I have seen a lot of musical acts in my day. My first concert was Ozzy with guitarist Randy Rhoads just two months before his fatal plane crash. I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page legendary rock/metal axe-men. I’ve seen classical greats John Williams and the Romeros. I’ve been to the Chicago and Los Angeles Symphonies. I’ve seen local and less-known musicians come through town and absolutely blow everyone away. I’ve seen some of the biggest acts in the world; Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith…, as well as, some of the most incredible street musicians in America’s big cities…the people you miss your train simply to hear a few more songs. I’ve been to shows in rock, metal, Jazz, classical, world music, pop,…on and on! But, I never saw/heard anything like I did Tuesday night at San Diego’s House of Blues.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen put on a clinic!
Since his debut album, “Rising Force,” in 1984, I have been a fan. His blistering fast runs and arpeggios combining Heavy Metal with musical phrasing of the Baroque and Romantic periods are absolutely stunning. ‘The man obviously took his guitar lessons seriously,’ as one of my friends put it!
The knocks against Yngwie for the past thirty years are as earned as his virtuosity.
He is known for being a bit of a Diva and arrogant. ‘Bit’ might be an understatement. His music, although it has stood the test of time for thirty years, is thought to be lacking in general appeal to those outside of the music/guitar aficionado. There are not a lot of hits, hooks and catchy tunes in Yngwie’s output. His sound and style have not changed much over the years.
The Diva tag comes from a somewhat pompous persona. The J. in his name, as if he is going to be confused with another Yngwie Malmsteen. The use of words in his titles like opus. Oh yeah and he is 50 years old and still years leather pants, no shirt and gaudy jewelry…so the argument is made.
Yngwie hasn’t changed much over the years…which can be viewed as both a lacking and admirable trait. Vivaldi the Italian composer wrote over 500 concertos. Since they were all similar in style it is often jokingly asked , ‘Did Vivaldi compose 500 concertos or one concerto 500 times?’ This question might be applied to Yngwie’s output over his career, as well….but no denying the man’s sheer capability to play the guitar like no other.
Heading to last Tuesdays concert I was stoked to see Yngwie, but, more as seeing a relic. He could be crossed off my list of musicians I want to see but haven’t. I thought it would be a little boring. Watching Yngwie shred all over the place while his band sheepishly backs him up.
I could not have been more wrong! Yngwie was incredible. His showmanship was incredible, his skills were incredible and his band was incredible!
The ability to play a concert is hard enough for anyone…but to put on a show of that caliber and not lose your musical chops is awe-inspiring.
We’ve all seen musicians use gimmicks live. Playing with their teeth, spinning and throwing their instruments, creatively creating feedback while putting on a ‘rock show.’ Yngwie does all of these, but, it doesn’t seem gimmicky. He legitimately has put time into incorporating all these theatrics into his ‘musical’ performance.
His speed and precision have not declined at all in the years since his 1984 debut. Equally astounding is his use of effects. All guitarists use them, like the whammy bar, they often become a crutch to make any level musician sound rocking cool. Yngwie obviously has invested time working out his electronics as part of his guitar acumen.
Most impressive during the show, was his ability, while playing a blistering arpeggio riff to accompany himself with bass pedals using his feet. Not just one note to give a boost underneath but a full contrapuntal bass line with his feet while seamlessly arpeggiating over the top.
The band, in typical Yngwie fashion, are not easy to find out much info about. However, these guys played great. Of course to play with Yngwie…who the band referred to as ‘the Maestro,’ throughout the night, you’ve got to have chops. You have to play fast, but, they put on a rock show, as well. They laid down a rock groove that Yngwie could soar over with his guitar acrobatics while keeping the crowd rocking, not letting it feel like a man and…. oh yeah a band(even though Yngwie does take about 3/4 of the stage for himself)…kudos to those guys!!
Bottom line…if you haven’t seen Yngwie yet but have thought about it….GO!
An ABC Award has been bestowed on yours truly and this humble blog, ’12 Notes & the Truth!’ Thanks so much to my blogging colleague on the other side of the pond…Heavy Metal Overload…a true music fan if ever there was one…make sure you pay his blog a visit!!!
