“You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do” . . : Changing Guitar Strings

If you’re a guitarist like me, you are not fond of having to change your strings. As a result, I sometimes keep the strings on a guitar longer than they should, usually till they are so worn out that they no longer stay in tune for any real length of time. As I was changing stings on my acoustic guitars and encountering the usual headaches such as the string tension slipping, it occurred to me that maybe I should see if I could do this better.

The video offers a clear simple explanation of the luthier’s knot and I have to say it really works.

Tech Tip: How to Tie a Luthier’s Knot When Changing Strings

Changing strings are a lot more complicated since nylon string guitars require knots on both ends of the string. The video below offers as good a tutorial on the subject as I have seen.

How to Change Classical Guitar Strings (step by step restring)

Oh, and if you haven’t done so, get a string winder. They’re cheap and make you life easier.

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Posted in Equipment

‘It Tolls For Thee” . . . : Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells

I remember I was fifteen years old in my bedroom reading Rolling Stone magazine (I thought I was so cool . . . ha!) and I saw this ad for a new record called Tubular Bells. I was a precocious little sh*t who knew that tubular bells were a orchestral percussion instrument but my interest was piqued. I wasn’t actually able to hear the record until a fair time later and not before it gained notoriety as the opening theme to movie The Exorcist, of which it only uses the first few minutes.

The record was the first record by a then 19 year old Mike Oldfield who played almost all the instruments on the mostly instrumental album. Prior to Tubular Bells, Oldfield had been playing with musicians associated with the progressive rock scene in Canterbury, England. The album was seen at the time as progressive rock with it’s long song form and extended instrumental passages, distinguishing itself from other prog records of it’s time by it’s lack of lyrics.

Since the initial release of Tubular Bells, Oldfield has released numerous records including Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975), and Incantations (1978), all of which follow the longform, mostly instrumental structure of Tubular Bells. Mike Oldfield has also returned to Tubular Bells several times, recording a second and third installment, adapting the piece for piano and other instruments. The composition has also been transcribed and performed by an orchestra.

Mike Oldfield ‘Tubular Bells’ Live at the BBC 1973 (HQ remastered)

The next two videos are for the real music nerds out there. The first one is of Part One of Tubular Bells with the score of the piece to read along with. While I can read music, it’s not my strong suit but I find the experience of following the score with the music really gives me a new appreciation and understanding of the music.
To go further into music geekdom, the second video is a reaction/musical analysis of Tubular Bells by Doug Helvering, a classically trained composer who has a cool music reaction/analysis series called The Daily Doug. Definitely worth checking out.

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, Part One1 (read along video)

Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield) Reaction & Analysis | The Daily Doug (Ep 278)

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Crazy Fingers” . . . : Grateful Dead on Classical Guitar

I’ve been listening to a lot of classical guitar these past few months. Mostly Bach, some Vivaldi but I’ll leave that for another post.

Anyway, given my listening habits I guess that it was inevitable that the Great YouTube Algorithm would direct me to a You Tube playlist named “Jerry’s Smilin – A Guitar Tribute To The Grateful Dead’ by nylon string guitarist-composer Damia’ Timoner.

Side Note: I’m of two minds regarding You Tube’s recommendation of this channel. It’s creepy that it tracks my viewing habits so it knew that I would like this but on the other hand . . It was right, I do like it.

I don’t know much about Mr. Timoner. Beside his Grateful Dead covers. I’ve heard great fingerstyle guitar renditions of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and The Pogues’ Fairytale In New York but I want to talk specifically about “Jerry’s Smilin”.

First off, to me it’s apparent that he “gets it”. You can tell he’s a deadhead who plays classical guitar, not a classical guitarist that thinks an album of dead covers would be a good marketing hook. He knows the music and his attention to little things in the music show it. His quoting of Garcia’s opening guitar line in his version of Dark Star immediately made me take notice.

Dark Star (Grateful Dead cover) by Damià Timoner

Listening to the instrumental covers of these dead tunes once again reminds me that these are strong melodic songs. When you hear the vocal melody played by an instrument, you can appreciate how well these melodies hold up.

Cassidy -DeadCoversProject by Damià Timoner

#DeadCoversProject 2022 – Ramble on rose (Grateful Dead cover) by Damià Timoner

Most impressive is Timoner’s take on Terrapin Station, one of the Dead’s most elaborate compositions. Given that the song is very orchestral in itself, Timoner does a great job of adapting it all to solo classical guitar.

Lady with a fan / Terrapin station (Grateful Dead cover) by Damià Timoner

Listen to Damia’ Timoner’s album, “Jerry’s Smilin – A Guitar Tribute To The Grateful Dead” on Spotify here.

