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Colin Newman from Wire

“We are not a punk band” says Wire’s Colin Newman

Wire’s 1977 debut, “Pink Flag”, is widely regarded as one of the landmark British punk albums, released the same years as the Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s debuts. It may come as a surprise, then, that the band don’t see themselves as punks… and never have.

In an exclusive interview for Eastwood guitars, Wire’s lead singer and guitarist, Colin Newman, said:

“Wire really never were a punk band… we happened to be there at the same time. You could list the Ramones as one of our influences, but we were never interested in just doing that genre.”

Eastwood met with Colin Newman ahead of their gig in Leeds, England, last month. Wire were headlining their own festival, DRILL, which takes places in different countries, including the US, England, Belgium and Germany.

The band is currently promoting their new album, Silver/Lead, that shows they are still musically relevant in 2017 – and, perhaps as Colin suggest, not really “punk”. At least not anymore!

Colin Newman live at Leeds

Colin Newman live at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club

The article also reveals plans for a Colin Newman signature guitar, based on Colin’s favorite guitar – the Airline MAP, which he fitted with a piezo pickup for acoustic tones.

Since forming in 1976, Wire have become one of the most influential British bands from the late seventies – despite never achieving the same level of success as the Sex Pistols or The Clash. Bands as diverse as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand, Blur, Elastica, My Bloody Valentine, Black Flag and, more recently, Parquet Courts, have been influenced by Colin Newman & co. 

Today, with the addition of new guitarist Matt Simms (who joined in 2010), Wire remain relevant and a superb live band – and the same goes for their records. Albums such as Change becomes Us, Nocturnal Koreans and this year’s Silver/Lead are proof of their continued musical vitality.

LISTEN: Wire’s “Short Elevated Period” (from Silver / Lead, 2017)

READ COLIN NEWMAN INTERVIEW

moonduoIGGY600

WATCH: Moon Duo Covers The Stooges’ ‘No Fun’

Iggy Pop turned 70 last Friday, April 21. To celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest frontmen in Rock’n’Roll, Moon Duo covered The Stooges’ ‘No Fun’ on BBC Radio 6.

On this video, Moon Duo singer / guitarist Ripley Johnson uses, as usual, his Airline 59 3P Ripley Custom, his own signature guitar and also an unique model in the Airline 59 family, as it features our Transwarp Drive boost.

Airline 59 3P Ripley Custom

Airline 59 3P Ripley Custom

Rock on, Ripley!

 

Moon Duo’s worldwide tour continues in the U.S. and Canada. If you’re around to catch one of those dates, don’t miss it!

21/4/17 Chicago @ The Empty Bottle w/ Jackie Lynn 
22/4/17 Detroit @ El Club w/ Jackie Lynn 
23/4/17 Toronto @ Horseshoe Tavern w/ Jackie Lynn 
25/4/17 Montreal @ La Sala Rossa w/ Jackie Lynn 
26/4/17 Boston @ Great Scott w/ Jackie Lynn 
27/4/17 Brooklyn @ Rough Trade w/ Jackie Lynn 
28/4/17 Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda’s w/ Jackie Lynn 
29/4/17 Washington DC @ DC9 w/ Jackie Lynn 
30/4/17 Cleveland @ Beachland Tavern w/ Jackie Lynn

More info:

Moon Duo official website

View Airline 59 3P Ripley information

Chuck Berry

Goodbye, Chuck Berry (1926 – 2017): The Father Of Rock’n’Roll

Last weekend, we lost a true legend: Chuck Berry died on 18th March, aged 90. Make no mistake, folks – the world lost the one person who truly epitomised the spirit of Rock’n’Roll. Here’s our tribute.

Chuck Berry

The origins of Rock’n’Roll  are somewhat murky, and there are many contenders for what was supposed to be “the first rock song ever”. But Chuck Berry was without a doubt the true father of rock’n’roll. He’s the one person who truly personified its spirit, the seminal influence who laid down the foundations for all that was to come. The outsider. The guitar hero. The rebel. The songwriter. The outlaw. The poet. Oh, and so much more…

Rock’n’Roll Music! 

It could be argued that some artists who followed became more famous, made better albums, and recorded more hits… but none of them would’ve been the same without Chuck Berry, whose lyricism, and genius for simple, memorable songs set the template for the best which rock music had to offer thereafter. Berry songs fuelled The Beatles’ early sets (and final albums); inspired The Beach Boys’ first hit and The Rolling Stones’ debut single. His DNA lives on in pretty much any rock band and guitarist worth anything.

In the past decades his presence had been waning from the music scene and, sadly, perhaps the majority of millennials were not particularly aware of Chuck Berry’s music or influence – but even younger generations will have been touched by his influence… after all, most of them will be probably familiar with Back To The Future’s rock’n’roll ball scene, a delightful homage to Berry and one of the most classic scenes from that film!

Chuck Berry, the father of rock'n'roll

Chuck Berry, the father of rock’n’roll…

The fact is – most of us grew up in a world were Chuck Berry and his music existed, a world where Chuck Berry was a fact of life, and where his songs were so interwoven in the fabric of our culture, that we didn’t even have to think about it, because he’s always been there…  so it’s hard – or even impossible – to imagine how rock music would’ve been without his influence. 

Anyone who’s seen the octogenarian Chuck Berry on stage, will know how fragile he was in his later years, hardly capable of playing his guitar anymore. Though it was an upsetting sight, and some will say he was being exploited by promoters or whoever, we can’t really agree with this view. Any musician passionate about music, and who understands the power of rock’n’roll music, will immediately understand it was something Chuck simply had to do. To play and perform for as long as he was able to, however he could. That’s rock’n’roll, and Chuck Berry was rock’n’roll. How could he do anything else?

