Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One more rep


Arnold (Schwarzenegger) asks "Is it not possible to do one more rep?"

That's a darn good question. I know, for me, the answer usually is "I can do one more." I've noticed a laziness in myself lately that's gonna be terminated. I think we all have it. When we're practicing, let's just go a little further. Play one more arpeggio. Really push yourself.

If we don't, we're doing our natural talent an injustice. I think a neat way to look at the Arnold quote would be "don't cheat yourself." Use a heavy weight, and get strong! Use that metronome, and get fast!

Here's a neat, guitar-specific thing to work on, and it really goes with the "one more rep" thing. Play every variation of a D minor chord that you can. D minor consists of three notes: D-F-A.

Find those notes on your guitar or bass, and play the different variations of the chord. They don't always have to be in the same inversion - in other words, D doesn't always have to be the lowest note, and A doesn't always have to be the highest.

Don't be a girly man! Find those chords!

Rock on!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I had a virus...

So I was in the back today, making a microwave cheddar cheese sandwich. Mmmm...

Extracting the unwilling bread from it's plastic cocoon, I was wrestling with...a twistie tie. Now, I realized with a shock - that I had been extracting bread for twenty years by fiddling with that funky plastic piece.

The first shock was the fact that the friendly funky plastic piece went missing. The second was - I can now say I remember something being around for twenty years. I'm gettin' old! (I'm twenty two.)

I shook my head knowingly, guessing that the lousy American economy was the source of Mr. Funky Plastic Piece's tragic demise - being replaced with twerpy tie.

Man, everyone's talking about the economy, and moanin' an' groanin' about it. Stocks slide, small companies go out as much as big corporations, and we're finally paying a financial price for the cause of so much blood and oil. (High gas prices, folks.)

The biggest blow that the hard times are delivering? A mega excuse! (Reminds me of this)

"Who is responsible for interest rates?
The prime minister if they're low, and the bogeyman if they're high."

Yep, I think the economy is like the bogeyman. While life is usually a challenge, now we've got an excuse. Didn't get that weekly gig because the restaurant is cuttin' back? Bad economy. Yep. So find another gig. Here's the point: These are meaner, leaner times. It's gonna be hard to be a musician. It's gonna be hard to be anyone.

But if it was easy, everyone would do it!

So next time you moan about the economy, gas prices, or the difficulty of the music industry, do this:

Play fifty arpeggios, while saying "I am a girly man."

Don't be a girly man. Just get out there, and kick some asphalt.

Hit da' ground runnin', bro!

Rock on!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Create! Build your own home studio

Hey hey hey!

Do you have a home studio set up? If not, why not?

OK, I'm not talkin' about a super duper expensive Pro Tools ten thousand dollar monitor isolated breathing so the aliens won't hear the total harmonic distortion dealio.

Nope. It can be as humble as a tape recorder and a cheap mic. The important thing is to have something to record your ideas, no matter how primitive.

Currently, here's the simple rig I've got:

- My guitar rig
- Sure SM57 microphone
- an old Boss BR-532 digital 4 track recorder
- Adobe Audition audio editing software

I use the recorder to track all guitars, and then I transfer the data to my computer. (The soundcard on my computer sounds lousy, and I should really get an interface. However, I need to do my research on that!) Once it's on my hard drive, I load the tracks into Audition, and spend as long as I want mixing, adding effects, and tweaking the song. Check out my myspace page for some songs I recorded this way. Keep in mind - I really don't know what I'm doing with the recording process! I'm just foolin' around!

You can build your own mini-studio for super cheap, too. Here's what I'd recommend to get started. Keep in mind, you can spend thousands of dollars on studio gear, and the more you spend, the better it'll sound. But the important thing is to get started capturing your sonic ideas, and learning the fine art of songwriting, recording, and creating.

- Get a cheap mic. Try Radio Shack. Plug it into your computer. Research this - make sure everything will connect before you buy!

- Download the FREE Audacity recording software.

- Put the mic in front of your amp, and rock on!

Now, if you want to spend a few more bucks, try upgrading your microphone. The Sure SM57 is an industry standard, but research your choices. Some way to get it to your recording program is super good, too (ie, an interface.)

Software is nifty. There's the great debate raging among basement guitarists - standalone digital recorder vs. recording software. While I'm not familiar enough with the gear to give an authoritative viewpoint, I lean towards software. The flexibility available in the program I use blows the boss recorder outta DA water, bro! I can put all sorts of effects on the tracks, cut 'n paste sections, and do whatever. It's neat.

The point of this blog? Not to give even an informed opinion on recording gear. Nope, I don't know enough. Please do your research before buying anything!

