Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Modes - C Phrygian

The formula for creating the simple practice progression in the video -

C Phrygian - relative major is Ab major
The IV and V chord of the relative major is Db and Eb.  Place those two chords over the mode's root, C, and you get...

Db/C / / / | Eb/C / / / |

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Modes - C Dorian

The formula for creating the simple practice progression in the video -

C Dorian - relative major is Bb major
The IV and V chord of the relative major is Eb and F.  Place those two chords over the mode's root, C, and you get...

Eb/C / / / | F/C / / / |

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Modes - C Ionian (Major)

The formula for creating the simple practice progression in the video -

C Ionian (Major) - relative major is C major
The IV and V chord of the relative major is F and G.  Place those two chords over the mode's root, C, and you get...

F/C / / / | G/C / / / |

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bone Tone

Several years ago I was sitting in a pit band playing acoustic next to Bob Sobo, an excellent player, who was playing electric.  After the first sound check and rehearsal the house engineer came up to me and said of my Taylor acoustic, "that's the best sounding acoustic guitar I've ever heard." Before I could agree with him Bob chimed in, "It's the Injun not the arrows."

It took me a second to get the axion. I'd never heard it. What Bob was saying was something I never would've said myself for fear of sounding egotistical. That it wasn't the instrument, it was the hands that wielded it. The hands that had played a million G chords and at least as many C, D, E and A chords. Hands that had been guided and directed by teachers, producers, artists and composers for 30 years.  Hands that had played on thousands of tracks.

Unintentionally proving this point one weekend I played my $99 Squire Strat at church for fun. Several people came up to me to ask what new instrument I was playing. All were amazed at how good this cheap Chinese made electric sounded. Myself included. What friend even came up to me and jokingly said, "I hate you!"

Another friend of mine, who had a real job, always had better gear than me, had me play his Tom Anderson guitar. He had changed the pick-ups for the third time trying to get that "tone." As I played it I thought, "this sounds sweet!" Just as he said, "it sounds good when you play it." It's not the gear.

How many of your favorite guitarists played sub-par instruments? Especially old school guys. The blues greats.

All this goes to say, you can buy more gear to improve your sound. Or it may be something as cost effective as practicing more. Playing out more. I don't think that there is a surgeon that can give you "bone tone".

Squier® by Fender® MINITM, Black

Taylor Guitars 814ce Grand Auditorium Acoustic Electric Guitar

10th Check Freedom

There is a saying, "I'll believe it when the check clears."

When dealing with the music business I say, "I'll believe it when the 10th check clears." It's a cynical yet freeing statement. Freeing because being cynical about monetary reward in my business keeps me from living like the money is going to keep rolling in.

Thinking this way does two things...

First, it keeps me hungry and hunting for work and opportunities. Keeping the pipeline full.

Second, it keeps me from upping my monthly outgo and getting tied to financial obligations that requires me to take work that may pay the bills but have no future. This gives me freedom.

Unfortunately my skepticism has proven to be realism on some occasions.  On others, when the 10th check clears, then it's time to celebrate. With a nice dinner, or maybe a new car!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Grass Is Always Greener...

I hear that a lot.  Not those particular words but something with the same inference.

For example, sitting in studio with a bunch of musicians, someone laments, "man I should've been a songwriter."  When someone else chimes in, "that producer is going to make a mint off our tracks."

Or a fellow pop song writer hears that I write for TV and says, "oh yeah man, that's where the money is."

And then when hanging with a TV writer friend and he finds out I'm writing pop songs, I hear, "oh yeah man, that's where the money is."

Record producers with higher aspirations start signing talent or publishing songs.

Publishers and managers want to be executives at major labels.

Major label exec's want to be a label owner.

In other words no matter how high up the ladder you are the grass is often greener on the other side.

This discontent with one's position isn't a bad thing, unless it turns you into a bitter, unpleasant human being.  It can instead be the fuel that keeps you moving in a upward direction, or at least keeps you moving.

Learning and growing are necessary skills to get and stay busy in your field of choice not just the music business. Realizing that you can always get better or learn a new skill is the surest way I know to stay busy.

