Review: George Jones - Gospel Collection Released: April 1, 2003
We will dive into this album with an open mind and the perspective of a rock guitarist to discover some priceless lessons about picking in the studio and bringing home the premium bacon, the kind not approved by WIC.
The great thing about highly commercialized music is that you get "the best of the best" musicians in the studio. George Jones is no starving African. He not only can afford the most talented folks, but they would beg him to play anyway, for the same reason that attorneys like to represent mass murderers in highly publicized hearings. If you can say, "I played for George Jones", then forget about being eligable for food stamps.
Does the name Brent Mason ring a bell? He is the most used studio guitarist in Nashville. Brent is the primary source of superior electric guitar on this recording. It would be virtually impossible to determine who he did not play for. Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Neil Diamond and Shania Twain would definitely recognize his name, since he is the engine that is driving their music to the top of the country charts. Brent released his solo CD in 1997 entitled 'Hot Wired' and more recently 'Smokin' Section.' If think you play guitar, then you should definitly give this hear. There are some killer samples available on www.brentmason.com. You can also hear Brent rockin' commercials for Budweiser, Miller Brewing, Betty Crocker, Sears, Michelob, Ford and Wrangler.
If you think country music is easier to play than shred metal, in the words of Judas Priest,"You've Got Another Thing Comin'." This dual CD release is packed full of skilled musicianship, played with tons of taste and nothing that could be interpreted as a mistake. If you are learning to bend and slide on strings, this is your guide to perfection. It does not rock; It does not roll, but as long as the Honky Tonk Bars and the Cowboy Churches are paying, you'll need to keep this beauty at the top of your playlist.
George takes the leadership role and sets the parameters for each tune, while the musicians follow and respond accordingly. His famously infamous Honky Tonk drinking lifestyle is the foundation for the musical direction of this project. Although he has not had any legal problems since 1999, when he was found in a wrecked car with a half-full bottle of vodka, his Honky Tonk history comes shining through his voice and technical choices of this recording. His voice has permanently misplaced it's upper range, never to return to him again in this lifetime, although he sings with enough conviction to pass an audition to the heavenly choir. There are points in his vocal performance on the CD that make me question how well he will perform live. I found myself saying, "If this is the best he can do in a million dollar studio, then how is he going to handle the real world?" I suppose he will need to use enough "star power" to make his audience numb throughout his performance. I promise you that musicians will not be disappointed by the live show.
George did not compose any of the songs or music, so there is not much I can say about the lyrical content. Almost all of the tunes are public domain or considered as "traditional" with no composer. By the title, "Gospel Collection," you should be able to decipher that the lyrics are about Jesus, God, Heaven and the like.
Lonesome Valley - You could play this intro tele lick in any local redneck joint and they're sure to buy you a drink.
Just a Little Talk With Jesus - Tons of awesome chikin pickin, especially the reoccouring intro lick.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - A lot of great blues bending. Listen to how the guitarist constantly changes pickups for consecutive licks within the same solo. At 1:05, listen to how the lead guitar (in neck position) interacts with the background vocals to guide the turnaround of the tune. You can hear the bending version at exactly 2:00.
Why Me Lord? - A perfect example of how to get "steel guitar" licks on a telecaster.
Lonesome Valley - Not a significant solo here, but the guitar is playing a repetitive single note Pentatonic riff and guides the change when George sings, "You gotta Walk."
When Mama Sang - Listen to how a chicken picker can utilize slap-back delay.
How long does it take you transcribe the average song? Are you better at transcribing tunes by your favorite bands? What if you transcribed every Dimebag solo, but somebody offers you 2500 bucks to recreate the parts a George Jones tune... could you pull it off with conviction?
There are two skills to master in ear training. Relative Pitch and Perfect Pitch. Just because you are good at one, does not mean you can do both.
