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Copyright 2009 Christina M. Guerrero


Why do those soft jazz stations insist on playing the instrumental version of "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess" in the middle of winter, during a snowstorm?


* * * * *
Remember a year ago when I was whining about going to the Metallica concert, and went and enjoyed it, but then a few days later got sidetracked by Dave Mustaine in the documentary "Some Kind of Monster"?

Now it's all about Metallica. And regretting not fully enjoying the concert. After their show a year ago, they turned on the lights and said they'd stick around for a while and answer questions. Guess what I did? I left. Fuuuuuuuuu ....

* * * * *
On a happier note, I can fake my way through all of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." Playing it correctly requires intricate finger-picking, which I could be an expert at, if I hadn't gotten rid of my first acoustic guitar. The good elderly lady who agreed to watch over it is now probably long dead. She sent me a note once: "A gentleman has kindly offered to buy the guitar." I told her to give it to him for free. Fuuuuuuu .... But I'm slowly relearning how to finger-pick.

* * * * *
I think the neighbors had comments one night. I heard two people chatting and one muttered, "Didn't know there would be a concert," but I haven't been asked to keep it down. And it's hard not to. Once I get going on "Pride and Joy" I gotta get to the place where I've stopped memorizing. That "chunka chunk" part is fun to play. Then I tune down to Eb or D and mess with the rhythm section for several Metallica songs, which is irresistible when you've got a cute little amp with "distorted classic stack" and "reverb" options.


Woke up one morning to find myself thinking in music.

Not in words. In chords and notes.

And tabs, too.

I thought about the "buh-duh-ba" part of Pride and Joy, which I'm memorizing in tablature format. Not the "chunka chunk." Got that part down. Now the struggle is with a fast sequence among the second, third and fourth frets of the fourth and fifth strings.

And then I thought about Eddie Van Halen's solo from Michael Jackson's "Beat It," which I've nicknamed "diddley-diddley." It's an unusual series of measures. I've never seen beats like that in a song. There are four beats per measure, but each beat has multiple notes, and some groups are odd numbers. Looks impossible. But I love the way it sounds, and want to learn it.


One of those social things happened.

You know: you're attempting to contribute something intelligent to a conversation, but fail. You then notice others glancing meaningfully at each other or at you. You then feel disappointed and a bit guilty, because maybe you knew when to stop but didn't.

So I was glad to get away, and slink home.

In order to deal with the incident, and get rid of that disappointed/guilty feeling, I inserted earphones into my already concert-damaged ears so I could crank a Metallica concert clip up to the "please render me permanently deaf" setting on my computer.

All I wanted to do was step away for just a bit, in order to put things into perspective and get past the incident..

But everything changed. The music sucked me in, as it sometimes does. But this time, it did not let go.

As a writer, I'm sorry to say that it's difficult to express what happened next with letters and words and sentences.

Because how can I express to you in words ... this world based on sound?


Had one of those marathon practice sessions. I start practicing, and continue doing so until I drop. If I didn't have to pay bills, I'd leave the guitars and the picks and the sheet music all over the floor, go to sleep, wake up, and practice until I drop again. But I usually, and reluctantly, put everything away, have something to eat, relax, get some sleep, take care of my day job, and return to practicing the next day ... if I have time.

* * * * *
Got adventurous and tuned the electric guitar down one half step, so I could play Stevie Ray's songs the way they're supposed to be played. Definitely felt more in tune with the spirit and the tempo of his music. Then I tuned the strings down one half step further, to D, in order to attempt Motley Crue's "Too Young To Fall In Love." I almost went down to C in order to mess with Disturbed's "Inside the Fire," but chickened out.


Just when I thought Stevie Ray couldn't surprise me with anything else, I came across the following in my sheet music for one of his songs: a chord, with three arrows. The first arrow pointed at the fraction 1/4; the second arrow pointed at the fraction 1/2, and the third pointed at the whole number 1.

No way!

You know what that means? You have to push (or "bend") the first string 1/4 of the way to its next highest tone; the second 1/2 of the way; and the third string all the way. Simultaneously.