And indeed, Chuck kept working. On his 90th birthday, on 18th October last year, it was announced that there would be a new Chuck Berry album, his first in more than thirty years, to be released later in 2017.

Listen! Chuck Berry’s new single, ‘Big Boys’:

‘Big Boys’ is the first taster for Chuck Berry’s upcoming new album, now sadly a posthumous release.

Chuck tracklisting:

1. “Wonderful Woman”
2. “Big Boys”
3. “You Go to My Head”
4. “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)”
5. “Darlin’”
6. “Lady B. Goode”
7. “She Still Loves You”
8. “Jamaica Moon”
9. “Dutchman”
10. “Eyes of Man”

Jeff Senn tribute to Chuck:

Here’s a little tribute our friend Jeff Senn made in Chuck’s homage, playing his new Continental model:

Chuck lives on, in anyone who really cares about guitars and about that magical crazy thing called rock’n’roll. We’ll miss you, Chuck, goodbye!

Chuck Berry, RIP

CHUCK BERRY (Oct 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017)

David Bowie red guitar

The Guitars Of David Bowie

2016 was a year of great musical losses, but none was as shocking or as saddening as David Bowie’s. One year on, let’s remember a side of Bowie that’s been often forgotten: the guitarist! Here’s our guide to the guitars played by David Bowie over the years… enjoy!

David Bowie has had many different faces and personas over the years, but, surprisingly, one has been overlooked by most – David Bowie, the guitarist. In a way, it’s not very surprisingly, considering he was far from being a guitar hero, and, most importantly, has collaborated with some truly stellar guitarists who contributed greatly to his music, including: Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Quite an impressive list!

Which Guitars Did David Bowie Play?

Though not primarily a guitarist, Bowie had a consistent taste for vintage, rare guitars and his choice of instrument often changed with his ever-changing musical directions. Here’s a guide to some of his most notable guitars. We usually talk about electric guitars, but in Bowie’s case we can’t help but mention a few acoustics, too… after all, he was a huge fan of 12-string acoustic models, throughout his career! In any case – Bowie was a true connoisseur, and his choice of guitars over the years is nothing short of fascinating! 

Here’s Bowie’s career – in 20 rare, amazing guitars.

1) Framus 12-String Acoustic (1965-66)

Of course, many of you will know that Bowie started his musical career as a saxophone player, and then became the frontman of different bands (The Mannish Boys, The Lower Third) but never playing a guitar. This pic of an young David Jones with a Framus 12-string  is the earliest photograph of Bowie with a guitar.

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12 string

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12-string 

According to Bowie biographer Paul Trynka, Bowie bought a guitar in late 1965. Considering Bowie’s well-documented taste for 12-string acoustics in later years, it’s fair to assume that the Framus in the photograph was indeed his first guitar, though there has never been any specific information about it. It’s interesting to note that his guitar had pickup, volume and tone controls – perhaps it was modded and bought second-hand by the still struggling Bowie. Little trivia: the guitar was redburst. 

Playing guitar was an important step in David Bowie’s career, as he started to use the instrument to compose songs, such as “Maid Of Bond Street” and his first true classic, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”.

2) Gibson B45 12-String (1968-69)

Bowie live with Feathers

Bowie performing with Feathers

After the commercial failure of his 1967 debut album, Bowie tried other directions, including joining Lindsey Kemp’s mime troup, buddhism and forming folky trio Feathers with his girlfriend Hermione Farthingale and John Hutchinson. During this period, Bowie used a Gibson B-45 12-string acoustic.

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

He’s never been seen or photographed with this guitar again, after the end of Feathers. We actually believe this is the first time this guitar has ever been mentioned in relation to Bowie, as we couldn’t find anything else elsewhere. Well, now you know!

3) Hagstrom 12-String Acoustic (1969-1972)

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

This is perhaps Bowie’s most legendary guitar. It’s believed it’s the one he used to write his first hit, ‘Space Oddity’, as well as used live and to write most ‘Ziggy Stardust’-era songs, including ‘Starman’.

Curiously enough, the guitar is now on display at the ‘Beatles Story’ museum, in Liverpool. At some point, it seems to have had pickup and tone & volume controls added to it, though it’s not shown with this configuration in any Bowie photos.

David Bowie's Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

David Bowie’s Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

4) Espana 12-String Acoustic (1969)

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

This guitar was used on a famous promo shot for the ‘Space Oddity’ single, but strangely enough, there’s not a whole lot info about it. It might have been used just as a prop for the photograph. It looks very similar to the Hagstrom 12-string, and it could indeed be the one he’s using in other pics and footage, but it’s hard to be sure!

5) Guild 12-String Acoustic (1971)

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

When David Bowie toured the US for the first time, to promote ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ in 1971, he could be seen playing a Guild 12-string acoustic. There’s no report or pics of him using one before or since, so he probably just borrowed it for the tour.

6) Harptone 12-string (1972-83)

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

This Harptone 12-string is “the” Ziggy-era Bowie acoustic. He used it when touring with the Spiders From Mars and this guitar can be seen on most footage from the era. 

Curiously enough, it seems Bowie decided to dust it off years later, after the release of Let’s Dance, as this live pic suggests:

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acouistic.

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acoustic.

7) Harpotone 12-String Jumbo (1972-75)

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Many people don’t realise this, but Bowie also regularly used ANOTHER Harptone 12-string, which at first sight looks similar to the previous one, but you’ll notice that it has a different scratchplate and is also bigger. He used this model on the second, Ziggy-era “Space Oddity” video; during the Ziggy tour and up until the Young Americans- era.

