July 27, 2013

Last night I played a gig with a great Adelaide singer, Tania Savelli, in a new duo we’ve started. (Soul Inc) We play covers of classic blues, jazz, and soul music.

We both run our own teaching businesses, and play weddings & event gigs too. We’re well suited musically, and have similar favourite genres.

Our duo is sounding good, however, I was reminded of a key important point about preparing for a gig. I must know the songs in the gig rep – thoroughly!  We both were comfortable with our song list (as far as the forms, chords, lyrics etc) but I personally found a big hole in my playing. I had my charts, so I thought I could ‘wing’ the songs I hadn’t played as much.

I ‘think’ that I’m good for any gig that may come up, and ready to tackle any song that I’ve heard a million times, even if I haven’t actually played it live much.

I played in a great duo ‘Black and Blue’ with blues/rock  vocalist Brett Littlefair for many years. We were tight, but that came from years of gigs together, and knowing each others’ style inside and out. I even knew which chord voicings Brett would use in songs, so I could try and add different tones. We rarely did songs at gigs without rehearsing them.  I think that is what led me to write my blog this week.

Sometimes I watch other musicians play songs on the fly, and they can do a reasonable job with it; making it groove, swing, rock or whatever. I used to think that I also possess this skill, but you know what? Maybe I don’t. It’s not a self-effacing thing either, it’s just being honest with myself. It’s okay to just ‘get through’ a song every now and then, but in the long term it can lead to frustration.

Example – we played ‘Superstition’. I have watched both Adam Rafferty & Pete Huttlinger play their incredible solo guitar versions of that song, so I thought I’d just ‘borrow’ some of their ideas, riffs etc. It didn’t work. The main problem was that they play it solo, and I was accompanying a singer. The verse riffs that I played were too ‘heavy’ underneath the vocal line, and it just didn’t suit. The other problem was that we did the song in F, and I remembered about 2 bars in that Adam & Pete play it in E!! Oops.

There are some players around who, like I said, can pull it off, and just make it work in any key, but last night was a wake up call for me. I play through many different types of exercises during my practice time, convincing myself that I need to keep my chops up so I can be ready for any gig, on electric or acoustic guitar. I do sight-reading, scales, arpeggios…..but, in all honesty, I don’t spend enough time on my actual gig rep for that week.

It’s so important to have a structured practice plan, and to be honest about your musical abilities. “Play to your strengths” (Tommy Tedesco’s wise words), and know when to make necessary changes.

Ken wordpress pic


Facebook (again!)

July 22, 2013

Hi guys – firstly, thanks and hi to those people following my blog. I’m pretty new to WordPress and its nice to have some new friends on here.
Well I decided to to back to good old Facebook afterall.
I realised that I have made some good music industry contacts over the last few years and it is good to hang on to them.
I also enjoy the interaction with others, even though its a time waster at times. One thing I did (which Adam Rafferty also did while on a digital break) was to be choosy as to who he ‘friends’ now. I had a lot of friends who I’d never met! Some are musicians from the USA, and I like to follow their activity on social media outlets, so that makes sense to me.
This time around though I now seem to have halved my friend list, which will hopefully halve the time I spend on there!
I’m also back to work this week, guitar teaching, rehearsals and study, so life is going to be crazy again for the next 10 weeks.
I hope you all have a great week.

My Facebook situation

July 19, 2013

Yesterday I attempted to switch my Facebook personal account over to my Band page, to hopefully make things simpler, and spend less time online.

In the process, I mis-read one of the procedures, and tried to create a new Band page accidentally (the info wasn’t clear at all). I am now unable to log in to either account, except if on my iPhone, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The thing is – I’m wondering now if maybe I am better off without my Facebook account. It has become a huge distraction for me. The ridiculous fact here is that my actual friends (whom I see in person semi-regularly) don’t use Facebook much at all, and I seem to have a lot of Facebook interaction with online friends, who I don’t actually encounter much in person!

On the flip side – I have made some good music contacts over the last few years, and sometimes the only way we contact each other is through Facebook, rarely via text, or a phone call.

So now I’m going to see how long I can last without having access to the social media giant! Even if I do crumble and want to become part of that world again, I’ll have to create a new ‘me’, and request my friends all over all again, including creating my band page, which was really the page I spent more time on. I have heard that this can also be tricky, as trying to establish a ‘new’ identity with the same name, birthday, hometown etc does sound a little odd I guess (from Facebook’s point of view). In some cases they won’t allow it, or they freeze your account for a period of time. That is the stuff right there that, as a 44 year old man, I find myself thinking “@#$% that!!”.

