Posts Tagged ‘music’

Video of the Month: Berkley Springs

Posted by Brian on 5th February 2011 in Canadian Guitarists, Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month

Berkley Springs is a beautiful guitar tune written by Canadian singer/songwriter David Essig. Written in memory of his mother and named after her hometown, it was originally written in DADGAD tuning. Don Ross wrote his own arrangement of the tune in FACFCF tuning to allow for some different chord inversions. This duet arrangement featuring Don Ross and Peter Kroll-Ploeger is one of the nicest versions I’ve heard. I also love the fact that they really seem to be enjoying themselves while playing it.

David Essig:

Don Ross:

Peter Kroll-Ploeger:

Video of the Month: Andy McKee

Posted by Brian on 3rd January 2011 in DADGAD tuning, Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Practice, Video of the Month

Okay, I’ve posted this video before on my website, but I’ve decided to revisit it this month. Over the Christmas holidays I was able to catch up on some back issues of Acoustic Guitar Magazine and the most recent issue (January 2011) featured YouTube sensation Andy McKee.

Andy McKee is a fingerstyle guitarist who cites Preston Reed, Micheal Hedges and Don Ross as his main influences. He became an internet superstar when this video was featured on YouTube. To date it has over 35 million views and Andy’s other videos have combined to give him approximately 100 million views. At one time, he had the three most popular videos on YouTube.

The first time I saw this video I was blown away, but I also considered it a bit of a novelty and filed it under “unplayable for mere mortals”. (Especially mere mortals with two young kids.) However, the magazine article included a transcription of the tune and I thought, “Okay, let’s have another look at that video”. Of course everything in the recorded tune seems to happen at a lightning pace, but when you have a transcription to look at, the main elements of the tune are not out of reach for a decent player. There is a lot in there that I’m not accustomed to doing (i.e. using my guitar as a drum kit) but once I got out my metronome, it didn’t take long to get the gist of the first few bars of the tune – albeit at a comparatively glacial tempo. I may not ever take the time to learn the full tune, but it was a lesson to me – the same lesson that I always try to get across to my students: to play something fast, first you have to play it slow.

Anyways, if you want to learn the tune, its in DADGAD tuning and if you’re like me and need a visual breakdown of everything that is happening in this tune, you can get a transcription from the January 2011 issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine or from the CandyRat Records website.

Video of the Month: Pete Huttlinger

Posted by Brian on 24th November 2010 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month

On my main website I have a page that features guitar videos – mostly solo fingerstyle guitar videos, but there are exceptions. I’ve decided that I should provide more information on some of these videos, so I’m starting a “Video of the Month” feature. (Disclaimer: While I am calling this the Video of the Month, it may happen that a month (or more) might go by without a video being posted. Please accept my apologies in advance.)

This months video features Pete Huttlinger playing a tune that I’ve been working on learning for the past month or so titled “The View”. The song was inspired when Pete was staying with friends in Colorado who had a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains from their home.

Currently living in Nashville, Pete Huttlinger is originally from Washington DC and took up the guitar at age fourteen. After high school he attended the Berklee College of Music and, in 1994, joined John Denver’s band and toured and recorded with him until his death in 1997.  In 2000, Pete won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship and continues to actively perform and record as both a solo artist and accompanist.

You can get a transcription of “The View” from, or as a PDF on the CD that accompanied issue #67 of Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine (2008).  The tuning is DADGBD (double dropped D) and as you can see in the video, Pete plays with a capo at the second fret.

You can check out two other videos of Pete playing this tune here and here.

Canadian Guitarists You Should Know About: Antoine DuFour

Posted by Brian on 30th October 2010 in Canadian Guitarists, Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists

Antoine Dufour is a Canadian guitarist from Quebec who didn’t start playing guitar until he was 15. He continued to study guitar at CEGEP in Joliette, PQ. and  has won the Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Championship and placed third at the International Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. Since 2003 he has released 5 CDs of mostly solo acoustic guitar music and has become something of a YouTube sensation along with the likes of Andy McKee and fellow Canadian Don Ross.

In this video of “To Run in a Dream” you can see that he plays his guitar on a stand and he ties a bandana under the strings on the headstock to eliminate resonances on his very responsive guitar:

And watch what he does with a simple Em chord in this instructional video:

Antoine Dufour’s website

Antoine Dufour’s YouTube channel

Antoine Dufour on MySpace

You can also watch videos of Antoine on CandyRat Records’ YouTube channel

And you can purchase recordings and sheet music from Antoine Dufour on CandyRat Records.

How to: Create Your Own Venue

Posted by Brian on 24th September 2010 in How to:..., Performing

In the local paper this week, there was a letter to the editor lamenting the absence of venues in our community for young musicians to play their music. And I couldn’t help but agree – there is a terrible shortage of venues where young musicians can hone their performance skills. In fact there is a terrible shortage of venues for original music, period.