8) Egmond 12-String, Blue (1972)

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

This is one of Bowie’s most important guitars – if not for anything else, simply for being the guitar he used on the watershed moment of his career – playing “Starman” on Top Of The Pops, which finally launched Bowie as a bona fide popstar in the UK! He also used the Egmond on a few promo shots, and that seems to be about it.

9) Vox Teardrop Mark XII 12-String (1972)

Bowie and his Vox 12 string

There’s no record of Bowie using this cool Vox guitar other than in 1972, for promo pics. Years later, he used a Vox Teardrop Mark VI for the recording of one of his best songs in the Eighties, ‘Absolute Beginners’. The guitar is now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Warsaw. There’s no photo of him and this guitar, though.

Bowie's Vox VI guitar

10) Gibson 1972 Deluxe Les Paul (1972)

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie was always very conscious about his image and symbolism. That’s why he posed with a borrowed Les Paul on the cover of the “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” album – to show the world he was now a tougher, “rock’n’roll” act.  Maybe for this reason, he was up for using a Les Paul during his 1972 USA tour.

Presented to Bowie by Gibson, he used it live and on the ‘Jean Genie’ promo film. But given his more esoteric tastes in guitars, it’s not surprising that it soon became Mick Ronson’s back up guitar, never to be used by Bowie again. 

11) Hagstrom I Kent PB- 24-G (1974)

David Bowie red guitar

David Bowie and his Hagstrom I Kent PB-24-G

Now we’re talking! The red Hagstrom I Kent PB-24G guitar was Bowie’s first truly iconic electric guitar. Though many fans will recognise and love it, this guitar was only used in promo shots for his ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, and there’s no record of him ever using it elsewhere, apart from a TV appearance:

As most hardcore Bowie fans may know, he played most guitar parts on the ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, but according to those who worked with him, his guitar choice during the sessions was a Dan Armstrong plexiglass model – which he’s never been pictured with… a shame! Unless, those recollections are slightly wrong and they really meant the next guitar…

12) Dan Armstrong 341 (1976)

Bowie's Dan Armstrong 341

Bowie’s Dan Armstrong 341

Yes, David Bowie had for sure another Dan Armstrong guitar, but it was not a plexiglass model! Auctioned in 1991, this is an important guitar. Besides featuring on a famous pic used for the Sound + Vision compilation, it was also used to write one of Bowie’s finest albums. According to Bowie, in ’91: “I’ve had this Dan Armstrong guitar since the early 70s. I wrote most of the songs for Station to Station on it.” Considering the cronology, it may have been used on ‘Diamond Dogs’, too.

13) Custom Fender Telecaster, Natural (1976)

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

During the tour to promote ‘Station To Station’, Bowie played a custom Fender Telecaster, with 3 pickups with individual on/off switches. A pretty cool guitar, never seen since.

14) Fender Stratocaster, Red and Sunburst (1977)

Bowie Red Strat

Bowie and his Red Strat

Two  more conventional choices, during Bowie’s least conventional period! In 1977 Bowie could be seen playing a red Stratocaster for the ‘Be My Wife’ promo, one of the most commercial tracks from ‘Low’, which became a single. 

Bowie was also spotted playing a sunburst Strat that same year, for his duet with Marc Bolan, on Bolan’s TV show. This guitar belonged to Marc, who gave it to Bowie as he turned up without one on the day!

David Bowie, Strat and Marc Bolan.

David Bowie with a Strat and Marc Bolan.

15) Gibson L4, Black (1989-90)

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Owned and used by David Bowie in the studio, on stage and while on tour with Tin Machine, accompanied by a Sound + Vision tour program showing Bowie playing this guitar, a signed letter of authenticity from Reeves Grables and guitar picks. The guitar can be seen in videos for the Tin Machine 1 album, in Music News reports and was used heavily in the studio for the recording of Tin Machine II. 

16) Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, Wine Red (1990)

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

The guitar was used on stage by Bowie during his March – September of 1990, Sound + Vision World Tour.

Bowie also subsequently used this guitar during studio sessions for his 1995 concept album “Outside.”

17) Takamine FP 400SC (1990)

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie used this guitar during his 1990 Sound + Vision tour. It was his main acoustic guitar then, used on classic hits such as ‘Space Odyssey’. The tour included 108 concerts over seven months in more than 80 cities around the world. Bowie promoted the tour as a “greatest hits” tour and stated it was the last time he was going to play songs from his back catalog. 

18) Steinberger GL2, Custom Silver (1991-92)

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie was a big fan of headless guitars, since he saw Tin Machine’s Reeves Gabrel’s: “David saw mine and decided he wanted one like it. My guitar tech, Andy Spray, called the factory in Newburgh to see if they could make another chrome L series. Apparently, they had a guitar they used as a test run for the chroming process. That one had a normal fretboard (it did not have a chromed fretboard) making Bowie’s copycat completely playable while mine was not. The non chromed fretboard is the easiest way to tell them apart.”

19) Supro Dual Tone (2003)

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

The Supro Dual Tone is one of his most iconic later-years guitars. He used it during his last world tour, in 2003, and it even appears on his 2010 live album of that tour, ‘A Reality Tour’:

Bowie 'A Reality Tour' cover

Bowie ‘A Reality Tour’ cover

More recently, Eastwood did a great job at recreating this model (first made famous by Link Wray in the Fifties) as the Airline Twin Tone – a fitting tribute to Wray’s model, but now also a great choice for fans of Bowie who also play guitar…

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

20) Hohner G2, Red (2013)

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie went back to a headless guitar in the video of ‘Valentine’s Day’, from his superb comeback album ‘The Next Day’. As ever, his choice of instrument was unusual but made total sense with his tastes over the years. Unique just like the man himself.

