Today’s Guitar Teaching Note: Turn Off Your Effects

You don’t need reverb, echo, doubling, or any of that. Whatever room you are in, it has it’s own reverb, it’s own sound. Whether you play electric or acoustic, what does your guitar sound like? All the tone you need, it comes out of your fingers. If you practice with reverb or other effects, you wont hear that. Practice dry, add effects only when they are required for the music you’re performing. I make this note only because I see a lot of players who just leave effects on by default. It’s a mistake – you miss out on the real sound of the guitar when you do that. The guitar, by itself, is a beautiful instrument. You can do anything with it. What you can pull out of a guitar is only limited by your imagination. Reach for it. Play a note, and listen to it, in the room you’re in. Amazing things will happen.

That’s all.  Starting a new blog Category with this post – “Guitar Lessons!”

The Quiet Death Of IODA Promonet

IODA-Promonet-RIPMost people don’t know what IODAPromonet is, or was. And I don’t see any news articles about it closing, so I’m making a little post to say goodbye to what was a remarkable resource. IODA (now merged with Orchard) is an online distributor of recordings: they take the music made by independent labels like the one I record for, and feed it out to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other online music retailers and subscription services. Promonet was a site that IODA created, which gave bloggers some tools to easily post and promote music in the IODA catalog. The idea was to encouraged people to discover and promote music in the “Long Tail” – the vast, undiscovered or under-discovered bulk of contemporary recorded music. I used it extensively, posting links to hundreds of records and promotional free mp3s that I found there over the years. Word is that as of today, the site is going dark along with all the content in it. I’ll miss it. But it isn’t a huge surprise. In the evolution of music and commerce in the digital age, there are hundreds of former sites. I’ve been following this stuff since IUMA. What a long strange tail it’s been.

The Strange Saga Of A Ska Monkey And Some Pelicans

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with some fine songwriters over the years, including the unique and completely original Paul Jackson. As a keyboardist, singer and composer in The Uptones, Paul has always pushed the envelope, lyrically and musically. “Bested By Pelicans” is right out of Paul’s head; I just helped bring it to life. I watched the idea grow from the initial moment of inspiration at the beach (all of it really happened, including the cheese-food-stuff!) to the rehearsal where he passed out the parts. After we recorded this, our friend, cartoonist Shannon Wheeler made some images for a lyric sheet, which Paul later animated in this clip. It’s on the Uptones’ Skankin’ Foolz Unite! album which you can buy directly from the band as a CD, or from iTunes if you’d rather get the download.

Public Domain 4U and You and You!

Thanks Aidin Vaziri for spreading the word about Public Domain 4U. Check out today’s post – a free mp3 of Charley Patton’s “Poor Me” recorded in 1934. One mic, one man, his guitar and voice. Oh and a tape recorder! A vast contrast to today’s overwrought and sanitized faux-recordings. Posting at continues to be a labor of love. There’s a lot of great music in the public domain now, and our humble site’s mission is to help you find and enjoy some of the best of it.

Don’t Call Me Bigfoot! Hard Cold Chillin’ With Sasquatch

Now that DNA evidence might prove the existence of “Bigfoot” I would like to point out that we have known this all along, have spoken with Sasquatch, and apart from sharing some fish recipes, I assure you he just wants to be left alone. The Rev. Paul Jackson cooked up some Halibut with the Yeti himself, before writing the lyrics to this song. I played guitar and we recorded it with Stiff Richards for our “Email EP” in 1996. The EP is available at E-Mail - EP - Stiff Richards.  Sasquatch’s last words to us as he slipped into the forest were, “don’t call me Bigfoot.” Here is a documentary account of events, as they really happened.

Buster the Ska Doggie, Immortalized In Pumpkin

A few years ago I asked Jesse Michaels to draw an interpretation of The Uptones’ hat-and-shades logo for our album, “Skankin’ Foolz Unite!” and Jesse sent us this wonderful ska doggie.buster the ska doggie We had a contest to name the pup, and numerous fans sent in the name of “Buster.” Buster also happens to be my cat’s name so it seemed natural that I’d have a Buster Doggie as well. Now Buster is all grow’d up and he turns up in the strangest places. A ska fan in Oregon had a skalloween jack-o-lantern contest, and one of the winners was this brilliant likeness of Buster. So naturally we’re inviting our fans to draw, carve or photoshop their own Buster interpretations, and send them in for a photo album. Deets in my post at
The Many Faces Of Buster the Ska Doggie.

Experience A Psychotic Reaction

I recently started a new band with young singer-guitarist Emily Jayne. Emily had joined The Uptones for the 2010 Warped Tour, and we started writing some songs. Producer Matthew King Kaufman liked the stuff and encouraged us to start a band. I recruited Eric Knight and Pete D’Amato to play bass and drums. Michael Rosen recorded an early show, and the result is “Check Out The Fashion Slaves” – our first CD. You can buy a copy direct from the band at It’s also available at iTunes. Here’s the opening number – our cover of “Psychotic Reaction” – along with some visuals by Emily herself. Hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed playing it.

Ridiculous Ska In Berkeley!

“Ridiculous” is one of my favorite words. It’s also the name of a song on The Uptones’ “Skankin’ Foolz Unite!” album. Here are the lyrics. The trumpet player with goggles in the picture there is our very own “Ska-T” Bertrand. Naturally, he plays his leads on this with a plunger. Read Ska-T’s comments about rocking the ska with the Uptones horn section in this interview with Skanking Fool himself. It’s redonkulous.

It’s Always 4:20 At Seven Pools

Seven Pools was a creekside hideout, one of those spots where kids with long hair and Led Zep or Bob Marley shirts would migrate to on the 20th of April at around 20 minutes after 4. I expect they are there today! Many 4/20’s ago, Stiff Richards recorded this original instrumental number in tribute to that special time and place.

Me on guitar, Bennie Wood on bass, The Rev. Paul Jackson on various keyboards and percussion (plus he wrote and arranged the tune), and Tuan Titlestad on drums. Enjoy responsibly.

Spam Spam Spam! And why we don’t take Akismet for granted!

I try and remember that lovely Louis CK bit where he explained “Everything’s amazing, but nobody’s happy” as part of my everyday rules for living. It’s in that spirit that I’m thanking, in this blog, the authors of all of the pieces that make a WordPress install such an awesome publishing tool.

Which brings us, to Comment Spam! I left Comments enabled on this blog. I NEVER would do that, in the vast hurricanes of Spam that is the Internets, if it weren’t for a stalwart unsung hero of WordPressdom, called Akismet. Akismet obliterates the Comment Spam problem which would make running a discussion-enabled blog a total nightmare. Who are these heroic coders? Ah, they are bloggers, what a surprise! This key piece of the WordPress puzzle was actually written by some of the same folks who created – at a company called Automattic. Their site header says, “We are passionate about making the web a better place.” And their work proves it. Thanks, Automattic!

And here is Monty Python. Because I can.