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    The mind of a songwriter is often wired differently than that of a guitarist.

    Though the two cross paths often, it’s rare to see a pro-level guitar player (particularly a lead guitarist) and a successful songwriter embodying the same human being.

    Some exceptions might include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Clapton and Brad Paisley.

    But usually it takes two.

    Duos like Tom Morello and Chris Cornell, Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy or Hank Garland and Elvis Presley are far more common when it comes to creating music that’s appealing to both the soul and the technical guitarist.

    But if you’re that guitar player, the guy or gal who’s expertise is wrapped up in solos, arpeggios and all the technical abilities thereof, how do you approach the songwriting process? What’s your role?

    If you’re good, you’ll find yourself getting invitations for session work and opportunities to contribute to other people’s music. When that time comes, here’s what your job description will entail.

    1. To Increase the Originality of the Music

    A chord progression by itself doesn’t make a song.

    In fact, there are only a few commonly used chord progressions for most of the primary music genres and a ton of music that’s derived from them.

    The melody and layering, whether it comes from a vocalist or a guitar player, are the primary ways one piece of music can be differentiated from another. It makes music better by increasing the quality and originality of the end product.

    When it comes to songwriting, it’s your job to make sure you increase a song’s quality by using melody and layering.

    2. To Add Melody and Melodic Accents

    Melody is one of the most crucial parts of a lead guitarist’s job description, especially when you’re talking about songwriting. If you’re working with a songwriter, they’ve likely already come up with lyrics and a chord progression, so melody will build on that material.

    Loosely, this is the process you’ll follow:

    1. Learn the chord progression.
    2. Memorize the melody of the lyric line.
    3. Accent either or both with a secondary melody from your guitar.

    To do this, most guitar players will follow the chord progression, as opposed to the lyrical melody. An exception would be Kurt Cobain’s solo on “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” where he closely mimics to the lyrical melody of the song’s verse.

    Though the more functional solution is to reference the chord progression. One of the simplest ways to do that is to create an arpeggiated version of the bass line.

    So if the song’s chorus is G, C and D, your “melodic accent” would be something like this:


    When recording you could minimize it even further by removing the root notes and playing only the higher notes on the second and third strings.


    So “melodic accent” is really just a fancy term to describe simple fills.

    Additionally, this can be a solo, a short lead pattern or any note-by-note, non-chord lick that you come up with to contribute to the sounds that are already there. If you’re careful, you’ll be able to walk the line between a melody that’s too intrusive and one that’s hard to notice.

    Artists who do this well would include the Edge (David Evans) of U2, Brian Welch of Korn and Joe Satriani, to name just a few. They’re good names to learn from and emulate.

    So keep in mind that anytime you’re adding a short fill or a solo, you’re creating some kind of melody.

    In that instance, you’re sharing just as much responsibility as a vocalist. Thus it becomes more important for you to be musical, melodic and complimentary with your guitar than it does to be technical and fun to watch.

    3. To Develop and Add Layering

    Though it can involve melody, the practice of layering is an altogether different discipline and an equally important part of a guitar player’s role in the songwriting process.

    While contributing melody requires a certain level of creative input, layering is a matter of adding something to a vocal line or guitar track that’s already in place. It can even be a guitar part you came up with.

    Whatever the case may be, it’s assumed you’re layering over something that’s already recorded. Layering can involve one or more of the following practices.

    1. Simply duplicating a chord progression or lead pattern.
    2. Adding an effect layer to a chord progression or lead pattern.
    3. Recording separate guitar tracks for the left and right channels.

    The details are largely up to the songwriter, though most people who hire a session guitarist will accept ideas and input in this area. If you’ve got session work in your future, reading up on layering guitars in the studio would be a practical way to prepare.

    How to sum it all up?

    If you had to condense the answer to this question, you might say your role is to invoke an emotional response from those who might listen to the music you’re creating.

    Adding melody, layering, effects and harmony are all about increasing a song’s ability to appeal to someone’s emotions.

    That’s your job, not just as a guitar player, but as a musician.

    So sure, your mind might bend a completely different way than those who compose and write music, but you both share a common mission. Different roles, with the same destination.

    Robert Kittleberger is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

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    GuitarWorld.com is revisiting Steve Vai's classic mag column, "The Ultra Zone," for this crash course in ear training.

    I could never overstate the importance of a musician’s need to develop his or her ear. Actually, I believe that developing a good “inner ear” — the art of being able to decipher musical components solely through listening — is the most important element in becoming a good musician. Possessing a healthy imagination is a necessary ingredient for creativity.

    But without the ability to bring those imagined sounds into the real world, one’s creative aspirations will remain crippled. Training one’s ears to understand and recognize musical sounds and concepts is one of the most vital ways to fortify the connection between the musical ideas in one’s mind and the musical sounds created on one’s instrument.

    All musicians practice ear training constantly, whether or not they are cognizant of it. If, when listening to a piece of music, a musician is envisioning how to play it or is trying to play along, that musician is using his or her “ear” — the understanding and recognition of musical elements — for guidance.

    This is also true when trying to emulate a piece of music, or transcribe it, or even just finding inspiration in it. No matter what one is playing, one’s ear is the navigational device that steers the musical ship where it will go. Without a good ear at the helm, you could find yourself musically adrift at sea.

