Guit-ing A Grip On Technical Difficulties (Podcasting)

Hi Everyone,

Here’s the podcast streaming message but the real notes are below:

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/guitagrip/Guit-A-Grip_Podcast_Update.mp3%5D

iTunes Trouble

I thought this was fixed, but apparently some component of the lib syn/feedburner/iTunes trinity is broken and despite re-uploading some of the files the links for Episode #4 and Episode #5 are pulling up podcast #2 in iTunes.

I have NO idea for why that is happening but I’ve included streaming and download links here for all of the current episodes.  These load right up in my podcasts so hopefully they’ll do the same for you!

I’ve moved all the podcasts to one central place, the PODCAST tab on the top of the page.

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Again, my apologies for the inconvenience everyone!  More content coming soon!
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Guit-A-Grip Episode #8 Don’t Just Buy The App – Be The App

Hello everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #8  is now out and available for download/streaming.  I’ve changed the order up a little bit and you’ll find the stream and links below.

The Guit-A-Grip Podcast Process

This podcast format (instead of just blogging) largely came about because discussions with friends of mine in any kind of creative field would result in my going off on some tangent covering the intersection of music business and personal motivation which sometimes people got something from.  I’ve tried to keep some of that flavor here (minus the manic expressions and cursing).  So when I go to do a show – I’ll have some talking points and then improvise around the notes and try to hit a few marks.

While this may work in a conversation, it’s a mixed bag for audio recording.

The plus side of this process is that you come to realizations about things that you weren’t planning on.  While I had been conceptualizing the area around the actionable differences between an answer and a solution – I never verbalized it before like I did in this podcast.

The down side is that you have to remove a lot of awkward pauses, “ummmms” and “uhssss” that come up in conversation getting to points like the one above.  I want to distill the audio experience and get it down to the essence of what the listener is looking for.

In addition to taking some time, this editing process occasionally leads to some stunted audio.   It also leaves some conversational holes for ideas that are half started and then need a resolution.  Hence the need for the show notes.

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Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below.
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Guit-A-Grip Episode #8 – Show Notes

“One thing I see more and more….”

Trying to find a segue (as opposed to a Segway) into the topic.  Yes, there are a lot of ads for apps.  There will be many more.  It’s not some kind of advertising menace.  Yet.

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The Calculator.

The idea I’m rambling around in the early steps of the podcast is how the use of a calculator is completely divorced from both the math required to solve the problem and the mechanics of how the calculator arrives at the solution.

Conceptually, this goes hand in hand with the message behind my previous post, Don’t be afraid of the work.

In playing guitar, something can come out of the work that goes into really learning a piece at a deep level.  It’s why some music theorists go so gaga for analysis because they’re finding new connections and seeing things on a deeper level.

To be sure, I’m not a Luddite.  You’re not going to gain much doing long addition for EVERYTHING – but if you get used to using a calculator – you’ll be amazed at how quickly your math skills start to atrophy.

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The App 

In the app story I used an app that addressed a specific issue with a limited answer base. Most apps don’t exclude other people BUT if you’re using YELP during a vegetarian conference to find a local vegetarian restaurant in the area – and there’s only one – guess who’s going to get a table?  The first person who finds out about the restaurant and gets there.

The main point is that other people’s solutions are often adaptable to your situation, but the better you get at finding your own solution, the better you will become at developing solutions in general.  Ditto for applying those solutions.

That’s a wrap.

As always, If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it -and listen to it on iTunes –  leaving a rating there would be really appreciated!

More posts and podcasts are on their way.

Thanks again!

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Guit-A-Grip Episode #7 – Confessions Of A Former Music School “Failure”

Hello everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #7 (Confessions of a former music school “failure”) is now out and available for download/streaming.

Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:

(https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/guit-a-grip-podcast/id638383890 )

  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:

(http://feeds.feedburner.com/GuitagripPodcast)

  • or you can right click here to download it.

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Guit-A-Grip Episode #7 – Show Notes

Several things got me thinking about this topic – but the key moment I knew I’d have to write about this came the last time I saw my mother in upstate New York and found a bunch of old scores from my Berklee composition days and sat there scratching my head.

They were really disjointed and amateurish.  It was like seeing myself go through puberty again and hearing my voice crack.  For a moment, it made me feel awful and then I remembered that I wasn’t that guy anymore.  Just as a 5 year old version of me tried to stick a fork in an electrical socket to see what would happen (I’m not doing that anymore btw) I’m not that same person.

I should know this but it’s either The Code of the Samurai or The Hagakure that has a philosophical maxim that I’ve held onto for much of my life,

“Seven times down – Eight times up.”

And it’s served me will.  You will hit walls and obstacles in whatever it is you do, but the actions  you take in resolving those things will ultimately be how you define yourself.

