Glenn’s Guitar Clinic Notes (Version 1)

GUITAR CHURCH 2009
Calgary, Alberta Canada
Glenn Kaiser’s Notes

I would like to begin by accenting a couple things some may or may not in a guitar clinic situation.

No matter where are are in ability as a guitarist, as in other things in life, we best play to our strengths, not our weaknesses, we do best to accent what we know rather than what we do not.

I am not a technician. I neither read nor write music or tab. But I can play, write songs, record and do concerts, lead worship and such. Therefore, what I want to do is bring what I know I CAN bring that is good for you to consider on your own journey as a guitarist.

While I want to encourage and not discourage you, it frankly drives me a bit crazy that some of the following is too often left unsaid.

1. TECHNIQUE 2. SKILL 3. SONGS 4. PERFORMANCE 5. PASSION

1. excellent gear and excellent guitar playing technique, knowledge and memorization of scales, of the fretboard, chords, harmonics and the rest is important, even essential. Whether you learn to sight-read musical notation, tablature or not, etc., etc., none of this is an end unto itself though it can be quite helpful on a number of ways.

What am I trying to accent by saying this?

2. Excellent songwriting and passionate, soulful performance -that is, “execution”- are what you must somehow find, get, learn to DO with your
guitar skills whether they are modest or incredible.

The world has lost track, my math skills are too thin to number the wonderful guitarists who cannot write great songs, or who are not humble or wise enough to choose great songs to play. Excellent performance for all it’s difficulty is still easier to come by than are great, memorable songs.

The absolutely winning combination must total 3, not 2, and certainly not 1. Or using A, B and C, they are -in my personal view-:

A) Excellence in guitar skills, B) excellent songs C) performed excellently.

Technique alone will never beat passion and I have often heard brilliant technicians accomplish far less with a hundred notes than an old African-American man blasting a two (not even three) chord song with a piece of junk acoustic or electric guitar and/or a matching trash amp… who played with emotion and artistic integrity.

So these are my opening comments. Any questions so far?

TONE

After what I’ve said, tone is perhaps the most varied and either painful journey a guitarist might take… or one of the most interesting, considered, thought-about and even debated issues whether one plays acoustic, electric, with a pic, finger-style, slide (with glass, steel or other object as a slide) and whatever music style one might work with.

The core issue in tone- and this has often been said by many, is simply that tone begins in your own heart, soul, head and ears. Technically speaking, tone is in your own hands, especially when it comes to acoustic guitar. Of course the wood, sound hole and various pickups affects acoustic guitar tone along with your choice of pic, fingernails or fingers, etc.. From there, when one mics an acoustic other variables such as mic used, mic placement, pickup or pickups, in-guitar or outboard equalizers, p.a. desks -of course all these
affect tone. Other effects such as reverb, etc., added or left out of the signal also shape and affect tone.

When it comes to electric guitar work- be it straight or slide guitar playing, tone fans out somewhat as it does in an acoustic, but I would argue if one were to compare acoustic to electric, the actual kind of wood and body size makes more of a difference in an acoustic than in an electric guitar.

A jumbo Martin well-worn in over many years will likely have a more mellow, full tone than say a newer Taylor. But you’d best listen to both next to each other and have someone else play them so you can hear the tone by sitting in front of them, not above them as one would when one plays.

Electric guitars are largely affected tonally by the sort of wood, especially density and amount of it, next the pickup or pickups, and of course, the amp. Further, when the amp or amps are mic’ed, affects are either added by the guitarist, the p.a. or studio engineer or both, all of this affects tone.

I have found great guitarists always sound like themselves no matter what gear they use. That’s because the tone they seek is largely consistent because it’s in their own head- and one travels with the same head no matter what gear one is using 🙂

From time to time a guitarist will change gear and certainly a Strat isn’t a Les Paul which isn’t a Dobro which isn’t a three-string cigar box guitar! Yet that basic tonal focus continues.

Do you tend to lean towards low-end, high-end or midrange? You will choose instruments and/or amps and such that lean toward what you find appealing tonally. If you love electric guitars and very bright treble you’ll likely end up enjoying Fender Telecasters and often use that single-coil bridge pickup. If you use a Marshall amp you’ll crank up the treble AND the presence controls.

If you lean towards midrange you may gravitate to a Gibson SG and an amp or at least tone settings that move away from the classic Marshall sound- perhaps to an Orange amp and definitely not a Hi Watt which is quite bright.