    I have always been fascinated with looking at music written on paper. When I was in college, I took a class called solfege, which entailed learning how to sight-sing. Sight-singing is the art of looking at a piece of written music and singing it. First, you identify the key center, and then you sing the written pitches, using the “doe-ray-me” phonetic structure, just like that song in the movie The Sound of Music. “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do” (pronounced “Doe-ray-me-fa-so-la-tee-doe”) represents a major scale; there are other monosyllabic sounds that represent the other pitches that reside within a 12-tone octave. These solfege classes in college were difficult courses, but they were well worth the time invested. A thorough study and analysis of solfege within the confines of this column would be impractical, so I can only encourage you to investigate it on your own.

    I’ve always considered transcribing to be an invaluable tool in the development of one’s musical ear and, over the years, I have spent countless glorious hours transcribing different kinds of music, either guitar-oriented or not. The most well-known example of my guitar-based transcribing labors is The Frank Zappa Guitar Book (Hal Leonard), for which I transcribed, among other things, the entire Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar series of recordings. Many musicians, however, do not have the ability to pull the sounds — guitar solos, rhythm parts, melody lines, etc.—off the records that they love. Transcribing is an art that takes a lot of practice and a study that I encourage everyone to experiment with.

    But fear not: you do not need to have the ability to sight-read or transcribe in order to practice ear training exercises. If you are just sitting there with a guitar, there are still a great many ways to develop your ears, in the quest to strengthen the connection between your head and your fingers. Below, I have outlined some of the ways a guitarist can work on ear training exercises using just the guitar.

    As guitarists, there are certain things that most of us do that are simply part of the program: we learn some scales, develop some exercises intended to improve our physical abilities, work on chord forms on different parts of the neck, etc. I believe it is extremely important to put aside some time dedicated solely to focusing on ear training.

    One of the easiest ways to begin working on ear training is to sing what you play. For example, you can play a C major scale (C D E F G A B) in any position — preferably one that is physically comfortable for you—and sing each note of the scale as you play it, being very careful to sing on pitch as accurately as possible. Start with one note: play the note, sing it, and then play and sing the note simultaneously. Then go to two notes. Once you feel comfortable, take a little piece of that scale, say, the notes C, D, E and F, and create a very simple melody with these notes for you to sing simultaneously, à la jazz guitarist George Benson.

    This is an easy way to get your ear in sync with the sounds your fingers are creating. Whether you’re soloing over a rhythmic vamp or are playing alone in free time, you have to really stick with it, and don’t allow yourself to slip up or drift into something else. The idea is to endlessly improvise and sing what you are playing, using any key.

    Another good thing to do is to record a simple one-chord vamp to play over. First, only play/sing notes that fall within the key, staying within a basic note structure of a five-, six- or seven-tone scale. Don’t start wandering off into your favorite guitar licks to play; save that for another time, when you’ve developed your ear to the point where you can sing just about anything you can play. This is an exercise in discipline: do not play anything that you cannot follow perfectly with your voice. Whether you stay within one octave of the guitar, or you sing the notes an octave lower than the sounding pitches, or you use falsetto to hit the high notes, you must be able to recreate all of the notes played on the guitar with your voice.

    If you work on this every day, you’ll find yourself getting better and better at it, and it will become easier to do. The cool thing that happens is that you’ll begin to hear music more clearly in your head, allowing you to formulate musical ideas—write music—within your head, without the aid of a guitar. When you finally do pick up the instrument, you will discover that you will instinctively be able to play these ideas that have taken form in your mind.

    To take this a step further, try this exercise: without a guitar at your disposal, picture the guitar’s fretboard in your mind, and then envision playing something so that you will “hear” and “see” the notes as they are played. It may be helpful to sing the notes as you imagine them being played. This is an excellent exercise that will fortify your mind-fretboard relationship and actually improve your ear by strengthening the acknowledgment of “pitch relativity” (how one pitch relates to another, in terms of sound and placement) on the guitar’s fretboard. You may discover some cloudy areas in your mind’s eye/ear, but if you work through it, the picture will soon become clearer and clearer.

    These techniques do not address the act of playing one thing on the guitar and singing something completely different. Someone like Jimi Hendrix had the uncanny ability to play very complex rhythm parts and single-note riffs while singing complementary parts. This technique requires a whole different set of brain muscles and is very difficult for many players. Playing one thing while singing another must be worked on as an independent field of study. If I could play the guitar and sing at the same time, hey, I might have a career! I’ll be back next time with some more effective ways to help you to develop your ear.

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    Mötley Crüe recently announced the details of their final round of North American dates.

    The tour—Crüe’s last, ever—will conclude on New Year’s Eve in their hometown of Los Angeles, the same city where they began their career more than 34 years ago.

    Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee first announced plans for their two-year-long Final Tour last year, when they signed a "cessation of touring" document. It was an agreement that solidified the end of their touring career.

    To celebrate their legacy and thank their fans, Mötley Crüe are offering exclusive VIP packages for their final tour dates; these packages include opportunities to meet the band and offer up-close-and-personal views of the show from a newly designed stage setup.

    In addition to accumulating worldwide album sales in excess of 80 million units over the course of three decades, Mötley Crüe also have garnered three Grammy nominations, four best-selling books and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    I recently spoke with guitarist Mick Mars about the final Mötley Crüe shows, new music and more.

    GUITAR WORLD: With these last few tour dates in LA being announced, has it begun to sink in that this is the last go-around for Mötley Crüe?

    Yes, absolutely. This is it. We're done after this one. I think ending in LA is kind of like coming full circle. Although the place we actually started in, [the Starwood] is torn down and the venues we’re playing now are a lot bigger than when we started! [laughs].

    What will you miss about not touring with Mötley Crüe?

    It's a bittersweet thing, but all four of us are still in business together as a corporation. So we’ll still see each other. And even though I may not see the guys on stage, I'll still be touring myself.

