Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Great Fretting Hand Exercise

Created for classical players to help with fretting hand independence, but will work for everyone.

Parallel Octaves

Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Modal Jams with F as the Root

Over 60 minutes of jam session love for you...

F Ionian or Major 

F Dorian - relative major is Eb

F Phrygian - relative major is Db

F Lydian - relative major is C

F Mixolydian - relative major is Bb

F Aeolian or Minor - relative major is Ab

And last and pretty much least F Locrian - relative major Gb

Monday, November 16, 2015


Dropbox is one of the most valuable tools for the working musician.  It's an easy way to share files on which you are collaborating. It's basically an online hard drive. Get your free space on the link below...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "New York Minute" - Don Henley

Jeff and Paich played on this Don Henley hit. Take 6 are on the backgrounds. Danny Kortchmar co-wrote and played guitar.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "Beat It" - Michael Jackson

Everyone knows that Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on this track, but Lukather played rhythm guitar AND bass on this mega hit. Also on this track Jeff and Steve P.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Get Boz Scagg's Middle Man CD...

It's basically a Toto record.

Amazon Link....

If you don't already have someone you support through an Amazon link feel free to use mine...


Generally I get 5% of pre-tax purchases.  Kind of cool.  You can set up an affiliate account too if you are looking for some extra income to support your pedal addiction. Click here...

Amazon Affiliates

Friday, September 18, 2015

Contest yo!

Right here...

Cool Website - Lark In The Morning

For cheap (and not so cheap) instruments of all kinds (strummed, blown, hit etc.) from all over the world check out....

Lark In The Morning

This is where I got my Egyptian oud, for about $300.

It's a fun site to peruse. Many have sound examples so you can use it as a educational reference.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Recent Session - J Rand - GOLD

I co-wrote and played guitar and piano on this track for the Miami artist J Rand. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "Running with the Night" - Lionel Richie

Luke and Jeff grace this modest hit for Lionel Richie.  Check out Luke's guitar solo. He was playing along with track listening to it for the first time and the engineer hit record and that was the solo that made the record.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Taking That First Step

The first step in making your dream a reality is to take that "first step."

It sounds obvious and it is.  The saying "once begun, half done" applies to some degree.  But for the sake of this post I'm going to define the "First Step" as the first BIG step.  That step that if not taken your dream would only remain a dream.

In my case it was moving from Indianapolis to Los Angeles to become a session musician.  I would be moving away from the safety of the home I grew up in and the security of the abundant work I had as a musician already.

At the time I left Indy, I had about 40 students (20 hours a week) and gig playing in a top-40 band on the weekends.  Not to mention I was beginning to get a lot of calls to play with other groups in the area.  I should have been satisfied but I wasn't.  There was this dream.  The dream to rub elbows with Tommy Tedesco, Steve Lukather, Lee Ritenour, Jeff Porcaro and all the other LA musicians that populated the credits of all the albums I bought.  I bought some pretty awful records just because one of my favorite SoCal guitarists were listed in the linear notes.  Many of these players also played in movies and on TV shows.

I was 15 when I decided that I wanted to be a Los Angeles session musician.  A quite random and yet specific desire.  Much of my daily rituals were focused on these goal.  I developed a varied and rigorous practice regimen of up to 8 hours a day. This was a step, but not the First Step.  Predictably my grades suffered.  Except in the music classes that my very arts progressive high school offered.

I graduated high school early, missing out on a lot of the senior year fun, so that I could concentrate on my goal.  Thinking I was done with school I set out to become somewhat self sufficient.  This wasn't happening at this point so I enrolled last minute at Butler University.  I majored in…. yes, music.  This was same year that I started teaching at Phelan's Music in Carmel and started playing with Malachi, that top-40 band.  Both of those jobs grew me as a musician (part of the plan) but made it difficult to continue my college education.  So in order to save my mom some money and spend more time practicing I quit Butler after the first year and concentrated on moving to California.

That step was harder than I thought.  It was becoming clear that this would be the First Step.  It was quite daunting.  I didn't have the courage.  I kept delaying it 6 months.  "I'll go after my birthday in July."  "I'll go after Christmas in December."  Hmmm, I guess I was expecting some cool gifts.  I turned 19.  I turned 20.  21 was fast approaching.  Would I ever leave?  I'd never been West of Illinois, let alone all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  No doubt my friends and family doubted I would ever summon the courage to leave the Mid West.  I was wondering this myself.

Then I had an epiphany.  As my 21st birthday approached I thought I'd take a smaller step first.  After turning 21 I would fly to LA and check it out for a week.  If I didn't like it I would stay put.  It was kind of an out.  An excuse.  The month after turning 21 I flew to Vegas (it was cheaper), rented a car and drove to Riverside to stay with friends of friends.  Every day for a week I drove to LA.  To the guitar stores on Hollywood Blvd., and to clubs to hopefully see musicians I "idolized" from afar, and generally just drive around and soak up all things "LA".

I went to the famous Baked Potato.  I went to a place called Dantes to see Russell Ferrante, who's group The Yellowjackets I loved.  Russell spoke with me for an hour afterwards.  He encouraged me to  pursue my dreams.  I went a club called At My Place in Santa Monica and saw saxophonist Richard Elliot.  His guitarist, Carl Verheyen, blew me away.  I met him afterwards and set up a lesson while I was in town.  He gave me some great tips.  I saw Koinonia at The Flying Jib.  Saw some inspiring music the whole week I was in Los Angeles.  It was an exhausting and humbling week.  I flew home.

