Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Look at meeeeeeeee!

Check it out, folks! I made the paper!

Step one in a music career

Guitar instructor sets up shop ‘on a whim'

Friday, Dec. 26, 2008

Click here to enlarge this photo
Staff photo by JAY FRIESS
Guitar instructor Josh Urban, left, shows Aram Gyure of Accokeek how to play "Ironman" by Black Sabbath.

New noise in town: The buttoned up collection of companies incubating at the Southern Maryland Small Business Center in Waldorf recently got a little more rock ‘n' roll with the addition of Josh Urban.

Urban, a guitar instructor, recently migrated across Route 925 from Hot Licks music store to set up his own shop.

"That's sort of where my brand got started," said Urban of his employer of the past four years. The energetic 23-year-old said he aims to infect his clients with his sheer love of the guitar.

"My two loves are playing guitar and teaching," Urban said. "That's really been my only career."

Urban said he explored setting up his own shop at the center "on a whim" and the process snowballed from there. He said he was glad to see his former Hot Licks clients follow him across the street.

"It was pretty scary," Urban said of starting his own business.

Given his proximity to more studious neighbors, Urban has to keep his amplifier turned low, but his room is a shrine to all the rock and jazz gods.

All are welcome: "I'm a salesman for the instrument," Urban said, defining his style.

As a salesman, he believes the customer is always right. He said he tells his clients "they are my boss and I work for them."

Urban said his clients are "people from all walks of life" and range from "6 to 60." He estimates that he sees 40 clients a week.

"It's really fun, and anybody can do it if they put their mind to it," Urban said. "It's not nearly as hard as people think."

Unlike some music snobs, Urban credits the "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" video games with inspiring a new generation of kids to pick up an axe. He said the games have also introduced his young clients to a library of classic, easy-to-learn rock songs that he can use to teach them on a real guitar.

Urban hopes that his younger clients will fall in love with music itself and gain an appreciation, like his older clients, for jazz standards and orchestral classics.

"I want to make musicians here," he said.

Three legs to success: While his teaching business has allowed him to buy a home in Accokeek and set his own hours, Urban says he sees it as one of three parts of his musical career.

Urban also writes instructional columns for Web sites such as GuitarNoise.com and Ultimate-Guitar.com. This doesn't pay well, he admitted, but it does give him name exposure.

Urban also plays live and is working to put together a band. His first recording project is under way, but it has been put on hold momentarily while he moves into his new house.

But Urban said he is now chiefly focused on his new business.

"I want to keep growing my client base," he said.

Jay Friess

Got an idea for someone to profile in On the job? Send your suggestions

to Kayleigh Kulp at kkulp@somdnews.com or 7 Industrial Park Drive, Waldorf, MD 20602. Call


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Sounds of the Season

Vrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooom! Goes the Camaro through the night. An H3 is being pushy, and shining it's bling bling lights too close to the Z28 emblem on the back bumper. A tap on the gas pedal takes care of that. Splash, and it rolls through the puddle at the end of the driveway. It sits, growling menacingly in the dark and foggy night, steam billowing up from the water striking the exhaust system.

Wait, if you look past the lurid glow of the tail lights, and if you listen close...over the burble of the LT1, you'll hear...Jingle Bells? And is that Bing Crosby crooning away? What?!

Yes, yes, it's true, rockers. I've been crusing around town in my mega-mean-pedestrian-scaring-machine listening to...XM 36 - Holiday Traditions. Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, you name it...Sure, I was born in '85, when the musicians always looked like a Christmas tree made out of spandex, but I get sentimental sometimes, and I like to listen to cheesy carols of yesteryear. I can just picture my grandparents out on the town as young people, dancing to this. It makes me think two things. 1. How did they find the beat to these songs? And 2. No wonder it took me so long to become a funk musician with that in my ancestry.

But all good-natured jokings about my whitness aside, there is a musical point.

I was listening to one of the white guys sing a carol. Man, they're right on top of that beat, and not letting it breathe at all. Cracker!

But then I heard Nat King Cole doing the same thing. Oh. Ok, I was just being ignorant of the style.

Nat's known for his really great crooning. If you haven't heard him, you should check him out.

I noticed something really interesting. He was cutting the notes off big time, and singing short notes (probably quarter notes, but I didn't count.) Yet, he made each note sound soft, lush, and rich.

I have always equated a melodic, lush sound with longer note values. You know, really let 'em ring, and add a bit of vibrato at the end, a la "For the Love of God" (Steve Vai.)

I'd never heard anyone playing, or in this case, singing, short notes, but making them super sweet at the same time.

We've all had to suffer through the cheesy R&B remixes of christmas carols in the store, where the lady is just shreiking at the top of her lungs about how cliche the standard greeting of the season is, and then drop it down to an annoyingly breathy whisper with a floyd-rose dose of vibrato almost as bad as this run on sentence, BUT...That's not how "lush" always has to be done!

Check out some of the old cats singing holiday tunes for some great tone ideas. Can you make your fast lines sound as great as Nat singing "Frosty the Snowman?"

Shred that!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You killed it, Joe!

Rockers! That title is a Terry Tate quote (office linebacker.) But I think it applies here!

So, what do y'all think of that Satriani/Coldplay lawsuit? It's gonna be a ruckus! For those of you just tuning in, Joe Satriani is claiming that Coldplay ripped off his tune "If I could fly" and turned it into "Viva La Vida."

I must admit, parts of the songs do sound similar. But - only a very small part. Before I go on, I'd like to state that Joe is one of my favorite guitar players. I've seen him live a few times, and not only does he seem like a cool dude, but man, can he play! What tone! What style! What technique.

Here's the thing - regardless of who ripped who off, I think the thing that Joe should be most mad about is that he wrote a Grammy-winning, smash hit, mega millions melody - and buried it under a bunch of other licks.

Granted, I wish I could bury my melodies under musical noodlings of that caliber...!

But I think the theme got lost. Coldplay, regardless of where they got it, took one theme, and played it to great effect. And look, they're up for how many awards?

Coldplay is probably guilty of plagiarism. But if I were Joe, I'd be most upset about not letting that beautiful melody stand out in my own song.

Did he overplay? That's not for us to decide. That's like asking Picasso to paint his pictures normally. BUT - I think the smashing success of Coldplay's take paints an interesting picture, and gives a lot of food for thought.

So, here's a challenge: Take a song - any song. Play the vocal line on your guitar! In other words, take Viva La Vida, do a Coldplay, and play the vocals on your guitar. And don't look at tab. Figure it out by ear!

Not only will this help tremendously with your ear training, but it will lend a singing quality to your lines. Additionally, you won't be constrained by any guitar habits you might be entrenched in, such as only playing in shapes you know.

Give it a shot!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Custom Painted Guitars in Waldorf!

Hey Rockers!

If you're like me, you like custom guitars. Additionally, you might not know where to get 'em, or think they're too expensive. Well, check it out:

I've got this client named Dave. Dave is cool. He works at an auto body shop for a living, and he's just decided to start a custom guitar painting business. He brought a guitar by that he painted, and my jaw hit the floor! Have a look:

(It's a flip-flop paint job, and it's the bomb. I need one.)

The name of his company is TFP Customs. So, my brother has built him a site, and that rocks, too: www.tfpcustoms.com

(Noah's site is www.bfg-productions.com, by the way.)

Check out some of Dave's work. He can build you a guitar, or paint one of your existing ones. That's what I'm going to get him to do. I've got a mid-80's Charvel that's a nasty color. I think I'll get it painted Lime Green!

