David Grissom TrueFire Course and A1 Blues Interview

TrueFire has released a new course featuring one of my favorite guitarists, David Grissom. The course is titled Open Road Guitar and features 60 videos and 222 minutes of content. From the description:

David organized Open Road Guitar into two sections. In the first section, he presents the 25 key concepts and techniques that comprise his signature style: Hand Position, Picking Technique, Hybrid Picking, Hybrid Hammers & Pulls, Double Stops, Soloing with Triads, Vibrato, String Bending, Pedal Steel Style Bends, Pedal Steel Licks in Other Styles, Using the Thumb, Texas Shuffle Feel, Pedal Tones, Using Sus Chords, Rakes, Chord Voicings For Rhythm, Soloing Within Chords, Major Scale Fingerings, Mixolydian Mode, Dorian Mode, Pentatonic Scale Fingerings, Adding Chromatics, Incorporating Open Strings, What Makes A Great Solo and Gear Talk.

In the second section, David guides you through 10 soloing studies where he demonstrates and breaks down solos, which apply all of the key concepts and techniques from the first section: A Funky Vamp, Rolling E Train, Minor Pedal, Texas Shuffle, Taking the A7 Train, The Milk Truck, Slow B Groove, Slow E Groove, Wide Open E and Major All Over. As a special bonus for Grissom fans, David also shows you the “correct” way to play What Passes For Love (worth the price of admission alone!).

In other Grissom news, he was recently interviewed by Mark Wade on his A1 Blues podcast. I’ve followed Grissom’s career for a number of years now, and Mark was able to get a lot of information I hadn’t heard before from Grissom. Most of the interviews I’ve read and heard have focused on his guitar playing, but Mark’s interview focuses more on his music. Very interesting interview, despite a few audio issues.

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Texas Blues Alley

Anthony Stauffer, of StevieSnacks fame, has recently relaunched his site as Texas Blues Alley. If you’ve visited this site before, you probably already know that I’m a big fan of Anthony’s lessons, and it sounds like this new direction will allow him to more easily create lessons that complement his Stevie Ray Vaughan lessons. I’m excited to hear about Anthony’s new direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new lessons he comes up with.

To celebrate the launch of the site, Anthony is giving away a pile of stuff, including pedals, pickups, free lessons, and more. Check out the giveaway page to see a full list of the prizes and to sign up. You have until May 9th to enter.

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Jack Pearson Guitar Academy

Nashville guitarist Jack Pearson is not nearly as well known as he should be. He was a member of the Allman Brothers Band from 1997-1999 and has played with a host of legends, including Vince Gill, Tommy Emmanuel, Earl Scruggs, Lee Roy Parnell, Jimmy Buffett, Keb Mo’, and many more. I had the pleasure of seeing Pearson perform with Double Trouble a few years and really enjoyed it. He really seems to be able to play just about anything.

You can now learn guitar directly from Pearson, as he has just announced the Jack Pearson Guitar Academy:

I love teaching and I’m very excited about this instructional site. Inside you’ll find hundreds of videos that show how I play, how I practice and how I work on all the different techniques it takes to play the variety of styles that I do. For me, music is a never ending learning experience.

As mentioned above, there are hundreds of videos already available, covering many of the styles that Pearson plays, which is considerable. Furthermore, he covers both acoustic and electric playing. Pricing of the Academy is $25/month with a 10% discount ($135) for a six-month subscription and a 15% discount ($255) for an annual subscription.

You can watch Pearson introduce the academy below:

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The Truss Rod

The truss rod is there to do one thing—to keep the neck of your guitar straight and stable, keeping your instrument in tune all the way up its well-aligned neck. It does this job well with ingenious simplicity and efficiency, constantly counteracting the tremendous physical forces that continually conspire to bend, warp and bow the neck, preventing proper intonation.

If you’ve ever wondered about truss rods, Fender has posted some details about the history and functionality of truss rods.

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How To Adjust a Fender Vintage-Style Truss Rod

In this video, Billy Penn, of 300guitars.com, demonstrates how to adjust the truss rod on a Fender vintage-style neck where access to the truss rod is in the heel of the neck:

I’ve been setting up my own guitars for years, and I learned a number of things from watching Billy’s video. For example, I’ve never thought of using a capo to hold the strings in place, nor have I thought of using painter’s tape to hold the neck plate in place. Two pieces of knowledge I put into place last night to set up one of my Teles.

(via Anthony Stauffer)

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Review: Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus

Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and language at NYU, decided in his late 30s to learn how to play the guitar after years of believing he couldn’t do it. He chronicles his journey in his book, Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning.

In the book, Marcus examines how we learn in general as well as how we learn music specifically. He attempts to determine whether an adult can learn music as adeptly as a child. He also attempts to answer the questions of whether talent matters more than practice and whether you can become a great musician by practicing even if you have no talent. Marcus concludes that both are talent and practice are important. One without the other would likely not lead to greatness.

Throughout the book, Marcus weaves a narrative of his journey in between a scientific analysis of learning. He dives deep into the cognitive science involved in our learning processes in an attempt to determine what parts of the brain we use when learning music. I found it interesting that the grey matter in our brain changes as a result of learning new things.

Additionally, he talks to a number of professional musicians to get their insight on the process of learning guitar. For example, he gets to meet and talk with guitarist Tobias Hurwitz at his Day-Jams summer camp, which is a kind of school of rock. Marcus attends in order to write about his experience at the camp, and along the way he learns enough bass to join a band with a group of students. He also spends time with guitarists Pat Metheny and Tom Morello to explore more about how they learned.

All in all, I found Guitar Zero to be an interesting and enjoyable read. At times, it got a little too academic and a little dry, but Marcus’s personal journey and explorations helped offset a bit of the dryness. If you’ve ever been curious about the process of learning music, I think you would enjoy Guitar Zero.

