Happy Holidays Everyone

It's gonna be light on here until after January 1st.

Between normal holiday stuff and gigs it's a bit too nuts for me at the moment to get anything substantial up.

See you all in the new year. I've got Led Zeppelin, Adam Rogers, and Joe Zawinul transcriptions coming and a part two video of how to be a groove monster and chord tone soloing.

See you soon, happy new year!

Robert Glasper on Playing

Robert Glasper
I recently listened to an interview with pianist Robert Glasper on WBGO's The Checkout and Glasper said something about playing that was a good reminder for me and mabye for you too.

The interviewer, Josh Jackson was having Glasper play songs randomly from his iPod and he stumbled on a recording of Stan Getz performing Chick Corea's "Captain Marvel" which got him talking about Chick and Herbie Hancock's playing.

Robert Glasper: "I love Chick (Corea) you can hear the...him and Herbie (Hancock). You can hear the playfulness, they don't take it seriously. You know what I'm saying? They don't sound like they're wearing a suit and tie. They sound like they're having fun playing this music, you know what I mean? In every solo Chick takes, and Herbie takes it's like "Hey I'm playin'!" Like a little kid."

Josh Jackson: "Yeah, "this is my first time.""

Glasper: "That's what it sounds like! And it's like, they have so much fun. I think that's missing too. People take stuff too seriously now, it's like, you can be great and not take it too seriously. You know, it's a mindset thing."

Maybe another way to put it is: When you're playing music, you should take it seriously, but don't take it so seriously.

Bonus quotation:
Glasper: "There is an art to making someone's head nod and making someone dance."

Jackson: "Well some people would say what jazz is missing now is the dance."

Glasper: "It is. Jazz is almost like goth sometimes, you know it's like, you walk in and it gives you the vibe like "Shh! Be quiet!" and it's like "Yo, this is supposed to be the freest music!"

Not Only Love Can Break Your Heart

"If you're going to try to make a living at [music] you have to realize it's going to break your heart and it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when" and "how many times" and you have to want it really, really bad. You have to want it so bad you would do it anyway. That you would pay to do it if you had to."

Russell Brower -- composer, sound designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, Blizzard Entertainment and others

Jimmy Page, Cat Play Theremin

The title of this post pretty much covers it. 

I'm thinking all this cat needs is to be taught how to work an Echoplex and he's good to go. 

Original YouTube of a cat playing a mini-Theremin:

It's Coming

Hey guys-- just a quick note to let you know that my 7 Metronome Tricks Part 2 post and video is coming. The shooting of the video got derailed by Hurricane Sandy and I had to immediately go on the road two days after the storm. I'm back in NYC for a couple days but I have to go back out in another couple days so it may not be up until next week.

I've gotten all your emails and comments and I'm honestly surprised at the positive response this one  got. Thanks for reading and watching, more coming as soon as I can crank out the video.

Time for Victor

A reader over at TheGearPage.net posted this video of Victor Wooten and some exercises he does with a metronome as a response to my Metronome Tricks post.

It's worth watching if only to hear Victor's incredible time feel.

One of my favorite exercises and one I'd never heard of can be seen at about 7:30. Victor has the metronome beat 40bpm but instead of subdividing the beat into 4, he subdivides it into 5 and then plays over it so that the click always falls one beat later in the 4/4 time he plays. It's a nice way to begin to introduce cross-rhythms into your playing. Wish I had thought of that.

A great suggestion from a GearPage reader, thank you!

Improve Your Groove: 7 Metronome Tricks to Become a Groove Monster Part 1

What Time is It? Time for Humiliation
A few years ago I did a recording with a notoriously obsessive arranger/producer that could have gone a little smoother.

(If you're looking for Part 2 of this series, click here.)

I had a really long day and didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the recording but I had done what I thought of as my homework and felt good about the upcoming session.

