Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading in the Studio

The following chart was from a recent session. The producer wanted me to just play "footballs" or whole note or in this case half note chord stacks. A video of how I played through it is posted below.

Ted Greene's Chord Chemistry is a classic lexicon of chord shapes. Be warned, it's intense.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reading in the Studio

This was a session for a film. 

"Fender sound, finger picked, gentle, ambient" I kind of approached the way Mark Knoffler might.

The composer wanted as many of these notes to ring out as possible. The chords were just guides, what he wanted was just the notes. Notice my note, a natural sign, in bar 378, probably there because I had played an Ab running through it thinking the A natural and the F7 were typos. They weren't.

The reason the bar numbers were so high is because when composers get a film it's usually a single mpg file and they drop it into ProTools or Logic or Digital Performer and then they write to that one long file. By the end of the film you could be tracking on bar 1000 or higher.

Notice the slides in bars 379 and 380. It would be difficult without a capo to let those notes ring. So I probably reached for my capo and punched in. Or I could've played the whole take with the capo on the first fret.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Simple Exercises

Here are a couple of basic exercises for developing finger independence.
Start on the first fret of the first string (F) with your first finger, then play the second fret with the second finger, third with the third and fourth with the fourth and back again. ie - 12344321

Now move up a fret and repeat. All the way to the 9th fret (so your pinky is on the 12th fret) and back down. Repeat on each string. If playing on classical guitar alternate your right hand fingerings as well to bring a greater challenge.... imimimim, mamamama, iaiaiaia, imamimam, pppppppp, etc.

The next exercise is 14342434 and should utilize the above variations.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cool Site #11 - Musician Wages

Musician Wages is good resource for those who interested making a living as a musician and are realistic about it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reading in the Studio

Here's an interesting one.

Note the tempo, 82.9077.  Tempos like these are not uncommon when scoring to picture.

The composer is wanting me to play the first 6 notes randomly throughout the cue, where the slashes are, except for a few different spots where he wanted specific notes. Given the meters (6/4, 4/4, 5/4, 2/4, 3/4, 7/4), it would've have been a difficult chart to track had not the composer very thoughtfully added four rims shots (where the x's are) before every specific note he wanted.  Counting odd meters and being random with a given set of notes can be very difficult as you are using two different sides of your brain.  The rim shots allowed me to concentrate on the randomness.

Pretty sure I just voiced on the top four strings... E on the D-string, Bb on the G-string, open B-string, and the E and F# on the E-string.

This was tracked with massive doses of reverb on my end so it had to be done in one pass.  After a couple of run-throughs it was.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to Get Guitar Students

Here's a video I did of the long ago posted tips below....

Teaching private lessons can be a great way to supplement your income, pass on your knowledge and keep on the latest music trends.  I have taught for over 35 years now.

It started when a teacher at my Jr. High saw me carrying a guitar case and asked if would teach her son how to play.  She offered to pick me up at my house, teach her son, take me home and pay me $5!  Sure I told her.  That was the beginning.  By the time I was 20 I was teaching 40 students five days a week at a store in my hometown of Indianapolis.

When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a studio musician I had to start from scratch. Back at the store they were charging $7 per half hour lesson and paying me $9 an hour.  Three times minimum wage. So I thought charging $10 per hour lesson in 1983 would be a good place to start.  A dollar more for me and a four dollar savings for my students. It was slow building up to even a fraction of my midwestern numbers. I didn't have a storefront doing all the leg work for me.

Flash forward 30 years, if I even teach at all, I charge $75 per hour. Over the years I found a few things that can help you build up the numbers and I'll share them here with you now.

1. Play out more. If you're like me, you're playing out in public a bit and you will get asked if you teach. If you aren't playing out find some places you can play even if it's only for tips. Close to home if at all possible. No one wants to drive a half hour to guitar lessons. This makes it easier to get students.