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Your Band as a Business: Booking Shows

 

 

Booking is an integral facet to your business. Your product is your music and there are only 2 real ways to consume music; listening to recorded material and going to a show to listen to a band. In a lot of ways, booking shows can be very easy.  Often times band members / managers make it harder on themselves than they should. Like anything in the business world, there are do’s and don’t’s that will either help propel you forward or keep you stagnant. 

picture3First and foremost, you need recorded music.  A talent buyer at any venue will require that you send over a physical press kit or an EPK (electronic press kit). Your press kit must have audio files of your music (preferably .mp3 or .wav), band photos, a band biography, a list of venues you have played, a stage plot and input list, a rider (specific needs for the show: i.e. hospitality, lodging, etc.), and bands you have played with.  Additives that help your press kit stand out include a cover page, any accolades or awards, and / or live videos or music videos (more applicable for an EPK).  There are platforms online that can assist you in making a press kit. Reverb Nation and Sonic Bids are both helpful in creating EPK’s within their specific network. If you aren’t interested in connecting with either of those platforms, you can always customize your own via your website. If you don’t have a website, you should consider making one. Websites are a one-stop-shop for talent buyers and promoters to find the information the need from bands. Website building sites like squarespace, wix, or weebly are great for musicians that aren’t familiar with coding.

 
Next, you need to understand your market. If you are a folk group, you probably won’t have great shows playing night clubs (given that the night clubs agree to take you). I say probably because every situation is different. This goes back to really understanding your market.  If the night club specializes in folk music then my example is null and void. The best rule of thumb is booking shows in the places where your colleagues (those playing similar sounding tunes) have previously booked shows.  Understanding your market also derives from understanding who the talent buyer is in each club / venue.  Make a list of names / emails and provide a fun fact about each talent buyer (if possible).  It’s good practice to keep track of who you’re dealing with professionally, but also who they are as people (life skill ALERT). 

picture2

“Music and music business are two different things” – Erykah Badu

With thousands of venues that exist in any one region, it can be difficult to get a grasp for each club’s genre preference.  If you aren’t familiar with your local scene, investigate by going to shows and seeing what clubs are doing. Look for handbills / posters for other shows and investigate the sound of the bands on the line up. If you are looking to book outside of your local scene, you can lean on websites like Indie On The Move or Do DIY.  These sites have concise lists of existing venues and genres of music they have performing. Fair warning, I have run into issues where their websites were out of date and the venue has changed or no longer exists.  Make sure you double check your work by following up with a phone call or email.

A big part of the booking process deals with the onsite behavior of the band you are in/manage. It’s good practice to establish a courteous culture among your group while at your shows.  Often, bands confuse being an artist with being an asshole. If you sell out your show, but are still a pain to work with, the venue has reason not to ask you back. Many artists are plagued by this due to the classic example of musicians demanding only blue m&m’s. Most often these bands ask for blue m&m’s to see if the venue is paying attention to detail. If the m&m’s are different than requested in the rider, that translates to other, potential more damaging mishaps with the rider (i.e. bad sound, no hospitality, etc.).  Simply clean up after yourself, mind your p’s and q’s, and be thankful for the opportunity to play a show.  By and large, you can always conduct your business professionally and courteously.

Lastly, once the show is over and you are moving on to your next venue, be sure to stay in touch with the venues you played previously.  “Thank You” notes are a great way to follow up with the buyer.  It may seem frivolous, but as I mentioned before, we are all human and like being appreciated. At very least, send a follow up email to say thank you. Now go book some shows.

Once again, if you have any questions relating to booking a show, or have any suggestions for me to write specifically on any particular topic, feel free to email me at bcspencer2013@gmail.com

Your Band as a Business: The Big Three

Written by: Brian Spencer

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First and foremost, congratulations for taking the time to better curate musical success. Seeking out articles of this nature will take you, as well as those involved in your music, to the next level.

Do yourself a favor and continue to research periodicals that will help advance your knowledge of this ever changing industry. I’ll attach some of my favorites at the end.

You did it. You formed a band, or a band has approached you to help them get to the next level. Now what? There are 3 things that will get you far in the industry. Those 3 things can be incredible assets on their own, but in unity, they will continue to open doors throughout your career.

Talent: Let’s be completely honest. In any business your product needs to reflect what people desire.  You will be hard pressed to sell your work to anyone that isn’t close friends or family (not to discount those folks, but they are your ‘ride or dies’. They are in it for the long haul). Put in the hours in the practice room or put emphasis on the creative process for the band you manage. The better the music, the more people that will gravitate to you. That means more money to put into your pocket or, IDEALLY, to put back into the band (I’ll get into fiscal responsibility later).

 

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“The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” – Vince Lombardi JR.

Knowledge: Not knowing how to plan ahead is one of the biggest mistakes made by band operators. You need to constantly check where the best music is being heard, where that music is being played, and what opportunities are best for exposure.  These are the fun questions.  You need to get to know the PRO’s that exist (Performing Rights Organizations) so that your music is protected and you can hopefully start collecting royalties. Learn how to best route your band when putting together a tour.  Learn how to balance your profit / loss with every penny that comes in and out. Watch your favorite bands and see how they put together marketing campaigns for releasing music. Basically, the learning never ends, but this shouldn’t come as a shock. If you want to do something to your best ability then you have to eat, drink, sleep, dream (day / night) whatever it is that you are involved in.

