Blues vs Country Improvisation

Hey all,

As promised, this blog will be about the different approach I take to Country playing vs Blues.  At first it might seem like they have nothing in common but they oftentimes make use of the same Chord Progression.

Let’s look at the key of E:

1     2      3      4     5      6     7

E    F#    G#    A    B    C#    D#

So a I IV V progression would be:

I            IV        V

EMaj   AMaj  BMaj

Blues Approach

The most straight forward Blues approach is to use the E Blues Scale:

1   b3   4   5  b7

E   G   A   B   D

The blues scale makes use of the flatted third against an E Major chord.  While that sounds like it might clash, the rhythm on blues often times leave the full chord out:

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

——————————————————————————————–

2–2–4–4—2–2–4–4——————————————————————————

0—0–0–0–0–0–0–0——————————————————————-

So the chords is E (6th string open) and B (5ths string 2nd fret) and then E and C# (5th string 4th fret).  C# is the 6th of the chord and the rhythm alternates between the two.

This gives the soloist some room to stretch out.  So the E Blues minor feel doesn’t clash with the chords.

Advanced Blues Soloing treats all the chords above as Dominant 7 chords:

E7  A7  B7

E7 is :

E  G#  B  D

So all the notes are there in the Blues scale  for the chord except the G#  – the E Blues scale has a G.  A very common lick is to coming the two – G -> G# -> resolve to E.  This can be done on any of the 3 chords above, but you have to pay attention to which chord is being played.

Playing the dominant chord shapes on the guitar for each chord as it is being played is a nice exercise to get used to where the notes are.  From there you can start to stretch out:

E7: E G# B D

A7: A C# E G

B7 B D# F# A

The B7 is most unlike the notes in the blues scale – when you start to outline them you’ll probably recognize the difference since you can’t get that sound in the blues scale.

Country Approach

So with Blues they accent the “minor” or “dominant” feel of the chords.  Instead of that, Country accents the “major” sound of these chords.  Again, most of that “boogie woogie” rhythm doesn’t include the 3rd of the chord (E and B, E and C# alternating) so the third is up for grabs.

Country really likes the sounds of major pentatonics against a major chord:

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

Country really likes the G# or the major third of the chord, as well as the 6th – the C# – which is being played in that boogie woogie rhythm.

With this approach, similar to the Dominant 7 approach above, your notes will change with each chord.

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

A: A B  C#  D  E

B: B C# D#  F# G#

This can get tricky if the chords are changing a lot, but your playing country is going to require that you know these 3 scales and how they overlap.  At first you’ll hop from scale to scale (nothing wrong with that) but eventually you’ll want to smooth out your transitions the way the pros do and make a melody that fits in the scales as the chords change.

Send any questions or comments my way.  You can also follow me on twitter fastfingers76

Happy Playing

Happy 2014

Hey Fellow Shredders….

2014 is off to a fast start around here.  I’m in the process of finding a new place to live (always fun!) as my landlord wants to sell his house that I’m renting (but still wants guitar lessons from me 🙂  It’s all good).

The Turbo Fuegos just added a 2nd guitar player.  This is the third guy in 11 months.  The first guy lasted 2 weeks.  The second lasted 5 weeks.  Let’s hope Steve sticks around a while.  He has a different style than me which is great – I don’t need another “me” up on stage but someone with a contrasting style.

We are playing the Sports Page in Mountain View right by the Shoreline Ampitheater on January 18th.  Admission free – come check us out.

It’s been a while since I’ve given a real “lesson” blog – quite a while in fact.  My next blog will be on the difference between Blues and Country soloing.  It will be useful info.

So I’m not even halfway through January yet and I have to box, move, work in a new guitarist, and my day job has me handling two big clients.  I worked back-to-back 15 hour days last week.  Looking forward to sleeping in on Sunday!

See you next time….

Shreddy

Happy Thanksgiving!!

To the Faithful Shredders,

It has been crazy busy in Fast Fingers land, but it is time to pause and give thanks to the wonderful things that have happened to me this year:

1) My girlfriend and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary this year.  That’s no easy feat when you’re dating me 🙂

2) I repaired an important family tie.