Without doubt the hardest part of this ABC list was deciding on a topic. I have been so busy, performing, teaching and networking that I didnt have a lot of time to devote to this spot for a while. My first and favorite idea was to write a description of each musical key, A, B, C…. Even the novice can see the flaw in that theory. The musical alphabet ends on letter G what would I do with H-Z? And what about the ‘#’ & ‘b’ keys??…scrap that idea.
Went through a host of other blah ideas before it hits me! Why I am trying to be so cute just write about what I know…the guitar!!!
So here it is the A-Zs of the worlds greatest instrument…the guitar!
A, AXE- Ever heard the term axeman? Well unless it is some crazy Jack Nicholsonesque dude it refers to a guitarist(no jokes please)….the axe being his guitar. Of course every other instrument has had to steal the idea…there’s just something uncool about hearing a saxophonist saying he “needs to grab his axe.” Here is Michael Schenker an axeman supreme on, “Attack of the Mad Axeman.” BTW the ‘axeman’ on the left of the video doubling on keyboards is San Diego’s own Wayne Findlay and one of my music buds back in our younger days. Have I ever mentioned that? Haha, well guess I am just proud to see one of us San Diego kids living the Rock n Roll dream!
B, BLUES- Sure, blues is not necessarily a guitar term, but, can you imagine the world without blues guitar? No Robert Johnsons who influenced the BB Kings who influenced the whole Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton generation who influenced the whole Eddie Van Halen generation who influenced me and my generation…I would be calling my saxophone an ‘Axe’ if it wasn’t for this lineage. Oh yeah don’t forget Stevie Ray Vaughan!
C, Capo- A capo is a small clamp that guitarists place at different frets on the neck to change the ‘key’ of the guitar which facilitates easy transitions to other keys.
D, Dreadnought- A Dreadnought guitar is a style/body shape made famous by C.F. Martin. The term ‘Dreadnought,’ was used in reference to the British Navy’s large battleships of the day, early 1900’s.
These guitars are characteristic in having large ‘squared’ bouts and a booming sound.
F, Fifth-Now some of you are really interested! No not a fifth of Jack…the musical interval of a perfect 5th. The fifth is the skeleton of all chords(Maj. & Min.) and for rock guitarists extremely important for the formation of power chords which are made up exclusively of the interval of root & 5th.
G, Golpe- Golpe is a technique stemming from the Spanish/Gypsy Flamenco tradition. The guitarist strikes the top of the guitar creating a percussive sound while strumming with other fingers. Note the use of the previously mentioned capo in the video, as well.
H, Harmonics- Harmonics are not exclusive to guitar by any means but they do play a large role in playing guitar. The technique actually cuts off part of the overtone series(lower end) which make up a musical note. The resulting sound resembles a high, thin, bell like texture. The intro of Van Halen’s “Top Jimmy,” uses this technique.
I, Inlay- Inlays are part of the artistic design of a guitar. Inlay can be placed all around the sound hole(rosette) soundboard, front, back and sides of a guitar. Some of the fanciest inlays are put into the neck of a guitar. Sometimes just dots and sometimes elaborate as seen here.
J, Jimi Hendrix Chord, The ol’ Dominant 7#9 chord! Also called a V7#9. To build this chord you would take your root chord say C7 and add the note ‘#9’ which is the 9th note above C -C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D and raise that note one half step to D#. The chord symbol will appear as: C7#9, etc., for any root note. I call it the Jimi Hendrix chord cause he used it a lot and when I was a kid learning his songs is when I was first introduced to the chord. Check out Foxy Lady or Purple Haze for examples. The sound is a bit bluesy and has some dissonance with the #9 against the Major 3rd.
K, Keys- The guitar has a handful of musical keys that are conducive to the instrument and a handful that are not! Guitarists tend to like sharp(#) keys vs flat(b) keys. Flat keys take away the open strings making the guitar harder to play as noted in the letter O, Open Chords. Popular guitar keys include C, G, D, A and E (as well as, their relative minor keys). Any key with more than one flat is often avoided especially by beginners.
