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Copyright 2010 Christina M. Guerrero


I've been improving my performance of "Pride and Joy" and assorted Stevie Ray songs; and have recovered a talent I had as a child and teenager -- the ability to play by ear. After the formal part of practicing, it's fun to get my MP3 player and switch it to "shuffle" and play along with what pops up, by only listening to the music and sounding it out on the guitar.


I had a rule for a while: No extra sheet music, other than Guitar World, until I finished the Acoustic Guitar Primer.

By the time I finished the primer, all I wanted to learn was "Lenny" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Of course, even though it's a ballad, it's just as tough as "Pride and Joy." The first part has some finger picking; most of the song has intricate slides, including its main melody; and the end has a mixture of just about everything. I love it!


Creative people eventually have to decide: pursue creative endeavors full-time or part-time?

I'm dealing with that right now.

* * * * *
I can now play "Oye Como Va" from beginning to end without feeling self-conscious, with few mistakes, and with a bit of improvisation when I hit the wrong note.

Ditto for "Cold Shot" but for now I'm playing a simplified version of the short solo.

Still working on "Pride and Joy." Someone referred to it as "tough as nails" and that would be correct. It kicks my butt daily.

Ready to write my own songs but not sure how to categorize them other than "instrumental hard rock."


Warning: I steal guitar picks. Found one in the foyer of an apartment building; found another on the sidewalk; almost stole one from an innocent child at a concert a few years ago, when a guitar player tossed some into the crowd, but when the child and I looked at each other, wondering who'd reach it first, I decided to hold back. The 11-year-old boy would've been more thrilled than I. Well, maybe a bit more.

Almost on the same subject: You want to know what feels weird?

Meeting Oates. Without Hall.

Yeah, that Oates.

It was quite odd. I kept glancing around, thinking Hall might show up. But no. It was Oates by himself. Nice guy; I'm not complaining. But still ... they were the soundtrack to my life in the early 80's. A little bit of Hall would have been nice, too.

So ... the guitar pick I found in the foyer had "Live from Daryl's House" on the front and his signature on the back.

So there was a little bit of Hall ... roughly a year after I unexpectedly met Oates.


In "Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught In The Crossfire" by Joe Nick Patoski and Bill Crawford, a biography, the authors include an interesting incident -- SRV had a job; he had an accident on the job; he decided to quit and devote his time to music.

When I first read that scene I thought, "I could never do that." And then, "Wonder how much of that is true?"

Now, a few years later, I'm thinking, "Could totally do that," and "I believe it."


Attempted to play along to "Oye Como Va" a few weeks ago, and almost every day since then. Still have a few things to perfect. Santana loves those hammer-ons, slides and bends; without all of them, the song sounds a bit different.

* * * * *
Texas blues; Chicago blues; country; hard rock: interested in writing and performing songs in these genres.

* * * * *
Started researching the business and financial aspects of music as a career. The first book got complicated really fast, moving from the basics to the details of management and marketing in only a few chapters. It's what I thought, only more so.

* * * * *
The parakeets are listening. They'll chirp happily to my warm-up exercises, and the simple songs I play before the complicated stuff, and continue chirping to Santana and SRV. When I introduce new stuff, they get silent, lean forward, look for me and tilt their heads sideways a few times.


For a while, "Pride and Joy" was inspiring me to pull out my hair. Then I decided it was time to learn it the way I learned "Oye Como Va" -- by switching between playing sections and playing it all the way through, no matter how terrible it sounds. So far, it's been a good plan.

* * * * *
Decided to break out of the rest of the box and learn new things because some of the songs from my list of 03/16/09 are a bit too advanced right now, and will require more technical ability. With that in mind, I pulled out a fairly easy version of Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" a few weeks ago and have been working on that, along with Stevie Ray's "Cold Shot."

