Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tis the Season

Last week, a student told me they home make wine - and he added that it was good wine.  That reminded me that Fender, a company well known for branded gear of every description, is now offering wine in their store. (Over the legal drinking age, please.)  They also have a promotion that if you purchase $75 worth of merchandise, you will get a free set of Fender ornaments.   Nice deal.  

In the Fender shop, you will find merchandise in these categories: Santa's Workshop (parts and tools), Gifts Under $50, Holiday Cheers (cool barware), Stocking Stuffers, Home for the Holidays, Cold Weather Classics, Fender Fan Club, Fender for the Road and Old School Cool.  Then, of course there's the standard list that contains media, books, collectibles, Fender King Baby ® Jewelry, memorabilia, posters and prints, furniture, wall decor,  mini guitars and don't forget the wine.  

If you have some Fender fans to shop for, this could be your first destination on cyber Monday.  

New in Takamine's G Series

I was glad to see an email from our friends at Takamine during the week.  Taks are nice guitars.  I was even happier to see their G Series round out to now include Classical and Bass guitars.

The specs reveal that the G Series classicals  are all at modest price points (about $290 to about $585 street.) There are 3 acoustics and 3 electric cutaways.  They are all spruce top guitars, and in both categories the 2 higher priced models have solid spruce tops.  All the necks are mahogany and fingerboards are rosewood. They are all 19 fret instruments, 2 inches at the head nut, with a 650mm (25.6 inch) scale length and a flat neck radius.  Pretty standard.  Nothing unusual in the bracing, either. 

As for the G Series bases. they are at reasonable prices, too. There are 4 instruments: 2 "30s" and 2 "72s."  The 30s have mahogany back and sides and the 72s have maple back and sides. The 30s are street priced at $730 and the 72s are street priced at $860.   If you haven't listened to acoustic electric basses, they don't sound like solid body electric bases.  They're tasty!  All the bass guitars in this line are fretted. They are 1.77 inches  at the head nut and have an 864mm (34 inch) scale length. Like the classical models, the higher end  guitars have slightly more expensive tuners.

The 30 is available in either black or natural and the 72 is available in sunburst or natural. Both guitars have jumbo bodies, so play one in person before you buy or order one online, if you have never held and played a jumbo before.

For this price range, Takamines are a great choice. Their quality is reliable.  If you're buying or gifting a nylon string guitar or an acoustic electric bass, these are instruments you should consider.  

Don't forget to get some genuine R Series Raptor picks for the guitarist in your life.  They're available 24/7 from Raptor Picks USA.  They're the pick that's made for the guitarist who wants to play more creatively.  Free Raptors with an order of  4 or more is just another way of "spreading the excellence, one guitarist at time."  (Raptor™ picks are a registered design all rights are owned by Black Carbon.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So, my student who was making a last ditch effort to learn guitar from a 3rd instructor (me) had his second lesson last week. We had contact during the week and to say he sounded exuberant would be an understatement.  He was looking forward to our lesson and so was I.

He was well prepared, practice-wise and well prepared with some good questions, too.  I think he was a little surprised by having been well practiced. yet making mistakes when he played for me.  Anyone who has had an instructor has lived through that unsettling and humbling experience numerous times until they realized that once you and your axe emerge from your practice space, you need to over practice to compensate for the stress mistakes one tends to make when they are playing for someone else. It's a shocking and memorable lesson. 

His sight reading wasn't flawless, nor was his ear training, but he did very well, considering the morass of confusion to which he was previously subjected. 

At one point he showed me a lesson assignment  one of his previous non-teachers gave him. He had no idea what it meant and the non-teacher didn't explain it well enough for him to understand.  I can't believe I just wrote that. The guy didn't explain it even marginally - never mind enough for him to understand. I'll try to explain what it was.  Imagine a chord diagram grid  with numbers at the fret locations of the sequence of sounds of a particular variety of pentatonic scale.  Don't imagine it, take a look:

This diagram didn't have finger numbers (which are not really necessary with a diagram, since it's understood that you're fingering in the position of the diagram) but rather it had some Arabic numbers that weren't finger numbers. It confused my student and the first thing he asked me about it was  if there was more than one place to play the A that on the 5th fret of the  low E string. If you are a novice and you look at this cryptic (because of lack of information) diagram, it's a reasonable question.when I explained that open A and the 5th fret  low E string A are the same pitch. He didn't understand why the 3 different 6s were on the diagram.  He said the non-teacher gave it to him (actually, his diagram was a small segment of what I've illustrated above) and the show-er told him it was phrasing. (Not!) The following week he played a chord progression and wanted my student to play "phrasing" over his chords.  I mean, really?!?! I knew it was bad out there, and devolving quickly, but I hadn't imagined the state of what's broadly called "guitar lessons,"  was barely on life support.

