Friday, November 30, 2007

Final Reflection: Taking the Good With the Bad

I'm sitting in my bedroom right now, staring at my computer screen, and ironically, for the first time this semester, I am at a loss for words. As I get the ball rolling on this reflection that's bound to change, but right now my feelings about this blog and blogging in general are mixed. When I had the time, patience or effort to sit down and write something on this blog, I loved every second of it. When I wasn't writing, I wasn't sure how to feel. I went about a month where I had trouble posting more than three times a week. But the weird part is, I never felt I was out of original ideas. I also never felt like there was nothing out there left for me to write about. I just didn't make it happen, and for that I'm coming out of this blogging experience somewhat disappointed.

I continuously look around my classmates' blogs- especially Matt C.'s Laugh Tracker and Jess' Good Film Hunting, due to my undying love for the arts/entertainment industry-and I get the sick feeling that I just was not up to par. I see most of these blogs posting over 4o times this semester, almost 50 for some, and it leaves me wondering where I fell short. Admittedly, I did have a lack of material pertaining to the original subject of my blog, my aspirations as the member of a jam band with my closest friends, but I'm not one to make excuses. I made a good effort to transform this blog into one about guitar in general, to make up for the lack of writing subjects, but I still feel I fell short of excellence, even for a rookie blogger. This could cause my readers to do a double-take, but I think the reason I failed to reach excellence with this blog is because I was always striving for it. I didn't want to write unless I had something profound or exciting to report. I didn't want to waste anybody's time with a single-paragraph post. I see that as padding my stats- like if a basketball player threw up a 3-point shot with a 50-point lead. Anyone can find an article and make a short post about it. I have nothing against people who do this, but it's not something I would want to do often. I think my pride in my writing got the best of me when trying to keep a consistent blog going.

I believe I've exhausted the negative aspects of my blogging experience already. Time to focus on the good ones! The biggest thing I got from this blog was, quite obviously, an outlet to express my feelings and opinions. This is not the same as a diary or a journal, where you keep thoughts to yourself. I've always felt I should be writing about music and/or film in some fashion, and now that I have gotten into the world of blogging I am left to wonder what exactly I have been doing the last few years. Whenever I wanted to find information or just a simple commentary on a certain guitar player, the best I could usually find was Wikipedia. That's what got me to start "Guitar Spotlight" as a weekly thing. I'm trying to pay tribute to some of the greatest of all time (Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan), as well as try as much as I can to gain recognition for some extraordinary talents (Jason Becker, Marty Friedman). It's much more, however, for the fans than myself. I know how great all these guys are, I want everyone else to know the same.

I can thank Youtube for being the main generator of multimedia content for this blog. I'm not sure where I could have gone without it. The site is so huge and all-inclusive now, I had absolutely no problems finding good videos of all the great guitar players I covered. And I've even started posting videos of myself playing for everyone to see. It's easily the best web creation since Google, and I spend every day hoping it won't become regulated for anything besides obscene content. With their videos easily ready and able to be embedded into web pages, I don't have to rely solely on my words to convey thoughts about guitar and guitar players. Same goes for film and television; I can find almost anything within the legal sector on Youtube, and I'm sure everyone will agree with me that it's one of the best tools a blogger can possibly have.

As for surprises that came about during this blog, I think the biggest and most obvious surprise was the thinning out of jam sessions between myself and the guys at 1474 Tremont St. When they had their basement walls knocked down to make more room for us to move around and play our instruments freely, we all had the same thoughts in our minds. We thought this semester was going to be an all-out jamfest, with us playing shows for our friends left and right, and even creating original material. While we did make some steps toward that goal of being a legitimate band, it felt like Murphy's Law completely took over at some point. Mike got mononucleosis for all of October and some of November; Justin and James got immersed into their job search lives, not that anyone would blame them; I also had tons of co-op job searching to do and my Line 6 amp head broke on me for the unprecedented third time; and Tyler announced his intentions to move to Colorado for a new life next semester. We certainly had plenty of great jams and some really fun nights playing, including some nights where we played well-known simple songs for karaoke-like activities. But we all left this semester unfulfilled in our quest to be a jam band.

We still have time to get the ball rolling, and that should be especially true once we're all on co-op and have no homework or projects to worry about at night, but we still need to find someone to play bass for us. My friend Steve Reynolds is a long-time bass player and versatile musician who I think could fill in nicely for us. However, until that bridge comes to us, we won't worry about crossing it. We still definitely only have an eight-month window to accomplish something with true meaning though. In September, James will be going to Germany, where he lived for four years before, to study abroad for a full year. Finding a new drummer will be harder than finding a new bassist, but as I said before, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I feel we are in control of our own fate with this jamming business, no matter what kind of obstacles jump in our way. We were certainly meant to play together, and I intend to keep that spirit alive.

As for my thoughts on blogging in general, I think it's one of the greatest web inventions of our time. In a journalistic sense, it might not be ideal, because let's face it, blogs are not all about objectivity. But the ethics of writing for the masses is still there, and what sets it apart from real writing positions is the freedom. There are exceptions, as there are in any walk of life, but most bloggers do not have an editor hanging like a vulture over their shoulder telling them what or how to write. We can do it from the heart, from the brain, or from the soul, and that does not only apply to words. As a musician, I understand the concept of putting feeling or character into pieces of music. I try to approach writing simply words in the same fashion. The internet has allowed people to communicate instantly with their friends and families, and blogs are no different. Tyler is going to be blogging about his life in Colorado at Down the Road, where he declares that he is trying not to live a normal life. I sincerely believe him when he says his friends at Northeastern are the best he's ever had, because he has told me some horror stories about his friends from New Jersey. I really hope we get to visit him sometime in the spring or summer of next year in Colorado, but for now I can keep up with him in the blog. My friends and family have all read part or all of my blog, and they have yet to say something negative about it. Expected, but still encouraging.

With a new blog being launched last week and hopefully a third one about my co-op experience starting up really soon, I have officially immersed myself into the world of blogging. I saw this three-month exercise as a warm-up period for when I really get things going with my writing. I feel I have a good grasp for rhythm, style, and technical proficiency in writing, and this is the easiest outlet for myself to write from. My post totals may not be a great indicator of my dedication to this world, but things happen. Life is the main thing that happened to me this semester, whether it's midterms, finals, papers, broken amps, holidays, weekends, birthdays, interviews, concerts, movies, or anything else that kept me away from my computer. That's the reason I have not come away from this blog experience 100% satisfied. Even if I posted everyday there would probably be something I could find in my writing or reporting to improve. The main thing I still need to learn about blogging is time management- setting a definite time to sit down and write, finding a good, interesting subject, and executing with proficiency and consistency. Maybe I should write those tiny one-paragraph posts just to keep myself sharp and in-tune with the blogging world. All I know is, it's a world in which I'm more than ready to live.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just when I thought the jam sessions kicked the bucket...

Last night at 1474 Tremont was a truly spectacular one. Our close friend Patrick celebrated his 21st birthday in style, dipping his head into a bucket filled with goodies and presents that we, rather unceremoniously, made him bob for. He was a good sport about it and we all had a fun time watching.

The most surprising part of the night, however, was that Mike, James and I got in a jam session together! James asked me quite out-of-nowhere, and I didn't hesitate at all. Within a minute of him asking me I was warming up the Mesa/Boogie tube amp. Mike got on guitar as well, and we jammed away for about 45 minutes. I played a catchy-sounding hard rock riff that was pretty basic, but very fun, and Mike and James went with it. Mike then started playing his slower, subdued version of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," and James and I quickly joined in. He likes to play it in an arpeggio style, but I prefer the straight-up chords. I played it my way as Mike played his, all while keeping it within rhythmic sensibility, and the two combined flavors made for an interesting-sounding cover. I also threw in a small improvisational solo...I can't resist!