If you love a full bodied tone with more warmth you’ll end up with a Les Paul or something close to it. You may even move toward a custom amp, or use two amps to warm things up and bring the full lows, mids and yet good high-end to your sound. You’ll choose effects pedals very carefully because they can often really mess up great basic tone.

PRACTICE

There is simply no substitute for practice. I frankly hate rehearsing and love songwriting, creative and spontaneous live playing. These are where I thrive. But in fact as a songwriter and a guy who is comfortable jamming with others, I often learn something new as I search for chords or notes or a way to assemble a musical phrase on the guitar -as- I write. When we as a band arrange a song, when we record rehearsals and play the songs we’re working on back and listen carefully and critique, we consider a different arrangement of a part or two or three. This forces me to learn fresh approaches to my guitar
abilities. But it’s all part of practice because when it’s really good, in my case, you have to memorize -how- you did it. Practice.

Nothing will ever substitute for that.

The beauty of practicing guitar fundamentals and more advanced techniques is that in time, you don’t have to stare at the neck, you don’t have to think so much as execute. You learn enough that you can simply move, create, emote, listen and compliment and interact with the rest of the band. This is when a guitarist begins to fly. This is where the sweat and technique of art brings the pay-off of true artistry. There is a point when you can move beyond thinking so much and simply play (at least sometimes) great guitar! But the boredom of practice and indeed, repetition must take place before you can get there. First learn to swim, then eventually move into the triple-flip off the high-dive!

LISTEN

Unless you never record or never play with other musicians, unless you only do solo gigs, you will need to learn the art of listening. In blues circles we say a person has “big ears”. By that we mean they are really listening, focused, in tune with what the others in the band are playing, when they are or are not playing it. It’s very much like being on a team. In blues and doing a lot of in-the-moment spontaneous playing one must learn to choose the place to play a lot, little, intensely, gently or totally stop playing entirely though the song is still going on.

The worst thing in the world is a space hog- filling up all the space, using all the notes and tricks ad nauseum. It’s frankly, boring for most everyone but the guitarist whose entire world is now all about him or herself. There is no team chemistry possible when there is no team. The magic of a song that moves us (beyond the basic song composition itself) is in the interplay between instruments (and if used, vocalists). It’s about the interplay between the musicians in the group, not about a brilliant guitarist alone no matter how
accomplished they may be.

By the way- this should bring you- if you’re like me- not all that accomplished- HOPE! It really is a group effort, not simply a matter of you, the guitarist, holding everyone’s rapt attention moment-by-moment.

A quick side-track here: songwriting must include taking great care with the arrangement. Arranging the parts of a song often includes leaving holes, starts and stops, bringing an instrument out here and there, or bringing one in at a specific moment for dynamic change. In other words, you may have to arrange a song for the powerful affect of creating space. As you become more aware and thoughtful as a musician you’ll hopefully become more self-controlled and disciplined to leave space where it works best. As is often said, it’s what you don’t play as much as what you do play that counts.

FINDING YOUR “VOICE”

How many styles of guitar-playing are there? How many styles of music are appropriate for guitar? There is nearly no end to it is there?

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your skills, your ability to listen and focus. It may take a short time but it often takes years… yes years… many twists and turns in various music styles and using various guitars and guitar styles to find your own best and most heart-felt musical voice as a guitarist. Hey- what if you end up being a bass player or a brilliant drummer? So what? Enjoy the journey. The journey and discoveries you’ll make is a huge part of the joy of living. Try different styles, see what fits.

Be patient with yourself and have fun! -Glenn

To Win, To Lose

So last weekend the Chicago Bears (NFL) lost to the Packers. It happens!

Earlier that day the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) lost to Philly.

The same weekend the U.S. national soccer team (the Real football) tied 1-1
with Chile in a game I thought they should have won. It was only a “friendly”, a game the coaches focus on player development and to bring them experience. It helps the staff evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

It’s easy to win with grace. Losing with grace and respect is another matter.

Wrestling with pettiness in a local church or ministry, problems on the mission field, within a family, or at work can really seem like a loss.

At times we get discouraged, frustrated or plain angry. It’s true of all nationalities, but Americans truly HATE losing.

Political losses have ripped many a country apart.

Economic losses, illness, the loss of a child, hunger, or basic temptations such as lust or pride have been tearing people apart since the days of Cain and Abel. Nobody wants to hear a “no”. Didn’t get my way. I lost.

But “in everything give thanks for this IS the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. Hmmm. Everything?

At least one clear view from what the Spirit brought via St. Paul is simply that no matter what, including hardship- all of it can and should bring us closer to God. Sometimes (like to Paul 3 times when he asked for God to deliver him of a malady) God Himself apparently says “no”. We had better be careful to check our heart in loss… because it’s likely He is.

The truth is that failing often does more for us than succeeding. Odd truth, but it’s reality in many cases.

Sometimes the lessons come as we go to Him -because nobody and nothing
else seems to bring that deeper sense of comfort and peace we’re seeking.

I’m rarely discouraged, but I find I often fail. I mean with my thoughts, words, actions, and of course with various things I do all the time such as speaking, music-making and so on.

Every message isn’t wonderful or in a rightly critical sense, a job well done. Every song I write, or blog or conversation I have a good one (on my part). Every choice I make isn’t always pleasing to God, nor others, nor even to myself.

Yet in the dark moments of my life, in the fail or seeming fail, I have learned to throw myself at Jesus’ feet in prayer, in searching out His Word in the Bible, by talking and praying with godly friends I trust who will shoot me straight… and sometimes straight at me as I need it 🙂

I’m not always a good loser. But years ago I wrote a phrase in a song lyric with all I’ve written here in mind:

“But when you lose, you win- that’s the way it is
That’s when the love comes down”.

Absolutely so! Thank God for daily grace for the journey, not only the high roads, but the low as well. This is how humility and maturity grow in us. A loss truly can be a genuine win, an advance, a time to learn and not just in theory or concept but in reality. Character is formed by loss.

Don’t get me wrong, losing isn’t fun and the pain is real! Yet God is near to those Who seek Him… win or lose. Sometimes losing accomplishes more good in us than winning.

Keeping a “right heart” toward God either way -is how we win even in a loss.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Cigar Box Guitar (Well, technically, built out of filers)

Gkfilergtr
One of several “found object” guitars I’ve built. Got a couple more
(quite different than this) in various stages of completion or
half-completion, a lot more parts, pickups and etc., waiting for when
I have time. Fun to just mess with. Most are for slide playing, 2, 3
and four stringers. These things all sound different depending on the
build (wood, cookie tins, or in this case old wooden filers that had
been discarded), where and if one cuts holes in the top of the body,
pickups and so forth.

You never know what you have in terms of sound and tone until it’s finished.

So I’m about to record with it on the CCO (Cornerstone Community
Outreach) benefit cd I’m working on. We’re -trying- to get that
project in cd and online form sometime in May. Mostly acoustic blues
but some very raw electrified stuff done mostly by me on instruments
such as this one sprinkled about on this project.

For this recording I’m using the usual fine acoustic guitar and dobro
and harmonicas, but also a trashed Danelectro guitar with original
pickup but also a couple I wired in it… with a bass string and 3
guitar strings (total 4) on it. Different tuning. A fun trip!

The songs are all about the street, poverty, homeless and hungry
people served by our staff at CCO (and thankfully, many around the
world in various shelters such as ours). Mt. 25 stuff.

So… this one’s acoustic (no pickup), a 3 stringer I use a bottleneck
on for slide.

For you muso’s out there, I find I both write and play very
differently (inspired often) when I limit myself to 2, 3 or 4
stringers like this. The tuning and approach to writing changes a
great deal. Fun 🙂

Friend and brilliant harp player Joe Filisko has kindly agreed to play
on a couple tunes on the record too. Yahoo!

Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn

Puppy Studio (Linux) 3.1

Musicians:

Here’s another FINE LInux distro I and others have found helpful in recording and media processing: http://www.livedistro.org/gnulinux/puppy-studio-31

I first send you to Live Distro because they have a few screenshots of Puppy Studio as well as a bit of info. on it. From there follow the directions and you can log into the PS website, download, burn an iso to created a bootable cd or dvd and have a go with this cool distribution. -Glenn

New COOL Linux-based Guitar/Recording Distro

So I headed over to http://www.distrowatch.com today as I about 4 times daily to see what new Linux distributions are there, read reviews and such.

Today in the new distro area they listed GNUGitarINUX which is a fresh, free, downloadable Linux distribution (computer operating system) that contains a lot of very sweet programs. Free. Did I say FREE?? Yep.

For those who don’t already know, I LOVE Linux and use it nearly exclusively for all my computing, sometimes for recording also.

Once you learn how to correctly burn a bootable iso file to a cd (or dvd depending on your own system), load a program (several free ones out there for other operating systems so you don’t have to run Linux first) that will burn that iso file to the cd, you’re nearly there. Next you reboot your machine with your new distro cd in your cd or dvd player which will then load most bootable Linux cd isos (systems in thsi case) right into your computer’s memory.

In other words, it does NOT touch, harm or even use (unless you tell it to) your hard drive. The entire thing runs off the “live cd” or out of your machine’s memory. Cool.

You do whatever you wish with the distro and when you close it down and reboot your computer (taking the cd distro out before rebooting of course) your other operating system (on the hard drive) simply boots up as normal.

Nice.

Anyhow, I’m using this new distro on an Asus 8 gig netbook with 512 megs of ram, and though I didn’t have time to mess with it much, GNUGitarINUX seems very promising indeed.

I have a couple old beater pcs that may have just enough memory and motherboard speed to use this one… and if so I’ll try to install it to the hard drive. Could be fun on an old laptop IF the laptop’s powerful enough. In fact it has a looper program in it… ha… could be fun in a live show too if if if…

Musicians, have a go! And thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Stewardship And Creativity

If you know much about me, you may know I have a heart for keeping old stuff out of landfills.I’m not what most would consider a fully over-the-top environmentally conscious person, but I care a great deal about what I would term biblical stewardship on all levels- including the earth on which we and our grandkids and future generations will live.Not to mention, I’m often quite cheap. I purposely live a bit simpler life than the average American with a view to as much money coming in going into direct ministry to others.I don’t dumpster dive, but I love freebies, garage, yard and junk sales, resale shops and in fact the best computer I’ve ever owned so far I happened to find next to a dumpster on a dry day in the summer. It eventually died, but I got a good year and a half of service out of it… using a sweet version of the Linux operating system (also free) which I’m addicted to and have been for many years… and am using to write this blog now.I’m quite a fan of “found object” musical instruments, and have for some years now hung out lurking at http://www.cigarboxnation.com  as well as built several cigar box guitars.These come in many varieties and at present I’m building one that’s a variation on a couple I’ve seen at that cool site… but not the really hip, modern, “eye-candy” sort… for me the fun is using something that looks a little on the grubby side… but both plays and sounds good, at least to me, for what I want to do with it.Which brings me to an even more important point:At times people may feel useless and basically fit for nothing but a dumpster- but God never sees any of us that way. He sees the potential, not merely what currently -is- but what (we) can be.When someone is tossing an old computer, be it pda, laptop or desktop out… sometimes even an old monitor, guitar, bass, speakers, whatever… I often see potential in it.I’ve known many full-on sinners who have repented, sought hard after Jesus and changed. In fact the Holy Spirit worked such change in them via redemption that now they are actively used by Him as an example of His love and redemption.This is the continual work of God in our lives! No dumpster for your life or mine!Look around, you’ll be amazed- IF you pay attention and are willing to spend the time and work needed- you’ll be blown away by the creative, cool stuff you can make.The Make Magazine site, Mother Earth News online, Instructables, Backwoodsman and many other online sites are loaded with ideas for recycling and re-using stuff. The creativity and fun as well as stewardship rings my bell.In fact this past Christmas I found various stuff I can use while obtaining  other stuff in order to make gifts for Wendi. Old wood became new shelves for her books and storage, and a footstool. Instead of buying a new computer I found a friend willing to sell one just collecting dust. Saved a lot of money and put something to good use while upgrading her from what she had.Sometimes zero money, a bit of time and effort, a few hand tools, sandpaper, glue or epoxy, a few drywall screws later and she smiles 🙂 I like that!We both love Craigslist online, here in Chicago there are loads of free items as well as good cheap stuff when we need this or that. Our dvd player recently gave up the ghost… found one locally via Craigslist for 15 bucks, works perfectly and my grandson is watching a movie on it as I type!So in me and perhaps you (?) are various parts geek, creativity, stewardship of the elements and yes, the pleasure of seeing if I can make something truly useful out of junk.I -was- junk once. Corrosive junk. And that cleaning process, that fixing of various broken and semi-messed up parts is still an ongoing work of the Spirit in my life. But God is faithful.The Lord Who speaks of stewardship to His people is the BEST at stewarding US. IF we will trust and in love, obey Him, it’s amazing what He can do with us in the everyday, even in what we may consider mundane tasks.Some of the coolest music costs next to nothing in terms of making instruments that work. Some of the best Web and editing work can be done on what most people would simply toss into a landfill. And speaking of LInux (if one is willing to accept the learning curve as with anything else) operating systems, even free (and virus-free) computing.The same principle applies to people whom many of us (myself included at times…) would rather just ignore, forget about or toss.There IS a time to finally separate ourselves from stuff that seems truly un-redeemable. But I think we are typically too ready to throw money we don’t have (or would be better off spending in other ways) into new stuff that has all too short of a useful life.I also think we are often too ready to separate from broken people, deeming them less valuable than God does.Over two day’s time I found enough stuff to build 3 cigar box guitars (a 2 stringer, another one with a bass string and 2 guitar strings and a third with 1 bass and 3 guitar strings on it).I wonder what I’ll find tomorrow?Jesus is all about leaving the 99 to seek and save the 1 that was lost.Some things to think about.Grace- and thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

January 17, 2011 Update

LOTS of Misc. News:It’s been a while since I did more than send up a Tweet to my various sites, so here goes!First, Happy New Year to all!I truly read all my email, Facebook, Twitter and etc. posts. I don’t do text messaging and only do Skype with a very few people. Why? Sheer volume. I’m blessed with a lot of communication but sometimes it’s all I can do to read, pray, then reply to X amount of you- sorry to say but it’s true. THANK YOU for your kind words, occasional criticism and straight talk. I love it and benefit from all of it, truly.Most of all, thanks to those of you who seek (and walk with) the one true God!Many thanks for prayers for Wendi and I, she had quite the cold (still has a bit of a cough but much better now) and is feeling much better.I have done my best to care for her, get her to Dr. appts., pick up meds. and be somewhat of a nurse.Meanwhile I led worship several times in a row here at JPUSA recently, been working on demos for a couple projects, attended pastors, Project 12 staff and Grrr Records booking meetings, a West Coast tour is shaping up, as well as a recording project I’ll likely begin this next week.That project is a benefit cd (and I’ll be doing touring off and on to support it and JPUSA’s Cornerstone Community Outreach) tp help CCO financially and to also gain more prayer support as well as awareness of our shelter work, the excellent staff and various programs that CCO runs here in inner-city Chicago.I’m also contributing some songs to a new JPUSA worship project (no set time to release this, Grrr Records will publicize it when it’s finished and shipping) and I also have another possible acoustic blues project in mind. More on that if and when we decide to do it.Glenn Kaiser Band (electric blues/rock) is doing a few shows this year but due to Ed Bialach (GKB drummer) working hard in the director’s chair at Grrr Records while Tom Cameron oversees our Wilson Building Project, and Roy Montroy’s (GKB bass player) daughter Arwyn dealing with health issues that take her in and out of hospital, I am doing a great many solo shows.Another issue is that when the CCO project is finished, we are going after a lot more metro Chicago coffeehouse/club dates where I’ll bring acoustic blues with the CCO street-feel blues songs and to get that cd out where it needs to go.I’ve been more and more interested in doing cigar box guitar (and the like) building, writing songs around such instruments, doing more harmonica playing and maybe even stompboard/one-man-band sort of things. We shall see… and likely hear :)So rehearsing, going over a lot of fresh songs/lyrics I’ve written and praying about all of these things have taken a great deal of my time of late.REZ Band is doing a one-off full electric set at our Cornerstone Festival this summer and at some point we’ll need to plan the set, and hit rehearsals for that particular show.My youngest daughter (Ami Moss) and husband Brian are about to be blessed with their first child (Wendi and my fourth grandson) the end of March as well… so many wonderful things going on in our lives!My cell phone finally died and Grrr surprised me with a (yahoo… it’s a Linux-based Android) smartphone that is a rocker in terms of apps… and I now have about 20 fresh podcasts ready to post and will begin occasional vod (or vid) casts and upload these as I find time… so you can see there is a lot on the plate around here!I also just confirmed a Daytona Bike Week (Daytona Beach, Florida) with old friend Larry Howard where I’ll jam a bit with him, have his band back me on a few sets, sit in with others as well as do some solo acoustic blues sets. I’m really looking forward to that week in March too.I’ve taken a lot of pics with my new phone too… little by little I’ll post and upload a bunch of photos, audio and video… thanks for your patience, prayers and for stopping by. Just wanted you to know what I’m up to :)As for times, dates and all the rest: I will send all that info. up on Twitter, Facebook, here in WordPress and perhaps via my Posterous site.I’m still undecided but -may- shift everything here in WordPress to my Posterous site and if so, that’d become my main (along with Twitter and Facebook) website for blogs, updates and etc.. Again, IF I decide to do that I’ll let you know and glennkaiser.com will be fully directed to my main site.Grace to ya. And as my Dad used to say, “Keep the wheels down”… as in… “drive safely and not crazy”.-Glenn