Archive for April, 2008

My interview* with Guitarist Magazine (UK)

Posted in Guitar General on April 23, 2008 by Staff Writer

I was recently called up by Mick Taylor – Editor of Guitarist for their ‘Perfect 10’ interview for the back page of their magazine. It’s fairly straightforward – they ring up famous musicians and ask ten questions related to guitars. Last month it was Slash and the month before that it was Tommy Shannon – Stevie Ray Vaughn’s bassist. I suppose they’ll publish my responses in a few months’ time, but here’s what I recorded on my Dictaphone for you early viewers.

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

A Fender Catalina – a big black boxy steel-string acoustic. I think I bought it in 1986. Me and my Dad went up near Denmark Street in London to get it – I remember the store – Rock Stop in Charing Cross Road – they had an acoustic section in the basement – now closed. I bought it because it was black and I was enamored with the six-on-a-side headstock.

2. What’s your first guitar playing memory?

I have shades of memories going back very far – to when I was 8 or 9 years old. My uncle used to play classical guitar and he took lessons from some virtuoso as well as taught lessons to beginners. We used to visit his house and he’d play it. He also had various guitars in differing stages of construction all around his living room. I’m sure I strummed his guitars at least once. My first distinct solid memory is being at school in our Sixth Form building and trying to play Warhead’s Les Paul copy with this girl’s violin bow as this chick I fancied looked on. That was around 1985.

3. When was the last time you changed your own strings?

Last week on my nylon-string classical. I also changed the strings on three guitars for two friends of mine the week before that – I’m a regular tech!

4. The building’s burning down – what’s the one guitar that you save?

Dunno. I love them all equally and they get rotated frequently in and out of their cases so that each gets fair playtime. None of them hold real sentimental value (I don’t do anything gay like give them names) but in a burning building scenario I’d  be practical and either go with the one with the most resale value or an acoustic such as my Martin HD-28 which I’d be able to sit near the site of the fire and play sad lamenting ‘my house burned down’ blues songs without the requirement for amplification.

5. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on stage?

There’s nothing worse than not being musically prepared in my opinion and fluffing your lines, or screwing up an improvisation because you didn’t work hard enough on a particular part of a song. I’ve never caught fire or been attacked or anything like that thankfully. Also, being on stage with un-professional (note- not ‘amateur’) musicians isn’t wonderful either.

6. If you could have any vintage guitar to own – not to sell on – what would it be?

Tough one that – I’d have to go with one of Jimmy Page’s – perhaps his Number 1 Les Paul, or his double neck. Why? Are you offering?

7. What was the most expensive guitar you’ve ever bought?

That would be my James Tyler Studio Elite HD – cost me a shade over $7000 SGD (around USD $5000). Pretty sure the guy who got it for me made a pretty penny, but I’m happy with it; it has *all* the trimmings. Not in the Slash vintage Les Paul range – modest in comparison, but expensive for a new guitar I suppose.

8. Name a song that changed your life. And why?

Walking on the Moon by The Police. This was years before I decided I wanted to play guitar, but that song turned me on to listening to music actively. I thought the lyric ‘I hope my legs don’t break’ was hilarious and sought out all the Police albums from my buddy, Bear. I guess that moment of really noticing that there was good music out there that spoke to me was a turning point in my life.

9. You get to have dinner with any musician alive or dead – who would it be?

I’d probably choose one of those classical giants such as Bach, Mozart or Beethoven and find out what made them tick and get their advice on how to get my son to take an interest in music. I’d probably have to learn how to speak German first though… LOL

10. Is there any myth about you that you’d like to set everyone straight on?

This bloody Devil worship rumour. I’d just like to confirm that I *did* sell my soul and stop all that damn speculation. You play our first LP backwards and it says ‘Satan, O Sweet Satan, I kiss thine cloven hoof’ at the end of side 1. So what? I’m out of the closet so to speak.


*ok – if you must split hairs it was entirely imaginary… pedant.


Lesson 10: Jazzing up The Blues – Part 1

Posted in chord changes, Jazz Guitar, music theory on April 22, 2008 by Staff Writer

1. Basic vanilla 12 bar blues form

| Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

| Eb7  /  /  /  | Eb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

|  F7  /  /  /  | Eb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

2. Basic/common substitution

– Bb7 in bar 2 becomes IV, i.e. Eb7 (common jazz sub)

– Eb7 in bar 6 becomes E dim (common blues sub supposedly)

| Bb7  /  /  /  | Eb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

| Eb7  /  /  /  | Edim7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

|  F7  /  /  /  | Eb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

3. 1/2 step substitutions

– using the pseudo rule that any chord may be preceded by a chord of the same type, or a dominant a half step above or below yields these new differences:

| Bb7  /  /  E7  | Eb7  /  /  A7  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  E7  |

| Eb7  /  /  /  | Edim7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  E9  |

|  F7  /  /  E9 | Eb7  /  /  A7 | Bb7  /  /  /  | Bb7  /  /  /  |

Note that I can put an E9 anywhere I might use a Dominant 7. Also see that the approach chord (the one that is a half step above or below the target chord) is put on beat 4. It doesn’t have to be, but it is in this case. It can be earlier in the measure subject to taste.

Also note that the use of the E7 is equivalent to a tritone substitution – that is, it is a Dominant 7 that is a b5 away from the Bb (these chords can essentially be used interchangeably).

…more next week after I get these ideas affirmed.

Pat Martino 1, George Benson 0

Posted in jazz, Jazz Guitar on April 21, 2008 by Staff Writer

“I may not know much about art, but I know what I like…” – The Pope, in a Monty Python sketch.

