Who’s blog is this? I mean…. really?

29 03 2017

For a while now, a few of us have taken turns writing posts and trying to share what we’ve learned with our other brothers and sisters.

Dark DaysLately, it’s turned into a remembrance page where we spend a lot of time feeling older than our old Strats and Teles while our friends go up into the clouds to rock heaven. Lately, I feel like the Grim Reaper…

So, if for no other reason than to defy death… I’m taking over the reins again.  I get a lot of mail about “y identity” as we set this up to be anonymous in the beginning, to protect our families and our privacy. I thought it’d be fun to stamp the blog with my picture to get the fires started.  But, the hell with it. It’ll put a face to the rantings… and more than a few cool guitars… and you’ll recognize me when you see me under the gels…

Alex

You might want to check in from time to time to see what we’re working on as we write new material.  One of the best places to start might be at my “Soundcloud” account.

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6 Strings Worth of Classical Ecstacy!

3 03 2009

Okay, we’ve been talking…

Well, not exactly… I’ve been talking, and you’ve been listening. We’ve been talking about guitars and education, and the perils of just trying to “wing it” without learning the fundamentals.

Lot’s of people just pick up the guitar, watch a few videos and buy a few songbooks… And they cheat themselves out of a “learning base” that might have allowed them to explore “new frontiers” way earlier! Hey, you’re a smart guy, and you can learn everything you ever wanted to know, just by watching MTV and YouTube, right?

Well, you just keep thinking that! It’s guys like you, that I buy “hardly used guitars” from, for almost nothing… 😉

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Incidentally, I don’t resell them. I donate them to one of a few guitar schools I sponsor, both here in the US, and overseas… So don’t ask.

When you’re buying your first guitar, you really have no idea how it’s supposed to feel, or sound (or even smell), for that matter. You’re just another “rube in the woods” trying to  look cool, as you sit there on that stool, and try to look like you know what you’re doing. I call this “the poser period.”

If you’re smart, you find a mentor and take him/her along with you, to guide your steps as you start to grow. After all, a sponge won’t swell up in the desert... 😉

I don’t care how you do it… Bribe them, promise them dinner, or even your first child… whatever… just make sure that they’re there to keep you from being ripped off!

Have them test drive that guitar for you. While they’re doing it, pay attention! If they can make it cry, so can you, eventually.

Then, once you get it home… pick up the Yellow Pages, and look for a teacher.

Call the local guitar shops, and ask them who teaches. And then, ask those teachers to give you a demo, on YOUR guitar. If they play your guitar, they’ll know what tools you have to work with! Because once that teacher knows where you’re starting from, they’ll be able to make sure that you learn the fundamentals, and THAT will insure your success as a guitarist!

Me, I opt for the guy that beats it into your head that learning “classical guitar” will make you a “rock star…”

Why? Well, here’s a tip for all you “thrasher wanna-be”  kiddies out there!

He’s the guy your parents will gladly pony up the cash for! After all, when they’re playing bridge next weekend, bragging about “their prodigy of a kid who’s learning to play classical guitar…” you’ll be worshiping a “bridge” of your own. And it will happen with your parents blessing (and financial support), I might add!

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And I thought it might help you, to hear what a “Classical education” can do for your fretwork…

If you practice, practice, practice… And IF you play it right, it’ll sound like this…

See? That wasn’t so bad!

Now then… “Old Guys” aren’t so dumb, are they? Hmmm?

100lft_guitar_ava1Okay… “Old Guys” ARE dumb enough not to be able to figure out how to embed an MP3 in the WordPress blog post. So, sorry for the “off-link!” I’ll figure it out sooner or later. I’m a guitarist, not a computer programmer! ‘Till then, it’ll be worth your while to follow those links… and then… come right back! 😉





Waiting for delivery… your first new baby… and it’s ELECTRIC!

28 02 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about buying your first Electric guitar…

57lespaulcustomOkay, last time, we talked about buying that first acoustic guitar.

Now, I know I gave you hell about considering an acoustic first, but some of you are just hard headed and you just wanna rock… 😉

We’ve talked about stuff… Hey we’ve even insinuated that many people are reluctant to invest too much money on a “first” instrument, because frankly, some people don’t have faith in themselves. It’s because of this that there is a very large market for inexpensive (read “cheap!”) guitars. It’s the place those damned “packages” come from! Companies are in business to make money, and one of the fastest sources of income, is “disposable products.”

So, music manufacturers and suppliers are eager to fill the market with cheap guitars, usually built out on the edge of the radar, in places like Korea and China. Labor and materials are cheap there, and it’s easy for the manufacturers to meet demand.