* * * * *
Of course, there are the formal parts of each practice session: tuning, warm-up, studying and using proper posture and technique, music theory (took two classes in college so it's not too challenging), and endless exercises, which, if played regularly and correctly, lead to improved overall performances.

It's still difficult doing all of this with the acoustic guitar, and doing it well. Why? Well, Megadeth founder and guitar player Dave Mustaine said it best in one of his interviews: that playing acoustic "is like having sex with your clothes on." Great analogy. Despite electric guitars being more delicate and maybe a bit easier to manipulate, I believe if you can't play acoustic well, despite how hard it is, it definitely shows when you attempt to play electric. The acoustic guitar is usually bulkier and bigger with strings that require strong pressure and agile fingers. The electric guitar is slim and flat; all I have to do is pick mine up and I can hear subtle sounds coming from it and the amp, when everything is connected and warmed up, including my fingers from the acoustic work-outs.

* * * * *
I'm also paying attention to what musicians say or do - in interviews, onstage, in person, online, etc.; how they interact with their fans, and their band mates, and their management; what they put on their websites.

Inevitably, those who I'm truly fond of, are the kindest. Not in a "you gotta buy my records and help me make a profit" kind of way. Just ... accessible, and polite, and willing to answer questions.

I'm keeping a list of those who aren't as accommodating, and of course trying to figure out why. For a while I thought most of the musicians I've met during the past few years were a bit silent and sullen, but figured out one day with surprise that they were probably simply LISTENING more than the average person. I imagine the world is full of music, and hard to ignore even when people are saying hello and want to chat. Voices are high, low, sharp, flat, emotional, apathetic; the wind is blowing softly but audibly; people are walking around, laughing; vehicles beep and honk and peep. I remember one guy just standing there, shaking my hand a few years ago, ostensibly tense and uninterested and blank, but once onstage only two hours later, he was on fire.


Songs I've been listening to:

"Blue On Black" by Kenny Wayne Shepherd - one of those perfect songs: great rhythm; cool guitar solo; awesome voice.

"The House is Rockin'" by Stevie Ray Vaughan - gonna have to learn this one. It'd be a great, friendly way to start a gig.

"Room for Squares" album by John Mayer - in order to become familiar with his work.

* * * * *
I know what you're thinking: If it took me that long to master only 16 bars of music, it'll take forever to learn the rest. But it took only a few months, not two years. I started the serious practice sessions at the end of last year. However, if I don't increase the length of the sessions ....


For a long time it seemed impossible: mastering the first 16 bars of "Pride And Joy." I'd sit there and practice and practice, and practice some more, waiting for the neighbors to pound on the walls and beg, "Please stop!"

Then, incredibly, and unbelievably, a few weeks ago, it happened. I played it correctly, with the correct tempo. with few mistakes. Truly, I thought it would not happen, so it's a tiny victory.

Now on to the rest of the song, which is just as challenging.

* * * * *
I also thought it was impossible to develop a style, and a signature sound. Yeah, I'd heard about artists throughout the history of music doing so, but me? The possibilities seemed endless and confusing.

But I was warming up one day and found my fingers doing unexpected things: mostly hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides when I usually don't, and doing so smoothly. I improvised a strange little tune that segued from "Oye Como Va" to "Pride and Joy." (For those who are shocked -- I don't always tune down to Eb for SRV's songs). I liked the way it sounded, and decided my style and sound will be based on that warm-up exercise.


I've been waiting for the neighbors to show up with torches. I practice the same songs in the same order regularly, and rarely do anything different. One evening, I attempted to play "Pride and Joy" all the way through, but that sounded worse than the predictable stuff.


Eventually you have to pack up your instruments, take them to a stage that is not based in your house or apartment, and get paid to perform for sentient beings who do not have feathers or fur.

I read something like that recently and laughed. Right now, only the parakeets listen with interest.