    What were some of the challenges the band faced coming up in the LA scene?

    From what I recall, a lot of the LA bands that were going around at the time were trying to copy Quiet Riot, who were already signed. So it really came pretty easily for us because we came out with a different look and sound. We were something that was different.

    I’d like to ask you about a few Mötley songs and get your thoughts on how they began, starting with "Dr Feelgood."

    Usually when I write a song, I’ll first write a chorus and a verse part and then throw in some other chords to bridge the song together. That song came about from a riff that was going around in my head. I remember going in and recording it on my eight-track recorder and putting down the initial lick and a few chords. Then Nikki came over to my house about a week later and started singing the lines to it. We brought it to rehearsal and started working on it from there.

    "Girls, Girls, Girls"

    Tommy and I started out collaborating on that one. I remember going to his house and he showed me the chords he had for it. I didn't like them that much so I went home and started thinking about it more. Then I went into my room, popped open a bottle of Jack and worked on the riff until I felt that it was right. I took it to rehearsal the next day and played it for the guys and they started freaking out. But it all started with a lick.

    Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

    Having some down time has given me a chance to go in and look at some of the older stuff I've written over the last few years and also to work on some new material. Right now, I’m working with Tommy Henriksen and have written about nine songs in the past month and half. I’m coming up with some really cool, aggressive stuff that’s far removed from what I would be writing for Mötley.

    If you could write an epitaph to the career of Mötley Crüe, how would you like the band to be remembered?

    That's easy. I'd like to be remembered as the best fucking band on the planet.

    Congratulations on all of your success and thank you for all of the years of great music.

    Thanks so much, but it’s not over. I've still got many more of them to go!

    For more about Mötley Crüe, visit motley.com.

    James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

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    Prestige Guitars has announced the launch of five new models, including three from the Heritage Premier Series plus the Classic P90 and the Heritage Hollow TR.

    From the company:

    The Heritage Premier Series is the newest evolution in our Heritage Series of solid-body electric guitars. The Premier series consists of three models: the Premier Burl, the Premier Spalt and the Premier P90.

    Each one features a solid, carved, Canadian maple top. Aptly named, the Premier Burl features a burl maple top; the Premier Spalt features a spalt maple top; and the Premier P90 features a “AA” or “AAA” flame maple top.

    With each of these models, you get a combo of natural-finish maple top, solid mahogany body and ebony fretboard, providing all the tone and sustain you’d expect.

    The Premier P90 and Burl models come loaded with a pair of Seymour Duncan P90’s, giving you every ounce of that extra growl and bite you’ve been looking for, while the Premier Spalt features a classic combo of Seymour Duncan Humbuckers (’59 in the neck and a JB in the bridge). The icing on the cake is a set of Grover 18:1 micro tuners to ensure that you stay tuned up at all times.

    The Classic P90 takes our thin-line and lightest solid body electric guitar in our production line, the Classic, and reinvents it with a couple of major changes; the addition of a Trans-Black finish and a pair of Seymour Duncan P90’s. The secret of the Classic’s unique shape and feel lies in its carved mahogany body. Unlike our Heritage Series guitars, where the mahogany body supports ¾-inch carved flame maple top; the Classic supports a streamlined flame maple top on its fully contoured body. This guitar is so light and sounds so great; you’ll never want to put it down.

    Finally, Prestige introduces the newest addition to our Heritage Hollow Series; the Heritage Hollow TR. To introduce an updated version of “The Hollow," Prestige decided to go with a few simple changes to this existing production model, which happens to be one of our most popular to date.

    The new, Heritage Hollow TR (Trans Red), features a trans-red quilted maple top with ebony fretboard, abalone and mother of pearl block fretboard inlays, abalone body neck and headstock binding, and a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers (’59 in the neck and a JB in the bridge).

    For more about Prestige Guitars, visit prestigeguitars.com.

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    While Kristian Matsson’s fourth album, Dark Bird Is Home, is his most expansive work to date, teeming with horns, strings, and even backing vocals, there is no doubt in the notion that this is The Tallest Man On Earth in his truest form.

    Matsson’s heavy and honest lyrics intermingle with his melodic expansions, simultaneously demonstrating that growth comes with time.

    Dark Bird Is Home is proof that there is much more for both the listener and Matsson himself to gain from The Tallest Man On Earth’s canon.

    The album will be available to stream for two weeks leading into its May 12 release on Dead Oceans and The Tallest Man’s first ever full band tour. All dates are below.

    Listen to the album here.

    Watch the Dark Bird Is Home album trailer:

