Blog Archives

Leo Kottke

Blues, Jazz, Folk, Fingerstyle, slide,  syncopation, and much more.  Leo Kottke is a truly innovative and one-off guitarist.  He hasn’t had it easy in his playing career and has had to overcome a number of obstacles along the way.  A partial loss of hearing, and, tendon damage in his right hand resulting in him having to alter his technique.  Leo Kottke is a recognised master of the guitar.

Kottke has focussed on composing and recording instrumental music but has also been known to sing as well.  He has also collaborated with many other artists including.  Chet Atkins, Lyle Lovett, Margo Timmins, Mike Gordon, and Rickie Lee Jones. He has recorded tunes by Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, Carla Bley, Fleetwood Mac, The Byrds, Jorma Kaukonen, Kris Kristofferson, Randall Hylton, and many others.

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Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder is a guitarist, singer, and, songwriter.  He is known for his slide guitar playing in particular and also his interest in traditional American music.

He has collaborated with many musicians, including Larry Blackmon, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Randy Newman, Earl Hines, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart, The Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Pops and Mavis Staples, Flaco Jiménez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Freddy Fender, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Ali Farka Touré. He formed the band Little Village with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, and Jim Keltner.

He has also written and performed on many film soundtracks.  Have a look at 80’s guitar/road movie crossroads to which Ry Cooder provided all the slide guitar parts, terrible film but a great soundtrack.

Throughout his career he has played many different genres of music encompassing folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock, and much more.  To date he is still writing, recording, and putting down some awesome guitar parts.

1.What is music theory

Music theory is the language of music and the study of how music is put together. Having an understanding of music theory is helpful in many ways. For example, when teaching it is much easier & quicker to communicate ideas to a student if the student has a good knowledge of theory. If you play in a band ideas can be passed around and expressed clearly and concisely if the members have good theory knowledge. For lead guitarists theory helps you put the right scale with the right chords. For writers and composers it provides clear direction on chord progressions and melody.

Almost all of the top guitarists today have a good knowledge of theory as well as strong technique. If you want to join them you will need the same.

Music was around a long time before theory came along so it could be said that theory is just a way of writing down and remembering things that sound good. I have come across students who have no musical knowledge what so ever but have written some great music. When we have sat down and analysed what they have written we have found that their music conforms with accepted music theory. The reason for this, I believe, is that we grow up listening to music and are conditioned to hear music in a certain way. Therefore when we write music it conforms to the musical patterns we have grown up listening to. If somebody can write music with no theory knowledge what is the point of learning theory? By learning why your music sounds a certain way theory can help you recreate that sound or avoid it. It should also open up new musical avenues for you to explore.

Finally, music theory will help you gain an insight into how your guitar works. Attempting to jam with other musicians without theory is guesswork usually. Theory gets you straight in and playing something cool which surely is what playing an instrument is about.

Next up:  Lesson 2 – Naming the notes

Andy Mckee


Andy Mckee started playing at age 13 but it was only when his cousin took him to see Preston Reed that he became serious with his guitar playing.  His style involves making use of the guitar as a percussion instrument, whilst playing bass notes with his left hand and melody notes with his right hand amongst other techniques.  Have a look at the video.

Andy Mckee found fame when the video of “Drifting” became a featured video on YouTube and MySpace and achieved over 48 million views.  Head over to his website http://www.andymckee.com for more information on this amazing guitar player.

Jaco Pastorius


Jaco Pastorius is probably the most influential Bass player of all time.  Playing a Fender Jazz with the frets removed Jaco had a unique and instantly recognisable style making use of harmonics, false harmonics, legato, and punchy lines .  Jaco recorded with Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, and, Joni Mitchell amongst others as well as recording his own solo projects.

Jaco had two Grammy Award nominations for his self-titled debut album. He won the readers’ poll for induction into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only four bassists to be so honored (the others being Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, and Ray Brown), and the only electric bassist to receive this distinction.

Andres Segovia

Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain. He is widely considered to be one of the best known and most influential classical guitar personalities of the 20th century, having a considerable influence on later guitarists, particularly because of important guitar works that were dedicated to him by composers such as Federico Moreno Torroba.

Segovia is credited for his modern-romantic repertoire, mainly through works dedicated to him by modern composers, but he also created his own transcriptions of classical works that were originally for other instruments. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive (often instantly recognizable) musical personality in tone, phrasing and style.

Steve Vai

Steve Vai recorded and toured in Zappa’s band for two years, from 1980 to 1982. He began a solo career in 1983, has released eight solo albums and won three Grammy Awards. He has also recorded and toured with Public Image Ltd., Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. Vai has been a regular touring member of the G3 Concert Tour which began in 1996.  One of the greatest ever guitarists with a seemingly total mastery of the instrument and command of music theory and composition.  A great example to other guitar players of the benefits of practice and total dedication Steve Vai is known for his long practice routines including his legendary 10 hour guitar workout.  Also famous for his connections with Ibanez guitars, his Jem series is one of the most sought after and popular signature guitars ever produced.

Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads was most famous for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist on the albums “Blizzard of Oz” and “Diary of a madman”, Ozzy’s first albums since splitting with Black Sabbath.  Randy played guitar for the band “Quiet Riot” before joining Ozzy’s band and was also a dedicated classical guitar player and would seek out classical guitar lessons whilst on tour.  Randy was one of the first “schooled” rock guitarists and had a deep knowledge of music theory, composition, and guitar techniques.  This coupled with his natural musicality combined to make him one of the greatest guitarists ever.  Randy was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982.  In 1987 Ozzy released “Tribute”   a live recording of Ozzy and Randy in concert plus some studio out-takes.  Have a listen to the clip above to hear Randy playing both in a classical style and also some great lead guitar.  The solo at around 2 mins 40 secs is a masterpiece.  Enjoy.

Joe Pass

One of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century Joe Pass was known for his chord melodies, walking bass lines, and, outstanding knowledge of chord inversions and progressions.  New York Magazine said of him, “Joe Pass looks like somebody’s uncle and plays guitar like nobody’s business. He’s called “the world’s greatest” and often compared to Paganini for his virtuosity. There is a certain purity to his sound that makes him stand out easily from other first-rate jazz guitarists”.

Eric Roche

Eric Roche was an awesome guitar player.  Acoustic finger style, tapping, harmonics, slapping, and many other amazing techniques, but most of all some truly beautiful guitar playing.  He also taught at the academy of contemporary music and wrote the brilliant “Acoustic Guitar Bible”, get it.  Eric Roche sadly died in 2005 but his music and influence still live on.  Head over to the official website to find out more about this amazing guitar player.