But this doesn’t mean that you have to hide out in your basement feeling sorry for yourself while you play your music. There is an alternative.

House concerts have become quite a phenomenon in folk music circles – for good reason. Simply put, a house concert is an invitation-only concert in someone’s home. It is a great way to share your music with the people who are most interested in hearing it. And you might even make a few bucks while you’re at it.

If you are a musician, or small band, looking to build an audience for your music, house concerts are an idea to which you should give serious consideration. You can host one yourself, or ask a supportive friend with a decent-sized living room or basement to host one for you. Then start inviting your friends. Make sure you set a cap on the number of invitees; and charging a nominal fee for tickets will ensure that people actually show up. Make sure that you charge enough so that you or the host won’t be out-of-pocket for the event, and if you want to get paid for your services, you need to write that into your ticket prices too. If you can sell 20 tickets for $5 each, you’ve generated $100 in revenue – if you can sell a few CDs and start building an e-mail list, so much the better.

(And make sure that all of the guests know before they leave that you would be delighted to perform at a house concert in their home too!)

Why I Love Music Festivals

Posted by Brian on 28th August 2010 in General Music

I was at the Eaglewood Folk Festival today and as usual, I was checking out one of the workshops. This particular workshop was called “First Verse and Chorus” and the description in the programme read like this:

No talking, no introductions. Just the first verse and chorus (or first two verses) of any song you didn’t write. Audience is also in the rotation (there will be a mic setup in the audience). Sing-alongs encouraged.

There were at least ten performers on stage, representing at least three bands plus a couple of singer/songwriters. For the finale, someone in the audience requested “Momma Don’t Allow” – a fun, traditional, 16-bar blues tune. (You can see J.J. Cale’s version here.) One of the performers said “Let’s do it in E”, and off they went with an up-tempo, rollicking version of the song.

The lyrics go like this:

Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
I don’t care what mama don’t allow I’ll play my guitar anyhow
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here

And continue, substituting “guitar playing” with “banjo picking”, “accordian playing”, etc as each performer leads a verse. The idea being that after each verse, the dis-allowed instrument would play a solo. I was thoroughly enjoying the obviously unrehearsed, but very well rendered performance when one of the performers sang, “Mama don’t allow no scat singing round here,” and I held my breath. (Scat singing is improvised singing using meaningless sounds.) What followed was one of those unforgettable musical moments that can only happen at a festival workshop: At least eight or nine vocalists simultaneously improvising so harmoniously that you couldn’t perform it better if you rehearsed for a thousand years. It was absolute magic! And if you weren’t there, then you missed it, because it will never happen again.

How to: Jamming

Posted by Brian on 8th June 2010 in How to:..., Jamming, Performing, Playing well with others

One of the great joys of playing music is to play it with other people, but most of us don’t have either the time, the talent, or the courage to commit to playing in a band. So for us, the best reasonable option is jamming, but what exactly is jamming?

According to my 1980 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, a jam session is “a meeting of jazz musicians for the purpose of improvising together”. Most musicians I know would tell you that you don’t have to be a jazz musician to jam, nor does it necessarily involve a lot of improvising. I would more broadly define jamming as an informal gathering of musicians for the purpose of learning and sharing music.

The most basic jam occurs when one musician invites another to his or her house to play some music and they take turns showing each other songs and trying to play them together.

If you want to try jamming, find a couple of friends who also play and invite them over. Ask them to come prepared to lead a few songs if they are comfortable.  Sit in a circle and work around the circle taking turns leading a song – those who are not comfortable can just say “pass”. As host, you should go first. Show people the basic chord progression(s) first and then start into the song. Be prepared to sing to get the song going, usually people will join in and you’re probably not as bad a singer as you think (no matter what your older siblings tell you) and if you are truly terrible, it with actually help the other musicians loosen up a bit. Try some predictable 3 and 4 chord songs to get things going. By predictable, I mean that the chord progression pretty much repeats itself for the whole song or only changes for the chorus. For more complicated songs, it doesn’t hurt to have some lead sheets (melody and chords) or fake sheets (lyrics and chords) to help people along.

As people get comfortable, you can try soloing. Just before the last verse of a song with a predictable chord progression ask the person to your left or right if they want to try a solo and work your way around the circle, repeating the progression, until everyone who wants to try a solo has had an opportunity. It is good manners (and musicianship) for everyone else to play more quietly when someone is soloing. You don’t usually need to point this out, just set a good example.

If you want to make things more interesting, try to have a theme once in a while when you go around the circle: “Two-chord Songs”, “Love (or Hate) Songs”, “Story Songs”, and “Songs From Before You Were Born” are some good themes to start with.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. These guidelines are a good introduction to jamming but there are many variations that you can try. Some regular jams develop a songbook that they use and add to over time, others will purchase several copies of a “fake book” and use that. Some are for guitarists only, others seek a wide variety of musicians. Still others focus just on blues, or bluegrass, or other genres of music. The main thing is to keep it fun.