Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Desi Serna is my Guitar Hero

I started taking guitar lessons when I was a kid. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, perhaps it was when I was in the 6th grade, maybe around 10 or 12 years old. The lessons were in my teacher’s home – his name was Bill - and we closely followed the Alfred guitar books. I do remember that Bill liked to brag about how well I was doing to my mom when she came to pick me up.

But Bill could only take me so far. He taught me the various notes on the guitar and some basic chord structures, but after a while, he wasn’t really teaching me anything new.

My parents set me up with another instructor a little later, but he and I didn’t really connect. So, my formal guitar instruction pretty much ended there. I kept playing over the years, but never really learned about playing the guitar.

I got to where I could play with my friends, but all I was really doing was memorizing songs and notes with no regard to the theory or structure of what I was playing. I knew this was a weakness, but I never attempted to learn those more advanced topics.

After college, I played in a cover band. It was a lot of fun, but I made sure to limit myself to just rhythm guitar, since I didn’t have any clue how to build a solo or riff. My limited knowledge of chords and notes was fine for what I was doing, but it also limited my opportunity to do more with the guitar.

I knew I was missing something. I found an instructor, Joe who played in a band that I enjoyed at the time, but again I just wasn’t getting it. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t interested, or if their style of teaching didn’t connect with me. Either way, I never felt like I learned anything new.

After a while, my guitars were put away, and I didn’t touch a guitar for 10 years.

I’m now 42 years old. That means that I’ve been playing guitar off and on for about 30 years. Wow. 30 years, and I still don’t know what notes to play over a chord progression. Pretty sad.
About a year ago, I picked up my guitar again to jam with some friends from work. I was enjoying playing again, but again felt like I was hitting a wall.

I recently went on a business trip to London. Before I left, I downloaded a bunch of random podcasts - just anything that I found slightly interesting to listen to on the long flight, or when I was taking the train or tube around London.

One day, while on the train from Bracknell to London, I started listening to a podcast series called “Guitar Music Theory.” I started with the first podcast episode, which simply described what guitar theory is, and why it should be learned. I was intrigued.

I listened to the second episode, which explained that the notes are on the 5th and 6th string on a guitar. Of course, this is basic knowledge, and I already knew the notes, but the way this person was describing it made it make more sense. He brought more meaning into why those notes are important to know. And he described it in a way that clicked for me.

The third episode covered the pentatonic scale. I never learned the scale, and never understood its importance. The voice in my ear was opening a whole new world to me. What I liked best was the real song examples he used to demonstrate what he was saying. “Oh! CCR used those notes over those chords to create that sound!” It made so much sense.

The other podcasts followed: Chords, the major scale, chord progressions, modes, etc. I listened to them all, and suddenly had a new hunger to learn.

Of course, the voice in my ear was that of Desi Serna. Mr. Serna is a guitar teacher in Ohio who specializes in teaching music theory for the guitar. The beauty of Mr. Serna’s instruction is how he simplifies it for the guitar fret board. He strips out all of the complicated concepts that don’t matter to a guitarist, and makes all of those theory topics simple to learn. He then reinforces the lesson by providing a long list of popular songs that use whatever concept he is teaching. By applying the theory to real songs, the learning is hammered home.

I visited Mr. Serna’s web site, and eventually purchased his book, Fretboard Theory. I’m working through the book, learning and practicing a little more each day. I’ve told all my guitar playing friends about Mr. Serna, and they too are discovering a whole new world of guitar music.
Below, you will find links to Desi Serna’s various web sites. I highly recommend his books and videos. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen who can explain these seemingly complex topics in a way that makes so much sense for a guitarist.

Thank you, Mr. Serna for making guitar so much fun. I look forward to years of playing on a whole new level.

