Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jimi Hendrix - 70th birthday

Happy Birthday Jimi Hendrix
If Jimi was alive today 11.27.12 he would be 70 years of age. Jimi was simply captivating and quite frankly is still  as relevant and compelling as he was over forty years ago. Jimi was an extremely dynamic and creative person; flamboyant on the stage, quiet off the stage, weld the guitar like a sword, play it like a Stradivarius, play a gentle melody, and sting the ear of the audience with searing guitar tones. It will be a long time before someone comes along that will affect us as Jimi has for decades.

Bill Graham once criticised Jimi after a performance backstage at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Bill told Jimi that he did all the moves but forgot to play. Albeit a bit taken back, Jimi came out for the second show that night and played in a manner that left Bill Graham almost speechless and for a New Yorker, and Bill Graham - that is unusual.

It is not my place to hypothesize as to what Jimi would be doing today if he was still alive. Nobody knows and that is just a waste of time. What is true, Jimi did more for the guitar than anyone to date. He's top 5 even in a mixed crowd of jazzers, classical, and country. I think of him as a great blues player and if you think the blues are easy and I just cut down Jimi - I am not implying that and I believe the opposite even though for many years I would only play jazz. To this day, people are still imitating Jimi's style, tone, guitars and timbre. Nothing more really needs to be said as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Jimi played his own and covered everybody's music. Here he covers the Beatles!

Happy Birthday Jimi!

Here Jimi plays Woodstock. Jimi carries the show and if the band got up and left the stage I don't think the audience would have noticed.

Fly on little wing!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Holidays! ZZ TOP La Futura

Tone is in your fingers and your hands.
Hold your tone!
La Futura! An excellent gift for the ZZ Top fan in your life.
Produced by Rick Rubin and Billy F. Gibbons.
All the plank spanking, board ripping, hot roddin' music you could want.

Led Zeppelin reunion

Led Zeppelin held the concert  at the O2 to raise funds for Ahmet Ertegun's education fund that he established before his death. But as a byproduct, they have now released an album. The much ballyhood Led Zeppelin reunion has yet to materialize and Rolling Stone caught up with Jimmy Page who put the rumor in proper perspective. Jimmy said that Robert Plant was already committed to tour with Alison Krause. He didn't deny that the band auditioned vocalists to front the band but ultimately, "I thought we needed a credible album, not do something that sounded like we were trying to milk the O2."

**Some record stores are including a commemorative poster with the purchase of the CELEBRATION DAY CD. While supplies last!** update>11.25.12<

Stay tuned. One of the reason I love well established bands - Rolling Stones indefinably tour LOL!

Current Musical Instrument Deals - !

Want to buy a new guitar at bargain basement prices?
Time is running out!
At the time of this writing it's the Black Friday (post holiday event invented by capitalists to fill the coffers - only recognized in the United States) weekend. From what my economic indicator's indicate that there is an inclination where sales objectives are not being met (tongue inserted firmly in cheek). Those who's job is to analyze economic patterns anticipated that this season would be slower than last year and if you don't recall, there was a mild up swing last year. Last year was good while the two previous years were blood baths where most industries  saw terrible sales due to the world wide collapse of the shady banking industry. (wiping the sweat from my brow) So, ultimately what I am trying to say is that if you are holding out for better deals. There aren't any.

The time to buy that gift for Christmas is now. You might find a better deal on something that nobody wants closer to Christmas time and if you wait until after Christmas, you will find a cheap but probably unplayable instrument. Beginner electric guitars start at a minimum of $300.00, and about the same for acoustics. However  keep in mind that you need to buy an amplifier for the electric and that will increase the cost of the electric package by least $100. If you think you can repair a cheap broken new guitar yourself - that is fantastic! Beware of voiding the warranty through modification. If you take it to a Luthier, don't try to work a deal with him as a ill-conceived/poorly made instrument isn't worth the money to fix in most cases and if he takes the work, be prepared to spend more on the repairs than the instrument actually cost. The truth hurts sometimes.