My first question was, did the non-teacher explain and have the student work with major or minor scales.  No, he hadn't.  I explained to my student that the Arabic numbers on the diagram were the degrees of the the pentatonic's corresponding major scale.  He didn't have a clue what I meant.   Neither would you if you'd only been shown weird diagrams, been given an incorrect tab for some song and never heard a word nor played a major scale.  I mean really, what is the point of highlighting degrees of a scale about which the student has no knowledge? It can only precipitate confusion.  All I can guess it that this non-teacher was some guitar hack who wanted to try to pick up some extra cash and didn't have a clue how to teach guitar.  I can also guess that he looked at some other lame person's YouTube "lesson" and did to my student what the YouTube non-teacher did.  Man! (If this mirrors your experience as a student and you live where I teach, please contact me. I can teach you to play and understand exactly what you're doing. Then, you'll be a musician, not a hack nor robot.)

My student finally doesn't feel like learning to play correctly and well is something beyond his reach.  


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Glorious Rosewood

I love wood. I especially love all tone wood guitars.  It made me so happy to read about Fender's drop dead gorgeous Limited Rosewood Telecaster.  

Fender built several rosewood instruments in the late ’60s. These were in production very briefly and are now extremely collectable. Jimi Hendrix reportedly had one of the first Rosewood Stratocaster® guitars, and George Harrison  used one of the original Rosewood Telecaster guitars on Let It Be and for the fabled Apple Records rooftop concert in 1969.

Fender says:

The Classic Rosewood Telecaster is now offered as a Limited Edition for 2013 and is a meticulously crafted replica of one of the most sought after guitars in Fender history. Features include a rosewood body, rosewood neck with early-’60s “oval C”-shaped profile and no skunk stripe or plug, rosewood fingerboard with 9.5” radius and 6105 frets, vintage-style hardware, Twisted Tele® pickups with modern wiring, and satin urethane Closet Classic finish. Each guitar comes with a Limited Edition case, decal, neck plate and certificate of authenticity.

Price?   Well, you know the possessor of an instrument like this, has champagne taste.  This beauty has an MSRP of $7,000.  I've seen it on line for about $1,500 less street price.  

Love the guitar but you could never afford it?   Why don't you look into the Fender 60th Anniversary Lite Rosewood Telecaster.  Street, on that one can be as low as $1,600.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Really Big Show

No, not a concert - sorry if you were salivating.  

Last week I got a call from a guy looking for guitar lessons.  We spoke for a while and he related two recent experiences with so-called guitar teachers, and he called because he took a look around my web site, and thought I might offer him the guitar instruction that has, thus far, alluded him.  

He told me about being shown a pentatonic scale by one teacher and the following week, being asked to "phrase" that pentatonic scale while the teacher played a chord progression.  I think he said that the other teacher showed him some chords and found the tab online to a song he wanted to learn. (This is where I need to mention that this caller was in a band when he was considerably younger, and was a bass player.  It's not like he never had a stringed instrument in his hands.) When I asked him why he was looking for a third guitar instructor, he said that after the lessons he has taken with the 2 aforementioned teachers, he hasn't learned anything.  He was taught a song, incorrectly (those are his words) and a pentatonic scale.  

I discussed my method with him and explained the general order and process I use, and why.  I explained to him that what he'd experienced, which is what countless people who engage guitar instructors to teach them to play experience, is being shown how to play something but not being taught anything. It's perplexingly common.  I have had students join my schedule who "took lessons" for a couple years, yet knew nothing - not the most simplistic musical concepts, nor any basic guitar knowledge (fret board and actual.)

You may be among those who  find it hard to believe how far reaching the problem of these show-ers is. It's everywhere. If you're a guitar teacher, I hope showing is not what you do, but rather that meaty, logical, knowledgeable   instructing is.   If you are a show-er, you may play, and you may even play superlatively.  That doesn't mean you can teach. You have to be able to play, to teach. But teaching is a skill set that most players don't have.  Be honest with students, and with yourself.  I can only guess at the amount of money the guy who called, and who I will begin working with this week, threw away on some get togethers, that were anything but guitar lessons.

Guitar students: If your teacher has shown you  a pentatonic scale, why are you playing it it?  Are you playing a fingering pattern or are you listening and can you hear the scale?  Do you have a clue what distinguishes a pentatonic scale from a diatonic major or minor scale?  Why is is called pentatonic?  Why can you begin playing it anywhere in its sequence, play any arrangement of its notes and stop anywhere and have the result sound like a complete musical thought even though those results don't occur if you do the same randomizing of a major or minor scale? Are you being taught the universal language of music, namely, notation?  If you aren't, there is no logic to what you're teaching.  Learning how to read and write music it utterly liberating and if taught correctly, lends clear understanding to whatever you play, compose, write, learn, hear or dream.

If you are looking for an instructor that will teach you correctly the first time,  contact me, if you are in my area.  If not, please read my find a teacher on the web site, so you will be well informed as you vet a potential teacher.  You don't want to hire a show-er.