L, Lick- This is a great guitar word somewhat synonymous with the term ‘Riff.’ Guitarists practice hours on end trying to create new ideas and phrases which are, ‘Licks,’ and ‘Riffs.’ Licks are more of short phrases placed in improvised solos while riffs are more like a composed guitar part think of the intro to “Smoke on the Water,” or “Iron Man.”
M, Mute- The most common type of muting is done by placing the palm of the strumming hand against the strings near the bridge of the guitar. Notation is often ‘P.M.’ for palm mute.
N, Nut- The nut is simply the piece of bone or plastic, among other possible materials, at the top of the neck. It has carved slots for the strings to rest inside which keeps them inline as they lead up to and wrap around the tuning pegs.
O, Open Chords- One of the nice things about the guitar especially for beginners is the use of open chords. They are somewhat simple to play as they make use of a combination of fingered/fretted notes and open strings. Bar chords are harder to play as all strings need to be fretted.
P, Percussion- Believe it or not the guitar is classified as a percussion instrument, not a string instrument(chordophone.) By definition a percussion instrument is one that is put into vibration by being struck and consequently the pitch fades away. Piano is another such ‘percussion’ instrument. Electric guitars fall into another category, that of ‘electronic’ instruments. Electronic instruments can have their sound altered and lengthened through electronic means.
Q, Quadrant- This is a term I use to differentiate parts of the neck. I divide the neck into sections for study. For instance I will play on the bottom three strings first 6 frets. In this territory I will work on as many permutations of a particular scale, arpeggio etc. Then move to the top three strings same frets. Then down to fret 7-12 on each side of the strings.
R, Rasgueado- Spanish term meaning to strum. Usually associated with Flamenco guitar playing. Rasgueado is a rhythmic use of the fingers and thumb while strumming a guitar. It is a percussive strum by nature. In the video watch how his fingers fire in succession.
S, Solo- The beloved guitar solo! Ruined forever since the demise of rock. This demise can be traced to the weak musicality typically displayed in late 80’s hair/glam metal giving way to Grunge. Grunge was a movement that sought to distance itself from the aforementioned Hair Bands.
Maybe ruined forever is a bit harsh, but, music sure has changed since the early 90’s. I grew up on the rock guitar solo and it is not something I want to see go away. It is often the most musically adventurous part of most pop music. My music heroes were the guitar solo shredders…Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimi Page, Randy Rhoads, Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…. Here is the quintessential rock guitar solo Eddie Van Halen’s Eruptions.
T, the ‘Thumb’- The Thumb is the nickname given to jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery. His unique technique employed a drastically positioned thumb. One of my all-time favorite guitarists.
U, Upstroke- An upstroke is simply a strum across the strings in an upward motion. Typically, upstrokes happen on a weak beat. A strum of down-up-down-up etc. would sound as STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak.
V, Vibrato- Vibrato is a technique employed by stringed instruments where the string is actually moved in a controlled manner either ‘side to side’ or ‘up and down’ to add articulation to a note. As mentioned before the guitar is a percussion instrument. Vibrato is one of the few ways we as guitarists can actually manipulate a note after it is struck into motion.
W, Whammy Bar- Also called a vibrato bar, tremolo arm…The whammy bar is a short piece of metal(a stick) inserted into the bridge which can either lift or depress the bridge forcing the strings into some ‘unnatrual’ sounds. The whammy bar in the hands of an amateur becomes a gimmick. In the hands of a skilled musician it becomes a devastating way to command a guitar with unique and angular articulations.
X, X Bracing- Have you ever dropped a pick inside your guitar? No problem you can just slide it out right? Nope. The top of a guitar, the soundboard, is braced underneath with a lattice of wood to help project the sound off the top of the guitar. One technique of bracing is called X Bracing.
Y, Yuquijiro Yocoh- Was a Japanese guitar composer (1925-2009.) Yocoh is most well-known for his variations on the theme of the traditional Japanese folk song, “Sakura.” I played the piece for my Senior Recital in college and still play it to this day. The video features John Williams on guitar. Listen for the previously mentioned palm mutes at :40 & 4:25 and harmonics at 2:25.
