Brazen Debut

Hi all –

My band, Brazen, went up on stage last Wednesday (6/11/08) and knocked out 3 tunes. We were nervous, and there were mistakes, I’m not sure if people noticed them or not, but we sure did.

Due to logistic problems, we hadn’t practiced in a week. That probably weakened us more than anything else. The crowd, however, was very enthusiastic which helped a lot. The next day our email thread had statements like “When can we play there again and what do we want to play??” so it was a good shot in the arm for the band.

A note to all you guitarists out there – if the band gets lost in a song, follow the bassist, right or wrong (unless he’s the only one off). I had to follow our guy in one song. It’s like merging traffic, right? You don’t want to lay blame or have “stage rage” right then and there – you compromise the song to keep the integrity of the band together and talk about the mistakes later, in a non-confrontational way.

The house band that plays there played before us and after us and boy, do their years of playing together show. Everybody on their mark, everybody comfortable and they were good!

We’re playing a private party at the end of the month, more practice in front of a small audience. They are family, so it will be different, but still more pressure than a practice. I might get a good hot dog out of it too 🙂

Rock on,


A Real Treat

Tonight I went down to a local music store for my son’s drum lessons. My youngest son wanted to come along because he had heard there would be a “concert” there. I was skeptical, since I’ve never heard of anyone actually performing there, but nonetheless I said he could come with us.

When I walked into the store, I was met with a wall of sound, dive bombing lows, and screeching high harmonics. This guy knew his stuff and I was pretty intrigued. He was also a very nice, warm human being who had a great sense of humor and was highly intelligent.

Meet Doug Doppler, a local shredder who’s doing pretty well. He took lessons from Joe Satrianni and his latest CD is on Steve Vai’s label. These guys are heavy weights in the world of modern guitar.

Doug was plugging his latest Ibanez guitar – the S5470, which on sports a $1300 price tag. I have an Ibanez guitar, something I picked up in the 1980’s, which I like a lot, but I’m sure it’s nowhere in that class of guitars.

Doug also shared with us a bit of what his life is like, both on the road and in the studio. He was incredible gracious with all of our questions. His wife was there as well, manning the “merchandise” booth with his new CD “Nu Instrumental”.

I recommend checking it out. Doug is a real artist with incredible technique and a great sound.

Getting those feet wet and building a band…

It is time….

My band has taken a long time to incubate. In that time we’ve gone through 2 bassists and 2 drummers. Welcome to life in a band. I’m reasonably confident this line up will last a while, and depending on our success, could last a long time.

In setting up a band, you need to think about your repertoire. What is your target audience? If you are playing original music, perhaps you need to find a target audience. If you are going the old, established route and playing dance music, you need to consider again your audience. You need some slow songs too. Medium tempo songs tend to be hard to dance to. In fact, I recently suggested “Slow Ride” by Foghat as a tune everybody would enjoy, but after further examination, even though it would be fun to play, it’s not really a dance song.

We currently have about 20 songs on our list. That’s not enough to play 4 hours in a club. It’s about 2 hours worth of music. To play out, you need at least 40 songs and 60 is more like it.

So, with the starts, stops, and stalls of building this band, we only have 20 songs, but we plan to go to a local club here that has open jam nights on Wednesday. Babe’s Place in Livermore allows individuals or groups to sign up and go play 3 songs in front if a live audience. They have the equipment all in place and they are nice folks to boot.

I want to do this to maintain the fire in the band. After we play in front of some folks, the desire will be there to aggressively add the songs needed to get us some full gigs.

Another tip: get a deadline. I learned this from managing programmers in software companies. No deadline, no drive. Get a gig on July 21st and people start to panic: “Oh my god, we’re not ready!”, “We need to practice twice a week!”, “What other songs can we add here in a hurry?”.

We have begun to use Google’s online tools as a way to coordinate things. Google calendar to mark everybody’s availability, and Google’s documents to manager our song list and to rate our songs as good, ok, or needs work.

Pressure is good. It builds diamonds, pearls, and personal growth.

I’ll let you know how Wednesday goes….keep jammin’!


My name is Spencer and I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years, and almost half that time was spent teaching it, as well as playing in clubs, weddings, and parties.

I received an AA degree in Music and have taken years of private lessons myself. I present to my students the theory, chords and scales as well as playing the songs they enjoy. My ultimate goal, however, is to enable others to be able to express themselves with guitar by improvising and writing music.

I’m currently putting together a website and plan to teach again in San Francisco East Bay area. I’ll put the link up when it goes live.

I’m also putting a band together and we have over an hour’s worth of music together so far. Band dynamics will probably be in this blog too, as there are good times and bad times with bands. But more on this later.

If you have a question or an idea for some new topic, please email me at or leave a comment here.

Happy Picking!


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