2. Give away freebies. Offer a free lesson for anyone who brings you a new student. Once the new student has taken their fourth lesson I would then give the freebie to that existing student. Even better, get someone who isn’t taking lessons to bring you a new student and give them a free lesson. This can net you two new students. And unlike advertising it doesn't cost you anything. Just your time. Another tip is to give away free lessons at a silent auction charity type thing. Maybe two free hour lessons. Someone wins lessons with you for cheap, the charity makes some coin and you’ve got a potential new student.
3. Be Flexible. Is there someone who would like to study with you but lives far away? Offer to teach them twice a month for an hour instead of every week for 30 minutes. I had a student that took a two-hour lesson once a month because he lived over an hour away. Does your student's son want to learn too? Let him watch for free. If you are flexible with rescheduling than your students will reciprocate when you need to reschedule to do that session or important, well-paying gig.

4. Live in a nice area. Or at least adjacent to one. This will allow you to charge a little more than average. And take on kids. When they start jamming on Nirvana for their friends that's better than taking out an ad on Facebook. Plus because your students tend to be younger than you, and truthfully more aware of the cutting edge of music, you'll hear about the newest artists before almost anyone else.

5. Keep your students. You could get a new student and lose two for a net loss of one. (I know obvious). Never would I raise fees on existing students only new ones. Every five years or so I would raise my lessons $5 per half hour.  But only on the new ones. Let the older students know if they recommend someone they will be paying more. This makes them feel special that they've locked in a lower rate. Attrition would take care of those paying less. Give percs. Give loyal students a free set of strings or picks you got at the NAMM show. Or better yet take them to the NAMM show. Give them tickets to your gigs. Put them on guest lists. Free CD's. You get the idea. You could also record the lessons and send them the mp3. Just give them value for their money and they'll keep coming back and bring their friends.

6. Advertise. On bulletin boards at churches, schools, music stores, the grocery store. But do something to make your advert stand out. A clever phrase, nice graphics, offer a free lesson, etc. Advertise with Facebook or Groupon. Tweet.

Now I don’t teach at all because I’m doing so much session work and writing and gigging. But teaching kept me in the game. Paid my bills. And the young kids helped me stay current.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Books to Help Sight Reading

Here are some books that can help you work on your sight-reading chops...

A Modern Method for Guitar - Volumes 1, 2, 3 Complete - This is good one for beginners at reading.  But it progresses pretty quick - stacked triads on page five!

Advanced Reading Studies for Guitar: Guitar Technique (Advanced Reading: Guitar) - more of the same

Melodic Rhythms for Guitar - This is a great book as it teaches you new rhythmic figures on one pitch and then uses them in realistic melodies.

Contemporary Jazz/Rock Rhythms for Treble Clef Instruments - Heres another good one.

For Guitar Players Only - By Tommy Tedesco the most recorded guitarist in history.  I had this book.  The exercises are a little random, which can make for good sight reading in it's unpredictability.  Worth it for the stories.  All true.  And for the real session charts from the 70's and 80's in the back.

Also check out trumpet and clarinet study books.  Flute is good for reading ledger lines. You might be able to find them at used book stores or thrift stores. I've never payed more than a dollar for one.

Practice your reading with another guitarist.  Maybe someone better than you. Like playing tennis with a better player it forces you to rise to the occasion.

Here's the thing, if you are not likely to use it you are not likely to retain it. See if you can fine some reading bands, often swing bands or big bands that don't perform so much as practice. The Wire Choir here in LA is an example of one such opportunity. Also start writing music out. Write practice pieces for yourself that emphasize your weaknesses.

I worked it when I was in HS and college because I wanted to move to LA to be a session guitarist. Which I now am. Still surprised how rarely I need it. Read more cocktail napkins than bona-fide charts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ebay Buying Tips

Back when Beth and I first got married we didn’t have much of anything, especially money, so we frequented yard sales and flea markets in search of furniture and other necessary stuff. I would always look for undervalued instruments. I bought an old Silvertone Twin Twelve amp for $140 years ago at one of those yard sales. I remember telling her, “If I could have one superpower it would be the ability to look at an item, know exactly what it is worth and know where to get that much for it.” I know it’s not x-ray vision or the ability to fly, but I was trying to be practical. The problem is is that everyone has that ability now since eBay was launched. Have an old pedal in your closet? Search for it at eBay and watch a similar item sell to determine it’s value. This has made it much more difficult to find good deals around the corner.

eBay benefits the seller by exposing them to millions of potential buyers. Try that at a pawn shop. And eBay benefits the buyers by allowing them to set their maximum price and possibly get it for less than that. Here are some tips for those in the second camp.