But I do know this. You should set up a studio ASAP. It's fun, and it'll help you learn - about recording, songwriting, and most importantly, about how you sound! As I mentioned previously, listening to yourself on tape/hard drive/CD is a brutally honest and helpful learning experience.

Rock on!


Sunday, July 20, 2008



It's warm. And humid. But if blogging was easy, everyone would do it. Wait. Everyone does.

But not everyone uses tritone substitution to jazz up their chord progressions!

For a complete explanation of tritone, or flat five, substitution, read this wayyy awesome article that some genius wrote. (Ha ha!)

Here's a hands on, no BS (Britney Spears) explanation:

Try playing a ii-V7-I in C major:

Dm7 G7 Cmaj7


Next, play this:

Dm7 Db7 Cmaj7 (Note the Db7 is not a minor seven.)

What did we do? We substituted the Db7 in place of a G7.

How? The V-I movement is the strongest chord progression there is. The "heart" of the matter is the 3rd and 7th (B and F) of G7 pull to the root and 3rd (C and E) of Cmaj7.

Now, the chord found a tritone away from G7 (Db7) happens to contain a B and F as well! Except the F is the 3rd and the B is the 7th. (Technically, it's Cb, but that's another story.) While some of the notes of the chord are out of key, Db and Ab, the F and B work very nicely and pull to Cmaj7.

Try it! It's jazzy!

Lest we forget our philosophy today, our wisdom comes from the guy Slash ripped off in choice of headgear. Abe Lincoln:

"Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."

Righto, Abester!

Rock on!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where's the ambition?

Ladies and Girlymen!

I have a question! Where has all the ambition gone?

Taking Donald Trump's advice (but not his hairstylists'), I like to think big. But I haven't run into too many folks that share my views. It's weird-Am I the only one who wants to own half of North America?

Ambition is demanding, and at times, scary. However, it seems to be slightly less hard than we think.

Searching for shortcuts is time consuming, and more accurately, time wasted. There's very few of 'em. Sometimes, the easiest way is to jump in, and start working on the hard stuff - the real stuff - the ambitious stuff that folks say "oh, you'll never be able to do that. " Well, one thing's for sure - they won't be able to do that, so you've gotta show 'em how it's done.

There's a new shoe out that says it will give you longer, leaner legs as you walk. Oh for Hendrix sake - join the gym and dial up 400 pounds on the calf machine. That's the way to get super kickers!

Perhaps the bright eyed idealistic youth inside of me is fading away, but I'm really starting to like capitalism. You can win so much!

We could view our music as capitalistic pigs out to step on poor people everywhere. (The poor people, in this case, are the sorry folks who insist on playing "stupid" music. Ha ha! Diabolical!)

I had dinner with two good friends of mine the other day. Mike has moved to LA to pursue his career in production in the movies. A graduate of Full Sail University, he's out there, and he's making it happen. We were discussing ambition, and the lack of it in so many people. He summed it up best when he said:

"Well, it's kinda scary to go out there, and really try to make something happen...But it's not that scary."

Inspiration words, to be sure, Mike!

As Van Halen would say..."Might as well jump!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A long time ago, in Fresno, California...

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I'll keep this brief.

Which reminds me of a joke. Pete Wentz was asked by a reporter what kind of underwear he prefers, boxers or briefs? He thought a minute, and said..."well, depends!"

But I digress.

I'm proud to accept the Arte Y Pico award for The Doghouse. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce it, but thank you. I surely do appreciate it.

It all started a long time ago, roughly a year ago. As a younger man hunched over a slow laptop in a small home studio, The Doghouse started.....Does it count if my Mom gave me the award? Sure it does! Does it count if I'm typing this in the voice of Ted Baxter, the arrogant but lovable newsman from The Mary Tyler Moore Show? You bet it does!

How many of you are lucky enough to have a Mom to give you a nice write up like this? Check out her blog! It's neat. And how many of you can do bang up impressions, sucka? I pity the fool! (No wonder my voice is sore.)

Now, for our question from Nobel Peace Prize winner "Sergent Slayer." He's got a question, so listen up and learn, Soldier!

I read somewhere on the forum that those scales give different feelings. How do all those scales sound so different if i'm just using the same notes. sounds all the same to me. i'm just a little confused on how and when i would use modes.

Sarge! A terrific question, indeedy.

