Archive for djangobooks.com

GUITAR CENTER ≠ GUITAR HERO

Posted in Music Business with tags , , , , on November 26, 2012 by theguitarcave

I just found, thanks to a friend on Facebook, an interesting article on GUITAR CENTER, written by a fellow WordPress Blogger. Although it’s a month old and is written from a drummer’s point of view, I think guitarists will be interested and maybe can relate. It confirms what I’ve heard from other sources over the years. WordPress has a REPOST feature that allows bloggers to publish another blogger’s efforts basically as is, but I don’t dig that concept very much (even though people have done it to me), so just follow the link below.

why i won’t be working at guitar center

The author provides a personal account of his experiences with of some of Guitar Center’s business practices. Guitar Center is a company that started from very humble beginnings back in 1959, but is now the largest musical instrument chain in the world. They also own Musicians Friend and Harmony Central, among others. So they are now basically the WALMART of musical instruments. Awesome. Also they have connections to Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs (never a good sign) —

“On June 27, 2007, Guitar Center agreed to $1.9 billion buyout from Bain Capital, totaling $2.1 billion including debt. The deal was led by Goldman Sachs and amounted to a per-share price of $63, or a 26% premium on the June 26 closing price. The deal was approved by shareholders on September 18, 2007, and closed October 9, 2007

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118294460997949913.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

I realize that most people don’t want to think about stuff like this when they need a set of strings for a gig or a new phase shifter for the space rock song they just wrote. I’m also totally aware that there are plenty of good people who work at Guitar Center, while some independent stores are staffed by complete schmucks. But I can’t say GC is a place I go to on a regular basis because…well, it sucks. I tried…I did make an effort, but it’s not my idea of a positive business or shopping experience.

I have a GREAT relationship with two small instrument stores in my area and one online retailer. I’ve mentioned the online retailer, DJANGOBOOKS.com on here a few times. I like shopping and just hanging out at the places I go because it’s great to deal with people who know your name, your musical background and what you might be looking for in that eternal quest for the perfect musical experience. It’s also cool that you can get them on the phone, and they don’t look at you funny if you have a problem with a purchase. There is also a chance they’ll really go the extra mile for you once you’re a regular customer and that is an element that is sadly missing in corporate culture. It’s always pretty hip that you can all hang and BS about music or other stuff and have that kind of personal connection and I believe this connection has certainly made it easier for me to buy and sell instruments and accessories over the last few years. It’s also way easier to do business when there aren’t 45 teenagers all trying to play Linkin Park 20 simultaneously in the background. I realize not everyone out there has the same options I do, but if you do, a good relationship with a helpful, knowledgeable dealer can make the difference between Satisfaction and Singing the Blues. It is also a better choice for the environment…the musical environment. It really is worth the extra couple of dollars or the extra blocks you gotta walk or miles you gotta drive.

The Schertler David Amp II

Posted in Equipment, Movies, Playing with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by theguitarcave

One of the great features built in to WordPress is the ability to track what people are reading and what kind of search results draw them to a blog. I’ve noticed that many people end up at The GUITAR CAVE looking for info on the Schertler David amplifier, so I thought I would give an update on this fine piece of equipment. I’ve already given a brief overview HERE, so in this post I’m going to go over some of the best features and give a playing demonstration. Keep in mind that there are a lot of factors that make up a guitar sound. While I love my Saga Gitane 320D, it is certainly not what people would describe as a top of the line Manouche guitar. Pick-ups, string choice, touch and attack of the player also have a lot to do with how good the sound emanating from the amplifier is going to be.