Drive: In my subjective opinion, this is quite possibly the most important asset of the 3.  Without drive, the other two assets can be hampered exponentially.  If you ONLY have drive, you will be better off than someone with talent, knowledge, or potentially even a combination of those two.  You have the ability to work incredibly hard, and nobody should convince you otherwise. If you have the magic combination of all 3 assets, then doors will continually open for you.

 There is a plethora of roads that we’ll go down in the coming articles that will introduce you to specifics within the industry.  Throughout your career, managing your “Big 3” will be incredibly important to the success of your band. Continue to seek out periodicals and learn more about the industry. Ask lots of questions and continue to work at your craft.

Here are some books that have helped my business grow.  Keep in mind that some of this information is out of date, but the themes are still incredibly important.

http://amzn.to/2d8abBV

http://bit.ly/2e29jff

http://bit.ly/2e6vxB6

If you have any questions for me, or want me to write about any specific topic within developing your band as a business, don’t hesitate to email me at bcspencer2013@gmail.com

12 Songs for 12 Strings

While the twelve string guitar has been around for over a century, its role as a foreground instrument only surfaced in relatively recent rock and roll history. Sure, the instrument was favored by the likes of early blues artists “Lead Belly” and “Blind Willie McTell” in the 1920’s and ’30s, but at that time the instrument would have been used as an accompaniment at best. That said, their use of the twelve string in blues music is perhaps the main reason the twelve string began to come to prominence in the rock and roll world of the ’50s and ’60s. Their influence, along with the skyrocketing popularity of the electric guitar at the time gave musicians the idea to see what a twelve string could bring to their songs. The result? In a word… “Jangle!” We all know the sound. It is instantly recognizable as a twelve string guitar, and when you hear it, it truly makes you want to have one.

The following is my top twelve list of songs that evoke that feeling. Whether you love or hate the song, you can’t deny the infectious sound of the twelve string, nor can you help but wonder “would the song be the same without it?” To keep things interesting, I’ve only allowed myself to list one song per artist.

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

What sort of list of twelve string songs would be complete without mentioning “the Byrds”?! They’re easily one of the first groups to come to mind when you think of that twelve string jangle. Influenced by the Beatles and the film “A Hard Days Night”, Byrds guitar player Roger McGuinn picked up a Rickenbacker twelve string to incorporate into their sound. Their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” was the first single to be released by the Byrds, and went on to become the first smash hit in the world of folk-rock.


The Beatles – Ticket to Ride

As George Harrison and the Beatles can be credited with bringing the twelve string guitar to mainstream pop music, they are definitely deserving of a spot on this list. They’ve got more than a couple songs that could stand here in place of “Ticket to Ride”, but that intro riff just showcases the twelve string perfectly. Not to mention, its pretty simple to play!

Rush – Closer to the Heart

Fast forward a few years, and you can hear the twelve string being used in a very similar way to those early bands who pioneered its use. The guitar introduces the song here, and really just sets the tone for the whole song. In addition to the arpeggiated melody played in the intro, this song makes great use of the “full” sound you can get by strumming on a twelve string. With the full band playing, the guitar really fills in its spot and can clearly be heard as a twelve string.

Boston – More than a Feeling

Perhaps their biggest hit, “More than a Feeling” was featured on Boston’s debut album in 1976. Again, we have the twelve string guitar introducing the song with arpeggiated chords. There’s a distinct “pretty” sort of sound you get when you hear a suspended chord resolve on its major counterpart, and there’s no denying that doing so on a twelve string just adds to that “prettiness”! The intro to this song makes good use of this, as well as a chord progression that makes it sound circular and complete.

Tom Petty – Free Fallin

Here’s another example of those suspended chord transitions! In fact, it even revolves around a D chord shape like in the previous song – but with a capo on your third fret. There really isn’t much to this song as far as guitar playing goes, but who doesn’t know this riff? The whole song is based on  those simple chords being strummed on a twelve string guitar. It simply wouldn’t have the same vibe if a six string was used in its place.

Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive

Anyone who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s will know the opening riff to this pop-rock anthem. Heck, anyone who listens to the radio should know it! For the “ballad” era of rock and roll, this song stands easily as one of the most recognizable. The descending Dm arpeggios in the beginning of the song are played on a twelve string, and the octave pairing of the G strings is what really gives the riff its mysterious, “shimmering” sound.

Led Zeppelin – Over the Hills and Far Away

Of all the great songs Zeppelin has written with a twelve string guitar, I always come back to “Over the Hills and Far Away” as my personal favourite. If you think it’s fun playing that intro riff on your six string, pick up a twelve string and give it a go. Instant satisfaction!

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Just by reading the title of the song, you get the idea that the songwriter is yearning for someone (or something) from the past. Then you hear the subtle twelve string enter with an effect that makes it sound like it’s coming through an AM radio, and the mood is set! It’s one of the most recognizable songs in Pink Floyd’s catalog, and a fantastic example of a twelve string guitar being put to good use.

Wild Horses – Rolling Stones

Stripped back and straight to the point, “Wild Horses” is a rock ballad that gives us the raw simplicity of a twelve string being played as a rhythm instrument. Fun to strum along with, and an all around great song, it’s not a surprise that this one is often covered by rock bands around the world.