Relative Pitch is being able to hear the distance between two notes, without actually knowing name of either note. For example. If you memorize the sound of the first two chords of the verse riff from Iron Man (2nd fret, 5th fret / B to D), you are listening to a minor 3rd. The next time you hear two notes that can be played 3 frets apart on the same string (3 half steps apart), you can relate that interval back to that riff. Using relative pitch, you will need to search on your instrument to figure out what the first pitch is and play the next one 3 frets higher.
Perfect Pitch is being able to recognize the notes, by just hearing it. With perfect pitch, you will be able to recognize the root of the first power chord in the verse riff of Iron Man as a B and the root of the next chord as a D, but you will need to some more in depth studies in theory to understand that the distance between the two notes is a minor third. Just because you can recognize the note, does not necessarily mean that you have mastered the concept of intervals (Relative Pitch).
Here are the first five intervals. They can be identified using any string:
Root minor 2nd Major 2nd minor 3rd Major 3rd Any String Tab ----1--------2-----------3----------4------------- ---5
Example: Distance between pitches of 1st fret and second fret is a minor second. Distance between pitches of 1st fret and third fret is a major second. Distance between pitches of 1st fret and fourth fret is a minor third, etc…
The order of intervals is as follows: Root (unison), minor second, Major second, minor third, Major third, Perfect fourth, diminished fifth, Perfect fifth, minor sixth, Major sixth, minor seventh, Major seventh, Octave.
The Suzuki Method begins with ear playing and eventually moves to reading notation when the abilities of the individual student permits. It can be started as soon as toddlerhood. Just like learning a new language, we can more effectively learn to recognize rhythms, intervals, and chords at a very young age. Unfortunately, not everyone is the fortunate child of a music professor. Being the only musician in my family, I encountered several unexpected challenges on my way to a music scholarship, but these are some tips that helped my ear training in the beginning.
1. If you are learning from a tape (audio or video), tune to the tape player. Find a song that you know with an open string that you already know the note and tune to that. Many people tune to One by Metallica (open D string).
2. If you are learning from digital format (CD or iPOD), use an electric tuner.
3. Check your tuning at least once every 15 minutes.
4. Write down what you learn, or preferably use a program like PowerTab or Guitar Pro.
5. Slow the audio down. You can do this by ripping a song to your hard drive as an mp3 or wma. In your Windows Media Player, click on VIEW --> ENHANCEMENTS --> PLAY SPEED SETTINGS.
6. Use an electronic piano/keyboard to find notes. It has more accurate tuning than a stringed instrument and you can find lower notes, if the guitarist tunes down.
7. Sing with scales on your guitar daily (if you know any), other wise play riffs and melodies that you know on your guitar extremely slow and sing with them. This will help you to recognize intervals.
8. Unless Blues is the only style you want to play, don't play I IV V (ex. A D E) Blues riffs too much. You will deceive your own ear and turn every song into a blues song.
9. If the guitar is buried in the mix and you are having trouble hearing it, figure out the vocal melody. It can give you great clues to chord changes.
10. After you finish... return at least 2 hours later to check your work.. Your ear gets tired and your mind will tell you anything just to get away from all of the confusion and stress of ear playing.
Video Lessons: A Quest for Perfection on a Limited Budget
How does one conclude that video guitar lessons is the right project for them? My conclusion is the sum of my degrees in Music Education and Broadcast Journalism. Then you need to divide that by the product of my experience as an NBC editor (among many other paid video editing gigs). Be sure not to subtract my 18 years of private music instruction experience. OK... no more braggin'.
Musichas always been my "first love" trade. Broadcasting was not just a career to fall back on, but a subject that tempted my interest while I was in college. It began as a special project in the Concord University recording studio and quickly widened the scope to video editing. Working with video tracks is very similar to audio tracks. Effects, transitions and timing are the same with both, except you are influencing two senses, instead of just one. As a music instructor, I have found myself constantly recommending video lessons over a book. A book can do a lot more good, if someone is already familiar with basic theory from previous experience (school band or private lessons). Even a bad video lesson is more valuable to a beginner than a good book. There is just no substitute for human intervention while you take your very first musical steps.