Z, The Flying Z- Most people even non guitar aficionados have heard or seen a flying V guitar. But, lesser known is the flying Z also known as a Destroyer.
It’s almost 2013! This compels me to create a few lists from the year in review, my first as a blogger.
My last post was my top 10 posts of the year according to WordPress stats. The 10 listed on this post are MY favorites…according to ME.
There were many, but, these are the ones that stood out in my memory as either being fun, rewarding or challenging to write. Some were very popular, some were not and some were early before I had much following. Hopefully this list will supply my followers with some new insights into this blog 12 Notes & the Truth!
These first two are important to me as both guitarists were HUGE in my inspiration to be not only a guitarist but a musician.
This post was cool because I found a new guitarist, influence and a historical perspective I never knew. I knew of Jose Feliciano, but, not much about him. An amazing musician that really took an unfair career hit with his version of the Star Spangled Banner. A great version in my opinion and better than many of the renditions today. Expect more posts on Jose Feliciano in 2013!
Sports has been another major interest throughout my life. So it is nice for me to be able to combine the two. I thought these were pretty clever, tongue in cheek ways of combining music and sports. They are also an exercise in creativity much like composing music.
Yeah, I had to delve into the ugly Presidential campaign of 2012. I feel I gave both a fair ration of disrespect as I feel ALL politicians deserve. Much like the sports posts above it was a fun creative process putting this post together.
The cyber world is truly made up of puppy, kitty and cute kid videos…and unfortunately people like to see a good train wreck as well…which is what these poor singers gave during a World Series game in San Francisco.
Becoming a blogger this year has been a lot of fun. There were certainly some surprises for me along the way some include;
-That just under 10,000 viewers would visit, read & reply to this blog.
-How many cool people I have hooked up with to chat about music.
-That no matter what your opinion….someone will STRONGLY disagree. Although I had very few negative comments over the year they are venomous when they disagree…a small taste of what those in the public eye must endure daily…like actors, athletes and musicians. Actually my first negative comment oddly felt kind of good. That what I had to say touched a nerve with someone…like I was doing something right here. Although, personally, I would prefer an adult exchange of ideas. I never did censure any comments even those lame spam ones that get through.
-One of the most mind-blowing aspects is how many views I received outside of the U.S.
2. United Kingdom-Makes sense as the U.K. is English speaking and very much Western in music and culture
3. Canada-Ditto #2
4.Philippines-From watching my stats throughout the year it seemed to line up with my American Idol posts. I think Jessica Sanchez may have been a part of the attraction, as well. There was also a wedding photographer from the Philippines that traded links with my site.
5. Germany-I did write a couple Scorpions posts and am a huge Michael Schenker fan, both of whom are native sons to Germany. I never saw a direct correlation to my stats however.
6. Australia-Again ditto #2 & #3
7. India-A welcome surprise how high they ranked.
9. Mexico-Not as much a surprise due to their proximity to San Diego even though they have a very different culture.
Ranking just outside of the top 10 were; Spain, France, Russia, Italy, Greece, New Zealand and South Korea.
Some countries that visited which surprised me were; United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Algeria, Lebanon, Maldives, Kenya. Not surprised that the folks there are interested in music and culture of America and the West. More surprised that their interests brought them to my humble blog.
Alright we are one round into the MLB Postseason schedule. I guess two rounds if you consider the new Wild Card game a round. Thought I would weigh in with another music/sports blog. Those who read my blog regularly know two of my favorite things are music and sports and I enjoy wedding the two together when I can.
Here are some thoughts and predictions on the playoff teams.
The Giants did get past the Reds but had to do it in dramatic fashion. Losing the first two games at home and then sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati was no small feat, but, they barely hit and need to be careful or they will be home sitting on the skin of their behinds!
Unfortunately for the Reds the road they hit was a dead end. Ouch, tough way to end a season losing three straight playoff games at home. Latos proved why San Diego Padre fans are glad he was traded, losing his cool and the game in the series finale. I thought pitchers stopped crying after the age of 12.