A fun night hopefully followed by another one tonight. I'm off to Flann O'Brien's for the Packers/Cowboys game. If you don't know what that is...What rock have you been living under? In all seriousness, later tonight I'll post the final Guitar Spotlight of this month. And tomorrow will be my final reflection on the blogging experience before I take a break from it. Until next time...

Guitar Spotlight: Marty Friedman

In guitar, the art of shredding is something many players can imitate, but few can master. To reach that level, one needs to show just as much, if not more creativity than technique. Jason Becker, who was spotlighted last week, was the partner of the man to the left in the heavy metal band Cacophony during the 1980s. Marty Friedman has been a veteran of heavy metal lead guitar for about 25 years, and is most well-known for his work with metal giants Megadeth from 1990-1999. The lineup featuring Friedman as the lead guitarist is considered by most to be the most potent lineup Megadeth has ever featured, and this is a group that has featured the likes of Chris Poland doing the soloing. For a 25-year veteran of the axe, Friedman has flown considerably far under the radar for casual guitar players. That might be the way he likes it, but it's not the recognition he deserves.

He is known for his exotic scales that he employs very often in his soloing, some of which is semi-invented by him. He often uses scales that are derived from the harmonic minor and originated in areas of eastern Asia. He has effectively combined these scales with straightforward rock/blues technique to form a talent matched by few lead guitar players still going today. As he shows in this video from Youtube, it can be surprisingly easy to make your own great-sounding scales.

Amazingly, Friedman has never formally learned any scales- he's entirely self-taught in that respect. He sounds like a master of western music theory as he plays, when in reality he's a master of a theory all his own.

The above video is of Friedman and last week's spotlight, Jason Becker doing a private show in Los Angeles in 1988 when they were members of Cacophony together...Such an odd name for such a great-sounding technical rock group. It's appropriate to show these two together, because they both came into their own around the same time and rose to prominence around the same time as well, obviously playing together in the process. Unfortunately, Becker was diagnosed with ALS, but Friedman continued playing. It's certainly what Becker would've wanted him to do.

This is the last guitar spotlight of my class period, and I have to say it's been an enriching and fulfilling experience to put the spotlight on these guys. Searching for Youtube videos and watching plenty of them has put guitar into a whole new perspective for me, and has given me a whole new outlook on the instrument, something I previously thought wasn't possible. I believe everyone is too close-minded about the instrument; they believe guys like Marty Friedman and Jason Becker are all the same. I strongly disagree. Watch videos of these guys laying tracks and giving searing riffs time after time, and you'll notice the differences in tone, technique, picking, theory, and other elements of the instrument that are too often overlooked, especially in mainstream media. This section of my blog was meant to be a reminder to everyone that this instrument still has real artists, and always has.

The guitar has been reduced to somewhat of a joke since the early 1990s. The grunge era (something I have a great interest in as a music fan) degenerated guitar playing to the point where lead was non-existent and bands retreated to formulaic, pop-catering filth that only got worse. Soloing and lead guitar in general got pushed to the back of the musical line, which simply isn't fair. There are plenty of great guitar players like Marty Friedman keeping the shreds alive, and I thank the guitar Gods everyday for that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reflection: Where did all the jamming go?

Whoever's out there still reading my blog must be wondering where all the jams went. I'm disappointed to say the aspirations I had at the beginning of this semester have shriveled up like a raisin in the sun. It's nobody's fault; you can only say that these things happen.

For this class blog, I'm required to write a reflective essay to comment on my experience so far as a blogger. This is NOT that assignment. But this is a reflection on what has transpired in my hopes to start a legitimate band with my friends at 1474 Tremont St. in Boston. The jam band we had going got derailed this past month, due to outside elements and things that were, well, simply more important than music. It's not what I expected and I am truly disappointed in what we've been able to accomplish, but nobody's at fault. Sometimes things need to be put ahead of musical endeavors and pipe dreams.

It started off amazingly, with everyone participating and playing extremely well. We had a few covers lined up. We had the basement expanded to make more room for us to play. Some of us even had new instruments to try out! So what exactly went wrong?

In my case, the first big domino to fall was my amplifier. It broke over a month ago, and it is still in the repair shop (that reminds me, I should give them a call!) That severely hampered my ability to jam with everyone, although we still had two amps. One of them was a regular Fender amp that was not suited for live shows or jam sessions with drums, so whenever we played with drums it would have to have been one guitar and a bass player. With myself and Justin both primarily being guitar players, this had trouble working.

November was way more hectic than any of us imagined. Mike was coming up with some great stuff on the piano, and still is, but illnesses took over his life in October and November. He came down with mononucleosis (commonly known as "mono"), which rendered him unable to do, well, anything, for an extended time. Then he had to have his tonsils examined shortly after, which made him more like a ghost these months. He's thankfully recovered from these illnesses and you can find him blogging at the Reality Distortion Field blog.

Justin, James and I all focused more on acquiring a co-op position in November than anything. I had about 8 interviews and I had to get there on my own every time. This often took up entire days just going to and from places to interview. I had to skip some classes just to make these interviews. Gladly, I ended up with a position I actually wanted, at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. James has a position with a small financing firm, and Justin unfortunately still remains jobless. He is confident, however, that he'll land a position at the offices of Gillette in Boston. We had some jamming time mixed in between this crazy month, but not enough to make significant progress.

The worst news of this semester by far was the news that Tyler would be moving away to Colorado. He's transferring to Colorado State in Fort Collins, CO, in January, where he'll keep his major at Mathematics. So now, if we even want to think about having a band, we'll need to find a new bass player. Tyler will be selling his bass and amps to us, so we can have them at our disposal. It was a shock to all of us that one of our closest friends, who lived in New Jersey his whole life, would suddenly move out west, but it's a family thing. Tyler will be missed, but I'm sure this won't be the last time we see him. We're already planning a spring trip to Colorado.

I plan to continue this blog as a guitar commentary vehicle, which I've been doing for the past month or so. "Guitar Spotlight" will continue on, including this week. And whenever I get some jam time in, I'll let you all know how it went.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Blogs Preview; ScreenDreams; Co-op News!

That's not a typo in the title. My next blog will be entitled ScreenDreams, to satisfy my need for a cinema-related blog topic. I am hoping to make some very low-budget shorts in the future, and I plan on documenting the process...At least the interesting parts! I will provide reviews to movies I see, and I plan to approach each type of movie differently. I'm not going to look at serious dramas the same way as slapstick comedies. Different movies with different aims deserve different types of criticism, positive or negative. I plan on being as objective and open-minded as possible with each viewing. And knowing myself, it's likely I might have to admit I need repeated viewings to fully appreciate certain films. I may also create podcasts for this blog as well. Spotlights similar to "Guitar Spotlight" will be shown on certain films and filmmakers I find to be particularly great and noteworthy. Plenty of topics I plan to cover definitely give me some writing to do for the future.

In other news, I have landed my co-op position for next semester! I'll be working in the external relations department at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. I'll hopefully be fulfilling all of the job responsibilities listed in the job description, given my previous experience working at the Sports Information office right here at NU. My responsibilities will be to keep track of our coverage in the media, as well as writing press releases when we need to make ourselves public. I'll hopefully also get a chance to help update the website as I help with the event planning team. I've also hear on slow days I can even stop by the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, next to which my office will be located, to see what's going on that day! Sounds like an exciting environment to be a part of. I also got a job offer from Sun Life Financial, but I accepted the position at MCCA as soon as it was offered to me. Getting a second offer was still very encouraging to me, especially from a company I would have liked to had a job with. I think I had more of an advantage than I thought before with my first co-op already under my belt. I may even get a blog going to document my co-op experience- something I think could be very useful for fellow college students pursuing a career in my field!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Guitar Spotlight: Jason Becker

Unfortunately, in real life the heroes aren't always the victors. Strange, unexplained and horrible things can happen to even the best of people. The world of rock music and rock guitar players is no stranger to such tragedies. Jason Becker, co-founder of the short lived rock group Cacophony, came along in the mid-1980s as a true master in the art of guitar shredding, only to have his incredible talent taken away from him. Becker was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), popularly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," in 1989 at the age of 20, but his talents were already evident. It's a shame that a guitarist with such a high level of skill would not only be robbed of his gift, but go largely unnoticed in the world of rock music and even among fellow guitar players.