And it’s this condition that becomes the minefield for the inexperienced player. You get what you pay for in the guitar realm, folks. If you only fork over pennies, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get. That cheap guitar you just bought may look decent, but  cheap guitars aren’t very playable, they don’t adjust well, and they’ll just slow you down.  Nothing frustrates a new music student more than not being able to achieve success, because of shoddy, low quality instruments. Wanna quit before you even get started? Buy a “package deal,” and get a cheap guitar, and fulfill your dreams of failure!

I know this sounds harsh, but remember two things;

(1) I’m not trying to sell you guitars. I ain’t in the guitar selling business.

(2) I’m trying to keep you from making the mistake that 75% of all new guitarists make. And it’s a mistake that very few of them recover from.

A new guitarist can’t tell that the tone isn’t “quite right.” And they can’t tell you why they’re frustrated, because they lack the experience to know what to expect.  That’s why it’s really important to take someone with you that knows the difference between a good guitar and a BAD one.

And it’s why you need to pony up some real cash to buy that first “axe.”

A good to high quality guitar will carry you through as you learn to play.

And kids, if you need to, PRINT THIS OUT and give it to your parents, as “proof” when you’re begging for that Les Paul…

If your parents are “helping” you learn to play the guitar, they need to understand that a cheap guitar is just like a Yugo. It’s trash before you even get it home and “it’ll be broken, before it’s broken in…”

Before buying a guitar it is important that you find out what has been done to ensure that the instrument is playable. How can you know that you are not getting a bad guitar?

A good guitar store will go out of it’s way to insure that you get what you need to succeed in developing your skills and enjoying  a lifetime of music making on your electric guitar. It’s more than just getting your cash, folks. The music business is very competitive. Shops close every single day! So, it’s about getting you as a guitar customer for life. If they can guide you along, they can stay in your pockets and that’s gonna affect their bottom line. So, it’s in their best interest to help you get that great guitar you crave.

One of the things that they will do is inspect your guitar, to make sure that it’s in good shape, and playable.

Your guitar will be set up and adjusted, to make sure that it performs the way it was designed to. Even in the guitar “mid-range,” this is the “norm,” for guitar businesses.  And, “mid-range” is “at least” where you’re gonna start, if I have anything to say about it.

Here’s a checklist of things you need to do, in order to insure that you’re getting a good deal;

1. Unpack and visually inspect guitar for shipping damage

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2. Inspect guitar for unacceptable finish blemishes

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3. Tune guitar to standard pitch.

4. Check tuning machines for proper operation

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5. Check to be sure strings are properly wound around tuning post to maximize tone and insure less wear on tuning machines.

6. Check ring nut on each tuning machine to make sure they are secure.

7. Check neck bolts to be sure they are secure.

8. Do a preliminary inspection of action and overall playability.

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9. Check to see if bridge/tremolo system is properly adjusted and is not pulled forward from string tension

You’re gonna come across a few different types of Bridges/tremolos. Here’s the three main types;

1. The Gibson type is the easiest of the three to use as it is just a curved piece of metal with the saddles on it, which can only be adjusted up and down by two screws, one on each side.

2. The Fender type is a bit more complicated to use. It is like the Gibson as it can only be moved up and down by adjusting two screws (one on each side), but the saddles are individual and can be moved one at a time to get a better sound and for easier tuning.

3. The Floyd rose type is different to both the other types as it is not attached to the body, it rests on two grooved screws, these screws help to make the bridge move up and down. A Floyd rose can be adjusted like the Fender and the saddles are “individual.” Floyd roses also have fine tuning which helps create a better sound, and much more precise tuning.

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Gratuitous “righty” photo!

10. Play the guitar acoustically to check for unwanted vibrations or noises.

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11. Plug in guitar and check input jack

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12. Check pick-up selection switch in all positions

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13. Check volume and tone controls

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14. Inspect the string height or action at the nut. Get that ruler back out!

15. Inspect the string height or action at the bridge and saddles.

16. Inspect the truss rod adjustment:

There are a few different types of truss rods you may come across;

1. The Fender type
As you tighten the truss rod the neck will bend and give you a smaller action, and you slacken the truss rod your neck will loosen, giving you a bigger action.

2. The Cheap aluminium type
This is just a cheap version of the Fender type cased in a rectangle metal case. It’s not as good as a Fender, no matter what the salesman says. It’s a “knock-off!” Because of that, it’s junk! Hello? It’s CHEAP! Avoid this like the plague!

3. The Gibson type
Instead of bending the wood like the Fender type, the Gibson type of truss rod squeezes the wood making it bend in or out.

4. The Ibanez type
This works in the same way as the Gibson, it is just made in a different way. It is two rods welded at one end and the end of one end is welded to a collar, which is screwed onto the bottom rod.

Have someone who knows what they are doing perform the following work as necessary:

trussrodWARNING! If you screw this up, you’ll ruin your guitar! If you over-adjust this, you might as well just burn that guitar on stage!