The Power of One

Some times the secret to a good and simple part is hidden. A little knowledge can unlock it.  Take for example this chord progression...


| Gb Abm7 Gb/Bb  /  | Cb Cb/Db Cb/Eb  /  | Abm7  Gb/Bb Cb Cb/Db  | Ebm7  /  D6  /  |


| Db7sus  /  Cm7b5  /  |  Gb7 Abm7 Gb/Bb Cb | etc

Oh, and it's a fast gospel. Like 160bpm. Well I guess one could grab every chord. That's an exhausting approach. And maybe a little busy, since this was obviously written by a keyboard player, that's probably what he'll be doing.

How about just playing one note.  OK, maybe two.  Octave Gb's alla the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". Can it really be that easy? Yes and here's why. Knowledge. Knowledge of harmony to be specific. Let's analyze the progression above, what notes are contained in each chord?

Gb - Gb Bb Db  -  (Gb is the root)
Abm7 - Ab Cb Eb Gb  -  (Gb is the 7th)
Gb/Bb - Gb Bb Db  -  (Gb is the root)
Cb - Cb Eb Gb  -  (Gb is the 5th)
Cb/Db - Cb Eb Gb over Db  -  (Gb is the 5th)
Cb/Eb - Cb Eb Gb  -   (Gb is the 5th)
Ebm7 - Eb Gb Bb Db  -   (Gb is the 3rd)
D6 - D F#(Gb) A B  -   (Gb is the 3rd)
Db7sus - Db Gb Ab Cb  -   (Gb is the 4th)
Cm7b5 - C Eb Gb Bb  -   (Gb is the 5th)
Gb7 - Gb Bb Db Fb  -   (Gb is the root)

Simple. Done. It's perfect part for this chorus as it fits the vibe of the tune, stays out of the way and keeps you from sweating. Or more importantly it keeps you from sounding like you're sweating!  The power of one. It's like a game. Play it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Capoing at the 3rd Fret


I talk about capoing and not transposing, but instead knowing the actual chords you are playing.

D35 Acoustic Guitar

Modes Review/Overview

Relative Modes in C

CDEFGABC - C Major (Ionian)
DEFGABCD - D Dorian
EFGABCDE - E Phrygian
FGABCDEF - F Lydian
GABCDEFG - G Mixolydian
ABCDEFGA - A Minor (Aeolian)
BCDEFGAB - B Locrian

Formulas of the Modes - the half-steps (one fret) and whole-steps (two frets) that make up the scales.

WWHWWWH - Major
WHWWWHW - Dorian
HWWWHWW - Phrygian
WWWHWWH - Lydian
WWHWWHW - Mixolydian
WHWWHWW - Minor
HWWHWWW - Locrian

Parallel Modes in C - the seven modes starting on C (using the formulas above)

CDEFGABC - Major
CDEbFGABbC - Dorian
CDbEbFGAbBbC - Phrygian
CDEF#GABC - Lydian
CDEFGABbC - Mixolydian
CDEbFGAbBbC - Minor
CDbEbFGbAbBbC - Locrian

Comparing/contrasting the modes to Major - R=root

R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R - Major
R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 R - Dorian
R b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 R - Phrygian
R 2 3 #4 5 6 7 R - Lydian
R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 R - Mixolydian
R 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 R - Minor
R b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 R - Locrian

Create and decide

I've always maintained that to be a good rhythm guitarist one must be creative, yet decisive.

A chart may be something as simple as.... G / / / C / / / Em / / / D / / / .... and a good creative guitarist could find a hundred or even a thousand ways to play through this progression. But to find a good part fast that works with everything else around it, that's a skill. To do it quickly. That is art.

Years ago I worked with session ace Michael Thompson and was amazed at his skill in this area. He interpreted the chart in front of him almost instantly. Reading it, coming up with a part and a tone all in the time it took me to pick up my pick. Humbling to say the least. But I made it my goal from that point forward to be that guy who could come up with the prefect part and tone quickly. Not there yet, but I see shades of it every now and then.

One of the keys is to be a fan of music. Different styles. Be a voracious listener. But just listening doesn't make you creative. Try to think like they thought to create. Learn the creation process, not so much the mimicking process. Also the more listening to great music you've done the more likely you are to recognize the tone when you've dialed it in.

One of the best things you can do is write, write, write. Write, record and arrange. Produce. For every track I play on for someone else's CD or film or TV Show, I probably record a song at home, or at least an idea of some kind. A lot of times my experimenting at home ends up on tracks for others.

