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7 Questions with Jason Vieaux

JV White shirt seated 4

Describe your first experience playing music.

My first experiences playing music were my goofing around with my first guitar at 5, guitar/theory lessons when I was six, recorder ensemble during my elementary education. But my first musical EXPERIENCE was putting on records by The Beatles, Wilson Pickett, Aretha, Eddie Floyd, Credence, Ahmad Jamal, Ken Nordine,Kai Winding, Chico Hamilton, Bay City Rollers, many others, between 3-5 yrs of age. That was my favorite activity, and probably still is.

What has been your most significant musical experience?

Probably the answer to question #1. Or when I heard the White Album

at age 6. Or hearing David Russell in concert when I was 14.

What is the best advice on pursuing a career in music you were ever given?

My teacher, John Holmquist, when I was a student at CIM: “Music Business is two words”, and “Never play your music faster than your ability to articulate it clearly to your listener”. That 2nd quote is a very important lesson for the aspiring professional guitarist that perhaps more guitarists could take to heart.

What is your favorite sound?

Too hard to answer, but at least this week it’s Bernard Purdie playing drums on “Caves of Altamira”. Name some of your biggest non-musical influences. My father: “even if this doesn’t become your job, you can always come home from work and play guitar for your own enjoyment” (he told me this when I was 11) and “even if there’s 1 person in the audience, you should play for that person, because they came to hear music” (when I was about 12).

What is the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Aforementioned D Russell concert, Julian Bream in ’88, Cleveland Orchestra Mahler 2nd 1999, Mitsuko Uchida in Philly playing a Mozart Piano Quintet 2000?, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny trio setting and with Gary Burton. Too many, I know.

Put your iPod on shuffle and name the first 5 songs that come up.

No iPOD, but since we’re talking “pop” songs…this week only,

don’t get it twisted…

– electric relaxation, a tribe called quest

– refuge of the roads, joni mitchell

– black cow, steely dan

– death of auto-tune, jay-z

– bleed, meshuggah

Keep up with Jason at www.jasonvieaux.com

Basic Arpeggios for Classical Guitar

This is a guest post from Christopher Davis, who is the editor of the Classical Guitar Blog.  The CG Blog is an amazing resource for both classical and wanna-be classical guitarists.  If you are interested in contributing a guest post, please contact me here.

Fingerstyle or classical guitar seems daunting at first.  Like any other style of guitar, however, the basics apply to everything.  The purpose of this article is to get you playing some beginning patterns with the right hand fingers.

The Basics

Right hand fingers are labeled with letters.


p=thumb, i=index, m=middle, a=ring, and c=little finger.

While playing fingerstyle it’s important to keep a generally straight right wrist.  Try this:  make a fist with your right hand.  Place the thumb along side the fist.  Then relax the hand and let the fingers curl gently, the wrist should drop a bit too.  That’s what your hand should look like on the guitar!  Just “freeze” the wrist/hand in place and play it over the strings.

Now place p on the fifth string, i on the third, m on the second, and a on  the first.  This is home position.  Just like with the left hand, the right hand use is limited mostly to the fingertips.  Avoid putting  the fingers too far back and having the strings touch in the pad of the fingers.  Here’s a few photos of my right hand in home position to give you an idea.



Now Make Some Noise

So far we’ve covered the basics:  finger labeling, the wrist/hand, and home position.  Now make some noise.  Keep your thumb in place on the fifth string.  Now snap all the fingers off the strings, and bring them back into the hand.  That is, play the strings, but curl the right hand fingers into the hand — it’s the same motion as making a first.

Do this exercise a few more times to get a feel for it.  This motion of the fingers back into the hand is the norm for all right hand playing.  When you’re just starting with fingerstyle playing, it’s better to exaggerate the motions at first, and work on refining and shrinking them down later.