The David has two channels, which is really cool for guitarists and has come in handy for me in live situations. Here is a video of Romane and Stochelo Rosenberg playing Double Jeu. If you notice in the beginning, Stochelo has a cable protruding from his guitar, which I think is from a Bigtone pickup that is located in the guitar bridge. Both he and Romane have the clip-on Audio Technica mics and there is another mic (Shure?) between them. So they are picking up the sound and vibrations of the guitars from 2-4 sources. I do the same thing, albeit in a much more lo-fi manner. I use the Schertler Basik Electrostatic Pickup on the face of the guitar and I have a homemade bar pick-up that the guy who sets up my guitar made inside the sound-hole. The Schertler handles the main part of the sound load and the internal mic provides ambiance and air. I use a L R Baggs Para DI, which is kind of essential for getting the EQ and volume working right. The Schertler has many options too, so there is a lot of playing around you must do to get a good sound. But it is possible as I think the video below proves.

Another important feature of the Schertler David is the Resonance Filter, which STOPS FEEDBACK COLD!! This control works really well when used in conjunction with the Schertler Basik pick-up. I’ve never had a problem with feedback and I’ve done gigs in some loud situations including The Brooklyn Museum and a few dance parties. This is described by SchertlerHERE in a way that sounds really technical and stuff:

At the touch of a button, David’s “warm” filter on the STAT channel eliminates the harsh upper-frequency sound of many undersaddle pickups. For microphone users, Schertler’s “resonance” control on the DYN channel allows the musician to attenuate the specific low-mid frequencies that often produce feedback or an unnatural bottom-end. Both channels can be used simultaneously and blended on the amplifier’s control panel.

If you don’t use two pickups, don’t use a transducer pickup or use only 1 pickup, this is still a good little amp. You can use the other channel for another instrument or a microphone for vocals. I like to use my Gretsch to get an amplified Django/Wes Montgomery type jazz sound. Playing the Gretsch through the Baggs preamp and then into the David gives an appreciation for how loud this amp can go. All of this equipment can be bought from Djangobooks.com, which is where I got mine. They have the best prices, ship quick and answer any questions you may have. Shoot them an email. I’m not affiliated with them in anyway. This amp and pickup system also work well if you play bluegrass, country, western swing, blues or other types of acoustic music where you need a good sound and reliable stuff. Djangobooks is mostly about the GypsyJazz, but they are certainly versed and accommodating in other musical styles as well.

Here is a video with an assortment of musical styles and guitars all played through the amp. I start off on my Guild with a bit of Keith Richards Beggars Banquet-era Prodigal Son, then some You Gotta Move, then Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying. I switch to my Gitane and do some Gypsy Jazz stuff. At the end I’m playing along with Pearl Django, a song called Radio City Rhythm, which was written by the late Dudley Hill; a wonderful swing, chord-melody player, who was in the group until he passed away a few years ago.

SMOOTH OPERATOR — Romane

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2011 by theguitarcave

Most people in the United States have never heard of Romane (Patrick Leguidecoq), a classically-trained, Gypsy-Jazz and Parisian-style guitarist of the highest caliber. Romane is totally suave…as in GQ You Can’t Touch This suave. He was actually the first modern Gypsy-Jazz player I became interested in after a friend laid the Ombre CD on me 10-12 years ago. The music was a revelation! I still love the CD and have acquired a bunch of Romane product since then, including the two CDs featured in the right column where he partners up with another GJ master, Stochelo Rosenberg. (Of course you gotta be really good if you are going to play with Stochelo) Not only can Romane play with the best of them, for my money he is easily one of the best writers of this style. He’s not a guy to do a CD with 6 Django Reinhardt covers on it even though he can burn or make his guitar sing on any song that is thrown his way. I wish he would play the East Coast in the near future. He is on the list of people I would really like to see. Here he is with Stochelo playing Stochelo’s Double Jeu.

What fired me up when I heard Romane is how the music— the outrageous chords, sophisticated runs and blistering picking— doesn’t sound like anything this country has ever produced. It’s Jazz, but it isn’t, and because of the acoustic WHOOMPH! the music never sounds like that laid back, noodling stuff that many people think of when someone says the dreaded J-Word. What makes Romane so suave is that he never sacrifices melody and good musical sense for relentless chops and “out” playing that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. You probably wouldn’t want to throw his music on at your next classic-rock barbeque, but it certainly works for many other settings and occasions. You would certainly get the attention of any musicians present because not only are the songs and playing awesome, the music ALWAYS swings. It’s the hallmark of the style and it’s an infectious thing for sure. Here’s Romane playing his composition, Swing for Ninine at the Samois Festival in 1994 with violin virtuoso Florin Niculescu.

