Whoa! what a winter! Doesn't seem like its over yet! I did manage a run today with shorts so that is a good sign.
The rant is on <moronalogue> As the internet and all its social media outlets continue to make the world a smaller place I've found a somewhat disturbing aspect relating to musicians, guitar players in particular. A lot of the videos I see of young players focus on the circus act mentality of playing guitar. A lot of going for the craziest tapping sequences, sweeping progressions and the general "look how fast I can play the Flight Of The Bumblebee" insanity. In my experience when I get a new student who has been playing for a bit and has gone to youtube looking for the coolest things to learn they skip ahead to mainly mechanics based playing. That meaning they go for technical lines that mainly rely on a rote sequence of notes played at a certain tempo. In my opinion I think its important for new players to build a solid foundation first. Learn about harmony, melody, rhythm, basic theory. After having a basic understanding of these things when they do find that killer technical line at least they'll be able to transpose it to a different key and apply it at will. Also knowing some theory they would be able to understand why the line works melodically over different harmonic content.
Rhythm and playing in time is one of the most overlooked basic musical aspects I find these days. If someone comes in and plays a super technical line as soon as I try to play something underneath that line or put it to a click to imply a tempo the line goes right out the window. If you're out there trying to play as fast as you can at least play to a click to check yourself. Also experiment with different types of rhythms and tempos. That 32nd note line that you can play up to speed? Try and play it with a triplet rhythm or slow it down and see how it feels with a swing type feel. Geez if it took you 6 weeks to get it down you might as well use it in as many different scenarios as you can. ;) </moronalogue>
These past 3 months have been busy. I've been working with Guitar Impulse in creating video content for their site. Their site is subscription based. You pay a small monthly fee and have access to their video library. They have a great collection of instructors over there! So far I've made 4 videos. Three are based on contemporary blues lines and one is the beginning of an arpeggio series that I'm working on, very in depth. I've also been involved with another online guitar site, completely different, called Strum School. Strum School is an online on demand lesson site. You get access to about 40 free basic guitar videos. The videos will talk about everything from how to hold the guitar, to how to change strings and how to play barre chords. The site is in beta now but is fully functional. Soon each teacher will have their own page and be able to book their own online lessons. In addition there is staff available to answer questions via chat. Lessons will run a dollar/minute. If you are interested in taking lessons with me online feel free to contact me at splinterhead2009 (at) gmail.com and we can set up a time that's convienent. If you are within driving distance of Peekskill NY I'm still teaching at U Music School on 20 Welcher Ave.
With phase 3 upon us (xmas etc) I'm usually full of rancor with with a few tablespoons of vitriol and a dash of sarcasm. This year though I have to say my spikey mood has been quite dampened by the tragedy that happened at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. I have to say that I was more than saddened and embarrassed for humanity. Being a father, a bit of an over protective one at that, I can't even imagine being in those parent's shoes. I hope to never be. The violent end to an innocent human life is sad, the violent end to a childs life is profoundly evil. I also feel for all the first responders and people who were processing that scene. The memories they take home with them will never go away. As for the murderer I really have only one question, and we all know what that is.
Hindsight is always 20/20 so my commentary will be immersed in it but if my child was troubled or had mental issues I would be sure to have any weapons locked up. To be honest all weapons should be locked up anyway and I do mean locked up in a safe if there are children in the house. I don't know all the circumstances so I'm not going to sit here and pontificate. All I can do is express my opinion and listen to others who do the same. I would like to express my distaste about how the media has covered this event. My main point of contention is how the media has been going around and asking random kids at bus stops about how they feel about what happened at Newtown. I think this is wholly irresponsible. I think a lot of middle school aged kids and younger can't really empathize and may not necessarily feel the gravity of this situation. I think a lot of us have become desensatized in general. It seems each mind numbing tragedy that occurs raises the bar in the coping mechanism of the human spirit. Unless someone is there and part of the tragedy that is truly the only way they will feel the magnitude of it. That's not to say that we are all apathetic zombies because we're not. I think the outpouring of emotion from all of us is altruistic. Its just that we will never feel the pain that these parents and children are going through. Another point of contention is how this has now become so politicized. Pitted against eachother again are the stereotyped "liberal left winged hippies" and the "crazy right winged red necks". I think sensible, common sense solutions are the most viable and most needed. Unfortunatley to get any legislation passed the proposed laws have to go through the filters of lobbyists and assorted pandering politicians. It then finally becomes watered down through the general "process" consisting of the back and forth-ing of the presiding ideologies.