The job was to record some acoustic guitar parts and also some electric, syncopated funk with a lot of kicks and a few odd-meter sections. Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

I got to the studio, set up and realized that I was recording to a click which I'm all for, but there were no other instruments recorded. It was just me and the dry click. No reference point, no harmony to work off of, no drummer to lock with. Nothing.

I was not psyched about this.

Not only were there no musicians or even a prerecord track for me to play with, there was just that stark metronome clicking without even a different pitch to mark the 1 of each new bar. I knew I was going to be spending my time counting and not really playing.

I did my best, played the tune down and after a couple takes thought I had done a good job even though they were tough circumstances. But the worst part of the session came when I got into the control room to hear my work.

There was Mr. arranger/producer and the recording engineer staring at the computer screen with my guitar track laid across a grid. I could see—they didn't have to tell me,  though they did—that I was not perfectly lined up with the click at all times. This was humiliating to say the least. I think of myself as having good time, but here was proof I didn't staring me in the face. I offered to re-record the part but they waved me away while the engineer poked and tugged my guitar parts in line with the click using ProTools. They wanted it perfect and I didn't deliver that. I still remember that sinking feeling like it was yesterday.

I swore that I would do everything I could to never let this embarrassment happen again.

What Time is It? Time for Redemption
There are tons of creative ways to use a metronome beyond just having it click out quarter notes for you. My interest began with how to use a metronome to test myself and enable me to develop a better internal time feel. I figured if you could do ear training for harmony and melody you could certainly do it for time.

Here are 7 exercises in two parts that I've created or adapted from tradition to do just that. With some thought along these lines you could come up with lots more. For each exercise I have a screen shot from one of my three favorite metronome apps, Tempo, DrBettote TC and Time Guru. A few of the exercises require an app like Time Guru, a drum machine or sequencer like Apple's GarageBand. There are lots of free or extremely cheap options for both Macs and PCs as well as the iPhone and Android phones for sequencers and drum machines. Please feel free to suggest them in comments if you have a favorite to help other players out.

At the end of this article is a YouTube video with me demonstrating these three exercises. Part 2 of this article and a new video will be posted next week.

On to the exercises!

1. The Swing 2 & 4 -- rating: easy
While I was in school, a number of  teachers advised me to work with a metronome hearing the click as 2 & 4 of a 4/4 measure to develop my swing feel. This idea was foreign to me at the time but now I can't imagine practicing jazz or any kind of music that swings without it. Here's what the notation looks like:

If you've never practiced with a metronome clicking out off-beats like 2 & 4, you will most likely hear the clicks as one of the strong beats like 1 & 3 or even as 1 2 3 4 of a slower tempo. You're going to teach yourself how not to do that.

100bpm with only 2 & 4 sounding
Pick a comfortable tempo to start like 100bpm. If you're using a traditional metronome set the tempo to 50bpm because you're only going to be hearing 2 out of the 4 beats in a 4/4 bar (beats 2 and 4). However, if you're using an app like Tempo, you can set the tempo to 100bpm and just have beats 1 and 3 be silent.

Start the metronome. Your internal clock will most likely hear that click as 1 & 3 or maybe even a slow 1 2 3 4. To start programming yourself, every time the click happens, say out loud "two." Keep doing that for a bit until you've erased the urge to hear it any other way. Next, when a beat comes up say your normal "two" and the next click say out loud "four." Keep doing that, back and forth again until you're comfortable. Finally when you're ready, fill in the silent quarter note with an out-loud "three," the next click as "four" and the next silent space (in time!) as a strong "one." If it feels weird to you, and it probably will, just keep doing this for a bit until you're ready for the next step.

Now it's time to play something you know with this exercise. Make it something simple and comfortable, you want to give yourself a chance to internalize this time feel. It doesn't have to be a song, it could be just playing scales, but do it. Practicing with the metronome on 2 & 4 will greatly increase your time accuracy and especially your feel for swing.