I digress - If you are buying an instrument for a student and you are not certain they will stick with the instrument, you might fear that this will become another toy that is played with once. Then a viable alternative is to RENT and instrument for a few months. Most reputable instrument dealers will allow you to apply the rent towards a new instrument. Be a responsible consumer and DO NOT rent, then apply rent towards a new instrument only to determine a year later that the new musician quit and therefore you'd like to return the instrument to the dealer. If you do attempt to return the instrument then the following should be your expectations; you will unlikely receive your money back, you will be expected to be returning a unused instrument in excellent condition, if you bought a damaged instrument at a discount - you must prove that pre-existing damage with a written note. Off my soap box.

Back to the deals - Fender is currently offering a $100 rebate on SELECT guitars. Gibson's guitars are very competitive and priced to move. Takamine acoustics, Ibanez, Ovation are additional brands where you can find good deals. Some of my friends have purchased Taylor and Martin guitars from the larger retailers at a great price however I would encourage you to find a good deal at a local shop where you can keep the money in the neighborhood and support your local merchants!

So go out there and find that instrument that you've been wanting or a nice starter - Got to add that the writers favorite starter guitar is the Taylor Mini GS at approximately $499.99. This guitar will not depreciate rapidly and really plays well and you can easily install a acoustic pickup for about another $100. With Electrics, I prefer the Stratocaster (sort by price)type of guitars because they are well engineered for proper playing ergonomics. However, there is a huge selection in all price ranges.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Birthday to Joe Walsh who turns 65 today

Happy Birthday Joe, now at the youthful age of 65 you look great and sound better than ever.

I like Joe's new album because it's fun, positive, and sincere. Moreover, it's filled with great songs hooks, excellent guitar work coupled to his twisted humor and acute awareness of humanity and trials of life.

Happy Birthday Joe - now get a new guitar!!

This is an super fun special from Daryl Hall's house recording.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Duanne Allman - !

Remembering Duane Allman today on his 66 birthday. 

Duane needs to be seen in the proper perspective, he had only been playing the slide guitar for about 2 years when he recorded this track at The Fillmore East. Duane was Influenced by Taj Mahal's slide playing and it's boldly apparent that he was gifted.

Happy Birthday Duane!

"Don't keep me wondering - Dreams"...........

and with the Dead.........."It hurts me too"

The Grateful Dead with Duane Allman at the Fillmore East in NYC, 4/26/71. More info on the show can be found here:

And if you liked this make sure you check out the Dead, Allmans and Fleetwood Mac jamming on "Lovelight" from 2/11/70, also at the Fillmore...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gibson - Les Paul Guitars price drop

Gibson Les Paul model guitars have dropped in price. Not all of the models are experiencing price drops but some. The Les Paul Traditional and the Les Paul Satin models are available at a tremendous savings. Rather than bore you with some conjecture about why the prices have dropped - I'll tell you what is going on with these models.

The Les Paul Traditional Pro remains remains unchanged and has the 8 hole chambers. This guitar is selling for almost $1000 less than the Les Paul Standard. Great Value

The Les Paul Traditional Mahogany satin utilizes a bi-layed rosewood fret board and the guitar top is Mahogany instead of maple - Hence the word "mahogany" in the title of this instrument. I am tepid on the bi-layer fret-board but it might be more ridged due to the dual layer and inherent bonding process. Very affordable to the intermediate guitarist.

The Les Paul Classic custom - Approximately $100 more than the Traditional Mahogany due to the maple top but instead of a rosewood fret-board, this guitar has a torrefied maple fret-board. Torrefaction is a process similar to baking that is value adding by modifying the qualities of certain wood. This process makes the wood more stable. Good Value if you like a maple guitar top but with a non traditional torrefied maple neck. It should be noted that Fender has used none torrefied maple for decades [Ex.1].

Typical Fender Guitar Maple neck [Ex.1]
It should be duly noted that torrefaction is preferred to Richlite. Richlite utilizes the wood and polymers to bond and modify the density of materials while torrefaction basically bakes the wood to achieve densification.

