wouldn’t have made it big on a children’s show when I was growing up, but somehow today she is a bloody superstar from it. In fact now that I think about it wasn’t she actually yodeling on one track of that miserably useless CD? Did anyone, anywhere, ever like yodeling? I am sorry to be the bearer of this bad news but when music was real this woman would have been taken to the nearest signpost, tied up and shot by a firing squad of angry Iron Maiden fans. Good God what is next, the solo career of a person working for someone with a solo career? When can we expect Rhianna’s hairdresser to make 10 million dollars releasing a new song that spells out the word “Oranges”? (O---R-A-N-G-E-S - sing it with me now!)

The wonderful people in control of our fantastic music business have become nothing more than “pop culture pimps”. You would think that once recording artists realize they are being so abused they would band together and put a stop to it. You would think that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 as well, and obviously that little goof slipped by us as well. The awful shock and horror is that some of these glittery people just don‘t care they are getting screwed, because the process is lining their pockets and feeding their egos. Others may in fact care, but they have no idea how to stop the beat downs and career ending abuses. Yes gentle reader, it’s a sad reality but the truth is that most artists are so humbled that they receive any attention at all they dare not do anything to take the spotlight from their makeup-caked, plastic faces.

I wait hopefully for the day when popular music reacts in the same way it has always reacted. When the business of music gets too watered down and too littered with debris, history has shown us that the art-form itself somehow explodes as if on cue, shaking the tree, killing the bad seeds and we are all better people from it. This has always been the cosmic answer to the problems of musical over-saturation. In the 80’s heavy metal rescued us from disco, in the 90’s alternative rock rescued us from heavy metal. Where is our current generation’s Darwinian Music Business Cleanser? God I hope it‘s not Hilary Duff.

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Harley continues to cower in the darkness, wearing fake sunglasses, beards and various styled wigs. Fearing the ever present threat of assassination by 50 Cent, to his credit he still stops off at safe houses to send articles to the masses in the hopes that one day there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Advise to Live By

I have always thought of guitarists as a strangely profound bunch. In my tenure I've spoken to many peers and rarely have I left the conversation not feeling a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that I am a part of their world. Any musician really, when I look into their eyes I can see that they are in love with something important, and that their devotion to their music shines a continual light on their spirit.

Part of what kept me playing guitar all these years was just from learning the philosophy of some of my heroes, from knowing that they truly love what they do. Here is a few wonderful insights by a few masters of our craft. Enjoy!

  • "... I think people overemphasize the importance of gear in their search for tone. Your sound comes from how you pick and dampen the strings, and from your attack as much as anything..." - Eric Johnson
  • "... the biggest difference between me and other guitar players is that I don't use effects to color my guitar parts, I create guitar parts using effects ... they're a crucial part of what I do ... I don't consider effects a crutch ... they're part of the art..." - The Edge - U2
  • "... guitarists shouldn't get too riled up about all of the great players that were left off of 'Rolling Stone Magazines' list of the Greatest Guitar Players of all Time' ... Rolling Stone is published for people who read the magazine because they don't know what to wear ..." - Joe (Sach) Satriani
  • "When you strum a guitar you have everything - rhythm, bass, lead and melody" - David Gilmore / Pink Floyd
  • "... I don't want you to play me a riff that's going to impress Joe Satriani; give me a riff that makes a kid want to go out and buy a guitar and learn to play ..." - Ozzy Osbourne
  • "... everyone was using tiny brushes and doing watercolors, while Jimi Hendrix was painting galactic scenes in Cinemascope. We are working in a field of mystical resonance, sound and vibration... that's what makes people cry, laugh and feel their hair stand up ... " - Carlos Santana
  • "..I wanted to create music that was so different that my mother could tell me from anyone else" - Les Paul - Legendary Guitarist and creator of the Les Paul Guitar
  • "It's the opportunity to play something completely different, responding to what happened just before you started to play, and I love that." - Larry Carlton - Jazz influenced guitar player
  • "... Jeff Beck is my idol .. sometimes he finds notes that I just do not have on my guitar. Frank Zappa's another one .. I loved Frank Zappa ... I do think Van Halen reinvented the guitar ... he's an excellent musician, a shrewd guitarist and as a person he's wonderful..." - Ritchie Blackmore / Deep Purple / Rainbow
  • "I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his "Heartbreaker" solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string ... pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around ?" ... I just kind of took it and ran with it - Eddie Van Halen
  • "In oddball places, the electric guitar has been taken as an almost alien object - this weird, six-stringed instrument that fell down to earth and was then played loud but with traditional grace and intelligence" - Ry Cooder - Guitar
  • "Rock & Roll is feeling, and after you know most of the basics ... chords, rhythm, scales and bends ... getting that feeling is just about the most important aspect of playing guitar" - Eddie Van Halen

