Newsletter Vol. 3 # 32 – October 15, 2006


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #32 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • News and Announcements
  • New Articles and Lessons
  • Guitar Noise Staff Picks!
  • Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow
  • Notes From Nick
  • Buried Treasure Of The Internet
  • Forum Findings
  • Email Of The Moment
  • Emails? We Get Emails!
  • Tutorial Tips
  • Off Site Sightings and Works In Progress
  • Random Thoughts

News And Announcements

I don’t need a calendar to tell me it’s the middle of October. Just one look out the window at the bursts of yellow, orange, red and the many colors in between is a good clue.

Shortly after posting last time about looking for more “Joy of Music” stories, I happened upon one involving one of our Guitar Noise Forum Moderators. He’s a modest guy by nature, so I’ll not name him but rather let him tell the story:

It’s the ones closer to home that make the difference. One day a couple months ago I was practicing and I heard this clatter against the front door. When I went to look I found the young neighbor boy around fourteen that has to use these crutches that are strapped to his arms to walk. He lives about football field or farther away for me. He was sitting on my front step and had hit against the door trying to set down. I couldn’t believe he made all that way.

He told me he’s heard me playing many times all the way over at his house and this time he wanted to check it out to hear me better. I know his parents and he’s friends with my daughter so I invited him in. He couldn’t believe all the equipment I use. Then he said he had an electric but something was wrong with cause it didn’t make any sound anymore.

About an hour went by and he said he needed to get home. I offered to drive him and that I would take a look at his guitar. Upon investigating his equipment I found the little battery power amp was fried. His mother said his birthday was about a week or so away and if money worked out maybe they could get him another little amp.

When I got home I went out to my shop were I keep tons of equipment I’ve collected over the years and picked out one of the two small solid state 15 watt Crate amps with a 10″ speaker that were sent to me a couple of years ago to put through the moves and test. I dusted it off and showed up later with my daughter and we gave him the amp and a new guitar chord for his birthday.

His Mom said they couldn’t afford an amp like that let alone an 18.00 guitar cord (the price tag was still on it!) My daughter explained to her that it was a gift and “my dad doesn’t want any money.” Plus that I would work with him, teaching him finger exercises and chords.

There’s nothing like the feeling and the look in his eyes and that big ear-to-ear smile he gave my daughter and I, which made it all worth it.

Remember, if you’ve any inspirational stories to share about how music has made a difference in your life or in the lives of people you know, please pass them along to me at and we’ll try to collect them and get them up online.

In the meantime, let’s see what’s new at Guitar Noise since our last newsletter:

New Articles And Lessons

How To Become A Professional Guitarist & Musician – Part 2
by Tom Hess

Tom shares more advice with those who want to “make it” in the music industry. Not surprisingly, sometimes making it can be a matter of the things you don’t do as much as anything else.

Maximizing Practice Efficiency
by Mike Philippov

First time contributor Mike Philippov, another student of GN mainstay, Tom Hess, brings us a very detailed look into the nature of practicing. You will find a lot of insight, inspiration and practical advice here.

Guitar Noise Staff Picks!

Two CDs have been getting a lot of play at our home lately. Under The Skin, the new album from Lindsey Buckingham, is a powerful reminder of his great guitar skills and song arranging. The songs Down On Rodeo and Someone’s Gotta Change Your Mind are fine examples of how intricately Mr. Buckingham can weave a song together.

And if someone had told me that Robert Cray had never released a solo album, I would have thought that terribly strange. Not to mention it being a situation in need of a quick change! Well, Live From Across The Pond rectifies matters by giving us a great concert by the blues guitarist, recorded in the Albert Hall. Better still, it contains songs from across his entire catalogue – the old favorites as well as strong new songs from the last two years. Backed by a sparse and tight group (Jim Pugh on keyboards, Karl Sevareid on bass and Kevin Hayes on drums), it’s a concert you’ll want to hear again and again.

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

Tip: Replacing the tonic minor chord with a minor 7b5.

We’re looking again at the often over-looked min7b5 chord. Last time we saw how it can replace a dom 7 chord. This time we’ll see how it replaces a tonic minor chord.

The point of doing this substitution is to give ourselves some fresh-sounding options to play, rather than trudging through the same old sounds.

What is a “tonic minor chord” anyway? It’s a minor chord that’s set up as the central, most important chord — even if only for a short time. A non-tonic minor chord is just like a pitstop: we’re just passing through it on our way to something else. An example will better illustrate.

Play a D minor, E7, then A minor. That A minor is a tonic minor. Even if we follow it with a G7, then, C. That A minor feels like a significant place, in whatever musical journey the song it appears in takes us on. Contrast with this: play a G major, A minor, D minor, G7, C. That A minor doesn’t grab our attention in the same way, does it? Same chord, different context, different function, different feeling.

