music bio

Music Bio

Instruments

Guitar

This has been my primary instrument, and is the one I've played the longest (more than 25 years now). My main instruments are:

  • Steinberger headless strat (GM1T) from the 80's that I picked up used (cheap) in 1994. I love this guitar. It's a tonal chameleon. One active pickup, and a graphite neck that's always straight. Light and small and fast.
  • Ibanez Roland-Ready strat (RG1520GBP) that I use with a GR-33 synth. The guitar stinks, but it gives me synth access. I'm considering a Godin ( Multiac or Glissentar), but haven't taken any action on that yet. I've blocked the Floyd Rose on this guitar, and tweaked it the best I can - but it's still tempermental in alternate tunings - and the frets are sharp and hurt my fingers, and the scale is too long (wide spacing between frets).
  • Guild Acoustic / Electric (F4CE), Concert body with cutaway, circa mid-1990's - picked up used in 2005. I like this guitar a lot. The electronics in it stink, but it plays well, and has a thin body and neck. Holds alternate tunings well and has really nice tone.
  • A Charvel Acoustic / Electric (Model 625) with Cutaway picked up from Musician's Friend in the early 1990's for around $150. This guitar has seen a lot of miles, but still plays really well - especially for slide and in alternate tunings. I've done a little work on it to make it more playable - and of course the cheap electronics in it aren't great, but I've yet to see anyone else playing one, so I'm holding onto it. It's a great guitar to bring to gatherings where a guitar might get swiped, stepped on by a drunk, or in some other way risk getting damaged - the value is just centimental.
  • A really old Kramer Pacer from the 1980's that I used in a number of bands I was in. I's had the electronics gutted, a synth pickup installed (for an older synth system), and the body replaced (yep - it broke, go figure). It's intonation isn't great, but with really heavy guage strings on it it works as a back-up or a slide guitar in a pinch.

Bass

I'm not a bass player in a traditional sense, but for recording I can pull off what I need to get across what I need to.

  • Yamaha 4-string electric bass (low-end model) - plays great.

Mandolin

In my attempt to play all things with strings that I can aquire, I've been messing with the mandolin for a while now and can play with some articulation, anough to have fun with or add spice to a tune. You won't find me sporting a mandolin at a bluegrass jam though, I'm not that committed to the instrument to be that proficient.

  • A pretty nice fender mandolin, entry level model, but nice. No electronics in it though (maybe soon).

Banjo

Banjo has been fun to learn. Again, not that comitted to it, but it helps with thinking and picking drones on guitar as well as jsut getting out of the tome of the guitar and playing something different occasionally.

  • Entry level 5-string banjo - good action, nice tone.

Violin

I've had a violin for several years now, and still can't create any useful sounds with it - maybe one day

  • No Name electric violin (skeleton body) - a very fragile instrument. I don't understand what the hang up is with this instrument, and why these can't have tuners like a guitar. It's painful to tune this thing.

Keyboards

Play by ear mostly, but can pick out a tune or later figure out what I actually played. I've had lot's of synth modules and controllers over the years, now just a controler and a single keyboard

  • Roland Rhodes digital electric piano circa 1993 with 60+ keys. This has weighted wooden keys, and plays really nice. Sounds great too, bought new on a clearance via mail order for under $500. It weighs a ton, so I don't bring it anywhere - just in the studio.

Percussion

This is new obsession. I've been collecting drums for a couple years and have started instruction for Tabla.

  • Mid level Tabla set - this is actually my second set. These sound pretty nice, but not pro quality (nor is my playing at this point).
  • 10" Darbuka with goatskin head - nice sound, needs re-heading
  • 15" REMO Djembe drum (super dyrable) - sounds good
  • Misc smaller drums and stuff

Software

I've been using GarageBand for the mac more than anything else (and I have a few nice packages to choose from) mostly due to the simplicity of it.

Influences (no particular order)

Particular Well-Known Artists:
Joni Mitchell, John McLaughlin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Woodie Guthrie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gilespie, Frank Zappa, Stanley Jordan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, BjÖrk, Carole King, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Elton John, Elvis Costello, King Crimson, Robert Fripp, Nick Drake, Radiohead, The Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart, Jerry Garcia, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Janes Addiction, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Police, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, The Who, Wilco, Billy Bragg, War, SoundGarden, The Doors ...

Styles:
Jazz, Folk, Bluegrass, Afro-pop, Prog Rock, Physcodelic Music, 1960's Rock, Singer-Songwriter genre, Acoustic music, Flamenco

What I'm currently listening to and liking

Frank Black, VAS, White Stripes, Waterboys, Ray LaMontagne, Devandra Banhart, Ryan Adams, Strunz and Farah, Amadou and Mariam, Richard Thompson, Natalie Merchant, StarSailor, Sigur Ros, The Roots, Aimee Mann, Belle and Sebastian, Ben Harper, Ben Folds, Brian Wilson, Damien Rice, David Grey, Drive by Truckers, Fiona Apple, India Arie, Gorillaz, Lucinda Williams, Portishead, Simple Kid ...

What's new in my playing style

Well, about 18 months ago the logical progression of my nomadic style jumping came to head, and I found myself bored. I started playing around with different guitar tunings - partially though learning some Joni Mitchell tunes - and then had the idea that if I could force myself forget what I know about playing guitar by playing in unfamiliar tunings, things might get interesting. So I did just that, I logged a bunch of tunings and retuned often, not focusing on try to adapt what I know to the tuning, but just listening to the tuning, or the capoed variation of it, and building up from there.

What I found was a real joy and excitement for playing, and some interesting side effects of not knowing exactly what I was doing at any given point - a kind of controlled chaos. The tunings I gravitated toward were more of the variety that gave me the ability to drone a tonal center for the composition and explore the melodic aspects that work against the droning. This also spurred a renewed interest in other instruments like the mandolin, slide guitar, banjo, and tabla - applying techniques,modalities, and sensibilities from these instruments to the acoustic guitar.

Fast forward to today, and I'm now working on integrating rhythmic techniques and beat structures into my playing, and using the guitar synth and phrase sampler pedal, with alternate tunings, into my style and technique. I'm at a crossroads, however, in that my main acoustic guitar is not synth capable (and I don't want to attach and external unit to it) - so I'm really interested in getting a feel for some of the alternative instruments available - like the Godin guitars.

In this journey I've also tried to take this technique live with other players, but have only really been successful in collaborating with a couple musicians who have been able/willing to try working with these techniques, and with a pretty wholly improvisational context (just have general agreement on the tonal center, and the starting/recurring phrase - and go from there). Lately, I've rigged up an older laptop I have with music software and and an add-on USB 2.0 card which I'm able to use my M-Audio Fast Track interface with. I'm excited about the possibilities of using this, instead of the Jamman phrase sampler, to layer up these live sessions with more rhythm variations,and tonal variations and seeing where this goes.       


 

....more to come