    The Tallest Man On Earth Tour Dates:
    Wed. May 13 - Northampton, MA @ Calvin Theatre *
    Thu. May 14 - Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre *
    Sat. May 16 - Upper Darby, PA @ Tower Theatre *
    Mon. May 18 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern #
    Tue. May 19 - Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory #
    Thu. May 21 - Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater #
    Fri. May 22 - Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst #
    Tue. May 26 - Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre *
    Wed. May 27 - Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium *
    Thu. May 28 - Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel *
    Fri. May 29 - Durham, NC @ Durham Performing Arts Center *
    Sun. May 31 - Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre – SOLD OUT *
    Mon. June 1 - Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre *
    Wed. June 3 - New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre #
    Fri. June 19-Sun. June 21 - Hilvarenbeek, NL @ Best Kept Secret Festival
    Fri. June 19-Sun. June 21 - Scheessel, De @ Hurricane Festival
    Fri. June 19-Sun. June 21 - Munich, DE @ Southside Festival
    Tue. June 23 - London, UK @ Koko – SOLD OUT
    Wed. June 24 - Antwerp, BE @ Openlucht Theater
    Thu. June 25 - Paris, FR @ Divan Du Monde – SOLD OUT
    Sun. June 28 - Stockholm, SE @ Göta Lejon – SOLD OUT
    Mon. June 29 - Stockholm, SE @ Göta Lejon – SOLD OUT
    Tue. June 30 - Oslo, NO @ Rockefeller – SOLD OUT
    Thu. July 2 - Goteborg, SE @ Pustervik – SOLD OUT
    Sat. June 27–Sat. July 4 - Roskilde, DK @ Roskilde Festival
    Fri. July 17-Sun. July19 - Louisville, KY @ Forecastle
    Fri. July 17 – Sat. July 18 - Eaux Claire, WI @ Eaux Claires Festival
    Fri. July 31 – Sun. Aug. 2 - Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
    Sat. Oct. 3 - Oslo, NO @ Opera House ^
    Sun. Oct. 4 - Göteborg, SE @ Konserthuset ^
    Mon. Oct. 5 - Stockholm, SE @ Cirkus ^
    Tue. Oct. 6 - Umea, SE @ Idun ^
    Thu. Oct. 8 - Linköping, SE @ Crusell ^
    Fri. Oct. 9 - Falun, SE @ Magasinet ^
    Sat. Oct. 10 - Arhus, DK @ Voxhall ^
    Mon. Oct. 12 - Cologne, DK @ E-Werk ^
    Tue. Oct 13 - Berlin, DE @ Huxley’s ^
    Wed. Oct. 14 - Vienna, AT @ Arena ^
    Thu. Oct. 15 - Milan, IT @ Alcatraz ^
    Fri. Oct. 16 - Zürich, CH @ Volkshaus ^
    Sat. Oct. 17 - Paris, FR @ La Cigal ^
    Mon. Oct. 19 - London, UK @ Roundhouse ^
    Tue. Oct. 20 – Glasgow, UK @ O2 ABC ^
    Wed. Oct. 21 – Dublin, IE @ Vicar Street ^
    Fri. Oct. 23 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall ^
    Sat. Oct. 24 – Bexhill, UK @ De La Warr ^
    Sun. Oct. 25 - Brussels, BE @ AB ^
    Tue. Oct. 27 - Copenhagen, DK @ Vega ^

    * with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
    # with Hiss Golden Messenger
    ^ with Phil Cook

    Find out more at www.thetallestmanonearth.com.

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    Alex Lifeson (Rush)
    “Closer to the Heart” A Farewell to Kings (1977)

    “All of our early albums were written on acoustic guitar. When Geddy [Lee, bass and vocals] and I would write the music, we’d sit down with a cassette recorder and two acoustic guitars, in spite of the fact that we were a hard rock band.

    "‘Closer to the Heart’ is a sweet, ballady type of song, but we mix it up. It takes an interesting course as the arrangement builds. Once we got the basic arrangement down, we knew that the intro would be acoustic, and then we took it up a notch dynamically and brought the whole band in.

    "The 12-string intro gives it the illusion of being an acoustic piece, and then the rhythm section comes in and the song changes into a kickin’ rock tune.”


    Check out "Closer to the Heart" here:

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    OK — a bit of a diversion from our normal acoustic coverage — but we stumbled upon some seriously cool lesson videos with B.B. King that we had to share.

    It’s not often that a blues master like King sits down to discuss his technique and playing, so grab your guitar and pull up a chair!

    In this first clip, King discusses practicing scales, and the scales he uses for soloing.

    For more on the legendary B.B. King, visit www.bbking.com.

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    Love Mumford and Sons? Joni Mitchell? Led Zeppelin? Patti Griffin? Have you tried to play their songs but just couldn’t make them sound quite right? Welcome to the world of alternate tunings.

    Not all songs are written for, or played in, the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning. Alternate tunings open up a whole new world for guitarists willing to look beyond the standard tuning, offering the possibility of creating combinations of notes not previously available, or only available to those with enormous hands. There are tunings in which only one string’s tuning is changed, but others that retune three, four or all of the strings to different pitches.

    A favorite “one-string” altered tuning is the “Drop D,” in which the low E string is tuned down one step to D. Since D is usually a 4-string chord, this drop-D tuning has the advantage of giving the D chord use of all of the string, and a resonant low bass note. BUT, any other chord in the song using the lowest string must then be played a whole step, or two frets higher.

    Some people like drop D because when you barre the bottom three strings you get a “power chord” that sounds good anywhere on the fret board. The easiest way to get to drop D tuning is to pluck the low E and the D string together and tune down the low E until it matches the D string’s pitch.

    Another very popular tuning is the open G. Once tuned, the strings will produce a G chord without placing any fingers on the strings. For this tuning, you will leave the A-D and G strings unchanged, but tune the low E down to a D, the A up to a G, and the high E down to a D. This tuning makes it very easy to play any major chord progression just by barring the whole fret. The Rolling Stones favored this tuning. Listen to the opening riff of “Start Me Up, ” or “Honky Tonk Women.”

    And, one of the most popular tunings I’ve come across is the Dsus4, more commonly known as “DADGAD,” for the order of the tuning of the strings: low E down to D, A stays the same, D stays the same, G stays the same, the B is tuned down one step to A, and the high E is tuned down one step to D.

    Playing in this tuning can be a bit intimidating at first, but with just a little work, you can play some of the most beautiful major and haunting minor chord voicings. Since the notes of the open strings played together form a Dsus4 chord, the best place to start is the key of D, because you can play any of the open strings at pretty much anytime, which makes for some really nice "drone chord" voicings. While this tuning lends itself to, and may have originated in Celtic music, it has become a favorite of folk musicians.