Give a Little Bit –  Roger Hodgson (Supertramp)

For whatever reason, it seems that there’s a universal acceptance that the key of D is where the 12 string “belongs”. Roger Hodgson’s “Give a Little Bit” is another one of many that are built around this key using a twelve string guitar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s another timeless classic!

And You And I – Yes

I chose to put “And You And I” on this list not only because it’s a great song, but also because the twelve string is really put through its paces here. From the opening of the song with its brilliant natural harmonics to the strumming patterns used in the verses of the song, the twelve string really shines in the forefront throughout.

 

The Eagles – Hotel California

Featuring one of the most well-known twelve string riffs in rock and roll history, “Hotel California” is likely one of the songs to have been on the tip of your tongue when you read the title of this article. It’s a classic that’s here to stay, and it’s hard to imagine the recording without the mysterious jangle of the twelve string.

Technique 101: Five Songs You Should Learn

Whether it was Jimi Hendrix ripping through a solo with his strat behind his head, or Michael Hedges creating soundscapes on his acoustic with both hands on the neck, somewhere down the line somebody inspired you to pick up a guitar. As much as you wanted to, however, you likely weren’t able to immediately bust out the solo to “Red House” or play through “Aerial Boundaries”.
As with anything, learning to play the guitar should be approached with baby steps. You need to learn to walk before you can run, and in order to play like your heroes you’ll need a solid grasp on some fundamentals first.
While finger exercises, scales, and theory may be important, you can pick up a lot of technical know-how just by learning a few introductory level songs. The most important part is to find songs that aren’t too demanding, and are achievable with regular practise. Below I’ll list five techniques, and a good candidate of a song / riff you can learn to start getting used to them. Let’s start with the basics…

1. Chord Changes – “Hey Joe”, by Jimi Hendrix

 

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One of the first obstacles you’ll be faced with when learning to play is memorizing chords, and figuring out how the heck you’re supposed to contort your fingers to switch between them. The truth is, these “shapes” that your fingers need to be placed in are not built into your DNA. There’s nothing else you’ve ever had to do that requires your hand, wrist, or fingers to hold such patterns, and as such you’ve got to work them into shape. The only way to teach yourself (and your hand) these chords is through repetition and practise; it’s all about muscle memory here.

The song “Hey Joe” is a great introductory to chord changes for a few different reasons. The first is that it forces you to learn five essential major chords, C, G, D, A, and E. The second is… it’s only five chords! The entire rhythm guitar section of the song is just a loop of these five chords in a relatively simple strumming pattern, so if you can manage the switches, then you’ve got it down. The third reason deals with the chords in question. Some chords are easier to switch between than others, allowing you to leave a finger or two in the same spot. Some chords allow you to play all six strings, while others demand that you avoid a string or two. Some chords require the use of one finger to hold down multiple strings… and the list goes on. In “Hey Joe”, each chord is far enough apart from each other that you are required to make a substantial shape change, getting your hand used to arriving at and leaving each chord. It also exercises your strumming hand, as you’re required to play all six strings for a couple of the chords, and only some of the strings for the others. If you can play through this tune, then you’re well on your way to saying goodbye to your chord changing woes.

2. Fingerpicking – “Blackbird”, by The Beatles

 

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If you’ve spent most of your practise time strumming chords, or plucking out melodies with your pick, learning to fingerpick might be a daunting task at first. This technique is, of course, all about your picking hand, and getting your fingers used to where your strings are. What I mean by that is, at first you will likely be looking down at your picking hand, making sure you use the “right” finger on the “right” string, etc. The more you practise, the more you will just get accustomed to the distance between each string, as well as various patterns that tend to appear in songs. This is part of the reason I like “Blackbird” for an introductory to this technique.

As far as the right hand is concerned, the song revolves around just two patterns. Try this: hold a G chord, and with your thumb and middle finger pluck the low E string and the open B string together at the same time. Then pluck the open G string on its own with your first finger. Repeat these over and over… and you’ve essentially got the picking hand pattern used for half of the song. Of course… your thumb will occasionally move to the A or D string, but you can worry about that later. A large portion of this song is about getting used to moving back and forth between your index finger and second finger, while maintaining a bass-line with your thumb…which is sort of the whole idea behind fingerpicking! It’s a great way to practise, while playing through a great song.

3. Counting / Rhythm – “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

 

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The most important thing in playing a musical instrument is rhythm. Whether you’re playing on your own, or as part of a group, you need to be able to keep time. Some patterns are easy of course, just strumming along in 4/4 time, but if you really want to challenge yourself and start to unlock your “inner metronome”, you’ll need to try out some more complex patterns. Try to test yourself – whenever you play, keep your foot tapping along to the beat of whatever it is you’re playing. The opening riff in “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” is a good challenge for this – it combines a relatively simple melodic riff with a syncopated sort of rhythm. It contains various notes and rests that land both on and off the beat, making for an unexpected feel. With a stronger sense of rhythm and larger vocabulary of patterns, you will find it much easier both locking into a groove as well as coming up with your own ideas.

