Tuesday, September 28, 2010
This "Student Spotlight" is on an up and comer named Blake Sloan. He is 13 years old and is in 8th grade at North Augusta Middle School. He has been playing guitar for around 5-6 years now. He has been taking lessons from me since April 2010. He started playing guitar because he has a brother who got him into it. His brother is a former student of mine named Aaron Sloan who was in a local band called the J man Band. There are several musicians in his family from his brother Aaron to cousins. Blake also plays saxophone and piano. I have had the pleasure of watching Blake really improve in the last two months. He practices regularly and it shows in his playing. I have witnessed his fingers and hands getting faster and stronger and his timbre improve greatly. His favorite band out there is Weezer. His dream concert bill to be a part of would be Metallica opening the show, Weezer in the middle and his band closing it out. He would love for his band to be a nice mix of Metallica and Weezer. If he could get a guitar lesson from any guitar player in history it would be Eddie Van Halen. Why Eddie Van Halen? "Eruption......that's enough said....if someone can create a song like Eruption I would love to know how his mind works" is what Blake's response was. If there was one place in the world he could play a gig at it would be Times Square in New York City. Blake said playing there and being around all those people would be a thrill. Blake's dream guitar would be a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top. I asked Blake where he sees his self musically in 5 years and he told me " Playing in a band regionally around the south east." The most embarrassing song on his ipod is Fur Elise. That's not really that embarrassing, I love that song!!! When Blake gets out of high school he wants to attend the University of South Carolina. He hopes to grow up to be a neurologist. He certainly has the brains and work ethic to be one. I have witnessed how smart he is first hand. He is a bright kid. Blake told me the most important thing he has gotten from lessons so far is a life lesson that if you learn to read music it takes you a long way with other instruments too and that as far as guitar goes finger exercises get you precision and quickness. So here is to you Blake........keep rockin...keep playing.....and keep having fun!!!!
Friday, September 24, 2010
This installment of "The Importance Of" focuses on practicing at standard (440=A) pitch. I'm not talking about band practice or free jamming, I'm talking about when you are going over scales, chords or anything from our lessons. It's important for a variety of reasons. One is that when you hear, say for example, an A note, that you know that it is really an A note. I practiced for years tuned to the tuning i used for my band, 1/2 step down ( low to high- Eb, Ab, Gb,Db, Gb, Bb, Eb), and it made my sense of pitch all whacked out. When i would do my ear training i would always get the note a 1/2 step off!!! Knowing what a note sounds like and being able to tell what it is, is a great tool to have. When you can listen to a song and not have a guitar in your hand and figure it out is awesome!!! I do it alot when i have songs to learn for a fill in gig. Once I started doing all my practicing in standard pitch my ear got nicely fine tuned. When I practiced my scales tuned to 440 I was able to learn solos alot easier. Granted, when I play with my band I still play a 1/2 step down but, I know the note i want to hit that I hear in my head because I know what that note is now!!! So a word to the wise, get yourself a tuner and do all the things I give you to do tuned up to standard pitch!! We have so many tuners at Rock Bottom Music at low prices there is no excuse for you to not be tuned up!!! We have some incredible Seiko tuners, Korg tuners, and the new "snark" and some others i know I am missing. So get a tuner and get to getting that ear and your hands in shape!!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Songwriting is crucial for an original musician. However, when you stop to reflect on the last 50 years not to mention the last 500, it appears as if there is nothing new under the sun that one can do. At what point are we simply just regurgitating what we heard someone else do? I bring this up because I see it all around me and struggle with it myself when contributing to music that my bands write. The other day, I popped in a CD I hadn’t heard in a few years—Dream Theater’s ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ and noticed that the drum intro on the track ‘The Test That Stumped Them All’ was very similar to something I had used as an intro fill for the L.i.E. song ‘Normal Rockswell’ – Of course, my part was in 7/8 while Portnoy was playing alternating 7/8 and 6/8 and he used the snare more … but who cares about the details, right? My idea stemmed from his ide so did I rip him off? At least I can honestly say it wasn’t done consciously.
