Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday fun - guys who make me want to play - Wayne Krantz

If you are not familiar with Wayne Krantz, and you are a guitarist looking for new ideas, do yourself a favour and rectify that! Wayne is a monster beyond my comprehension.

The thing that always grips me about Wayne Krantz is his completely unique style. To be able to say that 'nobody sounds like him' is an amazing feat these days in music, as seemingly much of the sonic ground has been covered.

From Wikipedia:

Wayne Krantz (born July 26, 1956 in Corvallis, Oregon) is an innovative American musician, who is widely recognized as a technically advanced jazz fusion guitarist.[1] He has played with top artists such as Steely Dan, Michael Brecker, Billy Cobham, and others, but is most active as a solo performer.

Three things set him apart from other guitar players in my opinion:

First, his incredible sense of rhythm. His rhythm or 'pocket' is nothing short of astonishing. Usually I am gripped by his placements of accents within the groove.

Second, is his willingness to forge for sounds where mostly dissonance is found. He will sit in non-diatonic, essentially random intervallic patterns and hammer away at them. Almost imposing music upon the notes. Demonstrating that if your conviction is solid enough, there really is no such thing as a wrong note.

Third, his tone is unmistakable. The way he attacks the string with a percussive 'click' behind his notes. He digs in and snaps and pops the strings with hybrid picking (using a pick and picking hand fingers). He also employs lots of open strings in his approach which leads to wide leaps and open suspended chord voicings giving him his signature tone.

A very cool thing is that Wayne has detailed his practicing approach in his book 'An Improvisers OS' which can be purchased through AbstractLogix (click here). This book is really cool and there is, like him, nothing else like it on the market.

His latest album Krantz, Carlock, Lefebvre has been a staple on my playlist for almost a year now. It is an intense and raw as any jazz fusion type album I have heard. But the playing is infectious! ... and I highly recommend you get infected by it!

Have a great weekend all!

Monday, April 25, 2011

All in the same boat

I had an awesome night this past Saturday. Killer guitarist and my newly adopted teacher Oz Noy came to town. So we arranged to hook up and have him give me another lesson. We did the lesson at his hotel, then went out for dinner prior to his second night of a weekend set, here in Toronto. He along with bassist Will Lee and the truly awesome Anton Fig, played a great night of Oz's groove-based fusion all in attendance won't soon forget.

During the course of the day, along with cool gig tales of playing with other guitar masters like Eric Johnson, Steve Lukather, Pat Martino and many others. Oz revealed to me that he really doesn't like his playing that much. Least not as compared to other cats he hears or plays with. Which was wild to hear.... He feels he has so much to learn and that his chords "aren't that cool".

Huh? Does he know what he sounds like?

Now don't get me wrong Oz certainly wasn't all Eeyore and down on himself, he is a killer and confident guitar player and he knows it. But these comments, no matter how slight, just stuck with me and inspired me to know that: No matter our level, we all go though these types of feelings.

COOL! It ain't just me!!

As far as the lesson goes: Oz talked about the need to force structure on your practice. Otherwise you can waste away noodling and generally 'not getting better'. He suggested - each time you practice - to decide BEFORE you begin what you are going to work on. Be it scales, sequences, reading, writing - whatever. Make a mental or physical list and make sure you accomplish those micro-goals within the scope of that session.

Fast forward to later that night. As I dropped Oz and Anton back at their hotel. The knowledge that these 2 monstrous players, sitting in the back of my truck, were just like me in many ways - only far better - was inspirational beyond comprehension. It made me realize we are all in the same boat, on at least that level. Maybe some are just further down the path than others. But we are all human, we all make mistakes and sometimes we ALL don't feel so great about our playing.

Maybe this is the fire that fuels some to greatness OR drives weaker, less committed to give up and utter the dreaded words: "I guess I just wasn't born with it". The thing is, the journey IS the trip. You WILL NEVER get 'there'... wherever 'there' is to you. Least not in terms of any kind of being 'done'. Thinking of it this way can make the journey far less frustrating I think.  Who knows, maybe your personal 'suckiness' will inspire others! Because you are better than you think you are GUARANTEED!

