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iPad App: 50 Blues Guitar Licks

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 9.22.14 PM
I'm always interested in new ways to learn guitar, whether it's playing live in the Red House blues workshop, or using the Metal Method DVDs, the Blues You Can Use books or whatever.  So I was intrigued by a new application I saw on the iPad: 50 Blues Guitar Licks You Must Know.  

This iPad app is from Truefire and it's based on their existing DVD / downloadable course of the same name.  Now, it's been optimized for use on the iPad, showing the tablature as well as onscreen video.  The videos are nicely done featuring instructor Jeff McErlain giving an intro and then demonstrating the lick several times and explaining it in detail.  He also provides a context and a bit of theory to help you understand how the lick might be used.  There's also a rhythm track player, which provides a built in drum/bass pattern for every lick.  While these are not the most exciting jam tracks (and there's no rhythm guitar) they are a good starting point and include the full 12 bar form with turnaround.  

So the app is not perfect: The tab is basically a static view of the music; it's not playing the music the way GuitarPro or Tab Toolkit does.  And I've yet to figure out how to play my guitar through the iPad.  Still, given the iPad form factor it works remarkably well.  The licks include a broad range of basics in the style of BB King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix, Clapton and many more.

I've been tempted to try out some of TrueFire's lessons in the past, but I was never quite sure whether to buy the DVD, the Data DVD, the downloadable version or even which lesson to get.  But this application is a no-brainer.  You get 50 Blues Guitar Licks for just $5.  That's 10c a lick!  Even if you get just 5 licks out of this it's worth it.  Heck, I can't even get a beer for $5 in a blues club, let alone a decent blues music book or DVD.  

In fact, TrueFire is selling the iPad app for less than the regular price of their standalone DVD ($29) or downloadable version ($19).  Admittedly, because the app is tied to the iPad, the content are effectively locked down; you can't move the backing tracks off the iPad into iTunes or the tablature into GuitarPro.  So if you want something more flexible, you may prefer the regular downloadable version.

If you've got an iPad and are wondering  if you can put it to musical use, I highly recommend TrueFire's 50 Blues Guitar Licks You Must Know.   

My Second Gig


A couple of nights ago I had my second live gig with a local Blues Workshop group.  We played at Red House studios in Walnut Creek, where we practice on Monday evenings.  Even though we played on the same stage we rehearse on, I was still way too nervous.  In fact, I was more nervous for this gig than I was for my first gig a few months back.  Maybe because I've not had as much time to practice since taking a new job or maybe because as a second gig my expectations were higher.

The set consisted of ten songs, four of which I played on.  We always have a surplus of guitar players, so we swap in and out of songs as necessary.  I played on the second song of the evening, "Early in the Morning," an old Louis Jordan Rumba.  The room was quite cold and I messed up my timing a bit on that one.  James, the singer (and a superb guitarist), was very gracious and we traded some licks at about 4 minutes into the song, which was fun, despite my nervousness.  We'd never done that before and I think James was trying to make things more interesting.  I wish I'd been able to venture a little bit further out of my comfort zone on that, but I was so afraid I'd screw up that I just stuck with first position Pentatonics.  "Bring Down the Curtain" (JJ Cale) was the next song.  Val, one of the other guitar players sings on this one and he developed a great rock arrangement of the song.  I was off stage for a while and came back up for "Give me One Reason" (Tracy Chapman) which came out quite good, due to some awesome vocals by Lisa.  We finished the evening with the classic "Sweet Home Chicago"(Robert Johnson).  The idea was to get everyone from the workshop up on stage and just have some fun with it.  I had a beer by that point and figured as long as things were noisy and chaotic everything would be ok.  

There's some video below from YouTube.  I'm the guy on the right hand side in the dark shirt. I also included our workshop's version of "Chain of Fools" which I think came out exceptionally well, though I don't play on it.  (And maybe that's why it sounds so good!)

I am sure other guitarists will recognize a certain amount of panic creeping into my playing that caused me to play too many notes or lose the tempo.  Nonetheless, the rest of the band are so good that it's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.  So I'm proud of how we sounded.  

But I also recognize this is a long journey.  I couldn't have played this well on stage a year ago if I dared.  And I know I'll sound better a year from now, especially if I continue playing every week with this group and every day on my own.  But it's still a bit frustrating to feel like I didn't play as well as I could have.  But I guess if I can get another 100 gigs under my belt, then maybe I'll learn to relax more and be more confident.  Either that, or I'll get some liquid courage with a 24 oz tallboy.