Jerry’s Smilin – A Guitar Tribute To The Grateful Dead on Spotify

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Posted in Classic Rock, Classical, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Ease My Worried Mind” . . : The Sad Tale Of Jim Gordon

Rock music has more than it’s share of weird and tragic stories but this one is one it’s weirder and more tragic ones.

At one time, Jim Gordon was one of rock music’s most admired and in demand drummers. During the sixties became the protégé of studio drumming legend Hal Baine and played on everything coming out of Los Angeles, from The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds to Mason Williams’ Classical Gas.

He toured with Delaney & Bonnie where he met Eric Clapton, and subsequently joined Derek and The Dominos’, playing on the classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and also playing with the band on their U.S. and UK tours. He was also part of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Dave Mason‘s album Alone Together, Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, most of Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic, including the single “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”. . . .

You get the picture.

Oh, and he is also credited with writing the piano coda for the song “Layla” but that claim has been disputed by the Dominos’ Bobby Whitlock who claimed that the piano melody was actually written by Gordon’s girlfriend Rita Coolidge.

But underneath all this success, Gordon was also dealing with very serious mental health issues. Gordon developed schizophrenia and began to hear voices (including his mother’s) which compelled him to starve himself and prevented him from sleeping, relaxing and eventually from playing drums. His physicians misdiagnosed the problems and instead treated him for alcohol abuse. It was during his tour with Joe Cocker in the early 1970s, that Gordon reportedly punched his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge in a hotel hallway, ending their relationship.

It all came to a tragic head when on June 3, 1983, Gordon attacked his 72-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon, with a hammer before fatally stabbing her with a butcher knife; he claimed that a voice told him to kill her. It was only after his arrest that Gordon was properly diagnosed with schizophrenia. At his trial, the court accepted that he had acute schizophrenia, but he was not allowed to use an insanity defense because of changes to California law due to the Insanity Defense Reform Act.

The Sad Tale of Jim Gordon

As of 2021, he remains incarcerated at the California Medical Facility.

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“I’m Just Trying To Break Your Heart” . . : Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Teaches You To Write One Song

“If you want to think of yourself as a songwriter, write songs.” – Jeff Tweedy

For a long time I would read about the band Wilco (and it’s predecessor, Uncle Tupalo) but never really listened to them. That changed when one of the guitarists of the band I was in at the time suggested we do the song Jesus, Etc. from the Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yeah, color me impressed.

So I found out recently that Jeff Tweedy, the songwriting force behind Wilco, wrote a book called How To Write One Song (order it direct from the Wilco website here: https://wilcostore.com/products/jeff-tweedy-how-to-write-one-song-book). In it, Tweedy tries to demystify the creative process from one in which only the certain few can tap into to the realty that it’s more a matter of developing your craft and being persistent in that pursuit. Tweedy provides several different exercises to help the budding songwriter develop ideas. The first two videos below go into two such exercises, the Word Ladder and the time honored tradition of taking a phrase from a book (the line “Mediocre artists borrow, great ones steal” comes to mind).

The third video below come from an interesting YouTube called The Songwriter’s Workshop in which the YouTuber (is that a word?) tries to write a song using the techniques and process of other songwriters, in this case, Jeff Tweedy. Watching someone go through the process and then hearing the results is a interesting watch, especially if, like me, you find the creative process itself to be fascinating.

Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #1 – Word Ladder (from his book How To Write One Song)

Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #2 – Stealing from a Book (from his book How To Write One Song)

How to write one song (according to Jeff Tweedy)

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Holiday Haiku 2021

We Bid You Goodnight
A Song A Deadhead Knows Well
Happy Holidays

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Grateful Dead, Jam Band, Uncategorized

“Hey! Oy! Let’s Goy!” . . : Kursten & Grohl The Hanukah Sessions

As tonight marks the last night of Hanukkah 2021, it’s a fitting time to mention the series of cover song videos put out by producer Greg Kurstin (who is Jewish) and renaissance mensch Dave Grohl (who isn’t) called appropriately enough, The Hanukkah Sessions.

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions (Intro)

The duo made a series of videos, starting in 2020, where they cover a tune by a Jewish rock musician, one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. The first year included tributes to Bob Dylan, the Knack, the Velvet Underground, Beastie Boys, Mountain, Drake, Peaches and Elastica. This year videos included Billy Joel’s “Big Shot,” a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Take the Box” with Grohl’s daughter Violet on vocals, a take on a Van Halen’s “Jump,” (heavy on the keytar), a metal version of Lisa Loeb’s folk-rock tune “Stay (I Missed You),” a heartfelt version of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, an extra cheesed-up version of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” (if that were possible), the Kiss tune “Rock And Roll All Nite” and a really cool take on The Clash’s “Train In Vain” (learning that Mick Jones,co-founder of The Clash is Jewish via his Russian Jewish mother, makes me kvell).

My favorites . . . .