In my view I feel that I do have the right to keep and bear arms. I don't own a handgun but who's to say that I may or may not want to in the future. I feel that stricter and stricter gun regulation only makes it harder for law abiding citizens like myself to defend myself and my family. People who are unstable do not need guns to do damage. They can pick up anything nearby and use it as a weapon. Knives, household chemicals, fertilizer, cars, airplanes, anything pretty much can be used to hurt another human being. Its the idea of causing harm in the first place, that is the real issue. It seems that the more liberal side of this issue would like to immediatley make owning guns illegal. Well that would be great in a perfect world but people who want to use a gun to create havoc and commit crimes will get a gun through illegal channels anyway. The targets of said propsed havoc/crimes now have no meaningful way of defending themselves. This, to me, does not make any sense and its that hair trigger mentality that further polarizes us as a nation. Instead of pouring money into what ends up being an idealogical standoff how about we put some funds into further implementing mental health care. Let's face it well adjusted, mentally stable gun owners do not go around shooting people.
On another subject, should "assault rifles" be banned? I don't know. The term assault rifle seems very nebulous. Everybody is talking about the AR-15 "assault rifle". It seems that the AR-15 is nothing more than a semi automatic rifle. Cosmetically it looks more threatening due to the modern materials it was built with but functionally its no more impressive then a shotgun that any homeowner may own.
To be honest I really don't know what's available to the general public as far as modern weaponry. If there are military grade machine guns/fully automatic rifles, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, etc etc then I'd say let's get banning. If not then lets get working on the root of the problem instead of further polarizing our nation through politicization.
As 2013 approaches I do have some new things coming up that are in the works which are guitar related. As things coalesce I'll be sure to update. I do plan on continuing my Betcha CAN Play This! series as polluting the ether with my banal sillyness is of paramount importance. I hope nothing but the best to all who read this. Let's hope this year is the year we achieve our hopes and dreams.
So phase two has come and gone. T-Day went off with out a hitch, except for the traffic but other than that everything was quite nice. So a few things have happened since I've last written in.
First off I would like to send good vibes to all who were adversely effected by Sandy. I live about 50 odd miles north west of NYC so we saw our share of major wind damage which included many many downed trees, poles, wires, branches and whatever else that could fall. The ironic part is that we retained power all the way through the storm but the next day Con Ed shut us off for the day to make repairs. I'm am incredibly thankful that we got off so lucky. I consider it amazing that none of the gigantic Ent sized oak trees that hover above my house didn't make their way into my kitchen. While I am a great fan of nature I do prefer to enjoy it while we (meaning me and nature) are both outside. Neighbors down the road ended up not having power for 9 days. We did have a couple of trees come down across my road with a lot of large branches but for my immediate area that was the extent of the damage. The wind during the storm was seriously the strongest I think I've ever witnessed. My son and I were watching the storm out the slider and the trees were whipping back and forth fiercely. We also saw two transformers blow up across the lake. It looked like the 4th of July out there. Sparks flying and explosions of fire. We also saw lightening that was blue in color which I've never witnessed before. We ventured outside at around 9pm or so to check out the damage and it was still pretty intense out there. The true devastation is many miles from me and of course due mainly to the storm surge. As a homeowner, husband and father it gives me perspective to see the heroism and perseverance that the truly devastated have put forth. My wife is from Freeport Long Island and many of her friends and family were displaced due to Sandy and have had to endure a lot of trials and tribulations.