3) I quit my dead end day job and began working for a small but profitable startup.  Not a lot of sleep but getting a fast education in Jquery, Jquery Mobile and Project Management.

4) My band – The Turbo Fuegos – has gained momentum throughout the year.  Ok, well we lost 1 bassist and two guitarist but the current line up feels committed and we are only geting more busy for 2014.

5) My teaching schedule is bursting at the seams.  I cannot take any more students at this time.

All five of the above for me have been important priorities in my life.  All of the above came with challenges – nothing is really free in this world.  You have to work at it.

I’ve been going back to the gym a lot more recently and hope to get an early jump on that New Years Resolution that always seems to come up.  While I’m doing resistance training, I pretty much focus on what I’m doing, but when I get on the elliptical, I have more time to people watch.

I’m going to dump these people into two very broad categories: The Workers and The Loungers.  When you go to the gym, any gym, you’ll see guys and girls, completely focused.  I don’t go to any classes so I normally see them in the free weight section.  They watch themselves carefully in the mirror as they do their reps.  The guys will sometimes grimace as they get to the last 2 reps – sweat breaks out and a look of determination appears on their face as they squeeeeze out that last rep, and with a tired sigh of relief, they put the weight down.

That’s the Worker.  He or she is in there to make the session count.  They went to the trouble of packing clothes, getting water, grabbing a towel, and driving down there and so, doggone-it, they are going to get something out of it.  The same can be true of the person running hard on the treadmill or bike or elliptical.  Or trembling to hold that yoga position.

Then you got the Lounger.  You don’t see them in the free weight section.  I’m doing machines right now since I’m coming back from a long layoff and some old injuries require that I ease into it.  But other people will saunter through their workout, and many of them are on their cell phone.  What?  This is a time for focus.  I once was on the elliptical machine and the woman next to me was talking so loud on her phone (and I was listening to my iPhone music!) that I had to move away from her.

And we all know the guy who won’t get out of the abdominal machine.  You’ve just burned through 3 sets of two different exercises and this joker is still sitting there.  He should be paying rent to stay in that machine.

The same goes for guitar practicing.  Be a Worker, not a Lounger.  If your cell phone keeps buzzing (and who’s doesn’t?) turn it off for 30 min and get your uninterrupted practice time in.  If people support you, they will understand.  If my girlfriend texts me when I’m at the gym, I text back “at gym ttyl” and she gets it – “ok have a good workout”.  That’s support.

So enjoy today, eat, drink and be merry, enjoy your families, be grateful for the good things in  your life, and tomorrow get back on it.  And one day someone will look at you playing your instrument and comment “Wow, you make it look easy”.  Which should make you smile.

Shred on.

Spencer

 

How Did I Get Here??

Ok, folks, I really didn’t mean to take this long to post.  A number of things were going on, and I think we just rounded the bend, so I’m going to talk about them here.

First, the main thing that held up my post is I wanted to post the songs I talked about recording on Mother’s Day.  Way back in March.  Way back.  Well, one thing that didn’t turn out so well was the mix.

If you ever read Slash’s book, he talks about how Axle Rose refused to go into the studio, so they sent tapes back and forth – he would write down his comments and mail the tapes back, they’d work on them and send them back to him and the cycle starts again.  Doesn’t sound like a very efficient way to make a hit record.  Well it’s not a very effective way to make a demo tape either.

We must have passed those three songs back and forth 5 times to get the mix right.  And each time it took longer and longer to get their attention to mix it and send it back.  Most likely it’s because they were already paid (NOTE: No one gets paid in full until the job is done).

Then, about the 4th iteration of this, the mix came back very, very close.  Just a few tweaks were needed.  Maybe 6 things.  Well, the songs came back and the guitar – my guitar – was awful – it was way too loud and too harsh sounding.  Our singer went back to the engineer and he fixed one of the songs.  So 2 out of 3 were ok, but the third still had a messed up guitar sound on it.

My son also went through a similar experience with a guy in Sacramento.  The guy took his time on the mix and finally gave them some of the money back and cut them loose.

