Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - February 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

So, what are the chords to "Revolution" by the Beatles?

Intermodulation distortion does some interesting things to perception.

There's a G#/Ab on the bass, it then goes to an F#/Gb.

The guitar is so distorted that it's easy to imagine you're hearing other notes in the overtones.   The ironic part is that to mimick that sound you need really bad and nasty solid state distortion - the sound of a guitar direct into a mixing board.

Which makes it one of the harder sounds to emulate live.   It sounds "wrong" to just do power chords on the root, but there's no alternative.  Unless someone has an EMI REDD console they can loan me...?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Motivation: the most important element in learning guitar

Unfortunately,  something I can't "teach".

The biggest obstacle I see students have these days is the lack of pure,  simple motivation.

It's one thing to "want" to play guitar.    It's another to have to play guitar.   Like anything else, iIt comes easiest to those who are most motivated - who want to do it the most.    The problem is that modern life impedes the process of "getting motivated".

There's 1,000's of people that can play guitar fast these days, right?  Plenty that can cop any lick you might hear,  people that can play with their toes, upside down, every Nintendo video game theme song, anything.   You know it, because you can see it on YouTube.

Which is stultifying.  What can you do that hasn't been done before?

You can attempt to be yourself, which is the most difficult thing of all.   It's the only way today: the chance to be unique by default.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marketing guitar lessons and how I think the Shamwow Guy is Chris Walken's meth-head nephew

I try to watch tv like a good citizen. It doesn't work; I have to time shift BSG or catch Bourdain's show when it happens to work out.

On the other hand, I've learned something new and apparently important about tv advertising, which somehow I can't seemingly avoid:

1) You have to have a spokesperson with a curious accent;

2) He has to be manic, and speak sort of like the voice-over announcers for the warnings in pharmaceutical commercials - the verbal equivalentofnothavingspacesinyourspeech;

3) The item you are selling must be $19.95;

4) Along with this, that price must reflect either a 50% discount, or include an extra item that has absolutely no relevance to the item being advertised;

5) (this is the important part!) - YOU CAN ONLY SELL IT FOR 5 MINUTES AT A TIME!

It's the Shamwow Marketing Formula. "It sells itself, right". I've since seen a couple of commercials for other items that follow this exact premise. Theycanaffordtoadvertiseontv,soitmustwork,right? <g>


So what I take from this is that I really need to change my answering machine message at my office.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Something" Deconstructed

I get asked "what style of music do you listen to?" a lot.

I don't have an answer for that question, because I don't listen to just one genre.

I have favorite music.

Having said that, there are songs/pieces of music that I think are fairly transcendent and/or worthy of being given the moniker "Close to Perfect".

Of which "Something" by the Beatles/George Harrison comes to mind at the moment.

As I think of it:

The theme melody is brilliant in it's simplicity; but also because it's a chromatic theme.  Unlike such things usually are, it doesn't sound clownish or self-important.  It's immediately recognizable as a lone melody (the height of accomplishment as a musician IMO) and even better it starts the song.

The intro drum roll is perfect as well IMO.  As is the production; the dry, not to dead not too ringy tom sound.  Not too hurried, not sluggish, not too hard, not too soft touch.

The choice to leave out cymbals on the first verse is brilliant.  Makes it very understated, focuses attention on the vocal, of which again Harrison's voice sounds perfectly soft and executed.  The lyric itself - something in the way she moves - is a simple musing that is simultaneously profound.

The strings are not overbearing, and are perfectly mixed.  The washy Leslied guitar sound builds and recedes perfectly; the sweep is also timed perfectly (something I can't really replicate when playing this live).   McCartney's overly-fat woofy bass sound fills out the spectrum in as "warm" of a manner as possible, without being intrusive.

The little warbly/tremoloed guitar accents on the bridge are a perfect touch, very subtle as a contrast to the timing of the vocal.  Everything to that point is a delicate balance of being *almost* too sparse of an arrangement. Wonderful.

Then the recapitulation of the main theme: the strings suddenly swell, great dramatic contrast, perfectly arranged/mixed.

The middle 8: bombastic, which complements the lyrical shift to a sort of confrontational content.  It also sets up the solo -

which I think is in my Top Ten Guitar Solos list.  It's perfect IMO.

The tail-out section following the solo bookends nice, with the little brash descending chromatic phrase right before the last repeat of the theme - fade to the strings.

About as perfect as it gets.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ed VanHalen Likes Stainless Frets

Also just saw VanHalen raving about stainless frets, about how it's the greatest invention for guitars in recent history.

Which is true IMO.  I presently don't have a guitar with stainless fret wire, but wish I did.  I'm always having to meter-out fret wear by making sure when I do an absent-minded vibrato exercise that I do it on frets that are less commonly used than others.   Although I'm not sure why this is a problem for Eddie, since he probably can have a new guitar every day if he chooses.

/ I need a new neck

One Finger Pentatonic Scale Exercises?

I just saw a video of Paul Gilbert demonstrating position shifting tips.

He recommends practicing pentatonic scale patterns with one finger at a time:  I do, too, and have been for YEARS now.

In fact, it's sort of surreal how similar how he went on about the subject compares to what I've been saying (as some students know).   IMO it's very methodically logical, and for some players at a certain point in their ability it's exactly what they need to do.