You are not your job (Unless you define yourself that way)

One of the first jobs I ever had was in a department store.  It was supposed to be a temp job during renovation, but I worked really hard, hustled and made myself an asset to the store so when the time came to keep a handful of employees – I was one of the ones they kept.

Perhaps there’s an alternate universe where I’m still working at that store, but I knew that there would be other things for me to do and so I moved on.  It’s not part of my self definition.

While my undergrad experience was a lopsided one  I don’t view myself as a failure (even though I have a few grades that argue that point!)

I had a bad experience and had to decide what was important and move on to the next thing.

I had to teach myself what I needed to know and transition from thinking to knowing.

I made myself a better musician, learned a lot of hard lessons and eventually transitioned to a place where I got into grad school (and no failing grades that time around).  That experience is a big part of what’s gone into making me who I am but, like the department store job, it’s not part of my self definition.

Things referenced in the Podcast

I mentioned that I’d link to some things in the Podcast so let’s try that.

First – some clarifiers

1. I remember the instance with the guidance office now.  We had to fill out the applications but the guidance office would not release transcripts to us – so we needed to give them our applications to submit so they could enclose transcripts.  I was told, “Our office does not make mistakes” when I got the letter back from Berklee even though I pointed to the requirement in print and noted that the transcript provided didn’t meet them.

2.  Eugene’s trick bag is the Steve Vai guitar solo that Ralph Macchio is hand synching to for the film Crossroads.

3.  Self Educated man – was a reference to self-taught man in La Nausée – a novel a mischievous member of the faculty gave me to read as a book report.  In 7th grade.  Brought up unsuccessfully in an attempt to woo a weary admissions counselor.

4.  Books Berklee recommended – Robert Starter’s Rhythmic Training was one of them but the others evade me now.

5.  In finding the scores I actually found the letter kicking me out of the composition department and found the photocopy of the letter I got from the chair to get back in.  A series of correspondences (and conversations) that I had previously blocked from my memory.

6.  Juggernaut.  This was the composition I referenced in the Podcast.  Don’t ask.  My instructor didn’t use the term “stones” that I used in the podcast either.

7.  “They were torn apart” – specifically one faculty member with a real problem with me blocked my graduation and took no small pleasure in COVERING my scores with red writing.  Now I don’t blame him – but at the time my thought was, “I was already graded on these why are you grading them a second time?”  Other comments included weird personal observations on how he didn’t like my music.

8.  This podcast is for everyone who had a plan.  Tried to execute the plan.  Had the plan blow up in their face and continue on despite everything.

Second – some music links.

Comité de salut public

I mentioned that I had a group at Berklee that used some of the contemporary composition techniques and wrote tunes with them.  That group was called The Committee Of Public Safety and (to my knowledge) was the only avante garde-core French Revolution “tribute band” in Boston at the time.  I wrote all the tunes and some of them are below:

But you can hear (and download) all of the tracks (and read more info than you ever wanted to know about this group) here.

The Committee of Public Safety was:

Pat Aldous/Marko Djordjevic – drums

Caroline Dillon – cello

Mike Mallory – bass

Teresa Sienkiewicz / Pat Raymaker- voice

The Time with the Tub

tubtime

Click for more info

Tubtime came out of a series of sessions I had with drum / recording guru Geoff Chase.  I dragged my friend Joe Rauen along to play bass and Geoff dragged the incomparable Patty Barkas along to sing.  Somehow we got the mighty Keichi Hashimoto to play with us as well.

We recorded another album’s worth of material that we’ll leak out eventually but for now here’s a soundcheck you might dig as well.

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The Book

Ah, yes – I referenced the book I wrote to get into grad school.

First, there were two components to the application.   In addition to the Tubtime CD there was some audio:

and then the book.  Excerpts of the ORIGINAL (error plagued) version was on Google Books but I don’t see it now.

The New (VASTLY improved) book:

12 Tone Cover small

Is available on Lulu or Amazon.  (Amazon probably ships it easier – but the Lulu page has WAY more information and book excerpts).

Note: the cover is vintage 2013.  The original cover was a flat blue with a white title.

Post

I promised a linked post that related more of this story and you can read that here .

Onward and Upward

I hope this helps (or is at least enjoyable or amusing to you)!

As always, If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it – leaving a rating on iTunes would be really appreciated!

More posts and podcasts are on their way.

Thanks again!

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Guit-A-Grip Podcast #6: Lessons Learned From A Small Town Store

Hello everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast #6 is now out! (And the links should be working now!!)

Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:

(https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/guit-a-grip-podcast/id638383890 )

  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:

(http://feeds.feedburner.com/GuitagripPodcast)

  • or you can right click here to download it.