2. The Slow Jam -- rating: moderate to hard
DrBetotteTC set to 20bpm
This exercise was suggested to me by Ben Monder. Like most of the exercises in this post, this one will teach you to subdivide beats internally allowing you to feel time and tempos accurately. This exercise will also develop your patience.

If you don't have a metronome that will click at extremely slow tempos like 40bpm and below, try this free one called Metronome for Mac. I'm sure there's a PC equivalent.

Set your metronome to 20bpm. That's one click every 3 seconds for those decent at math. Now play a scale, any scale you like, one note per click. This is very difficult to do at such slow tempos. If you'd like to practice chords, play a chord in all its inversions up the neck, again one chord per click.

My guess is you're going to be in the dark when you first try this exercise so how can you get good at it? Listen to the click, now try to subdivide either in your head or by tapping with your hand 4 beats per click. In other words, if we're treating each click as a quarter note, you're feeling or tapping out sixteenth notes. The notation looks like this:

Now try to play the scale including the 16th note subdivisions so you'll play 4 notes per click. Once you're comfortable doing that, go back to playing only one note per click but beat out those sixteenths in your head or say them out loud if it helps. Do this for 10 minutes as a warm up exercise playing a scale you may not be as familiar with or chord inversions you're not adept at. This way you're learning not only the new scale or inversions but you're learning to accurately subdivide as well.

3. The 4 On 4 Off -- rating: moderate to fun
A great way to test and practice your time accuracy is to freely improvise while using an app like Time Guru, (for a review of Time Guru, click here), a sequencer or drum machine to beat out time for you for 4 beats and then be silent for 4 beats.

You can think of the exercise as improvising over a two bar phrase in 4/4. The test is, do you nail the downbeat of the first bar after improvising over silence for 4 beats?

If you're using a drum machine or sequencer, only have it beat out the 4 quarter notes of bar 1 with a rim click or something similar, not a full blown drum pattern. This is because you want to train yourself to feel the subdivisions yourself, not have the drum machine provide them for you.

Above and to the right is a screenshot of how I've set up this exercise in Time Guru. I've got the random mute slider set to 0% so that no clicks are randomly dropped out, and the first 4 beats of my phrase are audible (indicated by the highlighted "4" and quarter note below it) while the next 4 beats are always silent (indicated by the grayed out "4" and quarter note rest sign under it). The notation would look like this:

Note that the highlighted number 4's beats (bar 1) will always sound while the grayed out 4's beats (bar 2) will always be silent, but if I slid the "Random mute" slider to 20%, then a random 20% of the highlighted four beats would be muted, adding another layer of complexity on to the exercise.

Start your drum machine, sequencer or Time Guru and begin improvising over the four quarter note clicks. Don't stop improvising during the following silent four beats unless it's a normal break in your phrasing. Do you nail the downbeat when the clicks come back in? If you don't, you're not accurately tracking the time while there's silence. Try simplifying your lines or try comping a familiar song form like the blues for this exercise. If it's difficult, the more familiar elements you can add to it will give you more security when playing over silence.

There's Always More
I'll have the the second part of this exercise up with an accompanying video in a week. Hope you enjoyed these tips. Below is a YouTube video where I demonstrate these three exercises if you had trouble understanding any of them.

For Part 2 of this series, click here.

Files Updated

Hey all--

After the iCloud fiasco, where Apple killed the iDisk servers which just happened to be the place I uploaded all the files I link to on this site, I managed to get them to another location.

From here on out, any link you click on on this site SHOULD take you to the right place and give you the right files you want.

Please let me know if I missed anything.

A new video is coming soon as well as an Adam Rogers transcription and a Joe Zawinul transcription.

Hope you're making great music.

Download Alert! -- Apple Wrecked My Files

Some readers have written to let me know they're unable to download files that I had available on the site.

It appears everything I ever uploaded to Apple's iDisk has been nuked.