Friday, September 21, 2007

Guitar Methods Distortion "Blues"

Guitarmethods would like you to try and ignore the hot chick holding the guitar. Go ahead, try.

There is a reason for the latex babe, beyond the obvious that is. ;-) The point is too much distortion distracts you from playing your best, just as too much of that (<) can keep you from making it to the gig on time. (To my female readers I apologize in advance for seeming insensitive.)

Using distortion is a balancing act. To do it right and keep the unnecessary noise from getting out of control you have to use both hands to mute strings that are not being used, as well as having a good control of your volume knob or pedal.

Many guitarists use a noise gate to eliminate sound once it gets below a certain decibel level, but I have always found that noise gates can really affect the expression of my performance. Of course it's a good idea to gate your overall sound- but it's a tricky thing to keep the gate from cutting off your sound at inappropriate times. The best techniques that work for me involves controlling my overall volume myself.

Also it's worth noting that playing a guitar heavily saturated with distortion is not always necessary to get the effect you require. Try adjusting the level of distortion to balance out what is needed to provide you with appropriate sustain and leave it at that. Too many cats love to drench their sound in "grease" and distortion and the end result is just noise pollution and frustration. It also can quickly become a crutch that leads to a negative effect on the quality of your technique.

factoid: Too much is never good, in guitars and in life.

Use discretion to your benefit, and learn how to mute your neck with the fingers of your left hand, as well as using generous amounts of the fleshy part of your right hand on the guitar bridge. Experimenting is really the best method to figure out what works for you.

For a good exercise however, try the following:
  • Take a chunky 8th note phrase, perhaps using a 1+5th or 1+5th+8th power chord combination, and just play it for a few minutes, adjusting your muting and noticing the differences. When you find something that soothes your ears you are in the right place.
  • Starting with your low E string, complete an F# 5th + 8th chord for 4 bars (3 notes, 3 strings),
  • Move up to the A string and do a B 5th + 8th chord (again for 4 bars) while muting the low E string with the fleshy part of your right hand. Then try muting the low E string with the middle finger of your left hand.
  • Continue all the way to the G string, muting as you see fit.
  • When you reach the G string position, (should be an A chord) move up 2 frets and do the same thing in reverse until you end on an A flat 5th+8th chord, on the low E string.
  • When you figure out what is more comfortable for you, keep at it until you have "clean" distortion, and chunky power chords that rival any guitar god.
When all of this is over, rinse and repeat until your mind is numb and your neighbors call the police. Once you've made bail go ahead and learn "Back in Black" by AC DC if you don't already know it. (If you don't know this song by now I am either getting too old or you should be playing the fiddle.)

I chose Back in Black because it's perfect for learning how to control over-saturated distortion using your volume knob (or pedal). The trick is to practice the rhythm track of this song, and every time there is no notes (a wonderful musical concept we call "rests") reach down and turn off the volume on your guitar with your right hand. If you don't know why this is important, just crank up the distortion box until you get nothing but feedback when you are not striking notes. You will find that the noise drives you crazy enough to reach down and turn down your volume instinctively. This is another technique for learning to control the distorted sound and it has the added effect of teaching you to become a human noise gate. That is not a bad quality to have as a guitarist.

It is important to keep distortion to the minimum requirements for your desired sound goals, but it is also good to practice a bit with distortion/overdrive at overly exaggerated levels, as this will drive you to learn what muting techniques work to stop the distortion "blues". :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tragedy in the Guitar World

A sad goodbye to Carter Albrecht, a 34 year old singer, songwriter, a very stylish player who's work with Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians led to the success the band has seen in the past. My heart goes out to his family.

I will always equate Carters simplistic genius to the beginning riff on "What I Am", a song that may have been Edie's biggest hit. That particular guitar riff has been re-sampled and used a million times in various tracks, from hip hop songs to house music. It was just a very brilliant positional phrase for the guitar, and fun to play.