Some Basic Right Hand Patterns

First, a word on planting or preparation.  It’s very hard for a right hand finger to miss a string if it’s already on it.  That’s the idea behind preparing or planting the right hand fingers.  As the following patterns move up the strings (going from the lowest string to the highest), we’re going to do a full plant.  At the start of each arpeggio all the fingers are on the strings.  Some of the pattern move back down the strings, in these cases work on bring the finger back to the string right before it plays.

p i m

Plant/prepare the thumb, index and middle fingers on strings 3, 2 and 1 respectively.  Now peel them off one at a time.  Or…

  1. Plant all the fingers
  2. Play p
  3. Play i
  4. Play m
  5. Return all the fingers to the strings and start over


p i m i

Plant/prepare the thumb, index, and middle fingers on strings 3, 2, and 1 respectively.  This pattern is a little bit different, as it requires the index to return alone before it starts over.

  1. Plant all the finger
  2. Play p
  3. Play i
  4. Play m, while m plays return i to the second string
  5. Play i
  6. Return all the fingers and do it again


A great practice method for this arpeggio is to just do steps one through four, then stopping.  This just practices the return of i to the string, one of the things students have the most trouble with.

Eventually the beat of planting is combined with the thumbs motion.  This would turn the p i m arpeggio into…

  1. Plant all the fingers
  2. Play p
  3. Play i
  4. Play m
  5. p plays, i and m return to the strings and the arpeggio starts over



Playing fingerstyle for the first time always feels awkward.  But just checking out some videos of great classical or fingerstyle guitarists leaves no doubt that fingerstyle players can be just as capable and virtuosic as the usual guitar icons.  Some right hand chops will only add to your skill as a guitarist.  Good luck! and thanks for reading!

7 Questions with Laurence Juber

Describe your first experience playing music.

I got my first guitar for my 11th birthday. It was a cheap flattop with a bolt-on neck and a floating fingerboard.

I had to stuff cardboard under the fingerboard extension to make the action playable. There was a book called “Play In A Day” by Bert Weedon, a well-known British guitarist.

It had the melody of “When The Saints Go Marching In” written in notation – there was no tablature in those days. One rainy Winter afternoon I figured out how to read it.

What has been your most significant musical experience?

Career-wise, I’ll have to say playing with McCartney, but that really was part of a much larger musical experience. I try to play in the ‘musical moment’, so each performance can be significant.

What is the best advice on pursuing a career in music you were ever given?

I realized at around age 13 that I wanted to make a living being a guitarist, so that became an all-consuming passion. It was a time and an environment where there were constant opportunities and developing the skills to be a pro came naturally to me. I didn’t truly learn about the business of music until much later. The best piece of musical advice came from an old school jazz guitarist who told me to play ‘big notes’.


What is your favorite sound?

The voice of the guitar itself – there’s a sweet spot where the instrument sings and everything resonates. It moves depending on the style, the tune, the kind of guitar, but it’s there on acoustic and electric. Think of Clapton’s tone on ‘Hideaway’ or Django on anything.

Name some of your biggest non-musical influences.

My wife Hope, who helps me focus my creative imagination. Various teachers of Alexander Technique and meditation. Comedians and actors – performers who communicate with humor and drama.

What is the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Jimi Hendrix at the Albert Hall in 1968. He played there twice in one week – the second was filmed, but the first was magical. He played ‘Red House’ on a white SG custom. Second was the Cream farewell concert. Third place goes to lutenist Paul O’Dette who played at a church in West London in the early 70’s. I had never heard notes spinning out of an instrument with such liquidity.

Put your iPod on shuffle and name the first 5 songs that come up.

The Beatles – All My Loving

Bix Beiderbecke -Davenport Blues

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Dave Matthews – Shake Me Like A Monkey

Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather

Visit Laurence at www.laurencejuber.com

Interview With National Guitar Workshop Founder Dave Smolover

I have been involved with NGW since 2004 when I worked as a Traveling Residential Advisor in order to fulfill an internship requirement for my Music Business Degree.