(At least it will entertain the audience!)

17. Adjust truss rod for overall playability or action.

Okay, now that we have “that” out of the way… Get that guitar tech to do the following;

18. Adjust the bridge and/or bridge saddles of each string for ease of playing.

bridge_adjustment1

19. Check intonation of each string and adjust as necessary.

20. Cut string nut slots deeper to adjust the height of each string appropriately above the first fret. This is for ease of playing in first position.

21. File nut slot back angle to keep the string from buzzing inside the nut and help insure proper intonation and tone.

22. Hone frets if they are uneven and affect playability.

hone-frets-even

23. Apply fingerboard oil to fingerboard if the wood appears or feels dry.

24. Re-tune the guitar to pitch and check overall playability.

25. Polish your axe as necessary. Hey! I know what you’re thinking… and that’s NOT what they’re calling it nowadays! I was talking about the guitar! A shiny guitar is a happy guitar!

If you’re not buying your guitar from a guitar business, then you still need these steps performed, or you’re going to get ripped off!

A guitar tech may take a quick look at that prospective purchase for free, but… once you’ve paid for it, a good guitar tech is gonna charge you between $40 – $70 bucks to do this walk-thru of your guitar. Stop whining! It’s the best money you can spend on your guitar! Trust me!

And I cannot suggest strongly enough that you enlist one, to insure that you have a good, adjusted, playable guitar.

Here’s the last rule for buying a new guitar;

Cherish it, covet it, and gloat… You’re not a MUSICIAN… You’re becoming a GUITARIST!!

Now git! Go on… Git!

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Well, I guess it’s up to us left-handed guitar players to straighten things out, huh?

15 02 2009

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now…

(Well, actually, I’ve been playing with the idea since about August of 2008…)

And, I’ve even started getting my shit together, so I could get this ball rockin’, but something always came up…

First, I got married… again! That always screws things up! 😉

Then… a hurricane ate our house, and all it’s contents. I had to say goodbye to several of my guitars, and a lot of sound gear!

And if that wasn’t enough, between trying to rebuild and trying to keep things flowin’…

We had a baby! I don’t know how it happened… well, I know “exactly” how it happened (if you don’t you’re on the wrong blog, bucko!) and now he’s tearin’ up the joint!

But, time stands still for no one! I’ve seen stuff… I’ve played stuff… I’ve even seen history… (I was there at Record Plant in the 70’s [1974 to be exact] when Lennon and McCartney “played” together for the last time)…

So… no more wasting time, We’re gonna start anew, with no more lookin’ back, and no more lookin’ over somebody else’s shoulder.

Here we go…

All you have to do is spend 20 minutes at Guitar Center, to realize that a guitar is a “babe” magnet. With the right axe even a geek can get laid, provided the licks are there! But, how do you actually learn to play it? And, what if you’re (gasp!) left-handed? Oh shit… Things just got way more complicated!

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but being a great guitarist isn’t about getting laid. It’s about being a rock solid performer, who channels his or her heart and soul into that guitar, and then bleeds energy out to the audience. THAT gets you laid…

And confidentially, you need to get your priorities straight. If this is all about your “naughty bits,” you have much bigger problems!

Let me guarantee you that you’re gonna spend hours that last for months, getting your chops… And then, you’re gonna have to conquer your stage-fright, and show the world what you’ve got. Being a “lefty” isn’t a curse!

Hell, some of the greatest guitarists that ever lived are (gasp!) lefties!

Lemme see… Jimi Hendrix comes to mind;

jimi140

No one ever tuned into the “cosmic progression” and saw more possibilities for the electric guitar’s place as rock’s “pillar” instrument than Jimi Hendrix. Jimi integrated blues and jazz, used them as his springboard, and then mercilessly pushed his instrument to places his peers could only dream of. Legions of us have been trying to duplicate his licks ever since. But alas, there’s only one “Jimi.” Interestingly enough, Carlos Santana once speculated that Hendrix’s style may have been partly rooted in his Native American heritage. I’m thinkin’ it was the “peyote…” but what do I know? 😉

Then there was that cat… Tommy “Whats-his-name…” you know… the guy with Black Sabbath?

iommi

It’s been said that  Tony Iommi is the man who invented the heavy metal riff. With his ever present SG, the Black Sabbath maestro established the gloomy, minor key patterns and foreboding blues-based solos that continue to define the darker side of the rock genre. Few guitarists have uncovered more permutations within a singular, self-imposed approach. And that includes “righties…”

We’ll throw this guy on the fire, too; Elliot Easton

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Catchy as they were, Rick Ocasek’s neurotic pop songs wouldn’t have been the same without Elliot Easton’s economical leads and spot-on, song-serving solos. Trained at the Berklee College of Music, Easton brought a Beatles-like touch to such Cars classics as “Just What I Needed” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Fittingly, Gibson honored him with his own signature SG.

elliott-easton_sg

Play nice and I may have some kind of a contest to “pass it on…” to a deserving “lefty!”