The Gibson Les Paul Standard is a great as ever. All of the aforementioned changes do not apply to this guitar. It's not cheap but it's literally a standard of the music industry. Are these instruments made as well as they once were? Depends on which period you would like to compare the current model to because not ever year in the past has yielded great models. During the decade of the 1980's the Les Paul suffered when Norlin was running the company. I prefer the necks shape that have been used for the last 20 years and for me I really like the 1950's profile but the 1960 profile is very comfortable to play. The draw back to this instrument: the price point is similar to a tremendous number of brands of guitars available in this price bracket. Beware of analysis paralysis trying to decide which guitar to buy in this price tier.

My bucket list Les Paul model is the reissue 1959. But I'd take a 1958 VOS. Both of these guitar play well and sound well but they come with a price tag that weeds out the poor or neophyte players.

It's no secret, Gibson has had some problems this past year. They've had lousy public relations and in my humble opinion could have used a professional spokes person. However, this is a apple pie brand and it just needs to get it's name out of the gutter along with some unlikely brother in discourse, i.e., Netflix, Tiger Woods, and Borders books. I'd like to see a huge brand turn around and it has to come from within Gibson.

Two of my most prized instruments are Gibson guitars. They play well, they are built well and they get better with age - Sort of like old American cars.

If you are looking for a gift for the guitar player in your life, you might consider some of the guitars I listed above. If I had to pick a non traditional Les Paul as the winner it would be the Maple Top with the satin finish. I find the price to value ratio on this instrument though subjective - to be the best bang for the buck!

One observation: Gibson is decreasing the cost of introductory instruments while increasing the cost of the premium products. The decrease is to bring in new consumers and lock in brand recognition while those old time guitar snobs are already sold on their dream Les Paul and more than willing to pay the cost to play the boss! Smart move Gibson!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Imelda May - Jazz at the Barbican

Imelda May rehearses for Friday's Jazz Voice concert at the Barbican.

Photograph: Emile Holba/London jazz festival 2012

If you made it - Good on you! Though, I doubt you heard much Rockabilly that night! Cheers!

Honestly, if you work hard you can get what you want. Darrel and Imelda are now a trio and I am betting that in about a year and a half they will get a preview of their daughter's sonic abilities LOL! 

Circle of Fifths - Bring new life to your practice scales

Practicing in general can get tedious. This feeling can become your undoing and unravel your dreams to become a better player. But this doesn't have to happen as there are many tools that can be used that are fun, educational and interesting. One such tool involves the circle of fifths.

Take your favorite modal scale, for example the Pentatonic scale (see Ex.1 below) and find the root position for the note "F". Let me share a trick that I learned as a kid by using mnemonics to remember the order of the circle of Fifths - With sharp keys [#] use - Starting with the key of "F" = Fish, "C" = Can, "G" = Go, "D" = Down,  "A"  = And, "E" = Eat, "B" = Bait. Fish can go do and it bait = F, C, G, D, A, E, and B accordingly. If you are viewing this in another language you can add a mnemonic that works for your language. 

Pentatonic scale examples (root 6th string and root 5th string). [Ex.1]

With the flat keys [b] use the word - BEAD - GC. The actual [flat] keys are Bb, Eb, Ab, Dd, Gb and Cb (Cb sounds the same as the note "B"). In this case instead of using a sentence I employ a simple word with two letters following the word that aids in remembering the FLAT KEY'S in the circle of fifths.

My intent is to give you an alternative to the often used chromatic (progressing in semitones) progression method of practicing scales. That too is a wonderful tool but my attempt is too broaden your scope and help you learn the circle of fifths which is a music fundamental. Using this you will hear the difference in key intervals in fifths and the difference is very apparent. It will also help you identify a fifth. Being able to identify intervals is also a fundamental and if you have ever had ear training, you will realize identification could be difficult but the ability identify intervals is essential as identifying keys. Nevertheless, lets not get too involved in music theory and keep practice fun.