This endeavor began when I was doing my coffeehouse tour in December 08. We brought my Kodak camera to the gigs. The Kodak was a hand me down that my dad and brother could not figure out. It only recorded at a low resolution, but it was all we had. After the Holiday season, I found myself sitting in my office with a few guitars, a camera and tons of initiative. The only thing I lacked was something to initiate. A guy who is currently ascending to great success in the world of jazz guitar, just recorded his first lesson video. That sparked the idea in my heart. I immediately began to work on my first video. It was shot on the low resolution Kodak camera, but I soon reproduced it with my new Canon. This is my first lesson video to be available on Ultimate-Guitar.com.
The comments from this video gave me mixed emotions. Some people made me feel like I did not have enough tattoos and power chords to appeal to the UG audience, and other people recognized the conciseness and accuracy of the lesson. What it comes down to. Are you looking for a cultural experience or a scientific experience. It is educational value versus entertainment value. As an individual in a free world, you are free to choose. My lessons do stand on the scientific educational side of the spectrum, however I am taking the criticism into account and re-evaluating my approach. The two upcoming videos are Lesson 2 Scale/Chord and Lesson 3 Chromatic Scale. The two new ones are pretty much in my comfort zone, but after that I am veering off a little bit left and paving the way for more entertainment.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog and watch as I try to please everyone in the universe with a guitar lesson.
A Month in the Life of A Starving Musician, Part 4
Current mood: The December Tour was a Lot of W@rK!
During the fourth and final installment of my Tales of Christmas Present, I will review our final two weeks of the Christmas Coffeehouse Tour ’08, including a singer, bass player, smoker, shouter, an artist, two wheelchairs, and Santa Claus.
Our home base, the Old Louisville Coffeehouse, hosted us for the weekend of December 12th and 13th. As a last minute arrangement, we were called by Fishnet Ministries to fill an opening spot on Friday. We opened for a singer/picker named Jennifer. Apparently, we were both informed that we would be the opening act. Jeff of Fishnet cleared it up and put us first (since we were the main act the following night). Since all of her friends were already there at 7:00, we decided that she could sing some tunes with us. This combination won the crowd. We had a running mate with a fan base (something we never had).
That Friday night presented us with the most performer-audience energy exchange of the entire tour. Not only did the crowd love us, but one of Jennifer’s friends got some great video on our camera and bought a CD at the end of the night!
Saturday was an average night at Old Lou. The crowd was quite small and the audience was not interested in a high-energy show. Some special guests were my father, brother-in-law, and a couple of families that specifically check with the Old Lou to see when we're performing next. They want to have us there for the second Saturday of each month, although I am still deciding how much I want to commit to that.
We gave away some CDs that to some interesting characters. The first was a kid that lives across the street, sent by his parents for a hot coffee. On his way out the door, he asked if he could touch my guitar. He acted like my 24-year-old guitar was made of pure gold. He even said ”wow” in a very soft tone. After I handed him the CD, he ran across the street with a shout of great joy: “Woo Hoo!” I gave the next CD to a passer-by that stepped into the coffeehouse to ask me for a light. When he asked for a light, I handed him a CD and told him it is the best I can do. This was cool, because he was carrying a CD walkman. We stopped playing 30 minutes early, because the crowd had diminished and we were tired of playing for ourselves.
We had high hopes for Sunday. We planned on playing a very busy Christmas party at Your Daily Grind in Scottsburg, IN. We had two carloads of people and equipment. It was a lot of work, but we expected a healthy turnout. When I pulled up to the front door, I was greeted by the owner, Mark Coffey. He asked me if we had the dates mixed up. Never assume. I just read the word Sunday on his flyer. Next time, I will also read the exact date, Dec 21st not 14th. Not too far out of the way, since we still had the car loaded from the previous night. Stuff happens.
