Category Archives: Music

My Excellent Guitar Teacher

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. – William Arthur Ward

I have an excellent guitar teacher. I’ve been working with him for 3 or 4 months now. My goal was to learn some music theory and some techniques for playing lead guitar. I had learned a lot but I wasn’t satisfied with my progress on playing lead. It was coming slow and I didn’t seem to be making much progress.

So, two lessons ago, I brought up my frustrations to my guitar teacher. I looked him right in the eye and asked if I was really cut out to play lead since it seemed to be coming very slowly for me. I asked him if I should just focus on being an excellent rhythm guitarist. He looked right back at me, paused for a moment and said “No.”

He said what I needed was to learn a lead from some songs that I enjoy. We would then attack the lead playing combined with music theory from that perspective. I said okay. Let’s give it a try. I had to pick a song I wanted to learn the lead on. So, I choose one (Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd) and in the next 25 minutes, he taught me the lead for that song. I was astounded at how fast I picked it up. We also analyzed the song to look at the theory underlying the melody.

Within one session, my guitar teacher was able to completely turn my attitude around. It was brilliant. With the next lesson I learned another song I’ve always wanted to learn (From the Beginning – Emerson, Lake and Palmer). I am now feeling much better about my progress. That changed perspective is propelling me forward faster now.

I’m glad I’ve found this teacher. He is a rare breed.

Michael

Newport Jazz Festival 2009

Taken with an iPhone

Taken with an iPhone

Every summer, typically around this time in August, the Newport Jazz Festival becomes a mecca for jazz lovers and people that enjoy outdoor festivals.

George Wein started the Newport Jazz Festival many years ago and except for last year, produced the festival every year. Almost at the last minute, CareFusion became the corporate sponsor which helped successfully launch this year’s show.

Erica and I had the opportunity to volunteer to help at the festival, both Friday night and Saturday during the day. The work wasn’t that hard and we were able to see many performances for free.

This year’s Jazz Festival started on Friday night at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Tennis Hall of Fame is a beautiful facility right on the famous Bellevue Avenue in Newport where many of the large mansions are located. The Howard Alden/Anat Cohen Quartet kicked the evening off. Chaka Khan and The George Duke Trio were the final performances on a lovely evening with an almost full moon peaking through some high clouds, perfect temperature and an enthusiastic crowd.

We took a water taxi on Saturday morning to Ft. Adams State Park where the main festival was held for the weekend. This is a great ride because you can see, up front and personal, all the large boats, yachts and ships that dock in Newport Harbor during the summer.

The day was lovely; blue skies, mid 70’s temperature, low humidity. The grounds around the old fort quickly filled up with festival goers anxiously awaiting the first performances. We worked near the main stage so we were able to see five main performers; Cedar Walton Trio with Lew Tabackin & Curtis Fuller, Esperanza Spalding, The Joshua Redman Double Trio, Branford Marsalis Quartet and Mos Def & the Watermelon Syndicate.

Two other smaller stages hosted a number of other acts; Vijay Iyer Trio, Christian McBride Trio, Vandermark 5, Jane Monheit, Hiromi’s SonicBloom, North Carolina Central Jazz Combo with Joey Calderazzo, Claudia Acuna, Branford Marsalis – Joey Calderazzo Duo, North Caroline Central Big Band and the Miquel Zenon Quartet.

Overall it was a fantastic day; great music, good food, some cool vendors selling their wares, interesting people, wonderful weather and a relaxing time.

Michael

A Evening With Sting

Erica and I went to Foxwoods Casino last night in Connecticut to see Sting live in concert. It was an incredible performance from a consummate entertainer, musician and songwriter. Sting had three other musicians (guitarist, drummer and keyboardist) with him, all fantastic in their own right.

For over two hours, which included two encores, Sting and his band performed all of his greatest songs plus a lot of material from The Police. The crowd was a fanatical group of fans who seemed to know every word of every song. Sting was visibly enjoying the over the top enthusiasm in the theater. It was fun to watch.

I was fascinated by watching the band perform. They didn’t appear to make any mistakes. That was amazing because some of these songs have complex beats and rhythms. Most of Sting’s melodies seem to stay with you for a long time.

Live music is always enjoyable to me whether I’m watching or playing. Watching someone like Sting do “his thing” is the best though. We left the theater feeling like we had received our money’s worth.

I hope I get to see him at least one more time. I can’t seem to get enough.

Michael

Better Man

I’m going make my world a better place.
I’m going keep that smile on my face.
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand.
I’m gonna make myself a better man. – Keb’ Mo’ (from the song Better Man)

I really love this song from Keb’ Mo’. It has such a positive message that it’s hard not to feel good after listening to it.

When he says “my world”, he doesn’t mean directly “the world.” Effectively, though, by making ourselves better, we are making the world better. But, it starts with the selfish act of making our own world a better place. It’s about keeping our happiness level high with smiles and laughter. It’s about learning and understanding what makes us “tick.” From that we learn about the world’s diversity plus the different views and perspectives we all have.