This video from Youtube is an excellent piece of evidence for showing the precision and speed Becker demonstrated on the axe. Here he's covering his own transposition of Paganini's 5th Caprice at an incredible tempo. Back in these days, there were very few guitar players who could effectively shred on guitar at this level. He picks every single note and I'm having big trouble trying to find where he misses one. It's quite a remarkable performance in this video. As a craftsman of his instrument, he could be put on par with Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert for his era.

Becker came aboard David Lee Roth's solo act to be a part of his band. It looked like he was well on his way to becoming a worldwide rock hero. We've seen what being part of a popular singer's act can do for guitar players, like the previously covered Randy Rhoads and now Zakk Wylde with Ozzy Osbourne. It was around this very time, in 1989, that Becker began to feel familiar symptoms of a degenerative muscle condition. Not too long after being diagnosed with ALS, Becker lost his ability to use his arms and legs, and eventually speak. Upon initial diagnosis, he was given three years to live. Remarkably, he was able to finish his first studio album with Roth, which went gold. And thankfully, ALS only affected his muscles and not his brain. He still communicates with his eyes through a system developed by his father, and not only is still alive today, but is still composing music. His last album, Blackberry Jams, was released in 2003. He has a website at

Like every guitar player I spotlight in this blog, I urge viewers to check out as much as they can on Youtube of this exceptional guitarist. The fact that he has not only lived nearly 20 years after being given three months, but continued creating music without the ability to move or speak, is truly remarkable. I am doing all I can to make sure this incredible person doesn't go unnoticed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thought I'd check in after a 5-day absence, that okay with you? In all seriousness, it's been yet another hectic week full of job interviews and serious work deadlines in some classes, including a midterm paper and one final exam. I have, however, have had some time to play guitar, and I'm hoping to put a version of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" up on Youtube sometime this weekend.

This month has been more about increasing my library of song knowledge than creating my own works. The guys at 1474 Tremont have been going home a lot on the weekends, too, which has hampered our ability to jam on a regular basis just like last month. We did set aside some time last week to jam, though, it was myself, Justin and Mike. It was a pure acoustic guitar jam, which can be really fun if we get on a roll. Justin and I still have great chemistry playing together, and it was no different as we jammed for about 45 minutes straight. Mike laid down some nice tunes on the piano, which I plan on covering for my final project in JRN525 really soon. His talent is at a very high level and he's acquired it in a pretty short amount of time. When I interviewed him he had a little trouble taking it seriously at first (we're close friends), but once he realized how seriously I was taking it he went along with it. Be prepared for some audio samples to go along with pictures of him playing. He is a talented player who deserves notice. You can check out his videos on Youtube, just search for "Mike Tibaudo."

That's all for today. Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and now we can look forward to the holiday season and December vacation!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Guitar Spotlight: Stevie Ray Vaughan

Blues is a universal musical style and institution of rock. There are so many great musicians in the style of blues it is difficult to even keep track of them. But when it comes to blues on the guitar, a special group of individuals can be selected from the pack to be included in the pantheon of guitar legends. Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Jimi Hendrix...But all these guys paved the road and formed the mold for the man who would go on to become the single greatest to ever play the blues, the man to the left, Stevie Ray Vaughan. That is obviously an arguable point, but what is totally inarguable is the sheer talent, precision, tone and emotion Vaughan presented in his music. Many thought it was impossible for someone to set the bar for blues even higher than Jimi Hendrix, but Vaughan inched him out. His Fender stratocaster was his weapon, his guardian, his soulmate and his voice. He never wasted a note, he never lacked charisma, and he never failed to entertain and amaze his audience.

His tragic death in 1990 deprived us of what surely would have been another two decades of blazing blues riffage. He, like Jimi Hendrix before him, effectively combined lead and rhythm guitar into a hybrid style that served to his blues tendencies and allowed him to amass a prolific career as a guitarist. If you want a quick lesson on how to add character to your blues playing, just listen to one of his songs. If you want a quick lesson on putting together simple yet effective blues licks, go buy one of his CDs. Simply put, he took all blues players around at his time to school.

What mainly set him apart from other blues players of his time (and many of the best all-time players) was his tone. He always had the distortion as far as it could go, and like Jimi Hendrix before him, he made excellent use of feedback. He used fat strings to get the chunky sound he gets out of his notes, which makes it even more amazing how much he was able to shred at constantly-overdriven levels.

This is a video clip from his album "Blues at Sunrise" of Stevie playing one of his classics, "Texas Flood." It is a simple 12-bar blues tune, like most of his songs, but what made him so special is his simultaneous riffage of three-note rhythms and blistering solos. Not many guitarists can pull that off, let alone pull it off and have their own touch to it. Unfortunately, the video isn't complete, but here's another one of him covering his idol, Jimi Hendrix.

If you've heard Hendrix's version of "Little Wing" (shame on you if you haven't!), then you'll notice all the added dimensions Vaughan threw into this version. He made it all instrumental. He was so great at guitar that he often didn't have to sing. He could solo for several minutes straight and keep his audience engaged.

That's the look of Stevie's most popular and oft-used guitar, the custom SRV stratocaster, first introduced in 1992. It has a thicker neck than usual, to make better use of the fat strings SRV tended to use, and its sunburst finish is complemented very nicely by the black pickguard with the SRV signature logo on it. I'd highly recommend this axe if you want a thick, chugging sound for your blues playing. Several hundred replicas of Vaughan's actual original guitar are in circulation; I'm uncertain as to how high the price has gone at this point.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in late 1990. He was two years removed from fully recovering from a serious cocaine and alcohol addiction that could have taken his life then if he failed to check into rehab. He managed to put out two albums and do several tours before his death, but the world was robbed of a truly legendary guitarist. He'd be elevated to God status by now even if he was still alive. His aura lives on in all blues guitar players nowadays, and anyone looking to learn how to play blues lead effectively need not look any further.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

The film I have anticipated more than any other this year has finally been released, and I am giving a special review of No Country for Old Men. It only made me anticipate it more after seeing the amount of raves coming in from critics, and I have to say the Coen brothers have hit a home run. They took Cormac McCarthy's modern classic novel and created a western/crime drama/thriller hybrid that defies and embraces conventional film storytelling, and just might be the best thriller to come along in years. Upon one viewing, I find no major flaws in the technical and intangible aspects of this film. Joel and Ethan Coen may have created their best work in their 23-year two-headed directing career.

I can also say the narrative is very close to the novel, so the points at which the storytelling is conventional or unconventional largely depend on the structure of McCarthy's novel. It follows the intersecting stories of three men who are all involved in the aftermath of a severely botched drug deal. Llewellen Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the dead bodies, stash of heroin and $2 million cash, and his decisions, which he admits could be bad, set off a catastrophic chain of violence behind which local Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) finds himself.

Moss is being chased by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who has entered the film world as one of the most calculating, psychopathic, ruthless villains in years, possibly decades. He usually kills people who are simply in his way; but he also decides the fate of innocent lives with the flip of a coin, just as you'll see in a memorable scene between himself and a gas station owner. Javier Bardem has turned in a magnificently terrifying performance. He was cast absolutely perfectly for this role; his deep voice and cold, stoic stare chills and grips the audience in every scene he's in. His tactics in the film seem primitive compared to today's crime world, but please note this film takes place in West Texas in 1980.