That makes me sweat just thinking about it. It also makes me want to cry.

On a happier note, I found an online tutorial that explains the first part (some musicians call it "chunka chunk") of "Pride and Joy." Yes!


Concert update:
Paid for one: Swirl, Extreme, Ratt. Loud and fun.
Saw one for free: "CSI" star Gary Sinise with his Lt. Dan Band. He moved close to us while performing and I got a nice pic of him on my cell.

* * * * *
I've been writing more than practicing music, which is good and bad. Good, because I'd like to write for a living. Bad, because it takes away from practice time. However ... now, no matter how much time goes by between practice sessions, my music skills are the same and don't suffer. It's a nice plateau. It probably helps that when I don't have time to practice, that I visualize the music I'm learning, and "play" it from memory. This is a constructive thing to do when I have to wait for long periods of time. I also study sheet music as often as possible.


I checked out the competition recently: the usual suspects who get most of the gigs around town. This was enjoyable because the number one band has an attractive man as its lead singer.

He and his band-mates, and the other bands around town, have nothing to fear. I may never get as far as being even remotely competitive because I'm not practicing enough. As of this post, I'm still working on "Oye Como Va" and can play only portions of the other songs listed on 03/16/09. If forced to do so, I could play "Back in Black" if I substituted rhythm guitar during that blistering, difficult second bridge. But that's it.

I do have a good excuse for being so darn lazy: I'm working on an intermediate draft of a novel, and taking care of other responsibilities when Iím not writing. When it's time to practice guitar, I make a face at the two instruments (that'll help me increase my technical ability, eh?), then exercise, do a few chores and start dinner. Sometimes while dinner is cooking I'll practice. On the days when I'm focused, I'll practice guitar for for several hours. I just need to do that more often.


Not sure what the deal is.

People are getting in touch and asking how I'm doing and what's going on in my life. So I tell them I'm writing a novel, and also studying guitar with the goal of starting a band.

Then, unfortunately, I never hear from them again. It's happened several times since the beginning of 2009.

Ya know, the answer is not going to change!

But ... whatever. Less time spent on e-mails and phone calls and getting together, means more time for me so I can write and study.


A few thoughts:

* * * * *
I'll have to scratch the "lineup" I envisioned for my first band. For a while I thought, "What happens now? I was doing this not only for myself but for these people as well." As they say, the show goes on. It may go on (once I achieve technical proficiency) but with different people. That feels weird. Granted, nothing was started or even agreed to, but it feels odd to think of other people joining me instead of my original choices. Odd ... yet interesting and exciting.

* * * * *
The studying continues. What I find fascinating are the things professional musicians say, that I have experienced or also would say in an interview about my musical endeavors. Things like, "This is how I express myself" or "I just have to play" or "This is what I want to do with my life, and I'm not willing to give it up."

* * * * *
I was studying sheet music and an accompanying magazine article for "Pride and Joy" one day when I realized, with a nagging little horror, that good old Stevie Ray intended for some of the chords to be played with UP strokes. I couldn't believe this. I went online and watched a bunch of people playing a cover of this song. Sure enough, most of them were using up strokes. The song is hard enough: it's played in "shuffle" time which is off-beat; it has single notes alternating with partial chords; and the solos are difficult combinations of what look like sixteenth notes mixed with 128th notes ... that need to be whammied. But I'm not ready to give up yet.


Concert update:
Paid for one: Disturbed. They were incredible. I still feel like that guy in the armchair in the Memorex commercial
Saw one for free: !!!SCORED!!! Disturbed for FREE! (a two-for-one deal paid for by my date the next evening)

* * * * *
So if you want to be a professional musician, it's not just about picking up an instrument and messing around when it feels good. There are other things to consider:

01. When and where to practice and for how long.

02. Maintenance of your instrument.

03. What kind of music do you want to play?

04. What is your signature sound?

05. What type of gear will you use?

06. Join a band? Start a band? Become a session musician? Teach?

07. If you start a band, who will join you? Family and friends who are interested and have potential? Strangers? Professionals you admire?