Most guitarists spend 95% of their practice time on soloing and only 5% on rhythm. But when one gets out and plays or does a session the inverse is the reality. 95-100% of your time will be spent on rhythm not soloing. The busiest players are the ones who realize this truth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five Minutes a Day...

You've heard of "7 Minute Abs"?

I've taught a lot of private lessons through the years.  Many to students with jobs, families, mortgages, etc. In other words to people with more important things to do than practice guitar for an hour a day.  (I know what could be more important?)

Consequently no practicing would tend to get done because a busy lawyer, electrical contractor, dentist, couldn't carve out an extra hour a day to practice their Guiliani Arpeggios (link pdf) or the changes to Giant Steps.

I had a simple two-fold solution.

First, set aside 5 minutes a day to practice.  This serves the purpose of dismantling any real or psychological time restraints.  We can all find five more minutes in a day right?  The reason I don't go to the gym every day is because it's a two hour commitment... driving there, cardio, weight lifting, stretching, driving back.  Yeah, not going to happen.  No matter what, I know it's two hours out of my life.  This is true tomorrow, the next day and the next.  Five minutes I can plan for.  I can sneak in.

Plus, five minutes turns into ten or fifteen or thirty without you even realizing it.  Especially if you are doing something you love.  So if your time barrier is psychological you've blasted through it with small manageable snowball to roll down the hill.  OK, lame metaphor I know.

Second. To help you remember to pick up the guitar, or guilt you into picking it up, have one on a stand in your office or your home office.  Or hanging on the wall.  Maybe even have a music stand with the music you are working on right there.

Guiliani Arpeggios - for right hand skill (Classical and Finger-style)
120 Studies for Right Hand Development (Classical Guitar Study Series)

Off The Wall Hangers - like the ones in my studio...
Off The Wall Guitar Hanger (for Standard Instruments)

Ultimate Support Guitar Stands also found in my studio...
Ultimate GS100 Support Genesis 100 Guitar Stand

Manhasset Music Stand found in my studio...
Manhasset M48 Symphony Music Stand
On-Stage SM7211 Professional Folding Orchestral Music Stand, Black (this one folds better and is cheaper!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cool Site #7 - Cashnet Sweeps

Win gear here...

Cashnet Sweeps Music Equipment page.

Comment if you win something. I once won a $250 gift certificate to Carvin.  Got a bunch of mic stands with it.

Parallel Modes in C

Parallel Modes in C

CDEFGABC - C Major (Ionian)
CDEbFGABbC - C Dorian
CDbEbFGAbBbC - C Phrygian
CDEF#GABC - C Lydian
CDEFGABbC - C Mixolydian
CDEbFGAbBbC - C Minor (Aeolian)
CDbEbFGbAbBbC - C Locrian

Life as a Rockstar...

OK, not really, but sometimes when you play on a record you get to be in the video too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The CAGED Method - Scales around the G Shape

C Major Pentatonic - C D E G A - 5 8 5 7 5 7 5 7 5 8 5 8
C Maj. Pent. w/ Blue Note - C D Eb E G A - 5 8 5 6 7 5 7 5 7 8 5 8 5 8
C Minor Pentatonic - C Eb F G Bb - 6 8 6 8 5 8 5 8 6 8 6 8
C Blues Scale - C Eb F Gb G Bb - 6 8 6 8 9 5 8 5 8 6 7 8 6 8
C Major Scale - C D E F G A B C - 8 5 7 8 5 7 9 5 7 5 6 8 5 7 8
C Mixolydian Scale- C D E F G A Bb C - 8 5 7 8 5 7 8 5 7 5 6 8 5 6 8

Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar, Ebony - Oh, come on, you know you want it!

The Mode's Formulas

Formulas (order of whole steps and half steps) for the 7 Modes

WWHWWWH - Major (Ionian)
WHWWWHW - Dorian
HWWWHWW - Phrygian
WWWHWWH - Lydian
WWHWWHW - Mixolydian
WHWWHWW - Minor (Aeolian)
HWWHWWW - Locrian

Monday, March 21, 2011

Introduction to Modes

The Modes of C (the modes relative to C Major)

CDEFGABC - C Ionian (aka Major)
DEFGABCD - D Dorian
EFGABCDE - E Phrygian
FGABCDEF - F Lydian
GABCDEFG - G Mixolydian
ABCDEFGA - A Aeolian (aka Minor)
BCDEFGAB - B Locrian

