If you don’t know what I’m doing, well… Keep up?!? Sheesh!
I’m making a list of rules that performing musicians should follow – except nobody ever tells them these things. These are lessons learned over a pretty long career. They’re not things you’re going to find in a book and they aren’t things that people talk about.
I’m not sure why we don’t talk about them. We’re usually pretty open about our art. For some reasons, these things don’t usually get discussed. So, I’m going to explain them. Someone’s gotta do the work around here!
Our next rule is from a reader. They’re one of my favorite fellow performing musicians and are pretty good at giving solid advice. I don’t want to give their name away, but it rhymes with Trees Pfleuger’s Roast!
This is just a short series of lessons I’ve learned from a career that was long and not even remotely illustrious. These aren’t lessons I found in a book. These aren’t lessons that anyone seems to ever talk about. They’re just things that I found out the hard way.
I’m hoping that they’ll do you some good. If you’re thinking of becoming a performing musician, then this list is for you. If you’re already a performing musician, it’d be great if you’d throw in some lessons you’ve learned along the way.
This series is dedicated to telling people the things they’ll want to know if they’re going to become performing musicians. These aren’t things you find in a book. These aren’t things that you’ll be told by other performing artists. These are things that are lessons I’ve learned over my performing career.
It’s a pretty light-hearted look at it the industry, at least that’s my goal. But, in each case, there’s a reason that I list these as rules. So, while they may seem unimportant, they’re actually very important.
If you’d like to see the existing rules, then click here and enjoy. I’ll add more rules as I go along. As always, I appreciate your comments and feel free to add any rules you’ve learned and want me to include on my list.
This is going to sound paternalistic, but hopefully not patronizing. Some of my guitar goats (italics intentional), aren’t just guitar players and some of the recent conversation has been about performing. There’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scene and they’re things many people aren’t actually aware of.
On the other hand, some of us have been at this for decades and we’ve learned a few things. They’re not things that everyone knows and maybe you already know them?
These are going to be mostly short and I’ll push them out when I have time. I’m not going to include a whole bunch of things at once. I absolutely request that you other performers go ahead and share the lessons you’ve learned with us. Write ’em up as a comment, if you would be so kind. I’ll package the appropriate ones as new submissions.
I have a few free moments and figured I’d take that time to push something extra out this week. Why not? It’s not like I was doing anything better.
Today, I’m going to start with a story – of sorts – and then tell you about a company called Washburn. It’s not a very long story*, but it’s very unlike what most people seem to remember and it’s not even remotely like what Washburn would have you believe.
*I kid. It’s actually pretty long by most standards, but not that long by my standards. Still you’re going to want a cup of coffee.
By now, you should be well aware of what I’m doing. If you’re not, then maybe this link will help you out. That’s the complete list, so far, of guitarists who are better than Hendrix.
The short version is that Hendrix receives many accolades and much praise that, frankly, he doesn’t deserve. It is my believe that “best guitarist” should be based on technical prowess, above all else.
The best guitarist isn’t about who liked who and what was popular. It’s not even about who had more influence. It’s about the technical mastery of their instrument, knowledge of music theory, ability to compose, and consistency in quality.
In fact, there are guitarists on this list that I really don’t prefer to listen to. However, they are on this list because they’re fantastic. They have mastered their instrument and bent the sound to their will. They have understood the instrument better than the rest. They have used the instrument to create works that are legendary.
There are so many models of guitar that I am not sure anyone can ever be an expert with regards to all of them. There are variations by year, custom orders, short-lived models, and more.
Well, the Gibson Les Paul (GLP) is no exception. If you ever decide you want to become a collector, then collecting the various GLP models is a stupid place to start.
That’s right, I just said it’s stupid. Why?
Because there’s tons of them. I have a pretty nice collection and not even I have them all. But, they come with so many variations that you’ll be a lifetime just getting half of the models.
Alright, for the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to have three different types of guitar body. We have a solid body, a semi-hollow body, and a hollow body. We’re also going to limit ourselves to discussing just electric guitars. Yes, you can get sound from an unamplified semi- or hollow body guitar. Skip it. I’m not writing a damned encyclopedia for you.
Alright, TheBuddha, now you’re just being confusing.
Well, sit down and take notes ’cause I’m only going to say this once.
Solid Body: This is a guitar body made out of a single piece of wood (typically) and will have no chambers designed to resonate.
It gets weird here, but trust me… A good thick solid body (like a GLP) will have oodles of sustain, is pretty easy to lay on effects, and is much easier to amplify louder with less feedback. Not that you can’t do that with the other models, but that requires skill and can be a bit of an art form learned over decades.
These are guitars like the Fender Stratocaster, Gibson SG, or the Fender Telecaster. This is what one might look like:
Hollow Body: This guitar will have lots of resonating space – it’s usually pretty much like an acoustic in regards to the fact that it’s mostly empty. I really shouldn’t have to explain this, but I feel compelled to.