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Guit-A-Grip Episode #6 – Show Notes

Stewart’s is a family owned company that has convenience stores in upstate NY and Vermont.  The Drake brothers started by making ice cream at their farm in 1921.  In 1935 they start Saratoga Dairy out of their barn.  That same year pasteurization of milk is required by the state and many local farmers use Saratoga Dairy for this service.  1938 they expand into producing other milk and milk based by-products such as cheese, powdered whey and casein.

Stewart’s has come a long ways.  Their Wikipedia page sites 324 stores and 1.4 billion (!!) in sales of Stewart’s branded products such as coffee, soda, milk, chips and ice cream.  You can find out more about them here.

In contrast, Wemple and Edick’s is a small ice cream shop on the outer edge of Johnstown NY.  Run from an old-fashioned general store that’s been there since 1826, they make hard ice cream, and baked goods.  They’re only open seasonally.  They don’t have a web page – but you can find their Facebook page here.

Stewart’s makes a lot of money.  They do a lot of things.  Wemple and Edick’s basically does one thing, but even though they’re only open seasonally they make enough money to keep the doors open doing what they want to do.

In typical Guit-A-Grip fashion relating aspects of each of their merits to what you do as an artist/entrepreneur is at best a gross over simplification, but you might be able to get something out of the contrasts that are presented.  (Also, that part of the podcast apes the Seth Godin Start Up School presentation style in manner that was unintentional when I did it, but eye rolling on play back.)

If you travel anywhere in upstate NY – you’ll find a Stewart’s – but you have to seek out Wemple and Edick’s (and many’s a time I went and was crushed to find out that they weren’t open).

While on the surface this is a music business post, at its core the topic relates to both the how and the why of whatever it is you’re doing and I hope it helps in some way.

As always, If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it – leaving a rating on iTunes would be really appreciated!

More posts and podcasts are on their way.

Thanks again!

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The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 16 – Not-Peggios Positional Lesson

Hello everyone.

This is going to be a short lesson as the concept is really simple but making it work requires a lot of shedding.

For those of you who have been following the guide to Modes might remember that back in part 3a/3b, I outlined a method for connecting 2-string modal patterns positionally using a simple rule where:

(As the scale ascends the patterns descend and vice-versa)

so that this C Ionian fingering

 

Can be broken down into three distinct two-string patterns:

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Or

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(You can review the earlier posts if this looks unfamiliar to you)

And the not-peggios?

Guess what?  The not-peggio shapes I’ve covered work the same way.

Previously, I took the two-string shapes and moved them in octaves – but looked at positionally…

C Major Positional Notpeggio I

Note that the first note of each 4-note goes from C to B to A.  (Or uses the C Ionian – B Locrian – A Aeolian shapes).

Since the pattern contains a c and a f (and avoid note over C Major) I decided to use this form over the relative minor (a minor) In this audio example below, I’ve played an A minor (add9) chord and then played the notes as a sextuplet (then as 1/16th notes).

What’s cool:

  • The resultant sound is somewhere between a scale and an arpeggio
  • All the notes from the parent  scale are present but divided out in different octaves
  • The concept works with any of the two-string shapes I covered (major, melodic minor and harmonic minor)
  • The pattern can be adapted to work over any diatonic chord (Try this one over D minor as well)

What’s jive:

  • The pattern features a funfy positional shift between the G and B strings which is VERY difficult to get smooth when descending.

The Workaround:

The workaround is very simple, I just change up the pattern order on the b and e strings.

In the example above I replace  C Ionian – B Locrian – A Aeolian shapes with C Ionian – B Locrian – G Mixolydian.  That results in:

C Major Notpeggio II Positional

It does make the overall pattern a little more scalar, but the only main difference is that this pattern lacks the A note.

In the audio below, I just played a sextuplet pattern and ended on the B (the 9 over A minor) the first time.

Homework:

Okay!  If you like this sound – here’s what I think you should do:

  1. Go back to part 13, part 14 and part 15 and review the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor 2-string shapes and related chords.
  2. Record a diatonic chord from a group and practice one ascending pattern positionally over the chord.
  3. Try changing chords over static patterns (and vice versa) and start to make a record of which patterns you like over which chords.

This might sound like a lot of work, but the reality is that pretty quickly you’re going to find one or two of these that you really like and the idea is to tae those and try to incorporate them into your playing as thoroughly as you can!

I hope this helps!

Guit-A-Grip Podcast Episode #5 – What Is A Fan?

Hello everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast #5 is now out!

I was thinking about the earlier podcasts and one thing I wanted to experiment with is really focusing the podcasts into short take aways that can be acted on immediately.  Kind of motivational and philosophical licks if you will.  So the next posts will be short but I’ll continue to intersperse them with longer posts for people who want more information.  I’m trying to find the ideal format here, and I guess I’ll wait to see what springs up.