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The CAGED Method - Scales around the A Shape

C Major Pentatonic - C D E G A - 3 5 3 5 2 5 2 5 3 5
C Minor Pentatonic - C Eb F G Bb - 3 6 3 6 3 5 3 5 4 6 3 6
C Blues Scale - C Eb F Gb G Bb - 3 6 3 6 3 4 5 3 5 4 6 (7) 3 6
C Diatonic Scale - C D E F G A B C - 3 5 2 3 5 2 3 5 2 4 5 3 5 6 3 5
C Happy Minor Pentatonic - C Eb F G A  - 3 5 3 6 3 5 2 5 4 6 3 5

Fretboard Logic SE - Special Edition The Reasoning Behind the Guitar's Unique Tuning + Chords Scales and Arpeggios Complete (Volumes I and II Combined) (Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Ser)

Similar to my LP...
Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar, Ebony

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cool Site #4 - The John Bonham Files

The John Bonham Files.  mp3's of the drum tracks of many of your favorite Zepplin tunes.  Crazy cool.  I'll just listen to them in the car on road trips.  Or add them to my playlists.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cool Site #2 - Pandora Radio

Pandora Internet Radio

Create custom stations starting with artist or song or genre.  Say you enter "Wilco", it'll play a Wilco tone the a couple other artists they think you will like, for example mine loaded Cake, then Whiskeytown, then The Beatles, and then Wilco again.  It's kind of like radio Russian roulette.  Very cool!

Wilco's latest CD...
Wilco (The Album)

Cool Site #1 - Free Staff Paper

Free Printable Staff and Tab Paper

A great resource for teachers and those of you who don't have the time to run out and get some staff paper to capture that new symphonic master piece.  All clefs and 4 to 7 string options.  You can create and save your own templates.  Really cool site.

Say "Yes!". Sometimes.

When I was still a very young guitarist and still living in Indiana, someone higher up the "food chain" advised me to never say "no" when asked if I could play something.  Instrument or style.  That advice got me into trouble almost right away when I agree to play banjo on a bluegrass gig.  I played neither.  Fortunately for everyone's sake I mustered up the courage to bail early.  I think I even told them the truth, always a good thing, that I was foolishly taking some advice when I agreed to do something I wasn't qualified to do.

Flash forward about ten years and a composer I really wanted to work for asked me if I played mandolin.  To get the gig I said I did and asked, "when is the session?"  Thinking I could get one, practice, maybe take a couple lessons, etc.

"The day after tomorrow."

The day after tomorrow!  Immediately I went into panic mode.  I bought a no name mandolin from a friend for $50.  Found a beginner book about mandolin at the library (this was before youtube and the internet).  And started mapping out chords and scales on the tiny neck like I was cyphering reentry calculations to save my life.

I learned more in that 48 hour period then I had in any other prior.  When I showed up to that session nervous and sweating, I learned I was way over-qualified.  Yes, way over-qualified. Now was this because I had obtained sick David Grisman-type skills through pure tenacity or through the sale of my soul?  Neither.  All the composer wanted me to do was a couple of lines of tremolo.

Done.  $50.  I'd broken even and worked on music that would appear on television all over the world with a composer that I would now work for for years to come. And I got started on a instrument that I would utilize on many occasions.

The lesson?  Have a qualified yes handy.  Ask a couple of questions.  Make sure you aren't going to burn a bridge if you say "yes" and blow it big time.  A while ago a composer I work for quite a bit asked me if I played oud.  I told him "no".  I barely even knew what one was. Then he asked if I could get one and learn it in a couple of months. That I could do.  I did.  And now I've got another weapon in my arsenal that I've used at least a dozen times and will pull out every now and again just cause it's a flippin' crazy fun instrument to play!

Cheap instruments to have around for fun and the occasional session...
Egyptian Deluxe Oud w/ Soft Case & CD & Oud Pick
Oscar Schmidt OB5 5-String Banjo
Fender FM-53S Mandolin, Sunburst

Intro to the CAGED Method

 The CAGED Method - the shapes...

C - x32010  (fuller - 332010)
A - x02220  (fuller - 002220)
G - 320003
E - 022100
D - xx0232  (fuller - 200232)

C chords up the fretboard using the five shapes...