There is a great variety of mood and intensity on Ombre and Acoustic Spirit. Romane can dazzle you with unbelievable stuff like Legendé, Gypsy Fire or the funky country twang-influenced Paris Nashville, and then cool you out with really mellow stuff like Selene or the every easy bolero, Monticello, which is built off of the following E7M9/13 chord. Give it a whirl on your axe and feel the magic. I can’t get enough of that sound. (The numbers are “open” “6th fret” “7th fret”. You can bar the “6” group with your first finger and play the “7” group with your 2nd finger as a bar or any combination of your remaining fingers).

——————— 7 —
——————— 7 —
——————- 6 —–
——————- 6 —–
——————- 6 —–
————— 0 ———

Rhythms like boleros, waltzes, rhumbas, rhumba waltzes, bossas (bossa nova) all figure heavily in Gypsy Jazz and Romane’s catalog. They can be very difficult to play because they are usually done at pretty high-clip tempos. Because there is no improvisation to worry about (at least with the waltzes) they are a very good exercise for building up the picking technique and timing. Here is Romane with a very stylish jacket playing the well-known waltz, Mont. St. Genevieve.

So… like what you’re hearing so far? Intrigued? Already trying to learn Gypsy Jazz and hungry for more? Not interested in playing Gypsy Jazz but perhaps thinking some of those licks and runs are pretty cool? Well you could buy this DVD…it’s chock full of info and demonstration and even though Romane does not speak English, the DVD does have subtitles in three languages and a small booklet showing the important stuff. I think he either did two versions of this instructional DVD or there was extra footage because it is packaged under different names at a few different locations. As always, my advice is to buy any of this stuff from DJANGOBOOKS.COM if you are in the Americas or Asia and check with a comparable European dealer if you are in Europe or Africa. Some of the clips from this DVD are on You Tube, HERE. The embed option has been disabled so I can’t show them. This is not the whole DVD, but follow the You Tube links for the 3 chapters. The second set can be shown here but it has no subtitles. If you can follow along there is some more free learning to be had!

What I really like about Romane and all of the Gypsy players is that they are very generous with their knowledge and because they know so much, they are excellent teachers. The Acoustic Spirit CD shown above ships with the CD for listening and another CD that contains tabs and rhythm play-a-longs!! Who else does that? Seriously! And when I bought it at Virgin it was $14 or something. A total steal of a deal. If you are the ambitious sort you might want to add Romane’s L’Espirit Manouche to your collection. This awesome book contains every theoretical gem of an idea that you will ever need to be a pro guitar player in this style, or any style really. Though it offers no help with the very important picking technique, it does explore music theory and harmony in great detail while providing 14 of Romane’s songs as exercises and illustrations to the lessons. I do have to qualify this gushing with one criticism though and I really hate to do that but — There should have been a better translator brought on-board to help put Romane’s knowledge into English. The book is for an English audience and Romane has a virtual set of Encyclopedia Britannicas of musical knowledge in his brain. I am getting through it (a long off and on process) but there are sections that really try the patience of anyone attempting to figure out the major revelation that is supposed to be happening because the English phrasing just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it takes 2-3 goes or I skip the writing and just work on the songs. I’m still glad I bought the book and the more I learn from it and other sources, the more comfortable I am with it because I can ignore the writing and focus on the music.

Romane is at home in pretty much any situation as these last two clips illustrate. Above, he is playing with a big band on his really cool composition Opus De Clignancourt. In the midst of some great playing he breaks a string and hilarity ensues. The one below is from his new CD/DVD, Roots and Groove and features his composition, For Wes. There is a stripped-down duet of Romane doing this song with Stochelo on You Tube and the whole 35 minute show can be found on the Gypsy Jazz Masters CD/DVD that is reviewed at the top of the right column on my blog. Of course anything that Romane and Stochelo do is brilliant, but the Roots and Groove band turns this song into a whole other thing and it’s really smokin’ in my opinion. Romane is using a Stimer style pick-up which is a good move with the band he has with him in this situation. They are hot! The club is obviously really hot too…they are working up a sweat!