It pains me to hear that prescription drugs may have been involved in the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death. It pains me but it doesn't surprise me in the least. Most people think of drug abuse as being strictly limited to a crack pipe or some dingy hallway scoring heroine. In reality a large percentage of drug abuse and/or misuse comes from prescribed medications and all-to-willing doctors. It would seem that doctors never truly examine the lifestyle of their patients, or maybe they don't warn enough about the drugs they prescribe in relation to use or misuse of alcohol.

Either way, this is a sad bit of news, and not a piece I was expecting to write for guitarmethods - but it should be noted that Carter had a unique voice in our world and one that will be missed. Rest in Peace.

Carter remembered:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Guitar Methods" Guest Columnist is Angry ;-)

How can any self respecting guitar e-zine possibly include Britney Spears in the mix? How can shredders of self-proclaimed "god-like" proportions abandon the cardinal rule and speak the names that could unleash hell, without being taken away in a black helicopter and tortured to death by angry Dobermans? After all, when you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss eventually stares back.

Well, to be honest, we do so only because the following article is bloody funny, and because the author is a close friend. Check it out!

Does MTV Eat Its Young?

written by harley warren, reprinted with permission:

Britney Spears is MTV’s fault, and MTV is the 30 year old mistake of a drug induced, wealth hungry, vanity-stricken music industry. Furthermore, Music Television is solely responsible for the degradation and eventual demise of our species as a whole. Let me explain why.

I so hate to use the 30 seconds of time I have in my life which could be better spent picking a scab
or committing ritual seppuku, but someone needs to point out that Britney Spears must immediately dive into a waterless, Olympic-sized pool for the betterment of mankind.

Firstly, any artist with even the slightest tendency towards life’s many excesses should never be permitted to sing a song like “Oops I Did It Again” and expect to escape a good public flogging every time she is spotted at the drive through of McDonalds dropping her babies. Furthermore, when she decided to have 2 kids, why was there no self-respecting personal adviser around to tell her that a freaking bikini is NOT the best fashion choice at the VMA’s - if she isn’t planning on spending 8 hours a day in a gym for the rest her life?

I will cut the poor, young multi-millionaire basket-case some slack, because even with the obviously over-prescribed Valium dose she had taken before her performance at the VMA’s, she is nothing more than an illegitimate child in the first place, spawned from MTV’s continual rape of the music industry. Yes, these days few things make me proud of the industry of which I belong, but I’m always quietly optimistic when a person like Kanye West says he will now ban MTV from his presence. Aside from the more obvious reason I am ecstatic at his decision, I have a new found respect for his upper-middle class “street cred”. Standing up to the giant malevolent beast that is the video music industry with his sling-shot of a career, well, that takes some serious stones in my book.

My apologies to Christina and Justin, but how morbidly appropriate that the talent pool of 2000+ would exist almost exclusively from the Mickey Mouse Club, circa 1970 something. Nowadays, for every Christina or Justin there is approximately 7500 Paula Deandras (feat. Lil Wayne of course) littering our musical experience like those stupid little toy dogs that pee everywhere, no matter how much you beat them.

I only know what every self-respecting music veteran knows about the pre-video era. I know that there were plenty enough drugs circulating in the music business in the late’70’s for musicians, songwriters, and producers of the time; and I know that they were all sedated enough to be spoon fed that wonderful new aspect of “brilliance“ called the “music video industry“. After all, what self-respecting musician wouldn’t relish at the thought of being on TV, making a kazillion more dollars, and getting more poonani than a sex addict? I do blame the artistic community of the day - but only for falling asleep at the proverbial wheel. It was MTV that put them in the driver’s seat of a brand new Lamborghini.