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“I Practice Guitar But I Don’t Get Any Better.”

John Tuggle, in his article on practicing:

In front of the TV with a twinkie in one hand and a Dr Pepper by your side, checking your smartphone for who commented on your recent monumental Facebook post is NOT practicing. Of course this is an exaggeration, but I think similar situations happen to many people.

If you’re serious about getting better, then go in a room by yourself and spend 30 minutes concentrating on becoming a better guitarist. These 30 minutes by yourself will do much more for you than the situation I just described above.

If you think you don’t have enough time to practice, then try not to spend so much time on guitar forums researching the tone differences between different pots. In reality, it’s not going to make that much of a difference. I know a lot of you are busy, but I think time can be found if you are willing to sacrifice some things such as TV time or Internet browsing.

Ouch! Sound familiar? It does to me. In his article, Tuggle offers some good advice on getting out of a rut if you’ve found yourself “practicing” but not getting any better.

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Oz Noy Article About Effects

Speaking of Oz Noy, Darren M. has let me know that Noy has written another blog post for Guitar Player, this one covering how to choose what effects to use.

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd “Never Looking Back” Lesson

Kenny Wayne Shepherd recently recorded a few videos for Total Guitar magazine. In one of the videos, Shepherd gave a lesson about how to play the intro and main riff to “Never Looking Back” from his latest album How I Go:

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Review: Essential Fretboard from StevieSnacks.com

Anthony Stauffer of StevieSnacks.com has been providing free blues guitar lessons in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan since 2007. He started out by providing free lessons on YouTube and later progressed to providing premium guitar lessons that cover a number of specific topics related to playing Texas-style electric blues. For example, his most recently released premium lesson series covers the techniques employed by one of Stevie’s greatest influences, Albert King. Some of Anthony’s other lesson series include Essential Fretboard, Essential Theory, The 5 Essential Blues Boxes, 5 Boxes Essential Licks, Essential Techniques, among others.

A hallmark of each of these lesson series is Anthony’s attention to detail and quality. It’s clear that he has put a lot of time into designing and creating these lessons. I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased a number of lesson DVDs that appear to be nothing more than an artist sitting in a room playing while someone else comes in later to transcribe it with no real thought to how the lessons are laid out. Watching the artist play can be fun, and maybe you can get some licks out of it, but it really doesn’t qualify as instruction, in my opinion. Anthony’s lessons are the opposite of that. They are clearly thought out to cover the topics within each series without a whole lot of unnecessary fluff.

The series I want to focus on in this review is Essential Fretboard. In this series, Anthony provides a roadmap for beginning blues guitarists learning the fretboard. Basically, this series provides a fretboard map that illustrates the essential chords and soloing shapes for playing blues and blues-based music. If you’ve been playing blues-based music for a while, then much of what’s included here will be review; this lesson series is intended for beginning-to-intermediate-level guitarists. However, I think this lesson series includes a lot of great information for those new to playing blues music.

The Essential Fretboard series includes thirteen separate video lessons, broken down as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Building the Fretboard Map
3. E Form Bar Chords
4. A Form Bar Chords
5. Partial G Form Chords
6. The 5 Essential Boxes
7. Backdoor Pattern
8. Sliding Box 1
9. Triangles
10. 7th Chords
11. 9th Chords
12. Shuffle Patterns
13. Putting It All Together

The lessons are, for the most part, delivered in three distinct sections: theoretical illustration, practical demonstration, and exercises. In the beginning of each lesson, Anthony discusses the theoretical application of the concepts, but this doesn’t mean that he introduces a lot of music theory (this is a good thing). After illustrating what the lesson is about, he shows you what he is talking about by demonstrating the concepts on the guitar. He follows this in most lessons with some exercises that you can follow to apply the principles that he has taught in the lesson.

In addition to the video lessons, there are several supplemental materials. Backing tracks are included so that you can play along with the examples. Additionally, Anthony has included PDF files containing tabbed exercises and diagrams of the fretboard.

I really like Anthony’s teaching style. He is thorough enough to cover the concepts that he is teaching, but does not get mired down in the technical details like some other teachers can do. And, because Anthony plays and enjoys the style of music that he’s teaching, you can get a real sense that he’s enjoying himself in the videos, which makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable video.

I’d also like to point out a little something that isn’t necessarily related to the lessons directly, but which I think is almost equally important. You’ve probably seen other online teachers that try to sell you the “secrets of the pros” or some snake oil that will magically make you a better player. I’ve visited those types of sites before, and I always feel like I need a shower afterwards. Anthony doesn’t do that, and I appreciate that. Instead, Anthony’s site is geared simply towards providing information about his lessons and highlighting the latest free lessons. He even provides a flowchart to help you figure out which lesson series is right for you.

Over the years, I’ve taken a number of different types of lessons, including in-person lessons, lessons from books, and video-based lessons. While in-person lessons will give you the most feedback, I’m coming around to really liking video-based lessons. I’m more of a visual learner, and it’s nice to be able to rewind a lesson to revisit a particularly tough section. Fortunately, we live in an age where video-based instruction is as easy as opening up YouTube and typing “guitar lesson.”

Of the myriad online guitar lessons that are available, Anthony’s lessons at StevieSnacks.com are some of my favorite due to his approachable teaching style and well-thought-out lessons. If you’re looking to learn SRV-style blues guitar, I highly recommend Anthony’s lessons. If you’re just getting started with learning blues guitar, then I can specifically recommend Anthony’s Essential Fretboard series. You can view details about the Essential Fretboard series on StevieSnacks.com, as well as view some sample videos to see if the lesson series is right for you.

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