While Romane is always attempting new things, like many GJ artists he has a strong connection to TRADITION. His father was a very accomplished guitar player and so is his son, Richard Manetti. {HERE is a clip of father and son playing together…talk about bonding!} Aside from the familial, there is also a connection to the culture of the Manouche and the history of jazz, two branches of music and culture that have been intimately intertwined for the past 70+ years. It’s impossible for me to watch Romane, Stochelo or any of the others and not think that they create an environment that gets real close to the original guitar hero, Django Reinhardt and The Quintet of the Hot Club of France, or even people from a much earlier time who have propelled this musical lineage forward through many generations. I hear that in much of Romane’s music and while it is always interesting and sometimes thrilling to hear or see A TOTALLY NEW THING, there is something comfortable and life-sustaining in music and art that doesn’t disregard and pays homage to the vibrant sound and caravan spirit that has entertained people for generations.

Django Reinhardt—Improvisation #1

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by theguitarcave

“Django Meets Van Halen”

GUITAR RESOURCE

This incredible book is is the one you NEED if you want to play Django’s solo guitar pieces. This book is where I began my Gypsy Jazz odyssey and it continues to be a source of ideas and inspiration every time I open it. The worn cover says it all — I’ve used it a lot!

• Contains all of the great solo pieces
• Meticulously notated
• Spiral-Bound (Important!)
• Performance notes for each song
• Comes with a CD of all songs.

What can be said about this “song”, an off-the-cuff recording, done in one take in 1937? Nothing…you just have to listen to it, or watch Jimmy Rosenberg play it. While Jimmy is good, I mean REALLY GREAT, there is something even more amazing about Django’s recording of the song. It’s done with such wild abandon and confidence that the performance seems to fall out of him. It is the classic Django performance one could rightfully point to as example of how he was a one-of-a-kind guitar player and completely ahead of his time. Even today, I think it was performances like this one that cemented Django’s reputation as a player who could do things that defied comprehension. Keep in mind as you watch Jimmy play this with 3-4 useable fingers that Django only had two!

Django’s recording still holds up — (HERE)— the richness of the chords and harmony playing and the complete virtuosity with all of the rapid-fire single string lines, plus the tone, the SOUND of that Selmer guitar which jumps out at you even though the recording is now almost 75 years old. What I love about this performance is that it shows that Django anticipated and laid the groundwork for another of my favorite players, Edward Van Halen, forty years before the latter came along. From a purely technical aspect, Improvisation #1 is Django’s Eruption; blazing diminished arpeggios, the unbelievably cool and lightning-fast descending chromatic runs, the hammer-tapped harmonics between the two fast sections, the statacco picking that almost sounds like the beginning of the second part of Eruption after the key/ tonal center change from Dm to Bm, and the complete command of drama in the performance, which results from the confidence and ability to time and pace everything correctly without rushing, stumbling, or overplaying. What makes this even more amazing was Django recorded this at the end of a recording session and had someone signalling to him when his 3 minutes was running out. Everyone else at the session was amazed at the result and would not let Django reconsider a do-over.

Edward Van Halen

Much of the same can be said for Edward Van Halen’s Eruption which is dazzling in it’s pyrotechnic beauty and enhanced by the power of electricity, volume, distortion and effects (minimal compared to some players). Certainly both he and Django have similarities in their approach to playing guitar and were going for a similar type of (improvised) performance. Anyone who knows anything about guitar playing knows that Eruption completely turned the guitar-playing world on its head in 1978. It was EVH who brought the sophistication of classical and jazz music and a completely new level of virtuosity to arena rock audiences. While there had been many talented rock players taking many extended solos and solo pieces — Page, Blackmore, Howe, Beck, May, Hendrix — and jazz, fusion and progressive rock certainly had many technical powerhouses — McLaughlin, DiMeola, Fripp, Metheny, Coryell — the technique, sound, and go-for-it! attitude contained in Eruption and on every Van Halen record through 1984 was so overwhelming that he was repeatedly voted the #1 Player and an entire industry was created around learning to play his style. Whether one likes or appreciates his talents is immaterial because what is most important is the effect and influence he had on so many other players and how that has shaped what guitar playing is all about.