Don't panic, I still have all the documents. I'm currently looking for another solution so readers can still download my transcriptions and sound files. In the meantime, if there's something you want, please email me: somuchsound at gmail dot com. It will take me a little longer to respond to every email but I'll get the files to you.

Doc Watson: RIP and Thanks for the Music

Doc Watson
American flatpicking and bluegrass legend Doc Watson died two weeks ago on May 29 at the age of 89.

In honor of his memory, NPR's Fresh Air re-aired a great interview and in-studio concert they did with him in the late 80's along with his right hand man and fellow great guitarist Jack Lawrence. You should check it out if you like music at all and I'm guessing you do if you read this blog. The full interview and performance is available here.

While listening to the interview I was blown away by their performance of "Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor." This is a traditional American folk and bluegrass song which was new to me but doing some research I found it's been covered probably hundreds of times by great artists for nearly a century. It's a funny, up tempo tune as they perform it, but Doc Watson and Jack Lawrence's easy going rendition mask how virtuosic their guitar playing is. Both of them are monster players. Doc's contributions to music will be missed.

Jack Lawrence
Below is a transcription of Jack Lawrence's burning solo on "Make Me Down..." as he and Doc performed it in the NPR interview. Transcribing it I was struck by how much bluegrass and jazz have in common. They both have the same roots so it's not surprising but digging into his lines it occurred to me that if you just tweaked a few things you'd have a great jazz solo. There's the same emphasis on chord-tone soloing you'll find in early jazz with some really nice chromatic approaches particular to bluegrass.

Here is the transcription and below it is a quick analysis of what he's doing. A link to a PDF of the solo is at the bottom of the page.

The solo consists almost entirely of chord tones with some scale lines and really nice chromatic approach and passing notes. Pay close attention to those chromatic approaches, they're what really give this solo it's bluegrass sound. What's amazing is how on nearly every down beat, Jack hits one of the chord tones of the chords he's playing over, sometimes targeting them with those chromatic approaches. This shows you he's not just meandering, playing scales. He's thinking about the chords as he's playing on them as well as the chords that are coming up and targeting their chord tones so he lands them on a down beat.

You can download a PDF of the transcription here.

This Is Your Brain on Jazz

A recent study of musicians and non-musicians studied their perception of a particular piece of music and their ability to detect subtle changes in it while listening. While there have been studies comparing musicians' brains to non musicians' brains, this was apparently a new take. What was new was the scientists' division of the participants into their particular style of specialization: rock musicians, jazz musicians, classical musicians and non musicians.

A more full explanation of the study is available here at United Academics Magazine. It's short and is worth a read. 

The result of the study will surely piss off lots of people, especially rock and classical musicians, but it's fascinating nonetheless:
The rock musicians were the less sensible participants except from the non-musicians. This might come from the fact that they start quite late to practice their instruments and that they place more emphasis on style than on perfection. Classical musicians were most specialized in timbre processing. The use of “color” being one of their main means of expression. The jazz musicians were leading in pitch, location, intensity and rhythm processing. Jazz music is the most complex music genre regarding harmony and rhythm patterns. In addition to this, musicians have to communicate on a high level while improvising.

Bruce Nauman on Lennie Tristano: You Can Learn a Lot From Other Artists

Lennie Tristano
I read an article in The New Yorker a few years ago and a part of it always stuck with me. The brilliant way a visual artist described Lennie Tristano's playing and how it applied to his art.

In the article, the writer Calvin Tomkins was interviewing visual artist Bruce Nauman and at some point during the interview, Nauman hands Tomkins a pair of headphones in order to have him listen to a recording of Tristano who Nauman says he used to listen to while living in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

Tomkins describes Tristano's playing as "fast and driving" which struck me as a pretty run-of-the-mill description of any bebop recording. But then he quotes Nauman's appraisal.
"He doesn't lead you into it, he just starts and goes," Nauman said admiringly. "At one point, I wanted my work to have that kind of immediate impact, just being there, all at once." When I asked if he still wanted that, he thought a bit, and said, "No. Maybe sometimes. It's as though, earlier, there was an intention, and as the work's gotten more spread out there's more waiting to see what will happen."
Things to think about your own playing. Do you want it to have an immediate impact? Or do you like the idea of leading people into it? To wait and see what will happen.

