Thursday, September 6, 2012

I just wanted to share a very powerful song by Lincoln Brewster who in my opinion is an extremely talented guitarist!  Have a great day everyone!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Live Performance Blunders

Think trained musicians never make big mistakes on stage?  Think again.  No matter how trained or how polished, we are all still human and prone to mistakes.  National acts make them so don't be discouraged when you and I make them as well.  Here are a few examples.

This summer I was at an event where the front man for a national act started a song in the wrong key.  He was using a capo and had it on the wrong fret.   You could see the drummer trying to get his attention.  He stopped playing, told the audience he was just too excited and started the song in the wrong key.  He found the right key and started over.  The audience thought nothing of it.

Recently I was playing a show and started a song that I have literally played hundreds of times, a 4th higher than normal.  What that meant was I had to sing it a fourth higher.  Let me tell you, it was a stretch.  My reaction was to keep on going instead of stopping and fixing it.  I paid for it for sure.

During my senior recital in college we began a song that was well rehearsed and for the life of me, I could not remember the first line of the song.  We basically just vamped over one chord while I sweated it out and went over and asked my then girlfriend (now wife) what the line was.  She remembered and away we went.

I say these things for a couple of reasons.  One to encourage all you musicians.  Don't fret about mistakes.  They happen all the time.  No performance is absolutely perfect.  The other reason is to highlight how to recover.  You can stop the song, make some sort of joke about it and get it right the second time.  You can also bear out the consequences of a wrong key, but you'll have to be comfortable with the vocal range.  Or if you have forgotten the words to a song, you can turn the vamp into a musical interlude and go rock a guitar solo.  Lastly, you could just make up some words, but if it's a well known song you might get some strange looks from the audience...

Have a great day everyone! 

Happy playing!


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Worship Leader's Journal

Each Sunday, I lead worship at my church, Faith Family Worship Center, in Denver, Colorado.  In our worship band we sing contemporary songs from artists like Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns etc.  I wanted to just share a little about yesterday.

I had some good intentions yesterday to try to create a separate monitor split to help the sound on stage in an effort to clear it up and hopefully reduce stage volume a little bit.  Right now we run two splits but three would be ideal for our set up.  Unfortunately in our limited amount of time, we just couldn't get it right.  It was an hour of running back and forth from the amps powering the speakers on stage to the board out in the house.  After trying a number of things, I finally said with one minute to spare to wire everything back to how we did it before.  We then jumped on stage and went at it.

I have to tell you, with all the craziness of the morning, God still showed up and in a powerful way.  Worship was fantastic and I really felt the presence of God.  One of my favorite songs that we played yesterday was Better is One Day.  I just love that song!  I've posted a link of that song below.  Take a listen if you get a chance.

We'll try to get the monitor split right next week.

Have a great day everyone!

James 5:13
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Country and Blues Guitar - Surround the Major 3rd

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One of my favorite licks to use when improvising over a country, major blues or old gospel song is what I call surrounding the major 3rd. Essentially what I mean by this is to play the major fourth and minor third right before you resolve the lick by landing on the major 3rd. Let's say you were playing a country tune in the key of A. To use this trick you would play the notes D (4), C (min 3rd) and then C# (maj 3rd) in rapid succession. Quite often you would fully resolve the lick by landing on the A (1).  Your rhythm might be to play the 4th on the "and" of 4, the minor 3rd on the "ah" of 4 and the Major 3rd on the 1 of the next bar.

I know this is a real quick and seemingly simple lick, but it is used quite often in more complicated licks. If you are comfortable improvising in a major or minor penatonic scale, try using this and you will be surprised to see that this adds a little extra flavor and will turn some heads.

 Happy playing all!


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Local Musicians Band Together to Fight Cancer

Just last week (Aug 2012) local musicians in Missoula, Montana gathered together for MarcusFest; a fundraising event where the proceeds benefit the fight against cancer.

Marcusfest is named after it's namesake, Mark Hart or Marcus to all those who knew him.  Marcus died this past January of cancer and his loss was felt by many.  Marcus was a very talented musician, most notably on the bass guitar and played in several touring bands but always had his roots planted in Montana.  Marcus was also my uncle.  Let me share just a little about my Uncle Marcus.

To me, Marcus was a way cool uncle.  I mean come on, he played in a band!  One of my earliest memories where music was involved was because of Marcus.  There was this band playing in town called Final Exam.  I thought they were awesome and even had their cassette.  Yep, it was a while ago.  Anyway, Marcus knew the guys in the band and later played with the front-man and he set it up so I could go meet them and hang out with them.  I got to go down the the club, check out the stage and then go have lunch with the guys in the band.  I thought they were so cool.  I mean, it was like noon and they just got up.  How much cooler could you get!  (I was like 8)  Anyway, Marcus had a major impact on my life as a musician and certainly inspired me to continue to improve and make my way as a guitarist.

Over the years growing up I had many opportunities to play with Marcus.  Both in my dad's band, The Hightops, as well as sitting in with him in his band.  I will always picture Marcus playing bass standing on one leg.  He always did that for some reason.

