Happy 4th of July, 2013

Happy 4th of July everyone! Hope you have a fun and safe holiday while celebrating the  anniversary of our Nation’s Independence!

Just wanted to post two quick versions of the Star Spangled Banner guitar style.

I recently saw Yngwie Malmsteen in San Diego and he performed a tribute to the military with a rendition of the National Anthem( bottom video)

The top video is Yngwie performing the SSB at a Miami Marlins baseball game. I could lament how I think the Anthem should be played traditionally when played for events but c’mon lets face it no one really watches Marlins baseball anyway. Musically he does a remarkable job incorporating all his guitar fireworks into the structure of the song.

Enjoy your freedoms like they mean something to you! Happy 4th!

Eddie Van Halen on David Letterman, 1984

We all know about the Van Halen saga with singers. David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, the horrible stint with Gary Cherone. But what about Paul Shaffer on his Hammond organ??? Thank goodness this was just a jam session…Cool video to see but the Hammond is not my favorite sound in rock n roll history.

I did hear that VH was actually contemplating using a bunch of popular singers as replacements after DLR’s departure. An All-Star cast would have been interesting, but, I think the Sammy thing worked out ok for them. The only name I heard for the All-Star album was Phil Collins…hmmmm…

Enjoy

Amazing Audio/Visual Presentation of Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring”

Did you check out my previous post on Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring,” Centennial celebration?

Did you try to listen to it?

Did you just not get it?

That’s OK it is a hard listen but one that is well worth it. I just came across this video which has animated the complete score of the first section of the piece. It enhances the listening experience for myself and I think a novice listener would benefit, as well.

Through the animation you can see the compositional and orchestrational processes more clearly which should enhance the listening experience.

Give it a try…or just enjoy the flashing colors… 😉

More info on the video’s creators

Enjoy!

Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring,” 100 Years Today

Ahhhh Classical music, enjoyed by the aristocracy, your grandmother’s tea sipping friends the 1% in todays terms….

Well that was the scene 100 years ago today as Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring,” was premiered. Well that was allegedly the scene. Would you believe these said music aficionados and high society folks kind of started a riot? Booed so loud the music could not be heard? Began throwing anything they could find?

However it went down that fateful night the music has absolutely stood the test of time. 100 years later the piece’s centennial is being celebrated all over the globe with performances and tributes.

Yes, for most people’s tastes, even today it sounds odd and perhaps ‘ugly.’ For those who have found their way into the works masterful composition it is a thing of beauty. When I first began studying music I was a Mozart and Bach fan. The ‘modern’ art music was not for me… But, through time and guidance of some of the most amazing musicians, my San Diego State music professors, I have learned to appreciate and yes even enjoy, ‘modern’ music.

To really explore the piece, I bought the score back in college so I could immerse myself, visually and aurally, inside the compositional and instrumentation processes Stravinsky employed. Try following the notes on the video below, the piece’s first section.

You have to laugh a little at what in art is called ‘modern,’ because most of it is extremely old. The 20th Century may well go down as the “Modern Era,” for hundreds of years to come. Like the 14th Century is known as ‘Ars Nova,’ or new art.

‘Modern,’ music may never be fully encompassed by humans. Perhaps it lies just out of our centered humanness and can only be appreciated and enjoyed by those who seek to study and look for it’s beauty.

I find myself extremely lucky to be able to love music, such as, the “Rite of Spring,” with all its complexities both in sonority and compositional structure and then listen to a 3 chord AC/DC hard rock song and be moved by both.

The part of the “Rite of Spring,” that has always moved me most both sonically and compositionally starts at approximately 7:45 on the video below. Specifically at 7:56 through the 10:30 mark, although the WHOLE piece is a true masterpiece!

Open your ears and Enjoy!!

ABC’s of the Guitar

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!

Dreadnought
Dreadnought Guitar Body Shape

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.

E,  E, A, D, G, B, E the open strings of the guitar from the 6th to the 1st string. A must know for ALL guitarists!!!

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.

Steve Vai Ibanez
Check out Ibanez, Vai Guitars

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.

XBracingX, 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.

Flying Z by DeanZ, 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.

Van Halen’s “Women and Children First” Turns 33

VH Women&ChildrenFirst

I cant believe this album is 33 years old today. I was young when Van Halen originally debuted in 1978 and I didn’t really know about them until after their fourth album, “Fair Warning,” my favorite VH alum, which was released in 1981. The upside to this was I had four incredible guitar albums to digest at one time including this one. When you are 12 years old and have nothing else to do, I really got to delve into these collections, “Van Halen,” “Van Halen II,” and the two previously mentioned albums.

Last night I watched, “Argo.” Yes, I know I am the last to see it. Director, Ben Affleck, utilized Van Halen’s, “Dance the Night Away,” to create the vibe of 1979/1980. This did put into perspective how old these albums are. Images of Jimmy Carter, Ayatollah Khomeini and the whole Iranian Hostage Crisis were memories from my childhood. Glad the music sounds fresher today than these old news stories!

“Women & Children,” the bands third album, was a little heavier in sound then their first two albums. A trend that continued through, “Fair Warning,” which was the bands worst selling album, although critically at least in my opinion and the fans I know, their best! Of note, on Women and Children, was Eddie Van Halen a notable pianist, as well as, guitarist’s first effort using keyboards on a VH recording. Ironically the sound of the keyboards on “And the Cradle Will Rock…,” was masked by running the sound through a guitar amplifier and virtually sounding, well, like a guitar. Also ironic is the fact that the use of keyboards propelled Van Halen’s popularity with songs like, “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” and many of the Van Hagar Era hits.

In 2012 the boys teamed up once again with frontman David Lee Roth for a new album, “A Different Kind of Truth,” and subsequent tour. The best part of this tour was the fact they could play the true Van Halen songs that Sammy Hagar would never sing. From, Women and Children, they included, “Everybody Wants Some,” “And the Cradle Will Rock…,” and “Romeo Delight.” Check out the Setlist from the San Diego show, June 14, 2012.

Here’s to listening to these albums in another 33 years! Watch out grandkids cause you will be the wrath of my old man tunes!!!

This video contains the complete album, 33 minutes in length.

Enjoy!