If you are a Nats fan you have to be hitting your head against the wall wondering what happened. And how in the world could they shut down their best pitcher makes no sense! Kind of like dating a supermodel but you can’t touch her…what’s the point?
The Giants have to play better at home than they have of late or they are going home early. Giants are kind of the Padres north so I have to root for them. Here is a trivia questions for you sports fans. Who is the only person to be on the field in uniform for ALL five of the Padres playoff seasons? See answer below.
Most fans of the German rockers are familiar with hits like “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” “Big City Nights,” “Still Loving You” and “No One Like You.” The late 70’s to the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s…was when the band developed their signature heavy metal sound. There were however two other incarnations of the Scorpions. First with 16 year old guitar legend to be Michael Schenker. The second, featured guitarist Uli Jon Roth. Under Schenker for just one album, “Lonesome Crow,” the band had almost a psychedelic sound. The Roth era was somewhere in between this and their ultra-stylistic almost hair metal sound of the 80’s.
I don’t consider the Scorpions hair/glam metal for two reasons. They were heavy metal pioneers that all the crappy 80’s bands tried to emulate and moreover they wrote good music. Anyway, somewhere between being very young acid rockers and trend setting perfectors of the ‘Power Ballad’ mega-stars was the Uli Jon Roth years.
Heavy? Yes!…..Rockers? Totally! But what was their style?
The Scorps were very unique during this period. They were gaining in popularity, they were still under produced and very original. Roth is a great guitarist very spiritual and Hendrix-ish both terms that don’t always apply to heavy metal guitarists. But they were definitely heavy during these years.
The only way to really understand is to listen. Posted below is one of my favorite Roth era Scorpions songs, “Your Light.”
To me this song sums up the band in the early to mid 70’s. Some heavy-ness, some party feel, some hippie-ish feel and of course incredible guitar work. The song starts out heavy then immediately leads into to a funky dance vibe. But the song truly peaks on the two guitar solos. The first comes at 2:15 in the video. A slow Roth solo mostly reserved, with feeling and anthem-ish. The song then returns to the funky playful riff before the second solo. This is where Roth shows off a little more of his guitar acrobatics. It ends on a playful note as Roth solos into a fade out.
The Roth era Scorpions may be some of the truly under rated music in metal history. They were a little more free form in their songwriting than other bands and certainly then when they became a global commodity in the 80’s. Not always a good thing for massive consumption as most listeners seem to prefer produced cookie cutter bites. Most Scorpions fans have found their way back through the bands back catalog and found these gems. I strongly recommend you check these albums out as well especially if you are looking to uncover some truly quality and cool music.
Wow! Thought it would be fun to list every musician who has influenced me over the years. I am not even sure this page is even logical since there are SO many, but, I will try! This post will take me all the way back to my little baby self when I started to love music. There are some of my local San Diego guitar and San Diego State University music teachers to sports stars to the big guns to family members who have had an influence on my music in one way or another. Some may have been one hit wonders like Manfred Mann’s Earth Band to greats like Eddie Van Halen. Some of the acts below I dont even really like…but they had influence in some way.