This bad boy is lovely for jazz or even amplification of classical music. You get deep, rich, vibrant tones – and lots of clear bass. And, you get feedback if you go too loud, effects may sound muddied, and (believe it or not) they’ll often get less sustain.
It takes some work to truly master the sound from a hollow body electric guitar. I do not recommend folks start with one. They might look something like this:
Semi-Hollow Body: Somewhere between the hollow and solid lies the middle. There are so many different kinds that I am not even going to bother trying to list them all.
You’ll get a wonderful blend of tone, sustain, and ease of play. There’s a bunch of models but the one for this topic is the GLP ES. It looks like this:
And that, folks, is the holy grail. Oh, there are many other fine GLP models. There’s the Studio, the Junior, and countless other models. But, that one right there is the perfect blend of sustain, ideal weight (though a little light for my taste), ease of adding effects, warmth of tone, durability, and value for price.
If you’ve already got a GLP and want to plunk a few more bucks down, then the ES model is a very, very fine choice.
Now, to my point! (I typed all that just so that I could type this.)
Most folks are only familiar with the solid-body GLP but there are a number of different models that span many, many years and have many variations. It’ll take a lifetime to collect all of them, but I’ve never met a GLP I didn’t like. I have a great fondness for the ES model, but not many musicians play them. So, as I typically do covers, I seldom get the chance to play them for other people.
Either way, there’s some history/lesson/gibberish stuff for you. I’m not sure if this will help you understand anything, nor am I sure what I’ll write about next, but it’s something and something is often better than nothing.
Now, shut up and play us a song! (And until next time…)
I know there are plenty of resources on the web for guitar lessons. Yet, I still keep feeling the need to add more to the list. The problem is, I can never really think of things to write about. So, today, I was playing a Gibson SG and I decided that’d be a fine thing to write about. Continue reading “Let’s talk about the Gibson SG!”
There are some misconceptions about the origins of the electric guitar. Many people credit Les Paul with the invention – but that’s not true. He just helped make it perfect. No, the story is stranger than that. It’s so strange that we’re going to ignore the various attempts and stick with the first viable electric guitar.
Way back before any of us was hatched, a fella by the name of George Beauchamp used to play in a Hawaiian band. Never mind that he wasn’t actually from Hawaii, that’s not important. What matters is that he was a steel guitar player.
Now, a steel guitar (not to be confused with a pedal steel guitar) is played by putting the guitar, top up, across your lap as though you’re Jeff Healey. Then, you use a piece of steel to slide and fret your guitar. This, of course, is absolutely retarded.
I’m going to assume you know how a guitar works. By putting the guitar perpendicular across their lap and pointing the sound hole up, that means the sound goes into the ceiling and not into the audience. Like I said, it’s fucking retarded.
I will take a brief moment to point out that Country and Western music has steel guitar in it ’cause these same bands would play both genres and they’d play them with the same musical instruments. So, you ended up with steel guitar in country music and, eventually, pedal steel in country music. Most musicians don’t make much money. You play with what you’ve got – and they had a steel guitar. So, goat roping music has steel guitar in it.
Where was I? Oh, yes…
George Beauchamp didn’t like this very much and realized it was retarded. He was unable to get the volume out of the guitar that he needed to be heard along with the other instruments. (Important side note: It’d be a bit longer before the guitar moved to the front of the band.)
So, using magnets and coils, Beauchamp set about making himself an electrified guitar. Well, it pretty much sucked – but he was pretty pleased with himself. I’d like to think the first thing he played was a bitchin’ solo, but that’s unlikely because the bitchin’ solo hadn’t yet been invented. This was still the 1920s, after all.
Even though it sucked, George thought it was the best thing ever. He meandered all over California with his band and guitar. This would have been awesome, but did I mention it kind of sucked? Well, it did.
Eventually, and I’m not actually sure how, he met a fella by the name of Adolph Rickenbacker at Dopyera Brothers in Los Angeles, CA. It turns out, Adolf was a bit of an electrical engineer and was really interested in new technology. Working together, they fashioned themselves some pickups and probably worked on playing bitchin’ solos together.
It’s sort of important to note that they weren’t actually the first to amplify a guitar. No, the first amplified guitars were probably from the jazz guitarists and they weren’t actually commercially available.
It was about this time when they started making guitars out of metal. George and Adolf said, “Sweet.” Then, they put their pickups into these metal guitars. These guitars were shaped like long-handled frying pans and the “Frying Pan” electric guitar, and amplification, were born.
That was in 1931.
Strangely, there’s no story of misdeeds and intrigue. The Rickenbacker guitars are known as such ’cause Beauchamp is fucking hard for people to pronounce.
And those were the first commercially viable electric guitars. They weren’t invented to make bitchin’ solos. Nobody would leap around with ’em for years to come. They woudn’t move to the front of the band until the 1950s. They were invented so that they could play Hawaiian music at volumes loud enough to be heard with the rest of the band.