1. When searching for something like “Gibson Les Paul” sort list by “Time: newly listed” just in case someone who doesn’t know what they have has listed their item at an unusually low “Buy It Now” price. A good friend of mine listed his Matchless Hot Box (a pre-amp pedal) for a “Buy It Now” price of $200 and it sold within minutes. “I guess I should’ve listed it higher” he later told me. I guess he should’ve called me first.

2. Try misspelling the name of the item. “Marshal amp” or “Gibbon Les Paul” or “Phender Strat”. eBay is a search engine based site, you would not be referred to a typo, so create a typo.

3. Carefully read the item’s description. Look for phrases like “without speakers”, “not original”, “I am selling a photo of a ’59 Les Paul”. E-mail and ask for more pics. It costs to have more than one photo on your listing and many aren’t willing pay the extra price, but it costs them nothing to send you a jpg or two.

4. Start your eBay experience slowly. Start with smaller items like pedals. Bid only what you are comfortable paying. Use PayPal whenever possible. It’s easy to dispute in the PayPal system. Bookmark sellers that treat you right.

5. If you are having trouble finding what you want, click the “Add to Favorite Searches” link and eBay will e-mail you every time one of those items is listed. Be somewhat specific. Don’t just say “amp” or you are liable to get 1500 e-mails everyday! Fool me once...

6. If you have a good experience leave a positive feedback. If your eBay transaction is much less than smooth and you’ve tried to resolve the issue, (and have some grace as many things can go wrong; shipping issues, computer issues, PayPal issues and so forth) then it’s OK to leave a negative feedback. Feedback ratings are the oil in eBay’s machinery.

7. Bid confidently with someone who has a feedback of 100%  and a number of feedbacks as that A+ rating is worth more than gold and most sellers and buyers will make your happiness their priority in order to keep it.

8. Be cautious with bidders or sellers with a feedback score of less than 10. Click on their name and see what items they tend to sell/buy. Look at the dates. Are they all in the last month? This may be a sign of someone reregistering to distance themselves from a too negative rating under an old handle. However, if you are a gambler, and you really want a good deal, there is very little bidding competition for sellers with 80-95% ratings. But remember caveat emptor.

9. When bidding look at who else is buying. Click on the “bids” link. It will list your bidding competition. If you see buyers with hundreds of purchases (especially gear purchases) you are going up against pros. Two conclusions: You are bidding on something worthwhile and you are going to lose.

10. Bid weird amounts. The minimum next bid amount increases with the price; 50 cents to one dollar to $2.50 to $5.00 and so on. If making a late bid, at least double the minimum and add a penny, that someone may try to sneak a last second minimum bid but you will beat them by one penny. It’s been done to me and it’s very humiliating. Try maybe 11 cents or 31 cents or something unpredictable.

11. Sometimes the “Buy It Now” price is better than bidding. Look at what they are willing to give away to have the sale ended. One amp I was looking at threw in free shipping (saving $65), some used but working tubes (?$) and a five switch pedal. All worth the difference between the starting price of $1149 and the BIN price of $1299.

12. On bigger items check out eSnipe!!! It will bid for you in the last 6 seconds (!!!!) so you don’t have to baby sit the auction. And so you are not tempted to drive up the price with price testing bids. It will save you a fortune.