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Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/guitagrip/Guit-A-Grip_Podcast_Episode_5.mp3

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Guit-A-Grip Episode #5 – Show Notes

So this episode goes all into the lifeblood of any artistic longevity, your fans.  I mentioned the “Don’t Stop Believing” documentary in the podcast and while it should be out on DVD eventually, you can stream it now right here.

Arnel comes across really well in the video – and what the video doesn’t highlight is that Arnel was a 40 year old singer in a Manilla based cover band.  In the often ageist rock and roll market, that’s a time that many people consider a death sentence for achieving their dreams.  One incredible fan may have given him the platform for Neal Schon to find him, but it’s his talent and energy that put him on that stage.  He kept working even when logically, there wasn’t much point in his doing so.

Perhaps the greatest lesson in the movie comes at the point where he’s blowing the audition.  Arnel relates that he has this burning question of, “How am I going to let my true self come through if that want a classic sound?” during the audition which he finally answers with the realization that they brought him there to do a job and that that’s what he’s going to focus on.

If you commit to something and do your best – you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to come out of your shell because people will see you for who you are.  How many times have you gone to see a band and walked away with an observation about one player? “The band was good…but that drummer was unbelievable!”  And I’m not talking about just dumping a lot of chops here, I’m talking about how great players transcend the material by being in the moment of what they’re doing.  They say something real and the audience gets that message.  Then you get players like Vinny Golia who have all the expression and chops in the world and is just a force of nature on a bandstand where you’re never going to doubt who that guy is.

(I’m off topic here but I will, yet again, plead with anyone who will listen to me that Vinny Golia is one of the closest things that we have to a national treasure and I can think of no one in the arts more deserving of a MacArthur fellowship than him.  Please tell all your friends – particularly the ones who submit nominations.)

As a secondary lesson, it acts as a great reminder about opportunity.  When opportunity knocks most people ignore it because they don’t recognize it as an opportunity. Arnel was going to blow off the e-mail from Neal Schon because he didn’t think it was serious.  Keeping options open makes it easier to answer the knock of opportunity when it happens – even if it just sounds like someone tapping their fingers on something.

Jason Becker

Additionally, if you’re looking for an inspirational guitar documentary –  I would implore you to buy the Jason Becker documentary.  Jason Becker, an astonishingly talented guitarist on the eve of his greatest guitar victory (securing the guitar slot in David Lee Roth’s band) get’s diagnosed with ALS which ultimately robs him of the ability to play guitar.  The documentary about Jason showcases his early story but is also about Jason’s refusal to stop making music and how he is still composing music using eye movements to enter in midi notes.

I have a movie review (and a transcription of one of the excerpts from the film) on Guitar-Muse, but the heartbreaking thing is that while Jason has a legion of well meaning fans that many of those fans uploaded all of his recorded material (including his DVD) to web, which deprives he and his family from income that could help maintain his life.

If you have Netflix, you can stream the documentary (which might put a few pennies in his pocket) but it’s also available for purchase on dvd or you could make a donation directly to the family here.  If you’re a fan of his music, it would be a great way to give something back to someone who really needs the help.

next time

 

Back to the podcast – If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it – leaving a rating on iTunes would be really appreciated!

More posts and podcasts are on their way  Next time, I’ll talk about the best ice cream shop in NY that you never heard of (unless you know where Sammonsville is)!

Thanks again!

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The Perils Of Panaceas And Instant Gratification

That’s MBTI to you, Buster!

Most people have their first exposure to the Myers-BriggsType Indicator (MBTI) assessment either in a college psychology class, a life coaching session or in a work-related retreat / team building exercise.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the test, participants are given a (psychologically loaded) questionnaire that’s been specifically devised to determine individual preferences and based on those, to then extrapolate the test taker’s decision-making process and world view.

In context, it can be a useful tool.  When participants get their four letter code that determines their personality type, they then typically get the equivalent of a score card to determine what the letters mean and to offer some guidelines on the types of decision-making process that they make.  Again, in context it can be a useful tool where participants might see themselves and their decision-making process in a whole new light.

However,  there always seems to be at least one person in a session who finds this to be something between a milestone and a revelatory experience and the next thing you know, every discussion with this person centers around Myers-Briggs.  Every interaction is analyzed and put through the Myers-Briggs filter.   “Oh well he must be an “I” which means that….”.

And then, eventually, someone calls them on their nonsense.

Myers-Briggs typing starts to break down in the real world, because while it’s not a bad contextual lens for gleaning some information, it’s not a good lens on its own and it certainly has limited validity as the sole filter for information.  Additionally, people don’t dig being typecast in any scenario, even when you’re trying to be helpful.

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“Cure’s All that Ail’s ya!”

The web is full of these observations and cure-alls for whatever ail’s ya.  “Become a guitar god in a week by following these 3 weird simple rules.”   Or forums where one observation is yielded, “I had good success using product x with gear y” and soon you have other people who have never used product x or gear y saying, “Well if you use gear y YOU HAVE TO USE product x!!!”

