Tag Archives: Classical

McCabe’s Guitar Shop – Santa Monica, CA

McCabe’s Guitar Shop is more than just another guitar shop – it’s a Los Angeles icon.  Opening in 1958, McCabe’s has been a staple of Pico Blvd for over half a century,  defending its self-declared claim to fame of having “the largest selection of stringed things to make music with in California.”  An extensively stocked shop by day, by night McCabe’s transforms into one of the most intimate live music venues in Los Angeles.  An unassuming stage in the main guitar showroom becomes a world-class pedestal that has hosted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Mike Bloomfield, Doc Watson, Jackson Browne, Chet Atkins, and many other legendary musicians.

Aside from being a guitar shop, McCabe’s specializes in acoustic and folk instruments like banjo, mandolin, ukulele, fiddle, dulcimer, oud, and just about any other ethnic instrument you are likely to want.  As for guitar, they supply an extensive list of boutique and specialty makers.  In acoustics, you’ll find amazing axes made by Martin, Taylor, Collings, the Loar, Santa Cruz, Godin, and many other high quality manufacturers.  They’re inventory ranges from entry-level to highly boutique, but you are always bound to find reasonably priced, top notch guitars.

As you can see, McCabe’s also has an extensive supply of nylon string (both classical and gypsy styled), resonator, and arch top acoustic guitars, amongst many other novelty items.  And for a shop specializing in acoustic instruments, McCabe’s has a killer selection of electric guitars and amps.  From Fender Stratocasters to Eastman Hollow-body Jazz Boxes to Gretsch twangers, McCabe’s has plenty to offer the electric aficionado.  And feel free to plug into the array of new and vintage amps from Fender, Pignose, and some other brands you’ve probably never heard of!

McCabe’s is also a great place of learning.  They have a diverse teaching staff that covers every niche guitar style, as well as auto-harp, harmonica, and other novelty instruments.  Personally, I’ve been coming to McCabe’s for years to buy books.  They have the largest selection of music books in Los Angeles.  Real Books, instructional books, scores, song books – if they don’t have it, nobody will.  And you are bound to learn something by just hanging around McCabe’s, as they are always players stopping by, exchanging ideas, and casually running down tunes.

Last but not least, McCabe’s also has a fantastic repair shop. I’ve had them do everything from setting up acoustics to changing the PUs in my Ibanez, all of which they’ve done well and in a timely fashion.  Also, don’t forget the endless supply of guitar accessories.  Any pick you could possibly imagine – finger picks, felt picks, thumb picks, copper picks, etc – and a wide selection of straps, capos, slides, and every other accessory surround the register.  It’s almost impossible to leave without buying something!

So for a little slice of historic Los Angeles, an intimate evening concert, or a trip to one of the most unique guitar shops in the world, get down to McCabe’s Guitar Shop @ 3101 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405.  For more information, check out the McCabe’s website.

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Vreny Van Elslande – Are you ready to Rock?

Not enough good things can be said about Vreny.  One of the best kept secrets of Los Angeles, Vreny is arguably the most professional guitar teacher in the world.  Not only that, but he is an extremely charismatic person with many diverse interests, which all combine to make him the ultimate guitar teacher.

Born and raised in Belgium, Vreny has an amazing list of credentials.  After a year in the military, Vreny first attended the Academy of Music and Word in Ypres, Belgium, completing a 10-year study on classical guitar and composition in just 7.  Following this, Vreny graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Berklee College of Music, earning a B.M. in Jazz Performance and a B.M. in Music Production & Engineering.  Since then, Vreny has lived and worked in Los Angeles as a free-lance guitarist and producer, but mainly as a teacher.  Vreny’s goal is to “make the world an even more fun place to live in, by sharing the love for music through education.”  Outside of musical academia, Vreny is also an avid psychology enthusiast, speaks five languages, and is a general intellectual, making him an expert on the art of learning.

Personally, as a guitarist and an individual, I owe a lot to Vreny.  Over 2 1/2 years, he took my playing to new heights, giving me an incredibly deep knowledge of the mechanics of music and the guitar, and a great confidence in my ability.  But more than anything, Vreny taught me how to learn.  He pushed my ability so much further than I even thought possible, and showed me, through my own progress, the way in which our brains function.  There were many times when I laughed at the impossible difficulty of a task he assigned, when only weeks later, I found it simple.  And this is not because of my ability, but because of Vreny’s structured teaching style that maximizes results and compliments the brain’s natural process of learning.  Vreny showed me how to target a goal, create a plan of attack, and reach it – a skill that I have since applied to every area of my life.  I could go on for ages, but in short, Vreny is without a doubt the most professional and effective teacher I have ever had.  If you want to learn about a certain musical style, music theory, engineering, life, or just improve on guitar, contacting Vreny is the best way to realize your goal.

So check out Vreny’s website, Zot Zin Guitar Lessons, for more information. He does private lessons, group lessons, and webcam lessons, so get in touch with him now – I guarantee you will not regret it!