App Review: Time Guru -- a Metronome That Tests Time

Have you ever practiced with a metronome and found yourself drifting in and out of consciousness at the repetitive click-click-click? Or maybe you've wondered if your time is any good away from the reassuring support of beats played perfectly for you.

Time Guru interface
Time Guru, an app for the iPhone can answer these questions by testing your ability to accurately feel tempos and beats in addition to functioning as a top notch metronome.

I bought Time Guru after watching a bass player friend of mine practice with it while working on grooves. He told me his buddy Avi Bortnick (who's backed up John Scofield on rhythm guitar) came up with the concept and got the app made and on the strength of these two recommendations I hit up the App Store and got mine.  I've been blown away by the versatility of this fantastic app since.

Time Guru's metronome function can play as slow as 5 beats per minute and up to 300 beats per minute making it extremely versatile at tempo and subdividing practice.

But beyond its function as a standard metronome, what makes this app worth paying $1.99 for? Besides the fact that you can't get a standard mechanical metronome for probably under $15.

In a nutshell, Time Guru is a metronome that randomly drops out a portion of the clicks you hear, testing your ability to keep accurate time when there's no repetitive sound source to lock on to. I emphasize that phrase because the ability to randomly be silent yet still keep time is what keeps you on your toes while working with this app. It's a surprisingly good test of your ability to keep time.

Time Guru allows you to easily set the percentage of clicks that are silent with a slider in the interface from 0% of clicks muted to 100% (the time indicator will still flash so the metronome basically functions in silent mode). There's even a function that allows you to decide how soon you want the app to start randomly silencing clicks so you can ease into it if you want to get comfortable with the tempo first.

One way to do 19/16: 4qtr notes + 3 16ths
If that's all Time Guru did it would be an invaluable tool for working on your time or just as a metronome that keeps you on your toes while practicing other concepts. But Time Guru also allows you to set up complex groups of beats enabling you to practice odd meters and odd metered phrases as well. Need to work on your 19/16? Piece of cake.

Because the metronome can be set to as low as 5 beats per minute, you can use the app to practice song forms like a 12-bar blues easily by treating each beat as a bar. Furthermore, with the ability to always silence one or more group of beats, the user has a tremendous amount of control over what exactly part of a phrase or song they want to test their rhythmic accuracy on.

I can't say enough how great this app is and what an addition it makes to my slew of practice tools. Time Guru accomplishes what I have been laboriously setting up on my home computer, drum machine and even tape deck for 15 years.

In the future I'd like to see the Meter select upped to 9 or even 11 but even stopping at 7, with all the ways you can combine meters, Time Guru gets the job done.

The Key to Success

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
-- Bill Cosby

If you write music, think about that the next time you wonder what this person or that person is going to think about your new tune.

It doesn't matter. Just write it.

John Scofield Explains How to Practice a Tune

I recently posted a quick hit on a clinic that John Scofield did in the mid-90's that covered mostly how he practices and learns a tune as well as some general philosophy on improvisation and theory. It's a great clinic and I highly recommend you check it out.

As promised, here is a breakdown of the clinic and the methods he employs in order to get a tune under his fingers.

Scales First
Scofield's basic approach to learning a song—besides playing it all the time—is getting comfortable with the chord changes, first by playing the appropriate scales in time over the changes, connecting them at the chord change. He doesn't stop and try to phrase or play musically, he just keeps moving, changing position and scale as the new chord hits.

PDF available below
Here's an example of him doing it over Stella by Starlight which is the tune he uses throughout the clinic.