I find using my favorite scale, the Locrian [7th note of the major scale for those interested] mode, then jumping around on the guitar neck using the circle of fifths as a map can be a wonderful way to keep my playing fresh and fun. The Locrian is only one example; please 7 modes to be thorough.

From the soap box: Learning this is essential if you want to know you $%$##$%. I've played all types of music and as a guitarist you must learn something other than the key of "E". Other musicians make jokes about guitarists because most cannot read music and only play in the key of "E". Try to break that trend and learn because if you don't you can get shot down. I have a real life experience where I was in the college big band, the Professor was a fantastic musician who could play the piano, flugal horn and lead the band. Each year we had try outs, I watched quite a few players who could hold people in awe at a party or at Guitar Center but as soon as the teacher put a chart in front of them - SILENCE. The teacher sent them packing with the immortal words that I will never forget as long as I have my faculties, "Stay home and practice or stay home." *Quote - Joe Davis - ! 

Joke - How do you make a guitar player shut up? Put a chart in front of him!

Practice! Don't be the butt of a joke!!!!

Led Zeppelin Black Dog Celebration Day [unofficial]

For those of you who follow this blog - I'd just like to remind you that on November 19th, Led Zeppelin will release their Celebration Day CD, DVD and Blue-ray recording.

This is a great gift for yourself or any Rock and Roll fan in your life!

Meanwhile, enjoy their YouTube video release of them performing "Black Dog," in front of a sold out crowd at the O2 arena.

Celebration Day will be released on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray on November 19. Pre-order it Here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Triad in Inversion

Learn this and you will know one more thing that will help make you better because not everybody is savant.

A triad is said to be in inversion when some note other than the root is in the bass. When the third is in the bass, the triad is in (first inversion); when the fifth is in the bass, the triad is in second inversion. Therefore, there are three possible triads, i.e., root position, first position and second position (there are more possible but I'll stick to basics, figured bass blah blah blah).

Chord in inversion are found in musical compositions for two reasons.
  1. To give variety to the vertical sound. A composition consisting of the chords with root in the bass only is less interesting musically than alternation of chords with root in the bass and chords in inversion.
  2. To allow the bass line to be more melodic. Use of inversion allows more step-wise movement and smaller skips in the bass line.
Below is an Inversion chart:

Root pos.      >  Root   example = C

1st inversion   >  3rd >>>>>>>>> E

2nd inversion  >  5th>>>>>>>>>>G

First inversion of the example above = 

Second inversion

A great musician once told me, learn all the rules and then forget them. This is just one of the tools in a huge bag of tricks that some people call rules or music theory. But don't get overwhelmed, my use of the term "rule" does not imply strict adherence. I use rule in the same sense as when one says, "as a rule, the bus is usually late." I hope this helps you add some diversity to your playing and isn't too confusing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Viva Las Vegas - Start preparing for the 2013 event NOW!

Viva Las Vegas is revving up again for 2013. Get your friends together for a weekend of retrospective and tons of cars, music, burlesque, and fun. There are plenty of festivities for everyone's delight and this year there will be a Janis Martin tribute along with a Roy Orbison tribute and there is always a car show!

Now is the time to start preparing for attendance. Make your reservations now so you don't miss out and or get stuck in some flea bag motel.

Go straight to the source by clicking on this line to get to the Viva Las Vegas webpage!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Just because it's a vintage guitar.............

Just because it's a vintage guitar doesn't mean it plays well. Just because she's pretty doesn't mean she's flawless. I would be a rich man if I had a nickel from every person who told me they bought a vintage instrument that looked awesome; is described as awesome on Ebay, Craigslist, or Gbase but plays like scrape wood with strings attached. Try it before you buy it and buy it locally. If you don't live by wonderful vintage dealers then move because you probably live on an island where I want to live so make room and move out! If you live in Maui - LEAVE Immediately and make room for me. I digest, or digress... Er ahem - I am slightly kidding about the deserted island.

