A Funky Fingerstyle Challenge! Mutant Travis Picking

Screenshot 2015-09-23 13.28.16

Here’s a fingerpicking idea I’ve been kicking around for a while, though I couldn’t figure out a great way to present it till now.

It’s a challenging series of ultra-syncopated variations on traditional Travis picking — a funky fingerstyle challenge.

I started down this path while trying to create one of those fake-out song […]

My Favorite Rock ’n’ Roll Solo (It’s Not on Guitar)

Screenshot 2015-07-11 19.29.20

I’ve long been obsessed with Sam “The Man” Taylor’s epic sax solo on the Chords seminal 1954 rock ’n’ roll hit, “Sh-Boom.” But I never got around to learning, transcribing, and analyzing it till now. I heard it about 100 times while making and editing this video, and it still thrills me on every […]

Less-Boring Looping (“Pumped-Up Kicks” Cover)

Less-Boring Looping

For a while I’ve been playing this loop-based cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped-Up Kicks” at solo gigs and with my duo band, Mental 99. At risk of sounding like a pompous dick, I’ve annotated the performance, highlighting techniques I’ve found useful for making loop-based performances livelier and less predictable.

I’ve covered some of this ground before, […]

Cue the Drummer Jokes!
Playing Drums with MIDI Guitar

I’m thrilled to bits about a show I’m playing Thursday eve in San Francisco featuring two guitarists of impeccable skill and taste, plus me.

Teja Gerken and I are co-hosting a monthly solo guitar night at El Rio, my groovy neighborhood dive.Our guest is the amazing Eric Skye who, among other things, plays […]

Guitar Solo Obsessions

Are there any particular guitar solos you’re obsessed with lately?

Here’s one I can’t stop listening to: Jim Hall’s solo on Sonny Rollins’ 1964 recording of “God Bless the Child.”

This may seem like a weird statement, given how much self-indulgent wanking infests this site, but I have a love/hate relationship with guitar […]

The WRONG Way to Use a Talk Box

Any talk box fans out there?

Whew. Didn’t think so. I mean, doesn’t everybody hate those godforsaken things? Wasn’t it all downhill after “Tell Me Something Good?”

But did you know that the “talking guitar” has a rather exalted history four decades pre-Frampton Comes Alive? Check out this performance by Alvino Rey, the steel guitar […]

Tonefiend Book Week 2013
Monday: Theory and Technique

Monday: Theory and Technique Tuesday: Gear Wednesday: Repairs and DIY Thursday: Biography Friday: Fiction

This week we’re talking about our favorite guitar/music books. The plan is simple: I discuss a few titles I’ve found particularly enlightening, useful, or entertaining, and then you jump in and do the same. I’ve organized the days of this week by […]

Tonefiend Book Week is Coming!

Next week at tonefiend we’ll be talking about our favorite guitar/music books. I’ll write about some of the titles I find especially useful, inspiring, or entertaining, and I hope you’ll chime in with some of your recommended reading.

Since there’s so much potential material here, I suggest we focus on a different book category […]

MIDI Guitar Meltdown

Okay, I promise: tonefiend is not going to become an all-digital blog. I’ve got two new DIY analog pedal projects in the pipe, plus a piece on that delightfully retro technology, the book.

But while there’s more to life than MIDI, for the last few months my particular life has been all MIDI, all the […]

Playing with Pain

I’m lucky — I’ve never suffered from any playing-related pain. (I mean, other than expected stuff, like spurting blood all over a guitar when you bash it a little too hard, or picking up a soldering iron by the wrong end.) But I’ve been blissfully untouched by carpal tunnel syndrome, numbness, arthritis, etc.

Until […]