Sweet Georgia Brown

Haven’t shared much on here from the main band I play in, Swing from Paris.  Last night we had a band practice and decided to arrange this old jazz standard from the 1920s. Here is the end result:

 

Rock Around the Clock

 

So I recently picked up a new jazz box, an ES300.   When I was researching about the guitar as well as discovering that Django used the model on tour with Ellington in ’46, I also found out that it was the guitar that ‘Rock around the clock’ was cut on.  In a break in practice today, I thought I’d have some fun and have a go at playing the iconic solo. The guitar player on the record, Danny Cedrone was a session player and paid just $21 dollars for the session and died (aged 33) 2 months later after falling down some stairs. I also didn’t know that it was originally a B side and only found popularity due to being used in a film (Blackboard Jungle). The solo is also lifted off an early Bill Haley and his Comets tune from 1952, called ‘Rock the Joint’.  Danny never got to enjoy the popularity of this song or his solo, are the chromatic runs the influence of Django?

This tune is just a blues in A. For the A chord it uses an inversion with the major 3rd in the bass (A/C#). For the D chord it used a D9/F# and similar for the E it uses an E9/G#. If you listen carefully he often slides down the chord shape at the end of each rhythm phrase. For those attempting the solo, the first few bars (the crazy bit!) are all semiquavers/16th notes. I found it easiest just to keep the right hand going alternate picking. Try to avoid having a tense picking hand or too firm a grip on the plectrum. For the final chromatic run, for me it works best with fingers 1,2 and 3 instead of all 4. I think this comes from my Gyspy jazz playing, as this is often how chromatic runs are played.

Wes Montgomery: Mi Cosa

 

A student of mine put me onto this wonderful instrumental by Wes Montgomery, called Mi Cosa (My Thing in Spanish). Wes apparently recorded this in 1963 but it lay unused as an unaccompanied guitar piece for some time.

Guitar: 2015 D’angellico Exl1. The guitar is plugged into logic using the clean jazz setting. Didn’t fancy getting out the mics today…

Recent Gig rig

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I have been playing some dates recently with Bristol based band Moscow Drug Club. Thought I’d share my rig from a recent show. Here I am using my John le Voi oval hole that is my main guitar for gigging. This is going through an AER via an audio technical AT31B clip on mic. Really pleased with the sound of this mic, really helps capture the sound of the instrument. At the odd gig I have ran into feedback problems, but 9/10 it works for me without having to resort to the bridge piezo pickup (bigtone). I have no love for the bigtone, it is pure functionality and offers a very bland sound (and this guitar sounds anything but bland!).

For a few electric numbers I used my ’59 330 reissue with factory fitted bigsby. This was going through the Fender Deluxe reverb ’65 reissue. For anyone considering a deluxe, it is far too much volume for home use, but for this particular gig it was perfect. People say Fender twins are heavy, but so is this to lug around! I find the vibrato a bit noisy when playing solo, but with a band the noise isn’t audible. It’s like a ticking noise as I presume the effect is applied even when you’re note playing. The amp has a wonderful clean tone and the combination of Gibson into a Fender amp always sounds good to my ears!

The Beatles: Something

 

I saw Paul McCartney last year and loved his arrangement of ‘Something’. He played the first half solo with his ukulele and then the band kicked in for the solo. I tried to go along those lines, didn’t turn out quite as I thought it would, bit of a clash of styles, but it was fun to do! The verse has one of my favourite chord sequences.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bill Frisell lately, particularly his recordings of Beatles songs. So I guess his influence has rubbed off.  I initially checked out a Ted Greene arrangement, but ended up working out my own thing.

Excuse the one fingered bass playing, injured my middle finger 😦

The rhythm guitar is played with a capo at fret 3. Harrison originally wrote the song in A (check out the demo version) and then put a capo on for the album version, this gives you some of the open strings that you wouldn’t have with barre chords.  Harrison apparently told McCartney to play a simple bass line……message must have not registered!

Here is a great version from the Concert for George:

Hold Back the River

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It’s great to hear guitar music in the charts and James Bay is certainly proving popular with my students. Hold Back the River is a great tune and a good introduction to pinching with right hand rather than using a pick.