Take any one-size fits all methodology, philosophy, strategy or any  solution with a BIG grain of salt because, in my own experience, there is no one panacea for anything. Just as there is no one filter that will make previously hidden elements of the world fully visible and comprehensible to you.

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Instant gratification and false entitlement

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The simple fact is that things that are worth having, have to be worked for.

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As a society, we have mutated this concept through advertising and sold people on the concept that because they do work hard in other areas of their life, that they deserve everything.

“It might take you 3 years of saving to buy that 60″ flat screen TV.  You’ve worked hard establishing a line of good credit and you deserve to be comfortable in your twice re-financed home.   Pull that piece of plastic out of your pocket and you can walk home with it today!” – where you will set it up, take it for granted almost instantly and then spend 5 years paying it off and paying more than twice the actual cost of the item.

As Pascal said, “A trifle consoles us, for a trifle distresses us.” It should be called instant gratification because you’re gratified in an instant and your gratification lasts just as long.

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Guitar playing isn’t like that.  Certainly pedagogy and information transfer has occurred to the point where people can progress technically much more quickly on the instrument than ever before.

But the problem is that guitar playing isn’t merely a skill like typing.

More than a skill set, a guitar is a vehicle for expression.  Technical facility might impress people, but if there’s nothing behind it in terms of depth of expression, you won’t make a long-lasting impression on them.

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Having the depth to truly say something, takes time.  Plain and simple.

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A good way to think about this is something a great luthier John Harper told me about guitar.  As you play guitar over time, the vibrations of the notes actually affects the wood on a cellular level.  The vibrations literally change the make up of the guitar over time.  This is why guitars that have been “played in” over time sound completely different than they did off the shelf.

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There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a fast guitar player.

There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a better guitar player.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a great guitar player.

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Truly great players, have a completely different relationship to music than most other people.  Music not only nourishes them, but eventually the musician starts communicating with the music rather than just the audience.  That conversation helps them gain further insight into themselves and actually helps to develop them more as people.

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Not only is there no shortcut for that – but if you think about it, you really might not want a shortcut in that area. For example,  if you had the opportunity to meet anyone in history would you rather have the conversation with them when you were 4 years old or 34?  It might be exciting to meet them when you’re 4, but you really wouldn’t have anything to say.  It’s only with the passage of time and experience that you can start to meet the music part way and have that conversation. For every person, that time is different but putting the time in now gets you closer and closer to being able to have that dialog.

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Be wary of the cure-all, the quick fix and the over-arching shortcut.  Work hard and work passionately and know that what you truly put of yourself into anything can ultimately pay dividends for you.

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As always, thanks for reading!

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Inspiration Versus Intimidation

As a followup to Podcast #4, I thought I’d talk about perception and playing guitar.

I’ve gotten some emails from people who read through my GuitArchitecture blog, and wanted to know what they should do if they’re not the next Guthrie Gowan, Hendrix, Holdsworth or the next (insert great player here).  I understand where they’re coming from.  If you turn on a computer it’s hard not to find some terrifying audio or video clip of someone playing really advanced guitar.

The implication that you could come to is that everyone in the world is playing guitar at an amazing level and the pressure many guitarists (and I suspect other musicians as well) feel is that they need to meet that standard.

Before I attempt to defuse this argument, I’d like to address the leap in technical advances on guitar and then talk about why it doesn’t matter.

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Free Bird as an aphrodisiac

A friend of mine, who’s an excellent guitarist, was talking to me about the radical shift in technical standards in guitar playing and said, “You know – I remember when “Free Bird” was considered a virtuoso guitar solo.  If you could play that you were pretty much guaranteed to go home with someone at the end of the gig.  But now…I’ve got guys who have been playing for less than a year who can play that.”

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Knowledge might seem arithmetic in its application
but like technology it’s exponential.

When I say that technology is exponential, I mean that technological advances typically build on previous technological breakthroughs.  For example, the ENIAC (i.e. the first computer-depending on how you define “computer”), used punch cards, weighed 30 tons, took up approximately 1800 square feet and used around 18,000 vacuum tubes. (No word on what kind of tone it had!)  All of this for a processing speed comparable to a calculator.  Notice the timeline in each step beyond that initial innovation (taken in part from The computer history timeline):

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  • ENIAC
  • the invention of the transistor
  • the invention of  FORTRAN computer language
  • integrated circuits
  • the ram chip
  • the microprocessor and the floppy disc
  • IBM home computer and MS-DOS
  • Apple Lisa (with first GUI)
  • Windows

and then a series of major advances in microprocessor speed and size.  Each one of these changes ultimately created exponential innovations. In order for me to run a laptop guitar rig, I need a laptop with an operating system, a  fast processing speed, substantial ram, a fast hard drive, an audio converter, and software to make sense of what I’m trying to input and output from the computer.  None of this was even remotely in the thoughts of a potential application for a computer when ENIAC was built.