But that’s just me, and I’m only one person… and that example is fairly innocuous. However, the other day, a friend recommended I check out this band. I did, only to find that the song to which he linked me essentially contained a carbon copy of parts lifted right out of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ and Blink 182’s ‘All The Small Things’ except with bad guitar tone. Granted, said band listed Green Day as a major influence, but I found it hard to believe this band could consider this to be their original music and not only make a music video to go with the song, but they’re also selling it online.
Where do you draw the line? Indeed, there are only so many chords and keys and time signatures available… and we can’t possibly know every phrase from every song ever written. In the age of the Internet, it seems more people have bands than have flown in airplanes. We have what seems to be an exponential rise in the amount of music available and with it, ever more things that are hard to distinguish from anything else you might run across. I try my best to listen to most of the bands that play live in Augusta if I have not heard of them because you never know when you’ll find something really interesting. However, it has long been past the point that I can tell with a modicum of certainty what a band sounds like just by looking at their photo… but now I’m almost to the point that I can guess the average number of single-note chugga-chugga breakdowns per song or whether the singer will sound like Scott Stapp or Aaron Lewis.
John Berret encourage me to put together a show featuring bands that I think exemplify well-crafted music that stands apart from what we might would call ‘run-of-the-mill.’ In doing so, my band mates in Artemia decided to go with a pair of bands that we all really found entertaining in their live show as well as just being extra creative in their artist endeavors. For all intents and purposes though, both bands are instrumental with vocals used sparingly. I thought about how that could be considered “odd,” but then again I always found it odd when others would tell me thought some band was awesome when I couldn’t even hear the vocals over the guitar hiss and distortion… so… why not? Sinister Moustache http://www.sinistermoustache.com/
and Kings of Prussia (asheville nc)http://myspace.com/kingsofprussia
are the two bands in question, and honestly… in 20 years of playing music and seeing bands, I’d put these guys up against anyone in the business and strongly suggest everyone listen to several songs from each group before deciding whether or not you’re ready to move on to the next thing. Both of these bands held my attention the entire time they were on stage the last time I saw each of them, and that is a rarity for most people no matter what. Like every other artist/band out there, these bands are also borrowing ideas, but it is how those ideas are executed that is the salient point here. Genre-crossing is another feature that keeps you on your toes…
The take-away message is pretty simple… originality may not earn you quick popularity as an artist, but at least you won’t end up like this (and I don’t mean very wealthy!!) -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs4tNeGyTyI&feature=related
(You can see Kings of Prussia and Sinister Moustache at Sky City on Friday, October 8 at Sky City with Artemia and The Radar Cinema. You can also see Artemia at Sector 7G with L.i.E., Suns Collide, Roselyn, Rusty Shackleford and Nine Day Descent on Saturday, October 2. Feel free to criticize their songwriting.)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
In this segment of "The Importance Of" we are gonna focus on something very specific......finger exercises. It doesn't matter if its your first day playing or you have been playing for thirty years, they are a huge benefit. The first one I start my students off with is the classic "1,2,3,4," exercise. Its where you start with your first finger on the first fret of your low E string, pluck it, go to your second finger second fret, pluck it, then third finger third fret, pluck it, then fourth finger fourth fret, pluck it. You continue this exercise across every string. Once you have made it across go back to your low E string, move up to the second fret and repeat the process. Do this all the way up your neck to the twelth fret.You want to do this and all exercises evenly and smoothly. Make sure every note is clear. You also need to do this with a metronome. Set the metronome to a speed where every "click" is on your one beat.That means every time you hear a click you are moving to the next string. Nothing will get your hands moving better than proper finger exercises that are done properly. They will get you playing better very quickly and are great for warm ups before a gig , band practice or when you are just jamming in your bedroom. I have my exercise sheet posted here for all to see. Feel free to use them. Just remember to start off slowly. Make sure you do them clean. There is absolutely nothing worse than hearing a sloppy player. These will get you un-sloppy. Everyone starts slow. Dont feel like you have to be all macho and play them at a super speed and sloppy. I cant say it enough...DO THEM CLEAN AND IN TIME!!!! You will eventually get them to a fast speed. Remember to have fun with them and never forget "The Imporatnce of Finger Exercises!"