Mr. Desi Serna
Website: http://Guitar-Music-Theory.com
Blog: http://guitarmusictheory.blogspot.com
YouTube: http://youtube.com/GuitarMusicTheoryTab
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrGuitarTheory
Facebook: http://facebook.com/desi.serna
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/guitarmusictheory
Podcast: Search Desi Serna at iTunes or the Zune Marketplace

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learn Guitar Theory - scales, chords, progressions, modes and more on the fretboard. Music theory for guitar.

I will write a more detailed review of this book in the near future, but for now just know that this book is amazing. It's helped me finally begin to understand guitar theory so now I know why those songs work the way they do. Mr. Serna is a great teacher!

Learn Guitar Theory - scales, chords, progressions, modes and more on the fretboard. Music theory for guitar.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

On Tuesday night at Knucklehead’s Saloon, Roger Clyne literally became a Peacemaker.

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers made their first appearance in KC with new lead guitarist Jim Dalton Tuesday night, to the delight of a sparse crowd on the outdoor stage. The rain threatened throughout the 2 hour show, but never materialized.

In the 90’s Clyne was the front man for the Arizona-based band, the Refreshments, who’s single “Banditos” gave them a modest amount of fame. After a weak sophomore effort, and a record label buyout, the Refreshments broke up. Eventually, Clyne formed the Peacemakers which included Refreshments drummer P.H. Naffah as well as ex-Gin Blossoms guitarist Scott Johnson, ex-Dead Hot Workshop guitarist Steve Larson, and bassist Danny White.

The Peacemakers’ sound is less post-grunge, and more southwest-flavored, pop/country/rock than the Refreshments. Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers have been a completely independent band for 10 years, and though they’ve endured several personnel changes, still boast a small but loyal fan base.

The current lineup still includes Clyne’s longtime friend and partner, P.H. Naffah on drums, but White was replaced by Nick Scropos on bass in 2004. Johnson left the band to rejoin the Gin Blossoms, and earlier this year, Steve Larson was replaced by Jim Dalton on lead guitar.

The quartet pounded out 28 songs, 10 of which were Refreshments songs. The small crowd was enthusiastic from the start, singing along and shouting out at all the appropriate times as if they were at the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Clyne’s energy was projected on the crowd all night. He came to KC with a reputation for putting everything he’s got into every show, and Tuesday was no exception. He accepted shots of tequila as well as requests throughout the night, and constantly thanked and complimented his loyal fans. (“The best rock and roll audience on the planet!”)

A highlight of the show was the popular Refreshments’ song “Mexico,” which featured band friend Jason Boots on trumpet to provide a little mariachi flavor.
Unfortunately, the alcohol was flowing and about two-thirds of the way through the show, a small fight broke out right in front of the stage. Clyne implored the parties to break it up and “make peace.” He then took a request from each side of the scuttle (two Refreshments songs, of course) and played them both, “in no particular order.”

Clyne entered the stage announcing that Tuesday was an “international holiday: Nick Scropos’ birthday.” Later in the show, the band was joking about Scropos’ birthday, when the bassist started playing the bass line from the Pixies’ “Gigantic.” The band joined in and played a somewhat sloppy impromptu cover of the song. “Happy birthday, Nick!”

After over 90 minutes of rocking, the band left the stage briefly and returned for a five-song encore. The encore began with the slow waltz “Green and Dumb” and picked up from there. Even though the show was nearing its end, it felt as if the band was just getting warmed up and could have played a few more hours. They covered Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” and closed the show with the Refreshments’ “Nada.” A fitting close to a long night of peacemaking and celebrating life through rock and roll.

Setlist: I do, Beautiful Disaster, Preacher’s Daughter , Sonoran Hope and Madness, Contraband, Mexico, Mercy, Down Together, West Texas Moon, I Know You Know, Tell Yer Mama, Dolly, Never Thought, Maybe We Should Fall in Love, Wanted, Jack vs Jose, Gigantic, Tributary Otis, Girly, (Fight), Interstate, Mekong, Counterclockwise, Banditos, (Encore), Green and Dumb, Hello New Day, American Girl, Blue Collar Suicide, Nada