The Unaccompanied Django book at the top is really the first of it’s kind because for so long no one undertook the immense effort necessary to write all of Django’s solo music out, and author Michael Horowitz deserves a huge amount of credit for doing it. I have learned many of the pieces, play them at varying levels of skill and have yet to find a mistake in the whole book. Given the quality of some of the recordings and the focus that is necessary to learn and write out what is a very unorthodox style to many modern players (complete with fingerings) is an enormous achievement. In the wake of Eruption, however, new guitar magazines appeared and so did other materials like the“Hot Licks” cassette tapes, and soon after, videos with in-depth explorations of the technique and the sound needed to pull of the Van Halen performance. While the concept of “tablature” as a form of notating music has been around since the 15th century, personally, I can’t remember seeing music written out that way, even in Guitar Player Magazine before EVH turned the guitar world upside down (At the time was the youngest player ever to appear on the cover of that magazine). I have a copy of GP from the summer of 1984 that has Van Halen on the cover with an accompanying article that gives an in-depth look at his style, while another article explains the whole concept of what “TAB” is and today, some 27 years later, “TAB” is THE most popular form of guitar notation. I’m not saying Van Halen was personally responsible, but he certainly re-ignited interest in the instrument and re-defined (again) what the instrument was capable of…even though, the truth is, musically, much of what is contained in Eruption, minus the legato tap-pull-off passages, and the sonic landscape powered by overdriven Marshalls, can be found in Django’s Improvisation #1. Bands like Van Halen, and other guitar-driven virtuoso bands that followed, sold huge amounts of records and played to very large audiences world-wide. Therefore the market for prospective players learning this style was also very big, which is why all of the learning tools developed as they did.

Django Reinhardt

Another similarity between Eruption and Improvisation #1 is that they are improvised and there is, in my opinion, a slight misconception about what that term means. Even I was confused on this issue for a long time. Many people think improvisation means to make it up as you go along, however, that is and isn’t what is happening. Dissecting a piece like Improvisation #1 or Eruption, after playing either style of music for awhile shows that some very commonly used motifs, arpeggios, lines and technical “moves” that were/are mainstays of Django’s/EVH’s musical language are employed to create each performance. EVH has said that he used to do variations of Eruption at sound-checks before he and his band made the first Van Halen album and I believe Django played parts or variations of Improvisation #1 to and by himself before he ever recorded it. If you follow the link from the EVH pic at the top you will see a version of Eruption from 2007. Keep looking on You Tube and I’m sure you will find an endless number of versions, none of which are completely the same, but all of which have most of the same elements. EVH has said that he just “went for it” on most of the stuff the first line-up of Van Halen recorded and he was able to do that because a) the band had been playing quite a few of the songs live for years b) the band recorded their first 3 records pretty much sans guitar overdubs and c) EVH was always playing so he could just play and turn out something really good.

EVH Hot Tracks

Unchained
I’m the One
Little Guitars
Girl Gone Bad
Mean Street
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Romeo Delight
Hear About it Later
EVH Solo

The same was true of Django — on the streets of Paris as a musician from the age of 11-12, and with the extra motivation that it was his only source of income save for gambling, he was playing ALL the time. Also, like EVH, who was a classically-trained pianist, classical music and his understanding and intense love of it played a huge role in his formation as a player and as a composer. Of course, the Gypsy community from whence Django came holds music as a very important, almost spiritual element and from a very early age he was astonishing the others in the community with his instrumental prowess. Not even the severe damage to the third and fourth fingers on his left hand hampered his abilities as a player, although the sheer effort necessary to come back from the injuries he sustained in the caravan fire of 1928 I believe says something of the drive and determination that was Django’s character. It is what one hears in many of his performances — this great force of nature that will not be denied!

