Sunday, January 29, 2012

February 2012 Newsletter - Gig Schedule

I bet a lot of you are like me when it comes to music - you like to rock, but you also look for opportunities to hear a variety of musicians and styles.  If so, then my February schedule is going to knock your socks off with the diversity of styles and musical talent I am lucky enough to be a part of this month.
Thanks to all who continue to support my musical endeavors. Music is my calling in life, and it would still be if I wasn't making a cent off it, but this month's schedule really brings it all home that I am indeed one lucky guy. Enjoy the shows! Full details after the jump.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why Is Cookie Monster Still Here?

Why are metal bands still doing cookie monster vocals? Why do people still like it? Why do I care?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Master Class: Desert Rose

I have been helping a couple of my students learn "Desert Rose," a song by Eric Johnson, one of the most talented and unique guitarists in the history of rock guitar. The guitar solo in the middle of the song is a veritable master-class in advanced lead guitar techniques. It is a perfect example of how Eric can take a fairly normal chord progression and produce a virtuoso lead guitar solo over it, adding layers upon layers of complex ideas at blazing speeds with perfect accuracy.You can spend hours analyzing the content of this solo and if you are an advancing guitarist it would be well worth it. Every phrase is rich with sophisticated musical concepts and techniques that are guaranteed to improve your fretboard knowledge and make you think differently about how to play a solo.

But you must not forget that for Eric Johnson, tone is everything. I have seen him play live many times, attended a masterclass with him, and seen his instructional videos, and it is obvious that getting the right tone is essential for him to effectively communicate his musical ideas. You cannot separate the notes he played from the sound of those notes, their tone and timbre, because that is how he is thinking about it when he plays it.
Eric has had a reputation throughout his career for being excruciatingly attentive to the smallest details about the sound of his guitar. This includes the choice of amp, guitar and effects of course, but for him it gets down to such things as the type of batteries in the effects units, the length of the connecting cables, the relative position of the effects to each other...seriously, not kidding. But Eric is just as attentive to how the tone really originates from the hands contacting the strings - how hard he presses, how hard he strums, using a plastic pick or plucking with bare fingers (or both), the type of pick: shape size and thickness, what part of the string to hit and how hard...and on and on.
Watch this video of Eric in the studio demonstrating his equipment and observe - he doesn't mention most of the things I just described but he is subconsciously considering all of them at all times.

This really may be going too far, and I certainly wouldn't expect everyone to be this way. But listen to Eric's best album, "Ah Via Musicom," which includes Desert Rose and the classic Cliffs of Dover. He may have been obsessed with his tone, but it resulted in this, an absolute masterpiece of guitar work.

Go back to the first solo in Desert Rose, and just marvel at the amazing quality of his guitar tone - big and powerful, but with a lightness and spaciousness that is completely unique and unquestionably beautiful. Play the clip below, it should jump right to the solo.


Without doubt, Eric has paid his dues, practicing and developing his skills and knowledge to be able to create music on that level. But all that knowledge and skill just gives him the freedom to focus on what he cares about the most - pure music, distilled down to its essence - tone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Wishes

Happy New Year to everybody! Year's end is typically a time to have a look back and a look forward, but I think you also have to look at right now, and do so with gratitude. I am the lucky husband of a wonderful wife, grandfather to two amazing grandkids, and part of a terrific extended family. I am steadily employed as a guitar player and teacher, and I get to hang with some of the most talented, professional and just plain coolest people in the music business.

January 2012 Gig Schedule

December featured the return of Hectic Red after a hiatus of several months, and it was great to be back! The band rocked the Barn for a fabulous crowd
of folks who are both fans and good friends. The Red is back in January for a show at Surf City. In addition, I've got a bunch of other fun gigs  lined up for January 2012, including: solo acoustic shows at some of my favorite local venues, and a duo with Brian Comotto, who is one fantastic singer, pianist and guitar player. Details below.