How it all started   Leave a comment

I got to play guitar through my schoolfriend Maarten at my twelfth year. We had been co-operating musicians with me on harmonica and him on drums in the preceding years. His drumkit was self-built, out of a selection of toy drums mounted on a little black cabinet with two toy cymbals.

I, on the other hand, had recently got this fully professional Hohner Larry Adler 16 chromatic harmonica from my parents, around my tenth birthday. I had started playing harmonica after I had become fascinated by that instrument when my father played Oh Susanna on a yellow plastic toy harmonica we had lying around. I got a slightly more serious diatonic harmonica at the age of seven, then a Hohner Chromatic 10, that at some point got its E missing, and then the Larry Adler Professional 16. It cost 50 guilders then, which was a substantial amount of money in the early 1970’s, and to my astonishment these things cost somewhere between 200 and 400 euros nowadays.

Soon after, Maarten started playing guitar on this ancient maroon sunburst Spanish guitar that was somehow in his family, and within only a few months, only MONTHS, played Mauro Giuliani’s Arpeggio at a speed that most guitar students at that age never reach.

I recorded it myself several years ago, as a reminder to the guitar piece that got me to play guitar:

I was so impressed, I never knew such a thing was possible on guitar at all. Until then I had thought of guitars as instruments to accompany boring, whiny love songs, sung by long-haired geeks, trying to attract girls with it (which they infuriatingly – unlike me – did).

I can’t play this piece anymore nowadays, due to my focal dystonia in my right hand. Fortunately, there is something called flatpicking though, and when listening to people like Stochelo Rosenberg, expression with ‘just’ a pick is possible on acoustic guitar as well.  I won’t be deterred, I’ll make my musical point nevertheless, even though I’d still like my fingers to work again as they used to. Sometimes I have dreams of playing guitar with my right-hand fingers again.

In the early nineties I was looking to make a musical step ahead, I felt I had hit a wall that I couldn’t get around or over by myself. I called Maarten, if he knew a teacher in the vicinity who could help me. He would know, having been a teacher of modern guitar at the prestigious Amsterdam Music College for several years by now. And he did. He got me in contact with Johan Smeets, a student of his who had just graduated at that same college, and was into exactly the kind of music I was into as well then. He had a symphonic rock background and was now into fusion, as I was back then. So now I was going to be taught by someone who himself had been taught by my friend of old.

He caused me to make a major step forward. I had never watched a guitarist of that level close up, and I remember leaving every session thoroughly motivated and inspired. Even if I didn’t do the exercises as dilligently as I should have, the amount I did do still made a big difference. I learned to hear and play more things than before.

I mostly practice by having to record something perfectly, I always had problems just practicing in a vacuum. But still, his lessons moved me ahead in a big way. A very important lesson he taught me is that practicing isn’t fun. You just have to decide “Do I want to be able to to this? If so, put in the necessary amount of unpleasant hours”

Before that, I thought that me not liking practicing was a sign of not really being motivated. I still have problems with practicing, but with recording I will go on forever, because there is that instant gratification for the perfect take. It’s mostly the four-track cassette recorder and hard disk recording that made me the musician I am today. There’s nothing as merciless as a recording of yourself, and you will either stop playing or improve it.

I’ll keep on recording for now.

Posted 01/10/2016 by L in Blog

Aria Diamond bass guitar   Leave a comment

Aria Diamond bassThe Aria Diamond series bass guitar I bought together with my brother somewhere in 1988 for around 800 guilders (325 Euros, with inflation taken into consideration that would nowadays mean a 500 euro bass, so a decent mid-priced bass), because we wanted to make our own completely arranged recordings.

I had also bought a Yamaha MT-100 4-track cassette recorder and a second hand Roland TR-707 drumcomputer. My brother had got a Roland D-10 synthesizer and Cakewalk sequencing software on his IBM XT (or AT?) clone computer. It has been one of the episodes in my musical life when my playing improved dramatically, just by recording myself over and over.

Years later I bought the other half of this bass from my brother as well.

It’s quite a basic design when it comes to looks, but it does have quite an extensive electronic scheme making several kinds of sounds possible. It has volume knobs for the pair of neck pickups and then one for the bridge pickup. Also, it has a balance knob for mixing the pickups, and a tone knob (which I typically never use).