Yes, gentle reader, it was the dreaded Music Business Executive, the “behind the scenes” leech that knew proper music like I know proper fish mongering. It was he who got naked somewhere, rolled around in a combination of jello, prostitutes, and champagne screaming “Screw art, there‘s money to be made!!!” To his myopic purview - MTV would birth an entirely new industry, employ thousands of otherwise unusable idiots, and after all, commerce is king, no? Sad - that’s the word for it. Sing it with me now… sad, sad, sad… la la la. After all, since when is commerce and art supposed come in that specific order? Isn’t it supposed to be art and then commerce? When art is dictated by greed, greed becomes the seminal form of said art – and with that epiphany I give you the evolution of “Gangsta Rap”. Please tell me in what horrible alternate universe am I in that kids find it cool to hero-worship someone bragging about having all the cash necessary to kill anyone he wants, defile the sanctity of womanhood with strategic use of the words “bitches” and “ho’s”, and suck the class right out of the latest Mercedes Benz by tricking it out to sickeningly overexerted proportions? I will tell you what alternate universe I belong to, The MTV Universe, and I’m sick to death of it.

Had someone mercifully foreseen this abuse of creative power, proceeded to do the humane thing and disembowel said record exec/ MTV “Imp-etour” like a stuck pig at a barbecue, we may have been spared the inevitable byproducts of the MTV perversion. I’m sorry, but the extent of idolatry in our music business today is pathetic. As a result, we get toxic waste byproducts the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and all those other happy-crappy knuckleheads who’s only purpose in life should be to correctly remember that I don’t want onions on my cheeseburger.

Yes, instead of changing the tires on my first car, Poison was sarcastically playing on my car radio, stabbing tiny needles of sound towards me when I got my first flat in the middle of nowhere. And later in life, when Jessica Simpson should have been properly cleaning the counters in the kitchen-diner where I had my first drunken 3 am bowl of chili; her video was on my TV as I suddenly realized I had to wretch, vomit, and crap for 14 or so hours from Botulism. Allow me to digress; now that I think about it maybe it wasn’t food poisoning after all that turned my insides out. Maybe it was just that dumb ass song “These Boots Are Made For Walking“, or the knowledge that a great deal of money had been wasted making it into a not-so-clever, bad strip tease + squeegee video, to further cheapen my already miserable existence. In fact now that I think about it, maybe I got sick simply from knowing that a producer somewhere in this world had enough moral depravity to have gutted 10 virgins on an altar of Satan - for only that would garner the necessary permission to resurrect such a miserable song from the 9th Circle of Hell.

Let’s face it. We have to come to societal epiphanies and eradicate past mistakes, otherwise we end up with evil and perverted concepts like Nazism, radical Islam, or most recently, reality TV. When we don’t acknowledge our faux pas, we move through our lives not fully understanding that which we have been cheated from, such as the joy of creative evolution. Oh - and we also end up with genocidal lunatics like Hitler and Bin Laden, but that is besides my point. Music is a language that requires its’ visual representation come from the listener’s imagination alone. When you take that requirement away, music becomes less important and opens the door to everything that is bad in the world.

No one was ever supposed to attach 4 minutes of ubiquitous thong shots, weird old men standing with pitchforks, or wannabe artsy-looking windowsills (in any combination) to a piece of aural artwork and then assume it was clever. Here’s a newsflash - it was never brilliant. Why did recording artists ever give the burnt out, disenfranchised film industry wannabes of the world a chance to corrupt the beauty of their music? Three letters folks. M(oney) T(itties) & V(enereal disease). By doing so time and time again, MTV and the evil, three legged monster-child it spawned (called the Video Music Industry) outright murdered the importance of popular music, simultaneously stunting the growth of a genuinely important art form.

Please excuse me if this article gets sidetracked. You see, I write this column from the front of my TV as the movers pack up the contents of my office, and I‘m too damned lazy to turn it off. As a result I’m inexorably distracted. I am in this condition, of course, along with preparing to cancel my credit cards and move house 2 or 3 times a month under cover of darkness, because I know that once this article is published MTV executives will most certainly dispatch 6 highly skilled assassins, (or perhaps 50 Cent), to come and kill me.

It is possible that without Dire Straits bowing to this 3 headed whore-Goddess in the early 80’s, droning on and on about “wanting their MTV”, there would be no war now, no famine, and no need for fossil fuel. It’s even more likely that in the absence of MTV, the stand-alone “music business” could have evolved to influence us beyond the need for any sort of verbal communication and led us to an Utopian wonderment of just glancing at each other, instantly knowing what is and what is not appropriate to permanently tattoo on your body.

Maybe not, but let’s face it, the music industry is lazy. When it comes to making money, the executive motivation is that doing less and less should be worth more and more. There is an argument out there somewhere stating that most of humanity’s technological breakthroughs are the direct result of laziness. There has to be. If not, I present the argument here and now. I give as examples the automobile, because we were obviously too lazy to take care of our horses; the gun, because we were too tired of stabbing other people to death; and most recently the text message, because statistically it takes more brain cells to communicate via proper conversation. It only begs to differ that in our laziness, we relished at the opportunity to have our imaginations spoon fed to us by useless MTV producers, as opposed to sitting down, turning off he TV and using our own brain power. This is why when MTV launched 30 odd years ago, we gloriously sat in oblivion like proper morons while a new, faceless demon sucked away our souls and gave people like Britney Spears a nice, tall platform to fall from.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

"Guitar Methods" Artist of the Moment

Most notable publications these days like to run the gamut of latest gear, a few shredders and wannabe rock gods, and if we're lucky a good lesson or 2 thrown in. It's really quite a shame that the acoustic guitar often ends up neglected, as well as it's benefit to popular music.

Lately the technicians of modern acoustic guitar incorporate tapping, interesting rhythmic techniques, and alternate tunings that breed incredible harmonic convergences. One of the fathers of this style of acoustic music is Michael Hedges, may he rest in peace.

Artistry and skill have always combined wonderfully on the acoustic guitar in a way that truly can inspire us to re-visit the instrument. The following are some examples that should motivate you as much as they have me.

So, if you haven't already caught these videos kicking around the net, check them out here and let me know what you think.

Now for #2...

This young axeman is Justin King. A few subscribers had emailed me his stuff and I just had my first chance to really look over his work this morning. I immediately thought of Leo Kottke and obviously Michael Hedges, but according to Justin he had been experimenting with his tapping approach long before hearing of these cats. It's also worth mentioning that he doesn't listen to much acoustic guitar music.

I can really appreciate his rhythmic approach, the chops in his right hand could impress any percussionist, and his tapping skills are really quite impressive by any standard. Judging on what I have heard since checking him out, Justin's songwriting skills are on par with his obviously creative approach to guitar, so I am certainly keeping him high on my list when I look for new guitar methods - and for some new material for my Ipod :-).

His website is very well designed. I am not sure how easily you would find his material at the local CD joint, I guess that depends on what part of the world you are in. Might I might suggest that it is always worth it to support your peers and any new talent in the music community, so look for his material online if you like it. ;-)

Another interesting player in this vain is Andy Mckee. Here's a video to look over.

To quote Don Ross, "Andy is the most innovative and exciting fingerstyle guitarist to emerge in decades."

They both impress the heck out of me. If you like them, support their effort!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

5 Tips To Becoming a Working Guitarist

5 "Guitar Methods" Secrets for Staying Employed


By popguitarmethods.

Be a Successful Guitarist

5 Tips for Staying In Demand

Many guitarists, including myself, felt that overpowering insatiable need to learn guitar because one technical approach stood out over most others. That preferred style becomes our musical forte and therein our crutch. Personally, I loved the heavy technical wizards from the 80's and 90's (think Malmsteen, Vai, Tony McAlpine, e.t.c..) and did my best to emulate them. My fingers bled from learning their techniques. However once I started playing professionally it was painfully obvious that any given style was only as good as it was popular. Once you start paying the bills with your axe, it becomes very important to know all the necessary tricks of the trade or die of starvation.


I learned early on that if you want to make a living playing guitar, cherish what you love but practice what you will need - when you least expect it. If you are talented enough to become a professional axeman, your strengths will come as no surprise to anyone. However, if you examine the session masters (Steve Lukather, Ry Cooder,Paul Jackson Jr. to name but a few) you find that their musical palette contains far more colors than that which they are best known for choosing to showcase the most.

Scrutinize a good guitarists body of work, not just the style that turns you on the most. Steve Lukather is a perfect example. His work with Toto is arguably his most prolific, but the tracks he laid for Michael Jackson, Boz Scaggs, e.t.c... go a long way to showing his diversity and skills in different styles. The man's discography is amazing. Bottom line is that it's easy to be awesome at what you love, but it's necessary to become good at everything else if you want to make a living.


If you are a true shredder of any quality, you like to spend a great excess of time simply noodling your favorite riffs, or getting a few BPM faster with that smoking "sweep picking" technique that impresses everyone. I have one word for that... bollocks. If you only practice what you know than you never learn, it just gets easier to present your current skill level.

