Thursday, January 24, 2013

The $100 Guitar Project and J.S. Bach by Shawn Persinger

Thoughts on the $100 Guitar Project and J.S. Bach by Shawn Persinger

I won’t rehash the story behind the $100 Guitar Project, it is all over the Internet (click the highlighted link for the home page, even more below), but I would like to put my two cents in regarding the project as a whole, and talk a little bit about my contribution:

First things first: All proceeds from the sale of this recording go to C.A.R.E. I won’t drone on about this…so I’ll stop there.

I was lucky enough to be the second guitarist to play the $100 Guitar (second on the project). This was due only to my physical proximity to Chuck O’Meara, the man who ordered the guitar. By the time I received the instrument I knew many of the names that had agreed to participate (Nels Cline, Mike Keneally, Elliott Sharp, Andy Aledort, Henry Kaiser) and I felt this set the bar pretty high to deliver something unique and interesting. 

I improvised on the guitar for about an hour, recording everything I played, and I did everything I could think of. I “power chorded” (0:01), strummed (0:08), swept, (0:14), swung (0:19), shredded (0:31), sustained (0:45), fingerpicked (0:47), clicked (1:01), banged (1:14), bent (1:24), I even played some melodies (unused). I was dissatisfied.

I pulled out some J.S. Bach sheet music. I was told “no cover tunes” because Chuck and Nick didn’t want to deal with licensing fees, but who was going to try and collect on Bach? I unplugged the guitar, put a two microphones in front of it and played the “Siciliano From Violin Sonata No. 1 BWV 1001 (see music below).

“Ah…that was nice.”

The next day I delivered the guitar to, the then stranger to me, Marty Carlson (we met at Gerosa Records).

I went home and began mixing. Any dissatisfaction I may have originally felt after my hour of improvised chaos began to slowly fade as I collaged and “effected” my $100 musings on my computer.

The result is what turns out to be one of the weirder pieces on the record (this surprised me greatly). And I was delighted to see this three-word review of my piece, “Eclectic Ear Movie.”

Siciliano From Violin Sonata No. 1 By J.S. Bach

Go to 1:39 of my piece, this is where the Bach excerpt begins. It last for a mere eight measures (the full 40 measure transcription is below), it’s a little out of tune, a little buzzy, and lo-fi, but I find it utterly delightful. It’s Bach.

I am happy to share with you my transcription of the piece, originally composed for violin (thus the title). It is in standard tuning, but capoed at the 3rd fret, allowing the opening, tonic, Bb chord to be played as a first-position G chord.

No doubt I have left out some of the chord indications (maybe I can get David Starobin to edit this for me) but overall I am quite happy with this transcription and basic harmonic analysis. Enjoy.


By the way you can get your copy of the $100 Guitar Project from most of the usual on-line stores, including: Amazon and iTunes.

A few more $100 Guitar Project Links: N.P.R.All About Jazz, Harmony Central, Facebook, and Metal Injection.

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The End.
See you soon. 
For more on Shawn Persinger is Prester John please visit: 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Weird Guitar Lessons Hype

Let’s cut to the chase: I use the word “weird” broadly and with all respect and affection. Essentially what you will find on this page are unusual guitar lessons. I have nothing against “normal” or “traditional” guitar lessons, playing, or composition. I love it and do a lot myself. But I have found that there are no resources on the internet for guitar players who are looking beyond the normal rock, blues, jazz, etc. playing styles common to most players and teachers – music that many people might call “weird.” But I know as a performer and teacher there are countless guitar players out there who love this type of music.

This site is dedicated to teaching guitar music in the styles of such players and composers as: Shawn Persinger is Prester John (that’s me), Henry KaiserRobert Fripp (King Crimson), Fred FrithJanet Feder,BucketheadNels ClineEugene ChadbourneCaptain BeefheartFrank Zappa, and many, many other interesting and so-called “weird” guitar players. I will also make note of weird guitar playing that has shown up in the music of mainstream artists such as: The BeatlesR.E.M.Pat Metheny, and others.

This page is for the adventurous guitarist. It is also for the curious. Some of the lessons will be unquestionably weird. Other lessons will have hints of the mainstream but usually in an “outside” context. I hope all players will enjoy these lessons and find something new to add to their guitar vocabulary. Thanks for visiting.

Why a webpage for weird guitar playing lessons? Because there aren’t any! Go ahead, google “weird guitar lessons” or “avant-garde guitar lessons.” This is all you will find. Even the usually extensive Wikipedia seems to be at a loss.

All of this lack may lead one to believe that there is little interest in weird guitar. But I personally believe the lack of educational materials is due to a few salient points.

1. Most weird guitar player spend most of their time playing and recording, not teaching, certainly not teaching weird guitar.

2. Many weird guitar players are of a D.I.Y. mindset and perhaps think it is almost silly to teach “how to be weird.” (My intent is not to teach how to be weird, just to show you some interesting ideas).

3. Where to begin? Is weird guitar the “noise” of Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth or the individualistic composition styles of Frank Zappa and Janet Feder, the whole-tone heavy progressive music of Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Primus or the frenzied metal of Mick Barr and Buckethead, the acoustic musings of Robbie Basho and Shawn Persinger is Prester John or the free improvisations of Sonny Sharrock andDerek Bailey? For me it’s all of these and much more. So where to begin? Just begin. Here we go.

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The End.
See you soon. 
For more on Shawn Persinger is Prester John please visit: