The Basement, Garage or Woodsheding… the Musical Beginning

Gloria the musical beginning on the turntableGloria the musical beginning… 3 chords for hours with a friend on drums. We were just learning. Hoping to move from chord to chord trying to make it smooth.

That’s what I and thousands of young teens were doing in the late 60’s.

Then we added “For Your Love” by the Yardbirds and just learning key riffs like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”… we would play these over and over.

My first amp was an old hifi amplifier I found at the end of a neighborhood drive way. Then I took an old living room end table (another drive way) and nailed some wood I found on a construction sight to make a speaker cabinet. Guess where I found the speaker!

So with my custom DIY amp, and a friend with real drums, Sister Mary Vincent let us use the convents breeze way to play. What a gas… we played “Steppin’ Stone” by the Monkees for hours!

This song had 4 chords now and easy fingering on a guitar for a beginner.

There was no youtube, no “How to play like (artist of your choice)” DVD’s, no tabs,… just our ears and whatever anyone else would share with you.

If you didn’t learn how to figure things out by ear, watching others and noticing patterns that repeated in certain songs to another… well it was going to be painful to try and play with others.

So how did we get the words to the songs?

Well, if you have 4 band members you play the song and member 1 writes down line 1, member 2 writes line 2, and so on. Once line 5 comes along member 1 writes that, and etc.

Once the record finished we cut and pasted (with glue) on a new piece of paper.

This then was our lyric sheet. (We did not have access to a photo copier either!).

Primitive, but it did the job.


The Focus on Wandering

Wandering with focus on improvising

“They call me the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer
I roam around, around, around…” – Dion

Now Dion was singing about not settling down and always on the move. And when I just want to get the ole digits to loosen/warm up, that’s what I do. Steve Stine refers to it as “meandering” which is basically playing your instrument with no particular true goal than to listen for a gem, surprise or maybe a muse.

It’s a kind of taking a different path and discovering something you might not of thought of or expected.

When I improvise (on my own) I try to do just that… musically look for things while just grooving on an idea (with or without a backing track).

Plus there is the bonus of warming up at the same time.

Here are few ideas you can work with to get you going.

  • Put on the vinyl. In the day when there was no YouTube, guitar mags with note for note transcriptions and song sheets never quite had the right chords, you played to a record! Heck there wasn’t even a rewind or loop feature, so patience was needed. Plus you’ll develop an ear for music…
  • Play to a jam track. You can create your own, download or buy jam tracks. This will tighten your groove which is key to playing with others.
  • Use a looper. This will really teach you to be accurate in your timing, because if you are slightly off… YOU WILL HEAR IT!
  • Play slowly. Most will agree it is harder to play slowly than fast… every note has it’s place and you can focus on your tone, pitch and dynamics.

These are just some of the things I use, and hope it helps you. If you have any ideas you would like to share, comment below.

Have a good one.