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Where before they took years or decades, advances now occur daily or sometimes hourly because each piece of technology allows someone else to build on it  and make their own innovation by taking it in a different direction.

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When Nicolò Paganini was alive, he was able to position himself uniquely as he was not only a virtuoso performer, but also developed a repertoire that only he had the technical skill set to play.  But once the music was published, other people started being able to play the music.  Some of the techniques became standardized, and pedagogical approaches improved.  With each passing generation more and more people were able to play it.

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Now, while still difficult music, it’s nowhere near as impossible as it initially seemed.  Here’s some footage of Sarah Chang when she was 10 years old in 1990 performing some of his music.

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If you think about it in the history of shred guitar, you would not have current innovators without people like Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen.  When those initial recordings came out they were considered impossible.  No one knew what the hell to do with Eruption.  It was Ed’s big middle finger to everyone – because no one could touch what he was doing at the time of Van Halen 1.  When I hear Far Beyond The Sun, I think back to people listening to the Rising Force CD and shaking their heads in disbelief.  Now either one of those pieces is something that you could learn to play given the proper instruction, music, time and a audio/visual demonstration.

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The reason for this is it’s much easier to do something when you hear or see it being done.  

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Once you hear someone play a solo at a high speed, you know that speed is attainable – because you’ve heard them play it and it transcends your limitations. When you see a video of them playing it, it makes it even easier as you can see more of the physical nuances of how something is being played.

 

With every recording and video, there is probably someone who is adapting or learning a technique associated with that recording and using it as a stepping stone. This is why there is such a glut of guitar videos, and why it seems that everyone is making one.

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There certainly are a lot of videos out there but they don’t tell the full story of the player.  And with that in mind, it’s now time for:

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Another Berklee story:

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My first day at Berklee, I was in my dorm room and heard someone playing Tony MacAlpine.  I grabbed my guitar and went looking for the room to see what was going on.  The music was coming from the dorm room directly beneath me – at the time I had a black Aria Pro II Knight Warrior I knocked on the door and the door swung open and there was another guitarist also named Scott who also had a black Aria Pro II Knight Warrior strapped onto his body (this turned out to be a fortuitous moment for me because Scott today is one of my dearest friends (and an unbelievable guitarist)).  I introduced myself and walked in.  Scott sat down on his bed and started playing some terrifying 2 handed pattern on his guitar.  I processed that for a moment and then went to go meet his roommate, Drew.

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Scott might disagree with me now, but here’s what I remember –  Drew was one of the most technically proficient guitarists I’ve ever seen.  He had literally taken the Michael Angelo instructional video and learned all of the licks but was playing them just as cleanly but even faster.  When he improvised a solo, he kind just re-arranged parts of those licks – but it was still incredibly impressive.

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I left pretty stunned.  I had just seen the two most technical guitar players at the school, but what I thought I had seen were two typical guitarists and that this was the performance standard of all the guitarists there.  I was starting to wonder just how far in over my head I was at this school.

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A couple of days later, I walked by the practice rooms.  A transcription of an Eric Johnson piece had just gotten published in one of the guitar magazines and I was now listening to twenty guitar players all playing the same lick at different speeds.  I processed that for about ten minutes – and realized my initial perception about the general level of skill amongst my fellow players was completely wrong.

Looking back at it now, I recognize that my thinking was faulty on multiple levels.

  • I assumed that everyone was “better” than me.

 

  • I assumed that “better” was a universal definition.

 

  • I assumed that my value as a player was only a comparative value related to how well other people play.

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Now I think all of these assumptions were wrong.

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To be sure, there are markers that you are improving as a player.  Maybe it’s fluency, maybe it’s repertoire, maybe it’s connection with the music or the instrument.  For each person, how they are getting better is ultimately self-defined.

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If you define it solely based on what other people can do, you’re selling yourself short.

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There are technical hurdles to playing music.  If someone counts off a tempo and you play your hot lead line over it – you can either cut it or you can’t.  There’s no real debate over that.  It’s strictly a performance issue.  You can, for example, either play an arpeggio at a certain tempo consistently or you can’t.  If the player next to you can play that arpeggio consistently at that tempo, then they have achieved a higher skill set on performing that arpeggio – but that has no reflection on either of your abilities to play music.  Just like your speed at filling gas tank has no direct reflection on your ability to drive.

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I’ve had students who have come to me and said, “I’m never going to be able to play like (player x) so why even bother?”  This is like saying, “Noam Chomsky speaks English and I speak English, but I’ll never speak about linguistics in English like Noam Chomsky so I might as well not even say anything at all.”  Hopefully, this line of thinking sounds silly when you put it in context.  English is only a language.  You use it to express yourself.  It doesn’t matter what judgements people put on it, it only matters that you can communicate effectively.  The same is true for music as well.