Since Sandy we had the sheer bad luck of dealing with another storm which brought near 40mph winds and rain. It felt like a balmy summer day compared to the week before.
So having survived both storms our furnace decides to sprout a leak and it turns out that the "coil gasket" needed to be replaced. So needless to say we ended up not having heat or hot water for 3 days. Life is a balance.
I have also commissioned a new project called the "I don't wanna lose power anymore" project. This entails hooking up a manual transfer switch to my main electrical service to interface with my generator. Losing power in the summer is one thing. I can deal with no heat or hot water when its nice out. Come the winter time life really starts to suck when there's no power. From what I'm hearing this winter is going to be the polar opposite of last year. I going to try my best to be somewhat prepared. Up to now I have hooked up the manual transfer switch and run wire to my proposed power inlet box. I still have to pick out the location and mount the inlet box. Onward and upward!
A couple of cool things coming out just in time for the holidaze. For me the new "Celebration Day" DVD is going to have to be a must buy. Led Zeppelin, being my all time favorite group, I feel totally justifies this purchase. Another cool looking thing coming out is the new Aristocrats DVD "Boing, We'll Do It Live". If you haven't heard of these guys and you are a fusion fan you should click here and behold the alien life form that is Guthrie Govan. I had the privilege of meeting him a few years ago and I mentioned that I was thoroughly enjoying both of his instructional books.
He was sincerely grateful and had quite the self effacing demeanor. He then proceeded to make every guitar player within earshot want to stick their head in an oven. He also had the ability to roll his own cigarette in 3 nano seconds. Talented indeed!
In addition I had the unmitigated gall to put together another episode of Betcha CAN Play This! This is episode 7. Bring on the funny!
<moronalogue>Plastic pumpkins abound. Looks like the whole cycle is about to start again. The sugary sweet sucrotic hangover of Halloween. Then comes the bloated, drama filled, tryptophan goodness of Thanksgiving. Then finally the headliner...the inane, insipid, insideous way the retailers make you spend yourself into debt for Xmas, all while keeping the facade of peace, love and joy fully intact. Then the icing on the cake which consists of the anti-climatic alcohol charged let down of New Years. Yeah you could say I'm a bit of a bah humbugger. Its just after so many years of the same shit happening over and over again the painful predictability of the "holiday cycle" is just...well tedious. I think since my son is older and is slowly becoming hip to how life works and how the "we all have to do things that we don't want to do" phrase is coming to fruition. Even he thinks its pretty strange to see a car driving by his bus stop with a wreath already on the front bumper. Of course for any newly christened teenager the holidaze are simply about the latest and greatest Xbox game and assorted pricey soccer paraphernalia. But I digress. We have plenty of time to discuss the whimsical nature of humanity and its slightly apoplectic tendencies during the holidays. :-) For now I'm just going to try to lay off the Snickers bars.
I had the unfortunate experience of seeing a television program that depressed me, infuriated me, and enlightened me all at the same time. I had come home from work one night and my wife and son were watching a program called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo". I hadn't heard of the show before but my wife's work collegue and curiosity led her to look for this program and check it out. I got about half way through the viewing and I became quite bummed out. The program is about a family in Georgia that consists of a mom, dad, and 3 daughters. All of them quite self admittedly overweight. Its of course a reality show so you'll be able to tell what kind of vibe this thing will be giving off. So it basically tells about the family's day to day activities and revolves around the youngest daughter's beauty pageant career. The episode I saw was when the family goes to the "red neck" games. They participate in activities like bobbing for pigs feet (raw), belly flopping into a mud pit and other such things. Now who am I to judge. I don't know if I'm judging, maybe I am. I just feel that its a shame when people put a price on their pride, privacy and self respect. Then I say to myself "self, what if they're happy with what they are doing and find nothing wrong with it?" Am I supposed to say "good for them?" I hope I'm not coming across as some sort of elitist snob because believe me I'm not. I don't live the high life or have a fancy car or house. I had a issue with weight as well. I just think that we can do better than this.
