24 Feb 2006 09:13 am
Winter's Last Snow?
I awoke this morning to white rooftops and the sound of my neighbors scraping windshields. I love it when it snows in Seattle, and it happens just a couple times every winter. Last night’s dusting was even more improbable: I heard on the radio that after February 20th, the chances of snow in the city plummet.
Instead, what plummeted was about a half-inch of graupel—little snow pellets, softer than hail, but icy enough to thwart an SUV that tried to climb the hill by my house.
I took a stroll around the neighborhood and discovered this crocus in a neighbor’s garden.
22 Feb 2006 03:26 pm
Mail From Far Away
It’s always fun to get fan mail, especially from somewhere far away. I received the following email this morning, from a guitarist in Wales, that really sparked my imagination. Thanks for writing, Chris!
My name is Christopher Wood, 57yrs and live in Wales, in the Uk. Just come across your site and wanted to congratulate you on the same and to say that your approach to the simple guitar playing folk in this world, who struggle to progress with their music, has inspired me to make that effort and attempt to improve after 30 years of being content with a very mediocre standard of playing, and never practising.
It was my interest in Gordon Lightfoot that brought me to your site. So I hope I may get to play some of his songs at our local folk/singing club. It may also be that at last I will get to grips with ‘tablature’, something I have steered away from all this time!
Anyway, I hope all is well with you all those miles away. Should you ever get to look at a map of the UK, have a look for a place called Aberdaron, in the county of Gwynedd, in North Wales. I live at the end of the Llyn Peninsular in a little village…UWCHMYNYDD…its taken me twelve years to learn that one, being an Englishman in a strong Welsh
All my very best wishes, and thank you for firing up my enthusiasm.
16 Feb 2006 02:22 pm
For the past two months, I’ve been meeting with six students every Thursday night for Jam Workshop, the first group lesson I’ve offered as a guitar teacher. Jam Workshop is a chance for guitarists who know basic open chords to venture up the guitar neck, learning how to play solos, riffs, and alternate chord voicings to such tunes as “Friend of the Devil” by Grateful Dead and “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.
This class has been rewarding in so many ways. For one thing, it’s simply really fun to make music with a big group of people, especially when you’re leading everyone. I heard somewhere that orchestra conductors typically live longer, healthier lives than people in other professions. I believe it.
Returning to group teaching has also been a redemptive experience. For most of my life—ever since I was a sophomore in high school, in fact—I’ve thought that I was born to be a high school English teacher. I had this dream of a classroom full of laughter and enthusiasm, a fountain of creativity. Instead, I discovered that my enthusiasm was crushed under the demands of teaching 150 kids a day. After three years, I quit and cast myself adrift in a future without direction.
Thank goodness I discovered that I wanted to teach guitar. What began as a casual suggestion from one of my bandmates has become a truly life-changing job. But it wasn’t until my second or third Jam Workshop, watching my students talking and laughing as they worked in pairs, that I realized that I had finally created the classroom I had dreamt about in high school.
This spring I’m going to offer the Jam Workshop again, and also a Guitar for Absolute Beginners class. If you’re interested, you can go here to get details.
12 Feb 2006 11:00 am
Customer Service Bluuuues
From the Feb. 6, 2006 New Yorker:
I asked people to post caption ideas—here’s my favorite, from Al Scott:
“The rest of my band has complaints, too, but their car wouldn’t start.”
06 Feb 2006 12:21 am
Poll: You Favorite Lyrics
Some people like lyrics, some like a good melody, and some just like the cars, the cars that go boom.
I love songs that are poetic. Unusual images startle me, strange phrases or ideas help me see different perspectives, and musical language can move me as much as a beautiful melody.
What songs do you think have the best lyrics? Here are a few of my favorites:
For sheer oddity: REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
For fitting a whole novel into a song: Joni Mitchell’s “Song for Sharon”
For being 100% hopeful and 100% sad at the same time: Paul Simon’s “Graceland”
How about you?
Chord Chart Updates
05 Feb 2006 12:24 am
Chord Chart Update
A copious cascade of my cutting-edge chord chart creations…
All American Rejects – Dirty Little Secret
James Blunt – You’re Beautiful – This was the #1 downloaded song on iTunes today. I bet Blunt sings this song to his bank statement.
Citizen Cope – Son’s Gonna Rise
Jonathan Edwards – Sunshine (Go Away Today)
Fountains of Wayne – Baby I’ve Changed
Gladys Knight and the Pips – I Heard it Through the Grapevine – My first experience with a guitar—my mom’s 1952 Martin O-18—was figuring out the signature bass riff to this song on the 6th string (I knew the Creedence Clearwater Revival version, which features the bass playing the riff as an intro). A couple months ago, my friend (and soon-to-be Heartwood Guitar Instruction bass teacher) Brady taught me the verse bass line to the Gladys Knight version, played by Motown legend James Jamerson. It’s been fun to come full circle. Truly a “minute to learn, lifetime to master” song.
Ben Harper – Another Lonely Day
Lyle Lovett – If I Needed You – For years I listened with envy to my friend Justin fingerpick this Townes Van Zandt song. Then last winter, I decided to teach myself fingerpicking, and a few weeks ago I taught this song to a student, a song that for so long seemed beyond my grasp. Fingerpicking has been tough to learn, but it’s so fun that I don’t mind putting a lot of time into practicing. This version is Lyle’s cover of the tune.
Kevin McCue and Bruce Diehl – Borders – My student Gary requested this song. Here’s his story about contacting the songwriter:
I have a story I’ll bore you with about the song “Borders.” I wanted to hear “Rivers of Texas” just to hear how someone else sings it. So I used Alta Vista and went to the first web site I found that had Rivers of Texas on it—Bruce Diehl .
I listened to all the songs he (Bruce Diehl) had on his web site. I really liked Borders and Rivers of Texas, so I sent him an e-mail telling him how much I liked those 2 songs, and did he know their origins? He replied, confirming that “Rivers of Texas” is probably an old cowboy song (traditional) written in the 1880s. Then he said he was flattered that I like Borders. He wrote it. Actually he wrote the melody, and another guy (a childhood friend of his named Kevin McCue) wrote the words. They both e-mailed me, flattered that I like their song.
So I thought that was pretty neat: picking a site out of the blue; sending an e-mail asking about the origins of a song I like; and getting a “glad you like it, I wrote that” reply.
They Might Be Giants – Dr. Worm – One of my favorite bands. This is one of several songs of theirs where they give drummers a hard time. No wonder they used a drum machine for their first few albums.
Uncle Tupelo – Steal the Crumbs
John Williams – Imperial March – A simple tab of the melody to Darth Vader’s theme song, for my youngest student, little Sam. He likes to play it when his parents walk into the room.
Neil Young – Harvest Moon – Included are tabs for all the prominent guitar parts. I teach this song in my Jam Workshop.
Neil Young – Thrasher – I thought I’d heard every great song Young had written, but hadn’t heard Thrasher until a student requested it. What a wonderful gift—Young is one of my favorite songwriters, and after all these years, I can still discover more of his music.
* * *
I’ve also corrected and/or spruced up a bunch of songs:
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
Coldplay – Clocks
Coldplay – Warning Sign
Death Cab for Cutie – Crooked Teeth
Grateful Dead – Friend of the Devil
Grateful Dead – Ripple
Green Day – Good Riddance
Nirvana – All Apologies
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain
Lucinda Williams – 2 Kool 2 Be 4 Gotten (now with mp3′s the main guitar parts)
* * *
Finally, you can find all 320 of my chord charts here.