He painted another client's 70's Gibson L6-S, and it turned out awesome! It was an ugly butcher block finish, and the client had always hated the color. Check out the result in the "Gallery" section of the site.

To top it off, Dave is a quality fella, just like his work. I had a minor incident this Sunday involving repeated pages over the home improvement store's intercom for the wrong license plate, the announcement of "A red Camaro is on fire in the parking lot", and an overzealous fireman breaking my driver's window to extinguish a minor source of smoke in the engine compartment. I called Dave up to ask him if he knows a good glass guy. He calls me back, and tells me he'd take care of me, and fix the darn thing himself. I dropped off the car around 1:30 at his work, and he fixed it after-hours, had to take it to his house to finish it, drove it back, and handed me the keys while I was teaching. He looked exhuasted, and Dave's a tough guy, so I know it was a lot of work! It was probably close to two hours of driving for him. That's a quality fella! Man, I'm lucky to know folks like Dave.

I'm really excited about his business, and I'm telling everyone about it. It's great stuff, and your guitar can look like a million bucks, too (without costing that much!)

So, again, check out his website, and give him a holler if you need a guitar (or anything else) painted!

Rock on, Dave!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Easy Listening...Not!


Wow, I am extra hyper! Today is my 23rd birthday! I'm gearing up for a great day.

On the musical front - People will ask the question "how do you play like that?" more than "what do you listen to?" It should be the other way around, I think. Playing is downstream of listening.

So, for some reason, I woke up thinking that I should make a list of the albums that I've found really inspirational. Perhaps you can draw from some of their magic, too.

"Blues Guitar Greats" (Various/Rounder Records) - It's what convinced me to get a guitar!

"Texas Flood" - Stevie Ray Vaughan - It's just that good.

"The Electric Joe Satriani" - Joe Satriani - My brothers got sick of hearing it!

"Passion and Warfare" - Steve Vai - Unfortunately for my brothers, I got this CD at the same time as the Satriani one. They were ready to take a hit out on Mr. Vai for the extended airplay the CD got at my house.

"Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop" - Jeff Beck - You've gotta get it.

"Live in America" - Victor Wooten - Not a guitar album, but filled with funky bass! (Plus, one of my teachers plays on it!)

"Perpetual Burn" - Jason Becker - The direct opposite of the Wooten record. Recorded when Jason was young (I want to say 17), it's mind blowing. Don't pirate it. Buy it. Jason needs the support. He's got ALS.

"Giant Steps" - John Coltrane. Absolutely no guitar. Totally groundbreaking bebop.

"Van Halen I" - Van Halen - Need I say more?

"The Best of Chuck Brown" - Chuck Brown - Funky Go Go that made me just a little less Lithuanian. Amen!

"Paint the White House Black" - Various- Old Skool Go Go passed on to me by a white attorney soccer dad. It's nifty!

"Liquid Tension Experiment" - Liquid Tension Experiment - Basically an instrumental Dream Theater with Tony Levin on the bass, it convinced me that Joe was right, and I should use a metronome.

"Diary of a Madman" - Ozzy Osbourne - It's got Randy Rhoads! It's one of my Mom's favorite CD's, too!

"Axis- Bold as Love" - Jimi Hendrix - Just ask the Axis, he knows everything!

"9th Symphony "Ode to Joy" - Ludwig Van Beethoven - I grew up on this, and it is the closest thing to genius that I've ever heard.

"Piano Man" - Billy Joel - For some reason, I really dig the tunes. Great pop sensibilities!

"The Battle of Los Angeles" - Rage Against The Machine - A call to arms, and a cure for the common, mindless, mushy love song. If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Check some of these out! I hope you like 'em!

I'm off to go teach...And to celebrate!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New studio


Holy smokes, rockers! I know I haven't dispensed advice in weeks. Questions are still waiting to be answered. "Shimmer" is playing over my headphones. Eww...Hang on a second.

OK, I'm back with some Jeff Beck.

I wanted to make a frantically excited announcement! Call me Donald Trump, jr, because I just closed the biggest deal I've ever made. Yes, that's right, ladies and gents, I bought my first (of many) house. I'm very excited. I will build a studio in it, and it will rock.

Now, here's a small tidbit of musical coolness. A client and good friend of mine gave me a very generous Christmas present - tickets to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Check out this vid. AND I suggest that you go see these rockers and their heavy metal Christmas tunes. At least get their CD's! They play arenas - for a reason.


- Josh/Donald

(I think we have similar teeth, but my hair kills.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Island Music rocks La Plata!

Hey Rockers!

Do you need guitar strings? A new guitar? How 'bout a Gibson guitar? (Hard to come by in good ol' Waldorf!)

Then you need to go visit Keith Grasso, and his new music store, Island Music Company. Located at 600 Charles Street, in downtown La Plata, MD, this place is neat. (It's right across from the Dash In.)

I had heard a lot about it from my students, especially considering how new the store is. "Hey man, you've gotta check out the store!" So I went out this past Friday to see for myself what all the buzz was about.

I was very impressed. It's like going to a guitar clubhouse. The showroom is very small, but that just adds to it's charm. With a Paul Gilbert instructional video playing on the TV to educate the room, it's jam packed with awesome guitars. I spotted Gibson, Epiphone, Ibanez, and Fender brands, and I'm sure I'm leaving out half of 'em. My favorite was the George Lynch tiger stripe ESP. Neat stuff. We started chatting about Van Halen guitars, and Keith ducked into the back, only to re-emerge with a piece from his personal collection - The most beautiful purple EVH Wolfgang guitar you've ever seen.

Keith also told me he's a dealer for most major brands, so if it's not in his warehouse, he can get it for you in a matter of days.

I was perhaps most impressed with the sense of community that he wants to create. Keith was kind enough to put a stack on my business cards on the counter. Later, I was reading his website, and I saw that he's won an award for being the most requested guitar teacher in Baltimore. That's pretty cool he was willing to promote both of us in his store by putting out my card.

Not only that, but Keith suggested several other great ideas to promote guitar in the area. He said he had been meaning to call and introduce himself, but he couldn't find my number. Remember, this guy sells lessons too, at exactly the same price that I do.

That's a way of doing business that I can believe in, and I know where I'll be buying all of my strings, amps, and guitars - Island Music. I encourage you to check 'em out. You'll be a fan.

Rock on, Island Music!

Check 'em out on the Web at: www.islandmusicco.com
And in person at:

Island Music Company
600 Charles Street
La Plata, MD 20646

(It's on the left hand side as you head East on Charles Street. It's across from the Dash In. If you see the 7 11 on the left, you've gone too far.)

And check this out - pretty soon, they'll be open seven days a week!

Tell 'em I sent you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Suicide and Musicians

"Send in your skeletons, Sing as their bones come marching in... again...
They need you buried deep, The secrets that you keep are at the ready"
- The Pretender (Foo Fighters)

It was a year ago today. Her father called. "Hey, how ya doin'?" I asked. "Can I talk to your mom?" he said.

"Joe, what's wrong?" mom asked. I was having an average day up until that point. A worry here and there, just normal. Mom choked, sobbed...I'll never forget how she clutched my shirt and twisted for support. It was as if she had grabbed the detonator that we all have, and yanked. How one hand was holding the phone receiver, and her other hand tensed, seized the pen, and scrawled on the scrap of paper on the table

_______ Killed Her self.

The shaky, frantic, desperately black letters will forever be etched in my mind.