After a week of auditing our schedule and advertising for musicians, we were off to the Java Brewing Company on Frankfort Avenue. The Friday crowd was diverted by some last minute Christmas shopping, but we were privileged by the presence of a bass player. Brian answered an ad on Louisville Craigslist. The information highway is so much more convenient that it’s predecessor -- the music store bulletin board. I used to place a hand-written sheet of paper on the bulletin boards in order to find musicians. It actually worked well, but not as good as the Internet. The ad stated that we were looking for a bass player and singer for the weekend, but they needed to email me to find out who I am and what my music sounded like.
We received several responses. One was from the singer of a local southern rock band and one from a very alternative bass player. Brian was not only the best fit, but he also had another motive. His band had already tapped into my Internet profile and had plans to contact me about joining them. As he sat in on my performance, he was also auditioning me for his band. Of course, I was aware of this. The highlight of the night was an artist that was creating beautiful free drawings for many of the customers in the shop. He drew a couple of horses for my daughter, Ruby. That guy should be working for a major advertising agency. Maybe he is?
We spent Saturday night at Ray’s Monkey House. Just like Friday, the audience was sparse. Randy, my brother-in-law, made it out to this gig. He is temporarily in a wheelchair, due to a recent auto accident, but that made another member of our audience feel more comfortable. The wheelchair ramp to the second floor makes Ray’s a more attractive location for the physically challenged. The most exciting thing about the night was the large groups of people outside migrating north on Bardstown Road and shouting at the top of their lungs, though it did make loading our instruments into the car a little scary.
Sunday was final show of the tour at Your Daily Grind. It was the Christmas party we thought we were headed to last week. The turnout was amazing, and the tips were huge. Mark Coffey has two obvious secrets of his success: he is the nicest guy on earth, and he makes the best turtle mocha in the universe. I think he uses ice cream instead of whipped cream. Delicious. We alternated 30 minute sets with Julia (a storyteller). It was a pleasant exchange that kept the audience’s full attention. This was the only show on the tour that I was sure that the audience was there to see and hear the music. They clapped every time. We moved several CDs, and I gave Mark the remaining five. At four o’clock, he was actually pushing the customers out of the door. They would have stayed all night, but I couldn’t.
With no time to spare, I had to drop off Philip, pick up my wife and head to Lakeside Baptist Church to audition for Brian’s band (the bass player from Java). Looks like I got the gig. I look forward to weaning myself from the responsibilities of self-promotion, so I can focus on PLAYING MY GUITAR!
The Bottom Line: Instead of whipped cream, use ice cream on your mocha. It’s Yummy!
A Month in the Life of A Starving Musician, Part 3
Current mood: flattop on the rooftop
I stand amazed after the most adventurous three-gig weekend in the history of my life. Philip and I went from technical tragedy to a terrible success as we climbed over each stone presented before us.
Java Brewing Co.
The first stone was on Thursday at Java Brewing Co. (Frankfort Ave). We had just left an excellent rehearsal at my house and were setting up for the gig. Anticipating the best, we felt we were more prepared than ever. Just like when Apollo Creed faced the Russian. We were aware that Philip’s electric drums would often take a few seconds before initializing the power, but this was more like a few minutes, several minutes, an hour. That’s right, I played the entire gig solo, as my buddy Philip sunk into a deep depression. He frequently returned to silent drums to toggle the on/off switch, with visions of sugardrums in his head. The extremely cooperative employees tried to plug our extension cord in several different places, but it never fixed the problem.
The show went well for a solo act. I am sure the building used to be a restaurant. Maybe a Wendy’s or a DQ? The seating is chairs around full-size tables, a wine bar, outside seating (with a high-powered heater), and a comfy zone complete with a live fireplace, couch, and big cozy chairs. Not even the down-home hearth could comfort Phillip’s disturbed heart. It’s always darkest before the dawn. The next morning, after trials and errors and loss of sleep, I finally found the right adapter for Phillip's drums.
The Bottom Line: Never throw away any old power adapters. They could save what is left of the weekend.
The next step was Sunergos Coffeehouse on Preston Street. You know you are truly appreciated when several members of your audience have headphones connected to their laptops. Fortunately, a couple of co-workers from my day job brought some friends and made us feel right at home.