Sorry, but I don’t ‘dig’ George Benson. Lord knows I tried – I shelled out for a double CD collection of his (complete with lovely pose photos of him with his lovely plastic surgeried nose and lightened skin) that contains a wide selection of his hits and classics. Although I think his scat singing along with his jazz soloing is very clever, overall I find his stuff truly, truly banal and I simply cannot stand his vocal histrionics and breathy ‘oooh ahh ooh ooooohhhh’ type singing. Horrid. Sorry. Still, like I say, I may not know much about art, but I know enough to appreciate that he’s a monstrously talented guitar player with immense chops and deep knowledge – I must seek more advice on his older more hardcore stuff before he went mainstream.

I love Pat Martino though. I have East! and El Hombre and while I’m still coming to terms with being all into this Jazz lark (I hide my Jazz CDs at home inside old Heavy Metal disc covers) I’m slowly coming round to the finer points of what make it good. Pat is one of those things. Love his sound, love the moody compositions, love the extended solos and all the advanced harmonics thingamajigs going on throughout his music.


Replaced D string on my Classical Guitar the night before yesterday.

Posted in Guitar General on April 18, 2008 by Staff Writer

Yup. I have nothing interesting more to say than that today.

Homework 9: More bad first-grade jazz soloing, experimenting with Altered Scale and other crap.

Posted in Guitar Playing, Jazz Guitar on April 16, 2008 by Staff Writer

Me, playing badly over a ii V I (Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7).

Single take, Micro BR, Yamaha QY70 sequencer backing. Using my James Tyler Studio Elite, neck pickup, tone rolled all the way off.

Tried out various things: G Lydian Dominant, G Altered scale, Ab, Amin(maj7), Db, Emin arpeggios amongst other things. Not all successful.


Again, no idea why it’s so frickin’ quiet. Guitar is in the left channel so play in stereo.

Lesson 9: More Lydian Dominant soloing and derivation of the Harmonic Minor

Posted in Jazz Guitar, music theory on April 15, 2008 by Staff Writer

Tonnes more goodness in this week’s lesson from Master along with a very rock solid foundation into why the V – I is so key in music and why the dominant chord is so interesting. We spent a fair bit of time reinforcing what we’d talked about last week and then moved on to this:

There are three things that give the V- I progression such strong cadence and that feeling of resolution and musically being home and at rest, e.g. a G7 moving to C major 7.

  1. The G7 chord has a built in tritone – the b5 interval from the B note to the F note. This dissonance gives the chord this unnerving edgy feel. A C chord contains lovely intervals of thirds, perfect fifths (C-G) and a perfect fourth (B-E). Coming from a dominant 7 to this chord feels like home.
  2. The G7 chord contains the note B. In the key of C, B is the seventh degree and is a semitone away from the root note of C, i.e. going from B to C sounds as if it’s gravitationally attracted there – the B wants to move to C, at least our ear through hundreds of years of conditioning expects it to. This note is called the leading tone i.e. it feels as if it should lead back to the root.
  3. Moving from G to C in the bass is either a perfect fifth up or a perfect fourth down. A nice strong root movement.

Now, that’s all well and good when we consider a major V- I. How about the minor v – i (note deliberate lower case to denote minor chords), e.g. for the relative minor of C which is A minor? Consider the harmonized minor scale Amin7, Bmin7b5, Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7.

In this case, the v – i chords will be Emin7 and Amin7 (spelt E G B D and A C E G respectively). Try playing these chords in that order. Master demonstrated this to me and it was pretty apparent that the movement is not as strong as the Major V – I. Try it yourself – since both chords contain parallel types of intervals (they are both essentially the same shape just transposed) neither of them feels more like home than the other.

Classical musicians discovered this centuries ago. The reason for this weakness in the v – i cadence is that the Emin7 chord only has one of those crucial things outlined above – and that’s the root movement. No built in tritone and no leading tone (the topmost note in E minor is a ‘G’ which is a whole tone from the A root, whereas a ‘leading’ tone is a semitone away).

In order to rectify this, those oldies decided to take this small but significant step – they sharpened the 7th of the A minor scale, i.e. raised the G to a G#. This had the effect of introducing the tritone into the E chord (now an E7 and spelt E G# B D – tritone between D and G#) and also making the G more of a leading tone by reducing the gap between it and the root A to a semi-tone. This activity therefore increases the tension in the V chord so that when it does resolve to the A minor it feels that much more satisfy.

The resulting scale is known as the harmonic minor since it gives more startling harmonic results than the natural minor. A B C D E F G#. There are implications here of course: one is that you can now use the harmonic minor scale over a V – i such as E7 to Amin7) and secondly the melodic implications of having that big gap between the F and the G#; this historically led to the creation of the melodic minor in which the 6th (F) is also raised in order to smooth out melody lines which may have that big jump.


Ho hum…. I wish my Tom Anderson would hurry up and be built (also – name that tune..)

Posted in Guitar Gear, Guitar General on April 11, 2008 by Staff Writer

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way”

An easy one no doubt for most of you to identify from this couplet, but that’s how I feel about waiting for my Tom Anderson Atom to arrive. Ordered in January, downpayment sent, everything locked and loaded, now all I have to do is wait for the thing to be built in July. I’m kicking around on a piece of ground in my hometown, waiting for something or someone to show me that my Atom is ready for collection.

Doh… What am I going to do to satisfy my GAS needs in the meantime? With the Mesa/Boogie deal scuppered by the Bentley Bastards there’s a yawning gap between now and the arrival of the Atom… That new Roland Cube looks nice now they decided to put the power switch at the top:


Am I mistaken, or on the Pink Floyd “Pulse” live album, does David Gilmour change the line:

“So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking


“So you run and you run to catch up with the sound of the ticking

Wonder if that was a little dig at Roger who’s no longer around to dispute things like that with him.