I did it.  I went to LA.  I could say "it wasn't for me."  I could stay put and continue my career path in the Hoosier state.

But I couldn't.  I loved LA.  I couldn't see myself anywhere else.  That "little" first step gave me the courage to take that big First Step.  It was now a forgone conclusion.  Less than six months later I was living in Pasadena, where I still live.  Yes it was difficult to pack all my earthly possessions in my Gran Prix and drive 2000 miles to a place where I knew not one soul. But I no longer had a choice.  It was destiny.

That was my First Step.  I've never had to make another so difficult since.  A career is generally a series of small decisions, some with little consequence and some with great consequence.  But none of it starts without that first step.  Looking back I see lots of first steps.  From moving to LA, to visiting LA, even something as simple as getting up everyday and putting in the work to grow as a musician.

What was or will be that step for you?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "I Keep Forgettin'" - Michael McDonald

Jeff and Luke play on this hit by Doobie Brother alum Michael McDonald.  The great Louis Johnson laid down the iconic bass line. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "Human Nature" - Michael Jackson

Human Nature was originally written by Steve Porcaro for Toto.  But he got the non-vocal demo to Quincy Jones who liked it and sent it to lyricist John Bettis.  This track featuring Jeff and Steve Porcaro, Paich and Luke is basically Toto with Michael Jackson as lead singer.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Home To Mama Lesson

Here's a lesson on the chords I used in the song I co-wrote for Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson called "Home To Mama"...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Practically Toto - "Breakdown Dead Ahead" - Boz Scaggs

I've been posting YouTube videos of pop songs that were recorded by members of the Wrecking Crew.  The "Wrecking Crew" was a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles who played on many of the hits in the 60's and 70's.  Musicians like Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye and dozens of others laid the foundation tracks for a diverse group of artists like The Beach Boys, The Mamas and Papas, Sonny and Cher, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, The Monkees, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters, Nancy Sinatra and many others.  Hal Blaine (who coined the group's name) alone played on six consecutive Grammy Records of the Year.  That's a record that will never be broken.

Towards the end of the 70's a new group of musicians started getting the top calls for major label record dates. A few of them, Steve Lukather, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Porcaro and David Hungate went on to form the band Toto. They had several hits in the late 70's and throughout the 80's.  As many hits as they had they went on to play on even more hits for other artists.

This "Practically Toto" series will concentrate on songs that had two or more Toto band members on the recording.

Lukather, Jeff Porcaro and Hungate contributed to almost every track on Boz Scaggs "Middle Man" album. This song, "Breakdown Dead Ahead" features Luke and Hungate.

Neither Hungate nor Luke are in this video.

Don't Enter This....

Because I want to win...


Friday, May 15, 2015

Bottle Cap Banjo

I'm constantly on the look out for new sounds. New sounds for me. And even better new sounds no one has heard. Often when working on film and games scores a different sonic paintbrush is required.  That's when a good imagination comes in hand. Case in point the video below...

Friday, May 1, 2015

Getting Better - Adult Edition (Updated 6/2/15)

A friend of mine asked me for some tips on how to get better.  And like many adults with jobs and families he doesn't have a lot of time. Here's what I told him...

Some thoughts on getting better on guitar.

1. Practice 5 minutes a day. That’s easy, 5 turns to 10 to 15 to 30, etc. If I told you had to practice an hour a day you’d never do it. Like me trying to get to the gym.

2. Keep guitars handy. If you have a lot of down time in what you do, make sure the guitar is out and ready to be played.

3. Dig your left thumbnail into your finger tips (pads) to toughen them up when not around the guitar. Or right if you are left-handed.

4. Your right hand should lock to the drummer’s right (HiHat) hand. (Or left if, well you know...)

5. If you are struggling with a new chord practice going to that chord from all the other ones you aren’t struggling with. For example… say F was your hard chord.

F C F G F Am F Em F E F D F Dm F etc.

… and just do one strum of each, this is left hand work not right hand. Don’t waste valuable time strumming four beats each.

6. If you want to be playing electric guitar, every now and then practice loud. Maybe when no one else is home. The guitar is a whole different animal to tame when cranked. That’s why Eddie Van Halen is so amazing because that guitar is a tamed tornado in his hands.

7. Practice standing up if you are going to be performing. The ergonomics are very different sitting than standing. Otherwise after the gig you’ll be all like “But I played so good at home.” 

8. Jam with others better than you. Like playing tennis with someone better it’ll raise your game.

9. Take a lesson every now and then.

10. Spend too much on a new guitar. Out of guilt you'll be motivated to get your money's worth.

11. Watch videos of great players to get inspired. Watch how they approach the instrument.

12. To be able to play like your favorite players, study their influences. That will give you greater insight.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Recent Session - Game - Desert Fire

Twenty years ago there really was no such thing as a recording session for "video" games.  Game music is a whole new art form in it's self, case in point, check out my acoustic and mandolin work on Austin Wintory's music for Desert Fire....