I was saddened to hear that the great Chuck Berry passed away recently at the age of 90. What a run! A true pioneer not only for guitar players but for popular music in general.
As a blues/early rock musician, Chuck’s influence on me was greater than I thought. As a guitar player, his style was exciting but still accessible. It was the energy and showmanship that hooked me. As a lyricist, Chuck wrote with more depth and character than his contemporaries. He still wrote about things kids could related to – cars, girls and school but it was so much more than that.
I read his autobiography years ago and gained a greater insight into the man and the obstacles he had to overcome. Sure, he had some detours that took him down the wrong path, but when you are living life and taking chances, you’re bound to make mistakes that you hopefully learn from.
Despite his periodic troubles and the fickle tastes of listeners, Chuck persevered over the years. In fact, he had completed a final album before his death! Thankfully, it will be released in June of 2017.
I’m looking forward to new music by Chuck and I’m hopeful that new generations will discover his music, his lasting legacy and they will be inspired to keep making music and sharing music as Chuck did.
Long Live Rock ‘N Roll!
Music. It’s all around us. It permeates our daily lives. Whether in the car, on a run, at work (for some) or at home, music is running in the background. Music has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember; first as a listener and then as a performer.
For most people, music is a thing. But what if you personified music? What if it was a person or an entity? If music could think and feel, I believe music would love everyone. It is impartial, unbiased and inclusive. It doesn’t judge or question. Music likes it if you are a listener and loves it if you are a participant!
That’s what this site is all about. It's based on the premise that music loves everyone. Music wants to share and reciprocate. It wants you to listen and take part. This is about sharing music and encouraging people to create and make their own. It has something for everyone who loves music.
This is a safe place. It's an encouraging shelter. A haven to remove intimidation or notions that you must have years of training to create music. Most important, this is a community for interaction and sharing. I want to hear from you; your ideas and suggestions as well as your struggles and frustrations.
Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts or how I can help.
by Tommy Ring
For the past twenty years, I've spend a lot of my free time buying guitars.
Okay, cheap, electric guitars.
And, when they didn't feel right, sound right, whatever, I'd sell them.
My reasons varied – they look cool, I want to restore them, I'm trying to find my dream guitar, etc. Any guitarist or collector scouring Craigslist or ebay can relate to this obsession. During my search, one underlying consideration has always been there: what name is printed on the headstock?
Since the introduction of the solid-body guitar in 1949, there are two brands that have stood the test of time - Gibson and Fender.
Even today, many guitars (regardless of brand) are some derivation of the Gibson or Fender platform.
And many guitars continue to be manufactured in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India and Mexico. Like most manufacturers, “the big two” build their budget guitars overseas; Gibson with their Epiphone line and Fender with their Squier line. With a limited budget (and perception) for guitar acquisition, most of the guitars I've purchased have been either Epiphone or Squier.
Now, here's the problem.
There has historically been a perception or stigma associated with buying and playing one of these budget brands. To the professional performing musician, it screams “I can't afford the real thing so I'm playing this wannabe guitar”. For the musician who may be insecure or cares too much about what other people think, this poses a problem. True, when these budget guitars appeared on the market in the 70's and 80's, the foreign guitar builders didn't have it quite right. The quality control and materials were inconsistent, the instruments were poorly set up, didn't stay in tune and generally made it difficult for a beginner to stick with playing. (In terms of setup and tuning, this is a problem to this day and is one of the great ironies with entry-level guitars – although the price of entry is affordable, if the instrument is difficult to play or won't stay in tune, who's going to stick with learning how to play?) While the U.S. has faltered with quality control and rested on their “buy American” laurels, several talented craftsman from overseas have pulled into the lead creating works of art that rival the instruments from the good ol' days (1950-60).
But it's 2014 and manufacturing overseas has changed dramatically. In the case of Epiphone with their “Masterbuilt” line and Squier with their “Classic Vibe” series, these guitars are now arguably on par with their American-made cousins. Gone are the days of “cheap” overseas guitars. Yes, the price of entry may still be cheap but the “bang for the buck” is tremendous! These guitars can now sit proudly on stage or be strummed loudly during your stadium anthem. But, here's the rub. There is still a stigma associated with any guitar that doesn't say “Gibson” or “Fender” on the headstock.