08. What kind of structure for the band? Sole proprietor? Partnership? Limited partnership? A corporation?

09. Who will write the songs? Everyone? Just one person?

10. What is the goal of the band? A few gigs after day jobs? Full-time work? Regional recognition? National tours? World tours?

11. Of course -- file and pay for the correct business papers, including a business name, business license and advertising; and develop and maintain ledgers, gig logs/records, contracts, bank accounts, and other paperwork.

12. Produce and distribute the band's music independently or through a label? If independently, how will you fund this?

13. Facebook/LinkedIn/Myspace pages. And the band's regular website. Plus a trusted webmaster, if you don't have time to work on the site.

14. Will there be a fan club? Will you run it or hire someone else to run it?

15. And other things: finding a good fit with managers, lawyers, a record label, a webmaster, and countless other employees as the business grows.

Is your mind spinning? Mine is.


I've been banned from playing Guitar Hero (not Guitar World as I recently reported. My brain is definitely on vacation) at one of my siblings' homes because 1. I always get the highest score and 2. After a while I'll promise "Just one more song" but won't let go of the guitar. I think the local Best Buy is getting ready to take action, too, because I'll go in there and mess with the game but I won't buy anything.


Right about now someone is thinking, "Tommy Dorsey and Guns N Roses? What kind of music comes out of THAT combination?"


Now comes the hard part -- learning songs.

I'm advancing slowly, measure by measure, unwilling to stop just because I've got other things to do. I schedule the practice time and study and play, no matter how much I suck.

I'm not learning only a couple of songs. I'm actually learning several. Here's the list:

1. Oye Como Va - Santana (just a few more measures to go -- a few before the last eight measures of the song. I could probably fake my way through them by playing the chords if I had to go onstage right this second).

2. Back In Black - AC/DC (I can play the whole song minus the second bridge. I felt like a wimp until I read somewhere that it's one of the hardest bridges in rock music to master. I'm still practicing this second bridge at roughly 1/4 the pace that Angus Young performs it) .

3. Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots (just started learning this one)

4. Inside the Fire - Disturbed (Conveniently included in one of my older issues of Guitar World)

5. Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan (complicated but I want to be able to play it)

6. The Call of Ktulu - Metallica (difficult; may never play with any degree of competence)

7. Pride and Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughan (slowly but surely; there's hope for this one)

8. Tornado of Souls - Megadeth (looks deceptively simple but is played rapidly and has a couple of challenging solos)


Disturbed did not win the Grammy. Bummer. I say they should have.


I have discovered Garage Band. It's a software program on Mac computers for musicians. I promptly created five cute little tunes. Great way to learn how to write a song.


So almost every other song in Guitar World is in what guitarists call "alternate tuning," meaning the guitar's strings must be tuned either up or down (usually down, and usually to something called "dropped D tuning") so the song can be performed as the composer intended.

So you know what that means.

I have a good excuse to get a new electric guitar, so I can use the current one for alternate tuning, and a brand new state of the art guitar for standard tuning, or maybe vice-versa.

Yeah, right. I wish. It's fun trying to convince myself it's a legitimate reason to spend a few hundred dollars on something I really can't afford right now.


Speaking of the band Disturbed (see entry for 12/11/08) -- the group has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance of "Inside the Fire."

Late January 2009

This hasn't happened in a long time: I was trying to play Stone Temple Pilots' 'Interstate Love Song' after hearing it only a few times, and by reading the sheet music in one of my Guitar World magazines. Suddenly, it all made sense, and I was on "the other side" and playing the song as if I had written it myself. I felt a bit haunted, yet pleased.

So far, I haven't had that kind of luck with "The Call of Ktulu," which continues to kick my butt.

Early to mid-January 2009

I couldn't play for a long time, but since I wasn't physically sick or dead, I really have no excuse except to say that I was upset over a "guy thing." So what happens if the band thing succeeds and I have unexpected obstacles, struggles, heartaches, "guy things," etc.? I just stop playing? Yeah, right. I have even more respect for any musician out there who shows up, night after night, or every few nights, on tour, and performs for a crowd of strangers. The job requires dedication and stamina, which I obviously lack.