Gee, it's hard for me to write this, even though it's been a year. It still makes me feel sick. A lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky. And the Foo Fighter's hit song The Pretender will always play in my head when I think of that day.


I was getting ready for a big gig. "Hmm, where did I put the drill?" Lugging the amp onstage. Making sure I had the cables. Slightly stressed, but still good. The soundman showed up, and we started chatting. "Yo bro, how are ya?"

"Good man, 'cept I just got back from a buddy's funeral." "Geeze, man, that sucks. Who was it?" "Devin."


Devin? He's the guy who humiliated me honorably in a guitar duel. He beat me bad. A few years later, he took some lessons from me. I still don't now why. He was so much better.

Him and his buddies would always try to get me to play all sorts of shocking heavy metal over the PA at a family place. He was playing bigger clubs than I was, and man, he was good. I think one of the last times I saw him was at the crafts store. There he was, in his Dimmu Borgir shirt, and store apron, figuring out where to restock the fake roses. Not exactly metal. But darn smart. Most of the employees and customers are female. "Devin, you're brilliant. I admitted as I shook his hand. "How so?" He asked. "You know how!"

And now he's dead.

And now she's dead.

I didn't know either of them particularly well. I wasn't very close. They were both fine musicians. He was a black guy with dreads who played shred guitar. I was a white guy with 80's hair playing in an all black funk band. "Devin, somethin' ain't right here!" I said to him once.

All we have left of him is a guitar we can pawn for two hundred bucks. That's two pairs of shoes.

She was scary good on the violin. Nobody listened to her cry for help. Now she's gone, and all we have left is a stone. A rock.

We are all intensely interconnected in the grid of human experience. No matter how isolated or insignificant someone feels, "unplugging" from this grid rips out untold numbers of hearts, scars faces, and mutilates consciousness.

There should always be help there. There should always be a hand to grab for those stumbling in the darkness.

She tried, and was rebuffed. How could that have happened?

As musicians and creative people, we can get lost in emotions sometimes. Check out Kurt Cobain. OK - It's so important to help ourselves, and to help each other.

If you or someone you know is in a bad place, here's a few things you can check out:



Please - visit the site. If for nothing else, for me. For her family. And for his family. And how about for yours?

Also, us young people tend to band together. I've talked to people over instant messenger before who were in a very dark place. The number one rule here is: get a professional involved. You cannot, and should not, try to be a hero and do this on your own. It could end up very bad. I'll say it again: Get a pro involved. Click on those links above, and if those don't work, email me, and I'll put you in touch.

The US number is:


Worldwide (click HERE)

Listen hard to your music. Listen hard to your tone. But listen the hardest for a cry for help. Talk to your friends. Check in with 'em. Talk about something real for once. Here's a list of warning signs.

Take good care,

"Even if I say
It'll be alright,
Still I hear you say you want to end your life,
Now and again we try,
To just stay alive,
Maybe we'll turn it all around,
'Cause it's not too late,
It's never too late"
- Three Days Grace Never Too Late

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Acoustic tone

Greetings, rockers!

Whew, what a crazy and fun few weeks. I'm less than a week away from closing on the first (of many) real estate deal of my life. I'm buying a house! Needless to say, I've smashed through my minutes limit on my cell phone, covered pages of paper with notes, and have been going hard. So, that's why The Doghouse hasn't been barking quite as much lately. I've still got readers waiting for their questions to be answered. I really do apologize for the delay, but I'll get to 'em as soon as I can.

Here's a couple of neat ideas for you today. The first comes from acoustic guitar wizard Al Petteway. I've had the privilege of attending a clinic hosted by Mr. Petteway, and his tone blew me away.

I'm a very electric player. When I pick up an acoustic guitar, I pick it up, beat on the strings, try to squeeze the non-existent sustain out of the strings in a guitar hero bend, beat on it, slam it around, and... wonder when the shop is gonna have the electric fixed.. Haa!

My brother said "hey, even I know that's not gonna work!"

I've always sorta thought that acoustic guitars only sounded one way. I'm extraordinarily tone aware with an electric rig, but I never paid much attention to my acoustic sound.

But check out this vid of Al. I think you'll see how crazy my thought process was. Man, what tone he's got! An interesting thing to me is the way he lets some strings ring out to fatten up the sound. Sort of like sustain on an electric guitar.

The second point today is the inclusion of the word "Meh" in the Collins English Dictionary. According to the AP:

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

The dictionary's compilers said the word originated in North America, spread through the Internet and was now entering British spoken English.

Man, can you imagine being Matt Groenig? He got a word in the dictionary! Actually, that's a testament to pop culture evolving a language. And so too is it with music. Blues doesn't really fit with Mozart's view of the musical universe, and Hendrix turned rock on it's ear. But we shouldn't stop with "Purple Haze!" How can you evolve the artform?

(Hint - start by just being yourself, and playing that with sincerity.)

Rock on!

Josh "Donald Trump, jr"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paint the White House Black

"Josh, I want you to run sound for this band I know. They need a sound man for their rehearsals."

"Sure, Chuck!"

So I showed up for the rehearsal, and my playing changed forever. I had stepped in to the world of Go Go.

Pioneered by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Brown, it's a music native to Washington, DC. - My hood, homie! A mix of funk, rap, reggae, and latin, it's the modern day tribal beat of the inner city. Specific to the DC region, it's had limited success in the rest of the states. However, it continues to grow and evolve . (By the way, I once sold a pack of guitar strings to Mr. Brown himself - it was neat!)

Check out this video for a good idea of some ol' school Go Go. I just found it, and it is funky! It's by a band called Trouble Funk - they were big in the 80's.

Fast forward to the present day, where most guys didn't look like Mr. T any more.

So I showed up at this rehearsal to run sound. Boy, it was a big band. There were a gazillion members, and they all liked their monitors hot, and their sound to be right. In between sweating bullets to get their sound perfect, I grew fascinated with the hypnotic conga drum beats, cowbell punctuations, and keyboard hooks. These guys could jam!

So, the sound gig led to a guitar gig, and I was with the Posse for a good long bit. Go Go has a history of violence and drugs at their gigs, but these guys 'n gals were a religious outfit - havin' a holy ghost party! I'm not even Christian, but they took me under their wing, and I learned a lifetime worth of groove in my stint in the band. I was the only white guy in the band, but they helped me out with my fashion and groove, and pretty soon, I had a cool hat, could swing 16th notes, even do the special hand shake! (It did take me a lot of practice.) I had a blast in the band.

Of course, a cool thing the patient guys in the Posse showed me was that being of Lithuanian descent wasn't my problem in not grooving at first, no matter how much I hollered about the direct correlation of rhythmic impairment to low melanin levels. It was what I listened to, practiced, and played. I eventually got my act together. (As a side note, one of the grooviest bass players I've jammed with was from Sweden, underscoring the point made above.)

Playing in a band that was different that my normal style of playing was a terrific experience. Try it if you get a chance!

A 30's something white guy client of mine gave me this cool tape of old go go bands. It's great, and I love to crank it up to get some groove in my playing. It's called Paint the White House Black.

How fitting since last Tuesday!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote, Sucka!

Heyyy Rockers!

Man, I hope everyone had a super cool Halloween. I got stoned on Reeses Pieces, but that's the hardest stuff I'll ever do. (But you will start to see things if you eat enough!)