In fact, somebody sent me one… Not bad at all, the neck was so smooth it reminded me of an old joke about “hand-jobs…” 😉

Let’s not forget one of my personal favorites; Sir Paul McCartney

paul_mccartney

In addition to being the most melodic bass stylist in rock history, Paul McCartney has unveiled spectacular six-string artistry on more occasions than you can count! He may be “old school,” but acoustic classics such as “Yesterday” and “Blackbird” remain essential for aspiring guitarists who give equal weight to brilliant songwriting and impeccable technique. It’s a measure of his talent that even in his “old age,” at any of his live performances  Sir Paul makes material look deceptively easy.

And just because I’m a “Southern California Boy,” I’m gonna throw in Dick Dale;

dick

The long esteemed “King of the Surf Guitar,” Dick Dale went out every night and showed ’em how it was done! Dick exerted a huge influence on ’60s groups such as the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Now, before you start callin’ me “Grandpa,” I’ll point out that even though Dick was probably before your time, his trademark single-note staccato technique had a tremendous impact on aspiring guitarists everywhere. In fact, virtuoso players like Eddie Van Halen and even Pete Townshend considered him a guitar-playin’ God! And, Dale’s use of exotic Middle Eastern scales (now quite commonly used) was considered daring (and even decadent) for its time as well.

And I can think of a bunch more! Guys like Al King, Otis Rush, Tim Armstrong, and Al McKay, just to name a few!

scd-7501-2albert-king-with-stevie-ray-vaughan-in-session-posters

So even if you’re a lefty, you can do it! I’ve got faith in you. And, if you can’t… well… I still can, and in the end, it’s all about me, huh? 🙂

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m in the biz… I’ve lived in studios and sound rooms all my life. I’ve seen ’em come and I’ve seen ’em go. I’ve tossed their posses out of “green rooms,” and I’ve even stolen a girlfriend or two…

(Frankly, I’ve loved more guitars, than people.)

I’ve owned studios in L.A., New York, and even Las Vegas. I’ve owned more guitars than a guitar store. I’ve toured in more countries than I can remember…

Through it all (and the 70’s are still kinda hazy), I’ve contributed to what I think is a pretty solid body of work, with an “Artist list” that goes on for several pages. In fact, if you started playin’ all the stuff I’ve worked on, that iPod of yours would keep playing for weeks continuously.

The funny thing is that I sit at home, in the studio, playin’ my ass off, with my kid in the sound room listening like he can actually hear each and every note. I’m surrounded by records hanging on the wall… Yet… my kid is still amazed when Jeff Beck knows my name… ‘cuz I’m just “dad.” And he thinks Joe Satriani is a God… Go figure! Oy Vey!

And, you don’t stop playin’ when you’re thirty, either! Lots of us tour into our 50’s and 60’s. Some of us keep at it, writing scores for film, and jingles for advertising. And some of us get to the point where we don’t even have to leave the house, anymore, to shred for some serious cash… I know some of those guys. In fact, they meet at my house, on a regular basis!

Here’s a tip; If you wanna keep your licks, you have to work at it. And, it’s hard work, despite how easy it looks on MTV and VH1…

But, I’m getting sick and tired of  hearing people whining that “they can’t crack in,” or they can’t learn to play, because of this or that.  “Waaaaaa-waaaa-waaa!” That’s just crap! To those guys, I just say this; “Grow a spine!”

It’s about talent, determination, and drive.

It’s that simple.

First, you learn the fundamentals. Then, you learn the tricks. Then, and only then, you start getting “original.” Stevie and Carlos didn’t come out of Momma’s chute with a guitar neck glued to their little hands and a pick in their mouths… Jeff and Joe didn’t go to Wal*Mart and buy a can of “Incredi-Shred.” They learned to shred, by practicing for hours that lasted for days, going on weeks. And then, after their fingers stopped bleeding, they started over.

And it doesn’t matter if you’ve got an “inny,” or an “outie.” Girls can shred, too! Just ask Lita Ford, or that Aussie Wonder “Oriantha!”

As a “leftie,” much of what I’ll teach here will pertain to that “chosen few,” who despite being “wrong-handed,” are gonna conquer their dragons, and learn to shred like one of those guys on “Iron Chef!” 😉

For those of you “righties” that stop by, the principles will still apply, you’ll just have to practice the “application,” in the mirror. Don’t feel bad, some of us have been doing it for years… 🙂

We’re gonna talk about the business of making music, in spite of those who would watch you fail.

Stay tuned!

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