The simplest answer is this: Since a scale isn't exactly symmetrical (there's whole steps and half steps), if you cut it up in certain places, those wholes and halves are gonna show up in different places in the order of the scale. A half step between the 7th and 8th notes leads the scale on, as in the Ionian and Lydian modes. The same half step placed between the 1st and 2nd notes of the Locrian scale adds a dark sound. So, since they're in different places, they lend the modes different sounds. Comparing it to food, like I always do, brushing your teeth before you drink orange juice tastes mighty different than vice versa. They're the same substances, just in a different order. The first mode and the seventh mode sound a lot different, because the interval between the root and fifth of each scale is different. (The Ionian contains a perfect fifth, and the Locrian contains a flatted fifth.)

How about over chords?

Here's one way to look at it. (Remember, there's more than one.)

We're in the key of C, and the band is playing an Am7 chord. This happens to be the vi chord of the key. We could play the C major scale (1st, or Ionian mode) over the chord. After all, it contains all the right notes. However, the scale revolves around C, and the chord revolves around A. Nothing will clash, but the two tonal centers might vie for each other's attention, and you might lose the contest with the bass player in your own contest of vying for the attention of super hot girl in the front row who's the singer's girlfriend but he's a wimble and......Oh, never mind. Kiddies, learn from Uncle Josh about how not to be with run on sentences and how to respect band member's territory.

Sarge, in plain English, there's several camps. You can play any mode over any chord in the same key. However, matching things up rather loosely can give you a more consonant sound. If the song is in C, and it's revolving around the C chord, C Ionian can be a good choice. If it's in A minor (which is the same as the key of C, but it's referred to as the relative minor,) then A Aeolian, the sixth mode is usually a strong contender.

If the song is in the key of C, but everything is gravitating towards the ii chord, D minor, then D Dorian, the second mode, is probably your scale for the job.

Ya with me?

Other camps say that you can simply treat modes as positions for your hand, and shred through them.

Yet another camp (the one that wears berets and thinks they're superior with their hollow body guitars,) suggests that each mode be matched with each chord. If you're playing a ii-V-I in C
(Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7), they suggest D Dorian, G Mixolydian, and C Ionian. That would the be second, fifth, and first modes, respectively. A jazz-approved way, to be sure.

There's no right or wrong way to approach this, and I suggest that you try all ways. Be like an electron according to quantum mechanics, and travel an infinite number of paths to reach your destination. The singer's chick will probably think that's nifty.

At the end of the day, remember- there's no one right way to approach this. Have fun, and rock on!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Swoosh! Brands and Bands

Greetings from the second floor of an office building. I'm sitting in my teaching studio right now, on a break.
I assure you that I could land a job with a major retailer anywhere, and always walk the line when a cop asks me. I'm Mr. Clean, and I pride myself on that. But I really should be a drug addict. I'm weird. I'm hyper sometimes, and spaced others. And I get the munchies.

Rustling around for a bite to eat today, I found some insight as well.

So, courtesy of Mrs. W., my adopted "grandmother from anotha motha" (she's African American), we get our lesson today.

She gave me some instant microwavable Uncle Ben's rice. That particular brand has always held a special place in my heart, as I have an Uncle Ben. But the rice vendor must be related to Mrs. W., because he sure don't look like my Uncle Ben...But I digress...

Man, Rice Baron knocked me off my feet today. I was reading the directions on how to cook the stuff. Check out step four, it's deep:

from microwave using Cool Touch area on untorn side.

WOW! Do you know what the cool touch area is? It's just part of the bag! But they've got a cool graphic, and a logo.

Holy smokes! That's Branding.

I'm impressed. They took an unused part of a container, and made it an icon. Well, almost.
Branding fascinates me, as you can probably tell. Poodleman, The Doghouse, The Cosmic Chuck, you name it. Perhaps I should work on Madison Avenue creating ads for shoes. However, as much as I like shoes, I really like guitar better. (Well, perhaps if they're those lime green wrestling shoes...)

But the point is: Branding is creative, slick, and innovative. When the principles of packaging are applied correctly, they can take over the world, and even lead folks into forty grand worth of credit card debt. (Hey, what's in your wallet?)

Minus the debt, I see a striking similarity between a great brand and a great band. Creative, slick, and innovative.

Moreover, us musicians would do well to learn from the cats on Madison. They can sell stuff. Can we? Guess what - it's fun! This is not to trivialize your music into bubblegum pop junk. Nope. Hey, Bird has a great brand. "Inventor of Bebop - Yardbird." Miles is just weird, and brilliant. His "customers" consider themselves the elite, the hip. *coughcough* Coach.

Bob Marley's Freedom Farm- We got jah weed 'n lice 'n freedom jah!

Ozzy Osbourne - "Bats! They're **** grrrrreat!"

What's your brand?