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

Monday, August 4, 2008

Don't trifle with the mountain...

Because it'll always win!

Geeze, Louise, greetings, rockers! I've got myself back in one piece from a wild two day trip out to the untamed wilderness of West Virginia. Well, OK, it wasn't THAT wild, but they sure do make their thunderstorms bigger out there. Plus, those storms have an unusual feature - they like to get stuck on mountaintops where folks are camping, and just hang out. Nifty.

The time - four in the morning. The place - a field near the top of the highest point in the state of West Virginia. Me - an obsessive astronomer geek huddled in my tent, trying to hold it down against the buffeting winds and ten gazillion volts of thunder and lightning, not to mention the drenching rainstorm that usually just adds to the festivities. What was I thinking about? Well, besides the fact that I should really get a will drawn up before I do anything similar again, the MASH episode it reminded me of (there was arterially involved), and the various eloquent phrases to describe the fun-ness of the situation...I was thinking that I've really gotta blog about it. Man, I need some help. (But hey, it ended up being a nice trip - I got to meet some cool folks, see a few stars between the clouds, and was treated to an incredible view from the top of the mountain!)

OK - so what guitar goodies can we get from me gettin' darn near pegged with a lightnin' bolt?

Dangerous tone! Ya gotta have it! A thunderstorm does, and it makes a whole field of geeks stand up and say "Uh-Oh!" Man, check out a few of these tones to see if you would cower in your tent if you heard these coming up the mountain to get ya.

- The break in the guitar solo that Randy Rhoads ripped out in Over the Mountain from Ozzy's Diary of a Madman. Check out 2:52 in this recording to see what I'm talkin' about.

Hendrix's "Fire" from Atlanta Pop Festival. This is a bootleg recording, but drop me an email, and I'll see what I can do for ya. It just about knocks ya over.

- George Thorogood's searing slide tone on Bad to the Bone. Sure, it's a simple song, but it rocks!

- Bad Horsie
by Mr. Steve Vai. Whew, watch out!

- The guitar intro lick to Stray Cat Strut, played by Brian Setzer. Nice!

And there's so many more! Check 'em out. Study them, and find your own. Dial your rig it's scary. Make 'em run for cover!

Rock on!