Last week so many musicians came down for MarcusFest to contribute either by playing a set or two, or by just their good will and generosity.  My Dad's band, The Mick Hart Band, played there and he said it was like a musician's reunion.  The front-man from Final Exam I mentioned earlier and one of Marcus' best friends, Chris Hiatt, flew in from Florida and drew a nice crowd.  All contributions go to the Mark Allen Hart Foundation and proceeds this year were given to a local man who has been diagnosed with cancer.

I think it is awesome how we can come together as a community to fight such a terrible disease like cancer that takes too many way too soon, like my uncle.

Thanks to all you musicians out there who use your talents to make people smile, laugh and bring people together.  You all rock!

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Marcus FEST

Sunday, August 19, 2012

So you want to gig...

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So you want to gig? Awesome! I think that's fantastic! When we take a step from the "basement" where we sing to ourselves to the stage, it's a fun, exciting and a step of faith to get out there and put it on the line. Here are a few things to consider when you have made the decision to gig.

1. Practice, practice, practice!  If you want to get out there and gig, you'll want to make sure you have a semi-polished set at the very least.  One of the results of gigging and doing a show well, is you will typically get additional opportunities to play from people who are there to hear you.  Or you will be invited back to the venue and that is something that you probably will want for sure!

2. Put together a well thought out set list.  See one of my earlier blogs (Paul Hart - Creating a Set List) on putting together a proper set list.   Bottom line is, take some time, think through the songs you want to play and make sure they flow and are not confusing to the audience.  If you are playing covers, try to put as much of your own personality into them.

3. Promo Pack: This one is a must.  You need to have a package that you can give to potential venues whether those are churches if you are a christian band or if you are looking to play clubs or private events.  The promotional pack should include a cover letter with your intentions, a main package describing who you are as a band or artist, what kind of music you play (or who you most sound like), your equipment list if you are providing sound, a picture and a short biography.  Most often the venue will use your bio and picture in their own promotion of the event.  We'll have a blog article in the future on writing a good bio and band/artist desciption.

4. A Recording: Another must.  A venue is going to want to hear what you sound like.  Make sure to put your best foot forward here.  Get a good recording and make sure to include that in your promo pack.  Typically you can put two to three songs in the CD.  I have had success even with just one song, but wouldn't recommend it for the long run.  You can also put together 30 second snippets of covers to wet the tongue.  You want to make it enticing that the venue will want to hear more.  You can find pretty affordable computer recording packages at  I use a Tascam portable studio (Link to find used equipment) to track and then dump the individual tracks for mixdown into a computer program called Mixcraft. Check that out here.

5. Make contact with venues.  Phone calls, web searches, emails and get your promo pack and recording to them for consideration.  Don't get frustrated with rejections or with no call backs.  You need to sell yourself and sometimes your sound may just not work with the venue.  It may take 50 contacts to get one show.  Keep plugging away.

6. Courage: Take a risk and just do it.  I promise you will have fun.  Get one show, then build on that.  Over time through practice and consistent gigs your performance will become even more polished.

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think or what works for you when booking shows.

Have fun!  Until next time, happy playing!


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guitar Lesson - The Major Scale

Hi all!  Today's post will focus on learning and playing the major scale.  I will give you a quick overview of what the major scale is, as well as showing you two different shapes to use to play this on the neck.

What is a Major Scale?
A Major Scale is a collection of 7 notes who have a specific distance relationship to each other.  When you hear them together, you'll be taken back to elementry music class because you'll hear, "do, re, me, fa..."  Yep, that's the major scale.  But to be more precise, let's talk in terms of half steps and whole steps.

*Quick tip: A half step on the neck is moving up or down one fret.  A whole step is moving up or down two frets.

Major Scale 1/2 and whole step relationships

  • Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half 
  • In terms of note names, we'll look at the key of G
  • G, A, B, C, D, E, F#  -  here is the Whole/Half Relationship
  • G (w) A (w) B (1/2) C (w) D (w) E (w) F# (1/2) G 

Here's the first pattern to use to play a major scale.  In this lesson your fingers are numbered starting with your index finger, 1, 2, 3 and 4.  I'll label your thumb (T) but we will not use the thumb in this lesson.

6th String (E) 3rd Fret: 2, 4
5th String (A) 2nd Fret: 1, 2, 4
4th String (D) 2nd Fret: 1, 3, 4
3rd String (G) 2nd Fret: 1, 3, 4
2nd String (B) 3rd Fret: 2, 4
1st String (E) 2nd Fret: 1, 2

Our second pattern is this

6th String (E): 3rd Fret: 1, stretch 2, 4

5th String (A) 3rd Fret: 1, stretch 2, 4
4th String (D) 4th Fret: 1, 2, 4
3rd String (G) 4th Fret: 1, 2, 4
2nd String (B) 5th Fret: 2, 4
1st String (E) 3rd Fret: 1

Try practicing both of those over a chord progression of G, C and D and you'll hear how those notes fit nicely into those chords!

Till next time, happy playing!


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