It's a great time of year for Halloween. Why? It's Election Day in America on Tuesday! I hesitate to mix up politics in my blog, but I'm making an exception today.

It is so important to vote! Pllllllllllleaseeeee do so! I'm begging you! Especially you readers who live in the so-called "Swing States." (States that could go either way - Republican or Democrat. These states make all the difference in deciding the outcome of the race, as Florida did in 2000, and Ohio did in 2004.) Some of these important battleground states are:

North Carolina
New Mexico

Now, even if you don't live in a swing state, it's super important to get out to vote. I live in Maryland, which is expected to fall on Barack Obama's side, but I'll still be there to cast my vote for him.

Yes, I'm voting for Obama, as I believe he has the leadership, vision, and opportunity to take America in the direction that I feel is right. But hey, that's just me! I guess that, as a blogger, while I'm about as low as you can get on the totem pole of endorsements, I'll still venture to say - I endorse Barack Obama for President.

However, that's not what I'm here to talk about. I've been talking to a lot of people in this election season, and I encourage everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to step out, get involved, and make their voice heard. It's vital, and it's the fabric of democracy. And in delivering my endorsement, it is my sincere hope that I don't offend any of my clients with differing political views. I respect each and every one.

I was thrilled to hear an eight year old and nine year old debating presidential politics as the guitar lessons were switching over. She was for McCain, He was siding with Obama. It's great to see that folks are paying attention!

Don't know where to vote?

Here's a Map!

If you're on the fence about who to vote for, drop me an email, and we'll have a chat about it. And I won't even be too much of a salesman!

Too young to vote? Take it upon yourself to get an unmotivated adult out to the polls. I've been working on community issues since before I could vote, and there's so much you can do without being of voting age.

I've got a buddy, James, who's much more outspoken about his choices, and if you'd like to check out his blog, it's called The Political Caveman.

It's very opinionated, but I guess that's cool if you're into it.

Still undecided? Here's something that James posted on his blog, and it had me laughing pretty darn hard!

So get out to vote, sucka! Bring a theory book, stand in line, and make your voice count. I was chatting with a buddy at the gym, and we both agreed that there should be a new rule: If you don't vote, you can't complain about the state of the world.

Thanks for reading, and I'll get back to guitar in the next post.

Rock on!

- Josh

PS. All comments on this post, regardless of opinions expressed, will not be published. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hello, Waldorf! The George Lynch Clinic at Hot Licks Guitar Shop

George Lynch came by the local guitar shop last night on his Hal Leonard Clinic Tour. It was cool.

Hot Licks Guitar Shop had been advertising this clinic for a few months, and I couldn't wait. They've had some great players there before, including Doyle Dykes, Michael Angelo Batio, David Ellifson, Greg Kotch, and Brian Bromberg. But this was gonna take the cake. I mean, c'mon, this is the guy who wrote Mr. Scary!

The chairs were set up, and so was the stage. George stepped up to applause, and started shredding. After three blistering numbers, he paused, and said "Well, I just wanted to prove I can still play." Overachiever!

His chops were, of course, top shelf, and they sounded refreshingly inspired. I would venture to say that some of his playing, especially when he was jamming on his ESP strat guitar, sounded like a heavy metal SRV. The tone was very open compared to some of his peers. But the best part was the organic vibe Mr. Lynch managed to convey.

Oftentimes, it seems that the original inspiration of electric guitar is lost through relentless pursuit of technique. It's as if the diamond is perfectly cut and polished, only to lose it's sparkle. George's playing yesterday, however, hadn't lost that spark. When I see guitar heroes rock out, oftentimes I feel overwhelmed, beaten about the ears, and I want to give up. This time, I wanted to run home to practice! It had soul.

George then started to take questions. Answering the queries, and also using them as a springboard, he would chat a bit about other aspects relating to the original question after answering the person. It was very informative. He advised the audience to get involved in all aspects of the music industry, and brought up one that had never occurred to me: designing gear. Later in the night, he looked over at the house amps he was playing through, and said "Hey, I helped design that one!"

Somebody asked him how to get the George Lynch tone, and after jokingly referring the asker to his signature pieces of gear for just about everything in the signal chain, George showed his teaching stripes by stating that tone is all in your head and hands, and not necessarily in your amp. Very wise, and a refreshing departure from the standard clinic fare of "well, I feel the triple reinforced truss rod of the XYZ guitar gives me the sustain I absolutely need, so I'd recommend buying this guitar."

Probably the most interesting response of his was when someone asked him what scale modes he used. "I'm not familiar with those" was his frank and polite answer. "I've learned some shapes years ago, and now I don't think about them." (Emphasis mine.)

Bingo - First Charlie Parker saying "learn the changes, and then forget them," and now George Lynch echoing that sentiment.

He said that he had the Ultimate Guitar Solo playing in his head, and he never manages to quite get there. "I hope I never do!" he joked. In watching him play, it was obvious that he used whatever he needed to get the job done in pursuit of that Epic Solo. He didn't say "OK, I'm going to tap a Phrygian run now, followed by a series of diminished arpeggios moving down the cycle of fourths..." Nope, he just conversed with his guitar, and most of all, seemed to have a blast doing so.

It was a inspirational and informative performance, and if you get a chance to attend one of his clinics, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Writing with elements


Doggone it, I'm behind on my blog! Geeze. I'm in the process of composing answers to some really good (and hard) questions folks have emailed me about ear training. Stay tuned, y'all.

And I've got another thing that's buggin' me. This is a non-partisan call for Sarah Palin to shut up, because she's ruining my writing style. She's depleting the world supply of apostrophes to replace the letter G. Gosh, now I've lost my style, and I'm havin' to watch what I'm sayin'. "Sir, there is an apostrophe shortage, so please watch your P's and Q's."

But here's something to think on in the meantime: I went out to see the leaves this weekend. Besides paying $11 for a sub, and chatting with a very nice police officer about the effectiveness of the tune up on my red Camaro (we both came to the conclusion that new spark plugs definitely make a difference,) I got a neat idea:

The next time you're stuck with songwriting, try writing about an element, such as wind. Music is delightfully non-specific, and to me, more effective than words when communicating about vague ideas or feelings. Or something as big as the wind.

I was walking through the autumn forest, and thinking about what the wind was. It has a stirring way of creeping up the mountainside, rustling your hair, and gently removing the ashes from your soul.

Or at least that's how I look at it. (I'm lucky that I didn't get busted for thinking weird thoughts.)

The wind is currently gusting across an inspiring sky, and trying to pry it's way into my studio. It rattles the signs down on the street, and is playing tennis with a piece of siding. It's also trying to rip the mullet poster off the wall, but that ain't gonna happen.

So now I'm off to try to put that into notes. Hey, one picture is worth a thousand words, but how many notes does it take to convey the idea of the Appalachian wind?

Try doing something like that next time you hit a wall with your songwritin'. Darn it, that was my last apostrophe!

- Josh

Friday, October 17, 2008

Girl Power


I have a shirt that reads "Feminist Chicks Dig Me." Surprisingly, I haven't gotten slapped yet. I was raised in a very progressive environment, so maybe that's why it gives me great glee to act like a male chauvinist pig.

But cro-magnum tendencies aside, I really do have a feminist statement to make today. This might take a minute, so hang in there. (Gee, I hope I don't lose macho-cred!)

16% of my students are girls. Yep, so don't blame me when I act like a goof, because I hang out with guy musicians all day. (We're known far and wide for our maturity.) This blog is for them.

