Free Christmas Caroling Songbook

Rob's Totally Awesome Christmas Carol SongbookThis past Saturday I attended SMooCH, a fantastic fundraiser concert for Seattle Children's Hospital. Macklemore headlined. Free drinks and food. It was a religious experience.

Well, religious except that I was freeloading. The ticket was a gift from a student, I took advantage of the open bar, and I didn't give a dime.

We're on a tight budget this year, so I'm not kicking myself. All the same, the generosity I saw at the concert made me want to do something to give back this year.

Here's the result: Rob's Totally Awesome Christmas Caroling Songbook. It's free, it's professional-quality, and it'll get you singing with your family and friends quicker than you can say "Wenceslas".

And if you dig the book and can spare a few bucks, please consider donating to Seattle Children's Hospital. You can read more about their Uncompensated Care Fund on the download page.

Go to Songbook Download Page

Thanks, and have a magical Christmas.

Looking for an Awesome Practice System

checklistMusicians and teachers, I need your help.

Have you used a system for tracking guitar practice that really motivated you or your students to stick with it? I’m hoping to integrate a proven tracking system into the online guitar course I’m creating. Plus, it’d be awesome to use something like this with my private students.

I know how to teach students to practice mindfully and develop good muscle memory. And I understand the motivational power of providing performance opportunities for students. What I’m looking for is some kind of checklist, or point system, or game that will help students measure their progress and amplify their sense of accomplishment.

Bonus points if you can point me toward websites that have used a system like this.

Can’t wait to hear your ideas.

We Have A Winner

Congratulations to Wesley for winning the 2013 Summer Cover Competition. Wesley won a $100 gift certificate to Musician’s Friend.

Here’s his incendiary performance of Link Wray’s “Fire and Brimstone” that earned him first place.

You can see the full results and the other competitors (who were also excellent) on the Summer Cover Competition page.

New Chart: “Fires of Edinburgh” by Nick Keir

Cowgate Arch
The Cowgate Arch of George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, 1860
Source: National Galleries of Scotland Commons

Here's a special treat for traditional music buffs: A chart for a gorgeous, epic tour of the history of Edinburgh written by the obscure Scottish songwriter Nick Keir.


"Fires of Edinburgh" by Nick Keir (the first of the two songs)

Transcribing this song was a big task, but immensely rewarding. Almost always there are lyrics available for the songs I chart, but because this is an obscure tune, the lyric-deciphering was up to me. And because I knew nothing about Edinburgh before the project, getting the many place names right required that I dig deep into Wikipedia. I had become a musical archeologist for a day.

What I unearthed brought the song to life: The "trail of gunpowder," for example, refers to the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots' second husband, whose house, located near the catacomb-riddled Cowgate neighborhood pictured above, was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion but who appeared to have been strangled, his body unmarked by the explosion. Discovering these details was a thrilling treasure hunt.

The musicianship and songwriting is top-notch. Keir (who, according to YouTube comments, tragically died recently) was a skilled flatpicker, playing fast, clean arpeggios at the beginning and ending of the song. The melody in this song is lovely, and his voice is clear and honest.

I don't expect I'll ever teach this song again, and I'd be surprised if more than a handful of people will ever use the chart I've posted. But those who do are in for a great adventure.

New Chart: “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John

Elton John

30 Charts in 30 Days continues!

Up next we have a paradox packaged in a bubblegum wrapper: Mr. John is yearning for those golden days of his youth, when he and Susie used to rock to…the song he just wrote.

Careful, Elton–just because no one’s created a black hole while writing a song doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Here’s the chord chart.

New Chart: “June Hymn” by The Decemberists

Decemberists

Here's a chart of "June Hymn" by The Decemberists.

What a gorgeous song. Lovely bass-strum technique on the guitar, the accordion and Wurlitzer interweave elegantly, and the lyrics are lush poetry. Plus, if you're a high school student with your eyes on a competitive college, this song, and really any Decemberists tune, makes for great SAT prep. English major rock stars represent!

Here's the song's vocabulary list. How would you score if you took the test today?

  • heralding
  • bleating
  • reverie
  • arbor
  • garland
  • panoply
  • barony
  • ambling

If you need a study break, check out this video of my student Rahul and his kids performing "June Hymn" with me at a recent Coffee Shop Jam. The beginning of the song's cut off, the footage is shaky, sound is bad--and it's still one of my favorite jam videos.

This is what the Jam is all about: Different generations getting together to share the joy of music.

New Chart: “I Got Stripes” by Johnny Cash

Here's a chord chart for "I Got Stripes," originally written out for my student Wesley, the biggest Cash fan I know. Check out his great strumming in his Coffee Shop Jam performance. Part of what makes that groove sound so good is that he's accenting the 2nd and 4th beats of the measure, called the "backbeat." These are the beats the drummer normally plays on the snare drum. When you're lacking a drummer, and you really want your strumming to chug with momentum, accent the backbeat.

This is a tough strumming skill for beginners to learn. Wesley's ability to do it while strumming at lightspeed is pretty incredible.

New Chart: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by The Beatles

John Lennon
Photo Credit: www.thebeatles.com

I've just posted a chart for the Beatles tune "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away".

Many Beatles songs are deceptively difficult. They may sound simple, but then halfway through the tune, BAM! Key change to C#! Or WHAM! Weird diminished chord invented by Thelonious Monk. Beatles fans who just know cowboy chords have a rougher row to hoe than, say, Bob Dylan fans (though he has some challenging tunes too).

Fmaj7-A_1_diagram

Thankfully, there are a few popular Beatles tunes that everyone can enjoy, and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is one. "But Rob," you might say, "It's got an F chord in it. I've been going to my F chord support group every Tuesday for five months and it hasn't helped."

Well, you can kiss your support group goodbye. The Fmaj7/A, while not perfect, is a perfectly serviceable substitution for the F chord. Sure, it sounds a little jazzy/dissonant. I wouldn't recommend changing all your songs to the key of F just to use it. But especially if the song just lights briefly on the F before gliding on to other, friendlier chords, the Fmaj7/A will hardly be noticed as anything unusual.

Enjoy the song!

New Chart: “In My Life” by The Beatles

rubber-soulHere's a chart for the beloved Beatles tune, "In My Life," often found in the lists of top songs of the last century.

Fun Fact: The baroque harpsichord-sounding solo was composed and performed on piano by the Beatles' producer George Martin. He was unable to play it at full speed, so he recorded it at half-speed and then sped the tape up, so that the result sounds one octave higher. Love those studio shenanigans.

Beginners beware: This song features a Cm, a barre chord. Several common barre chords can be substituted with easier counterparts, but I know of no good substitution for Cm barred at the 3rd fret.

Enjoy.