Happy Christmas

I want to wish a merry Christmas to all my website viewers and students. As my Christmas present to you, here’s a free video lesson (and downloadable chord sheet) for the intro to Brian Setzer’s incredible version of Jingle Bells. If you haven’t checked out the Brian Setzer Orchestra, his Christmas Rocks album is a great place to start. If you want to learn more stuff like this, get in touch!

Anyway, there are some great jazz chords and a killer rock n’ roll lick in this action packed 8 bars, so check it out.



Download the free Jingle Bells chord sheet here

How to become a session guitarist

In last month’s Total Guitar (issue 214, with Zakk Wylde on the cover), I wrote a feature on how to become a session guitarist, called “Gun For Hire.”

I interviewed 5 guys: Luke Potashnick – an in-demand session guitarist, Mike Stevens – probably Britain’s top MD, Sue Carling – a top agent booking session musicians for TV, Cliff Jones – a producer for Polydor and other major labels, and Chris Difford, the legendary Squeeze frontman.

I asked all of them what they look for in a guitarist, and they all had different and insightful answers. Some great tips got left out of the article because of space, so I might try to find time to post them here. Two in particular spring to mind. Mike Stevens mentioned that the Bedford and the Cobden Club are two great places in London to meet touring musicians and MDs (and that you do really have to move to London if you’re serious about this). Cliff Jones suggested that studio producers are looking for guitarists who specialise in a given style, and you should have a dedicated myspace or website for promoting your session skills in that particular style.

Whenever I interview students applying to BIMM, they all say they want to become session musicians. Most people think of a session guitarist as a guy who gets up in the morning, drives to a studio, plays on a Madonna record before lunch, a Michael Jackson record after lunch, and goes home again. Sadly, the days of studio players like that are mostly over. The majority of modern professionals make their money from various income streams: functions gigs, live sessions, studio sessions, theatre shows, teaching, magazine writing, library music, product demonstrations, and whatever other work comes up. That’s why I teach my students (the ones who are aspiring session players, at least) a load of different skills.

Anyway, the article is now online at MusicRadar.com for you to check out. And visit www.bathguitarlessons.com for more info on my lessons.

Vibrato part 2

Most guitarists’ vibrato is too fast. Of course, some guys, like Angus Young and Paul Kossoff, sound cool with a fast vib, but most people sound like a sheep. The way to sort it out is to practise bending the string in time, and in different rhythms. As I demonstrate, in the following video of unparalleled class:

Check out Jonny Scaramanga Guitar Tuition at www.bathguitarlessons.co.uk for more cool stuff. Actually, only a small amount of cool stuff right now, but it’s being revamped, so epic cool stuff coming soon.

Tone

Apologies for the lack of new lessons. I have at least three more lessons written and ready to go, but I haven’t had time to record the video, and now it’s too dark.

So while you’re waiting, I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on guitar tone, because most guitarists have a crap tone and that’s kind of the fault of guitar mags (and I speak as someone who writes reviews for a guitar mag).

The trouble is that when we review a multi-fx unit like the new [I was going to name a specific brand here, but I've chickened out because I want to keep my job] pedal, we have to consider in mind of a) what it’s designed to do, and b) the type of person that might buy it. And budget multi-fx pedals are meant to be a cheap way for new players to get a bunch of fun sounds, find out what the different effects do, and sound good playing on your own in your bedroom. And most budget multi-fx do that reasonably well, so they get positive reviews.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they actually sound horrendous, and will break almost immediately if you subject them to any kind of real gigging. And that swamping your sound in tons of gain and effects at once is great way to guarantee that the drummer will drown you out.

The reason that some guitarists have a rubbish tone is the same reason they sound crap improvising over a 12 bar blues: they’re not listening. They’re not listening to the chord changes when they land on an Eb just as the chord changes to D, and they’re not listening to the sound when they set up their amp. They’re just going, “Well, I like a lot of bass, so I’ll turn the bass control up high, and I don’t like too much mid, so I’ll turn that down.” I often see guitarists do that before they play a note through the amp. Which is crazy, because all amps sound different, and every time you move an amp, the acoustic space changes and it will sound different. I had a Laney AOR50 for a while, and the only place to set the treble control on that thing was zero. Whereas that setting on a MESA/Boogie would sound like it was under a duvet.

And another thing: Don’t set the gain based on how it feels. It’s easy to do that. A certain amount of gain makes the guitar feel different when you’re playing. But guess what? You’re audience can’t feel the guitar, and they don’t care. So go with how it sounds, which is almost always less gain, even for metal. If that makes your licks harder to play, learn to play them better.

And if you want to play better (hey hey, shameless plug time) get in touch with me by visiting Jonny Scaramanga Guitar Tuition or email me or call 07929 911092.

Jonny