I think we naturally gravitate towards heroes that are the same gender. I look up to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and my youngest female client looks up to Hannah Montana.

For us guy guitar players, we have it pretty good. 99% of rock guitar heroes are guys. I'd like to talk about the lack of emphasis on healthy female role models for the young women growing up today.

I was lucky enough to sit in with one of my student's bands last night. They played their first gig ever at their school talent show. It was awesome! Three hundred domestic catholic folks didn't know what hit 'em. Bam! We opened with Eye of the Tiger. I don't know for sure, but I would imagine that they could picture themselves as the guys from Survivor. Actually, they could pick from any one of the hundreds of male guitar heroes.

The acts that preceded the band consisted mainly of girls singing love songs. They did well. But I've been getting worried lately. I was talking to my mom, who was also in attendance last night. (She rarely misses my gigs, even if I'm just playing two songs for some students! She's the best!)

She noticed it, too. Where are the girl heroes?

Guys have Jimi Hendrix's pyrotechnics to study. Ozzy's irreverence to inspire. Eddie's finesse to inspire those long practice sessions.

It seems to me that many of the female songs are just about love, rejection, relationships, marriage, etc. All of this leads to....Domestic hell! Ha ha. OK, joking aside, these poor girls are up there looking awkward, average, and uncomfortable pretending that they're some diva crying about some guy.

Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but guys are creeps. We're not worth devoting most of your life to, and we certainly can't make your life worthwhile. (I think a lot of guys need to be reminded this about girls, too.)

I so want to see a girl up there, shredding up the guitar, and pretending she's a juke box hero (with staaaaars in her eyes!)...Just like my band did last night.

Ladies, let's find you someone you can admire for their skill at the guitar. Let's find you some chicks that folks respect for their guitar heroics, not just how they look, or how cute they sing.

Here's a few for you to start:

Jennifer Batten
(It's hard to tell, but she's the blonde. ;)

Bonnie Raitt

Susan Tedeschi

Arch Enemy (She's not a guitarist, but she rocks!)

And if you don't see a female hero you like, it could be...The space is open: You be the hero for your fellow girls.

Now, I must go act like a caveman, or I will totally lose my spirit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where are the girl heroes?

Hey hey hey!

OK, loyal readers from around the world (all two of you....) I need some help! I'm working on a snazzy blog post, but I need the names of some of your favorite female musicians. (No, Poison doesn't count!)

Feel free to email 'em to me, or leave names in the comments section.

Thanks for your help!

- Josh

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A lesson: Q&A: How to improve groove as a guitarist


Here's a darn good question that comes from someone we shall call "Mr. Eastwood."

Mr. E writes:

Hello Josh.. i just read your "Get On The Good Foot: Timing For Guitarists"on ultimate-guitar.com and it was very informative.. Thank you. I've been struggling with 'timing' for quite a while now...Maybe 8 months...I never thought about it before until I started to show some of my awesome riffs to friends, in the local music scene here in Utah and.. They have all said "your riffs are amazing.. But they aren't in time." So I've gone on a quest.. To get my music in 'time' but I haven't had any luck. I've also had a hard time understanding stuff like 4/4 time because through my many talks.. I've been told its not 'how fast you play something.. i.e.: BPM' .. and it's not how many times you play something within a certain amount of time.. and if its neither.. I'm just lost. I was wondering if you had any advice on helping me understand.. and/or possibly any other timing advice?

Yo Mister Eastwood! A very good question. And thanks for the compliments! First off, it's probably something in the Utah water that's tripping you up. I come from Lithuania, and they have the same problem. I think it's called "Caucasianitis." Ha ha! Jokes in good fun about my own color aside, I've got some stuff to help you.

First - congratulations about embarking on your quest! Remember, the dragon is never found, or killed, easily. Rock on and you'll eventually get there. Now, for some real advice.

Let's go ask Spongebob for some advice. Check this out. OK, so it's dubbed in, but do this for me. Count "1 2 3 4" along with the beats. Notice how there's an emphasis every time you say "one?" The band accents this beat. There are four beats to the cycle.

To offer a clear explanation, 4/4 time is felt with, again, four beats to the cycle. The cycle is technically called a measure. Another common time signature you've heard is 3/4, usually found in a waltz. It's counted "1 2 3 1 2 3" But don't worry about that right now.

Just count 1 2 3 4 along with the entire song. This will start to get you accustomed to "feeling" the beat. Beat is ideally felt, not intellectualized. To get it at first, we need to think. But the goal is to dance, not analyze. The good news is - you've been around 4/4 time all your life.

Next, we need to recognize the importance of beat 1. A drummer buddy showed me a cool trick once. Pull up the song again, and start dancing a lousy dance. Just shuffle your feet, and clap your hands. People will typically shuffle their feet on beats 1 and 3, and clap on 2 and 4 (unless you're my mother, bless her soul.)

Now, once you're shuffling and clapping, try playing a few riffs on your guitar. You can use existing riffs, or you can make some new ones. Sometimes, the stuff you've written might fall into an odd time signature. They're not intrinsically weird, just not 4/4.

5/4 time is a close cousin, and in a song written in this time, you'd count to five before starting your cycle over. The beat doesn't change, just the length of the cycle. Dave Brubeck's version of "Take Five" is a great example of 5/4 time. Notice how, if you start counting 1 2 3, etc, the riff will start again after you say "five."

So some of your riffs may be in a different "frame" than your buddies are used to hearing. The band Dream Theater is famous for composing wickedly complicated and awesome metal riffs in odd time signatures (or meters, as some folks like to say.)

Now, a beat can be subdivided into smaller pieces. The size of the pie doesn't change, just the number of pieces. Just as you can cut a pie so there's twice as many slices of scrumptious key lime awesomeness, but they're half the size, so to is it with riffs.

You can play over the same beat, but twice as fast. (Or three, four, six, eight, five, seven, you name it!) Try this for me: Cue up Jukebox Hero again, and count 1 2 3 4. Now, in between those down beats (as they're technically called), say "And." It'll pan out like this:

"1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and "

The numbers haven't moved, you've just added something in the middle. You've effectively doubled the number of pieces of musical pie. This is called subdividing the beat.

Next, grab your guitar, and strum down on beats 1 2 3 4. Once you're comfortable that you've got it in time with the band, add upstrokes in the spaces between the downstrokes. The downs are getting any faster, you've just doubled the time the pick hits the strings.

That should get you started there.

The second thing you need to do is a.) either use metronomeonline.com , or b.) even better, buy a metronome. Use it faithfully. It is the best investment you can make at this point. Order one today!

I hope this helps, Mr. E., and please feel free to ask follow up questions.

Quest on!


Hot Buys at Musician's Friend

Hot Buys at Musician's Friend

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Cosmic Chuck - October

Hey Everyone!

The October edition of The Cosmic Chuck (my way cool newsletter) is available now! If you'd like to receive a copy, just drop me an email at:


I'll send ya one!

Rock on,

Monday, October 6, 2008

George Lynch clinic


There's a George Lynch clinic going on at Hot Licks in a few weeks! Students: I've reserved a few places for you. Let me know if you want to go (and you do), and we'll work out the details.

Can you say Field Trip?!!

Wow! I can't hardly wait! This is gonna ROCK. Email me for info!

School of Rock

*Mumble Mumble* It's Monday Morning!

Whew...The weekends are more tiring than the week sometimes!