13. Also, again, carefully read the items description. This can be to your advantage. I recently bought a “broken” “as-is” mic pre (I used eSnipe), for less then a fourth of the cost of it’s retail, new value. It was being sold from Cleveland pawn shop. The description said, “doesn’t produce any sound” and “don’t have the ability to test any further”. I speculated that they didn’t know what they had, as mic-pres don’t produce any sound that doesn’t require amplification. I checked their other items for sale. Figurines, flutes, home stereos, but no high end sound gear. They probably didn’t know anything about mic-pres. It didn’t properly work when I received it, but even after repairing it it will cost me less than half retail! Score

I hope these tips help you get some great deals on some new for you gear. Post your eBay successes and failures below in the comment thread so everyone can learn from your... um... successes and failures!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


IMDB stands for Internet Movie Database. Most people use it to find out things like... who's that actress is in that Adam Sandler movie? Or what other movies has that director directed?

It's a great resource for the movie buff. But a necessary resource for those in the position to hire someone in the business. It's a way to check credits and references. Therefore it's an excellent resource for some one who wants to get hired.

In the TV and film business it's pretty much a sure bet if you want to get hired your chances increase if you have at least a few credits on IMDB. Once you get referred to a composer as a musician or a director as a writer/composer odds are one in one that they'll search you in

You may have some up there you don't even know about it. You can add credits. Or more likely others will actually post your credits while entering credits for an entire project. When I first heard about it I went to check it out only to find out I had a page and was already attached to several films and shows that I'd worked on. Cool. 

Once I figured out how to update it myself I began to look up composers that I'd worked with and adding myself to projects that they'd hired me for. If I couldn't remember which projects I'd worked on I would send them a link to their page and ask them which ones I'd played on. This did two things: Remind them I exist and potentially add credits to my page.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cool Site #8 - Music Think Tank

Music Think Tank - wanna make a living in music, quit your old job? Understand how the business works and more importantly how it is changing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Way to Tune

I tend to use tuners in the studio and even live. But sometimes I disagree with the results. I will often fine tune in this manner...

Tuning octaves assuming the low e-string is in tune:

2nd fret 4th string to the open 6th string
Open 3rd string to the 3rd fret 6th string
Now the G string should be in tune so tune the open 5th to the A on the G string (2nd fret 3rd string)
Now the A string is in tune, tune the B string to the 2nd fret 5th string
Fine tune the open D string to the 3rd fret 2nd string, may not need adjustment
Tune the high E string to the 2nd fret 4th string
And lastly fine tune the G string to the 3rd fret first string

Complex at first, but a great way to get the open position in tune. Learned it studying classical guitar at Butler (Go Bulldogs)

Some tuners for your perusal...

Korg CA-40 Large Display Auto Chromatic Tuner - great cheap one to have in every case.  Turns off on it's own.  Long battery life.

Have an iPhone? Get this cord and download the app. Peterson 3.5mm - 1/4in iPhone/iTouch Adapter Cable, White

Need to impress someone? A producer? Peterson VS-F StroboFlip Virtual Strobe Tuner

Clip on tuner... Intelli IMT-600 Guitar, Violin and Chromatic Clip-on Tuner

Seeing this one on a lot of pedal boards, very cool... TC Electronic PolyTune Poly-Chromatic Tru-Bypass Pedal Tuner

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Modes - C Locrian

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

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

Gb/C / / / | Ab/C / / / |

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Modes - C Aeolian (Minor)

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

C Aeolian (Minor) - relative major is Eb major
The IV and V chord of the relative major is Ab and Bb.  Place those two chords over the mode's root, C, and you get...

Ab/C / / / | Bb/C / / / |

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Modes - C Mixolydian

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

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

Bb/C / / / | C / / / |

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Modes - C Lydian

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

C Lydian - relative major is G major
The IV and V chord of the relative major is C and D.  Place those two chords over the mode's root, C, and you get...

C / / / | D/C / / / |

Pumping Nylon

For those classical guitarists out there who are looking for some exercises that will kick you butt look no further than this book by Scott Tennant...

Pumping Nylon (Book & DVD)

No pain, no gain.

If you are wanting to dig even deeper in...

Art of Classical Guitar Playing (The Art of Series)