This is where all those music lessons you took don’t help you.  You need to have a clear plan, a clear timeline, and keep them on it or they forget about you.  I actually had something similar happen to me when we were putting a pool in the back yard.  We paid the guy in installments and when he was 75% paid, we saw less and less of him – he was off to his next gig.

Our persistence paid off – we finally got the songs mixed.  I will post links when I have them.

In the meantime, we played one heckuva private party in Livermore in June, then added a new guitar player into the mix.  Frank has good rock and blues chops, which I guess makes me the country guy.  How did I get that title?

On Labor Day we played at R place.  It was one of our best shows yet.  Frank was only in the band 2 weeks at that point, we used Kenny’s sound system and we rocked the joint for 3 hours.  For a holiday, we had well over 50 people in that club.

Our next gig is at Downtown Ollies on Oct 11 in Livermore.   I will provide pictures and links to our demo.  Promise!

Peace Out

Spencer

“ShredZilla”

“Stand by……….Rolling!” Pt 1

Happy May to all my fellow jammers,

As I have been writing about, since February I have been in a country rock band called The Turbo Feugos.  We’re based out of Livermore, California.  We’ve solidified our line up (although we’d like to add another guitar player).

The previous lineup of the band has 3 demo songs out there, which are pretty good.  We decided we needed 3 more to make a complete marketing package of the band.  We picked the songs, much like the previous 3 – one ballad, one country, one country rock classic.

Those previous songs, like the last demo I did with my last band, we all recorded separately on computer, each instrument being added individually.  There are pros and cons with this method.

The first and obvious advantage is money, provided you have decent software and a high performing computer already.  The second pro is you can take your time.  Don’t like that take?  Back it up and do it again until you’re happy.

The first con with this approach is the sound quality.  You’re just not going to make a hit record with your Dell laptop.  The second is unless you have a lot of computer power and a lot of inputs, you’re stuck recording instruments one at a time.  What that does is it tends to remove the live feel and excitement of the band.

In “My Life” by Keith Richards, he was adamant about capturing that excitement, saying “You don’t need 16 mics on the drums, you need to mic the room!”

It’s something that I agree with.  One of our bassists that was with us briefly recommended a recording studio out in Emeryville – about 40 minutes from Livermore.  The two sound engineers actually came by our practice and introduced themselves, and told us what we could expect.

Their number 1 point was “Be prepared”.

Whenever the tape is rolling or the hard drive spinning or the recording gear is on, you get the jitters.  We all tense up.  Can you walk across a 4″ beam that’s on the floor?  Probably.  How about 20 feet up?  It’s the same width but suddenly you’re scared you’re going to fall.  In recording you’re scared you’re going to mess up.

So our three tunes were “A Woman Like You” by Lee Brice, “Fake ID” by Big & Rich that’s on the Footloose remake album, and “They Call Me The Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Of all three songs, I feared “A Woman Like You” most.  It’s a ballad and you can’t hide mistakes easily, plus the fact that there is an intro solo guitar part and a solo middle section and a solo outro.  The pressure is on!

The guitar work is done on an acoustic.  I don’t own a decent acoustic.  Plus, as I figured out the parts, one eluded me until I figured out it was played on the 12, 13, and 14th frets – which are very high for acoustic.

I decided to go with my warmest and thickest sounding guitar – My 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom.  That guitar has been through the trenches with me, played with many bands on many stages and weddings.  I pulled it out and in practice when I started the solo intro, our lead singer immediately remarked “I like that!”.

Now the Les Paul isn’t that easy to play high on either compared to my Ibanez but it’s a lot easier than acoustic.  I made up my mind I was going to sit to play it, using my foot rest for my left foot to get a better angle on the high end of the neck.  The song came together well that way.

Fake ID was more of a challenge on a band level.  There are 5 breaks in that song: one after each of the first two choruses, one after the 8 bar guitar solo, one after the next chorus, and then the ending chorus.  The ending chorus has a slightly extended verse so it doesn’t go like all the others.

As we ran through this, our drummer and bassist were running through the breaks, and even I wasn’t sure where they all were.  Our singer probably knew them best because he had to key off them.  Singers oftentimes know the form of a song better than most of the band when first working on a song.