The accommodations were several wooden chairs, small card tables, at least one couch, and some big comfy chairs. I felt like I was hanging out at a college party in my friend’s apartment. I found it much easier to talk when in the presence of people that I have conversations on a daily basis. It was almost too comfortable for me. Probably a few inside jokes, but several of the strangers picked up on the positive vibes coming from the floor (no stage, just down on their level). We became comfortable enough to play the sight-reading game. I opened up a 48 page Christmas book and asked the audience to pick a page between 1 and 48. We would play the tune on that page. I think we are going to work Ave Maria into the set.
After two and a half hours of pure randomness, the gig was over. I was so tired that I offered everyone in the room a free CD. Two people did not want it. One of them did not speak English and the other one took about 30 minutes to explain to me his personal revelations from God. I was courteous and listened (which is not usually my specialty). Phillip and I had a long discussion on the way home. We were thinking about the direction of our outfit. We decided that we need to be less jam band and rock the people more.
The Bottom Line: It’s late. You are tired. Don’t get depressed. Get some rest.
The Old Louisville Coffehouse
The final leg of our weekend tour was at our old faithful, our third gig The Old Louisville Coffeehouse this month. This was supposed to be their busiest day of the year. Apparently, there were public tours of the mansions around 4th Street. I'm sure the tours were beautiful for the same reason I enjoyed playing on the stage in front of the big window -- the elegant snow drifts and soft light diffused by the clouds. Unfortunately for Pam Campbell (the owner), the below-freezing temperatures meant that more people were taking the vans between houses and less people were walking by (or preferably, into) the coffeehouse.
We entered this place with a plan and a promise of hope from Philip. He predicted this show would put us on ‘the map.’ That it did. We played better and more creative than ever. I experimented with my Wah pedal / Classical Guitar combo. This weekend brought us to a new level in our performances. Our new format consists of about 30 minutes of classical guitar and the rest is on electric. Philip has also decided to permanently estrange the electric drums for his acoustics.
This coming weekend is still up in the air. We were supposed to play on Friday in Scottsburg at The Daily Grind, but I just got an email from Mark Coffey (the owner). He would rather have a story teller on Friday and move me to a different night. The future is uncertain, and when you play for almost nothing, it doesn’t really matter anyway.
A Month in the Life of a Starving Musician, Part 2
Current mood: Urbanized and Technologically QoSane! (Qo=in)
Oh boy, my first full weekend of gigs!
Friday we were off to The Old Louisville Coffeehouse on the Cross of Fourth and Maple, and Saturday we made our Bardstown Road debut at Ray’s Monkey House. Although both of these fine establishments (I mean that) served Coffee and Pastries, they were bred from two very different wings of The Eagle.
Old Louisville Coffeehouse
The Old Louisville Coffeehouse is an excellent home base for Christians and the leaning right wingers. Jeff Woods of Fishnet Ministries tends to the musical bookings. At an open mic night a few weeks back, he said the place is for Christian musicians only, but he accepts secular musicians at open mics.
The term "old" definitely describes the historical part of town, not the coffeehouse itself. Everyone and everything there is relatively new and intact. The owner, Pam Campbell, is extremely courteous, but definitely not tolerant of mischievous antics from customers or employees (I saw it first-hand). They have great sandwiches, and my Carmel Mocha kept me alert for the entire gig.
Unlike most coffeehouses, the “Old Lou” has an actual stage and sound system, which creates more of a concert setting. The customers tend to focus more of their attention toward the stage rather than their conversations like most coffeehouses. The only issue there is lack of customers. There are a lot of residents in the immediate area, but not a lot of parking space on the street.
Ray's Monkey House
Saturday we hit the Monkey House. I was initially under the impression that Ray’s Monkey House was a liberal-based complex located along Bardstown Road where the university crowd tends to hang out. On “B-Road” you can bar hop, coffee hop, shop hop, or just hop along (nobody will mind there, just be yourself). Much to my surprise, Nimbus (the owner) was correct. He said that most of his customers are liberal, but they are definitely not picky about the entertainment.