C shape C - x32010
A shape C - x35553
G shape C - 875558
E shape C - 8 10 10 9 8 8
D shape C - x x 10 12 13 12

Fretboard Logic SE - Special Edition The Reasoning Behind the Guitar's Unique Tuning + Chords Scales and Arpeggios Complete (Volumes I and II Combined) (Fretboard Logic Guitar Method Ser)

Make Loud Mistakes

There is a saying in the studios... "Make Loud Mistakes."

When you are recording, whether for a CD or TV/film, time is money.  (Another saying.) Often when a musician is playing an unsure section of a chart or song he plays softer.  It's completely natural to be timid when one is laking in confidence.  This is a problem on two fronts.

First if you make a mistake at this lower, shyer volume, it's very likely to go undetected, even by you.  That is until you've packed everything up and they are mixing either later in the day or weeks later.  A conversation usually follows.  Something like this...

"Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, who was that?"

"I don't know.  Solo the keys."

"Nope, not him."

"The bass?"

"Nope."

"The guitar?"

"Yep, there it is.  He's a half step off in that bar isn't he?"

"Can you just mute that bar?"

"Let's see.  No, now the guitar just drops out for a bar that doesn't sound right."

"We're going to have to replace the track."

"This needs to be done today."

"I'll make some calls, it's going to cost us to get someone in here today.  I won't call that guy again."

Had the guitarist in this scenario made a loud mistake it would've been fixed then and there. All would've been forgiven.  It is my hope that I have not caused this problem.  I learned early to make loud mistakes.

Secondly, it's a problem because when a player is afraid to make a mistake he plays timid not with confidence.  This does not make for a compelling guitar track.  The best session players are all in when they are tracking.  If you are OK with the occasional loud mistake you'll be more likely to create a part that worthy of burning onto a disc or airing on TV.

So when you are laying down guitars on you next session make loud mistakes.  Chances are you won't make any mistakes and your tracks will sound much better and much more confident.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guitar or Sword?

Don't sweat those dings on your axes.  In fact embrace the ones with stories behind them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One a Year

For a period of about ten years I bought one new instrument each year.  Not a new guitar.  A completely new instrument.  And as a rule I would learn it in it's native tuning.  Much easier to think and sound idiomatically that way.

I think it started with a mandolin.  Not a guitar.  Not even close.  A guitar is largely tuned in fourths.  A mandolin is 4 pairs of strings tuned in fifths. Like this one... Fender FM-52E Mandolin, Sunburst

And so it was on.  Here are some other stringed instruments I've picked up. Not in this order.

A Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar Fender FS-52 Lap Steel

Then I got a five-string banjo.  It's tuned like... oh, never mind, let's not go there right now.  Not as nice as this one... Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

Then a baritone electric. Tuned down a fourth from standard tuning

An auto harp - kind of like this one... Oscar Schmidt 21 Chord Autoharp

Then a uke. - Mine's the flea.
        Here's a nice one...  OXK Ukulele

An oud. - Similar to...  Egyptian Deluxe Oud w/ Soft Case & CD & Oud Pick

A bajo sexto.  It's a mexican instrument that is kind of a cross between a baritone and a 12-string.  Something like this one... Oscar Schmidt OH52SE Acoustic Electric Guitar, Bajo Sexto

An electric sitar.  This Jerry Jones one.

Just added this Gretsch round neck resonator guitar to the collection.

Check out Lark in the Morning for a great source of cheap instruments you might only use once a year.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cheap Guitar God - $99 Squire Strat


I want to pick up an Epi LP too at some point to string up high-strung and leave it that way.

Like this one - Squier® by Fender® MINITM, Black

The Ultimate Chart

The Ultimate Chart - For those who like to keep up on the latest trends in pop (read sales)


"By standing on the shoulders of giants. The Ultimate Chart is an unprecedented aggregation of timely, relevant metrics and a product of our friends' and partners' hard work and well-deserved success. We analyze and integrate information about music everywhere -- from Amazon and iTunes and YouTube and VEVO and Pandora and Clear Channel and Myspace and Facebook and Yahoo and AOL and many, many others."


Probably more accurate than Billboard.

Diminished Chord or Seventh Chord?

Yes.  Kind of.