  • factoid: No matter what you think you can do brilliantly on the guitar, there is a 9 year old somewhere on the planet that can do it better, while skateboarding.

Proper habits are the absolute key to becoming better at your craft. If you set aside 2 hours per day to practice, then take at least half of that time studying new and unfamiliar techniques or styles, gravitating - of course - to what is popular in today's music world. You will always find the time to riff what you love to play - that is a given - otherwise you are an accountant not a musician. Having said that, unless you are prepared to expand your horizons musically you will be the best guitarist in your basement but a complete waste of time in an organization that wants to pay you cash in hand.


Once you have developed enough new techniques to accomplish in your soon-to-be awesome new skill set, stop stockpiling ideas for a while and do the work. It is so easy to over-saturate your brain with new musical ideas. You will only get confused and frustrated with too much on the plate. One rarely learns how to fight by just from continually being attacked by overwhelming force. It can happen, but in most cases you end up bloodied and worse for wear. Knowledge comes in steps, over time, with a great deal of patience and love for your craft.

As an example, I'll give you my normal weekly schedule.

  • I mercilessly hunt down 4 different techniques based on 4 different musical styles.
  • pick out 2 to 4 lessons from each of the 4 styles that will advance my skill set, and therein is the tasty meat filling in my practice week feast :-) A "lesson" can be a guitar solo from an old George Benson song, the alternate picking technique that I read about in my latest guitar player magazine, e.t.c...
  • throw 2 to 4 style "lessons" into one 2 hour daily practice session, depending on the learning curve involved.
  • practice on the first 3 days of the week.
  • 2 days of a week reviewing, honing what I have learned, riffing to myself, and then experimenting with the new knowledge - over music tracks that I like.
  • In the next few days I am yet again on the hunt for new things to learn.
  • I always allow at least one day - every 8 or so days- wherein I do not touch the guitar. For some reason it always seems like a good idea to give your "creative brain" a break and let it sort out all the things you have fed it. It's my equivalent of the phrase "sleep on it".


Finding the motivation for doing something that doesn't necessarily turn your crank, well that's somewhat like asking someone in a Ferrari to drive the speed limit. After all, it seems rather moronic to build a car that can do 75 MPH in first gear and then ask you to put around the world in slow motion, no?

To motivate yourself properly for learning a style that may make you only want to run screaming head-long into a brick wall, simply pick techniques and lessons that challenge and frustrate you, styles that question your own abilities as a guitarist. Knowing that any chump can play in a style you don't find appealing means nothing - unless that chump is doing something that makes you look like an idiot.

Finding material to learn has never been so easy. Any good guitar publication in print or on the internet is worth it's weight in gold to you, the aspiring guitarist. Pick from a variety of sources, instructional videos and audio programs, and listen to many popular stations - you will inevitably snatch something challenging, or at least something that peaks your musical curiosity and expands your horizons as a guitarist. Bookmark and keep checking this blog and others for it will often contain many good links and sources that can help you achieve your goal.


When I talk about "aural hygiene" in seminars, sometimes I make my point by noodling a solo loudly over my speech. It becomes a very elementary lesson at this point. When someone pays $80 to $150.00 and hour to hear me talk about my approach to guitar, I always found it weird they would rather hear me speak occasionally.

Let's assume that you are good enough to get out there and spread the love, and you have a few auditions or sessions lined up. The golden rule is simple: Keep the bloody noise down!

Guitarists and drummers are the absolute worst for wailing away in oblivion while people are talking, setting up, or adjusting sound. Making unnecessary noise when it's time to be quiet shows you have no respect for the other people in said session. No matter how unbelievable you may be skill wise, people don't need to hear your "Amazingness" over and over again. You will walk out of that session looking like a horses ass, guaranteed.

There have been many cases in my own experience leading bands or recording sessions when I could have easily committed homicide - from a drummer who wouldn't stop tuning or warming up. So my best advise is to keep it down until you are called upon to show off those unreal chops, or you will quickly have a reputation that keeps other people's phones ringing and keeps you at home staring at your unpaid phone bill.

So there it is folks, a few introductory tips in pop guitar methods. This blog is about helping you become employable, and about helping you achieve a level of professional etiquette that earns you a living doing what you love. Keep coming back as the hits will just keep on coming - and the lessons get more and more interesting. :-)

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