4. Power Chords – “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones

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A power chord is just two notes of a chord played at the same time; the root, and the fifth. Doing so means that you don’t need to worry whether or not the chord in question is supposed to be major or minor, as both would have the same root and fifth anyways. You can incorporate the octave as well, as it doesn’t make things much more difficult, and adds a nice upper layer to the sound of the chord.
More often than not, you will find yourself playing power chords with their root note on either the low E string or the A string. Thanks to the way the guitar neck works, this means that the shape of these chords will never change.
For example, plant your first finger on the low E string of the fifth fret. Now plant your third finger on the A string of the seventh fret. You are now holding an “A5”  power chord! Want to add the octave? Just throw your pinky down on the D string of the seventh fret, below your third finger.
But what good would knowing how to play power chords be without knowing how to play some raw, straight to the point punk tunes to go with them? While they may not have invented them, the Ramones’ sound encapsulates everything that the “power” chord exists for; straight to the point, loud, and fast!
The song “Blitzkrieg Bop” will get you used to holding the power chord shape, as well as moving up and down the neck to play each chord. You’ll also have to jump between the E and A as your root note, which is important to become accustomed to.
In addition to this fretting hand technique, the strumming you’ll be doing with your other hand is just as important. You’re only playing two or three strings here, so of course you don’t want to hear the others. At first it will be easier to just limit yourself, and play only the strings you are holding in the chord. In this way, however, you’ll soon realize that you can’t quite capture the same power and energy that Johnny Ramone did. So how do you fix that?
Muting. Being able to mute strings properly with your left hand is what will bring your power chord strumming to the next level. It’s sort of hard to put it into text, but whilst you hold down that A5 power chord, try to also lightly lie your first finger down across all the strings below (like you’re playing a barre chord). Doing this means that it doesn’t matter how many strings you hit – the only ones that will ring are the ones you want to hear. THIS is how you get the “power” out of your power chords – pure aggression with the strumming hand, and precision / articulation with the fretting hand.

5. Soloing – “Californication” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Playing a guitar solo is a culmination of things. It’s not just “playing a bunch of notes really fast”, but should be thought of moreso as the guitarists’ turn to takeover for the vocalist, and front the song. With that in mind, the way in which you approach your solo should be derived directly from the vibe of the song you are playing to. This means that you need to take everything into consideration – the chords used, the melody, the rhythm, the feel… the perfect solo is one that touches on all of these things, while throwing in bits of technique for flavour.
One way you can start to understand how to play a strong solo is to listen to guitar solos that you find to be memorable, and figure out what it is that they’ve done. Listen to the section as a whole, and try to emulate it. A good starter would be the solo in “Californication”. It isn’t blazing fast, but it is subtle and captures the essence of the song very well. You’ll pick up on a few techniques here and there throughout the solo, and start to be able to hear the difference between, for example, a bend and a slide, or a hammer-on and a picked note. It is also done in a clean tone, which means you are forced to nail the performance when you play it. Extremely over-driven amps have a tendency of “covering up” mistakes made when playing, so practising with a clean tone is a good way to truly hear what you’re putting into the guitar.

What’s the Deal with the “Guitar Face”?

The term “melted my face off” is widely accepted amongst guitarists and concert-goers alike, and in most cases refers to someone being blown-away by a well executed guitar solo.  Interestingly enough, it’s most often the guitarist on stage whose face appears to actually be melting.

 

We’ve seen it all; from the “Cringe”:

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to the “my mouth is my wah-pedal”:waha

 …and everything in between:

                  BB KING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why do they do that… is it all for show? Are they in physical pain from obscene string bending? Have they lost control of their face? Are they disgusted because they’ve imagined that their guitar has transformed into a giant slug?

slug

 

All are valid reasons, and while science can point to a few things that may be the root of the cause, it’s still pretty indecisive. To come up with some of the obvious reasons, you have to first examine the environment and state of mind that the player is in when performing a solo.

1. Concentration.

You’ve seen it in kids, and sometimes in grown adults. They’re deep in thought, focusing all of their attention into one thing, and simply don’t notice that their tongue is hanging out of their mouths. This could be due to what’s known as motor overflow, “a condition whereby a stimulus is correctly interpreted and the appropriate response is made, however a secondary response by a muscle is also triggered”.

It’s an involuntary thing that happens to people when they’re concentrating, and for guitar players, the solo is the part of a song that requires the utmost attention. In many cases, they’re not simply rehearsing something they’ve practiced time and time again; they’re improvising on the spot. Perhaps having to think of so many things at the same time causes a similar type of overflow?

 

2. “Feeling” the Music.

Many would argue that the expressions come from deep down, and are facial representations of the frequencies they are trying to hit. Vocalists get the same kind of thing when belting their heart out:

elvy

When you sing, you’re thinking about a number of different things. The notes you want to hit, the phrasing, how much power you put behind each word, and the message you’re trying to convey with the lyrics. All of these things have an affect on how you feel, and consequently how you and your face reacts.

For example, just try to put on an Elvis voice, sing like Axl Rose, or scream like you hear from a death metal band. It’s almost like trying to sneeze without closing your eyes – your face just changes shape because it needs to.

Sometimes it works the same way for guitar players. Jazz players, or those who make extensive use of a wah pedal come to mind. Often you’ll see a jazz player mouthing each note they play during a solo, like they’re telling the guitar what they want it to do… and that’s exactly what they’re doing. They know what they want to hear, and their face expresses it.

In a study conducted by University professors from Australia and Canada, musicians were actually able to judge the distance of intervals sung by vocalists by only seeing recordings of the singer’s face. There was no audio in the recording, just expressions and head movements!

 

3. Conveying Emotion.

gmoo

Let’s not get too carried away with the scientific stuff. At the end of the day, why do we play and listen to music in the first place? It’s to evoke a certain emotion in ourselves, and our listeners. Whether it be anger, melancholy, or happiness, it is a human condition to pick up on and display emotion very easily – even if its from just a facial expression. A guitar player playing a solo is just as much of an extension of themselves as it is for the lead vocalist to sing the chorus. In fact, the guitar player becomes the lead singer during a solo. I’m sure that sometimes the musician is just putting on a show; not much different than an actor would on stage. In both cases, however, the performer needs to tap into whatever emotion they’re trying to convey in order to do it properly. If they’ve done their job right, the emotion translates to the audience, and we’re all impacted much heavier than if the guitarist were just standing there.