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Unfortunately, the social lesson that many people learn is that their value is comparative.

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  • We value ourselves based not only on how much money we make, but how much other people make
  • on how our lives and the things in our lives stack up against other people’s
  • on how many cds we’ve sold versus other cd sales, etc, etc….

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If you fall into this category here’s one way to turn this line of thinking around that will be more beneficial to you:

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Ask not “how do I stack up against others?”, but instead, “what can I gain from this?”

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If  I see someone playing an awesome solo, I don’t think, “Oh man I wonder if I can play that well?” (Although I certainly used to!)  I listen for the things that I like (or sometimes don’t like) and then see how I could incorporate that into my playing.   I take the things around me and try to use them for inspiration.  That way I don’t waste energy on getting intimidated.

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It can be hard to maintain that observation, but if you perceive getting better as a self-made standard that others can help you rise up to rather than a standard of others that you need to reach, I think it may serve you much better.

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I mention Guthrie Govan’s playing here because I really dig it.  I think he’s a brilliant guitarist.  But I really don’t give a toss about how I stack up against him. The world doesn’t need another Guthrie Gowan.  We already have one, and he’s great but what I do care about is how I can take every innovation of his I like and adapt it to what I do to advance my playing.

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“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”

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Lord Basho was once asked by an acolyte what could be done to make the world a better place.  He was purported to have replied, “be the best person you can be – and then there will be one less rascal in the world.”

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The world doesn’t need another version of anyone, it instead needs you to become the best version of yourself you can.

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As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes – Part 15 Not-peggios – Harmonic Minor Version

Hey everyone,

As promised, here’s a follow-up lesson that takes the approach I explored in Part 13 and Part 14 and now applies it to the Harmonic Minor scale.

I’ll use C Harmonic Minor in this case – but this idea will work on any root.

Chords

Before we get too far into the lick side of this let’s look at the chords to see what we can play this over.

Here are the diatonic triads and 7th chords.

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Try playing the initial C Harmonic Minor shape over any of these chords…
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Harmonic Minor Notes:

  • C Harmonic Minor is spelled C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C – and from the root note the step and a 1/2 between the Ab and the B is a very distinctive sound of the scale.  
  • This scale has a lot of cool arpeggios and chord scale associations, but the most commonly used scales and modes are the root scale and the mode based on the 5th of the scale (R, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7).  Having said that, modes starting on the b3 and 4th add some really cool sounds as well.

Now let’s talk about visualizing the scale.

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Harmonic Minor

I’ve talked about my approach to Harmonic Minor briefly in part 9 of this series – but as a brief review:

Major Scale/Modal Visualization Review

  • The guitar fingerboard can be divided into 3 sets of two strings. Any 2-string fingering pattern that starts on the B string can be moved to the same starting pitch on the D or the low E string and keep the same fingering.
  • The major scale can be broken down into seven two-string modes that follow a specific order based on its scale degree from the parent scale (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian). The two-string patterns are modular and can be adapted to positional playing.
  • Instead of thinking of individual modes when playing,  I tend to think of larger tonal systems (i.e. I think of C Major all over the fingerboard instead of D Dorian or A Aeolian.)
  • By thinking of the fingerboard in a larger scale – it makes it easier for me to navigate Melodic and Harmonic Minor as – solely from a fingering/sonic visualization standpoint – I just see it as variations of the Major scale patterns.

To visualize Harmonic Minor patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale. (i.e. to visualize C Melodic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb, and change every A to Ab).

It’s important to note that all of the fingering conventions mentioned here are solely to assist with visualization as Melodic and Harmonic Minor really aren’t directly related to the Major scale sonically.

Here’s C Major

Here’s the audio.

Note:

In all the audio examples, I’ve played the example first as sextuplets – then at a slower tempo (i.e. 16ths) – then as sextuplets again.

 

Here’s C Harmonic Minor

(the only differences are

the E has been changed to Eb and

the A has been changed to Ab)

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Harmonic Minor short cuts:

To visualize Harmonic Minor Patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale.

(i.e. to visualize C Harmonic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb and every A  to Ab).

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Here are the pattern adaptations.  In a situation like this, it can get confusing to remember a formula like “Dorian b2, b5” so as an alternative you may just want to try remembering something like “Pattern 1” for Ionian b3, b6, “Pattern 2” for Dorian b2, b5, etc.

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Here’s the same scale pattern – I left off the text “Pattern 6” in the example be by mistake but the sequence is Ionian b3, b6 (Pattern 1 ), Locrian b4 (Pattern 7) and Ionian b5, bRoot (Pattern 6).  You can really see this if you compare it to the initial major patterns.
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Not-Peggios

Now let’s take this not-peggio idea from the last lesson and apply it to C Harmonic Minor starting from G.