You can see how this show could have depressed and infuriated me but enlightenment? Since I'm not really well versed in the entertainment industry this show has really opened my eyes to what is happening out there. I think that the world sees us through the lens of the media, especially the entertainment industry. Through mediums like tv, movies, music (or god forbid books), it becomes very easy to judge millions of people in just seconds. When I see a program like this I can now understand a bit more on why the world envisions us as a bunch of fat buffoons that only care about being "famous". All of us are guilty of stereotyping and making sweeping generalizations about people, countries, and religions, I know I've done it. Maybe I'll think for maybe 3 seconds instead of 2 next time.</moronalogue>
I've had the exquisite pleasure of completing two videos of dubious nature since I've last updated the site. The first being another edition of Betcha CAN Play This! Check it out below.
Also in addition I've been working a bit on my "on camera" improv. Whoo hoo! I think I'm seeing minor amounts of improvement. Still a ways to go. Have a look and leave a comment!
I guess its fitting that I post at the beginning of summer and then at the end. Summer is rapidly becoming my favorite season of the year. I find myself enjoying the warmth more and more. As a guitar player who suffers from "my hands are always freezing" syndrome its nice to not have to play for an hour before my fingers are actually moving as they should be. I had a nice summer so far. Getting stuff done, going to Oneonta to a baseball tournament and just enjoying the free vitamin D available to us outside. The best part of the summer so far for me is having my son Luke (who is now at the ripe old age of 13) run with me. I had been waiting for this occasion for many years. He hangs with me for around 3 miles and I drop him home and I'll finish anther loop. He's been doing really well and I can't tell you how proud I am of him.
<moronalogue>Distraction. There seems to be so much distraction. Facebook, cell phones, ipods, Xbox. These are probably the top 4. Being someone of my age I saw this stuff materialize before my eyes and over time take over a lot of our lives. Kids feel that this technology is inherent and is more of a right than a priveledge. Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you all to get off my lawn, preach about the dangers of cell phone use to our brains or how our kids are turning into zombies due to Modern Warfare 2. Just like everything in life, all is good in moderation. I try to get my son to get involved in tech purchases and help him understand the cost and responsibility involved. I think personal technology is a good thing and pretty much a necessity in modern day life. To be honest I'm just as guilty as the next guy. I use Facebook, I have a cellphone, I do not have an IPod 'cause I have a beef with Apple (we'll save that topic for another day). But I do find it interesting how the above items have made such inroads into our daily lives. We depend so much on our phones, texting and uploading pictures to ...Facebook among other techno gobbledeegook. Computers being the supreme box 'o tech seems to be the hub of all are personal gadgetry. Its also interesting how there's such an incestual relationship between the different facets of technological gizmos and there respective destinations across the ether. You see a one legged squirrel juggling peanuts on top of a power line during a hail torm and that video is logged onto your Idroid then off to Facebook it goes. Eventually going viral on YouTube you get 10million hits and now they pay you for advertising. Technology does pay.
As far as computers I make money working on these infernal copper and silicone boxes. To be honest I'd rather lose TV than internet service. Scary. That's something I thought I'd never say, especially during those 2400baud days. (I really don't watch much TV anyway). ...Speaking of TV...Don't get me started on the staggering amount of reality shows on these days. Man, they have shows on the pawn business, bartering, and auctioning. People who live in the swamps, mountains, and snow. People cutting trees, making guns, building motorcycles, and tattooing. The shit goes on and on. TV has turned into the music business with its cookie cutter, copycat, readily consumable mentality. Shameful. Don't even mention how completey screwed the music business is with all that downloading and ...But I digress, I guess I was just a bit distracted.</moronalogue>
At U Music we will be hosting an Open House/Open Mic on September 8th at 6pm. If you play guitar, bass, keys, drums whatever, bring it down plug it in and jam. Hang with the staff, ask questions about what we do there and our teaching methods. Poetry reading will start a 2am out in the parking lot...in the dark :-)
We also have a recital coming up on September 29th. There should be lots of great music from a lot of great students of every age.