If you buy up every vintage piece you see find you've bought poorly playing instruments, this might be the universe and it's own divine way of telling you that you have too much money. I too can remedy that situation, send me your money and I'll put it to good use saving the wild life in my house. Let me be frank, play the instrument before you pay for the instrument and you'll fare better in terms of purchasing a really fancy instrument that also plays well. That leads me to look at the word, "fancy," as looks aren't everything. I've met some plain Jane guitars that are serious butt kickers in terms of tone. Better yet, I'll let you in on a little secret, I try the ugly ones first and later try my luck on the prettier guitars. This is starting to sound like advise I'd give to a teenager........ Ugly guitars sometimes are sleepers and should not be overlooked.

So, if you do have the money ( I don't) - Here are some awesome vintage guitars. I happened upon a few guitars that a fine gentleman and purveyor of quality instruments left behind as he moved on to a ever-green ethereal pasture. The following photo's are just a hint of his collection.

Get out a handkerchief as this will make you weep!
1950 Fender Broadcaster

1966 Fender MusicMaster
1964 MusicMaster
1966 Telecaster

1950 Gibson ES 150

1968 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top

1933 Gibson L7

Nice 1968 Fender Telecaster

The Fender Broadcaster is really a beauty as are most of the guitars above. I reiterate; never buy one unless you've tried it or if you trust your deal implicitly. Most of all, buy it to play it and not hang it on the wall. Have fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And Practice!!!! I know I need to practice too as I am spending too much time writing this blog instead of playing. However, my neighbors are probably happy about my blogging............. 

Travis Bean Guitars

The original Travis Bean guitar is no longer made and therefore a collectors item on the simplest of terms. Travis Bean was a luthier and machinist from California. His guitars were a compliment of beautiful exotic wood and aluminium necks. The fret boards where usually rosewood and bonded to the aluminium. The guitar that I tested was the TB1000 and frankly it was on the heavy side but the sustain was greater than any guitar I have played since. The pickups were stock and sensitive. The guitar sustain was incomparable and it's forte! This was the same guitar that Stanley Jordan, Keith Richards and Jerry Garcia used this instrument as did countless others. With high performance sustain it was easy to see why Stanley Jordon would like this instrument as it suited his style of playing well. The body shape of the TB1000 reminded me of a certain ES-335 but smaller. The neck shape was similar to the Les Paul Custom 1968 model. The pickup covers and pick guard are close to indestructible. The guitar is bomb proof but if you did ever bend the neck, you'd probably need a new neck (would need to be customer made) or you'd have to take your guitar to the nearest auto body shop (sic). The Travis Bean guitars I know of were only manufactured for about 5 years but their place is secured in history as a bold attempt to change the classic materials used during the manufacture of guitars.

The down side: since aluminum conducts heat well, at first touch the neck feels cold because it absorbs heat from your skin and gives you a chilling sensation. However, if the ambient temperature is much lower than the natural human body temperature, the neck will chill to ambient, be uncomfortable to play, and never warm to the touch. In the later years, they resolved to paint or coat the neck to eliminate the temperature issue. But the paint sort of also ruins the whole appeal and this was the Travis Bean conundrum. The guitar weight is the second problem regarding the ergonomics of this wonderful but temperamental guitar. The guitar is up there around 8 to 9 lbs. depending on the wood used. If you don't regard the aforementioned challenges as deal breakers, this might just be a perfect instrument for you.

If you find one within your price range - Buy it. These are not cheap guitars, never were and it is doubtful the price will drop on the open market. If you live in the Arctic and play outdoors - you might want to pass it by. However, the sustain is phenomenal and the pickups are a shredders dream. If you see a Travis Bean - At least try it and you will understand why some love this guitar are others pass it by.