Move any note of a diminished chord down a half step and you get a seventh chord.  And then back to get the b9.
Examples from the video...

xx7878 - Aº becomes xx6878 - Ab7
xx7878 - Ebº becomes xx7778 - D7
xx7878 - F#º becomes xx7868 - F7
xx7878- Bº becomes xx7877 - B7

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"It's not like it use to be"

There is one thing that is constant in the entertainment business and that is change.

Take movies - Silent films, then talkies, then color, 3D, then video, then DVD, then digital distribution.  All within a hundred years. Less.

Television - B & W, Color, VHS/Beta, cable, satellite.  All in less than 60 years.

Music - 78's, 33's, 45's, 8-track, cassette, CD, digital.

Every time a major change happens we are told this is the end of the business as we know it.  Of course it is.  And this is a good thing.  That is if you are adaptable.  In fact change provides great opportunities for those have the foresight to get ahead of the curve and take a chance.  Change gives you a chance. If you were the first in town to buy a 24-track tape machine in the 70's or the first digital editing bay in the 80's, or the first ProTools rig in the 90's you probably still have a career today, if you kept being first.  No one is going to intentionally surrender their business to you.  You have to find that gap.  That entrance.  That service that no one is providing.  Not just once, but the smart ones do it throughout their careers.  Adapt or die.  It's very Darwinian.  I believe it as applied here.

When cassettes came about the record companies worried that people would stop buying records.  That kind of happened.  But then digital CD's came out, and everybody, including myself, bought replacement copies of many of their albums.  You can't hardly find cassettes any more.  The giants in the industry, ie. the labels, could control the medium and create the next "need".  But now that digital exists, it's gotten much more difficult for the majors to affect technological sea changes.  We still don't know the  ultimate result of that yet.  Won't for a while.  But it's opened many opportunities for even hobbyists to get their music made and out there.  I, as a session player, work for a lot of hobbyists.  Truth be told, they sometimes have more money.

I've been told for almost thirty years, regarding session work in LA, "it's not like it use to be". I understand that there are some guys hurting because they were making a lot more in the seventies and eighties then today.  Though to some degree I say, "thank God it's not the same!"

In the sixties there were basically three networks.  Today there are over 500 cable channels. Smart players built a studio and started writing.  More back end income in writing too.

In the sixties the "Wrecking Crew" did a majority of the good work.  Who's the Wrecking Crew?  They were a group of about 30 musicians, Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, among many others who played on a majority of the major records produced in LA.  Beach Boys, Mamas and Papas, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Partridge Family, Phil Spector records, and many others.  I heard Hal Blaine say in an interview that at one point he was doing six "three hour" sessions a day!  They had cots in the studios for the "crew" members to sleep on between gigs.  Aside from being unhealthy, it's just not fair.

There is an excellent documentary about the Wrecking Crew.  If you can get a chance to see it I highly recommend it.  It's interesting, when I saw it, my wife and I had two very different emotional reactions afterwards.  I opined for such days filled with cool work with great players... the "old" days.  She was just proud of me that I made a living doing what I do.

A large part of why I moved to LA was because of Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco's monthly column in Guitar Player magazine in the 70's call "Studio Log".  He would humorously talk about a film, TV or record date he had recently done, include a bit of a chart and tick off the instruments played, the leader, the time and most importantly the pay.

My career has morphed from a fledgling one into an embryonic one, mainly out of necessity, sometimes by choice and occasionally by force.  But I keep my musical and creative tendons limber enough to change directions when the seas "suggest" it.  My career has been on a slow arc.

Some resources...
Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician (Book)
Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story
Tommy Tedesco - Confessions of a Guitar Player
For Guitar Players Only
Tommy Tedesco: Anatomy of a Guitar Player
Carol Kaye Bass DVD Course

Combinatorics

Combina-what?!?  Yeah you heard me.  Combinatorics!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making a living as a guitar player...

Here are some ways I've paid the bills as a musician:

Working in a Record Store
Working in a Guitar Store
Running Sound at a Nightclub
Teaching Private Lessons
Teaching Clinics
Teaching a Class at USC
Guitar Coaching Actors
Copy Work (doing charts) - You'll need Finale 2011
Playing Jazz Gigs
Playing Top 40 Gigs
Playing Classical Music at a Restaurant
Playing Weddings (classical guitar)
Playing Rock Gigs
Playing in Cover Bands
Playing in Original Bands
Playing in a Pit Band (for plays/musicals)
Playing in Worship Bands
Leading Worship
Writing Worship Songs
Writing Rock Songs
Writing Classical Songs
Writing Pop Songs
Writing Music for Television
Writing Music for Film
Being a Music Director
Being a Contractor
Playing on Records/CD's
Playing on Movies
Playing on TV Shows
Playing on Jingles
Sidelining in TV Shows (on camera appearances)*
Producing Records
Developing Artists

All of these things I got paid to do.  Music is a great career for those who like variety. The opportunities up and down the music biz food chain are probably why you don't see a lot of musicians waiting tables.

