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Guitar Musician e-zine     06/14/2006

In This Issue:

  "... I think people overemphasize the importance of gear in their search for tone. Your sound comes from how you pick and dampen the strings, and from your attack as much as anything..."

                                                                                    - Eric Johnson

Some Humor

  A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and
shouted, "Excuse me, Can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41
degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

You must be in Information Technology," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?" "Well," answered the balloonist,
"everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."
The woman responded, "You must be in Management." "I am," replied the balloonist, "how did you know?" "Well," said the woman, "you don't know
where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."


A Lesson For The Learning

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Gibson SG Standard

Over 45 years of rock stardom and still on top

By Chris Graeden

Over 45 years of rock stardom and still on top

The Gibson SG is a Graeden family tradition. I play an SG and so does my father. My dad, who is in his 60s and still playing gigs regularly, actually has two SGs: a Les Paul '61 model that he bought in '61 and now keeps locked away�mainly from me�and a newer SG that he uses for gigs. He also bought me an SG so that I would lay off trying to get him to pass on the '61 to his son. He got tired of telling me, "You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands," or maybe tired of me responding that he could count on my doing exactly that.

From Les Paul reject to icon

The SG didn't get off to the greatest of starts in 1961. It was first presented to the public as the Les Paul design, but Les Paul himself didn't take to it�preferring the original design. In different accounts of this, his reason for not liking the SG was that the devil points seemed too dangerous, that he didn't like the mahogany body without a maple top, and even that he didn't want his wife to get money from the deal in a divorce property settlement. Whatever the reason, Gibson renamed it by '62 as simply the SG (standing for solidbody guitar). As such, it caught fire among rock players, becoming one of the most widely used rock guitars over the four decades since.

It caught on with rockers for a number of reasons. Its body shape was different than anything available at the time and looked rock-style. It was equipped with Gibson humbuckers so it could kick serious butt. It offered a thicker tone than the Fender� guitars of the day and could get loud without the noise. It was way lighter than the Les Paul, so you could move around more easily onstage. Its weight is such that you can play a four- or five-hour gig without it causing your shoulder to go numb, yet it has enough weight that it stays in position even when you are moving all over the place.

Probably the most important factor leading to its widespread use for rock music was its price. It wasn't an inexpensive guitar, but it was much easier on the wallet than a Les Paul. It was a step-up guitar�a quality Gibson�that rockers could afford.

Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar
Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar

Hitting the big time

What really boosts a guitar up to icon status is the people who play it. The SG has been in the hands of many top rockers: Pete Townshend, Toni Iommi, Angus Young, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, Alex Lifeson of Rush, Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynard, Duane Allman�the list could go on all night. Among more contemporary rockers the list includes Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, and many more. With so many top stars wielding SGs over so many years, it's no wonder that the SG has taken on allure. Still, no guitar becomes such a favorite of so many big-name rockers who can afford any guitar (if not get it for free) without having the right stuff. The SG has become standard rock issue by virtue of its tone, feel, and look.

With its mahogany body, set neck, and its pair of Gibson humbuckers (a 490R and 498T), it has the thick, solid tone with a strong bottom end that lets you lay down a heavy crunch that drives with power. Switch to the neck pickup and it becomes capable of sweet lyrical leads. Kick it to the higher-output bridge pickup and it puts an edge on your tone that lets you rip out aggressive riffs with serious sting.

Feel appeal

As far as feel goes, the SG is hard to beat. I've never liked guitars that don't have a contoured upper edge. The beveled edge of the SG body is especially easy on the arm, and because it continues all the way around, it allows your arm to move freely along the upper edge. It also makes the body much lighter than it would be if it weren't sculpted. The fingerboard and neck feel is also great, at least for my tastes. The neck shape on my '80s SG Standard is a bit thicker than on the original models which had an especially thin, flat profile. The binding on the side of the fingerboard gives it a smooth feel, and the neck angle combined with the thin body makes the SG hang at a natural and comfortable position for my left arm.

When the SG first came out, it was a much more distinctive design than it seems today after being so frequently copied. The devil horn cutaways don't appeal to all guitarists, but I like them fine and they are functional, giving free access to the top frets. The SG's simple appointments�neck binding, trapezoid inlays, and chrome hardware�give it just enough flash without making it overly done up. It's an unpretentious look and, despite the urge to make next year's model different from last year's, the SG has remained basically unchanged over time. In a world where styles come and go with each season, it's nice to have some things that remain enduring and constant. The SG is one of those things and, as long as it stays like it is, it will always be a great rock-and-roll guitar.

Features & Specs:

SG Standard features:

  • Double-cutaway beveled mahogany body
  • Set mahogany neck with rounded profile
  • Bound rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays
  • Tune-o-matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece
  • Chrome hardware
  • 490R humbucker in the neck position
  • 498T humbucker in the bridge position
  • 2 volume knobs
  • 2 tone knobs
  • 3-way switch
  • 24-3/4" scale




I Want to Be a Shredder!

Greg Porter, United Kingdom

Q: Can you please help me become a shredder? I've looked into sweep picking, alternate picking, tapping, arpeggio and legato lessons already. Is there any other topics that I should know about, or should I just continue on practicing these topics?

A: You are on the right track to becoming a shredder but there is one prime element that you are missing...SCALES!

To become a great guitarist you must have great knowledge of the Major and Minor scales spanning the entire neck. The four scale types you should know cold are the full Major and Minor scales and the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales.

I recommend you practicing them in patterns of 2�s, 3�s and 4�s. I also highly recommend you using a metronome to gauge your progress, try to increase you speed in small increments and in no time you will be shredding across the neck!

