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.)