Adios 2020

NO SONG HAS A STRONGER association with the end of the year than Old Lang Syne. And no year can compare with 2020 for a collective eagerness worldwide to move on. So, I thought it was only appropriate I should attempt a rendering of this classic and use the guitar I have owned for over four decades.

I dusted off the old (1976) Guild D-35NT (NT= natural finish). I’ve strapped on a set of heavy guitar strings and lowered the tuning to nearly a baritone. The bottom string is set at C.

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

New take on an old Christmas classic

I AM BACK WITH ANOTHER variation of a traditional holiday song: “Joy to the World.” This time, I am using the conventional “Drop D” tuning: i.e., lowering the sixth string one full step from E to D. The key for the song is also in D.

As you’ll note, I’m using a type of jazz-chord voicing technique as opposed to picking out the individual notes for the melody. In this way, I’m harmonizing to the melody as I play it.

This is a relatively short piece on its own, so I have improvised a bit of an intro, including some fret tapping and a little descending major-seventh motif, which I used between the verses as well.

“Open” tunings using a capo

As I’ve noted before, one of my favorite techniques (short-cuts?) is to use a capo across the top 5 strings. On the second fret, this will give you a type of “drop-E” tuning. The benefit of this approach is that you can continue to use all your bar chords without learning new fingerings.

Today, I’m applying this to a “drop-F” by using two capos: one across the first fret (all six strings) and the second capo at the third fret, across the top 5 strings.

Here’s an example of this technique with the Christmas classic, “Deck the Halls.”

As always, if you like what you hear, please follow this blog.

A different holiday song

This weekend was Thanksgiving in the United States. This is a song I wrote and recorded a few years back commemorating this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, where temperatures drop, the days are shorter, and the deciduous trees shed their leaves.

It’s a bit of a reflective piece, maybe an homage to Will Ackerman, the guitarist who more or less created New Age music with his playing and then by founding Windham Hill Records.

(I interviewed Will for a radio show, but I’ll save that story for another time.)

Anyway, this piece is short, but includes lots of key modulations and chord voicings to underscore the melody. If you are interested in the charts, let me know.

A little Christmas medley

It is that time of year: the time to practice all your holiday songs. Here is my first offering: acoustic guitar version of “Away in a Manger” mashed up with “Silent Night.”

Once again, I’m employing my “Drop E” tuning, where I use a capo across just the top five strings. This allows a sort of open E tuning and yet all your bar chords will remain the same; no need to learning different chords.

Hope you enjoy it. If you would like a transcript of the chords, sign up for my mailing list!

Playing Octaves, Minute by Minute

It’s hard to beat the Doobie Brothers for their contribution to the California sound. Even to this day, the opening riff (in 12/8 time) by Michael McDonald for “Minute by Minute” evokes memories of moving to the Golden State when this album was first released.

I decided to have some fun recreating the title song as a quartet. But for today’s lesson, I’d like to focus on the guitar work, in which I’m playing the melody using octaves.

Octaves are an essential technique for jazz, but for some reason, this style is rarely used in rock or pop music. Oh, maybe once in awhile Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn have a little fun with them, but that’s about it.

Jazz cross-over artists such as George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton and a few others really brought it to my attention.

Now, once you’ve heard the song in the context of my “quartet,” let’s break down what I’m doing to achieve the octaves.

This song is a great introduction to octaves because the riff is so simple and repetitive. Here’s a video of just the guitar part, playing the introduction, the verse and the chorus.

I play each section once, and then slow it down to half speed. And I’ve included a chart so you can find exactly where I am on the fretboard.

A couple things to note:

  1. I’m not using a pick, but instead plucking the two strings in a “pinching” style.
  2. There is, of course, a string in the middle of the two notes for the octave, and this I mute by just lightly applying pressure with my index finger.
  3. Although I don’t indicate it on the charts, I’m often “sliding” into the notes from the fret below or above. This is a classic jazz style of playing, and gives the melody a nice laid-back feel.

By the way, the overhead view of the piano should give you a good idea of how to play this riff on the keyboard if you are so inclined.

As always, I hope this lesson helps and if you have any feedback, please let me know!

Keeping it Simple, Eight Days A Week

Awhile back, I posted a sort of jazzy guitar version of the Beatles classic “Eight Days a Week.” It had lots of bar chords and typical chord voicings to achieve the melody.

Today, I’m going to show a very simple version of the song. It requires no barred chords, or fancy voicings. In fact, in most cases you will only be playing 2 or 3 strings at a time.

In this video, I’ll show you not only the exact position of my fingers on the fretboard, but I will highlight the actual note of the melody that you will emphasize to achieve a balance in playing the song with the underlying harmonies that provides the chords to the song.

As always, you can slow this video down to half speed to learn each part. To do this, simply click on the “Settings” gear in the YouTube window and choose the speed you would like.

Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon

I’ve always loved the laid back groove in The Rascals hit song “Groovin'” and decided to have some fun fooling around with some harmonics and fret tapping.

It’s a very basic song in structure and chords. But it’s a great melody. I’ve come up with a pretty simple set of changes that allows you to play the melody with chords and bass backing up.

Here’s the set up for the song:

If you watch closely for the introduction, I’m doing a very simple bit of harmonics/fret tapping. For the open G chord, I’m using my thumb on the sixth string, third fret, and then tapping at the 12th fret over the top four strings (essentially a G6 chord). For the Am chord, I’m barring at the fifth fret and then tapping all six strings at the 17th fret to achieve the harmonics there.

For the actual song structure, I’m included a second video with chord charts. I do not repeat any chords I’ve already played, so once I’ve shown a chord, you’ll just have to remember where it is in the sequence. For this version of the tutorial, I strongly suggest putting the video on half speed.

Dance With Me

A while back, a reader requested a guitar cover of this old soft-rock tune. I always like the melody and harmonies in this song, as schmaltzy and sentimental as the tune is.

I have been fooling around with a drop C tuning. And by that, I mean the entire guitar is tuned down to standard tuning. So this would be C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C.

I am playing a 1976 Guild D35NT. In fact, according to my research, it was exactly the second guitar off the factory line for Guild that year. I bought the guitar second-hand in 1978 and it has followed me around the country ever since.

We’ve made multiple cross-country treks, and even a few flights.

I had a bit of work done to it when I bought it. A luthier in Chico, CA, who had done work for David Crosby, re-fretted it and did a bit of scalloping to warm up the tone.

I only just recently began experimenting with the “tenor” tuning, and I am really enjoying it.

Anyway, here is my rendition of “Dance With Me.” And in this case, I am using the equivalent of “Drop D” tuning. The low E string in this case is tuned all the way down to Bb.

Step-by-Step Guitar Lesson: Scarborough Fair

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEVE, this classic folk song has been around a lot longer than the version credited to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. But the duo certainly created a legendary rendition.

What I am going to show you is how to play this song as an instrumental on guitar. The voicings lend themselves well to an acoustic or even a nylon string. I just happened to have done a version on my archtop jazz guitar, so bear with me.

As always, I play the parts through at regular speed and then reduce to half speed so you are able to review the changes.

I hope you find this useful.

This particular song is in the key of E minor, which is one of the easier keys to play on the guitar, since it allows for open strings most of the time. I have noted where to leave the strings open with a O in the charts, and an X for where to mute the strings.

In this particular program I am using, I am not able to highlight the exact string that is playing the melody, but if you have a reasonably good ear, you will pick it out quite easily.

And here is my full version of the song:

Thanks for watching. And if you decide to learn how to play this song based on my lesson, please send me a video and perhaps I’ll feature one or two on my Facebook page.

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