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Two

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Three

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Four

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Seven

To see all the videos (including The Hanukkah Sessions 2020), then go here:
The Complete Hanukkah Sessions – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyjqnQsvvnpLzzLgIl0nBU8bBq3KYZGYZ

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“King Of The Mountain” . . : The Band Midnight Oil

I saw a news item today announcing that the forthcoming tour of Australian group Midnight Oil in support of a new album, Resist, will be their final one. The band was a fixture of Australia’s alternative rock scene but began to get more attention starting in 1987 with their album Diesel and Dust and the song “Beds Are Burning” which illuminated the plight of indigenous Australians. It was with their following album Blue Sky Mining from 1990 that I became aware of them, in large part because of airplay on Long Island’s alternative music station WLIR. I have fond memories of seeing Midnight Oil play during the Blue Sky Mining tour at Jones Beach Theater and they were amazing. Lead singer Peter Garrett is an commanding presence and the songs have great guitar interplay.

The band’s political activism, particularly in aid of anti-nuclear, environmentalist and indigenous people rights, are an integral part of their identity. In 1990 Midnight Oil played an impromptu lunchtime set in front of Exxon headquarters in New York with a banner reading, “Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes Us Sick,” protesting the Exxon Valdez oil spill the previous year. Garrett went on to become a senior minister in the Australian government between 2007 and 2013 after first being elected to the House of Representatives in 2004.

Below are videos for my favorite Midnight Oil songs. I hope they interest you enough to check them out further.

Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine

Midnight Oil – Forgotten Years

Midnight Oil – King Of The Mountain

If your interested in checking out the band’s history, here is a video from the music You Tube channel Todd In The Shadows who talks about Midnight Oil and the song Beds Are Burning during his series One Hit Wonders (which makes a point of saying that the term One Hit Wonder doesn’t really apply here).

ONE HIT WONDERLAND: “Beds Are Burning”

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“When Sunny Gets Blue” . . : Pat Martino 1944 – 2021

Pat Martino, jazz guitarist extraordinaire, passed away recently at the age of 77. Pat started out in the Philadelphia jazz scene, playing in the soul jazz organ combos of Charles Earland, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff. You can certainly hear these roots in his early records like his 1967 debut for Prestige, El Hombre. But Martino’s music always had an exploratory side as shown by his 1968 record Baiyina (The Clear Evidence) which incorporated elements of Indian classical music and by the mid-’70s, Martino had begun delving into jazz fusion with records such as Starbright and Joyous Lake.

I first became aware of Pat Martino when Guitar Player magazine did a feature review of his 1972 record Live! which featured his killer version of the pop tune Sunny. I was really getting into guitar at this time and this just blew my mind as it did to many other guitar geeks at the time. Martino’s playing displayed incredible technique but also had a an amazing clarity to it even at fast tempos. Here just check it out. I’ll wait . . . .

Pat Martino – Sunny

Pat Martino – Impressions

Pat Martino – Blue Bossa

Suddenly, in 1980, Pat Martino undergoes emergency neurosurgery for a brain aneurysm that saved his life but also damaged his memory. Martino then spent several years relearning the instrument by listening back to his own recordings while also dealing with issues of depression and struggling with the grueling process of recovering his motor skills. Despite all this he reemerged in 1987 with The Return, displaying miraculously undiminished chops. Martino continued to perform and record for the next three decades, often playing in hard bop or organ combo settings reminiscent of his early career,

Wow . . .
R.I.P. Pat Martino

Pat Martino – Oleo
d – January 1, 2002 – Teatro Mancinelli, Orvieto, Italy

Pat Martino – Hipsippy Blues

Pat Martino Quartet – Midnight Special (Live at Blues Alley)

Pat Martino Quartet – Lean Years (Live at Blues Alley)

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Posted in Improvisation, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Back Porch Blues” . . . : The Videos of Justin Johnson

There’s something about acoustic blues guitar that can sooth the soul (at least mine) in ways that no other music can. My upbringing was about as far from the Mississippi Delta as you can get yet I can get lost in listening to this music for hours. That brings us to the videos of guitarist Justin Johnson.

Justin Johnson has been putting great videos of instrumental acoustic blues guitar and fingerstyle guitar arrangements of classic rock tunes. His videos showcase not only his impressive fingerstyle chops but also his slide guitar playing He also has a collection of very cool looking guitars and a music making man cave to die for.

I’m just gonna let the music speak for itself so just do what I do. Play the music and go where it takes you. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the trip.

Over 10 Minutes of Laid-Back Acoustic Blues Guitar to Escape To

BLUES GUITAR • One Hour of Laid-Back Solo Blues Guitar

GEORGIA ON MY MIND | Relaxing Smoky Blues Guitar

“HURT” by Johnny Cash / NIN • Fingerstyle Guitar Version

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN • Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar

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Posted in Blues, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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