Friday, September 10, 2010
The Biz with the Buzz: Please to Meet You...
So now that you've reaped the benefits of knowledge handed down from from your best friend, your music instructor, and of course whichever influential music gods have tickled your ears, it's time to get out of that little rehearsal cubicle whether it's your bedroom, a friends garage, or your instructor's room in back of the music store. You and your buds have a band...now all that's left is to take on the world...right? You've seen the movie: kid picks up guitar, plays a show, gets seen, makes a record, and becomes the next biggest thing since that Justin Bieber kid. (OK bad example...if he can make I guess anyone can). Well unfortunately life doesn't always play out like in the movies otherwise, we'd all be rock stars. Not everyone can just sky rocket to the top like the Wonders from the movie "That Thing You Do."
So like I was saying before getting sidetracked - you and your buds have a band...and you're pretty good...getting better everyday but still...pretty good. You're working on getting a gig and excitement is starting to swell for you and your bandmates but slow down...don't forget - first impressions are everything. You can create the biggest hype in the world...but if you can't live up to it...well I'll leave the onstage prep to the pros who write those type of columns here...my job is to talk about the hype...just make sure you're ready for that point before you jump into it. But first impressions in the way you promote yourself is pretty important too. Do you want to step out into the world as the next up and coming band or just a bunch of kids out to make some noise? (Don't answer that, I still like to make noise too!) Your band sounds good, plays good, has all the moves down...now you just have to get your future fans interested in actually coming out to see you play. That starts with how you want to present yourself to the public. Things that will come into play from everything to flyers, posters, promo kits, even how the press presents you. Sure you want to record the next rock classic...but right now, who's gonna buy it outside of your releatives, friends, and slightly significant others?
One thing that irks me is a band that is impossible to get any information on. I can't count how many times I've had to work on an article and have gone to a band's MySpace only to find a confusing bio, a bunch of very badly taken live photos, and a band logo that looks like a page from an ink blot test. Incomplete names of band members doesn't help much either. When you're rich and famous you can do whatever you want...but out of the starting gate...there's nothing more important that getting your point across. Artistic license comes only after people care what you have to say.
So you decide that your next step to getting your band out to the masses is to create a web presence. For young bands this usually means a free site involving MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, etc. or all of the above. When it comes to logo art only MySpace leaves you room to really flex your artistic muscles and there's a reason for that. In the early stages most prospective fans bookers, promotors, venue owners, etc. are only concerned about a few things, the name of the band, the music of the band, a direct visual of the band, a contact, and possibly your story. They could care less about your logo until you're booked and they want to put your posters up then they still probably won't even hardly notice them alongside the many others they have to put up around the venue. You have a name, you're working on music, so how about we work on two things that every promo and press pack, whether in print or digital, should have, a good promo picture and a well written band biography.
Now for a new band a good bio should contain a few very important elements - the members of the band (with correct first and last names please, you do want the lokal paper to write about you don't you?), a short to the point history with a few unique tidbits, good grammar/spelling, and whatever you do please try to avoid any words that sound like they come straight out of a comic book. No one cares that your guitar player might "have the fiery intesity of a young Steve Vai." That may be true but they will either find out via your demo (more on that next time) or if and when you play their venue. Keep in mind, not every venue booker books bands they like or are familiar with. Bobby Booker at Club Rock My Sack Off might not have the first clue who Steve Vai is based on the fact that while he books hard rock, his guilty pleasure listening ipod is filled with tracks by Air Supply and Culture Club. Stick to the basics and remember, keep it short and simple. Oh yeah, and remember to include a contact name and number. Someone who is NOT in the band.