Be patient because this is a gradual process and you are not going to get instant results.

Hope this helps!

Yours in Music,
John McCarthy
Rock House

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Gigging for a Living

By Steve Denyes

Steve Denyes

Once again we excerpt a section from Steve Denyes revealing book entitled Gigging For A Living.

Deborah Liv Johnson is a singer-songwriter based in San Diego, California. Her success as an independent touring act is a testament not only to her music but to her sheer determination to succeed and her commitment to quality in every aspect of her career.

Q: How did you develop such strong business skills?

DLJ: Part of it was observing a business with very high standards. For seven years I worked for an outdoor outfitter called Adventure 16 in the capacity of editor and department manager. They did everything well�advertising, product labeling, customer service, and merchandising. I was surrounded by excellence. And that is what I came to expect of myself and my newly formed record label. I learned to work with designers and printers, how to write a press release, and how to experiment with "guerrilla marketing." Prior to that job, I was fairly clueless about business. Fortunately I landed in the midst of creative people who demanded quality. I learned to expect the best from myself and others.

Q: What types of venues do you play?

DLJ: It really depends. I rarely do bars anymore unless someone wants to pay me a lot of money. I do a mix of college venues, coffeehouses, churches, and house concerts. In the past two years I've been doing a lot of memorial services. Because of my background of growing up as a Lutheran minister's daughter, I feel comfortable in a church setting. It helps when I'm asked to sing for weddings and funerals.

On occasion I am asked to do the special music for a Sunday morning service. Sometimes that's the best gig around. I'll sing two songs at two services, receive an honorarium, and sell CDs. I've sung in churches with attendance as low as 35 people and as high as 8,000. It's always an interesting experience.

Q: What are the house concerts like?

DLJ: House concerts have been going on forever but in the last five or six years they've become really popular all over the United States. Sometimes they're open to the public and sometimes they're private with the host inviting his/her friends. Fees for the artist vary. Usually I suggest that they charge $10 per person. This can change depending on location and whether or not it's a regular concert series with a following. In most cases, the artist gets the majority, if not all, of the door money.

If I've asked someone to host a house concert, I always offer to pay their mailing costs for sending out flyers and providing refreshments, unless the refreshments are more elaborate like beer and wine and heavy hors d'oeuvres. Some folks appreciate the reimbursement and some prefer to pay out of pocket. They consider it their "home entertainment" costs. People who attend house concerts love them because they are so intimate.

The hardest part about doing house concerts is assuring the host that he or she need not fret about the attendance. I usually say, "Hey, if ten people show up, we'll have a good time." It's important to keep things relaxed and enjoyable.

Q: How important is selling CDs to your bottom line?

DLJ: Selling CDs is very important to me. CD sales make up two-thirds of my income. I've had new listeners come up and buy a copy of every CD I've released. They don't even know what I sound like on CD but they're excited and buy a copy of everything.

I accept credit cards at my shows. I believe my sales are much greater because I take plastic. One time I was doing a show in Denver in the midst of a terrible blizzard. There were twenty-five people at the concert and four performers on the bill. I was the only artist that took credit cards. They each sold a couple CDs and I sold $400 worth.

To date, I've sold 35,000 CDs. In the big world that's small potatoes but for an independent artist it's fairly respectable. Unfortunately, most independent artists never sell the first thousand of a given title. My CDs have cost me anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to produce but I've been able to turn a profit on every one. It's a slow process at times but my motto is, "One CD at a time!"

Q: What is the most money you've earned in a year as a musician? What is a typical year like?

DLJ: The most money I ever made was between $50,000 and $60,000. After all the bills are paid, I've had years where I've only made $10,000. It all depends on whether or not I've released a new CD, the amount of touring, and sometimes the state of the economy. If I'm touring really heavily for a couple of weeks and selling a lot of CDs, it's possible for me to make almost 10 grand before expenses and most of that is CD sales. One must manage one's money carefully because it can be a "feast or famine" routine.

Excerpted from Gigging for a Living: Candid Conversations with Independent Working Musicians by Steve Denyes. For more information visit


Brought to you by TAXI: The Independent A&R Vehicle that connects unsigned artists, bands and songwriters with major record labels, publishers, and film & TV music supervisors.

Recommended Listening - A Must For Your Collection!

Paul Manousos, For Better or Worse
By Drew Pearce
Listening to the solo debut from the former frontman of San Francisco Bay Area band Power 13, it�s easy to imagine standing in a roadside juke joint, watching a blue-collar bar band pound out propulsive rockers under the glow of neon beer signs. Produced by Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden), For Better or Worse sometimes echoes the romanticism of pre-Beatles roots rock, and other times sounds like Steve Earle fronting the Rolling Stones. From the Johnny Cash�style freight-train beat of �It�s Only Natural� to the slow-burning balladry of �Is It Ever Gonna Change?,� Manuosos� real strength is his knack for mixing guitar-driven rockers with moodier, dramatically dynamic tunes. On the mid-tempo, John Hiatt�style rocker, �It�s Gonna Be Alright,� Manousos sings,
� . . . on the road of resurrection / there are business-suited clowns / who whitewash democracy to bring the hammer down / . . . Oh, it�s gonna be okay / but how far will I go to get away?� With equal parts sweet hope and bitter doubt, the lyrics scan like an emotional snapshot of our times, even as the music conjures up ghosts of the �60s. Whether the subject is love or politics, though, Manousos belts out every line with unabashed passion. That could be a sign of how far we have come from the irony of the �90s, and it�s a welcome relief to hear that kind of passion fueling a rock record released in 2006. (Shock and Fall Recordings,


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whistle while you work,

Guitar Musician

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