When you wake up in the morning, start your day off by thinking how can I make myself better. Just pick one thing to focus on during your day. Tomorrow can be something else. Before you know it, you’ve made significant and positive changes in your life. You can now affect positive change in others around you just by the example of your life. No other work would be required.

It’s not hard to change the world if our expectation is to change ourselves first.

Michael

Music as Meditation

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens to me when I play my guitar. It’s very similar to meditation in the sense that I’m focused on the present moment, my thinking process has slowed or stopped and I get a complete sense of relaxation.

Music, whether playing, singing or listening, has an incredibly powerful effect on most of us. It’s like we are all wired so that music jumps right down into our core being. We associate personal memories to songs. We relate a host of emotions to a variety of music.

Music forms the thread that connects our lives to others and to our own past. It is so ingrained in all cultures that I can’t imagine a society without music.

All I know is that when I’m playing music, listening to music, or singing (alone mostly!), I seem to transcend time. I experience a level of joy that only a few other things can compare. Photography being one of them.

Incorporating music into your daily life can be one way to help lift your mood, help you to reduce your stress levels and put you squarely into the present moment. Try all varieties and see which ones have positive effects.

Have a great day!

Michael

Getting Over a Music Hump

Playing scales is like a boxer skipping rope or punching a bag. It’s not the thing in itself; it’s preparatory to the activity – Barney Kessel – Jazz Guitar

Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside of us. – Unknown

When you strum a guitar you have everything – rhythm, bass, lead and melody. – David Gilmore / Pink Floyd

I started taking guitar lessons again with a different person. I think this guy will be able to help me in my goals. He’s already very different than my previous guitar teacher.

He started off by telling me that the place I’m at is common for many musicians. I’m trying to break through old habit patterns and learn new ways of expression. He said it’s just a hump and that he can help me get over it.

Most of the lesson today was about music theory with some application on the actual guitar. The difference with this teacher is that he doesn’t want me to write anything down. So, I must remember everything; both the theory and the new scales. He’s focusing me on hearing more than remembering. It’s definitely a different approach, but in one short lesson, I’m already approaching my music in new ways.

I love to play and would like to expand my musical vocabulary, so this guy might be my ticket. I’m going to give myself a couple of months worth of lessons before deciding if this new teacher can help me reach my musical goals.

It’s exciting and a lot of fun. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Michael

American Idol Addict

I admit it. I’m an American Idol addict. I get tired of the hype most of the time, but I absolutely love the talent and the not so talented that end up on the show. I think most of the stories are inspirational like David Cooke. One night he is a bartender and the next he has sold over a million albums. That’s a great story any way you look at it.

I’ve enjoyed this season as it seemed that the level of talent was far superior than the few other seasons I had watched. It made for an exciting show. I also loved to see the variety of song interpretation by the contestants. Some of those performances were quite memorable.

I watch very little television, but during Idol season I’m on the tube every Tuesday and Wednesday night for the show. I find nothing wrong with this. :-)

Congratulations to Kris Allen for winning tonight! I’m glad I wasn’t the one to pick between the Adam and Kris.

Michael

Fleetwood Mac – Boston

Erica and I went to see Fleetwood Mac last night in Boston. This is the Fleetwood Mac Unleashed Tour. No album to promote. Just the best of their 40 some plus year career. And let me say, “They played some of the greatest songs in rock history!!”

The entire band poured their heart and soul out for a solid 2 1/2 hours. Everyone was “blown away” with how incredible the entire band performed. Lindsey Buckingham is a freaking genius on the guitar. I’ve never seen anything quite like his playing style. All fingers on both hands moving a breathtaking speeds. Plus he was singing at the same time.

One thing we loved about the entire concert was that the core group really was here to have a good time. They said it at the beginning and they weren’t joking. It was fantastic to watch people that have performed for decades together just have a wonderful time making terrific music together.

It’s been a long time dream of mine to see these guys (and Stevie Nicks) play together. The concert was every bit my dream plus a whole lot more.

I’ve been thinking it about all day. Just makes me smile.

Have a great day!

Michael

Preparing to Play Music in Public

Tonight I went to a local tavern with the rest of the band. We wanted to check out the open mic sessions they have on Thursday evenings as we are looking to play in public very soon. It was an interesting experience. There was a wide range of musical talent. All but one played acoustic guitar. Some had good voices. Our trio will be quite unusual there since everyone played solo. I think we will have a good song mix to entertain the laid back crowd. Our goal is to perform here in about a month.

One thing I really enjoyed was to watch people perform. Regardless of talent, they were up there on the stage. It takes guts to do that and I have a lot of respect for people that try. Anytime you can bare your soul on a stage in front of people is a good thing in my opinion. Even more so when you realize that the single biggest fear for people is to talk in front of others. In fact, this fear tops even the fear of death. Can you believe it? People have less fear of dying than speaking or performing on a stage. Wow!

It really was inspiring to watch. I had no qualms about playing there, but I’m sure when it comes to our night to play, things may be different. The bottom line is that we should focus on having fun just like we do in practice sessions. Nerves will go away quickly if you are having fun. Some musicians made mistakes tonight, but no one had a problem with that. That’s reassuring.

Have a great day!

Michael