Newsletter Vol. 3 # 63 – March 15, 2008


Welcome to Volume 3, Issue #63 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • News and Announcements
  • Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow
  • Guitar Noise Staff Picks
  • Pocast Postings
  • Coming Attractions
  • Random Thoughts

News And Announcements

Beware the Ides of March!

While I didn’t feel at all like Julius Caesar, I did manage to feel totally at a loss when I looked at my calendar and saw that fifteen days had passed in the seeming blink of an eye. Where does the time go?

Part of that answer is easy – the time has gone much the way most days have gone – teaching, working around the home, writing, recording, playing music, keeping up with friends. When I sit down to write a newsletter, part of me finds it simultaneously amusing and dreadful that I never know that to tell people when they ask, “What’s new?” It’s not that each day doesn’t bring something new. It’s rather that I’m not sure it’s newsworthy, if that makes any sense…

Case in point: there’s been a lot of work going into Guitar Noise since we’ve last chatted, but none of that has translated (as yet) into new articles on the website itself. Paul and I have been working for a while now on going through all the various articles, lessons, FAQs, interviews, reviews on the site, doing corrections and editing of both major and minor proportions. This has been ambitious and occasionally arduous. For instance, I spent the better part of a weekend rewriting the notation / tablature files and then recording MP3s for one of my oldest lessons and it seemed to take forever.

But sometimes the work is interesting in other ways. I started writing for Guitar Noise over nine years ago. That seems like ages (you could even say it was last century!) but it also seems like yesterday. There were no podcasts back then. DVDs were not yet readily available. MP3s were still being perfected for general use. Maybe two dozen folks came by the forum page from time to time and all six topics were listed in one place! And I know that I was thrilled to discover that maybe a couple of hundred people read my material.

More often than not, I find myself smiling a lot when working for Guitar Noise, whether it’s going through the older material, editing new contributions or writing up new lessons of my own. And it’s a pleasure to be corresponding with folks from all over the world about music and guitars and life in general. Even when I feel like I’ve gotten so far behind on emails that I might never catch up!

If anything, it’s hard not to think of the scene in Alice Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. You know the one – where Alice and the Red Queen (I’m pretty sure it was the Red one…) are racing across the chessboard and going absolutely nowhere fast. When Alice notices this, the Queen says something to the effect that “It takes all that running just to stay in one place!”

And please accept my apologies for undoubtedly misquoting that. It appears that my copies of both Alice books seem to be missing from my bookshelves. Something else that will have to be searched for, if not replaced…

Anyway, let’s get one with our middle of March newsletter, shall we?

Exploring Music With Darrin Koltow

One Finger Guitar Chord Primer – Ear Training Break!

Welcome back to exploring music.

We’ve been digging into the “One Finger Method,” but we’re going to take a break from that to do a bit of playing by ear. This new tip is a quick one.

The idea behind this tip is to use just one finger on one string to play a simple melody. The melody we’ll use is from “The First Noel,” the Christmas song.

We start like this: keeping your playing just on String 3 (the G string), press your finger on Fret 4. Play that note. Then, move your finger to Fret 2. Play that note, then take your (left) finger off completely and play the open string. If you played that correctly and with a steady, even tempo, you hopefully heard the first three notes of this song.

Your task is to work out the remaining notes of the song, based on your memory of it and the starting notes just given. To help you do this, realize that nearly every note is either two frets up or down from the previous note. The exceptions? Leaps of five frets, and a move of just one fret. These happen in a few places.

Sing and listen carefully to find them. As you sing, make your hand rise or fall with your voice, so you get a visual aid to your singing. And stay to just String 3.

Good luck! And thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

Guitar Noise Staff Picks

At the recommendation of a good friend, I recently picked up two CDs by Pink Martini – Sympathique, their 1997 debut, as well as their latest release, Hey Eugene (their middle disc, Hang On, Little Tomato, will soon join the collection). Pink Martini is a twelve-piece band out of Portland which creates music from all across the board. It would be easy to think of them as a “lounge act,” but it’s more accurate to say that this group, under the musical leadership of Thomas Lauderdale, simply believes that you blend everything you know in order to make a song sound its best. You’ll hear music from all over the world, lyrics in French, Croatian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic. You might think you’re in a sappy Broadway musical one minute only to find yourself doing a tango a moment later. It’s a lot of fun.

Podcast Postings

Last Monday, March 10, our fourth Guitar Noise Podcast was posted. In this podcast, we work on two specific topics. First up will be a quick look at sixteenth notes and a smart little rhythm fill that you can use as an accent when strumming a chord. We’ll also see how you can use it to spice up (and cover up!) a chord change.