There are great performances all around. Bell, the true moral center of the story, is played nearly to perfection by Tommy Lee Jones. The pain of an old, tired officer in his voice through most of his scenes, including his opening monologue, can really be felt. The old-time veteran actor and former Academy Award winner surprised a lot of people with this role, but his performance could ultimately be overshadowed by Bardem's. Kelly MacDonald of Scotland is great as a young Southern trailer park wife, and Josh Brolin is also great as Llewellen Moss, as he carries the bulk of the narrative. He's on a recent hot streak, but this performance is too ultimately overshadowed by Bardem, who is the front-runner to land major awards for his role.

The Coens have reaffirmed themselves as master storytellers with this film. They were on a recent cold streak with some highly stylized comedies that seemed more like cheap Coen knockoffs, but this time they have returned to form. They once again got fantastic cinematography by Roger Deakins, who captured the dark atmosphere of the whole picture perfectly. Much of the credit for the atmosphere needs to go to the Coens though, who know and get exactly what they want from their vision. They rely much more on real sounds rather than background music, as there is very sparse orchestration and one diegetic source. Minute sounds like the unwrapping of a peanut wrapper and the turning of a screw serve to heighten the tension of the actions of all the characters, something that would be more subdued and less believable with non-diegetic background music.

Right now, I'd say this film is easily their best since 1996's Fargo. Whether or not it tops the modern classic remains to be seen. I'm a staunch believer in multiple viewings of films to get the true appreciation of it. I've seen this film once and have already felt its power. I am eager to see it again to dissect it and appreciate its completeness and boldness as a story. Please do not miss this one. *****/*****

This satisfies assignment #5.

Emerging from the depths...

It's been far too long between posts.

Last week was incredibly hectic for me. Three job interviews, two papers due...And plenty of on-campus work and classes. I had time at certain points to make posts, but my mind was such a blur, this blog was unfortunately not one of the things to cross my mind. I also had to drive home and back again a couple times, which took up plenty of time I could have spent writing. But oh well...

I haven't really even had much time to play guitar this past week. I jammed once at my friend Steve's place; Steve is primarily a bass player and he has great taste for music overall. We jammed to some Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and we also decided we're going to cover a couple songs in the near future. He has connections to rent jam spaces to make professional-sounding recordings, so I won't balk at an opportunity like that.

I'm going to post later tonight because I'm finally going to see NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN at the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline! It opens nationwide next Wednesday, so I will be able to give a sneak review. Until next time...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shaking off the rust

Sunday night was the first jam session in over a week between myself, Justin and James. We all took our typical instruments, Justin and I played guitar with James on drums. Overall I think we sounded pretty good. It was a healthy mix of just straight improvisation and practicing of songs we are working on. Next time we jam I plan on bringing my condenser mic and recording software so I can record the session and hopefully pull some good parts from it for you all to hear. The song I mentioned briefly in my podcast is starting to shape up a bit, and Justin and I have pretty much nailed the intro. We duel with each other in clean mode before eventually switching to distortion as the melody builds in heaviness. It's a pretty simple E-D-C-B chord progression that has been heard before; we're trying to do different things with it so as not to sound watered-down or cliched.

Before that, Mike and I did a little jam with Mike on piano and myself on guitar. It was more like Mike playing his latest original piece while I tried to find a way to solo over it. By ear, I was able to decipher an F-sharp minor scale, so I ripped up and down that scale while he played on. It will work better with guitar if I can find a nice chord scheme to go with it, then I can worry about the solo. Mike has uploaded a few good videos of himself playing piano on Youtube, one of which is right here:

He's only been playing piano for a little over a year and a half, so he's accelerated his skill level pretty well I'd say. That's a variation of the piece he played for me Saturday night, and he really wants me to find a guitar part to go with it. It's harder than he thinks to mix piano with guitar, not many popular music groups have been able to do it, let alone do it well. Queen and Lynyrd Skynyrd are two groups that quickly come to mind.

That's all for now. Hopefully within the next couple days I'll have something to give you on guitar to go with Mike's piano licks. Also, look for this week's guitar spotlight to shine on the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan, the last true blues master.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ready for the big game! Plus a movie review

It's 1:04 p.m. Sunday, November 4, 2007, which means we are only three hours away from the biggest regular season game the NFL has ever seen. I am ecstatic just to be a part of it, let alone a big fan of the favored team. My beloved Patriots are rolling over their competition, yet are also the victims of double standards the last few weeks, in an attempt by the media to create controversy and make a good guy-bad guy matchup out of this game. With all the firepower the Pats have on offense, I doubt the Indianapolis Colts will be able to stop them entirely. They won't get blown out, but I can see the Patriots winning by almost 2 touchdowns. My predicted score all week has been Patriots 44, Colts 31, so I'm going to stick with that.

I digress a little more...I was able to catch the 1 p.m. showing of Ridley Scott's American Gangster yesterday amidst the group of college students who entered the downpour-protected Regal Cinema with the same idea I had. This film had me engaged for the entirety of its 150 minute-plus running time, and it is mostly because of excellent performances by Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Denzel has always had a persona all his own, and when he's on his A-game, that persona can take over an entire movie. If not for a great turn as a physically and mentally battered NYPD narc by Crowe, Denzel would make this movie all his own. His performance as Frank Lucas oozes of confidence, as well as frightfulness. The way Lucas, a real-life figure on which the film is based, did business was ingenious when compared to other illegal enterprises. The most interesting aspect of the film was the contrasts between the two main characters. Richie Roberts is played by Crowe and, although he plays an honorable police officer (so honorable that he turned in almost $1 million in unmarked bills to his department, much to the surprise of, well, everyone there), is caught up in a tumultuous relationship with his estranged wife, with whom he becomes entangled in a messy divorce case stemming from several cases of adultery and neglect from Roberts. Lucas, on the other hand, honors his heritage and his family more than anything in the world, and, despite his sketchy business practice, keeps them intact. This film is a clever cat-and-mouse game with the investigators and Lucas' drug trafficking empire, beautifully shot by Scott as usual and a good script by Steven Zaillian. I expect gold for someone in the future from this film. ****/*****

That's all for today, with me watching the game at Justin's house we might be able to get some jam time in. Tomorrow, I'll talk more about some work I'm doing on collaborating with Mike T. on a guitar/piano piece. Until next time!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Guitar Spotlight: Randy Rhoads

I was originally going to spotlight Stevie Ray Vaughan, but I'll save him for later. Dressing up like Ozzy Osbourne for Halloween made me think hard about Rhoads, Ozzy's original guitar player for his solo group. Believe me, Ozzy was not alone in his act; Rhoads began playing with Ozzy at age 23 and immediately established himself as one of the rock world's premiere axemen. What made him an all-time great of the instrument is that his talent went beyond merely shredding and heavy metal. His life was tragically cut short at age 25 due to a freak plane accident near the Osbourne household, and for that reason he only put out two albums with Ozzy. If not for that crash, he might still be putting out great work with Ozzy and the gang. Even still, he is cited as a major influence for many of today's top guitar players, including Zakk Wylde and Marty Friedman, and he almost single-handedly popularized the Jackson brand of guitars, which still makes a Rhoads custom guitar to this day.

Rhoads is known for his heavy metal prowess and pioneering metal soloing styles, but much of that style was rooted in his deep interest in classical guitar. He constantly sought lessons from top classical players while playing with Ozzy, and his acquired skill in both classical and folk styles was evident in such tracks as "Dee", a brief instrumental piece written for his mother Delores on the Blizzard of Ozz album, and "Diary of a Madman," a complex mix of classical arrangements and hard rock styles, and the title track of Rhoad's final album.