Jeff Beck Honors Les Paul with new DVD

The good folks over at Eagle Rock Entertainment will be releasing a DVD and CD of Jeff Beck honoring the late Les Paul, electric guitar inventor and renowned Jazz guitarist. Called the Jeff Beck Rock & Roll Party, the DVD features more than 20 songs recorded at the Iridium Jazz Club where Les Paul played for 14 years before his death in 2009.  It includes many of Les Paul's biggest hits interpreted by guitar god Jeff Beck.  This looks to be an absolute treat.  And it's also loaded with some bonus interviews and footage of Les Paul himself.

Be sure to put this on your wish list.  It's available now for pre-order and will ship February 22nd.  I'll post a full review in the coming weeks.

Six Pack Interview with Jeremy Korn of Groovezoo


Here's an almost six-question interview with the CEO and founder of Groovezoo a new music site for musicians.  Jeremy founded GrooveZoo in 2010 with the mission to increase the ease of creativity for musicians and producers by helping them connect and leverage each other’s strengths. Korn worked in Silicon Valley for companies such as Dolby Laboratories, Apple Computer, and Altera. He owned and operated Akorn Studios in Santa Cruz California for 5 years where he produced over 20 albums and recorded over 100 demos. 

Q. Why did you create GrooveZoo and how is it different from other music sites?
There’s a lot of focus over the past five years on the fact that musicians have been empowered to record their own music with the lowered barrier to entry for Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Sure everyone can afford a DAW, but that moment comes when they sit in front of it ready to create and realize that they don’t have all the knowledge or abilities to actually create something worthwhile. All successful ventures, whether it is a restaurant, legal firm, or musical project requires a team of specialist to make it great. Until now they have limited ways to bring it all together. Sure other sites are trying to do this, but put simply, they’ve missed the mark both from usability and catering to what songwriters, musicians and producers really care-about. At GrooveZoo, we’ve made it easy for them to connect and protect their interests. 

Q. How does GrooveZoo help musicians?
As noted, we help them connect in the fastest and easiest way possible. But there are two other key elements that help musicians. First, we match them to other musicians that are comfortably better than they are. With this in place they can pull each other up. Over time the whole community gets better at what they do. Second, we protect their rights with real contracts. It’s amazing to me that the industry in moving towards Creative Commons when contracts are difficult to put in place. We’ve made it an integral part of joining sessions on our site. After one read through, the musicians know the contract and can sign it over in just a few seconds each. Then when the music is sold through GrooveZoo the money is split and automatically put in each musician’s account. 

Q. Who are some of your favorite local bay area bands?
Wow! There are so many great ones out there it’s hard to choose. I love all kinds of music and my heart is really in the blues, so of course Tommy Castro. Green Day is absolutely amazing and Third Eye Blind is great. Going back a ways there’s Neil Young, The Tubes, Boz Scaggs, Tom Waits, and so many more. There is such a rich history of real down-to-earth music in the Bay Area, it feels just right starting GrooveZoo here. 

Q. Does GrooveZoo integrate with other sites like Twitter and Facebook
This is absolutely on our near-term roadmap. In late January, we will announce some very cool, cutting-edge ways to enable new marketing tools for the artists. Stay tuned. 

Q. How was GrooveZoo built?
Oh man you’ve hit one of my favorite topics! I’m a semi-pro musician and long-time programmer. I’ve been doing both for over 30 years, so I approach both with the same level of hands-on practice and intensity. First of all, we strictly use the LAMP stack with Linux, PHP etc. I’m adamantly against tying our development to a large company’s roadmap and developer model. With the power and maturity of open source technologies, there’s just no reason to put the company at risk by chaining ourselves to someone’s wagon and being taken for a ride in a direction that could, and very likely would, hurt us in the long term.  Also we can create new modules in a matter of weeks in order to meet the market demands and engage in unique ways with partners. Furthermore, we have a cluster of nine servers on the backend segmented to create the fasted queries possible and darn near instant scalability.

Thanks Jeremy.  This sounds like an exciting new venture.  If you haven't been to be sure to check it out!

Blues Legend Gary Moore Dead at 58


Irish rock guitarist Gary Moore died this weekend at 58, in Spain.  Belfast-born Moore first picked up a guitar at the age of eight and began his career in Dublin at the age of 16.  Moore met Phil Lynot in Dublin and had an on-and-off part in Lynot's band Thin Lizzy, playing with them for 4 years including his appearance on their most famous album "Black Rose."  Moore released more than 20 solo albums during his 42 year career, playing with such legends as Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and others.  Moore was noted for his powerful yet soulful style of blues, picking up where players such as Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green left off.

His Best of the Blues is one of his most memorable albums, featuring collaborations with Albert King,  B.B. King  and others.   Here's a link to a live version of Moore playing with BB King on "The Thrill is Gone" on YouTube below.  

Gary Moore was one of the legends of the electric guitar.  His impact on rock and blues cannot be underestimated.  I'm sorry that I never got to see him play live.