Yeah so I figured I should start working on doing some videos of me playing. I really dislike doing these as I become very self conscious. You would figure that after all the years I've been playing I'd be a real ham by now. Nope. No ham here, just chicken. :-) Here's a video I posted a while back of an attempt to play over a funk track.
If you like it leave a comment on YouTube. Thanks for stoppin' by!
Summer is bearing down on us all and for that I'm somewhat grateful. It's indeed nice to go out without a jacket and enjoy the lush green surroundings of the Hudson Valley. Memorial Day was quiet but still productive. I'd like to say thank you to all our men and women in the service and their families as well for the sacrifices they continue to make. Memorial Day also makes me think back to my family members who fought in the historic wars of the past.
<moronalogue> This moronalogue is going to be somewhat of a lead in to the main part of my update and that would be the NY Amp Show I attended over the weekend. I like to hang out on a couple of guitar/amp forums on the web and one of the big "bones of contention" that seems to come up a lot is amp modeling vs real amp applications.
So first you have the "real amp" faction that prefers glowing tubes and that certain magical, mystical, mojo that comes screaming out of a 4x12. Then you have the digital side that prefers the flexability and convenience that an amp modeler provides through the miracle of chips, algorythms and mathematical wizardry. No matter which side of the fence you fall on all us guitar players still win. When you look at the big picture builders on both sides of the fence are continuously innovating, refining, and tweaking new and existing products. Also the sense of competition is fierce so that only adds fuel to the fire. What it means to us musicians is that we have a massive playground of choices to entertain. The tube guys have so many great small companies to choose from. Lots of great flavors of amps with cool options. In the digital realm there are some big names and some smaller names. So far I've tried a few and well lets just say that I'm sticking with the smaller names. In addtion a plus for the digital side is the ease of recording direct. No mic, no loud noise, no police...you get the idea.
I'm really not a card carrying member of either faction. I know this seems a bit wishy-washy but for me its all about my needs as a player in the studio and in a live setting. The biggest constraint we all have is the monetary one. That is where the idea of competion comes into play. If you have a great product at a fair market price you will see success. At the show I got to meet builders who may be small in size but are very big on quality and innovation. I really enjoy seeing small businesses out there trying to make it work and garnering themselves a reputation in the industry. This is what free enterprise is all about!
One last thing I want to add regarding the digital side of the equation is that I've been recording direct for a long time and I've learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. Times have changed and there's much less post processing that needs to be done on the products that are out today. A lot of great sounds are available right out of the box. Also I've never really been hung up on the accuracy of amp models. For me, I'm just looking for something that sounds good to my ears. I don't care if its a Fender, Marshal, Boogie, whatever. If it makes me crack a stupid smile when I'm playing then I'm all in. </moronalogue>
So me and a few friends hit the NY Amp Show in Secaucus NJ on Sunday. Don't ask me why the NY amp show is in NJ, I didn't get it either. So there we were geeking out on amps on the way down while listening to Tribal Tech's new release "X", which kicks ass btw. We met a lot of great people who were more than willing to talk about there builds. The show was set up at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Each manufacturer rents out a room, in this case on the third floor, and sets up their stuff. You can bring your guitar, which I did, and go from room to room trying out all the cool goodies. I brought my Agile 8 with me and it seemed like a lot of the manufacturers were not put off by it and actually wanted to hear what an 8 string would sound like through their stuff. Since ERGs are becoming a bit more prevalent in the mainstream I think builders taking an interest in this is a good thing. Some amps did well, while others...not so well. I do believe its a good idea to let builders know that there are guitars with more than 6 strings out there and that we need amps too.