I seriously doubt video of Rhoads playing "Diary of a Madman" even exists, but if someone does please send me a link! The best I can do for DOAMM is a Youtube "slideshow", with the original track playing while a picture slideshow plays. It's a commonly-used technique by people who have audio they want to get out to the public. This song is a metal masterpiece, because of its diverse mix of heavy metal and classical measures, complex arrangements and time signatures, and haunting solo, something the likes of which had rarely been heard before. It's a healthy mixture of minor scales, harmonic minor and blues in the key of A. The intro has been covered by many a guitarist, including Zakk Wylde, Ozzy's current guitar player and arguably the greatest guitar player alive right now.

The Randy Rhoads custom guitar by Jackson is perfect for playing his style and the style of many other heavy metal guitarists, and it's perfect for anyone who plays a lot of shows due to the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system, which keeps your guitar in tune for as long as you need it. The model in the picture to the right is the 25th anniversary edition, which goes for as much as $3299 these days.

I had to put this clip front and center, because it's one of the first true live shred sessions. This video came no later than 1979, because it's from his pre-Ozzy days playing with Quiet Riot. this video proves that Rhoads, along with Eddie Van Halen, is one of the first true pioneers of heavy metal shredding. He combined an extraordinary knowledge of music theory and styles with incredible "chops" (that is, how fluid he is while picking notes), which are seemingly flawless in this video. Check out at 2:26, where he channels Eddie Van Halen while tapping natural harmonics on the guitar to create a nice xylophone-like sound. Just like Eddie previously, I'd encourage everyone to check out as many Rhoads videos as you can. He's a true legend on guitar and deserves his spot among the all-time greats.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

World Series Parade Highlights!

I got out of class today at the perfect time to catch the World Championship parade for the Red Sox; I brought my camera along to capture whatever I could. I started at Fenway Park, where the parade began, but I had a pretty bad view of all the duck boats rolling along. Whoever decided to stay there was a sucker. I started running after the parade, literally. Whenever I found an opening to run, I exploded like Forrest Gump trying to catch back up to the front. I got plenty of great snaps of almost all the Red Sox, most notably Curt Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. That's a really nice picture I got of Hideki Okajima (left) waving right at the camera. It was a nice surprise to see the Dropkick Murphys getting their own float on which to rock out with Red Sox Nation. Papelbon, Timlin and Okajima were on the float with them, and Papelbon seemed to have more fun than anyone. No Irish jig from Paps, but I certainly wasn't disappointed with how the parade turned out. No problems whatsoever, except dragging my tail all the way from Fenway Park to the Charles/MGH T-stop. I must've lost about 20 pounds doing that alone.

I'm so glad I got at least a snippet of the Dropkick Murphys playing during the parade. That float was certainly my favorite; it didn't hurt having my favorite Red Sox player (Papelbon) rocking along with them. I have three more of those videos on my username iMaiden929 at Youtube.

A tribute to the 2007 world champions

Jon Lester, the hero of World Series Game 4 and of all baseball this season The photo to the left is courtesy of the Boston Globe's Barry Chin, and it is of game 4 Red Sox starter Jon Lester, who beat lymphoma just nine months ago, then beat the Rockies to deliver Boston its second World Championship in 4 seasons. My beloved Red Sox finally ended the extraordinarily painful 86-year period of suffering at the hands of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, and this year they are beginning to look like not just the best team in baseball right now, but the best team for years to come. The long-term plans of Theo Epstein and the trio of owners finally came to fruition this year with the emergence of young stars and the perfect mix of youth and experience, and the Sox look like postseason giants for years to come. Never has the pumping of hundreds of millions of dollars into a farm system looked to pay off like it has and will for the Red Sox. I can't give Theo more credit for making all the right moves, holding onto the right prospects and letting go of stars at the right time (Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, and Nomar Garciaparra are clearly on the downside of their careers, and the Sox have replaced them with Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis). This post is meant as a tribute to their remarkable season, in which they held the best record in baseball for almost the entire year. And to tie music into it, I've selected a few songs and posted Youtube clips of them, as well as a brief explanation of their significance to the Red Sox' season.

Queen - "We are the Champions"
I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I've come through

This is the most obvious choice on the list. To this day, there remains no song more emotional and heartfelt for a championship winner than this song. Freddy Mercury is arguably the greatest rock singer that has ever lived, and his life was tragically taken from us by a disease about which we still do not know nearly enough. I've included a live Youtube clip of this song performed at Wembley Stadium in England, so you can see why he was not only a great singer but a great showman as well. The Sox have had a ton more than just their "share" of sand kicked in their face over the last 100 years... It was more like an avalanche. But they came through in 2004, and 2007 now looks like only the beginning of a great run. Simply put, the Red Sox are the Champions!

Pantera - "Domination"

Agony is the price
That you'll pay in the end
Domination consumes you
Then calls you a friend

You can see where my taste in music is taking me in this post! Unfortunately I've spotlighted a band featuring another great musician who got taken from us way too soon. Darrell Abbott, the guitar player for Pantera in this video, was shot to death in stage in October 2004, just before the Red Sox staged their magical comeback and World Series victory that same month. He was an immense talent who, tragically, wasn't noticed by many guitar fans until after its death. It's true that we don't really know what we have until it's gone. The reason I picked this song is because the Red Sox thoroughly dominated the Rockies in the World Series, and this one never looked like a real matchup. Even when the Rockies cut the Red Sox leads close in games 3 and 4, the games never seemed that close. The Rockies were a severely overmatched team this year, but they have a great young team and could be back in the World Series very soon. But for this year, they got consumed by the dominant team. The lyric I block-quoted above is very fitting, because even after destroying their competition, the Sox still gave the Rockies all the credit in the world for playing them tough. They consumed the Rockies and called them friends soon after. I guess we were all watching a different series...

The Who - "The Kids Are Alright"

Sometimes, I know I gotta get away
Bells chime, I know I gotta get away
And I know if I don't, I'll go out of my mind
Better leave her behind where the kids are alright...
The kids are alright....

This is more of a tribute to the old guns of the Red Sox, like Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Mike Timlin than the kids. But those three do look poised to either leave this team or leave baseball altogether after this season; it would be fitting for their careers for them to go out on top. They could all end up staying, of course, but what's best for "her" (the team and the city of Boston) is to leave it up to the kids. And the kids are alright, for sure. Ace starting pitcher and postseason monster Josh Beckett is only 27, Daisuke Matsuzaka is 26, superstar closer and destroyer of souls Jonathan Papelbon is 27, and emerging starters Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are only 23. Let's not forget 24-year olds Jacoby Ellsbury and potential rookie of the year Dustin Pedroia, and 26-year old Kevin Youkilis, who are looking like offensive catalysts and franchise mainstays already. The Sox have plenty of great veterans with a wealth of big-game experience, but what made them a champion is the mix of that with the youthful flair these young stars have injected into this franchise. Many people have said this is the beginning of a dynasty. I would certainly hope so.

This week's guitar spotlight will be on Stevie Ray Vaughan, and hopefully I'll have some jam news for you later today, if not tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Very fun night ahead of me!

With Halloween falling in the middle of the week this year, this weekend is the time for all the Halloween parties. I plan on going to one tonight in Boston, and I'll be going as the godfather of heavy metal himself, Ozzy Osbourne! I was disappointed that every single store I went to was out of decorative rubber vampire bats, because I wanted to use one as a prop to simulate Ozzy's past behavior involving biting the heads off bats (he only did a real one once before, and it was an accident). It's a good thing he didn't do it for real, or he might not be immortal like he is today.