    Joni Mitchell is famous for changing the tuning of her strings to a variety of tunings. She claims that she has played in over 50 tunings, and I believe her! She has developed a special notation system to make tuning, and comparisons of alternate tuning patterns easier to recognize. A full explication, while intricate, is available on her website, which you can get to here.

    New York musician Dan Cross has put together a really thorough and user-friendly resource for alternate tunings, including links to songs that use them. You can find it here .

    It can be challenging enough to learn to play guitar in its standard tuning. Learning to play in an alternate tuning can be a REAL challenge. Guitarists will have to completely re-learn how to play chords for each new tuning they undertake. For this reason, many guitarists tend to explore one alternate tuning for an extended period, before they turn their attention to another.

    If you decide you’re one of them, good luck!! The extra time and attention you give will be returned to you many times over in surprising, complex chords and progressions may never have considered before.

    Photo by Jack Robinson

    Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released three CDs of original songs and is poised to release the 4th, "Life Wide Open," early this fall. More at LauraZucker.com

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    LA’s Mercies were gracious enough to film an acoustic version of their song “Zalea” for us, which you can check out below!

    The track is featured on the band’s sophomore LP, Blue Against Green, which they released March 31.

    Originally from Connecticut, Mercies moved to Los Angeles, CA in 2013, and signed to Randm Records soon after.

    Blue Against Green is a culmination of our life experiences, both professional and personal. It’s about our move to the west coast and the subsequent life changes, the desire to venture out into the unknown, and the will to keep moving forward,” shares drummer Sammy Dent.

    This acoustic version of “Zalea” strips down the original recording, allowing for lead vocalist Josh Rheault’s staccato acoustic strumming to play off Dent’s electro drum groove magically. What do you think?

    Find out more about Mercies at www.merciesmusic.com.

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    Jimi Hendrix Playing Secrets, Guitar World's exclusive new lesson series, is now available through the Guitar World Lessons App and Webstore. It joins the ranks of the hundreds of lessons already available through Guitar World Lessons.

    Learn all of Jimi Hendrix’s essential rhythm and lead guitar techniques, including his go-to soloing patterns, extended pentatonic and blues-scale positions, signature phrasing and articulations, string bending, vibrato and whammy bar usage, strummed octaves, thumb fretting and chord embellishments, plus essential gear and how to recreate Jimi’s tone!

    Right now, you can get 13 Jimi Hendrix Playing Secrets lessons for only $14.99!

    For more information about Jimi Hendrix Playing Secrets, visit the Guitar World Lessons App and Webstore now.

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    Broken Into Better Shape is the fourth full-length release for Good Old War, due out on June 30.

    It’s the follow up to the band’s successful 2012 album Come Back As Rain which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.

    The new album includes some of the band’s first co-writes, including one with renowned NYC producer Emile Haynie (fun., Bruno Mars, Lady Antebellum) which resulted in the album’s soaring “Fly Away.”

    For the hook laden lead single, “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” they found themselves in LA writing with Zimbabwe-born urban producer T-Collar.

    This spring, the band played their first concerts in two years and sold out multiple shows along the way including NYC’s Rough Trade. More touring will follow the release. Check out the lyric video below, and enjoy!

    Stay Connected with Good Old War at www.goodoldwar.com.

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    Today we’re thrilled to share with you the premiere of Sarah Blacker’s ukulele-based “It Shows.”

    The track is included on Blacker’s upcoming release, In Waves, out May 19.

    “This song is about when you know you're in love but neither person is admitting to it yet for fear that the magic will be lost, or that the other person may not love you back,” she shares.

    “I wrote it about one person who broke my heart, and now sing it to anyone who's heart is open. It's an old-school crooner-style song with a post-apocalyptic twist.”

    Blacker’s vocal work shines on this track, and the production work — full of extra sounds and sparse percussion – adds to the all-consuming, apocalyptic feel.

    Take a listen to “It Shows” right here, and view tour dates below.

    Tour Dates:
    April 24th Plymouth, MA The Spire Center *
    May 2nd Portsmouth, NH The Press Room *
    May 8th Saratoga Springs, NY Caffe Lena
    May 15th Somerville, MA Davis Square Theatre *
    May 22nd Burlington, VT The Skinny Pancake *
    May 23rd Brandon, VT Brandon Music *
    May 28th Stewardstown, PA Pleasant Valley Golf Club *
    May 29th Pittsburgh, PA Pittsburgh Winery *
    May 30th Chelsea, MI Chelsea Ale House *
    June 4th Chelsea, MI Sights & Sounds
    June 6th Rock Island, IL Daytrotter Taping
    June 6th Chicago, IL The Uncommon Ground on Devon *
    June 8th Lawrence, KS Henry’s Upstairs *
    August 2nd Atlanta, GA Smith’s Olde Bar *
    August 5th Biddleford, ME Biddleford’s Music in The Park

    * Denotes Album Release Show

    Keep up with Sarah Blacker at SarahBlacker.com.

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    Feast your eyes on Steve Vai’s Ibanez JEM guitar he named “Evo” after the Dimarzio Evolution pickups installed in it.

    Photographed by Lisa S. Johnson in Los Angeles, August 28th, 2010, for the pictorial masterwork, 108 Rock Star Guitars, “Evo” was hand-selected by Vai.

    Guitars are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike. Steve tested four identical production models of the Ibanez Jem before choosing this particular one to be his main squeeze. There was just something about her feel that moved him.