You'll see if you look carefully, he doesn't do this perfectly. There are a couple passing tones here and there and some ambiguous sections where it appears to me he's killing time in order to hit the next chord change. As I've said before, this is encouraging. This is hard to do and certainly hard to do perfectly.

It's also the same general idea that Kurt Rosenwinkel explains in a seminar I wrote about a while ago. The idea of being able to move scales through chord changes fluidly.

Some of Scofield's choices are interesting. For instance, in bar 10 he plays Bb Melodic Minor through both chords, even though E-7b5 is not diatonic to the scale. However it works great over the A7alt so I wonder if he's just not bothering with being correct in order to introduce more chromaticism or if he made a mistake.

Similarly he plays F Major all the way through bars 13-14, with the scale not being appropriate for the A7alt, even though the notes are all technically fine.

What's interesting is in this exercise he really only employs two scales, the Major and the Melodic Minor throughout the entire tune with one use of the Diminished at bar 28.

Scofield explains really well what the point of learning scales is:
The way you learn this stuff is learning scales, learning patterns and experimenting with them. You know I don't know anybody that's really gotten good at playing tunes or any of this stuff from just taking the scales [and playing them over a tune]. This stuff all comes after listening and learning about Jazz music from listening to records and listening to other people play it's just you know, music...What these scales do, to me, is they lead you into almost, chromaticism—that's what the Diminished scale does. You know, chromatic type of freedom, nobody really just plays the scales. 

Arpeggios Second
Next he works on playing arpeggios over the changes which as I've noted before is essentially chord tone soloing.

PDF available below
His first go at it however hits a few bumps. It's not strictly an arpeggio or chord tone solo as he adds in some scale lines. He also hits some rhythmic snags because of the way he phrases some of his lines. I attempted to transcribe it as faithfully as I could while keeping the fairly obvious spirit of what he was shooting for. All the notes are there but you might have a slightly different interpretation of how the lines lay if you transcribe it yourself.
Scofield says: "Um, I think I stopped playing arpeggios at one point. [he did] But basically ... that was tertial, in other words going up and down in 3rds, which is not that far from 2nds [meaning scales], you know? I mean if I'm moving in scalewise motion it's just moving half or whole. But, the arpeggios are made up of 3rds, right? Chord tones in 3rds and my improvisation there was, I think all 3rds but you don't always start on the root and you can go up and down at will, so..."

PDF available below
 He then goes on to play another example of a solo based on arpeggios, though again he still includes some non chord tones. He also does some really nice anticipations of some of the harmonies coming from the bebop style of targeting chord tones, for instance at the end of bar 4 and bar 28. After this solo he answers a number of questions and speaks a bit about transcribing.

Scofield says when he was learning he rarely would transcribe whole solos but instead would learn phrases—licks basically.

Again, I highly recommend you give this clinic a listen. There is some excellent information in it and some nice playing from Scofield beyond these three transciptions.

I'll close with his thoughts on Giant Steps which he talks about at the beginning of the clinic.
I don't play Giant Steps. I'm serious about this tune Giant Steps, this tune is too hard you know? [Audience laughter] Listen, check it out, Giant Steps is a great tune and I love Coltrane, I really do but the tune is not really a great tune for blowing on. Stella By Starlight is a great tune. You can get into a thing, or I can, maybe I'm just not good enough to play Giant Steps -- to me Giant Steps is symmetrical and an exercise. Stella by Starlight is a beautiful harmonic sequence that gives me ideas. Giant Steps just makes me confused, I have to remember that, you know [demonstrates playing over Giant Steps changes] -- now I'm thinking all the time, I can't even take any space. But anyway, don't worry about Giant Steps, unless you can already play Stella by Starlight. I'm serious! This tune, I've heard too much about this.
Scale transcription
Arpeggio solo 1 transcription
Arpeggio solo 2 transcription

50,000+ and Counting

Sometime while I wasn't looking a few days ago this blog hit over 50,000 unique page views. It turns out my videos have hit over 50,000 views as well. Not bad for a blog about improvisation. I can't wait to hit 100,000.