Before the Halloween party, I'm going to a concert at the Worcester Palladium. I'll be seeing the band Down, half of which is comprised of former members of the heavy metal group Pantera. They are more southern rock, but Down is definitely heavy stuff. They'll be playing on their own tonight, which means I'll be getting about a 2 hour set. Should be a very enjoyable evening!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Guitar Spotlight: Eddie Van Halen

I've stated many times before that Jimi Hendrix is my all-time favorite guitar player. Well, because of the man in the picture to the left, I might not have been telling the whole truth. Eddie Van Halen would have to be number 1b at this point, with Jimi at 1A. Like Hendrix, Van Halen is a true god on the axe. He took over as the undisputed greatest guitar player alive as soon as Van Halen burst onto the hard rock scene with their self-titled album in 1978. With classics like "Eruption", "Running with the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love", he made people worldwide aware of his virtuosic talents. He is one of the last true innovators of the instrument, with his rapid finger-tapping style becoming an art form as he refined the technique throughout his early career. He's doing what I'm talking about in the picture, it's the technique that uses no pick, it is merely a tapping of the frets with the finger to create a unique sound that can be moved all over the neck. Eddie didn't invent the finger tap, but he brought it to an unheard-of level. "Eruption" is still the most classic example of finger-tapping at its finest.

Another musical technique that EVH was known for is his use of the Major Third note in chords. All major chords have a three-note structure, with the root, the third, and the fifth in the major scale of that note. For example, in G major, the root is of course G, the third is B, and the fifth is D. Play all three of those notes at once on any instrument, and you have a G major chord. The B note is what's usually left out of chords in the genre of his time, which was a mixture of hard rock and heavy metal. Pretty much every heavy metal or hard rock group simply played the "powerchord" which is only the root and the fifth played together, making for a much heavier sound. EVH played the whole major chord as he was playing, which gave a much more upbeat tone to his riffs, and he often played them on the bottom three strings, for a higher sound. It's very difficult to imagine EVH playing without throwing in those third notes.

Van Halen is known for his famous "Frankenstrat" guitar that was constructed by EVH himself, by hand. He wanted to combine pickups and other parts from different companies, something unheard of in the 1970s for custom-made guitars. He wanted a Gibson sound with a Fender feel. The Frankenstrat ended up looking like it does in the picture to the right. That, however, is a mdoern-day replica of the same guitar, which was made with the very same types of parts and methods by which EVH constructed his. Fender made about 300 of those replicas, gave them the astronomical price tag of $25,000, and still sold every single one of them within minutes. It remains one of the most expensive guitar replicas ever assembled. The complexity of its structure was enough to bump the price of this instrument way through the roof.

To get a real glimpse of the man's immense talents, check out this video from 1989 at the Tokyo dome. Van Halen had already replaced singer David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar, but that didn't affect EVH's guitar prowess at all. He showcases all of his incredible skills in that one 6-minute video, but I'd encourage you all to check out whatever videos you can find from Youtube on this guitar legend. I'd recommend watching this whole video, but especially check out the technique he employs at 3:26. The piece he plays there is an original work, called "Cathedral" which can be found on Van Halen's 1982 album Diver Down. He puts heavy delay on his guitar and begins tapping with his left hand as he rapidly and rhythmically adjusts the volume knob on his guitar, creating a violin-like sound. He doesn't make a single mistake while playing this way; he hits all the right notes. A sound like that is still very tough to duplicate, mostly thanks to the unique build of the Frankenstrat.

EVH is truly one of the best to ever pick up the instrument, and I'm glad for every new fan I could possibly create with this posting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Podcast is up and running!

This is an exciting moment for myself and this blog. I've uploaded my first podcast. I guess it's technically not a real podcast because you can't subscribe to it, but let's say you can't subscribe to it yet. In the inaugural podcast, I feature an audio sample of an original work by myself, a cover of Hendrix's "Little Wing", and I comment on both of those. After that, I comment on how the jam sessions are going. My previous post is a rough transcript of what I said.

If the embedded file doesn't work, you can listen to it here!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rough transcript of my first podcast; soon to be uploaded!

That was a little sample of a new song I’m working on called “Broken Light”, which is clearly blues and funk-inspired. The effect I have on the guitar that you hear is a phaser, which makes the same effect as a wah pedal but it does it rhythmically and you can adjust the speed and intensity of it. I turned the speed way down here because this is a sort of calm, subdued piece, and blues in the key of G sounds great with slow rhythmic backing. To pinpoint specific guitar players that inspired it I’d have to point to my all-time favorite, Jimi Hendrix, and old-time blues players like B.B King and Muddy Waters. They are some of the best ever at adding “character” to their playing, making you really feel their emotions while they play, which is something every guitar player can always improve upon. I’m trying to emphasize that more than being able to play the most notes within a measure. As the song develops more I’ll update it and post a new recording.

As for how the jam sessions are going with me and the guys at 1474 Tremont, I think Justin and I are well on our way to getting a new song in place. The way our jamming styles work is that we pretty much play whatever comes to mind, and whoever’s taking the lead goes with it while the other tries to find complements to whatever the lead is playing. Justin started playing a nice riff down near the bottom of the neck of his Telecaster and it ended with him holding a note, so I jumped in and played a few licks of my own while that note was being sustained, and as we kept trading riffs back and forth it evolved into a nice dueling-guitar song that I would say is about 75% complete. Next jam session we will hope to have it done and possibly recorded.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We actually jammed! New song in the making

Justin and I got together yesterday for the first jam session in over two weeks. Those weeks felt like an eternity, but there was finally some free time for us to get together and play. With my amp still in limbo, I needed to use the Fender amp while Justin used the Mesa/Boogie rectifier you can see in the picture. We got a new song going while messing around a bit, and it sounds promising. The opening riffs are dueling clean guitars, which sound great if we get the right harmonies. Justin and I tend to have good ears for that kind of stuff when we play together, so I think this new song will turn out very good. Once we have a solid foundation for what we want it to sound like, I'll put together an audio sample for you all to hear.

James played drums for us for a little while yesterday as well, but with a broken snare (pretty much the most important piece of the set), he had limited resources. He could still use the snare, it just didn't sound right. I was able to get some video of him playing. I apologize once again for the lack of brightness in the video, that's just how it looks when I record using my digital camera, which is about 6 years old. Here's the video:

I thought I'd put that out there, to prove how good James really is at drums. He does a great job for what he has to work with, which isn't all that much.

Next post, which could be later today, I'm going to discuss my equipment and what I plan on doing to get new equipment in the future, for which I believe I'm overdue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Midterms slowing us down...

This has been a slow couple of weeks for us. Only one small jam session has taken place in about 12 days, and James, Justin and Mike have all been swamped with midterm work. Almost every time I called to see if anyone wanted to jam, they all said they had either a paper to write or big test to study for. They weren't lying; they all have midterms for all their classes this week. James is majoring in finance, Mike and Justin entrepreneurship, which can make for some interesting yet challenging courses. This was certainly the time of the year where we would be slowed form jamming, and there were no surprises there. Justin has classes off today, so hopefully he'll want to get a little jam going this afternoon at least, before I go to work. I'm itching to play, because I've been very busy with the guitar when I've had free time at my apartment. Hopefully I'll have something worth posting about later today, but for now I'm in jam session limbo...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Finally have some audio for you; a review of another man's blog

I found a website at that allows me to upload and host audio files, so now I can embed them in my posts. Here's my personal rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary". I apologize again for not singing, that will happen in due time...But I worry more about the guitar work anyway. Here it is:

If the embedded file doesn't work, click here to download the MP3.

Hopefully it does work, though...