Back to our mission here: replacing the tonic minor with a minor 7b5. Let’s try this:



The first progression uses the A minor, but the second uses F# min7b5 in place of the A minor. Hear the mysterious edge that F# min7b5 gives?

How would we know that it’s okay to do this kind of substitution? In other words, it sounds pretty cool, but are we just plucking chords out of nowhere and settling on one that sounds good?

No. The F# min7b5 shows up in the A melodic minor scale. And the chords themselves have these notes in common: A, C, and E. Remember our maxim regarding chords substitution? If two chords have two or more notes in common, they can often substitute for each other.

Next time: part three of our mini series on the min7b5: using it as the ii in a minor ii V I progression.

Thanks for reading.

Darrin Koltow

Forum Findings

I’d like to take a moment and thank all the people responsible for another “Guitar Noise Auction” held last weekend on our Forum’s Swap Meet page. Thanks to Jason for putting his Epiphone AJ1 up for the auction, to Dan for successfully bidding on it and to everyone else who either made bids or egged us on! It was a lot of fun and Paul appreciates the efforts everyone makes on behalf of Guitar Noise.

Looking forward to the next one!

Emails? We Get Emails!

I’ve been a bit deluged with emails of late and, as it tends to go with these things, I’m rather behind in answering them. So I’m hoping to be able to get on the stick and respond to as many of them as possible in the upcoming weeks. If you’re worried I didn’t get your email for any reason, don’t be shy about sending it a second time!

In the meantime, though, let’s look at one in particular:

Tutorial Tips

Hi David

I’m pretty much a beginner guitarist, got pretty much the first few songs on the beginner song list down and I’m currently learning House of the Rising Sun. One question I have about this is that I downloaded the song and it plays a whole lot faster on the actual song. Did you play it slower on the tutorial just so that we can catch on or can it be actually played this slowly? That’s extremely fast and seems like it would take forever to play that fast.

Thanks in advance

There are many, many arrangements of House of the Rising Sun and I might try to bring up the Animals’ version of it, the whole point of this particular lesson is to get one started on fingerstyle picking. As such, you can play it at any pace that you’d like.

But you should also find that as you get more confident with your abilities, it’s not that big a leap to play something like this song at a faster pace. Stick with it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how you pick up speed.

Off Site Sightings And Works In Progress

The Winter 2006 issue of Play Guitar! Magazine is out and I’d like to give a big thank you to Jason of Chicago, who wrote a wonderful thank you note to the editors for printing lessons from Tom Serb and myself. Hopefully Jason’s also happy about the fact that the new issue has a great lesson on finger picking from Tom as ell. And if you’ve ever wondered what a personal beginner’s lesson, one-on-one from me, would be like, give “Beginner’s Bag of Tricks” a read.

You can also check out their articles and lessons online at Play Guitar Magazine.

Random Thoughts

Sometimes the world is a surprisingly small place. I met Todd Mack a little over a year ago when I was checking out local recording studios for the CD that would accompany The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Bass Guitar tutorial book. Todd’s Off The Beat ‘N’ Track studio proved to be just the ticket and he and engineer Will Curtiss did an outstanding job of putting everything together for that project.

Todd’s been on the music scene for quite a while now. He came to the Berkshires from Atlanta and, while in Atlanta, he was in a band with Daniel Pearl, who also had a share of musical history here in the Berkshires, playing in numerous bands and making lots of the kinds of lifelong friendships one is supposed to.

Daniel’s life, as I’m sure most of you know, didn’t last all that long. He was brutally murdered in Baghdad.

I found out about Todd and others’ connection with Daniel when I was invited to participate in Todd’s “FOD (Friends of Daniel’s) Fest” last Sunday afternoon at the Off The Beat ‘N’ Track. It was one of many events being held all over the world to help celebrate Daniel’s life and music and encourage tolerance, understanding, peace and harmony in this crazy world we live in.

The event here took shape as a song circle, with artists from all over sharing their music. I got to be part of the “house band,” playing bass to back up whatever song was being played. It was fun and intense and I will always be grateful to Todd for giving me the chance to participate in such a moving experience.

In case you’re interested, Todd and his staff recorded the whole thing and you can hear it in any (or all) of the following ways:

FODfest on the Off the Beat-n-Track Radio Show:
WKZE 98.1FM – Red Hook, NY – Saturday October 14, 9-11PM (ENTIRE CONCERT) – Sunday October 15, 9-11PM; Thursday October 19, 6-8PM; Friday October 20, 6-8PM (ENTIRE CONCERT) – All month of October on the DP Music Days E-Stage

Podcast becomes available Saturday October 14 11:59PM (EST) at or I-Tunes

My apologies that some of the dates have already gone by. But if you get a chance to listen, please do so. And if you have the chance to play music with someone, please take it. No matter what level you think you’re at and no matter what kind of music it is. You never know when you’re going to strike a chord with people. Pun intended. Get out there and share in the magic and make some of your own.

Until we chat again next time, play well. Play often.

Stay safe.

And, always,