But I got to do something cool this weekend. One of my clients asked me to join him and his buddies' band for his school talent show. I'll be playing one show with 'em, and it's gonna rock!

I went to the first rehearsal on Friday, and it was a lotta fun. I sort of snapped into my Jack Black School of Rock mode, and got into explaining the finer points of incinerating a stage. I had a blast!

It really made me realize how important it is for folks to jam with other musicians. It's very different than sitting in your practice room, and it can really help solidify one's skills. Grab a few buddies, and have a jam session - even if it's just another guitar player. It's fun, it's a team, and it's a super thing you can do to improve your skills.

I'll keep y'all posted on how the show goes. I can't wait!

Rock on!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Stevie Ray Vaughan!


Today is the birthday of three people I know. A buddy named Lisa, my Mom's friend Bob, and of course, the one, the only Stevie Ray Vaughan!

Wow, what a guitarist. If you haven't listened to him before, I suggest you run out right away and buy the following CDs:

- In Step
- Texas Flood
- The Real Deal - Greatest Hits

But the absolute best thing you can do is to get the DVD Live from Austin City Limits.

Buy it!

Happy Birthday, Stevie Ray. Long live the blues!

Hey, check out this vid of one of my favorite SRV songs:

Willie the Wimp

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What to play over jazz changes...

"Yo Bro, what do I play over these chords?" is a question I get a lot from my students.

I usually have some lame answer for 'em, like "well, the thirds and sevenths are the signature tones, arpeggios are nice, keys are better, etc."

However, driving home tonight after a day of teaching and playing music for the local chamber of commerce ("takin' care of business!"), I flipped on the Three Days Grace song Never Too Late. What a great band, and what a cool song.

I lost a friend recently to suicide. This song always makes me think of her. A line from the song sings "And even if I say it'll be alright, still I hear you say you want to end your life."

Sometimes I wish badly that I could go back and tell her just one thing. But I wonder what it would be? That she mattered infinitely more than she realized? (Well, realizing that one mattered at all would be infinitely more to one who sadly fails to see their intrinsic light and chooses to snuff it out.) That "this too shall pass?" Be kind to yourself? What would I say, if I had five minutes to sit at the kitchen table with her? Could I rise to the challenge of trying to express so much in so little? Could the instrument of my voice carry the message I wanted, even if my mind could wrap itself around the task?

Now, what if I was dumb? No, no, boys and girls. Unable to speak. What if I was gagged, and the only thing to communicate this anthology of human thought, emotion, drama, heartbreak, hope, and connection was...my guitar?

That's what I should play over the chord changes. If I could distill this into one note, phrase, or song...That would transcend any theoretical concerns or tonal qualms. It would take on meaning.

I guess it's really the only thing that matters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chamber gig

Hey Y'all!

STUDENTS - I'm playing at the Chamber of Commerce mixer this Thursday. If you were gonna check it out, call me first. 240-682-2801


Tuesday, September 30, 2008



I was just talking to a client yesterday, and I told him I'd send him some cool videos to get him re-inspired. I went looking on YouTube, and man, these are sick!














Sunday, September 28, 2008

Are you a FOP?

Hey hey hey!

I've just started something realllly cool! A Global Guitar Club on facebook! It's called....Drumroll please.....

The Fraternal Order of Poodleman

(And, of course, it's in no way intended to be disrespectful to our brothers in blue.)

I started a guitar club for my students, and now, I'm takin' it global! Join up, and rock on!

AND - you may have noticed the new widget to the right called "FFOPs."
(Who comes up with these names? Widgets, that is!)

If you're a fan of The Doghouse, become a follower! Wow...I'd like to have followers. Perhaps a limo is next? Ha ha!

Your letters worked!

Hey everyone!

I'd like to say "Thanks" if you sent in a letter on Troy Davis' behalf. Less than two hours before he was scheduled to be executed on extraordinarily shaky evidence, his execution was stayed. I can't imagine what a relief that must have been. What a poor fella - talk about messin' with yo' head.

Check out the Amnesty International press release. The Supreme Court will decide on Monday if they'll hear his case again.

And remember - we all have a voice. This is proof that they work! Never forget that, and never forget the guys who fall through the cracks. This case shows me how it could happen to any of us.

Now, where's the music? OK, here's some wisdom and advice from a buddy of mine:

The Only Place Success comes before Work is in the dictionary.

Go Practice!

Adobe Audition crash fix!

Yo Rockers!

Man, I just figured out a fix for Adobe Audition. If you're trying to record with this cool program, but your PC keeps actin' funny (and you don't know why!), try this:

- Uninstall Microsoft Intellipoint
- Uninstall Bonjour service (I think it's with iTunes, but I could be wrong.)

Audition does not like these guys, as I found out. I had problems with my recording screen "shimmying" around (like it was scared of the mouse or something!), and my computer would crash every five minutes or so. This usually happened when I was using a lot of effects on the tracks. I initially thought I needed more memory, so I added another 2 gb to my existing four. This still didn't fix it. After some googling, and seeing other folks' pain and solutions, I uninstalled Intellipoint and Bonjour. Presto! It works like a charm, now! A disclaimer: My computer has not blown up yet, but ask someone who knows what they're doing if it's ok to give these programs the pink slip before you uninstall 'em!

And it really works great with my new Presonus Firestudio Project FireWire interface! This is a cool piece of gear. I can record up to 8 XLR inputs simotaniously, and it sounds great. Plus, it's got some cool blue lights on it. I bought the unit from Randy over at Sweetwater. Those guys are great. I highly recommend 'em. Ask for Randy, and tell 'em Josh Urban sent you.

Rock on!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two hours left...

Send a letter for Troy now!

Click here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales from the teachin' room

Man, I have a great job. I get to sit down all day and play guitar. And let me tell you, these folks I teach are mighty funny. This past week in my teaching studio has been especially entertaining.

Young student (we'll call him Juan): My Dad says that the singer for AC/DC has a drugged out voice.

Me: Yeah, well, a lotta those guys are crazy.

Juan: Their voice is all scratchy
Me: Yep, and smoking messes up their voices, too.
Juan: My teacher says that coke will temporarily scratch your vocal chords, too.
Me: (Note: Anytime a kid brings up drugs, I try to tell them to stay away from 'em, how Stevie Ray Vaughan cleaned up his act, and generally be a good example.) Yeah, that stuff will kill you! Stay far away from it.
Juan: Well, my brother says he just loves that taste, and that sugar rush!
Me: Uhhhhh.....yeah...I thought you were talking about....well, it's not that bad for you. But it's still unhealthy! In fact, it will take copper off pennies.

A few hours later, Mabel comes in. Mabel, younger that Juan, is one of the few students that actually likes the singing Hannah Montana pen that resides in my studio.

Mabel: Josh....Are Earth Girls easy?
Me: (Thinking back to the numerous hippie chicks that have failed to see my obvious and stunning charms...) Well, that's not always been my experience....
Mabel: I was watching this movie called Earth Girls and it was about aliens coming to earth!
Me: Oh.

My goodness...I'm always getting knocked off my chair. Hey, they certainly keep me on my toes!

By the way, that Troy Davis case is down to the wire. If you've got literally 30 seconds, call the Georgia Board of Paroles at:


Give 'em your name, what state you're calling from, and urge clemency for Troy Davis. It's that simple.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I want to rock the house, not the boat, but...