Now I want to focus on the main topic of this post, which is...another blog. It was quite a surf session for me looking for a blog about someone having his own small musical group. I was actually shocked at how hard it was to find something, but I eventually came across Beethoven's Yard; the author's name is anonymous, unless it's Beethoven! He writes mainly about his ventures in a small music group, and tells brief yet detailed stories about trials and tribulations that come up with every gig. He seems to know a lot about music; at 43, he's had plenty of time to learn. That's the biggest difference between him and me is the age difference, and the fact that he actually performs concerts. So I guess his blog is a more far advanced (time-wise) version of this blog.

His posts are typically pretty long-winded, but I give him a mulligan on that, as he's probably not a professional writer. His stories are interesting however, especially for someone like myself who doesn't have a whole lot of experience playing live music for audiences. He also has a comfortable look to his blog; it's very easy to read.

That's all I can say about that, until next time my friends...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Head is out for repair; spotlighting one of my favorite guitar players

Yesterday was a pretty miserable day for me. Not to mention the weather was disgusting, I had to go get my broken Line 6 head at the house to bring it somewhere for repair. I searched up and down the internet to, almsot fortuitously, run into a music repair shop right on campus at Berklee College of Music. If there were any group of people I'd trust 100% with fixing my equipment, it would be Berklee alumni. The guy said it could end up costing close to $200, but that was before he even looked at the amp and he said that only happens if the main function source of the amp is broken, and mine is most likely just a case of overheating. The first time it broke, Line 6 tried to charge me $120 to replace the part, but I argued that off. It'll be about 2 weeks before I hear from them again. Their website can be found at this link. Just crossing my fingers at this point, hoping it won't be too long, hard or expensive to fix the head.

Now I'd like to spotlight one of my favorite guitar players. His name is Andy McKee, and anyone who surfs Youtube even occasionally must have come across one of his videos. He is a classical acoustic guitarist, and he plays only with his fingers. After you watch the below video, you'll understand why he doesn't use, or need, a guitar pick.

His finger movements are uncanny, especially with his thumb. The way he plays, he sounds like 4 or 5 guitars at once. That's an ingenious cover of Toto's "Africa," which made me actually like what I previously thought was just another piece of 1980s cheese. This video has nearly 3 million hits on Youtube, which at its time was a tremendous number. His most-viewed video, "Drifting" has over 7.5 million hits, putting it in the top 50 most-viewed music videos. He has 5 videos ranked in the top 20 for all-time ratings for music videos, all with at least 4,526 ratings.

I'm sure he's translated his monumental success on Youtube into something bigger in terms of sales, but I really feel he's missing a huge marketing opportunity. He doesn't really need a band, because his guitar work and percussion styles work well on their own musically, but lyrics and vocals is something he could definitely add. I would keep them to a minimum, as to not take much away from the guitar, but if he could put together a song with a nice hook he could experience even bigger success.

That's all for now, hopefully I'll be posting later today with another video!

Monday, October 8, 2007


So I got the jam session I was hoping for Saturday night, but it was cut painfully short by the unprecedented third malfunction of my amp head. I'm not sure of the technical terms for what happened to it, but it has something to do with a fuse inside the power supply to the head. It burned out, which I knew immediately due to the musty smell of static electricity. So now I'm without my own amplifier, and I'm not quite sure what the future holds for me in that regard. Right now, I want to plan on getting it repaired at a shop somewhere (I heard there's a place at Berklee that does it for you, but I'm not sure if they can repair just anything) and immediately selling the whole half-stack once it's fixed. I bought the head and the speaker cabinet together for about $800, but I only plan on selling it for $400-$500. I know I can't sell something that's a little over a year used and has broken once before.

I say it's the third malfunction of this product, though, because this third one isn't the original one I had. I bought it originally, then it broke about a week later. I sent it out to Line 6 to get it repaired and they did it for free. I got it back, but then it broke again not too long after. Clearly disgusted, I blamed Guitar Center at first for selling me a faulty product, even though it probably wasn't their doing. My unsatisfied customer routine got me another new amp, though, which made me very happy. They even let me keep the broken one, so now I have two broken heads to have repaired!

That all happened within the first three months of owning the head. So the new one lasted over a year for me with no problems, and several Tremont St. jam sessions. With the malfunction happening now in two different locations, I can only blame the product itself. I feel sick that I only have to invest more money in this shoddy amp, but whoever is reading this and looking for a new amp, please STAY AWAY from Line 6! I will look into Marshall and Mesa/Boogie products once I have the money to spend on a new setup. I'll have to dig a little deeper into my pockets due to spending the repair costs, but these things happen.

Until then, I'm going to have to use the Fender amp or Mesa/Boogie half-stack we still have there. I haven't been prevented from jamming at all, but I've been handed another big problem, something I'm not stranger to when it comes to purchasing expensive products. I have stories, but those can wait, I'm too angry to delve deep into those memories right now. Next post, I'll hopefully have another video or two up on Youtube. We had a nice jam session before my personal disaster, hopefully I'll have some good footage of that. Until next time....

Saturday, October 6, 2007

New video on Youtube; another jam session hopefully happening tonight

With tomorrow full of extravagant plans involving the Patriots and Red Sox, tonight is the last night of this weekend where we can jam. Last night, the Tremont boys had a little party, and for about 20 minutes I jammed some A blues with James on bass and his brother's friend Amary on drums. Amary was an amazing drummer, he seemed to be mostly educated in jazz styles. I was pretty much in the zone while we played, so I couldn't really tell how we sounded, but just about everyone said we sounded great. Finally got to try out my new footswitch, and it works just like I expected. Jamming will be a lot easier from here on out.

I've uploaded a new video of myself onto Youtube. It'll make its way on Facebook soon as well. I'm playing the same song I played in my first Youtube video, "Castles Made of Sand" by Jimi Hendrix, but this time I'm playing it on my own, and I got multiple tries at it. This version sounds about 100x better than the first on guitar. I added in synthetic drums, bass and a solo afterwards. I used Cakewalk Guitar Tracks Pro to record the music, and the video came from my digital camera, which would explain the quality of the audio far surpassing that of the video. The audio is what's really important to me, but I did want everyone to know I actually played this! I had to use Windows Movie Maker to make the final video, and syncing the audio with the video wasn't nearly as hard as I expected. Since it was so easy, you can expect me to make a lot more of these videos in the future. For now, I only have this one:

Hope you liked it! The only part missing is vocals, which I could have done separately but didn't bother. There's no way I've mastered the song enough to play the semi-complicated riffs during the verse and sing at the same time.

Jimi Hendrix is probably my favorite guitar player, so I plan on covering some of his other stuff. I won't go overboard, because it's pretty much impossible to duplicate his sound, but I enjoy playing his songs so much I can't resist doing a few more. Until next time...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Some off-topic stuff; excited about the new Coen brothers movie!

I'm sitting here in the office of the Disability Resource Center as the day, and my work week, is winding down...With about 30 minutes left and not much business around here I have some time to post about some things on my mind. As far as jam sessions on Tremont go, they got a lot better and easier today when my footswitch for my amp arrived in the mail. Now I can change my guitar tone on the fly! It's made playing a TON of different songs a lot easier for me. It only cost me $30 too; there's expanded versions that go for as much as $120.

You wouldn't know it at all about me from reading this blog, but I am a huge film geek. I own about 200 DVDs and that list continues to grow. I can be analytical about films and dissect their true meanings (I am a dual major of cinema studies in addition to journalism), but I can also sit back, eat some popcorn and enjoy a movie too. Case in point: Fargo and Finding Nemo are right next to each other on my DVD rack.

Speaking of Fargo, the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) have always been one of my favorite directors. I like to refer to them as one "two-headed" director, which they have been called in the past, because they are always working with each other. Their films always have a quirky quality to them, which I appreciate a lot. It's rare these days for filmmakers to make anything that doesn't look like it came out of some factory in Hollywood. There's other American auteurs who have similar qualities in their films, like Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen (the latter two obviously have been doing it for much longer though). I haven't been a fan, however, of the latest efforts from the Coens. They seem more like cheap ripoffs of Coen movies than the real thing. Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers certainly had the star power and the style, they just lacked the substance of earlier Coen classics like Fargo or Blood Simple. I'm thrilled to say they may be finally returning to form with No Country for Old Men, which is due out in November.

