Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ideas for a teaching site


OK, I've been thinking. Believe it or not!

I was talking to a fella who asked me about "distance lessons", and the idea intrigued me. I've got readers from many corners of the world, I'm very proud to say, and it would be awesome if I could offer lessons worldwide!

SO, I plan to do so. I'm gonna start work on it after my CD comes out. I'd be interested in any input, so please comment away!

Specifically, it would be a subscription site with weekly video lessons. What would you like to see on it? Any special features?

And here's something guitarish for today:

Next time you're watching TV, grab your guitar. On the commercial breaks, try to figure out the songs on the air. Since the commercial ends (thankfully!), we're forced to learn quickly. This builds our ear training skills, and adds some cool jingles to our vocabulary. Hey, I can play the theme to NBC with harmonics above the 7th fret. See if you can figure it out!

Rock on!

- Josh

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First choice?

Rockers, here's a question for you:

How many artists, writers, poets, and guitar heroes thought, as they were first starting out, "My own personal sound is my first choice for greatness"?

I'm guessing (and realllly hoping) that the overall number was very small. You see, I'm finding out, both from my traversing the roads of music, and helping others do the same, that, for me, my own sound is almost as unchangeable as my fingerprints. Sure, I can learn new styles, techniques, and buy new amps, BUT - I'm still gonna sound like me. I suspect this might be the same for everyone. What do you think?

That bugs me sometimes. I think it's a blessing and a curse. I'd like to be able to say "I'm gonna sound like SRV" and be done with it. To a point, I can. But the Josh sound is still gonna creep into my playing.

Music has it's ideals, but each sounds unique, and it's useless to follow. With cars, I think it's different. This point is manifested when folks say "I'm gonna build a mean orange '69 Camaro", and they open up a catalog, and do just that. And ideals are on prominent display - there's a dozen popular builds, and those are the ideals people aspire to, and for the most part, stick to.

Vocally, that's impossible to do. And almost as impossible, yet far more subtle, is the guitarists obligation to their own sound. To me, at first, was maddening, and sometimes, it still is. I'd so like to be able to sound like my heroes, namely, because they're accepted as greats. Yet I'm consigned to sound like a Josh, and that's not proven yet, and not validated by Epic records yet.

Yet this is precisely why art is always diverse, colorful, and beautiful beyond imagination. Each artist is forced to sound/create like themselves.

My family has taught me innumerable life lessons, but here's some that have helped me on this particular subject. First, I've gained enough skill at introspection to know that my musical self-esteem is not incredibly high. Second, I've got a lot of German farmer in me. You start with what you've got, even if it's not your first choice. Get the wheels rolling, yah yah! It's good for shutting up any inner critics that might say "this music isn't good enough." (NOT to be confused with the very valid quality control mechanisms that are to be gained with years of study, by any means. I'm talking about the thoughts of "oh man I'll always be a lousy singer.")

Thank goodness that we can't change our musical or artistic voices. We'd all sound like (name your favorite musician) and be driving orange '69 Camaros. And there would only be about fifteen different sounds in the world - Probably classical ones.

So start creating that music, even if you're not your first choice.

Yah yah!

Snows and silence

Rockers! What's good?

The mean coast east coast is buried under a vengeful sprinkling of righteous parmesan cheese that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is using to punish the non-believers. In other words, it's snowing like crazy. And I am lovin' it! According to my new false iDol, namely, the iPhone, this is set to break a record set for Washington, DC in 1922, and may even approach a snowstorm that ol' Mr. George "One Dolla" Washington recalled in his diary (probably right next to the rant about how Ben Franklin made out like a bandit by getting his face plastered on the fifty.)

And the snow always makes me think of one of my favorite examples that nature can give us about the craft of music. Silence.

I've written about this before, but I can't find the post, so here goes again.

There's a zen quote that states Music makes the silence sound better. This was wayyyy before any crazy singers with the last name of "Spears", so I don't think they meant it like music was terrible. We could transpose it to food, and say that food makes the day taste better. Sorta. It's a neat thought when you think about it.

I love hearing different types of silence. Ever notice 'em? Check it: Awkward silences - a la Nacho Libre "I hate all orphans!" Fall through the floor silences when you decide that your date had really better try to match your linguistic skills, and given the chance, they just sit there and stare at you. Remember when you were a kid, and were trying to catch frogs, and they saw you? The next pond over might be alive with a chorus, but this one is expectant, in a slow blues simmering sort of way. There's the silence of the power going out, and you wake up, and it's so heavy, you could cut it...How 'bout the wind rustling your cap as you sit and look out over the mountains, advising you not to break the ancient hush? "Shhhhhh"

And, one of my personal favorites, the silence of snow. A thousand icy voices tingle across the field, but a hush prevails, muffling your very steps. It's so cool.

So take a listen, and find your own silences. Incorporate 'em, and use your music to make them sound even better.