I took my iPad and plugged it into my PA and said “Everybody stop playing – listen”.  We listened to it from beginning to end and noted where the breaks were.  One by one we smoothed them out.

“Breeze” is a classic and I love Lynyrd Skynyrd but they have three guitar players in that band.  Even though I know the opening lead, I can’t play it with the band live now because I have no rhythm behind me.  So I couldn’t practice the lead with the band – I had to do that on my own.  I’d been working on the lead with one of my students so I was aware of a lot of it.

This is where my philosophy of copying leads comes in.  Some leads I have to have down note for note, like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagels or if we do “Hotel Calfornia” – could you imagine someone playing that song and NOT doing those leads?

On the other hand, when we do “Jonny B Goode”, I do what I want.  I’m not interested in doing that original solo.

Then there are times when I want to get the essence of the solo without killing myself to do the thing note for note.  Fake ID has an OK solo on it, it’s 8 bars. I copy some of it but really, as long as I get the essence of it and hit the breaks right coming out of it, I’m good with that.

Breeze is kind of in between those two examples.  It has signature “parts” to it which I wanted to capture, but beyond that, I wanted it to be me.  That is probably my ego talking but I take pride in my solo work and I think I do a good job (on most days).  So I got the parts down that I thought were needed and filled in the rest with my own ideas.

Our recording day was Sunday, May 12, so we practiced Friday, May 10 focusing on those three songs only.  And played them. And played them.  Fixed some things and played them again.

When we broke for the night, we felt we were reasonably prepared for our session.

I made a list of the things I wanted to have.  I’d never been to this studio, so I didn’t know what to expect.

I brought:

My amp and effects

My Les Paul and my Ibanez Prestige, both restrung on the Saturday before.

At least 2 sets of extra strings for both guitars..  Once I put on new strings and one string broke right away.  Take 2 extra.

Extra picks. You know how those fall, and take odd bounces and end up blending in with the carpet or under a couch.  I think guitar players spend 9% of their lives looking for their picks.

Extra guitar cords.  My crate contains nearly every redundant thing I can think of.  (Actually, in writing this, I only have one speaker cord for the connection between my amp head and amp cabinet.  I will fix that!).  I even now have 2 digital mic cables that connect my Pod HD to my Amp. (I don’t sky dive, but if I did, I’d probably want 3 chutes if they would let me.)

Footrest as mentioned above.

Folding Chair.  I thought they should have some but just in case…..

Food!  I reminded everybody that we have 8 hours to do 3 songs.  We don’t want to be boppin’ off to In n’ Out burger in the middle of it when we’re paying for studio time and I don’t want to be in the middle of a guitar solo thinking about how hungry or thirsty I am.

My list done, the stuff purchased, the guitars restrung, I was up Saturday night until 12 midnight trying to get tired.  I had to be up at 6:00am as the recording session started at 8:00am.  Yes, AM.  We got a crappy time because we weren’t able to coordinate with some band members (and some now ex-band members) on the time.  But, like anything, there was a good side to it and that was going to be light traffic getting into a bustling little town like Emeryville.

On the negative side, if I needed strings or a pick or a cable, who’s open on Sundays?  Another good reason to take a fail safe approach and have 2-3 of everything.

Next post – The Recording Session.

Happy Shredding!

Spencer

 

 

 

Product Review : Tascam GB10

Hi All –

Well, my birthday is coming up.  And if you’re like me, you need to help people know what you want or you’ll end up with another shirt to fill your closet 🙂

One of my long time friends and former students used Tascam equipment to practice with.  When I came over to jam, he’d usually play background tracks on it.  I thought it was cool, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it.

Then one of my current students got the Tascam GB10 and not being very technical, he had me help him set it up.  It’s not too confusing once you do it for the first time.

As a guitar player and teacher, I figure out most things by ear.  Once in a while I’ll look up tab on the internet, but most of the time it’s wrong (sorry guys) or incomplete.  Hey at least they’re sharing what they know, but for me, I want it to be right.

Since music is all digital now, I wanted some software that would slow the mp3 player down, but not affect the pitch.  There are several ones out there but I couldn’t make any of them work for me.  Either I couldn’t figure it out, or it was buggy.