Which brings me to the main point of this article. If you truly want to find the instrument that speaks to you, that you connect with, that feels perfect in your hands, you need to ignore the headstock. Ignore all perceptions about “brand” and “who plays what” and decide for yourself. Ideally, we could test each new guitar blindfolded and simply rely on the three most important reasons I've discovered for choosing a guitar:
In my quest for the perfect guitar and the perfect sound, I'm slowly learning that I may have to look beyond what's printed on the headstock. What I've also discovered in life is that sometimes you have more success when you do the opposite of what you normally do. Case in point: I've purchased at least six different Strats in my lifetime and no matter how hard I try, Strats just don't work for me. I know I “should” like them because everyone and their sister plays one but they just don't speak to me. I haven't been able to put my finger on it. Teles, on the other hand, I love! Go figure.
After 30 years of playing, I discovered Heritage guitars.
Heritage is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was started by former Gibson employees when Gibson moved to Nashville in the early 80's. Many of the employees at that time decided to stay in Michigan and continue on in the old plant and Heritage was born. The great thing about Heritage is they still “make 'em like they used to”. They make Les Paul and 335-style guitars but they do it by hand with the original equipment like Gibson used to do in the 50's and 60's.
When I played my first Heritage, I fell in love.
I found my perfect guitar!
It felt right, resonated and sustained for days (yes, i came back a week later and it was still vibrating), sounded amazing unplugged and even more amazing wound up through a Fender Deluxe. And it played like butter. You know, salty, slippery and... yellow?
My friend Martin asked me, "Why did you buy and sell ten Epiphones when you could have bought one Heritage and been done with it?"
I didn't have an answer.
But, it still doesn't say “Gibson” on the headstock. Why is this a problem? Should I pass on the Heritage in favor of a Gibson so I will be accepted into the guitar community? Or if Leo Fender was still alive, would I be more inclined to buy a G&L and pass on the Fender this time?
So, the moral of this story - try every guitar in the store.
Regardless of price or brand. Start with the one that is the opposite of what you would normally grab. Close your eyes and start with the feel and sound. Then, and only then, take a good look at it. And, if that means the hot pink Charvel/Jackson from the 80's is the guitar for you and you play it and love it, jump up on stage and wail away with pride!
Tommy Ring is a creative force living in Southern California. When not pretending to be a marketing manager, he's living his dream being a musician.
THE FOLLOWING IS A RECORDED INTERVIEW AND ANSWER TO THE ABOVE QUESTION:
“Self expression. Adulation. Feedback. The applause. And not so much that but the acknowledgement of what I just did resonates with somebody and what I just did they enjoyed.
And, it was worth it for them to listen to. Or, they liked it.
So, getting that immediate response like, ‘Hey, you know, they LIKED that song. Or, they liked my performance of that song. And that kinda gets me excited to wanna do the NEXT song. And I think, like when we did that Irish festival. It was, that we had a captive audience… people were really into it. And, so they would get up and clap along or they would dance. And so, it was a very physical connection… and a visual connection. But, we’re all responding to the MUSIC. We’re all responding to what we’re listening to. And, we’re moving our bodies accordingly. So you can really see that… we’re all playing the same song together. We’re all listening to the same song together. I may be playing it but, you know, they’re playing it too. And I think that’s where I start to understand what other artists talk about the importance of audience participation and that’s not… it’s not us giving a concert to THEM, it’s us all participation and there’s no music without a listener. So, it’s not a one-way conversation. So it is kind of a conversation in that… I’m throwing it out there for my half of the conversation and they’re singing along or they’re dancing along. And that’s how they’re responding back. Or, they’re CHEERING. And THAT’S how they’re responding back.
The other thing that feels really good about recording is when I just nailed the song. And, when I’m prepared and I really do the song well and I felt it. And it moves beyond the technical. To where you really… you almost do become like a vessel. (A) physical way to express the song. And when you’ve done that, a feeling of satisfaction. The feeling of… Like it was really worth it to learn that song, it was really worth it to share it. It felt good. Something… And then when you get that audience feedback then that’s sort of like validation.
I like that I can actually get paid for doing something I love doing. ‘Cause then it doesn’t feel like work. And I’ve heard many musicians talk about that too and it’s good to actually experience that first hand. So…
You know, at the time it didn’t seem like a lot of money. And, relatively speaking, maybe it isn’t. But, it kinda, in a way, wasn’t the point. It was really more about… you know… Almost like it was a BONUS. Because… it is something I would do if I WASN’T getting paid. Something I would do naturally because I NEED to do it. And if I can get paid, that’s icing on the cake. So much the better.”