Here is just a random start…
AC/DC, Accept, AEROSMITH, Isaac Albeniz, Alice In Chains, Louis Armstrong, JOHAN SEBASTIAN BACH, Agustin Barrios-Mangore, The Beach Boys, THE BEATLES, Ludwig Van Beethoven, The BeeGees, FRED BENEDETTI, Chuck Berry, Beyonce, BLACK SABBATH, BONO, Doug Booth, BOSTON, Johannes Brahms, Junior Brown, Dave Brubeck, DOUG BRUCK, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Federic Chopin, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Pablo Cruise, Edgar Cruz, my DAD, Charlie Daniels, my DAUGHTER, Miles Davis, PACO DE LUCIA, Deep Purple, Def Leppard, Neil Diamond, Al Di Meola, Dio, JIM DOHNER, The Doors, Dream Theater, Carl Douglas, Duran Duran, Brent Dutton, The Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, The Edge, Danny Elfman, E.L.O, Elvis, Kevin Eubanks, Fight, Wayne Findlay, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto, DAVID GILMOUR, Gipsy Kings, Giuffria, Goo Goo Dolls, Macy Gray, Vince Guaraldi, TONY GWYNN, Sammy Hagar, Rob Halford, Stu Hamm, TOM HANKS, GEORGE HARRISON, Heart, MICHAEL HEDGES, RICK HELZER, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Hoey, Gustav Holst, Whitney Houston, Intervals, TONY IOMMI, IRON MAIDEN, CHARLES IVES, MICHAEL JACKSON, KEITH JARRETT, ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM, Billy Joel, ELTON JOHN, Eric Johnson, Howard Jones, JUDAS PRIEST, K. C. & The Sunshine Band, Alicia Keys, B.B. King, Kool & The Gang, Mark Knopfler, William Kraft, LED ZEPPELIN, Geddy Lee, John Lennon, Franz Liszt, Living Colour, Mad Season, GUSTAV MAHLER, Yngwie Malmsteen, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Chuck Mangione, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Megadeth, Men at Work, METALLICA, Pat Metheny, ROGER MILLER, STEVE MILLER, Molly Hatchet, my MOM, WES MONTGOMERY, Gary Moore, Steve Morse, James Morton, WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, The Muppets, MIKEMYERS, WILLIE NELSON, Aldo Nova, The Outlaws, OZZY, JIMMY PAGE, Partridge Family, JOE PASS, Pearl Jam, NEIL PEART, Joe Perry, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, The Police, Mike Post, The Pretenders, Queen, Queensryche, Trevor Rabin, Ram Jam, Ratt, Maurice Ravel, RANDY RHOADS, Sonny Rollins, RUSH, Carlos Santana, JOE SATRIANI, MICHAEL SCHENKER, Peter Schilling, SCORPIONS, Sesame Street, Brian Setzer, Jean Sibelius, Horace Silver, Alan Silvestri, Carly Simon, Jim Soldi, Starland Vocal Band, Thomas Stauffer, Steve Stevens, Igor Stravinsky, Stray Cats, Strunz & Farah, Styx, The Sugarhill Gang, Supertramp, Sweet, John Sykes, George Thorogood, Triumph, U2, STEVE VAI, VAN HALEN, EDDIE VAN HALEN, Adrian Vandenberg, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Ventures, Antonio Vivaldi, DAVID WARD-STEINMANN, Joe Walsh, Ann & Nancy Wilson, White Lion, The Who, my WIFE, JOHN WILLIAMS-guitarist, ROBIN WILLIAMS, Edgar Winter, Stevie Wonder, ANGUS YOUNG, Zebra, ZZ Top
Something really caught my eye in the Strong Bad video from my last post. Notice how his band logos were all drawn on lined notebook paper. Yes parents unfortunately this implies your darling little students might not always be giving their full attention to their teachers.
Seeing the blue lined paper instantly transformed me back to when I was going to be a rock star in Jr. and Sr. High. Much of my and my friend’s time was spent intricately drawing either our own band logos or perfecting our favorite bands mark. You know the VH logo for Van Halen, AC/DC with the cool lightening bolt down the middle, OzzY with the strikes through the letters and Michael Schenker Groups intertwined MSG with his iconic black and white flying V guitar in the middle. I could go on and on naming my favorite bands of the time but not so sure I could recall all my teachers’ names. Come to think of it these musicians WERE/ARE my teachers!!!
We did not only, peripherally, use all that notebook paper our parents diligently bought us each school year, but decorated our book covers, as well. No we didn’t deface the books…well not too much…I do seem to remember having to erase a few drawings before books were turned in at the end of the semester. The true ‘badge of honor’ was to walk around campus with your brown paper bag, home crafted book cover completely decorated with cool band logos.
Looking back those were truly formative years in my music career igniting my desire to be a musician. The tireless sketching was a non-verbal way of expressing my interests. At the time there was no way to tell my dad I wanted to be a musician I was supposed to go to college. Well I guess we both won. I did go to college but studied music, got my BM and MM in guitar performance and am a full time musician. True passion goes a long way in making things work out in the end. Guarantee you when my daughter comes home with a ‘notebook’ full of her dreams I will be sure to help ignite that fire!