So you have this bio that tells your story and now people are reading it and are interested. Interested enough to ponder "Gee I wonder what these guys look like?" Well seeing how it's always good to make a venue booker or music writer's life easier, you just happened to also send a great photo of the band with your great bio. But what's this? The picture is of the band from a distance in a field or...is that a cemetary? There's four or five guys, I think, but you can barely tell what they look like! The guy working on what couple be great free press via an article of your band to promote an upcoming show loves your bio, wants to maybe talk to the band, but...scraps the article in favor of another band. Why? Because your photo taken at a distance will not reproduce in black and white screen and to top it off, with the smaller size the paper wants to run of your photo, readers will barely be able to make out the band. Sounds far fetched but trust me, the paper is more concerned with a good looking product than your rookie band. They can always find another young band with a cool story yet with a GREAT picture! You might be asking "Stoney? No field of trees? No cemetary? Well how about a brick wall or maybe even the train track bridge that goes over the Savannah River?" Well in response I will say that those are all fine ideas but...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO! This is your first promo picture so let me toss some great rules out for you that will work every time (even well known bands have been known to consistently use these throughout their careers)...
1. Close tight knit shot of your band from the waist or shoulders up.
2. Make sure everyone relatively is dressed like they belong in the same band. (A guy in pink Izod looks odd surrounded by dudes in black leather and spikes)
3. Please try and refrain from wearing shades or baseball caps. Unless you're Hootie and the Blowfish, this just makes you look like the next hobby band.
4. Get someone with a decent camera to take several shots. You're bound to get a good first promo shot without going to Olin Mills.
So there you go...you now have the means to show and tell people about your band...soon you will blister them with your demo...but for now...get to plastering that info on your MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, whatever page...your takeover of the music world has begun...
John "Stoney" Cannon
you can check more about Stoney out at his all things lokal music website at
and check out his lokal musicinternet radio show at
Friday, September 3, 2010
On September 9, 2010 at 7 p.m. at Rock Bottom Music Augusta world class drummer Marc Schulman will be doing a clinic. He is well respected in the rock, pop and jazz communities. Along with being a drummer , he is a classically trained cellist. When he was a teenager he played with the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic. He is currently the drummer for world wide recording artist Pink. He played drums for her " I'm not dead" and "Funhouse" tours. He also plays a little cello for her too. Some of the other bands\artist Mark has played for are Sheryl Crow, Foreigner, Stevie Nicks, Destiny's Child, Billy Idol, Cher (on her Believe and farewell tours), Udo Lidenburg and Eikichi Yazwa, he was Velvet Revolver's drummer when they did Ozzfest ( I was at that Ozzfest!!!) and he was the drummer for 80's hit makers Simple Minds. He got to play the Glastonbury Music Festival for over 200,000 people when he played with Simple Minds!!! That right there is a musicians dream come true!
Marc is an educator as well. He taught at the Los Angeles Music Academy. A guy with this much life experience and worldly knowledge who is an educator has alot to offer up and coming musicians as well as a seasoned musician. Being a drummer and a cello player he will have a lot of insight into how music is put together and what it takes to become a master at both. With the world class players he has [played with he will have wisdom to share that he learned from working with them. Mark will have stories of being on the road all over the world. With him being an educator he will be able to put it into terms we will be able to learn from. He is also music producer trained audio engineer and is part owner of West Triad Recording Studio in Venice California. He will have vast knowledge on how to achieve desired sounds in a studio environment.
So make sure all you students of mine or anyone looking for something cool to go to, or anyone looking to learn something new, get yourself down to Rock Bottom Music , located on the corner of 8th street and Broad street, in downtown Augusta Georgia on Thursday September 9, 2010 at 7 p.m.This is a FREE and ALL AGES EVENT!!!!! Rock Bottom's address is 758 broad street. the number is 706-724-1172 if you need any more info. Stop down and tell me hi!!! I will be there.