From the reviews I've read, it's a mesmerizing thriller that starts and ends with the performances from the stars, none of which are Coen regulars. Javier Bardem is generating tremendous buzz for his performance as the villain Anton Chigurh; this could be his long-awaited Oscar. And from the clips I've seen, it looks to be just what people are saying it is, while keeping the same crisp, edgy dialogue the Coens are known for as well as a little bit of black humor. I don't expect much, because "gritty", "dark" and "visceral" are the words most commonly used to describe the picture. With my top two all-time films being Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas, this seems like a movie right up my alley! I can only sit and wait at this point, and hope that this movie becomes another all-time favorite of mine (the last film to do so was The Departed, and Lord of the Rings before that).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

First official video; fun 2-man jam session

Last night's jam session was only myself and Justin switching off. James and Tyler had schoolwork to do, which is understandable. School always comes first. I've uploaded a video of myself playing Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" with Justin on drums. I apologize for the subpar video quality, but this was recorded on an old digital camera. The audio was a lot better than I was expecting. I actually hopped on drums for the first part of the jam, but Justin and I eventually switched. I might have a video of myself on drums, but I'm not sure. "Castles" sounded pretty good overall in my opinion, but I have played that song much better before. I botch the intro, and the main riff a couple times, but not a huge deal. I can't even venture to try and decipher the actual solo to the song (which is played normally then looped backwards onto the actual track), that's a project for down the road. I simply used James' audio looping machine (not even sure what it's called) to loop a G minor chord so I could play some G blues. I'm used to A blues so I get messed up a few times, but a solid improvisation in my opinion. If the video below doesn't work, the video can be found on Youtube here.

I'll make another post once the other videos are uploaded. Here's another shameless plug by me, it's for Mike T., our piano player. He put his first video up on Youtube, and it's an excellent piece put together by Mike himself. He wants to make it into an actual song, but I think it works well on its own. We'll see what happens with it. You can see his video here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New audio demo; hopefully a jam session happening tonight!

Monday wasn't a good day for jamming. The Patriots are always first priority when they are playing, no matter what. We ran out of time to jam Monday night, and we're all usually tired by the end of the day anyway on Monday. Hopefully tonight Justin and/or James will agree to have a session, because my new footswitch arrived in the mail today! Now I can change my guitar tone in the middle of playing, something that is very important for a lot of songs.

I have a demo of a new song I've written available here (please let me know in the comments if it doesn't work; it's uploaded to Northeastern's MyNEU server so you might need authorization). It's a pretty basic rock n' roll song when it comes down to it, but there is a bit more complexity in it then the genres I'm covering. The first minute and a half builds to the heavy, fun part, and I'm very happy with the solo I put in at the end. It's not a completed song just yet, which is why at the end, it just ends, and there aren't any vocals (or lyrics) yet.

Enjoy the audio sample, and hopefully I'll be posting about our latest jam session very soon!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Busy weekend capped with my 21st birthday!

Sorry for the recent lack of pictures, I've just been forgetting to take it out. I had another busy weekend, including the big 2-1 on Saturday! Friday morning I felt very sick (which will explain why I didn't make class Friday morning, sorry!), but I was able to get home in the afternoon. I drove up to Foxwoods with a friend from home Friday night, and midnight Saturday rolled around right when we got there. I walked into their World Poker Room with $160 and left with $500, so it was a very successful night at the cash game table overall. Winning money made the 2 hour drive home feel a little better. Last night was pretty fun, I bought my first six-pack, a very exciting moment in my life!

Before we went out to a couple parties, I had a pretty fun jam session with Justin and James. The lineup was a little unorthodox: Justin on guitar, James on bass, and myself on DRUMS! It became more of a karaoke session, as we played plenty of easy-to-play covers off the cuff for our friends to sing along to. I had a lot of fun playing drums; I'm nothing special but I can hold a beat.

So all in all it was a very good weekend for me, and I'm hoping to make some real progress music-wise this coming week. I'm hoping for a legit jam session tonight, but since I'm at home right now, I might not be able to make it back in time to play at a decent hour. I'll finally get some videos rolling once we jam again. Until next time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's been a while!

Well, it hasn't really been that long, but when you fire out posts at a fast rate like I did last week, six days can feel like an eternity. I had a pretty busy weekend, which was taken up mostly by my cousin's wedding Saturday. Typical ceremony, it went without any problems, and the reception was really fun. I actually danced at a wedding for the first time; my mom was quite excited about that. I don't normally dance, it's just not me, but I figured I'd loosen up once CCR's "Down on the Corner" came on from the live band. The band did a great job with their song selections, and it seemed like everyone there had a great time.

I made it back Sunday afternoon for the Patriots game, and before I had another jam session we watched the Pats stomp all over yet another opponent. I already see the Lombardi trophy in my sights...

It was after the game when we decided not to jam because it was getting too late for a Sunday. It was last night when we finally got together for the first jam, but it ended up just myself, Justin and Mike. Justin jumped on drums, which he's been playing a lot more lately. He's "sick of guitar." At this point, this would leave me to shoulder the load on guitar, but I seriously doubt James' spot as drummer is in jeopardy. We could plan in the future on doing something in the style of the defunct indie band Dispatch, where we would switch instruments in between songs. I am by far best on guitar, but I can play a little bass and/or drums from time to time if others wanted to play guitar. I feel like I'd be great at bongos, because I have a tendency to tap beats with my hands incessantly. We might get a set to incorporate them into our original material, but for now it's just an idea.

The jam was pretty simple for the most part, and it only lasted about 30 minutes because of how late it was (we were playing very loudly past 10:30 pm), but it was fun nonetheless. I got to try out some new stuff I was working on with percussion accompaniment, so now I have an idea of what it could sound like. James and Tyler were at the movies while we jammed, so a full band session will happen again very soon.

Next time: an audio sample of the prototype of my next original song. Once I find out how to upload audio to this site...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making some progress

The latest jam session happened last night. That's me in my favorite shirt (Pink Floyd's The Wall) playing my own guitar for a change. It's an ESP Viper-301 with EMG HZ pickups and 24 frets. Pretty good for soloing and heavy music, but it cost me less than $500, so I plan on upgrading as soon as I'm not a poor college student anymore. That's Tyler playing bass on the right. He should be joining us every time from here on out.

We're still in the intermediate stages of "Crystal Baller" by Third Eye Blind, but the problem for me lies more in my equipment than my learning of the song. I have a nice amp, but it lacks a footswitch, which, for those who are unfamiliar, allows me to change tones by simply stepping on one of four buttons on the floor. I'll have to pick one up very soon.

Another song we began working on is "Lightninig Crashes" from the band Live. They achieved big success with this song in 1995, and never reached that kind of popularity again, but this tune is quite catchy and should be pretty recognizable for fans of 1990s music. There's not much of a challenge in learning this song; it's a three-chord progression that lasts almost the entire song, save for a short bridge part. This song is simply a matter of bringing all the elements together and having it mix well together. We got Steve to hop on vocals for the first time, and he didn't do a bad job for someone who came in knowing half the lyrics.

We started having fun by playing our version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama", the lyrics of which Steve didn't mess up once. We will probably end up pursuing that song as a cover, since it has piano parts we can get my friend Mike T. to play with us. But before that happens, we're going to focus on Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", which could take several sessions before we get it right.

Next post, I'll find a way to get an audio sample of one of my first original songs with Justin. It's still untitled, so I guess it will remain that way for the time being. Until next time......