Once I got my student’s Tascam loaded up with the right file type, he plugged it in and didn’t quite know what to do with it.  It was Lynyrd Skynyrd but Ronnie Van Zant sounded like a girl.  I finally got it adjusted down to the right key for him.

So I asked for one of these things for my birthday.  oddly, it isn’t available on musiciansfriend.com or sweetwater.com.  But it is available on Amazon so there’s where it came from.

It uses 2 AA batteries (or it can run of a wall plug, NOT INCLUDED – same thing with my Kindle Fire – why do they do that??).  It comes with one cord to plug into the USB port on the guitar.

So get the batteries in, plug into your computer, turn on the Tascam unit and it says “Power / Storage” – I took the Storage option.  This loads the unit’s directory in the Windows Explorer or Mac Finder.

Next, you need your music files in one of two formats: MP3 or WAV.  If you try an MP4 Tascam won’t display it.

Luckily, we use mostly MP3’s in the band so I had plenty to pick from.  (Note: if you’re plucking tunes from iTunes, you can export them as WAV files – that’s what I did for my student).  I had about 6 band tunes in mp4 format, but downloaded a free converter via cnet and voila!  I had MP3’s.

Then it’s a matter of dragging your mp3 files unto the music directory on the Tascam.  Unplug the unit and it will turn itself off.

Next, I plugged in my headphone in the headphone jack of the unit, my guitar into the guitar jack, and then you have to adjust the volume on the side so you can hear your guitar.  Then you have to make sure on the playback screen that “input” is “on” – by default it’s off.

Next, I found a song that I wanted to double check my chart with – “8 Second Ride”.  The introduction has given me problems on that one before and I’ve changed my chart twice.  Listening to it with headphones and slowing it down to about half speed, and immediately I found my mistake.  I was one note off.

Then in the same song, there is a lead part that is played throughout the song – I fixed a wrong note in that one too, plus it was easier to figure out the higher harmony part of the two guitar lead.  So on my first song, I fixed two mistakes I was making and figured out an additional part.  Not a bad beginning by any means.

I worked on another song that has a tricky intro – “A Woman Like You”.  Again, I could hear everything much easier when it’s slowed down and I can “loop” a section indefinitely if I need to keep hearing it.

The Tascam slows things down in 10% increments, which some people in other reviews didn’t like – they wanted finer control over this.  However, that works fine for me.

The Tascam can also change the Key of the music (as noted above in my student’s Lynyrd Skynyrd song).  I’m not sure if I need to use that at this point, but could come in handy later if we change  a key for vocal reasons.  It might also help with artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Van Halen who tune down a half step.  Why re tune the guitar when you can press a button?

You can also record with this thing but I haven’t gotten that far with it yet.

So for $112, it’s a bit pricey but if you can call in some birthday or Christmas favors it might be worth it.  I’m glad I got it.  I’m also working on Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version of VooDoo Chile and there are 2 or 3 bursts of notes in his solo that I can definitely use this tool on.

Happy Jamming!

Spencer

 

The Ups and Downs of Band Life

Hey all –

Wouldn’t you know it – band drama continues.  In the last four weeks we:

1) Added a rhythm guitarist

2) Added a bassist

3) Rhythm guitarist quit

4) Bassist quit

On the surface you might think something is wrong with the band, or we smell funny.  I don’t think that’s it (I hope).  The rhythm guitarist quit citing personal changes in his life, but didn’t go into any kind of detail.  That’s fine, we wish him well.

The bassist quit citing personal issues as well, which we understood, and wish him well too.

And then there were three…..(again!)…this is where we started, for crying out loud!  Me, a drummer and the singer.

Welcome to band life.  Better take some Dramamine, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Seriously, this happens a lot.  There are several factors, in no particular order:

  • Musical conflicts are high on the list
  • Personal issues (marriage, job, kids – these are a bigger factor when you get older)
  • Substance abuse (also a personal issue)
  • Their level of commitment doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Their goals (gig a little, gig a lot, do originals, do covers) don’t match the rest of the band
  • Their talent level doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Personality clashes – too many alpha dogs in the pack can bring on fights and no alphas mean the band can just drift and get nothing done
  • …and probably more…

In my previous band, everybody’s goals were definitely different than mine, plus we didn’t have the right kind of alpha in the band.  Just having an alpha – someone who takes charge either a little or a lot, and starts to pull the band one way or another – doesn’t guarantee success.  Sometimes alphas are wrong.  Sometimes alphas focus too much on one thing (say musical perfection) and not another (promotion).

