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Filtering by Tag: tommy emmanuel

The Ides of March

and Guitardom anniversary number 9. I've made note of this date a few times in the past as it marks the actual day I resumed the mantle of guitar player again. As I've said previously, it was a decision reached after having several months of unencumbered reflection while I was pursuing my MPH at OUHSC. At the time I realized that I still thought like a guitar player, I still consumed guitar oriented music, and I really missed that part of my life although I had essentially put the guitar down for the better part of 15 years. I would say it was one of the biggest mistakes in my life, but my life wasn't exactly empty in those years and alls well that ends well.

It's hard to quantify exactly what has transpired in the last year. This year marks 9 years of steady playing and incremental improvement. I know I'm getting closer to some targets (you never reach "the target" as it's always moving away), and I may actually get to a point in the next year or two that I can say (with a straight face) that I've satisfied myself with the amount of work in a certain direction or on a certain song. My song milestones are the same as they have been for the most part (Eruption, Endless Road, etc.), although I did start working on a project that has lain fallow for the past few months, and I intend to resume.

I began a "Guitar Hero Retrospective" project in the spirit of a project initially done and posted by a guitarist named Ketil Strand. It's essentially a medley of key tunes by the influential guitarists of the modern era (dating back to Django, Charlie Christian, etc.) While I don't know that I'll put together something quite as comprehensive as him, the project was a good way to not only put together a demo I could post for future opportunities, but it would also be a good way to either learn or enhance certain styles that are usually somewhat neglected in my playing.

The biggest determinants for my playing in the past year have been buying a Jazz Bass last winter, putting together a few acoustic numbers to play at my Grandmother Nonie's wake, and then gradually resuming electric, bass, and piano. Once the decision was made to play those songs for Nonie, I only practiced those tunes for the next 6 weeks or so. This fall saw me resume my regularly scheduled programming, with a bit more emphasis on the neglected electrics. In the past I had been trying to play piano in the morning, and then about 30 minutes of bass, followed by 45 minutes of electric, and closing with 45 minutes of acoustic at night.

I'm trying a different approach (as of this week) in which I will probably alternate electric on one night, followed by bass & acoustic the other nights. I feel like I need to get back to focusing more intensely on trying to improve technique, phrasing, etc. and the brief little 45 minute sessions were too superficial. I have also started to learn more parts by ear, moreso by happenstance as opposed to formal planning.

Learning bass lines by ear is quite a bit less challenging than guitar since they're typically monophonic (not counting Geddy and Chris Squire, among others) and the tone is usually cleanish enough that you can discern the notes easier. But I've also spent some time learning a few guitar tunes by ear, and I had started trying to learn some piano pieces by ear, although I set the bar pretty high for my current level of skill. I've really got to make that a regular part of my playing, because I honestly think the key to expressing yourself well on any instrument requires a great ear. I've also got to commit to actually working a bit harder to take all these riffs and bits of songs and forge them into actual tunes I record. I'm guilty of coming up with riffs fairly spontaneously, but stopping short of working them into full songs.

That's what I love about being a musician. There's always going to be something you don't know, and there's always going to be something that will challenge you on multiple levels. Cliche warning: It's the journey, not the destination. It's truly the process of learning, improving, practicing and the like that keeps the truly dedicated coming back. If you don't love the day to day work, you'll never keep it up.

I've got no problem with that...

Concert Calendar Update

It's a good thing I periodically check artist websites, because I would otherwise miss out on some great shows. A random check of Eric Johnson's website showed he was playing the Granada in Dallas in October and then checking their website I found out Asia is playing there in November, and performing their eponymous first album in its entirety. So tickets have been purchased for both. I got Aeyong a seat for EJ and I bought a gen admission ticket for myself so I can get close. Asia is all gen admission so we didn't have a choice for them.

So September is actually looking light with only Slash (an understatement, I've been wanting to see him and Myles Kennedy for awhile now), October has Australian Pink Floyd, Eric Johnson, and Joe Bonamassa and then November will have Asia and Rush. 2012 has been a pretty good concert year. I've seen Opeth, Mastodon, Ghost, Roger Waters, Boston and Tenacious D for the first time(s). You could add Led Zeppelin 2, who, despite being a cover band really did nail LZ in all aspects. It was really close to what seeing them circa 1977 must have been like. Add Tommy Emmanuel, Van Halen, and Iron Maiden to the repeat concerts and the previously mentioned upcoming shows proves it's been a fairly stellar concert year. We're at a point now that we're still fairly selective about who we see.

There are a few shows we skip depending upon the night of the week, venue, whether we've seen them recently, and other reasons. We missed Tool since they were the same night as LZ2 and we already had tickets (no, I would never have skipped Tool for a cover band otherwise). We skipped Coldplay, because although I really like their 2nd album, their subsequent albums have progressively lost a little bit of what made the 2nd album great. I would still see them, but I really didn't feel like hanging out with loads of iFans at American Airlines. No disrespect to Chris Martin, but, the few times I've heard him live I've been less than impressed as well.

There are still a few big gaps in our concert history. Right now among the large venue bands it would have to be Foo Fighters and The Killers. Hopefully we'll get chances to see both although I don't relish the large venue ticket sticker shock I'm sure will be the case. I know Aeyong would enjoy Jason Mraz, and Mark Knopfler as well. Knopfler's playing as opener for Bob Dylan and I'm tempted, but we'd probably rather see him do a full solo show. I respect the hell out of Dylan's songwriting, but I've never gelled with his vocal/music style live.

Gig Report

I'm trying to think of a way that could sound more pretentious, but I think I nailed it right there. For lack of a better term, I played my first gig (ever) as a musician this past Saturday. It was for a sitting room only crowd of 15 family, friends, and general well wishers. I played acoustic guitar while my sister Debbie sang Amazing Grace, followed by my niece Heather on Over the Rainbow and finally with How Great Thou Art (Carrie Underwood version) with Debbie on lead vocals and Heather singing harmony.

I played modified versions of the Tommy Emmanuel arrangements of AG and OTR. It was a memorial service for our grandmother Nonie who passed away last month at the age of 85. It went pretty well, there were no big mistakes and everyone seemed to appreciate the effort. Heather was temporarily overcome with emotion while singing OTR because she said made eye contact with our audience and they were all crying and that set her off. It made the moment more emotional and poignant. I studiously looked at the guitar and didn't look at audience. I don't know if I would have become overly emotional, but I could have easily lost track of where I was in the song.

I know I didn't play it as well as I would want, but it went okay and there were no glaring errors made. Somewhere in there I started to actually disconnect from the mechanics and feel the emotion of the songs. I can say that details are hard to recall, it was mostly a blur. I want to get out and perform again but I'm not sure if I want to pursue the solo acoustic path or electric guitar in a rock band path first. I want to do both, but I'm a little more inclined to rock right now. I need to keep working on my set list of known songs so I have something to offer any potential bands. I'm more inclined to play with a covers band, at least at first.