Newsletter Vol. 3 # 95 – August 1, 2009


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #95 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • Greetings, News and Announcements
  • Topic of the Month
  • Guitar Noise Featured Artist
  • New Lessons and Articles
  • Coming Attractions
  • Exploring Music with Darrin Koltow
  • This Day (or Approximately) In (GN) History
  • Event Horizon
  • Random Thoughts

Greetings, News and Announcements

Welcome to August and what is hopefully the August 1 issue of Guitar Noise News, your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise. I say “hopefully” because I’m not exactly sure when this newsletter is going out. Paul will be travelling across roughly half the world and may not arrive home in time to put this issue out to everyone on the first, so if it happens to be the second or third of August, please accept our apologies.

Whether it’s the first or fourth of August, though, I have it on good authority that winter months, regardless of which hemisphere you happen to occupy, pretty much crawl along. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but that’s the report I’m getting back from numerous Guitar Noise readers south of the Equator.

I am just about done with all the writing for “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Rock Guitar,” although there’s still a lot of rereading and double checking to do. But it looks like I’ll be able to get everything turned in to Alpha Books on schedule. My thanks go out to all of you for your patience while I’ve been working on this project.

Topic of the Month

New month, new Topic of the Month! In August we’re featuring the many articles here at Guitar Noise that deal with “Soloing and Improvisation.” There are articles from many past GN contributors, such as Josh Urban and Gilbert Isbin and Randell Young and Mark Yodice as well as a wonderful piece from our favorite guitarist from the Netherlands, Arjen Schippers. Not to mention all eight parts of the current series, “Turning Scales into Solos.” You’re bound to learn something!

And feel free to post an email to me if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see given “Topic of the Month” status at some point in the future.

Guitar Noise Featured Artist

And we’ve got a new featured artist as well for the month of August. Read about Bob Marley on our artist profiles page and be sure to check out our lesson on “I Shot the Sheriff.”

New Lessons and Artivces

How To Improve Your Guitar Technique – Part 1
by Tom Hess

Sloppy technique leads to sloppy playing. Tom Hess looks at the three basic problem areas and addresses two of them in depth in this first of two articles.

Coming Attractions

Now that I’m wrapping up work on “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Rock Guitar,” things will hopefully soon settle back into a semblance of normalcy. Once I catch my breath, the plan is to get back into Guitar Noise lessons and Podcasts and to try to make up for missing so much time these last two months.

Just to prove how important it is to be able to read rhythms, I’m working up an acoustic arrangement of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

Tip for August 1 – Practicing Modes (Part 12)

Let’s give the C major/Ionian sound a break this time out, and do some C Mixolydian sounds. You can say C dominant 7 if C Mixolydian is giving you a hard time.

Let’s first work the diatonic (in-key) chords around position V (5). Here are chords with melody notes on strings 1 and 2. Next time we’ll do string 3 chords, and maybe chromatic C Mixolydian chords further on.


*Note: at least two chords in this exercise aren’t completely diatonic. I threw in a b9 (Db) to add some spice. I hope you like it.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2009 Darrin Koltow

This Day (or Approximately) in (Guitar Noise) History

Setting the “Wayback Machine” for 2006 led me to Josh Urban’s first piece for Guitar Noise and since ear training and listening is a huge part of learning to solo, it seemed to make sense to use it as a feature. Plus, any lesson from Doug Sparling, be it new or old, is certainly worth a read!

Frere Jacques
by Doug Sparling

Also known as “Are You Sleeping Brother John,” this has to be one of the best known children’s songs in the world. Doug brings up a fun and thoughtful arrangement of this favorite song.

Listen Up
Examining the overlooked skill of ear training
by Josh Urban

Guitar Noise is pleased to welcome Josh Urban as a contributing writer to our website. Josh’s first piece examines what many musicians refer to as the most important skill one can develop – listening. And, as with most everything about the guitar, listening has many different aspects and each must be practiced in order to become a better musician.

Event Horizon

As mentioned earlier, I hope this newsletter is getting out on August 1. If so, you might want to check out Tommy Gun’s band, “U-Godda-Wanna” playing tonight at Harrahs Casino Joliet Stage 151 in Joliet, Illinois (home away from home of Jake Elwood) from 9pm-1:30am.

Last time they played there they literally rocked the boat and the audience response was so great that Harrah’s went out of their way to bring them back.

If you don’t catch them there, you can see them in two weeks at THE place to play on the Southside, at115 Bourbon Street. That’s Saturday, August 15 and the show goes 10pm-2am.

And if this is August first and if you happen to be in Middletown, Ohio, you might be able to spot numerous Guitar Noise folks and other musicians at Big Shots Bar at 1791 Germantown Road. It’s a fundraising benefit for the Middletown Aviation Foundation and it starts at 7:30. You’ve not lived until you’ve sung along with Nick Torres on “Eurotrash Girl.”