With the exception of my second job at a Mexican restaurant right out of high school and a job working for a jewelry manufacturer, all of the jobs I've held have had something to do with music and/or playing guitar. It's not a career for the easily discouraged or for someone who likes or needs job security. But it is a field that rewards creativity. And chance takers. And those confident and skilled.

The musicians who continue to hone their craft and develop the skills employed by those further up the ladder employing them will see their career continue to grow, along with their sphere of influence. I've seen it happen all around me as well as in my own career.

* - for example, that's me in the blue vest...

Hang on to that pick...

...you might need it!
Some stuff from Albert Lee...
Albert Lee: Country Boy - Guitar - DVD
Hiding/Albert Lee - Original CD with Country Boy on it.

My electric pick...
Dunlop Delrin Standard Guitar Pick, 1.50MM 6 Dozen

Need a Fender Strat?  Here ya' go!
Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar, 3-Tone Sunburst Rosewood Fretboard
Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar, Olympic White Maple Fretboard

Friday, March 4, 2011

The NAMM Show

"What is the NAMM show?"

NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants.  It was first held in 1901(!).  It's generally where for four days buyers from music stores and chains go to see and order merchandise for the coming year from major and minor manfuacturers.  Guitars, basses, amps, pedal, recording gear, keyboards, pianos, lighting systems, karaoke machines, everything and anything that has to do with music and music production.  Most every industry has a similar trade show.  CES is the consumer electronics trade show.  E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo.  There are trade shows for plumbing suppliers, clothing retailers, home builders, for just about anything.  Many are open to the public.  However, NAMM, historically has not been open to the public.*

Generally Winter NAMM is in Anaheim in January every year.  Summer NAMM is in Nashville or Austin in July.

You might ask me... "As an aspiring musician why should I go to the NAMM show?

1. See amazing new gear
2. See amazing musicians
3. Meet amazing manufacturers
4. Meet amazing musicians

I've been going now for years, at least twenty, and it's most fun the first couple of times you go and more than a little overwhelming.  I mainly go now to bond with my sons.  I've seen a lot of famous musicians over the years; Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Wonder, Bootsy Collins to name but a few.  And seen some amazing players at booths like the guy who invented the e-bow, he's got that thing down!  Amazing 10 year old shredders that will make you want to sell your gear.  Country shredders like Johnny Hiland and John Jorgenson and Jerry Donahue from the Hellecasters.  Old school jazzers.  Bass slappers.  And all sorts of unknown players like you killin' it in the booths while trying out gear.

And that's the main reason to go to the NAMM show.  The gear and those that build it.  I've seen and heard some amazing guitars, amps and pedals in Anaheim before the general public even heard about them.  And the inventors/builders, who often risk everything they own to bring their products to market, are inspiring.  I've made many "love connections" and gotten some great gear for cost or even free in return for my endorsement and/or evaluation.

"OK, Tom you sold me. How do I get a badge to get in?"

That's the tough part.  But doable.  Do you have a store that you frequent?  Do you have a store that you spend a lot of money at?  OK, let me be more blunt, is there a store who's owner is depending on you to put his kids through college.  If they are a member of NAMM they can get you a badge even if they aren't planning on going.  Ask.

Or do you know a manufacturer?  Someone who is going to have a booth there?  They can get a badge for you.  I've gotten most of my badges from this source.  Martin Guitars, Taylor Guitars, Elixir Strings, Marshall Electronics, Roland, all companies that I had some connection with through the years.  If you know someone who works for a manufacturer, ask him.

Do you know someone who works for a trade magazine?  They also have access to badges.

Every year I hear that they are going to crack down on unauthorized people getting into the show.  Use to be you could use anyone's badge to get in, but true to their promise they have been checking and matching ID to badge for the last couple of years now.  One year I was "Bruce Kulick".  I got a lot of double takes that year.

