Archive for the ‘Memorabilia’ Category

925 Guitarists and Me

Posted by Brian on 30th April 2015 in General Music, Journal, Memorabilia, Playing well with others

Last week I had a very interesting experience. A friend had sent me a link to a marketing project from Mirvish Productions in Toronto. They were looking for 100 guitarists to go to Mirvish Theatre and play the song “Falling Slowly” from the musical “Once”. We both signed up.

When we got our confirmation e-mail they indicated that about 500 guitarists had signed up.

Outside the Mirvish Theatre

Outside the Mirvish Theatre

Three of us headed into Toronto on the appointed day and, from the moment that we parked, I had a feeling that this was going to be something special. Almost everyone in the parking lot was unloading a guitar and as we walked around the block to the entrance it seemed that every other person was carrying a guitar.

We joined the line outside of the theatre and before long we were inside collecting the promised pairs of tickets to the actual show. The event seemed very well organized, with people directing traffic at regular intervals.

We were assigned our seats and marveled at the variety of both people and guitars that had come out.  Of course there were some there that were hoping to get “discovered” and others who ducked every time a camera went past – because the excuse they gave at work didn’t involve playing guitar.  Some were experienced players and others were fairly new to the instrument and even a bit nervous despite the relative anonymity of playing in such a large group.  We also ran into 4 other guitarists from our little town of Uxbridge – turns out there were others there too.

A number of the cast came on stage and gave us some instruction as to how the song would go and then we played three “takes”.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounded! They announced that the three takes were sufficient and within half an hour of starting, we were enjoying lunch at Fran’s Restaurant.

Here is the resulting video:

And here is CTV’s coverage:

At the end of it all, they announced that 926 guitarists had taken part!  Certainly the largest group I’ve ever played in – and the tickets they gave us were pretty decent too.

And now I can say “I was there.”

So, What Are You Going To Play?

Posted by Brian on 1st March 2011 in Guitar, Memorabilia, Performing

Here’s the scenario: You’re at someone’s house and you notice a guitar hanging on the wall. They say, “Oh, do you play? Play something.” What are you going to play?

Its a question that my guitar teacher asked me a long, long time ago and, eventually,  it profoundly affected my approach to the guitar and continues to affect the way I teach guitar.

At the time, I launched into “Takin’ Care of Business”. After a few bars my teacher asked, “Is that it?”

“I guess.”
“Are you going to sing?”
“No.” (with a hint of “duh” in my voice.)
“How long do you think that will hold someone’s attention?”
“I dunno.”

From there, he started to teach me how to find a melody within a chord progression and play melody and accompaniment simultaneously. It would be years before I fully appreciated what my teacher was trying to do (I still had rockstar aspirations), but eventually my first love would be playing fingerstyle guitar.

Anyways, today, if asked to play something I would probably launch into “Remembering Linda” by Mike Christiansen or “Village Dance” by Ritchie Blackmore. Both good tunes in standard tuning that I can play with minimal warm-up.

So, what would you play?



Edit (March 2, 2011): This posting started out as a thread that I started on which I later realized might make a good blog post. It generated a fair bit of response, which you can read here.

My First Guitar

Posted by Brian on 14th February 2011 in Guitar, Memorabilia, The Instrument

“First guitars tend to be like first loves: ill-chosen, unsuitable, short-lived and unforgettable.”

— Tim Brookes in “Guitar: An American Life”

My first guitar pretty much matched this description to a tee. It was given to me by a neighbour whose adult son played guitar. He had left home, taken his good guitars with him and left behind a couple of  “lesser” instruments. His mom asked me if I would like one of them; and what nearly-eleven-year-old boy would say, “No”?

There were two guitars to chose from, and although I’ll never know for sure, I suspect that I chose badly. I chose the jet-black Gibson Les Paul copy over the sunburst hollowbody Gibson 335 copy; mainly because I had seen more pictures of rock-stars playing Les Pauls than 335s. I do know that now that I’m an adult, I love the sound of hollowbody electric guitars – though that may be a function of not yet owning one.

The guitar was made by Raven and had a super cool Thunderbird-looking logo on the headstock and a huge Wings: Venus and Mars sticker on the body. I’ve only see a handful of Ravens in my life and the last one that I ever saw was this one – on the rack in the store about a month after I traded it in. It was a short-lived brand and this guitar was a pretty good example of why. The intonation was poor and it wouldn’t stay in tune for any length of time.

Shortly after receiving it, I started taking lessons and it wasn’t long before my teacher told my parents that the guitar was holding me back and that, if possible, a better instrument should be found. My parents obliged and bought me a very nice used Fender Stratocaster that I still have over thirty years later. Even though it is one of the notorious post-CBS instruments that are the bane of the Fender line, its been a great instrument for me.

A few short years later I decided that I needed an acoustic guitar, and for the sake of getting $50 off the price of a splendid new Takamine acoustic, I traded it in.  The Takamine has also been a wonderful instrument and has only recently been retired and replaced with a very similar Simon & Patrick instrument. I have absolutely no regrets about buying the Takamine.

But I sure wish I’d spent the extra fifty and kept the Raven.