As a musician - Rocking the house is a good thing. Occasionally, the boat gets rocked, too.
It's certainly not my wish to do that this time, however.

I've got over forty students, so many friends and colleagues, and each with a different point of view - all of which are worthy of respect and consideration.

It is with some hesitancy that I'm posting the link of a buddy's blog. James is a friend of mine, and he's super liberal. I think he's got some great points at this crossroads of America, and I really dig his blog. However, I certainly don't want to put folks' collective noses out of joint. So - I'll put the warning that he's very political, very left wing, and doesn't have any qualms about it. As universal studios would say, "the views contained in his blog aren't necessarily endorsed by Rock God Music, LLC, or it's affiliates." If you're up for it, check it out at


And if you're not, I suggest that you don't.

Now, this is a music blog, so here's some music!

The next time you need a challenge, try this: Dial up 80 beats per minute on your metronome, or www.metronomeonline.com, and play the following:

The major scale in increments of:

1 note per click
2 notes per click
3 notes per click
4 notes (yawn) per click
5 notes per click (what?!)
6 notes per click
7 notes per click


Plain text indicates run of the mill shred
Boldface text indicates knock yo' block off hard confusing stuff to get your chops Arnold level.

Subdividing the beats in such odd increments creates a unique challenge, indeed.

Don't be a girly man! Try it!

PS. Keep an eye out on ultimate-guitar.com for my latest article! It should be out fairly soon.

Well, I'm CERTAINLY not missing YOU!

Gooood morning, folks in the blog world!

Well, I'm sitting here, listening to my favorite musicians chirp away in the morning stillness (crickets), and I've got another idea to share with you.

First off, my brothers have been accusing me of either loving something, or hating it. I guess that's true. Pizza and corvettes are awesome, and if it's cilantro or a Honda Prelude, I'll have it stuffed! Hey, nothin' wrong with feeling strongly about life, right?

Well, well, well....! Call me grumpy, but I was at the gym last night, and I saw another video that annoyed me. Some R&B track by Stacie Orrico called "I'm not missing you."

Hmm. Creative. Wow, I bet I've never heard a song like that before. (And with the sunglasses she was wearing, I'd cheat on her, too. Ha!)

So many of the songs out there, especially the ones that are popular on the music video circuit, seem to be a lousy excuse for these "artists" to live the dream of an eight year old girl who wants to be a pop star, and extract revenge on anyone who's ever looked down on them by...having their own helicopter. (Don't get me wrong, I think that's an excellent way to proceed if that's your goal.) As another video sums it up, "It's all about me." Sure, I don't want to watch some geek talkin' about the economy while rapping, but still...The world is so messed up right now, and I'd really like to see some concern in the artistic community. Hey, you can still have a hot car and ten gorgeous back up singers, too!

We've got guys like Troy Davis who are about to be unjustly executed for a crime they didn't commit. (By the way, help the fella out - He needs it badly.)

The point is, fellas - let's use our music to speak - to matter. We don't have to play serious stuff all the time, but make each note matter. Sometimes, bringing folks a bit of joy is just as important as waking them up.

When I play in dive bars, which happens too frequently, I like to try to play with as much excellence as I can. Bars can be sloppy places, and if I can bring something in there that's not, perhaps it will reach one person, and help one life. Hey, maybe not, but it's worth a try.

And please, help Troy Davis out. He could use it, and it'll only take a moment.

Rock on!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Get a boom car...Maybe


It seems we all get stuck sometimes when we're trying to figure out a song by ear. We'll listen as hard as we can, but we just can't figure out that chord movement, one note, or whatever is stumping us.

I was talking to a client today as we were working on learning Done by Anew Revolution. He remarked that the cheesy little speakers in the studio laptop made it easier to hear the song than his nice headphones. I jokingly told him he needed to buy a laptop!

It brings up a good point - a change in perspective can be just the ticket for getting through a wall. I've been in another room while my brothers were blastin' tunes through the stereo, and I couldn't figure out what song it was - it sounded so different. The walls tuned out almost all the guitars, and I could hear the bass line clearly. Joe, the guy I was talking to today, made the point that a song sounds so different inside, and outside, a car.

Often times, particularly in rock music, the guitar is following the bass. So if we're having trouble hearing the guitar, try listening to the music - from another room!

It's all about turning something on it's ear, and viewing it from a new perspective. Try doing this next time you're stuck with ear training. Mess with the EQ, listen through different speakers, try hooking the song up to a subwoofer...The possibilities are endless.

Best of luck!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wow! Java weird out...

Hey friends 'n fans!

Huh - I'm not quite sure what happened to my gig tonight. I was supposed to be rockin' out at Janet's Java in Alexandria, but nobody, and I mean nobody, showed up. As in management. It was closed! Odd. I hope everything is A-OK on their end, and nobody's hurt. I called and spoke with 'em about a week ago, and everything was supposed to be on. However, it certainly wasn't.

So, if you showed up to a dark building, I do apologize for the weird event!

Stay tuned for the next gig. I'll let ya know!

Rock on!


Free Shipping on orders over $99.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sponge Bob Hero

Hey hey!

Wow, the best part of being a guitar teacher is I get to find the coolest things...While showing a student a song on YouTube, I ran into THIS:

Sponge Bob rocks out.

Now, I think this is my new theme song. It's a reminder to keep reachin'. Why not be a Juke Box Heeeroooo with staaaaaars in your eyes? A darn good question.

Gee, now I'm all pumped up and ready to conquer the world!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rockin' da' park

Hey Rockers!

Whew, what a great show in the park today! Thanks to Jason and Brad for showing up and being roadies and merch guys! Thanks also to Libby and Tanner for checkin' things out.

Here's two lessons I learned today:

1. ALWAYS bring water. I thought my throat was gonna give up on me or something while I was singing. Bring it.

2. Great shows, or lousy ones, are a state of mind. If you're on top of your game mentally, you'll probably do great. Of course, warming up and practicing, the physical aspect of it, contributes just as much. If you think you can do, you can. And if you think you can't, pretend you can!

Here's a specific, too. While you're rehearsing for your next gig, keep in mind that your amps will probably be quieter at your show. Folks need to hear themselves think, and us electric guys tend to crank things a bit too loud. Be sure that you can "get off" to a great start with a quiet amp as well as a loud one. Practice with both, as they're very different. A loud amp spits dynamics galore at you, not to mention feedback. A quiet amp tends to make me hit the strings too hard, and not let the amp work.

Rock on!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Something to believe in...

I think an important point that gets missed in the quest for greatness is - the sincerity of music. In our scramble to learn about intervals, master advanced techniques, and train our ears to we can tell if a Mosquito is out of tune...we forget the essence of rock, brotha!

Try this on for size - go listen to the music that first got you inspired. It's a good thing to do. Try to capture that energy, and combine it with your new found slick tricks.

Secondly, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that while politics are annoying, they ultimately affect all of us. If we're all underwater from global warming (that Sarah Palin doesn't know for sure if it's man-made), it ain't gonna matter how fast we can play. I don't know about you, but I sure can't play in a scuba suit. And it won't matter how good or bad the economy is if the mountains become waterfront property.

So, I'm hopping up on my soapbox in my lime green wrestling shoes. I'd like to remind you to...

Vote! And if you're not registered, do so now!

And - Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KjsEs46C70

Wake up - believe in what you play - and don't forget the essence of rock! (Or jazz, or blues, or whatever makes you play air guitar.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day To Me!

Heyyy heyyy heyyy!