Thank you, everyone, sincerely for your comments, emails, views and suggestions. Every one of them keeps me going and keeps me posting.

Here's what you have to look forward to in the next few weeks: a series on the Blues, how to play it and how to get better at it; my first interview with Matt Beck, guitar player with Matchbox 20 and Rob Thomas; and transcriptions and analysis of a John Scofield clinic on how he learns and practices tunes.

Thanks again. See you at 100,000.

The Pump: Goodbye Radio

I know this is mostly a jazz and improvisation based blog but...

I have a shameless plug today-- a band I'm a sideman in, Uncle Pumpkin has released a new record that I'm proud of.

I play guitar, keyboards and sing backup in the band when we play live and it's one of the most fun gigs I have. We did this record mostly on our own in small rooms, on computers, live, however we could get it down.

Shout out to Dan Grennes (currently on tour with Green Day's American Idiot) who wrote all the songs and put together a hell of a lineup of power pop. He basically got this done single handed. The rest of us just showed up and played. Way to go Dan.

Listen to the whole record for free (!) and download it for only $5.

Even you have to admit that's ridiculous. How much does a coffee at Starbucks cost? This will last longer and has better taste.

Listen, preview and download the record here.

NAMM Day 4

Day 4 was much quieter than the previous three, especially Saturday which was absolutely a madhouse.

I only had a few people I wanted to talk to, specifically the people at Steve Clayton picks and accessories who I endorse, Andy Lund at Taylor Guitars who very kindly got me a pass to the show and I wanted to see if I could talk the Santa Cruz guitar people out of that custom orchestra acoustic I had my eye on. Unfortunately, no such luck.

On the way to the Santa Cruz booth I happened on Stevie Wonder listening to someone playing a hammered dulcimer. You don't see that every day. A buddy of mine got video of him playing a drum kit on Saturday but I didn't expect to see him myself. That's one of the cool things about NAMM.

Everyone told me the show was nuts, loud, and annoying—and that's all true— but it's also a lot of fun.

It was great to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while and fun to meet some new people and some heroes of mine. Not a bad trip.

And if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this guy. It was all worth it.

NAMM Day 3

I'm quickly going deaf but it's been mostly worth it so far.

I spent some time today in the C.F. Martin booth taking with their rep and checking out some of their guitars. I was particularly taken with the one to the right. Really well balanced, played fantastically and of course is beautiful.

While I was there I ran into Joel Hoekstra, guitar player for Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Rock of Ages on Broadway. Such a killer player and a nice guy too.

Brent Mason
The highlight today though was going to the Paul Reed Smith performance area and checking out Nashville session guitarist Brent Mason do his thing with a pick up band. Unbelievable playing, incredible chops and taste too. I think in my other life I would be a country player. Since I don't have the time to devote to it I just check out guys like Brent and rip off as much as I can. The time-honored tradition.

Later in the day I spent some time at the Santa Cruz guitars booth and got some quality time with one of their reps and about six of their acoustics. The one below—I got a shot of both the guitar and a closeup of the headstock—a custom orchestra was a standout. Absolutely beautiful and it played like a dream. The bird inlay on the headstock was one of the most beautiful inlay jobs I've ever seen on a guitar. Sometimes these things can be too over the top for me but I felt like the maker really balanced the look of the instrument just right.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
Finally, just as I was ready to go and head out the door, my buddy and drummer Adam Fischel spotted Vinnie Colaiuta talking to somebody in the Ibanez guitar booth, of all places. I told Adam that's definitely not Vinnie, Adam insisted, I said no way. Adam approached him and he was right. You can always count on a drummer to spot a drummer.