Travis Bean sadly passed away in 2011.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

RIP Eddie Bertrand surf guitar legend

Eddie Bertrand is famous for his compositions with the Bel-Airs in the early 1960's. But another generation might also know about Eddie's guitar licks from the Orange county ska/punk band Sublime who incorporated Eddie's solo into its song "Seed." Later on, Eddie play with Eddie & the Showmen. Bertrand, who died on Saturday was a surf guitar pioneer. Eddie co-founded the Bel-airs and along with the Bel-Airs wrote their famous tune Mr. Moto... Below Mr. Moto being played at a benefit for Eddie. Eddie & the Showmen biggest hit was the Bel-Airs tune, Squad Car. A song that was recorded in a grain silo, the single rips along like the musicians were being chased by Godzilla for over two minutes of ripping surf music along with Bertrands wailing riffs. Another by-product of this type of music was the involved arrangements that spanned usually less than 2 minutes yet packed a huge punch in terms of fiery, spy-"ish", yet memorable guitar riffs.

The Beach boys include Bertrands sound as one of their inspirations. Bertrand ranked high among such surf luminaries as The Ventures, Dick Dale, and Link Wray. Bertrand was the consummate surf guitar pioneer and will be sorely missed. Eddie certainly loved the inimitable tone of Fender reverb and sound of Fender Mustang's and Fender Stratocaster's. We all steal from the greats and many of us owe our dues to Eddie's artistry. Pay up by paying forward!

Sadly, cancer finally took Eddie's life. Ma-halo Eddie!

If you are looking for more information about Surf Guitar then you should check out Sound of Surf Guitar circa 2009.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Guitar Rig run down

Nice Video that gives you some insight into the rigs of your favorite Guitarist. Contrary to popular belief there often isn't some mojo or voodoo space dust used. Basic but well made audio and musical instruments will suffice as it is the musician that makes the biggest difference.

As a musician or aspiring musician it is very important to not focus on what I call hokus pokus, i.e., where the technical gymnastic side of playing the guitar is often flashy for the eye but unsavory for the ear. I am reminded of a story that the great impresario Bill Graham told about Jimi Hendrix when Jimi played The Fillmore East. Jimi asked Bill what he thought of Jimi's first show of the night, Bill told him that he saw Jimi point his guitar, swing it, play it with his teeth, behind his back and every way but with out any emotion. Jimi was incensed  he said, "Did you hear the applause....?" Bill said yeah, but you could have pissed on your guitar and they would have applauded. Jimi went out for the second show and waltzed with his guitar, played from his heart, and as Bill Graham described.... Killed the audience.

Play from the heart, play what you feel and drop the theatrics. It's not a competition. If you can play like a great singer sings (without auto-tune) then you are learning and on your way to playing like YOU.

Gretsch guitar:

Chord Substitions - Brian Setzer!

More Brian Setzer licks

For the Xmas Season....

Jingle Bells - Rockabilly style!

Los Lonely Boys - More guitar rig info - but it's still the fingers!!

Rosie Flores - Unsung hero!

Rosie Flores is one female guitarist who stands tall in a field dominated by male guitarist. Nicknamed the female Elvis (though she is much better looking) for her suave moves while playing. Born in San Antonio, Tx. she is a rockabilly and country artist. Listening to her you will hear a rich infused mixture of honky tonk, jazz,and western swing that she has developed from her her traditional Tex-Mex heritage. She's backed big names like Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin. Sadly, Martin passed away in 2007 from lung cancer. But good news is that the Janis Martin Blanco sessions featuring Rosie on guitar were just released September 2012 on Cow Island music. This album is available on CD, MP3 and Pink Vinyl (yes, PINK VINYL).

Rosie has interesting influences as her family move west to San Diego and gave Rosie exposure to surf and Blues and the Bakersfield sound. She site Elvis and Brenda Lee as her early influences.

She seems to favor the twang of Fender Guitars but you can also see her with those lovely Gretsch guitars. As a veteran player she chooses the right tool for the right song.

Rosie has appeared on Austin City Limits (ACL) (ACL festival link) and Late night with Conan O'brien

You need to check out Rosie's album - Girl of the Century recorded in 2009 on the Bloodshot label.

Check out some of Rosie's music at this Amazon link or your local music retailer.

Rockabilly hall of fame link

Kashmir - Led Zeppelin

Have you placed your order yet? It's selling quickly so get your set for yourself or your favorite fan soon before they run out!