Random Thoughts

As I mentioned, I’m actually on the road today. Okay, maybe not on the road or even beside it, but I’m certainly not in Western Massachusetts. Today happens to be the weekend of this year’s Riverside Jam, an annual get-together of friends and musicians started back in 2000 by Guitar Noise Moderators Dan and Laura Lasley. If you’ve not read about that historic event, here is a link to Dan’s account of the festivities: Making Jam

As well as a link of my own: Build Your Own Band Buffet

Even better than both accounts, though, is this little essay from Nick Torres, who wrote this as part of our “Playing Well With Others” series:

I was talking to David a couple of days ago when he asked if I would write something about playing guitar with others.

Well sure, why not?

It turns out that it’s easier said than done.

Why is that? What makes this a difficult topic to write about?

I pondered this question for a while. Blank paper stared at me. I couldn’t take the first step. I didn’t want to expose myself to ridicule. I didn’t want the rest of the Guitar Noise community to think I was a weirdo, or insecure, or too sensitive. I didn’t want to write something I really felt uncomfortable sharing. I’m sure that you already know all of the stuff I would write anyway. I just don’t know enough to make it worth reading. I’ve really just got nothing to offer to you.

Wait a minute! Those are the very same reasons I gave myself for not playing with others.

1. “Blank paper stared at me.” Lack of inertia is the hardest thing to overcome. Make a commitment to yourself to find a playing partner or a “porch players” group by a certain date. Mark it on your calendar or day timer. That’s how I started writing this.

2. “I couldn’t take the first step.” Closely related to Number 1 above. Start small if you feel uncomfortable in groups. Find one friend or neighbor and just jam. Find a group if you just want to lurk and feel uncomfortable one on one. Have an opening line prepared, like “I’ve been playing for six months, a year, whatever, and I was looking for someone to jam with.” That way you can let the other person know your relative skill level without degrading yourself.

3. “I didn’t want to expose myself to ridicule.” Everybody fears this. But keep in mind jamming isn’t a contest. You don’t need to bring something to dazzle, just be honest about your ability. You can play open chords all evening long and if someone asks you to solo, just say “I’ll pass for now.”

4. “I didn’t want the rest of the Guitar Noise community to think I was a weirdo, or insecure, or too sensitive.” Again, this is closely related to the previous reason for procrastination, but when you are in a room with a bunch of people who have come to jam, you are amongst like-minded individuals. These people know how you feel. Once you start, you’ll get a great sense of belonging to a very supportive group and your fears will melt away.

5. “I didn’t want to write something I really felt uncomfortable sharing.” I’m not an expert on the psyche of the budding guitarist. I’m not a professional writer. I’m not an expert on group dynamics. I’m not a professional guitar player. But I know how to jam. By the way, nobody at a jam wants a flashy know-it-all, show-off, egomaniacal guitarist anyway. The first time anyone plays with a group of strangers they feel uncomfortable. You are no exception.

6. “I’m sure that you already know all of the stuff I would write anyway.” Hey look, if the guitarists you jam with already know all the stuff you would play anyway, that is fantastic. Think of all the material you could play.

7. “I just don’t know enough to make it worth reading.” You may think you don’t know enough to play with others, but I guarantee you do. If you can play open chords and strum you’ve got enough. What you don’t know, someone will be happy to show you.

8. “I’ve really got nothing to offer to you.” You’d be surprised at how much you can teach. You’d be surprised at how much others can learn from you. I have a student who is an absolute beginner and I’ve gotten so much better at the basics of thumb position, palm muting, percussive strokes, chord changes, finger position by teaching her. Get it? By teaching her, she taught me. Everybody has something to offer. Besides, company and support are always welcome.

At the end of last summer, I traveled up to see David in the Berkshires. It was time for the annual Riverside Jam, which is usually always a blast and this past August was no exception. The “main event” on Saturday night was all twenty-five musicians playing at the Berkshire Blues Caf e. We started in the late afternoon and played sets for the guests and Cafe patrons until closing time. I played and sang until I was wiped out. We had guitarists and other musicians come in from across the country – Guitar Noise denizens, some students, college buddies, friends, spouses, just a wonderful mix of people.

But the main Riverside Jam event wasn’t the best part of the weekend for me. It was the next night when about ten of us (those who decided to leave on Monday instead of Sunday), players of all ages, sizes, styles and genders, sat around David’s fireplace and jammed. I didn’t know half of the songs, but someone would yell out the chords or hand me a sheet with the chords and lyrics and away we’d go. If I had a problem with some part of the song, someone would lean over and say, “Try it like this.”

If I wanted to sit one out and just sing, no problem. If I wanted to just shake a maraca for a while, while my fingers recovered, again no problem. No expectations, no minimum skill requirement, no egos, just an amazing time of sharing a common love, making music. Go ahead and think I’m a weirdo, but it was as close to an Across the Universe moment as I have ever been.

You owe it to yourself to get out and share with other guitarists, so that they can share with you. Go and play well with others.

I’m obviously putting this newsletter together ahead of time. For you it’s sometime on or after August 1 (I know that Paul is arriving home on the first and will probably have a lot of jet lag from flying so far in the past two days).

For me, it’s Monday, July 27, 2009. And I have five days of music and friends like Nick to look forward to. Songs to learn, songs to play, people I can’t wait to make music with. Should be just what the doctor ordered.

Until then, stay safe. Play well and play often.

And, as always…