This past spring, we made some promo videos featuring our alumni and faculty.  Personally, my favorite videos were the ones with Dave Smolover.  Dave began the National Guitar Workshop in 1984 and since then has branched out to DayJams, National Guitar Workshop Publications and WorkshopLive.

Below are the three parts of the interview we filmed.  Even with working with him for as long as I have, there was some new information.  Please take a minute and check them out.

Part Two:

Part Three:

7 Questions with Will Lee


Describe your first experience playing music.

My first experience really playing was going to my drum kit that my dad had bought me (an old Leedy kit, made by Ludwig  with WFL snare) immediately following the Beatles’ first performance on American TV on Feb 9, 1964. I had not been inspired to play anything in particular until that moment, and suddenly I was digging in like my life depended on it!

What has been your most significant musical experience?

That live TV broadcast was the seminal one for me, but the one that made me decide to go on living when I was at my most down-moment was hearing Ivan Lins sing “Daquilo De Eu Sei” for the first time (the original version on the Philips label). It was transcendental.

What is the best advice on pursuing a career in music you were ever given?

To focus on playing one instrument- bass!!

What is your favorite sound?

I think it would be the sound of natural water movement; waterfalls, ocean waves, rivers & streams, etc.

Name some of your biggest non-musical influences.

I like to give credit to anybody with  positive message. That would include people like Jesus, Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay, Krishna, Tony Robbins, Ghandi, Obama.

What is the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Brian Wilson’s band of the last few years has been mighty impressive, from a perspective of well-played parts & great singing. Also there have been some Tower Of Power performances that I have seen over the years that were so funky, it smelled like something the cat dragged in!!

Put your iPod on shuffle and name the first 5 songs that come up.

1. “Song of The King” from Rogers & Hammerstein’s “The King & I”

2. “Respect” by Otis Redding

3. “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles

4. “Pamela” by Toto

5. “Driftin'” by Will Lee (Wow, that’s embarrassing, except that Jeff Beck is on the track!!)

Visit Will at www.willlee.com

The Indie Maximum 100

I just read Ariel Hyatt’s great post about how the mainstream music media (Billboard, in particular) is so out of touch with the independent musician.  I would post a link to the original list, but you have to be a Billboard subscriber to read it.  Come on, 20 bucks a month just to find out how many CD’s didn’t sell this week?

Anyways, the idea behind the Billboard list is what would be the best way for an artist to gain the maximum amount of exposure.  Featured on Oprah? Song used on Dancing With The Stars?  As you can see, these are very realistic goals.

Ariel came up with her own list of what would be most helpful to indie musicians and she did a great job.  Many people helped her with this (you can read that list here), and it is a great example of how you don’t have to be super famous to make an impact.

If you are a musician, or know a musician, or have heard the word music, please download this article and send it to your friends.  They will thank you for it.

The Indie Maximum 100 by Ariel Hyatt and Friends

Syncopation and the Art of Sounding Clever

This is a guest post from Peter Hodgson, who is the editor of the iheartguitar blog.  It is one of my top 5 blogs I would recommend to anyone who is interested in guitar.  If you are interested in contributing a guest post, please contact me here.

GuitarOne of the most effective ways of injecting excitement into a riff is syncopation. In a nutshell, syncopation is when you play a note on a beat where you probably wouldn’t expect a note. Now, when I’m playing guitar I tend to approach rhythm differently at different times. When I’m soloing I’m led by whatever melody pops into my head. As a result, the rhythm can be a bit unconventional. But when I’m playing metal rhythm, I’m all about the 16th note pulse. I keep the 16th notes in mind even if I’m not actually playing them – for example, even when I’m playing a chugging 8th note riff I’m listening to the notes in between as well, and every now and then I might fill those spaces with little accents. Try it some time: picture the musical bar as a version of that board game Mastermind, except instead of four rows to put the pegs in, there are 16. Each peg represents a note or chord, and there’s ya rhythm.