In each of the following I’ll show the 2-string pattern followed by the 4-note “notpeggio” extraction from that fingering and then show the multi octave form.

Note:  The extraction always starts from the second note of the 6-note pattern – so while the first example is extracted from the F Lydian fingering – it’s viewed as a G based pattern.

From G

F Based Pattern

Note: this G-based pattern is the same as the C major and the C Melodic Minor G shape. It’s functional but a little plain sounding over a G major chord.

From Ab

G Based Pattern

Note: this R-3-#4-5 extraction works great as a lydian sound from the Root (Ab Lydian in this case) or a Dorian Sound over the vi (F minor in this case)

From B

Ab Based Pattern

Note: even though the original shape is different, this R-b3-b4th-b5 extraction is the same as the Melodic Minor pattern and is something you may want to explore over diminished chords.

From C

B Based Pattern

Note: this C pattern shape is the same as the C-Based C Melodic Minor pattern.

From D


C Based Pattern

Note: this R-b3-4-b5 extraction is right out of the D-Blues scale and can be used in the same context (just remember to resolve the Ab!)

From Eb

D Based Pattern

Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-3-4-b5 (i.e. major b5 (add 11) sound mixed with the min3-min2-augmented 2nd construction and the added chromatic weight from the G to Ab  makes it sound a bit harmonically unsettled over an Eb root.  I think it’s one of the more interesting sounds of the scale along with the final extraction….

From F

Eb Based Pattern

Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-b3-#4-5 (i.e. minor add (#11)) sound is a really nice spice to incorporate in your melodic ideas!

Here’s an audio sample of the 3/4 measures in ascending order from G

Next TIme?

In the next lesson I’ll look at using these extractions positionally.  It’s a Scott Collins original idea – and not one that I’ve heard anyone else really employ in this manner!
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Practice Tips

As always, focus on the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and hand Tension) when playing through these and make sure to have the timing locked in as you increase the metronome speed.  This approach is just a short cut to getting the patterns under your fingers.  By practicing them slowly and increasing the performance tempo gradually, you’re also getting the sound of them in your head – which is critical if they’re something you want to integrate in your playing!
As always, I hope this helps and thanks for reading!
– SC
PS – One plug here.  If you like this idea – I go MUCH deeper into similar concepts in my Guide to Chord Scales book – which covers every unique melodic combination from 3 notes to 12-note scales!!
Print editions of this book are available  on lulu.com or on Amazon (amazon.comamazon.co.uk, or amazon.fr).
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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

BOOKS:

 

Focus, Music And The Big Picture

Anyone who knows me in a first person manner knows that I have a lot of first person stories.  When asked about that I reply, “When you go looking for an underground show, in a part of town not known for underground shows and go get Chinese food at 3 in the morning, you’ll probably end up with at least an anecdote.”

In other words – if you’re always seeking things out you’re much more likely to find something.  It might not be what you expected to find, but you’ll never find it if your eyes aren’t open.

A while back, I was reading Winifred Gallagher’s, Rapt (which is quite good) and being in a mode where I was seriously considering the issues of attention and focus I was reading a trade publication and came across this Jonas Hellborg quote which (in addition to being in synch with Rapt) rang with both an eloquence and a poignancy to me.  Perhaps you’ll agree. (Please note, the emphasis added below is mine and was not in the original article).

“In order to function as a human being, you have to be able to focus.  You have to be able to center.  Some people are into religion.  They pray or meditate or they do this or that.  Music is such a thing.  It’s a discipline and you use it for the purpose of focusing your mental, your spiritual activity in one direction and become whole.  As you do that you will get more and more capacity as a musician.  But if you can express what you need to express with just a limited vocabulary, you can still do that.  It’s not about the vocabulary.  It’s not about how many words you can use; it’s about what you can say.”

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This quote contains elements of my entire philosophy.  I’d like to modify it a little to adapt it more fully.

“(Music) is a discipline and if you use it for the purpose of focusing your mental, your spiritual activity in one direction and becoming whole, you will get more and more capacity as a musician. “

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I’ve modified this because Hellborg’s quote assumes everyone making music is doing that but personal experience has shown me that few people come to performing music with the purposeful process of becoming whole.  They come to it because they are looking for something.   Some people find it in a chord progression or a song and never need to go any further.  Some go deeper looking for something else.

Going deep is where you find the nectar.

Going deeper into almost anything with deliberation and focus will open your eyes and allow you to see more.

With that clarity, sometimes, comes the additional focus in what you’re searching for.

Sometimes the how leads to the why, but having a why will always lead to a how.

Yin and Yang.  You need both for a full circle.

Thanks for reading.

-SC