Ah, Adam Rafferty you may be on to something in your recent blog – maybe this digital diet is the way to go!

Time will tell. I have made some good connections through Facebook, again, mostly work {music} related, so I have this feeling that I may be missing out on something if I’m not part of that world.

It seems weird, but is it how things are now?

Ken wordpress pic

Find your own voice

July 18, 2013

Find your own voice.

three scoops

1daytodayAre you a sloth? Absolutely not (at least not right now), because you are here to get your hit of water cooler news. Reading this post is special, because you also happen to be taking the FIRST STEP to mastering your life. A well-designed day-to-day routine is the secret to unleashing a more productive, more creative and maybe even funnier you!

Instead of fretting about all the things you have not yet accomplished, take a deep breath and spend the next 2 minutes learning from the most famous thinkers and doers.

1. Taking control

taking-control-funny“It’s time to stop blaming our surroundings and start taking responsibility. While no workplace is perfect, it turns out that our gravest challenges are a lot more primal and personal. Our individual practices ultimately determine what we do and how well we do it. Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively…

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Find your own voice

July 17, 2013

I often find that I compare myself to other solo guitarists.

It’s a bad habit to get into.

I have listened to so many fine players over the years, such as Tommy Emmanuel, Earl Klugh, Richard Smith, Adam Rafferty and Pete Huttlinger. These guys are heavyweights in the solo guitar world, and are highly regarded by many.
Trouble is, I ‘think’ I should play as good as these guys if I’m a ‘solo’ guitarist . I should be able to do it all, right? There’s that word – ‘should’.

When I practice, and make mistakes, I often berate myself and think thoughts such as ‘so-and-so wouldn’t do that’ … but in fact, they HAVE. And many, many times over. I started to slowly realise something : was I aiming too high, with the time available to me to practice these solo guitar classics? Maybe I was choosing the wrong material? Yes, I was. You see, in black and white terms, I just don’t have the time necessary to play some of the arrangements I was tackling in my woodshed!

I saw a segment on ABC few years back about Tommy Emmanuel, who said that he was asked to play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, all dressed up in a tuxedo, and play some classical guitar favourites. He said no to the gig, as he believed he wouldn’t be doing any justice to the music, or offering anything new. Although he ‘could’ play the material if required, it just wasn’t him. I took a lot from that article, as it makes a strong point about finding your own style, and developing it.  Another point he made was that he said that he’d love to play some of Ian Moss’s guitar solos, but he can’t, because he’s not Ian Moss! The penny started to drop for me.

My Solo Guitar Style

When I began to get more solo wedding & event gigs more regularly, I rediscovered my passion for playing solo instrumental guitar. I felt like I’d finally found my own style, after being in countless bands in Adelaide for so many years.I was never 100% musically satisfied playing in bands, and towards the end I was quite bored with the ‘3 chord tunes’ I played over and over. These days I actually enjoy playing & practicing more melodic music. Playing songs that I like, and getting paid for it, is something that I’m grateful for. Sure, it’s background music I guess, but I’m finding that there’s gigs out there for me. I just don’t worry these days if I’m playing ‘Satin Doll’ and ‘Just The Way You Are’ instead of ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  Another point is to remember that if I’m playing at wedding/cafes etc, I choose music that is ‘middle ground’, and the audience will know the melodies. I have recently taken most of the ‘guitar-y’ classics out of my sets, as the average patron just doesn’t know the songs, and hence I save myself a lot of wasted practice time and frustration. I still have in my sets a good mix of jazz, blues, pop and a little latin, and it’s more than enough to keep me practicing. The songs I choose now though are ones that are easier to maintain, e.g. I don’t stress too much if there’s an upcoming gig and I have to play that song.

So, to all you budding solo guitarists out there, sure, learn Classical Gas, Windy and Warm etc but don’t let it get you down if you aren’t cutting it as good as the big boys. Take some time to find other music you also like, perhaps arrangements that don’t take 3 months to learn , and that are within your reach for now.

There’s an audience out there for you, I guarantee it.


I read this just now. Some great thoughts made here by Adam

Adam Rafferty - Guitar and Spirit

HI Gang!

For those of you who are tech junkies, I’d like to tell of my journey on “the other side.”

The following negative experience had a very profoundly positive effect on my music and concentration.

On March 7, 2013 I was robbed while on tour. My backpack with my laptop and many other personal items was suddenly gone.

2 hours before a concert I had to freeze bank accounts, close credit cards and change passwords to 15 websites in a flash, because like an idiot I had no master password on the machine.  The stress was terrible!

Yet…the strangest thing happened about 10 days after the theft.

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