One amp that I had a lot of fun playing through was the Dynamo. This company consists of one guy, Ervin Williams, out of Dallas Texas. He came up on his own with the amps and cabinets that he built and set 'em up to show. The cabinet was very interesting as it was a 2x12 cab with 4 ports and two 300watt EV speakers. This thing sounded more massive than a conventional 4x12! He turned the amp up to 3 and my hat was actually vibrating off my head. Frighteningly powerful. The GTS pictured below is a 200 watt 2 channel amp that will peel the paint off your walls. Super articulate and sounds great with the low stuff.
The Dynamo GTS
The creator of the Dynamo amps, Ervin Williams, and some guitar player.
My friend Rob putting it through its paces.
We also stopped by the Fuchs room for some crunchy vintage goodness. They had a very cool 4 watt amp that would be great in the studio and even a small club. This thing was LOUD! They also had a 25 and 50 watt amp. I tried Roger's brand spanking new American Deluxe Strat through it and it sounded sweet.
4 Watt on the left.
John Scavelli putting the 4 watter through its paces. BTW look out for John on a video by Premiere Guitar. John supplied some background music for the interview.
We also stopped by Suhr's room to check out some guitars and amps as well. I got a chance to pick up their seven string (on left).
It was very light weight, solid Korina. The neck was nice but the action was way high. I was afraid to ask how much as I would probably suffer a brain anyeurisim from shock.
They also had pedals at the show. We checked out Metal Pedals and they had some great stuff. I tried the Hardcore XXX and it was indeed sexy. Two brothers ran the company. One was the builder, the other was in charge of PR. Great guys, great products.
We also visited the Fractal Audio room and I got to play with the AXE-FXII for a loooonnnnggg time. This thing is so much fun and since I'm lucky enough to have the standard it was familiar territory. Great, lush clean sounds and he put in a model of the Friedman HBE and I almost jumped out of my chair. It sounded freakishly great!
We've all seen it but here it is again the AXEFXII
All the guys there at Fractal were top notch and willing to answer any questions regarding their products. I even got a pic with the inventor himself:
Cliff Chase and some guitar player.
After the show we hit Chilis and dreamt about all the great amps that we'll never be able to afford on the way home.
My new release "Sojourn" is now available through my site. Please visit my store and have a look around! Shipping is included on all cds. I uploaded some full length songs to check out. Thanks for stoppin' by!
Ok Finally! The new site is up, obviously, kinda still in beta. I still have to add some more stuff and make a bunch of tweaks but at least its functional.
First order of business. My new disk is finally at the replicators. I hope to have them back soon so please stay tuned. If you are interested in getting a copy, and hopefully you are :-), please contact me as I will only be selling them from here via paypal. I'm only getting a few hundred made in its present form (12 page booket with artwork for each song). If I sell them out I'm thinking that I'll probably get another pressing of ones with abbreviated artwork to save some cash.
At U Music we were honored to have Allan Holdsworth, Virgil Donati, and Jimmy Haslip over for a performance! It was a truly inspiring experience for me. I thought Allan was in top form and Virgil added a whole new dimension to Allan's material. I had not heard of Jimmy Haslip before but I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to hold down the groove and play some tasteful solos with these two madmen. I have been lucky enough to establish a bit of a friendship with Allan over the years and I have to say, and many people will attest to this, that his talent is only superceded by his humility and grace. It was my first time meeting Virgil Donati as well. He's a super nice guy and was kind enough to put up with my questions. I'll never forget when he was soundchecking...the power that emanated from his playing was unreal. Whenever Allan comes by we try and put out a nice spread and this time was no exception. I'd like to thank Chris Polao for all her hard work in making this occasion a special one for all.
and the crowd comes in
set list included: Fred, Mr. Spock, Texas, Devil Take The Hindmost
I checked out Allan's new signature Carvin
guitars and they are indeed badass!
Drinking port and eating cookies...as you can see my vision started
getting blurry through the camera :-).
Me and the guys.
Me and the great Allan Holdsworth! Yep, even I had some port.
I was lucky enough to hear a couple of tracks off of Allan's yet to be released CD. You guys will not be disappointed!
I want to say thanks to Allan, Virgil and Jimmy for putting on such a great show!