    He replaced her standard-issue pickups with DiMarzio Evolutions, and to distinguish her from his three other Jems, he christened her with a hand-lettered “Evo.”

    Even after countless tours and recordings, his heart goes pitter-patter whenever he sees her, and regardless of what is going on in his life, he finds solace when she’s in his arms. Sure, Steve knows that Evo is nothing but wire and wood, but when you connect with a guitar the way he has with Evo, when an instrument is for so long the voice of your heart and you have cried, screamed, prayed, and raged through her, when she has been with you through your darkest depressions as well for your most joyous, love-filled moments—well, it’s no wonder that Steve is afraid of how emotionally invested he is in Evo.

    She’s only on loan to him for a limited time; one day she’ll be dust. But for now, there’s still quite a bit they have to say together.*

    Here’s Johnson talking about her experience shooting Vai’s guitar:

    Check out the gallery below!

    *Adapted from http://www.vai.com/minisites/EVO/history_frameset.html. Accessed February 9, 2011.

    About the Photographer, Lisa S. Johnson:
    Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail and a truly ground breaking vision, Lisa Johnson’s guitar art, is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock and roll ride. Far from still life, Lisa’s work conjures the abstract, yet also possesses a very sensual and ethereal feel that intentionally illustrates the intimate wear and tear details of the instrument. Her unique presentation undoubtedly personifies the musician and captures their true spirit in these wooden extensions of their own iconic flesh.

    Her debut book titled 108 Rock Star Guitars was released in hardcover edition, October 2013, and a softcover edition was released by Hal Leonard on November 2014 in which the foreword was written by Les Paul.

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    In this new video, Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci walks you through the JP15 John Petrucci electric guitar from Ernie Ball Music Man.

    Click here for more info!

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    Jason Isbell has announced tour dates in support of the July 17 release of his new album, Something More Than Free.

    Isbell will be touring extensively with his band The 400 Unit, featuring Derry Deborja (Keys), Chad Gamble (drums), Jimbo Hart (bass) and Sadler Vaden (guitar).

    The tour will include stops in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland (see tour dates below).

    Tickets for a four night stand at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium October 23-26 sold out in 72 hours.

    Pre-sale tickets for the tour will be available at www.jasonisbell.com/presale on Wednesday, May 6 with regular on-sale beginning Friday, May 8. Pre-order Something More Than Free with iTunes now and receive an instant download of “24 Frames” at http://smarturl.it/SMTF.

    Something More Than Free is Isbell’s most sonically diverse album to date. It features his Southern-inspired vignettes of working class men, women and traditions that permeate 11 new songs of pure honestly and authenticity.

    The LP was recorded at the Sound Emporium in Nashville, TN and produced by Dave Cobb, who also produced Southeastern, which went on to sell over 150,000 copies. On April 24, Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires performed a beautiful version of Warren Zevon’s ”Multineer” for David Letterman on The Late Show. Watch below:

    Stay tuned for more appearances and announcements by following Jason on Twitter @jasonisbell or visiting www.jasonisbell.com.

    Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Summer Tour Dates

    May 7 - Raleigh, NC - Walnut Creek Amphitheater !!!
    May 8 - Richmond, VA - Friday Cheers at Brown’s Island
    May 9 - Maryville, TN - The Shed #
    May 12 - Jacksonville, FL - Florida Theatre **
    May 13 - Clearwater, FL - Capitol Theatre **
    May 15 - Orlando, FL - The Plaza Theatre **
    May 16 - Atlanta, GA - Shaky Boots Festival
    May 17 - Wilmington, NC - Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre **
    May 19 - Westbury, NY - The Space at Westbury **
    May 20 - Port Chester, NY - Capitol Theatre **
    May 22 - Albany, NY - Hart Theatre @ The Egg **
    May 23 - Cumberland, MD - Del Fest
    May 24 - Boston, MA - Boston Calling
    May 26 - Rochester, NY - Water Street Music Hall **
    May 27 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues **
    May 28 - Bristol, TN - Paramount Center for the Arts **
    June 4 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion %
    June 5 - Dayton, OH - Rose Music Center at the Heights %
    June 6 - Black Mountain, NC - Pisgah Brewing Co. Outdoor Stage°°
    June 20 - Austin, TX - Texas Union Ballroom – SOLD OUT <<
    June 27 – Aurora, IL – Two Brothers Summer Festival
    July 3 – Jackson, MS – Livingstone LIVE
    July 4 - Austin, TX - Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic
    July 6 – Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom ~
    July 7 – Iowa City, IA – The Englert Theatre ~
    July 8 – Sioux Falls, IA – Orpheum Theater ~
    July 10 – Winnipeg, Canada – Winnipeg Folk Festival
    July 11 – Minneapolis, MN – Basilica Block Party
    July 12 – Lafayette, IN – Lafayette Theater ~
    July 24 – Brooklyn, NY – Celebrate Brooklyn //
    July 26 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion ✚
    July 28 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater &
    July 29 – Philadelphia, PA – Skyline Stage at the Mann Center &
    July 31 – Fort Smith, AR – Peacemaker Music & Arts Festival
    August 2 – Wichita, KS – Orpheum Theatre ~
    August 4 – Boise, ID – The Morrison Center $
    August 5 – Missoula, MT – University Theatre $
    August 7 – Seattle, WA – Moore Theatre $
    August 8 – Portland, OR – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall $
    August 9 – Reno, NV – Grand Sierra Theatre @@
    August 11 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater $
    August 12 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern $
    August 14 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot $
    August 16 - Lyons, CO - Folks Festival
    October 23-26 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium – SOLD OUT