From there we start in working with “partial chord strumming,” in other words, just using some of the strings to strum with. And rather than examine a specific pattern, we’ll focus on developing a feel for your guitar. Hopefully you’ll start to feel more confident that you can strum where you want to without thinking twice about it. If not the specific string than at least the general area. Both of these general topics will be coming up soon when we focus on ways to create strumming that is more “organic” rather than something that sounds like it came from a sampler.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, our first series of Guitar Noise Podcasts will cover strumming – moving step by step from the very basics to alternate bass picking, to adding hammer-ons and pull-offs to spice up simple patterns to crosspicking and partial chord playing to incorporating other playing techniques, such as palm muting and choking, to bring even more excitement to our strumming. Plus we’ll look at how to listen to patterns so that you can readily replicate complicated patterns you hear on recordings. And I’ll try to do my best to walk you through things step by step, just as we do in the many song lessons at Guitar Noise.

Paul and I are hoping, schedule-wise, to post a new Guitar Noise Podcast every other Monday, so look for the next one on Monday, March 24, 2008.

And, as always, feel free to give us your feedback. You can post your thoughts here, at the Blog, or even PM or write me directly at [email protected]

Coming Attractions

Getting Past “Up And Down”
by David Hodge

Way too many guitarists get caught up in visuals. And one of the easiest visual traps to fall into is to think of strumming in terms of “up” and “down.” Fortunately, there is an even simpler way to avoid this snare and it’s as easy as “one, two, three…”

Brain Damage
Easy Songs for Beginners

by David Hodge

This is another “Easy Songs” lesson that is geared to the “close to absolute” beginner. We’ll take basic chords that we already can play, add a very simple strumming / picking pattern and before you can say “lunatic” you’ll be playing a very cool song.

“ii V I” Madness
by Nick Kellie

Please welcome Nick Kellie to the pages of Guitar Noise as he presents a tutorial on improvising over the “ii V I” chord progression. Jazz players may immediately recognize this type of progression, but it occurs in all kinds of music. Getting to recognize it so that you can be ready to solo is just the starting point.

PLUS, we’re looking for new lessons from Peter Simms and Doug Sparling sometime in the very near future, as well as a new “Songs for Intermediates” lesson.

And Don’t Forget

Guitar Noise is a community and it’s our sense of community that sets this website apart from other guitar sites on the Internet. People from all over the world, people who speak and read all sorts of languages and listen to all sorts of music, come here to help each other create music in their lives and to share that music with the rest of the world.

And I’m always amazed at how many people are willing to offer ideas, to share their musical knowledge and expertise. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t take part as well. If you’ve some thought about sharing what you can with your family of Guitar Noise readers, take a look at our submissions guide.

You don’t have to have a huge article. Don’t forget that we also now have the Guitar Noise blog, which nicely accommodates small pieces. So, why not make a New Year’s Resolution to become a bigger part of the Guitar Noise community? Feel free to send along an email to me and try to put “proposal” in the subject line. I’ll be more than happy to chat with you about your ideas and to see whether we can bring them out to the rest of the Guitar Noise community.

Random Thoughts

Depending on which side of the Equator you happen to be on, we’re once again looking straight into a change of season. Spring “officially” starts here in the north, while those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are about to find autumn at your doorstep. While I enjoy all seasons, I find these two to be mesmerizing. Of course, planting over a hundred tulip and crocus bulbs in my yard last November may have something to do with my anticipation of spring.

And it may just be age, but as much as I look forward to the new season, I do find myself a little sad that another season is dropping away. Yes, I know that I’ve spent more time griping about this past winter than I have about any other season in my entire life (or at least it seems so from reading past newsletters!), but it has certainly had its moments.

Again, it may just be age (or possibly rereading a lot of articles written by a younger me), but I can’t help finding more and more life lessons from learning and performing music. I noted in a piece about our first Riverside Jam, written way back in 2000, that

“…jams are meant to be things of the moment. For all their planning and preparation (or lack of planning and preparation), the actual music is like a firework display. Some songs will take our breath away, some will simply occur without much notice at all. And when the grand finale is over and all that is left is the smoke and sparkling dust hanging in the air, everyone has their own memory of what happened. Oh yes, we can record the event (or not record it) and watch and listen to it over and over and over again, but we all know that this is not really as it happened. Because what really happened we heard and saw with our hearts, not with our ears and eyes.”

Nowadays, I find I’m thinking this way about a lot of things. In an age where we seem to spend so much time recording things – music, videos, text – we don’t seem to know how to enjoy being in a moment. You go to a concert or a show or an event of some sort and more people are spending time working their devices when they could simply be there.

Part of this is, undoubtedly, owing to the fact that we all enjoy things in different ways. But it truly seems strange to be spending the “now” setting oneself up for enjoying something later, especially since it will be enjoyed under the pretense that one was involved in the event while it was happening and that will turn out to be a false assumption. It’s kind of creating a false memory of “I was there having fun” when the reality is “I was there working on being able to see this later.”

I suppose that, in the long run, it’s a little bit of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” (or “po – tay – to” / “po – tah – to,” if you will), but for the performers of a show, it must be a little disconcerting. Probably more than just a little.

Ah well. As I said, it’s probably just age…

Until our next newsletter, play well. Play often. Stay safe.

And, as always,