The stages of learning a song (these are rough estimates; obviously some people may learn faster or slower than I do):
(Zero practice sessions) Wow. Where can I get the sheet music for that?
(70 practice sessions) This is fun.
(150 practice sessions) I hate this song.
(300 practice sessions) Dangly-dangly-deedle-deedle blah blah freaking blah. Forget this song and everything about music! I'm gonna go do something normal with my free time.
(325 practice sessions) Hm. Now I've learned the whole thing. That wasn't too bad.
(resting period) Let's see. What else can I learn?
(Zero practice sessions) Maybe this other song. Where can I get the sheet music for it? ...


One of my favorite songs: "Born on the Bayou." Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I'd be at family picnics when I was younger -- around five or six. And that song would be playing on the record player. Yeah, that long ago. And I'd listen with great interest.

I had no idea what bayous, Cajun queens, or hoodoo were, but I could kinda figure it out from the song.

The picnics would fade away, and I'd be on a creaky wooden canoe in the bayou, looking around, listening to the song and the words, but seeing the images and FEELING the sounds. I could hear the water lapping against the canoe, and see those silvery hanging trees brushing the water. There was hoodoo among the trees.

And I'd be relaxed and happy and warm, and suddenly John Fogerty would scream, "ROLLING WITH SOME CAJUN QUEEN." And that would snap me out of my reverie and I'd consider that with great amusement.

The song was brown and white and green, and sometimes it would make my heart pound with excitement. I could feel the music in my fingers and in my arms and in my head and I'd sometimes think, "That's me playing that music. That's what I want to do."

* * * * *
There's a young boy named Tallan Latz. You can find him on In one interview, a reporter asked him what exactly was up with him because at the time he was only nine years old, but he was an accomplished musician. Tallan started to explain with words, but his fingers took over and he squealed and played his electric guitar at length before he could speak again, and the look on his face was priceless -- pure joy.

I totally understood what he did and didn't say. And his Dad is a true hero for supporting Tallan's interests.


Some awesome songs I've listened to lately:

"Gravity" by John Mayer - makes me cry. Partly because of the music and lyrics, but mostly because he got the idea first and profited from it. Dang. It's a beautiful song.

"So Excited" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is the type of blues I like to play, and listen to.


Okay, so that was silly and juvenile. But it was New Year's Eve's Eve, and there was a glass of wine involved, so ....

Anyway, good news. I won't be writing silly ballads entitled "Your Smile" or "Reflections of You." The first guy would probably be thrilled to know he won't be immortalized, and the second guy would probably not give a *&^% because a year ago, he seemed to change his mind in the middle of asking me out and has avoided me since then. I think I actually saw his face change from pleased to disgusted. It was disappointing yet funny. I'll have to put that in a movie scene some day.

I do like the sound of "Reflections." I'll expand on it, and give the tune a new title.

I'm more interested in writing hard rock songs, or, surprisingly, instrumental country songs. Something like "Dueling Banjos" or the intro to "Sweet Home Alabama." Until recently I had little appreciation for country music. I've discovered it's fun to play.

* * * * *
And that soft jazz station continues to mock me. I heard several summer-related tunes today. The high was about 10, and the city is covered with snow. Whatever, radio dudes.


Songs that go together:

Titles, some content
"Mister Sandman" - The Chordettes, 1950s
"Enter Sandman" - Metallica, 1990s

Similar synthesized keyboards:
"Funkytown" - Lipps Inc.
"Hella Good" - No Doubt

More titles and content:
"Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Rumors" - Club Nouveau

Men admiring women, from three different eras:
"Shake It For Me" - Stevie Ray Vaughan's cover (originally written in the 1930s)
"She Drives Me Wild" - Michael Jackson, 1980s
"Damn Girl" - Justin Timberlake, 2007

Still more titles:
"Trapped Under Ice" - Metallica
"Rescue Me" - Aretha Franklin

Couldn't resist:
"Windy" - The Association
"Tornado of Souls" - Megadeth
"Couldn't Stand The Weather" - Stevie Ray Vaughan