If all this sounds like herding cats, it sure can be.  Again, in my last band, I would send out a long email on how our band website stacks up against others and what we need to do.  I got zero response.  Not a single “Oh wow, thanks for doing that”.  No dialog, no interest, not even a disagreement.  It’s no wonder that only a few things changed on the website in the year I was with the band.

If you’re guessing I’m an alpha, I’d say so.  Certainly not because I want to control everybody, I just don’t see everything getting done if I don’t pitch in and help.  I also use my MBA background for strategic thinking, marketing, evaluating competition and determining opportunities.  That’s actually fun for me (don’t laugh – it comes in handy).  I want to accomplish something for myself and the band I’m in.  Someone else, who may look at the band as a way to get away from the kids one night a week for practice, could care less how the website looks.

Bands are usually a democracy, or at least they start out that way.  Everybody has a say.  Like a marriage.  And if somebody is really unhappy, something will eventually change.

Luckily the three of us that are left all seem to be like minded in what we want to do.  We state our opinions without getting in each others face about it.  Since I’m more technical than the other two, I’m more than happy to help with the web site, the drop box musical repository, sending reminder emails or confirmation emails about time, place, agenda.  Our singer, on the other hand, is a real people person and is very good working out deals with people.  That’s a skill I’m not very good at.  But I’m glad he is.  It’s a skill someone in the band needs to have or you stay in the garage.

We are recording three songs in May over in Emeryville, and playing a gig May 24th.  I have the gig covered (the bass part anyway) with a long time friend and associate from Guitar Showcase.  I’m glad he was free that night. The auditions have started to try to find someone quick so they can help us with the recording.  We have two auditions lined up so far.

Meanwhile I’m still learning new songs and getting the four sets down.  I got the Tascam GB 10 recently so I’ll be reviewing that in my next blog.

Wish us luck!

Spencer

 

Band Thoughts, Banjo Thoughts, and Line 6 Thoughts

Hey everybody –

There have been three things bouncing around in my head lately, and only the last two subjects are related, but I figured I could combine them into one post.

Band Thoughts:

I recently watched “The History of the Eagles” on Showtime.  This 3 hour long documentary is also available to rent on Netflix.  It covers the time from Glenn Frey’s and Don Henley’s childhoods, to how they met up in California, how the Eagles formed in the early 1970’s, how they broke up in 1980, solo careers, their reunion in the early 90’s and subsequent line-up changes.

I’m not a huge Eagles fan, though I really like “Hotel California” and teach the two lead solos, which impressed me for they’re melodic content. Same thing with “One of These Nights”.  But beyond that, I didn’t know much about them.

So why waste 3 hours of your precious time to watch this documentary?  To me it’s always interesting how bands form.  I’ve formed a few myself and they are fragile things.  But nothing keeps a band going like success, even if you have to change a member or two.  And the Eagles were one of the all time most successful hit makers.  I didn’t realize just how many songs they had that I was familiar with, even though I never bought an album from them.

If you’re looking at this as in how to get tips to “make it”, well, it’s still a chance combination of talent, chemistry between band members, and some good old fashioned luck. You can work on the first part, but the second two are hard.  I’ve often said, and it is repeated in this documentary, that being in a band is like being in a marriage – more so for these guys who travelled, slept, and ate together for years.  You’re going to get on each other’s nerves, it’s inevitable.

I think what saddened me was the end piece.  The Eagles reunited, and it seemed like all bad fights had been forgotten.  But a new one emerged: Glenn Frey and Don Henley wanted to draw up legal contracts insisting they get paid more than the other members of the band.  Their guitarist Don Felder didn’t agree, but went along with it for some time and was finally kicked out for his disagreements and his questions.

