July 29, 2011

Free For All Friday, July 29, 2011

by jim — Categories: General MusicLeave a comment

Food Fight!

Hey, kids! Welcome to Free For All Friday, where we throw random stuff at the wall to see what sticks. It’s like a musical food fight! Who’s hungry?

Today’s agenda includes:

1 – A great soundtrack revisited
2 – What guitarists can learn from weightlifters
3 – The most creative band merchandise ever

Let’s do this!

I Am Sam

I Am Sam

So I’m tooling down the road in my sweet blue ride (Highlander, anyone?) and shuffling through some songs on the iPod when I come across some tunes that used to be in constant rotation: the I Am Sam soundtrack.

You may remember the movie I Am Sam. It starred brilliant actor/total whackjob, Sean Penn, as a mentally challenged dad trying to gain custody of his young daughter. It’s a tearjerker, it’s emotionally manipulative, and it’s pretty predictable. It’s also got some pretty awesome performances. But for me the gem is the soundtrack: great covers of Beatles tunes, glorious Beatles tunes!

I Am Sam features a nice mix of pop, modern rock and indie artists. Some of the songs are faithfully reproduced (“Blackbird” by Sarah McLachlan) and some are given a fresh spin (Ben Harper’s take on “Strawberry Fields Forever” comes to mind), but just about all of the selections are top notch, with only a dud or two (the Heather Nova cover of “We Can Work It Out” is less than inspired).

Personal faves include the Vines’ take on “I’m Only Sleeping” and the Stereophonics’ absolutely killing version of “Don’t Let Me Down”. Overall, highly recommended. Go download the soundtrack and thank me later!

To get you started, here’s a Wiki article and a nice review from Allmusic.

Reps Revisited


I was reading an interesting series of articles by powerlifting legend Dave Tate recently, and ol’ Dave was talking about his first experiences with mentor Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell in Ohio. Ol’ Louie was the foremost authority on powerlifting in the country, so he knew a thing or two about technique and how to build it correctly. And when you’re squatting 800 pounds, you’d probably want to have decent technique so you don’t, you know, die. Anyways, here’s Dave’s quote:

“The key is for this to become automatic. Louie had me do 1000 reps a week with a broomstick onto a couch or chair until it was second nature. A light weight allows you to think your way through the execution and follow a mental checklist of steps, but a lot changes when there’s weight on the bar. S**t happens under heavy weight, and it’s rarely good s**t. Ingraining good habits until they’re as automatic as breathing is crucial.”

Hmmm. It seems that learning motor skills – no matter the specific skill – requires a low pressure, methodical approach where you learn to groove the movement pattern first, before amping up the pressure. For weightlifters, that pressure is manifested in actual weight on the bar. For musicians, the pressure is tempo. Fast tempos can cause all sorts of problems if you haven’t prepped yourself properly and made the movement automatic. So I took ol’ Dave’s quote and I rewrote it for guitarists. Every time he said or implied “weight”, I inserted “speed”. Check it out.

“The key is for this to become automatic. Jim had me do 1000 reps a week at a slow to medium speed until it was second nature. A slow to medium speed allows you to think your way through the execution and follow a mental checklist of steps, but a lot changes when you increase the speed. Stuff happens under pressure (speed), and it’s rarely good stuff. Ingraining good habits until they’re as automatic as breathing is crucial.”

If this concept speaks to you, go back and check out my earlier post, “Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?” It’s all about correct repetitions, building muscle memory, and how speed is not necessarily your friend.

Dude, How Much for the Onesie?


And you thought that band merchandise stopped at guitar picks, t-shirts, and the occasional beer koozie! Please…

Merchandise – “merch” – is an important marketing tool, it gives fans a cool souvenir, and it helps put a few extra bucks in the artist’s/band’s pocket. If you’ve been to a major concert lately and bought a t-shirt, you can speculate on just how many “extra bucks” that artist is putting in his or her pocket! (Answer = a lot.) But this fun link from Guitar Squid shows just how creative merch can get. Can you say Kiss Kasket?

It doesn’t say how much it would cost to be buried next to Gene Simmons, though.

Until next Friday, kiddos!

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Jim Bowley is a professional guitarist, teacher and blogger. A native of Baltimore, he has over 30 years of playing experience and an advanced degree in Music Education from Towson University. Jim lives in Bel Air, MD where he maintains a thriving private lesson studio and performs with his band, Remains of Radio.

© 2012 Jim Bowley All rights reserved.
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