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Bach: Sonatas and Partitas For the Violin

Since the 1980s, the electric guitar has had a romance with classical music.  From neo-classical shredders, like Yngwie Malmsteen, to Eddie Van Halen’s baroque styled tapping, to Steve Vai playing Paganini’s 5th Caprice in”Crossroads,” electric guitarists have been fascinated by the techniques and harmony used in classical music.  Although written for acoustic instruments, distortion and amplification can breathe new life into classical pieces and add an intensity otherwise unattainable.  Also, many of these pieces are technically demanding, particularly when adapted for electric guitar, an instrument for which they obviously were not intended.  For this reason, almost every accomplished guitar player emphasizes the importance of studying and performing classical music.

Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for the Violin are some of the most popular classical pieces for electric guitarists to learn.  Aside from being great compositions, they’re a good place to start your journey into classical music because all the pieces are written in treble clef and the violin has a comparable range to the guitar.  A collection of six works composed by J.S. Bach, this book is a great introduction to the language of classical music, covering major and minor tonalities, various tempi, different rhythmic meters, and a wide range of keys.  The most famous movement is “Chaconne” from Partita No.2 in D Minor, but you’ll be surprised how many melodies you recognize throughout all of the pieces.

And don’t think this is just applicable to modern guitar shredders!  This book was originally recommended to me by the great Jazz guitarist, Adam Rodgers, who, like many other guitarists, has spent years studying these pieces.  J.S.  Bach has also been a huge influence on Ted Greene, Joe Pass, and Tommy Emmanuel, just to name a few guitar masters.  And let’s not forget about Bach’s massive influence on music in general!  Overall, studying classical music is an amazing way to improve your technique, knowledge of harmony, compositional skills, and sight reading ability – plus, gain exposure to some beautiful music.  So follow in the footsteps of many guitar greats and get yourself a copy of Bach’s Partitas and Sonata’s for the Violin!

And now, enjoy a performance of the “Giga” movement from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor by one of my all time favorite guitarists, the amazing Paul Gilbert!

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Taylor Guitars Factory Tour – El Cajon, CA

Although many of us view guitars as works of art, few of us know anything about the creation process.  Great playability, sonic characteristics, aesthetic beauty, and price are just some of the factors that guitar luthiers have to consider when creating their masterpieces.  From raw wood to completion, the nuances and attention to detail that go into the final product are mind-boggling.  I’m just glad I’m on the playing end of this arrangement!

Taylor Guitars is an American guitar company based in El Cajon, CA.  Started in 1976 by Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug, the company has become one of the most successful acoustic guitar manufacturers in the world, rivaling Martin and Gibson.  Today, Taylor production ranges from mid-level acoustics to professional quality six strings, and has even expanded to electric solid, hollow, and semi-hollow body guitars.  Some of their endorsers include Leo Kottke, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown, and Peter Sprague, and Taylor guitars have become the gold standard in modern country, folk, and bluegrass music.

One of the coolest things about Taylor Guitars is their free, daily tours of their factory.  Located in El Cajon, an inner region of San Diego County, these tours cover the entire process of the acoustic sector of production.  You start by viewing their extensive lumber collection, consisting of exotic woods like Hawaiian koa, Indian rosewood, big leaf maple and tropical mahogany.  Then, you view the shaping process, a mixture of machine and man effort to craft necks and bodies from slabs of wood.  There is a specific neck area, where fretting and sanding occur, and a specific room for inlay work on headstocks, necks and sound holes.  You also get to see the wood bending process that creates the sides of body, and the binding station, where the body parts are attached.  And of course, you get to the see the finish room, where different wood stains and varnishes are applied, followed by a final set up station.  Ultimately, you get to see the entire process of creating an acoustic Taylor guitar.  Plus, the tour ends right where it started – in the TaylorWare store and showroom, stocked with the entire array of Taylor products, ready for immediate noodling.

Probably the most different, progressive, and desirable aspect of Taylor guitars is their patented bolt-on neck technology.  To put it simply, most acoustic guitar manufacturers use a strong glue adhesive to attach necks to guitar bodies.  Over time, due to string tension, climate, and sound vibrations, the angle at which this neck was glued becomes warped, altering the intonation and action.  Because the neck is strongly glued, the only way to fix this problem is to take it to a professional and get a “neck reset,” a very expensive repair.  Aside from this inconvenience, glued necks run a high risk of snapping, and give the player little freedom in altering the playability of their guitar.  Taylor solved these issues with their bolt-on neck technology.  Instead of gluing their necks, they use a specialized neck joint and bolt system to attach necks and bodies.  This system uses special spacers to establish the perfect neck angle.  Over time, when the neck angle becomes warped, the repair procedure is greatly simplified – you just need to unscrew the neck bolt and insert bigger spacers.  Furthermore, if the player ever wants to change the neck angle or replace the neck altogether, it’s as simple as unscrewing the bolts and making the change.  A very practical and innovative solution to an age-old problem. 

Lastly, although hugely successful, Taylor is still run like a small business.  Bob Taylor is almost always present at the factory, and the faculty are very friendly and knowledgeable.  Taylor is also greatly concerned with sustainability and environmental protection.  In a business that often misuses lumber and disregards the scarcity of resources, Taylor has stepped up with the creation of non-profit organizations supporting responsible foresting, and have pledged to use responsible business and manufacturing practices.   Right on!

So if you’re in San Diego be sure to check out the Taylor Guitar Factory @ 1980 Gillespie Way  El Cajon, CA.  For more info on tours, check the the Taylor Factory Tour website and for more on Taylor Guitars, their products, and sustainability, check out the Taylor Guitar Website.

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