Tag Archives: Hollywood

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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The Mesa Boogie Hollywood Store, Los Angeles

Alas, another new section for ROW – “Shops.”  Boutique guitar shops are some of the most unique and interesting stores.  Often owned by passionate enthusiasts, each shop has its own niche specialty, and the few authentic guitar shops that remain are quickly becoming historic icons in their given communities.  From vintage rarities to custom builds to quirky items, boutique shops offer refuge for the true guitar aficionado, fed up with the mass cookie-cutter production of chains like Guitar Center and Sam Ash.  So, in the “shops” section, I’ll highlight some of my favorite authentic guitar shops from around the nation.

First up is one of the finest modern guitar shops, geared towards helping the contemporary professional – Mesa Boogie Hollywood.  As many of you know, Mesa Boogie is an American amplification company.  Started by repair man Randall Smith, the company has its roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, with original clientele including Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead and Keith Richards.  What initially started as “hot-rodding” Fender amps turned into the development of an entirely new amp company, MESA/Boogie.  Today, Mesa Boogie is one the premier amp manufacturers, and has a wide range of products, from classic rock tubes to modern heavy metal rectifiers.  One thing that’s unique about Mesa Boogie is their authenticity.  Although equally popular as some of the name brand amp companies, (Marshall, Vox, Fender) Mesa Boogie operates like a boutique manufacturer, not supplying mass-produced gear to Guitar Center or Sam Ash.  That is one of the very reasons for the Mesa Boogie Shop Hollywood.  Directly across the street from a booming Guitar Center, this store is an understated showroom for a refined company, stocking only the finest gear for the true aficionado.

Primarily, the Mesa Boogie Store is an outlet for Mesa Boogie amps.  They keep a great selection of new and used MB amps that exemplify their entire range of product.  Mesa Boogie is a custom shop – they take custom orders, and build custom amps one at a time – so this store is sort of showroom to give you all of the potential options in person.  Aside from testing out all of the amps, they are also swatches from all of the custom finish options and great examples of all the possible customizations you could order.

But aside from being a custom shop, the Mesa Boogie Hollywood store is just one of the best guitar shops in the world.  Their pedal selection is immense. This photo features one of about 7 cases filled with boutique pedals from Xotic to Suhr to Maxon and beyond.  As for guitars, they have a huge selection of amazing axes from some of the finest boutique builders.  Nash, Suhr, Collings, Mike Lull, and Sadowksy are just a few of the great brands they always have in stock.  They also have a massive selection of accessories, featuring tubes, pick ups, picks, and a custom-length cable station.  And did I mention they also have dozens of Mesa Boogie Amps?  Basically, this store is a dream come true for any modern guitar player looking for cutting edge gear.  You can walk in, grab a great axe, a fine pedal, and plug into a world-class amp – it’s a must visit.

So if you’re in Los Angeles, make sure to check out the Mesa Boogie Hollywood Store @ 7426 W Sunset Blvd.  Also, for inventory and a list of suppliers, check out the Mesa Boogie Hollywood website – you’ll be impressed!

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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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