*This year, 2011, NAMM opened Sunday to the public.  Not sure what it cost but I'm sure it was insane.  I tend to go only on Thursday and Friday as is it's mildly less swarmed.


Heet Sound Plus EBow Electric Bow for Guitar with 2 Batteries Included

Johnny Hiland -
Johnny Hiland
Johnny Hiland: Chicken Pickin' Guitar

The Hellecasters -
Return of the Hellecasters
Escape from Hollywood
New Axes to Grind

Why I use Elixir Strings.

PLEASE NOTE: I endorse Elixir strings.  They didn't come to me though, I went to them because I really like their product.

There is, or at least was, a bit of a debate about coated strings.  Which I completely understand on two levels, first, coated strings, especially early on were not as bright as non-coated strings.  And second, one method of advertising is to disparage your competition. That quieted down significantly when many other manufacturers offered up their own versions of a coated, long lasting string.

So why do I use them?

1.  I have acidic hand sweat.  You should see up close some of the hardware on my guitars.  Particularly the gold ones.  Not pretty.  You know the alien blood from the movie Alien?  Now you know what I'm taking about.  Prior to Elixirs I used Ernie Ball strings on electric, and within and hour of playing time they became tetanus wires.  I was always changing strings.  At a few bucks a set it wasn't that big of a deal, just the time it took to change them, but time is money and once I switched to Elixirs I found that I could keep strings on my main electrics for weeks instead of days.

2.  They don't corrode in storage.  I have a lot of guitars.  Many are rarely played.  But the last thing I want to do is restring my Rickenbacker 12-string the night before a session. Especially if, despite being told to bring it, I never actually use it.  But with it strung up with Elixirs I know I can confidently grab it on my way out the door and if needed it will be ready to track.  I always keep extra sets in every case just in case.  Pun not intended.

3. The immediate vintage tone.  Truth be told, as nice as brand new strings feel, they can sound a little brittle or bright.  Normal strings sound better once worked in.  For me that may only take an hour, for others a week.  Even still I change strings on my acoustic(s) the night before a session so they have time to settle in.  With Elixirs they immediately have that worn in sound and I like that.  Many players don't and that's why they came out with the nano-web versions to provide that closer to non-coated experience.  To me both the electrics and acoustic sets are ready for the red light (to record) as soon as they are on the guitar.

4.  They tune up fast.  You know how when you string up a guitar you have to tug the strings and tune them a bunch of times until they settle?  Maybe between every song for a set?  Not with Elixirs.  Tune, tug, tune, play, tune... and that's pretty much it from my experience.  This is important when you have several guitars out for a session and you are going from one to the other twenty times in an hour.

5.  They are quieter.  When I'm in the studio recording acoustic instruments, ie. acoustic 6 or 12 string, nylon/classical guitar, mandolin, etc., I am often playing before a very sensitive condenser mic or maybe two.  They pick up everything: heavy breathing, toe tapping, chair squeaking, humming, counting aloud,  a hole in your septum (that's another story for later) or SQUEAKING STRINGS.  Well Elixirs can't help with any of those except those pesky squeaks one creates when one slides fingers up and down the fretboard.  There are ways to reduce that noise; mic placement, lightness of touch, swiftness of hand movement.  But another tools to reduce this unwanted noise is to string up your instrument with coated strings.  I prefer the polyweb (classic) over the nanoweb for this reason.

6.  They are easier on the finger tips.  There are days where I have a guitar in my hands for 14 hours and Elixir strings really allow me to play longer without pain or discomfort.  Often I'll pick up someone else's guitar and within minutes be feeling the deep ridges of a non-coated set of string.  Ouch.  OK, I'm a baby.  This is also a reason why I prefer polyweb over nanoweb.

Do I have something, anything bad to say about Elixirs?  Hmmm, the packaging hurts my eyes.  Oh yeah, and that they discontinued the classical guitar sets.  They are well aware of my objections.

Elixir Strings Electric Guitar Strings, 6-String, Light NANOWEB Coating

Transposing Tip (Baritone Edition)


Baritone strings -
D'Addario XL157 Baritone Guitar Strings, Medium

Some transposing tools...
Transposing Charts - Transpose Music For All Instruments Including Band Instruments (Instructional)
Theory and Transposing Guide Laminated Cards

Like my shirt?  Get it here!

Thursday, March 3, 2011