The House’s Blog has some Code Pink references that could make some RNC attendees a bit nervous. Fortunately, I was not trampled in a protest. Actually, it was just the opposite. I discovered some great people there and had some great conversations from the slightly raised floor area that functions as a “stage." I had a delicious Carmel Mocha there, and I also noticed that they were selling beer. I would return to Ray's Monkey House as a customer and bring my kids with me, depending upon the performer.
I remember back in my college days, playing a gig on an empty
stomach. If I was playing Anna’s Restaurant in Pearisburg, VA, I would get to eat from the buffet halfway through my performance. Many things have changed since then. Enter: family, regular job, home maintenance, and a list of music students. Exit: time to practice, time to market myself, time to relax. About six years ago, I loaded up my Plymouth and moved to the Louisville area. This was my opportunity to grow and expand in ways that the limited population and industries of West Virginia did not offer. This town has a very active music scene with very busy musicians. The Bottom Line: you are either makin’ money or playing for free around here. In part one of this series, I am outlining how I have squeezed myself into the scene in the past couple of weeks. This is far from professional advice, just some simple do-it-yourself ideas.
The easiest thing to do right (or wrong) is to create a profile on the internet. Free sites such as MySpace, Facebook, or ShoutLife (a Christian site) are great places to start. Take a tour of other musician’s pages. When you see/hear something you like, send them a message and ask how they did it. I have learned a ton of things by asking. You can use search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Lycos (my favorite) to search for venues in your area. Type "music," "restaurant," "coffeehouse," "coffee shop," "booking," etc. The first thing I look for is an email address for the manager. I often find a music booking contact. Sometimes I will find the manager’s name and use a search engine (Lycos, Yahoo, Google) to find their email or phone number. I have scheduled several shows on very short notice using this technique. I used to call, stop by, and come back with my instrument for an audition. Now my web profiles have my resume, pictures, and music videos, as well as testimonies from my former customers.
Don’t be afraid to call. Just tell whoever answers the phone that you would like to speak to the person that is in charge of booking musicians. Sometimes I begin by asking if the place even has musicians perform there. I spoke to someone last night that told me they’ve kept the same musicians for the past 15 years. They keep the same core customers that come to listen to the same people every time. I need to find myself a gig like that. Another manager told me that I need to drop off a hard copy resume. They do not want to look at a website. They want a CD of my music and to meet me in person. Every place is different.
I know of several areas of Louisville that are especially known for their artsy traditions. Frankfort Avenue has its own website. The site lists virtually every business on the street. Also, check out Bardstown Rd. You can get out of your car with a notepad and write the names and addresses of all of the places you are interested in. Tonight, I am going to have some 4.25X5.5 cards printed that advertise my band, CD, website, and booking information. I plan to walk into some of these places and drop off a card for the management. The busy managers don’t have enough time to talk. The busy places are also the places you want to perform.
If I remember correctly, Budget Print (Jeffersonville, IN) said they will print 10 of the above sheets (40 cards) for 3 bucks. That’s black on white card stock and no art charge. If you are not good at creating an attractive layout, their art charge is at least 7 bucks. These will be handy tools to pass out at gigs. They list the websites that our CD can be purchased from. My experience at a printing company and some great freeware from the Internet has given me the opportunity to design my own CD graphics and have it printed for less. I used Kingdom.com to print my CDs. I saved money by not ordering the cases -- just the cover card, tray card, and color-printed CDs. The size costs more than the weight to ship; in this case they are less expensive at Wal-Mart. I burned my own CDs. I used a freeware program called Audacity to maximize the volume and export the songs at 320kbps instead of 128 (the default). Now my music is as loud as the CD I bought at the mall.
I can’t tell you exactly how to sell those CDs yet, but stay tuned, my follow-up articles will discuss how I will interact with people in the venues and attempt to create a following.