Like me James, seems to favour red guitars and plays a cherry Epiphone Century from 1966! Here’s the tab of the main riff. Try to add vibrato at the end of each phrase to sustain each note. A good amount of reverb helps too.

PDF:

James Bay Hold Back the river main riff

The final phrase of the song is most challenging. I prefer to use my thumb to play the note on the 8th fret low E string.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of my students and people that follow this blog. I say this every year, but this really is a great time of year to review your playing and set some aims for the year. 

I think I spread my focus too widely in 2015, so am planning to work on smaller goals this year. Some of my students what sort of goals they could set. Here are some examples:

– taking a grade exam
– joining a band or playing with others
– learning a new technique
-learning  particular song/solo
-developing a specific area of your playing e.g. rhythm guitar, improvising or bending…
-starting a new style
– regular practice
– spend less time focussing on gear and more time playing!

It will be different for everyone depending on their ability and long term aims. One thing we all share, we should probably practice more! I’ve definitely been guilty of quantity over quality in the past. Nowadays I opt for practising in 20 min chunks. I remember more this way and am more focussed. Sitting down to practice with clear goals is much more rewarding, but forces you to reflect upon what you really want from your guitar playing.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of my students. Hope you enjoy your time with family and any new guitar additions! Not an Xmas song (maybe I’ll get something together for next year!), but had fun learning this legendary instrumental, Cliffs of Dover.

Had some fun learning this one, quite different to the sort of material I normally play. I’d watched an interview with him saying that he cut this song with a Gibson 335 and remember being surprised at the time as I’d only ever seen him play a maple neck stratocaster. There weren’t many YouTube covers using a 335, so I’d thought I’d have a go!

Gear: Cherry red (the only colour!) Gibson 335, ’63 reissue. Assuming that he went into a Marshall head and cab, I opted to use Logic instead of an amp. I used the distorted classic drive setting with the vintage British stack to emulate a Marshall type sound. I added stereo delay and chorus into the mix as well to try and capture that Eric sound (which is pretty hard given that he has such a particular tone!).

Eric Johnson Manhattan Cover

Here is my cover of Eric Johnson’s instrumental; Manhattan. This 1996 tune featured on his album ‘Venus Isle’.

A year into playing guitar I unknowingly met Eric at a music trade show in London. Mesmerised by the Orange amp stand, I asked the salesman if I could try out an amp, the guy politely said ‘I think you’ll have to ask someone that’s working the stand’ and walked off. Thinking it was an employee that couldn’t be bothered to let a kid try out an amp he is never going to buy, I walked off to try out a Parker fly! Later that day, on the coach to head back to school I look through the free stuff I have crammed in my bag and pull out a copy of Fender magazine. On the front is the salesman, who I learn to be Eric. Being pre- internet, I loaned a cd of his from the local library and have loved his playing and tone ever since. Looking back he was very polite, he could easily have told me where to go! This album came out the year I began playing too. If I met him now, there’s plenty of questions I would have for him, Orange amps wouldn’t be one of those topics! His playing seems to straddle genres and that’s one attraction to this piece.

Gear: Fender No Neck ’08 Stratocaster, Deluxe Reverb, Carbon Copy delay, TC Corona chorus, Hardwire tube distortion and SP compressor.

 

 

Jimi Hendrix 73 today!

If Jimi Hendrix was still with us he would have been 73 today. I would love to have seen what musical direction he would have taken in the ’70s and even ’80s. I’m sure there would have been some great collaborations if he’d been able to shake off his management team.

To mark Jimi’s birthday here is my cover of his classic tune: ‘Little Wing’.

If you’re trying to learn the intro to this song then the first thing to do is to learn the chord structure, which is as follows:

little wing intro chord shapes

This helps you connect the individual rhythm licks together and memorise it.

Here is a transcription of the whole song that I found:

LittleWing PDF VERSION

I would suggest slowing the song down so you can hear the licks, as they are quite intricate. I learned this when I was about 15 and don’t play it note for note today, I think of the chords and then embellish them as Jimi did.