Make sure you check out Oz! He is now and will always be pure inspiration for me! Thank you brother for your kindness and musical gifts!

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to steal like an artist

A GREAT Non music specific article by Austin Kleon crossed my path and I felt the need to share it. Learning about creativity is one of the best things any of us can do. So enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sound Reasoning - Anthony Brandt

Hey folks, just was directed to this great site for all us musical eggheads who love to read the more theoretical aspects of the art. As I was reading this I thought 'wow! What a great piece of work!' and it should be shared.

Short post I know, but hey, why listen to me talk when Mr Brandt does it so much more eloquently.

Here is the link

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday fun - guys who make me want to play - Joe Bonamassa

Last weekend I took my son and a friend to see one of my absolute favourite young guitarists - Joe Bonamassa. If you haven't heard of him - you should fix that! IMMEDIATELY! This young man CAN PLAY!! At a ridiculous and humbling level. Not only that but the man has a set of pipes! AND he can write songs. Bound for greatness or I'll eat my hat. Grab his 'Live at the Royal Albert Hall' DVD. It's a keeper for those days when you need a little guitar-istic inspiration. This young man is a testament to what true love, a passion for music, combined with a boat-load of practice can bring. In the spirit of the end of another hockey season - Go Joe Go!

Some background from wikipedia:

Bonamassa was born and raised in New York State. His parents owned and ran a guitar shop. As a fourth-generation musician, he recalls knowing he wanted to be a musician as early as age four. With a great-grandfather and grandfather who both played trumpet, and a father who plays guitar, Bonamassa credits his parents with fostering an appreciation of music in his life as early as he can remember. When he was a young child, he would listen to his parents' large record collection. He recalls at age 7, sitting with his parents on Saturdays and listening to Guitar Slim; Bonnie Raitt; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Eric Clapton; and Jethro Tull. Thus, he sees his music as an amalgam of all the various rock and blues he heard as a child.[1]
He received his first guitar from his father at the age of 4, and by age 7 he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note. At the age of 11, during a short period of being mentored by Danny Gatton, he learned such styles as country and jazz as well as Polka. During this time with Gatton, Bonamassa sat in with Gatton's band whenever they played in New York. He first opened for B. B. King at 12 years of age. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid's potential is unbelievable. He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind.” At 14, he was invited to attend a Fender guitar event; during that trip to the West Coast he met Berry Oakley, Jr. Bonamassa and Berry founded the group Bloodline with Miles Davis's son Erin and Robby Krieger's son Waylon. They released one album which produced two chart singles — "Stone Cold Hearted", and "Dixie Peach." He has since played with other music greats including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Paul Jones, Ted Nugent, Warren Haynes, Eric Clapton, and Derek Trucks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Importance of practicing MUSIC - Rudy Sarzo on Randy Rhoads

I am presently reading Rudy Sarzo's truly excellent biography (any Randy Rhoads fan should own) called "Off the rails". Rudy: extraordinary bass player and hard rock legend, was the touring bass player for Ozzy during the Randy Rhoads era. He was also was a member of the band Quiet Riot among others. Go to his website to check him out.

During reading, one quote stood out with me, so I thought I would share it:

"Randy's priority was his songwriting. Even when he practiced his guitar, he always played songs rather than doodling on scales or finger exercises. Every single time I saw Randy pick up his guitar he played music"

I hear this type of quote a lot as I read bios or watch famous player DVD's. It seems to me this is a common thread amongst many of the greats. Their fabulous technique seems to radiate out from this central pillar. Their technique and knowledge of the neck of the guitar is formed by the music rather than imposing technique ON the music.

This can be rather insightful, as I have spent ages running through scale patterns etc. In hopes of amassing some extra control of the neck through a mastery of the individual nuts and bolts. Perhaps such a mechanical way of looking at mastery promotes mechanical expression? The more I read bios of famous musicians (my favourite topic on which I am pretty well read) the more this nugget appears.

Food for thought for a Monday!