Happy Labor Day, all you US readers. And to all you lucky Non-US readers, too!

I'm proud to announce that today marks the four years of me as a guitar teacher. I started my teaching business on Wednesday, September 1st 2004 at Hot Licks Guitar Shop, in Waldorf, MD. This dude, who we shall call Kwame, was my first lesson in a tiny little teaching room, and mann, I was scared to death. He was just there for one lesson, as he wanted to use his lesson coupon up.

I always have had weird tastes in music, and weird licks in my library, but Kwame knew exactly all of them. Darn you, Kwame! Why'd you have to know all that? Haha! But seriously, dude, thanks for sitting through my first lesson.

I just saw Kwame the other day. He stopped by to jam, along with another buddy and former student, who we shall call Gustave. Kwame, Gustave, and I had a nice jam session, shared some stories, and had fun listening to Gustave's new 12-string guitar.

Four years after that scary day, I've got my own teaching studio (just a small room, but it's cool), and I'm supporting myself with the business. I've met some super cool people, learned so much from my students, and have had lots of fun teaching folks to play music. From little kids learning heavy metal, to adults struggling with theory, it has been an honor and a privilege to sit in my comfy chair and help 'em out.

Some of my favorite memories and aspects of teaching are....Faking my way through "Eruption" and passing it off to a punk student as the real deal (he refused to practice his homework unless I did so)....Seeing the light bulb go off over various clients' heads when explaining theory to them...Christmastime, because everyone brings me cookies, gift cards, presents, and generally makes me feel special...Teaching anyone a cool rock song for the first time...Receiving student artwork - a hand drawn Guns 'N Roses poster, a drawing of my car, you name it!

It's been great, and I look forward to many more years of learning - and teaching!

I hope in the next four years students will have the opportunity of seeing me at many local gigs, and getting on the guest list for a bunch of big shows. I'm working my darndest to be able to show 'em around a tour bus, too.

I'm going to work hard at improving the lesson program even further, and as always, keep it as crazy as ever.

Thanks, everyone, and I'll see you at the studio!

- Poodleman

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Band Name

Alrighty, Folks!

Two items of business this Tuesday.

First, I'd like to holler on out to a good buddy on the west coast - it's his special day today! Happy Birthday, Corey!

Secondly - I need a new band name for my solo project! It's currently called The Front Porch Jamming Concept, and I need something shorter, cooler, and just plain rockin'.

Troll Boy, Uncle Tofu, and a few others are in the running. But I need ideas!

Thanks, folks, and rock on!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yet another reason to practice

Somebody get me a Doctor...named Pepper!

Whew, that's better. OK, I'm all juiced up with caffeine from the magical red can, and I've got a thought for you!

I've noticed that I can play the fastest when I think I can play fast - namely, if I know I've been doing a lot of practicing. Likewise, I feel the strongest when I've been working out a lot.


No, no, wait! Let's take the strength deal. Well, I'm a shrimp to start with, and if I've been lifting, I'm PROBABLY in no shape to kick somebody's butt in the gym parking lot. My muscles are tired, but I feel strong. So don't try to steal my keys, 'cause I'll put 'em up yo' nose, Fo'!

If I've been practicing a lot during a particular week, I know I've been working hard, so the firepower is there for the fast passages. It's more of a mental thing - I've paid my dues, so I'm good to go. Conversely, during a week where I've been tied up with non-guitar stuff, I might be able to play great, but I'll be lacking that edge that lives in the back of my mind, born of dedicated practicing.

So if you only have a small amount of time each day, practice even if you don't think it's enough. The dedication you show to the instrument will pay off physically, but also mentally. Your fingers will think they've paid their dues, and act accordingly.

Discipline is beautiful in it's austere, mega-result way.

Rock on!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Cosmic Chuck!


The August issue of The Cosmic Chuck is out! I'll have it linked to my website soon, but in the meantime, drop me an email at joshurban251@gmail.com and I'll send you a copy.

Rock on!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why the long face?

"The point, lieutenant?
Point, M'am? Oh, there is none..."
- Lt. Columbo

As an instructor, I get to have some great conversations. I was in a lesson yesterday evening with a good buddy named Doc. We were talking about how as far back as we can remember, we've both been serious about stuff.

Now, Doc's got me beat by a bit, because he's a former navy SEAL, and I currently have pink chucks on. So there's a slight difference in the level of seriousness. But we both agreed that as far back as we could remember, even playing kids games, we would be serious.

Now, an instructor can be the biggest hypocrite on the block, and I'm no exception. I suggested that Doc kick back and be un-serious with his guitar as a way to further progress in his playing career.

Fast forward to this morning, and you'd have found me hunched over my guitar, forcing sound out of it, and then grimacing while putting down some vocal tracks, serious as can be, in the worst sort of way. ( I can hear one of my teachers now, saying "SMILE when you sing, darn it!") I was gonna be an artist, doggone it! Geeze, the tracks turned out lousy. I wasn't following my own advice to be un-serious.

I got pretty ticked off, and I took five (or twenty.) By the way, I need something better to do to relax than read about how Freddie Mac is gone to a hot place.

Then.....The lesson hit me. I'm a blustering, warm, vivacious, crazy fella. The tracks I had put down weren't. They were a lie, brotha! Haha, OK, maybe that's a bit overboard, but hey, I don't think lying is cool, both verbally or musically. Plus, they were wayyyy too serious.

So - I'm really talking to myself here, but the goal of tomorrow's recording session, and every one thereafter, there are two main points.

1. Lighten up
2. I cannot play a lie.

Stay tuned for some awesome tracks! (And if you haven't already, add me as a friend of Myspace!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The last .9%

Hey hey hey!

Wowie Zowie, it's Monday again. Hard to believe.

But regardless of chronological conundrums (can you believe I just spelled that without spellchecker?), I've got a nifty challenge for you today.

Another insight from my trip last weekend: I was wrestling my Camaro up a realllly bumpy mountain road, listening to some Van Halen. Man, Eddie's tone, rhythm, and phrasing in this one particular song are just impeccable. I was wondering how many cats tried to cover the song, and got 99.9% there, and then stopped. Eric Johnson's Cliffs of Dover is a great example. I saw some guy on YouTube shred it up....But he was missing that final .9%

And that's an important percentage. Moreover, I don't think you can learn it from tab.

Eddie himself says that "No teacher, book, or video can teach you rock 'n roll guitar." It's in the playing along with the records, CD's, and mp3's that one picks up the subtle nuances of the genre...Any genre, for that matter. Jazz guys always insist that a student transcribe great solos and songs by ear, for example.

Looking up tabs from Ultimate Guitar, buying books, and watching videos are all fantastic ways to learn, and I use 'em all the time. However, here's the point. Don't stop once you've learned the note. The note is only part of the equation. How is the guy or gal on the recording playing the note? What picking dynamics are they using? Tone? Feel? Emotion? What's the feeling behind the note?

Figuring a song out by ear is a great way to practice this, but you can use tab or sheet music, too. Just go that extra mile to totally get it.

Take a listen to Van Halen's Beautiful Girls. It took me a few times listening to it through headphones to realize that the chorus riff isn't as big as it sounds - but the feeling behind it is, so the riff serves it's purpose, and conveys it to the listener.

Strive for that extra .9%, not to clone the guitarist, but to learn everything you can from them. That way, you can add that extra percentage to your playing, and your riffs.

Rock on!

Musician's Friend Stupid Deal of the Day