This enables you to get your own preferred balance of deep, heavy lows from the neck pickups and sounds that pack a bit more of an attack from the bridge pickup.

It’s not a high end bass, but typically for Japanese-built Arias of the 1980’s of very decent quality nevertheless.

Posted 29/11/2015 by L in My guitars

Hey, we musicians like music for the same reasons as you do!   Leave a comment

I’ve found non-musicians frequently thinking of musicians, and especially of musicians like me who have been/still are into kind of complex kinds of music sometimes, that they can only listen in an analyzing way to music, figuring out what the musicians (and in my case especially the guitarist) are doing and how they are doing it, and what the chord progressions are and so on.

Well, here’s news for you: I don’t listen like that at all to music, unless I purposely have to do so (like when I have to figure out a song that I have to play myself in a band or for a recording).

Sometimes, music hits you – and yes, me too – so hard that it hurts. Hurts in a good way, though. It seems to release all these sad or bad things you have been bottling up inside, and then this one song or composition seems to say all that you have been wanting to say for so long but couldn’t. I suppose it was all summarized in that in that famous line by the Beatles: “…take a sad song and make it better”.

So yes, that’s how we musicians, or at least me, listen as well.

This one by Beth Hart  hit home, the other day (yes I know, my rant about YouTube, but this one doesn’t have any ads):

Posted 18/05/2014 by L in Blog

Tagged with , , , , ,

YouTube, copyrights and ads   Leave a comment

So, YouTube is this platform on which originally you were supposed to post your own videos. That’s why it was called YOUtube, it was supposed to be about YOU. However, pretty much instantly this developed into posting other people’s videos, because most people concluded, quite rightly, that their videos weren’t what people were looking for on the internet. Having said that, I applaud everyone who continues to post their own material, succesful or not.

If the creator of the video notices that someone posted his or her video and claims its copyrights, the video gets removed.

But if the creator doesn’t, I notice that nowadays virtually any video involving a well-known person or celebrity has an ad preceding it. Which will pay money to some internet lowlife, and I suppose YouTube/Google, neither of whom accomplished anything related to the video apart from uploading it.

Not agreeing with traditional copyrights and just wanting to share these things is one thing, and something that you might want to discuss. There may be different models for getting paid for what you publish, and partly the free availability of some things actually attracts new customers.

But wanting to make money of other people’s accomplishments effortlessly is wrong however you look at it.

Posted 11/03/2014 by L in Blog

Tagged with ,

Caribbean Holiday

To purchase and download this royalty free recording click HERE

Light and upbeat Latin tune, featuring Spanish guitars with percussion and electric bass. Makes you think of a nice, relaxed evening at a Caribbean beach.

Concierto de Aranjuez   Leave a comment

The adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) by Joaquín Rodrigo must be one of the most archetypical guitar concerts there are. If you play the first three guitar notes of the adagio, many people will know they have heard it somewhere, if perhaps not quite sure where. Or at least recognize it as a kind of template for Spanish guitar music.

It’s only three notes, two of which are the same ones by the way, but played with the right timing it immediately sounds very Spanish. Rhythm and timing often define musical styles more so than melody and harmony anyway.

Underneath you’ll find two performances of it. It has been played by scores of classical guitar players, and John Williams is one of the very best of them:

However, this classical Spanish guitar music is so heavily based in flamenco that to me it actually sounds better when played by a real flamenco player.

Like Paco de Lucia.

Mind you, Paco de Lucia didn’t read notes, so he must have figured it out and memorized it by ear:

Paco de Lucia’s tone is sharper, more aggressive. Definitely not your music college polished tone (which in itself has its charms, mind you). And that is the quintessential Spanish guitar tone, I feel. No disrespect meant to John Williams, of course. The man has a musical and technical flexibility matched by only very few, if anyone. But with this particular piece, I prefer the rawness of flamenco to classical refinement.

Still, John Williams sounds brilliant as well, and he, more than many others, does sound and appears like someone who really plays the music, as opposed to be reproducing stuff from music scores.

Andres Segovia   Leave a comment

The first recordings of Andres Segovia I was confronted with were made when he already was in his late seventies. It’s only when you hear him performing at a much younger age (still 56, mind you) that you understand how stunning he must have been in his time, playing all this music on classic guitar that no one ever before played on it:

Posted 01/03/2014 by L in Blog

Tagged with , , ,