Tag Archives: ES-335

“Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line” by Jon Maclennan

Today, there are endless ways to learn about the guitar.  From traditional teachers, to YouTube, to books, to good old fashioned trial and error, there are so many ways to go about your journey towards guitar mastery and musical nirvana.  But what if there was a new medium that combined the best of all these methods?

My good friend, fellow UCLA alumni, and passionate guitar player Jon Maclennan has just released an iBook titled, “Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line,” designed specifically for the iPad.  What is an iBook?  It’s a “multi-touch textbook,” an interactive electronic book that integrates audio, video, photos, graphics and more, bringing content to life in ways previously unimaginable.  It’s everything you’d get from a book, and then some.  Plus, it’s digital, so you can store thousands of iBooks in a single iPad, while saving the trees!

Like me, Jon is an avid fan of guitar great Carl Verheyen, and Carl’s approach to improvisation.  In short, this school of playing is based on “lines,” instead of scales and arpeggios.  So often guitarists become trapped by scale shapes and boxes that ultimately inhibit their melodic creativity.  With this new alternative approach, the player practices “lines,” or melodic phrases, that can be used in improvisation.  In the same way a player would use a scale shape or an arpeggio when improvising, they can use these “lines” to create far more interesting and creative phrases, and ultimately more personalized expression.

Jon’s book is divided into three sections – Major, Minor and Dominant expressions.  Each section is filled with various licks, corresponding to the given harmony, that range from Rock to Blues to Jazz and even Country.  With the interactive iBook medium, each lick has multiple audio samples, and the option for you to plug into your own iPad and play along!  There’s also a “general tips” section, where Jon will teach you  how to create your own melodic expression and cultivate your own personal harmonic vocabulary.  Very cool!

Ultimately, I find this approach to improvisation and general music making to be the most fun and effective.  Although it’s important to familiarize oneself with scales and arpeggios in order to understand music in a theoretical way, these tools should not become crutches in developing your melodic voice and improvisational style.  It’s much more fun to create exciting lines and phrases that express your personal style and sound like you.  Although at first it may be difficult to write your own licks, books like Jon’s are a great place to learn the craft and gather inspiration.  So check out Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line” today on iTunes and take the first step on your journey towards developing your own personal melodic sound!

Check out this promo video on “Melodic Expression: The Art of the Line” for more info, and be sure to check out Jon Maclennan’s website for more about him and his music.

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Gibson Custom ES-359, Vintage Sunburst

Like a lot of guitarists, and musicians in general, I went through a period when I was fascinated by Jazz music.  Not that I don’t love and appreciate Jazz now, but during this phase I ate, drank and slept Jazz 24/7.  My Jazz guitar heroes were Pat Martino, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, John Scofield and Jonathan Kreisberg, to name a few, and like my idols, I needed an appropriate Jazz axe.  Eventually, I acquired the gold standard of Jazz guitars, a secondhand Gibson ES-175.  This was a beautiful, full hollow-body guitar, with black P-90s and a AAA Flame Maple top.  However, it soon grew wearisome.  It was huge, and carrying it to gigs and rehearsals was a major pain.  Also, because of the size of the body, it would feed back at even moderately high volumes, and had such a dark tone that it was hardly applicable outside of the Jazz idiom.  That ES-175 served me well on many Jazz gigs, but after a while I decided I needed a guitar that was more convenient, smaller, and could play Jazz, Rock or any other style equally well.  That’s when I came across the ES-359.

After selling my ES-175 on eBay, I had a sizable sum to put towards my next purchase, but still nothing compared to what would be necessary to buy a brand new Gibson Custom Shop guitar.  One thing I had learned was that if I was going to spend a large sum on a guitar, it had to be perfect – no exceptions.  For me, that meant it played well and looked amazing – no P-90s or AAA Flame Maple top (cool, not my favorite finish).  Luckily, I had located a Gibson ES-359 at Guitar Center on Pico Blvd., but it was out of my price range and had a AAA Flame Maple top.  Now (and especially at the time) ES-359s are both a very recent and somewhat of a novelty model, making them extremely hard to find second-hand.  Nonetheless, after quite an effort, an employee at the Guitar Center Platinum Room in Hollywood located a used Vintage Sunburst ES-359 in the computer system.  It had been returned by a dissatisfied customer somewhere in Kentucky, but he assured me that 95% of returns were not due to malfunctions, but incompatible buyers.  So we made the transaction, I got my discounted price, and about a week later the guitar arrived – flawless.

As Gibson says, “there is no truer sign of the Gibson Custom Shop’s dedication to improvement and innovation.”  The ES-359 is most closely related to the ES-339, but both are offshoots of the more popular ES-335 model, the main difference being that the “9”s have a much smaller body.  Although it still retains the tonal qualities of a larger semi-hollow-body guitar, the Es-359 comes in a much more compact package.  In contrast to the ES-339, the ES-359 is its better looking brother.  With gold hardware, Grover tuners, mother-of-pearl block inlays, and a unique neck profile most similar to the BB King signature “Lucille” model, this guitars looks and feels spectacular.  The cream binding and tortoise-shell pick guard also give it a classic charm.  One of the most unusual things about this guitar is the audio taper pots designed to persevere high-end as volume decreases, giving it “a consistently sweeter, brighter, punchier tone than other guitars of its ilk as it gets quieter.”  With two ’57 Classic Humbuckers and a three-way selector switch, this guitar can soulfully accomplish any style, from Jazz to Blues to Rock N Roll to Country.  And let’s not forget it is absolutely gorgeous.

So if you’re in the market for a semi-hollow-body guitar but want something unique, if you want a guitar for your Jazz and Rock gigs, or if you just want one of the greatest guitars made by one of the greatest guitar manufacturers, look no further than the Gibson ES-359.

For more on the ES-359 check out the Gibson Website.

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