 

Whatever the cause of the guitar face, it’s a thing that’s here to stay. It has always been and will always be something that we see in guitarists around the world. Whether you like seeing a guitarist truly feeling what they’re playing, or just like to look at photos of slugs photoshopped into their hands, I think we can all agree it adds to the experience of seeing and hearing a good guitar solo.

Top 10 Reasons to Play in a Band

Top 10 Reasons to Play in a Band

 

It’s a no brainer; much of the initial aspiration to play any instrument comes from the desire to have what your musical heroes have, or to at least produce the kind of material they produce. In many cases, you’ll end up having to find a few like-minded musicians to help make that aspiration a reality. It’s a huge commitment if you’re in it to win it, and you will have to make sacrifices, but in my opinion the good far outweighs the bad. Here’s my list of the top ten reasons to play in a band:

 

  1. The Attraction

Everyone’s thinking it, so I figured I’d get it out of the way before anything else. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! There’s a reason it’s in that order. Chances are when you start playing gigs, your early performances will be at bars around town. As a hotspot for socializing and meeting people, playing at a bar is an immediate ice-breaker for you. By just doing something you love, you establish that you 1) Like music, 2) Are talented, and 3) Look cool rocking out. That’s all before you’ve made a name for yourself! Once you do that…well…

beatle

Heck, there’s even been research done on this philosophy! A study done by Université de Bretagne-Sud in France claims that women are 31% more likely to go out on a date with a man holding a guitar case versus holding nothing at all. Incentive, or what?!

 

9. The Creative Outlet

Creative-Outlet

When you start to write music, you will find that there are certain limitations when you’re working alone. For some, this is ideal and they learn to embrace it. Whether or not you absolutely love the feeling of writing and playing music by yourself, you should still try out the band atmosphere. Receiving input from other musicians, jamming, and simply coming up with ideas as a collective is (in my opinion) far more rewarding than doing these things alone. People have different influences, and sometimes the best way to write original music is to have a group of players who throw all their differences into a mixing pot. You never know where a song might end up when you have a few different people working on it, and a fresh set of ears is a great way to solve writer’s cramp.

 

8. The Fun

 nirvana

Simply put, it’s way more fun to play and make music when you’re doing it with other people. Have a new idea for a riff? Show the band, and jam it out. All of a sudden you can hear everything together, not just you and your metronome. The experiences of playing shows, recording music, getting new fans and friends, and travelling distances to play are really like none other. Especially when you get to do all these things with a few folks who start to feel less like “band members” and more like they’re a part of…

 

7. The Family

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Aside from the music, the longer you remain a band with the same people, the closer your bond gets. These people you got together with just to make music quickly become your best friends. Band practise starts to feel more like hanging out, and you find ways to entertain yourselves when on the road or before a show. You understand each other, and writing music becomes easier as you become more acquainted with how everyone works. If one member suffers, everyone suffers – quite literally. A member who is too sick, injured, or even upset to perform, practice or record hinders the rest of the band. For this reason and many others, everyone kind of “has each others backs.”

 

6. The Teamwork

ants

Everyone puts in equally, everyone takes out equally. That’s the ideal band setup (though not always the case). You want everyone to be happy, and to feel like an important member of the team. Nobody likes to feel that their contribution is less important. Being in a band builds teamwork for this reason, similarly to the way being on a sports team does – you’re all working towards the same common goal.

 

5. The Income

 

money

Eventually, you can start making some money by playing in a band. You can do this in a variety of different ways like from selling your music, being paid to play, and by selling merchandise.  If you’re not in an established band are just looking to make some supplementary income, it’s a good idea to consider starting a cover band. Venues love having a good sounding cover band play famous hits to get people in the door and keep them there, so you’ll generally make more money doing this than trying to start a new original project.

 

4. The Free Beer / Food

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Every band has been there! The venues that aren’t able to pay you money to play, but will give you free beer and / or a meal to play at their location. There comes a time where this isn’t such a great deal, but when you’re just starting out then what’s wrong with that? You just want to play and have your friends come see you – invite them out, play your music for fun, and have a free brew while you’re at it. It almost makes you feel like you’re VIP!

 

3. The Management Skills

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Unless you’ve already hit it big and are able to have someone do all the legwork for you, being in a productive a band is a LOT of work. You need to book your own shows and practices, which are daunting tasks by themselves. The more people in your band, the harder it is to get everyone in the same room together once or twice a week, and the harder it is to make sure everyone’s schedule is free for performance dates. Without meaning to, you gain quite a bit of management skills by being in and running a band. By keeping track of your band’s successes and accomplishments, you can add some good material to your resume for future endeavors.

 

2. The Connection

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Like I mentioned in “The Family” point, there’s a special connection shared between band members when you play. It doesn’t end there, though! You learn to connect with your fans and your audience. Your job is to ensure that they want to listen to your music, and want to come see you play, so you need to find what it is that makes people like your band and really connect with whatever that is. On top of that, once you’ve started playing shows with other bands, you start to connect with them too. You become part of a community, and a scene that feels like home.

 

1. The Experience

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All things rolled into one, there’s really no other thing that will feel quite the same as playing in a band. Whether it becomes a life long career for you, or something you can look back at later on in life, you might just associate “that time you were in a band” with some of the best moments of your life. It’s one of those things that, as a musician, you can look back on and say “at least we tried, and had fun doing it.”