Frey’s and Henley’s argument was that after the band broke up, they both had hit singles throughout the 1980’s, keeping the Eagles name out there (according to them).  Felder’s argument was just because those two had better solo careers has nothing to do with the Eagles.

I tend to side with Felder on this.  First, with all their hits (and don’t forget royalties are paid for hit songs every time they are broadcasted or used – it can be a lot of money) – Frey and Henley were already rich.

Also, the Eagles had a very collaborative song writing method.  Everybody contributed.  Everybody sang.  Everybody wrote.  Everybody had sang lead vocals on some hit tunes.  Their band members carry a heavier load than most other band members.  Don Felder claimed “The whole band was greater than the sum of it’s parts”.  I agree and wish Felder well.  (Felder does the first guitar lead on Hotel California which is pretty darn good).

Banjo

As I am now in the Turbo Fuegos band, and the line up is complete, we’ve been digging into the material and trying to get ready for our first gig.  On some of our tunes, the banjo is really featured.  I never thought much about banjo, but it’s effect is undeniable in some songs (like “Save a Horse” by Big And Rich).  So I began looking into owning one.

They aren’t terribly expensive – at least not the introductory ones.  $200 will land you one.  But I found out, there’s about 3 different models of banjo – 4 string, 5 string and 6 string.  And more tunings too just to make it fun.  For someone who just wanted to add it to some particular songs, I had to know what I would be getting into.

Which brings me to Line 6….

Line 6

If you’ve been reading my posts from the last year, you might think I love Line 6 more than any other amp maker out there.  I don’t.  It’s just that I never know what style of music I’ll be playing.  Last year I was in a top 40 band that needed straight and distorted tones, wah effects, delay, reverb, and compression.  I even used an octave harmonizer on one song.  Now I’m in a country/country rock/classic rock band.  So the straight tones have gone from a “funk” sound to more twangy.  I’m not using quite as many effects, but I am playing different distortions.

Line 6 is versatile.  I can model a lot of different amps from Fender to Marshall to Mesa Boogie.  Is it perfect? No.  If I decided to specialize – say I was going to go heavy metal, I’d start looking at Eddie Van Halen’s (EVH) brand, maybe Soldano.  Bogner is great but way expensive.

So for versatility – I have the Line 6 50W DT50 head/cabinet, and the Line 6 HD500.  I normally play my Ibanez Prestige.

Line 6 also makes a line of guitars called the Variax.  So now they model guitars like strats, telecasters, les pauls, etc.  That’s nice but it also models acoustic guitars and…..banjo!  As I want banjo for an effect on certain songs and not wanting to be a killer banjo player, this might be worth it.

However, I still wanted 24 frets and a locking vibrato bar.  At the NAMM show this year, line 6 introduced the Variax JTV 89F guitar.  They must have heard my mental messages to them.  24 Frets, Floyd rose, all the models including banjo.  They must have not have heard my mental message about price – they hiked it to $1499.

I will be keeping it in mind as the Turbo Fuegos ramp up our playing and I have a full grip on the material.  The artist side of me wants it now, the business side of me reminds me I haven’t made a dime yet from this band.  If this is going to be an investment, it needs to make sense.

I’ll keep y’all informed 🙂

Spencer

 

 

The Ancient Art of Weaving

Hi all – Happy March….

Last month I blogged about my 2 auditions and reasonably good showing at “R Place” in Livermore.  With the three of us in place – Singer, Drummer, and myself – we needed to add a bassist.

A bit surprisingly, though, the singer next had in line to try out a rhythm guitarist.  I approached this with some caution.  In the past, I’ve had rhythm guitarist try out for the band, then try to undermine me to get the lead spot.  However, at the same time, I was fine with sharing some lead guitar duties – especially if he had a different style as me.  I didn’t think we needed 2 “me’s” in the band.

I should explain the title of the blog – I recently read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life and he mentions the ancient art of weaving as two guitars that listening to each other and playing around each other and complimenting each other.  Keith has always worked with another guitar player, so I decided to pay special attention to this approach.

