Saturday, November 21, 2009

Frank Gambale on Why it's Important to Learn Blues

I have a lot of teenage guitar students who understandably want to be rock stars. I did too. If you want to be a rock star the best way is to learn the blues. It allows a relatively easy way to understand the foundation of all our popular music. I came across this video recently that explains why very well I think.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roland Dyens

French guitarist Roland Dyens seems to have it all. Great technique and the feel that it takes to put that technique to good use. As one reviewer put it, "Roland Dyens is more than a classical guitarist. He's a great musician too." This one is a tango, played masterfully. And oh, by the way, he composed it too. It's called Tango en Skai:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food for Thought

I was 'putering around looking for inspiration and came across this short video. Described by the person who posted it as "A simple, three-step process that musicians, writers, artists, and other creative people can use to achieve success", it may be just that. Think backwards. Comments invited.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My New Favorite Guitar Player

Listen to my new favorite guitar player, Jason Vieaux as he explains his interpretation of how to play a Bach fugue. I love the way he breaks it down into its beautiful simplicity.

Now let's here how he approaches a completely different classical guitar style, playing one of my very favorite pieces, "Caprichio Arabe" (Arabic Caprice) by one of the greatest of guitar composers, Francisco Tarraga. Here performed live.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sage Advice

Music advice from Tommy Emmanuel. I can't add to this.

For those of you who may not know of Tommy's playing, here's a pretty good example:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Team Up With a Master Baroque Architect

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to play at the Sir Christopher Wren Chapel on the campus of William and Mary. I had been asked to play for about a half hour before the ceremony, the processional, a little candle-lighting music during the ceremony, and the recessional. I also played a set at the reception.

The couple requested that I play from the balcony. I got there early (I don't like to rush) to get set up, warm up and importantly, find just the right spot. I was in the chapel alone for awhile before anyone arrived and I sat to the right side and played for a few minutes, the left side for a few more and then I sat in the middle (in front of the organ pipes in the photo). There I found a very small spot with a low riser and a stool. The second I sat down and stroked a chord, shivers went up my spine. For the first time in my life I was hearing my guitar resonating back towards me (without amplification mind you) from throughout the entire room. It's hard to describe. I wasn't hearing the sound coming directly from the guitar as I normally do, I was hearing it reverberating back to me from everywhere.

As people started to arrive in the chapel I could see heads turning, looking around trying to find where the music was coming from before they spotted me, some turning complete circles. It was the most acoustically perfect place I had ever had the privilege to play. I hope I get to do it again. My kinda livin'.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Revenge is Sweet (sometimes)

Listen to how Dave Carroll of "Sons of Maxwell" gets his revenge on United Airlines. Here's the story in his words: "In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didnt deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise."

Go get'em Dave. Click here for "United Breaks Guitars". (Again, I had to put a youtube link because of the size.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Love My Job

One of the benefits of playing guitar is that from time to time pretty girls will come up and ask to have their pictures taken with me. These two very kind young ladies traveled all the way from China(!) for this one, taken at my Beachstreet USA gig this past Sunday evening. Thanks to Song Qingyun (Sienna) for sending them!

Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm becoming a fan of Facebook. I signed up for Facebook a while back when people started asking me if I had a page there, but I didn't pay much attention. Since then I've learned a lot. For one thing, if you make friends with Lynn Kelley on facebook, you get a LOT of new friends links and contacts, which is a very good thing. Thank you Lynn.

Another thing I found out is that it's a great place to find old friends you've lost touch with. When I was in my early 20s I was in the USAF band (honorably discharged after four years, mind you). I played with some great musicians and made some great friends I've since lost touch with. This week I was able to contact some folks that I hadn't talked to in almost 30 years. One was a guy named Burdette Becks. Burdette was as natural a musician as you could find — a jazz flute player and singer. Come to find out he's living in Germany and over the years has played with the likes of Bob Hope, Wynton Marsalis, Dionne Warwick, Lou Rawls and more. He's told me that his band may be coming to Newport News for a gig in the future. I hope so and I'll let you know. You should check out his site to hear some great music that includes some seriously good guitar playing.