As an example of syncopation I present to you a couple of riffs from my song ‘Just One Thing,’ which you can hear a rough mix of on my Myspace at www.myspace.com/peterhodgson The first riff has a note on every one of those 16 spaces, but some of them are accented chord stabs and others are palm-muted. The result is a steady pulse punctuated by jarring but kinda cool chords in places where you don’t really expect them, and this track has burned the brain of many a drummer for the first few listens. Initially it seems like an odd time signature, and it’s fun to watch a drummer take out the slide ruler and metronome to try to figure out where the ‘one’ is, only to realise the underlying beat is so simple that even a guitarist like me could come up with it.

Another way to approach this riff, if you’re not into the whole ‘thinking in 16th notes’ thing is to run the riff through a few times then only think about the fretted notes, letting the open-string notes in between take care of themselves by going on semi-autopilot with your alternate picking. That’s a method I find especially handy playing some Muse riffs where I’d rather enjoy the riff than think about the maths behind it.

The autopilot alternate picking method ain’t gonna help you in Riff 2 though. This one is purely chord-stab, with no chuggy muted notes in between. You need to pay close attention to the rhythm to get this one to work. Once again, imagine 16 slots. Okay? Okay. Now, in the first bar of this section, the chords fall on sub-beats 1, 2, 5, 10 and 15/16 (the last two actually being a three-note chug). Let’s try this with capitals and lower-case letters: BA-BA-ba-ba-BA-ba-ba-ba-ba-BA-ba-ba-ba-ba-BADDABA.

Obviously this kinda stuff is best used as a springboard for your own riffs and ideas. You could probably even use a 16-sided dice (you have one in your junk drawer, right?) to help you come up with random note locations. Above all, just have fun with it and don’t hurt yourself.

Download the TAB (PDF)


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7 Questions with Will Bernard

Describe your first experience playing music.

When I was very young around 3 or 4 my parents used to sing folk songs with their friends at parties. I would sing along an pluck on a ukelele or bang on the table or whatever. My mother was studying classical piano so I heard her practice. I remember liking Bartok’s Hungarian and Rumanian folk songs . Later I took up piano and violin before I took up guitar and played in the elementary school orchestra in Berkeley California. we backed up the jazz band and played songs like Oh Happy Day and Mercy Mercy Mercy. I didn’t start guitar until I was 10.

What has been your most significant musical experience?

Tough question. For me there is no other thrill better than writing some music and then hearing it played by other people. In High School I had a class with Art Lande where we had to come up with a song or small composition for a group every week. It was the deadline that did it and I ended up writing my first songs.
What is the best advice on pursuing a career in music you were ever given?

Well I was never given much career advice it seems, but I do remember one of my early guitar teachers saying that you should make yourself indispensable in a group situation.

willbernard08-3What is your favorite sound?

If this was the actors studio I would say something like my first born laughter or something. I am going to be boring and just use music. I like the human voice best.

Name some of your biggest non-musical influences.

I like art, film, literature, food, nature. I think art and film are huge influences…I will really want to play or compose after I see some good art. Music will never be as abstract as painting though. Making scores or writing down music on paper seems like the closest sometimes. I like making a visual image that somehow corresponds to music. I used to like to draw for hours while listening to music and it made me think of how shapes, colors and form can be similar in both fields.

What was the most memorable concert you ever attended?

Well when I was young and not as jaded I got something out of nearly every concert I went to. I can’t say which were the most memorable but Top 5 today are probably Led Zeppelin, Prince (before he was famous) Charles Mingus, Elvis Costello and the Carla Bley big band.Tomorrow I will have another top 5 list.

Put your iPod on shuffle and list the first 5 songs that appear

Dr Lonnie Smith “Turning point”
Aphex Twin “To cure a weakling child”
Franco   “Na Basani Yo Te”
Will Bernard  “Nature walk”
Soul Children “Hearsay”

Go see Will live.  He tours constantly.  www.willbernard.com