    !!! = Supporting Zac Brown Band
    ** = Craig Finn opening
    # = Anderson East opening
    °° = Amanda Shires opening
    % = Co-Headline with Dwight Yoakam
    ✚ = Opening for My Morning Jacket
    << = David Ramirez supporting
    // = Dawn Landes supporting
    & = Blake Mills supporting
    ~ = John Moreland supporting
    $ = Damien Jurado supporting
    @@ - Dawes & Damien Jurado supporting

    Ryman Auditorium Special Guests:
    October 23: Amanda Shires
    October 24: Parker Millsap
    October 25: Hurray for the Riff Raff
    October 26: Chris Stapleton

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    Billboard and Dick Clark Productions have announced that one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all-time, Van Halen, will perform on the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, marking the band’s first-ever performance on an awards show with Eddie, Alex, Wolfgang Van Halen and David Lee Roth. Van Halen join previously announced musical performers Kelly Clarkson, Hozier, Nick Jonas, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, along with special duet performances by Empire recording artists Jussie Smollett and Bryshere “Yazz” Gray with Estelle, Fall Out Boy featuring Wiz Khalifa, Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend.

    The 2015 Billboard Music Awards will be hosted by Ludacris and Chrissy Teigen and broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 17, on ABC from 8:00 PM–11:00 PM ET.

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    Chunky guitars paired with a breathy, sensuous vocal open Alanna Clarke’s acoustic video for “Heartstrings.”

    Spilling into the immediately catchy chorus, Clarke serves up some sweet melodic turns accented by her spot on vocal delivery. Like, like, like!

    I can’t help but wanna hear more from this talented artist. Clarke, please bring it on!

    Clarke shares, ”I think when I play ‘Heartstrings’ acoustically it adds another dimension to the song. The vibe is more raw, a bit gritty. It feels a bit less sultry and suggestive to me - more of the urgency and unfairness of wanting someone to let you go. Playing just me and my guitar is how I started with performing, so it's a side of myself as an artist that I want to share with people.”

    At the age of 15 Clarke decided to pursue music full-time, finishing high school through distance learning. With a cluster of songs in hand and her high school days behind her, Alanna set off to follow her dreams in music and hit the road on tour in her native Canada at the age of 18.

    Now 23 she splits her time between Toronto, LA, Nashville and home (Cochrane, Alberta), and has worked with numerous producers and artists to define her truly unique sound. Her music has been described as moving, sultry and soulful, leaving audiences feeling the raw emotion she shares as their own.

    Check out the acoustic “Heartstrings” here”

    Wanna compare this stripped down version to the fully-produced original? Check it out here!

    Find out more at alannaclarke.com

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    Sweetwater, the number one online retailer of music instruments and audio equipment in the U.S., will present GearFest '15, a celebration of musicians and the instruments and equipment they use to make and record music, on Friday, June 12 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, June 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Sweetwater campus, 5501 US Hwy 30 W, Fort Wayne, Indiana. GearFest is free and open to the public.

    GearFest, the largest music trade show open to the general public in the United States, combines a gear expo, entertainment events, flea market, and musical demonstrations, with seminars and workshops by some of the biggest names in the music industry. GearFest also means two days of great deals on the best music instruments and pro audio gear available.

    Sweetwater Founder and President Chuck Surack said, “GearFest has become an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind event in the music retail business. Where else can musicians and music-lovers come to see, hear, enjoy –- not to mention buy -- what is usually reserved for music industry insiders at your typical trade show? We’re also particularly proud to be able to produce this huge event in Fort Wayne, bringing people here from literally all across the country.”

    GearFest will host a multitude of musicians performing and in workshops continuously on five different stages. Featured guests include Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, founding member of Steely Dan, and session guitarist for the Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton, and Sheryl Crow; Deep Purple vocalist and bassist Glenn Hughes; Shawn Pelton, drummer for Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, and Van Morrison; bassist Nathan East, who has worked with Barry White, George Harrison, Sting, and Stevie Wonder; and, guitarist Mike Stern, who has performed with jazz greats like Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, and Jaco Pastorius. Other musicians include guitarists Mark Colcomb and Javier Reyes, keyboardist Steve Weingart, and many more.

    Sweetwater's Mitch Gallagher will host an historic panel discussion with three pioneers of synthesis and electronic instruments: Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith. Technical Grammy award-winner Roger Linn invented the LM-1 Drum Computer (the first sample-based drum machine) in 1979. He later designed the Akai MPC60, which combined a sampling drum machine with a real-time MIDI sequencer. Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits, and his Prophet-5 was the world's first fully programmable polyphonic synth, as well as the first musical instrument with an embedded microprocessor. And Tom Oberheim co-designed the Synthesizer Expansion Module (SEM), a device that allowed musicians to simultaneously combine live playing and sequenced playback - a concept that pre-dated the MIDI revolution. They'll share anecdotes and talk synthesis and electronic instruments in this informal roundtable discussion.

    A very special attraction will be Sweetwater’s hugely expanded and just recently completed new 15,000 square-foot music store. GearFest attendees will experience one of the largest music instrument and audio gear stores in the Midwest, with the largest on-site inventory of any music store in the country.

    Special GearFest features include hourly giveaway drawings for free gear totaling more than $70,000, from Gibson, Fender, Antelope, Focal, Roland, Yamaha, Moog, and many others.

    More than 400 product lines, including all of the newest musical instruments, music technology, and audio equipment, will be on display in 19 tents and four semi-trailers. In addition, Sweetwater will offer once-in-a-lifetime sale pricing on many products.