Another friend was Paul Sammons. Paul was the penultimate bandmate, a (really) great arranger, guitar player, singer and plain ol' entertainer, plus a nice solid guy to boot. Oh, and though he was kind enough to never do it in front of us, he played the trombone too. We would cuss Paul sometimes during rehearsals for making us play a tune for the umpteenth time, listen to each other, keep a solid groove, pay attention to dynamics.... pretty much all the things that real bands do that amateurs don't. But you can bet when we saw the response we got from our audiences, we stopped cussing and started thanking Paul for his leadership. If you want to see something really funny, click on Paul's Memory Lane page and just by chance, see a picture of me playing the 1960-something cherry-red Gibson ES335, which I still own. I paid 300 bucks for it back then. I'm pretty sure it's worth more now. The picture is of us playing at the Iowa State Fair in 1978 and is the last one on the page. I'm on the right, and yes that is a cowboy hat. Paul is happily living out his "retirement" in Arizona and is the star of The Saguaro Sunset Band. No doubt, Saguaro sunsetters are boogieing hard when Paul's band cranks it up.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


There's real beauty in simplicity in all kinds of music, but especially "light entertaining music", as a friend reminded me this week. Here's a great example of what I'm talking about. Earl Klugh has been coming up with simple, beautiful chords and melodies for a long time now. Here's a very young Klugh showing us that sometimes less is more.

Former New York Yankees great, centerfielder and probably future MLB Hall of Famer Bernie Williams is a pretty good guitar player. Listen to how he takes a simple, familiar melody and makes great music with it. Hear how he enhances it with the harmony he lays around it. And yes, that really is Bernie Williams playing. (I had to put a link to this one because the size of it didn't fit in my blog layout. It's a link to youtube:)

Bernie Williams' Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

'Round Midnight

'Round Midnight, Thelonius Monk's 1944 classic has been called the perfect jazz standard. Listen as Dutch guitarist Olaf Tarenskeen plays his own very, very nice arrangement:

Next I've found a beauty called "The Reluctant Bride" by Ralph Towner. (Isn't that a thought provoking, melancholy title?!?) Some of you may remember Towner from his work with the Paul Winter Consort, and the group "Oregon". Enjoy!:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cesar Camargo Mariano & Romero Lubambo

I came across this piano/guitar duet recently and had to post it. Rarely have I heard such good cooperation between these two instruments. Mariano and Lubambo play "Curumim" with very clever virtuosity. Enjoy:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Guitars Videos

In my never ending search for great guitar videos (so you won't have to) I've come up with a couple of beauties. Julian Bream and John Williams, two of the greatest classial guitarists in the world team up here for for a very lively and fun dance by Claude DeBussy called "Golliwog's Cakewalk":

Next here's Bream and Williams again, playing one of the great all time guitar duets in my opinion. Just wait until you hear them light this piece up — brilliant technique combined with fire. Also, there are some terrific (if brief) close-ups of each of their right hand techniques. Manuel De Falla's Spanish Dance #1:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Learn an India Arie Song

I was asked to play for a wedding this Saturday. I'll be playing for about a half hour before the wedding and for a little while after. During the ceremony I'll be accompanying the bride as she sings a song I was asked to learn for the occasion. Yesterday we had a rehearsal that went very well. She has a very nice voice and the song is beautiful. I thought I'd share it with you. It's by India Arie who, as an aside, is the daughter of former UVA basketball star and NBAer Ralph Sampson. The song is called "Ready for Love".

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Music & Wisdom from a Great Guitarist

Friend and guitar student Ben loaned me a CD of guitar great John Williams' "El Diablo Suelto, Guitar Music of Venezuela". A quick internet search told me that "El Diablo Suelto" translates as "In an Uproar". It is full of incredible music and guitar playing. I haven't yet found a video of Williams playing any of these pieces but I did come across one played very nicely by Danish guitarist Peo Kindgrin. The piece is by Alfonso Montes and is called "Preludio de Adios":

Whether you're familiar with Williams or not, I hope you'll take time to listen to this one. It's a great example of his playing. This is a Prelude from the Bach Lute Suite #4:

Later I came across this interview with Williams on It's full of good information: John Williams Interview