Just like high school kids, we got our picture taken with him. How could you not? Frank Zappa, Sting, Jeff Beck -- the guy has defined what it means to be the consummate sideman.

I still feel goofy getting my picture taken with these guys when I haven't played with them but what the hell. It's fun to be a fan every now and then.

NAMM Day 2

Janek and Mike
I'm currently at Fodera  watching my buddy Janek Gwizdala tear it up with the equally prodigious Mike Pope in a 2-bass playoff and it's only 12:20pm. Holy cow. Thanks to Fodera basses for making this happen. And who showed up just as they were finishing? Matt Garrison. I think the Earth tilted a little with his arrival. This much heaviness in one place will do that.

About 20 minutes before this I was treated to a snare drum solo by none other than Bernard Purdie who I stumbled on after turning a corner. Not bad for it being so early.

Bernard Purdie
With that said, blogging from your phone sucks. I'm happy to have the app, but man I don't plan on doing this much.


It's been a hell of a day.

At the Gibson exhibition was a Les Paul with one of the most beautiful finishes I've ever seen. Instead of the thick lacquer normally used on them, it looked like the wood had been stained black and you could still see the wood grain underneath. It was stunning. I'm not much of a fan of the newer Les Pauls, once they went to the "Traditional" designation instead of "Standard" but I'd buy this one in a heart beat if only for the looks. This is what NAMM does to you. You see something like that and you quickly convince yourself it's perfectly reasonable to buy a guitar you definitely don't need.

Later I watched my friend and drummer Marko Djordjevic do a performance at the Albert Publishing booth with Jeff Ellwood, Damian Erskine and Matthew Garrison.

I've done a lot of gigs with Marko in New York and watching him play with other musicians really got me fired up to play with him again. He's such a monster and is a great writer as well. A really nice combination in a musician.

I finished up the day by having a conversation with Albert Lee who encouraged me to work on my chicken picking -- if only there was enough time -- and spotting George Benson in a booth signing autographs. Though I'm a huge fan of both of them, I only spoke to Albert. I was surprised how few people were there to see him, the guy is an absolute monster and legend and such a brilliant player. But that was to my advantage because I could be a fan for a moment and get my picture taken with him and actually have a conversation. Such a great guy.

NAMM Day 1

I might have bitten off more than I could chew on day one. I knew NAMM was big, but I really didn't appreciate how big until I had been there for well over two hours and realized I hadn't seen even an eighth of it.

But I soldiered on.

In the afternoon I hooked up with my buddy, LA guitarist and writer Dave Wood who was doing a demo with MOTU on Digital Performer. Dave's a killer player and a great guy who also introduced me to one of my favorite discoveries at NAMM: the Deuce Coup distortion pedal.

The Deuce Coup is a hand-made beauty by Jack Deville who runs Jack Deville Electronics out of Portland, OR.

Jack and Cameron from Jack Deville Electronics spent a lot of time with me and demoed the pedal as well as a few of their other creations. I was blown away.

Incredibly warm sound, transparent and extremely responsive to attack and the volume setting on your guitar. Rolling off the volume on the guitar really cleaned up the sound while rolling it up brought such a big breakup coming out of a little Fender Princeton you'd think it was a cranked, much bigger amp. Just a killer.

I'm going to be picking one of these up when I get back to NY. If you get a chance to play through one of these, do it. I'm guessing you won't be disappointed.

The rest of the day was spent trying in vain to see everything (I really didn't understand just how big the convention center was), not go deaf and make it out of there without wanting to buy every cool thing I saw.

That evening I drove up to LA to hear some music at the Blue Whale jazz club with my friend and drummer Adam Fischel. Bassist Tim Lefebvre recently relocated to LA from NY and has a residence at the club through this week. The show had two outstanding drummers, Gary Novak and Mark Guiliana with Henry Hey on keyboards and electronics filling out the bill. It was great to hear Tim doing his thing out on the West coast.

More from NAMM coming up...