    GearFest ’15 will also offer five Pre-GearFest AMPLIFIED Workshops, on Thursday, June 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. These workshops, which cost as little as $79, include “The Craft of Songwriting,” “Shaping the Sound of Worship,” “Pursuing the Ultimate Guitar Sound,” “The Art of Studio Mixing,” and “Synth Tips and Tricks.” Space is limited; for more details and to register, click here.

    Attendees can bring a guitar for a free restringing and setup, enjoy great food, and experience the newly expanded Sweetwater campus, including the new Crescendo Café, featuring coffee drinks and the best ice cream and sweets in the region.

    A musicians’ flea market, where used equipment can be bought, sold, or traded is open to all. To pre-register to participate in the flea market, call (260) 432-8176.

    The entire GearFest ’15 schedule of events is available here.

    To speed up the registration process at the festival, you can pre-register here.

    Out-of-town guests are encouraged to book hotel accommodations as early as possible. Travel and hotel information for Fort Wayne, IN, is available here .

    For more information, call (800) 222-4700.

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    Here’s not something you see everyday.

    It’s Candy Rat Records artist Luca Stricagnoli’s take on "Promentory” from the The Last Of The Mohicans soundtrack.

    In it, Stricagnoli’s sits a 7-string acoustic on his lap, and two other guitars (a baritone and standard) on nearby stands.

    With a violin bow in his right hand, he frets the notes with his left, while bowing the guitars around him at the same time! Impressive stuff, and beautiful too.

    Later in the clip, Stricagnoli implements some percussive elements to kick the song into high gear.

    According to the video’s description, the three guitars are made by luthier Davide Serracini.

    Find out more about Luca Stricagnoli here.

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    Vance Joy has released a cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Know Places” from her album 1989.

    Joy will join Swift as main support on The 1989 World Tour, which kicks off May 20 (dates below).

    Taylor Swift previously covered Vance Joy’s 2x Platinum “Riptide” on BBC Radio 1’s Live Room in October, and you can watch that clip below.

    Find out more about Vance Joy at www.vancejoy.com, and watch his cover of “I Know Places” right here:

    Taylor Swift covers Vance Joy’s “Riptide”:

    * with Taylor Swift’s “The 1989 World Tour”

    10 Philadelphia, PA Susquehanna Bank Center, 104.5 Birthday Show
    17 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest 2015
    20 Bossier City, LA CenturyLink Center *
    22 Baton Rouge, LA LSU Tiger Stadium *
    24 Boston, MA Boston Calling Music Festival
    29 Chicago, IL Metro
    30 Detroit, MI Ford Field *

    2 Louisville, KY KFC Yum! Center *
    3 Cleveland, OH Quicken Loans Arena *
    5 New York, NY Governor’s Ball NYC Music Festival
    6 Pittsburgh, PA Heinz Field *
    8 Charlotte, NC Time Warner Cable Arena *
    9 Raleigh, NC PNC Arena *
    11 Norfolk, VA NorVa
    12 Philadelphia, PA Lincoln Financial Field *
    13 Philadelphia, PA Lincoln Financial Field *
    23 Glasgow, GB SSE Hydro *
    24 Manchester, GB Manchester Arena *

    6 Ottawa, ON Canadian Tire Centre *
    7 Montreal, QC Bell Centre *
    9 Quebec, QC Festival D’ete
    10 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium *
    11 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium *
    13 Washington, DC Nationals Park *
    14 Washington, DC Nationals Park *
    18 Chicago, IL Soldier Field *
    19 Chicago, IL Soldier Field *
    24 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium *
    25 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium *
    26 Oro-Medonte, ON WayHome Music & Arts

    1 Vancouver, BC BC Place Stadium *
    4 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place *
    5 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place *
    7 Squamish, BC Squamish Valley Music Festival
    8 Seattle, WA CenturyLink Field *
    14 Santa Clara, CA Levi’s Stadium *
    15 Santa Clara, CA Levi’s Stadium *
    17 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena *
    18 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena *
    21 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center *
    22 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center *
    24 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center *
    25 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center *
    26 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center *
    29 San Diego, CA PETCO Park *

    4 Salt Lake City, UT Energy Solutions Arena *
    5 Denver, CO Pepsi Center *
    6 Denver, CO Pepsi Center *
    9 Fargo, ND Fargodome *
    11 St. Paul, MN Xcel Century Center *
    12 St. Paul, MN Xcel Century Center *
    13 St. Paul, MN Xcel Century Center *
    16 Indianapolis, IN Bankers Life Fieldhouse *
    17 Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena *
    18 Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena *
    21 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center *
    22 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center *
    25 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena *
    26 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena *
    28 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center *
    29 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center*

    2 Toronto, ON Rogers Centre *
    3 Toronto, ON Rogers Centre *
    8 Des Moines, IA Wells Fargo Arena *
    9 Omaha, NE CenturyLink Center *
    10 Omaha, NE CenturyLink Center *
    13 Houston, TX Minute Maid Park *
    14 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center *
    17 Dallas, TX AT&T Stadium *
    20 Lexington, KY Rupp Arena *
    21 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum Complex *
    24 Atlanta, GA Georgia Dome *
    27 Miami, FL American Airlines Arena *
    31 Tampa, FL Raymond James Stadium *

    28 Sydney, Australia ANZ Stadium *

    5 Brisbane, Australia Suncorp Stadium *
    7 Adelaide, Australia Adelaide Entertainment Centre*
    8 Adelaide, Australia Adelaide Entertainment Centre*
    11 Melbourne, Australia AAMI Park *
    12 Melborne, Australia AAMI Park*

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