Not only was Django a total headbanger, as the clip above illustrates, he was capable of hearing, and playing licks that none of his contemporaries could match because a) they didn’t have his unique blend of influences: jazz, gypsy and classical music, and b) his instinctive understanding of music in general. I find this also to be true of some American jazz guitarists like Charlie Christian and to a lesser extent, Wes Montgomery. While both may have surpassed Django as jazz players, neither of them ever composed or performed anything likeImprovisation #1. Many of Django’s best techniques: flamenco-style passages, diminished runs, mixing beautiful chord patterns with single string lines and very precise, powerful picking all come together to create a memorable performance. I think, that like any other guitar player, Django sat and around and played with ideas that he would then mix and match and change and do differently every time he picked up the guitar. He was just way better than most people at doing it on the spot without making a mistake. He totally nailed it the day it was recorded and considering that it was recorded at a time when you couldn’t go and “punch in” or fix a little mistake shows what a master he was at execution.

Django Hot Tracks (audio)

Ol’ Man River
I’ll See You In My Dreams
Appel Indirect
Tiger Rag
Impromptu
Fleche D’or
After You’ve Gone (1949)
Djangology
Moppin’ the Bride

The point of all this is not to diminish Django’s or Edward’s greatness and their natural abilities to make music, but rather to humanize them. They both WORKED very hard to become incredible players, and while they both were born with immense natural abilities, there is no musician who is capable of producing that level of art without a lot of effort. Constantly being involved with the music — playing it all the time, is what helps to produce great improvisation. They both deserve the reputation they earned as people who could do things others could not, but it must never be forgotten that there was a whole lot of determination and dedication to the cause. It’s certainly true that a player could spend 10 hours a day for years practicing to play like Django and not reach a point where it would be exactly the same, or even, nearly as good. There are always particulars and intangibles that must be written off to the abilities and personality of the player. However, both Django and Edward made the best use of their natural abilities and spent many hours honing their skills and refining their talents and this is something players and non-players alike should always remember.

It’s also important for players to understand that there is no magic key for having the ability to navigate around the complex changes of a song or reach a point in one’s development when it’s conceivable that music could just fall out of whatever mood you happen to be in at the moment. Anyone who has been playing for even a short time is capable of this to a certain extent. Building on what is known little by little and incorporating as many different influences and musical possibilities during practice can lead to great performance later. And don’t forget FUN. There must be plenty of that. Both Django and EVH obviously loved/love playing guitar and that in itself can take you a long way. When I began playing Gypsy Jazz four and a half years ago my improvisation skills were pretty hopeless because most of the music I had played over the years was either prepared or based on much easier chord progressions. Though I’m still not the improviser I want to be, I can do stuff now that would have been impossible in the past. It’s much like learning a 2nd or 3rd language — you can’t just know the words, you have to be using the whole scope of the language, words, punctuation, sentence structure etc., on a regular basis.

It’s really great to see EVH looking healthy and happy again. Long before I was a fan of Django or knew why he was important, Edward was THE MAN on guitar for my generation (and for others as well). In the video above, Les Paul introduces EVH as someone who he “wants to watch” and “someone who has changed many things about the guitar”. Considering that Les also thought Django Reinhardt was a great player I feel I’m in good company comparing Django and Edward. I think maybe Les saw some similarities too. While EVH has certainly had his share of troubles over the years and it’s been a long time since he put out a powerhouse of an album, clips from the last (reunited) Van Halen tour and the above NAMM show seem to suggest that maybe he has finally put some of his demons behind him. According to the Van Halen News Desk the band has some touring plans for 2011 and while I’m not one of those people who thinks he HAS to do anything, if he does stay in the game, all the best to him. I’ll certainly check out what he is up to.