They guy we tried out had a very good attitude.  No real ego here, just wanting to play in a working band like the rest of us.  He corrected me on a song (Honey Bee) in a respectful way.  He had a tube amp and a Fender Strat.  We sounded good together but I also realized this increased my work load a bit.  In most songs I didn’t want to play exactly what he was playing.  For example, if he’s playing an open E chord, I will probably play the bar E on the 7th fret.  Why?  Because with two guitarist we can stretch the range.  He plays low, I go high.  And we have to pay close attention to our rhythms to make sure they don’t clash.  The new guy has more of a country background and I don’t and I think that’s a plus.

We still needed a bassist.  Luckily for us, the idea of playing out at “R Place” to put the word out that we needed a bassist bought us an audition.  We auditioned him last week and his playing was just right on.  Nice tone, not too loud, rock solid bass lines and he had the signature bass parts down cold in the 10 songs he brought.

As I’ve done with everybody on the band, I brought up commitment and goals.  Two gigs a month on average, one rehearsal a week unless there is a gig that week.  Everybody agreed.

The Turbo Fuegos was complete.

We then talked about next steps.  Three out of the five members of the band, including me, needed to learn the song list.  I had come in with 10 songs, so did the rhythm guitarist and the bassist.  We now needed to learn the Fuegos’ set list, starting with set one.  There was a lot of talk about throwing out older songs, replacing them with new ones, but for now we will keep the first set as is, and everybody come next week prepared to play through 13 songs.

We are booked at Ollies on May 24th, and we might be playing a rodeo event on April 27th.  Nothing motivates as much as having a live gig to go on.

More next blog…

Spencer

The Audition – Part 2

Hi,

Well last post we had me overextended on my audition, playing a guitar I didn’t practice on, and not enough time to prepare.  But they liked me enough to want to check me out one more time.

So I reduced the number of songs from 21 to 10.  I pracitced on my #1 guitar – my Ibanez Prestiege, and worked on my presets/tones on my amp.

The difference was huge.  They liked me so much I got the job on the spot.

Then they had the idea of us playing at a local jam night at a club called “R Place” in Livermore.  We worked up two sets of 4 songs each, with 2 extra, just in case.

When we arrived, the “House” band was setting up and played a blues set that lasted about an hour and half.  I was….not nervous, but antsy.  I wanted to play, but instead I have to listen to these guys play!  I have some serious gear – I kept thinking about where it would go, what is the most effecient way to get it set up to save time, etc.

Finally we got the green light.  With the “house” bassist to fill in, we got setup to play.  I got my gear up and ready to play in under 10 minutes.  We started off with

1)  Born to be Wild

2)  Can’t Get Enough

3) China Grove

4) Gimme Three Steps

We originally were going to play only 4 but they let us do one more so…we played Jumpin Jack Flash.

We then stepped down, dragged our gear off (well I did, the drum set didn’t move), and took a breather.  Our friends and family were supportive, and we sounded quite different than the standard blues fare that had been played thus far.  We were also pretty loud.  50 watts with a tube amp is pretty darn loud.

Eventually we were asked back up.  Up goes the amp, the effects, the guitar, and me.  We ran through:

1) Honky Tonk Women

2) Feel Like Makin’ Love

3) Highway to Hell

4) Sweet Home Alabama

Again, they wanted another song wo we threw in Johnny B Goode, the old Chuck Berry Classic.

After that, we were “done” in the sense that we had prepared 10 songs, and we had played them.  People loved us, and our lead singer was a natrural as he worked the crowd – talking to them and getting them fired up.  Then we were asked to play one more.

“Uh, what do we want to do?”

I said “Ok, let’d do Long Train Runnin'”.  I’d played that song every time last year when I played out, I knew it backwards and forwards so we knocked that out.

We were done.  Once again, dragged my stuff off the stage, wrapped the cords, put it in the car and was done for the night.  No money, but it was a nice “testing ground” for how we’re going to be on stage.  They guys liked what I did.

There were mistakes.  Oh yeah there were mistakes – but we played through them.  This was our third time playing together and the crowed loved us.

We were building a new band…..

More next blog

Spencer

In home guitar lessons in the Tri-Valley area of California. This includes Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, and Livermore. Other arrangements negotiable.