My Favorite Ambient CDs

Ambient music isn’t for everyone, but it is a great way to slow the mind down. It is also so fun to play, as I an’t rely on ‘stock licks’ and massive amounts of gain. It all is very slow, and evolves over time. Here are my 2 favorite ambient releases, like, ever.

Brian Eno’s Discreet Music

Discreet Mu

This album comes in 2 parts, but what I really like is the composition called Discreet Music. Composed of super simple 3 note melodies (at the most) weaving and overlapping, this is not a constant loop. It is a slowly evolving loop over time, and this is what caught me, and set me using loops the way that I do. As these simple melodies come in and out, I could almost hear what they should be before they were played. A brilliant piece of modern composition using primitive synth tones, it takes time to understand exactly what is happening here, which is why I think it is so brilliant.

Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star


Add Brian Eno’s ambience to Robert Fripp’s angular, sustaining guitar and you have a win-win from me. Side 1 works better for me than Side 2, but there were really no rules here about what this music should sound like at the time. Yes, there are some guitar solos here, but they are more beautiful than shocking. We can hear how how loops build up, and how Eno manipulated them as they were played. It is difficult to work with someone this closely who gets what you play, and is sensitive enough to lift the whole thing up higher rather than push you out of the way. We can hear this here. The cover photo is the perfect idea of what you will hear.


The Journey of Learning

Embarking on a lifetime with music isn’t for everyone. It takes discipline. It means realizing you will never be satisfied where you are, and more concerned with where you aren’t. It means making time for practice and creativity in our busy lives.

And it is a lot of fun.

Guitar players have it easy. It isn’t like the stereotypical piano lessons, with the stern teacher hitting your wrists with rulers if the hand position isn’t perfect. Modern guitar playing has no real methodology. For every ‘correct’ way of doing things, you can find 100 guitarists who not only have achieved some sort of success, but play very very well despite the fact that the way they play is ‘wrong’.

So, what is right?

Well, to me, what is right is based on the effort it takes to accomplish. I teach about economy, or, not working too hard. Guitar playing isn’t about strength, it is about dexterity. It is about moving only the amount you need to accomplish a task and no more. It is about recognizing where we hold tension in our bodies. And it is about the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them.

That last one, that is sometimes the hardest. We don’t like not knowing. Especially as adults, we don’t like feeling that we don’t know things.

That last point is a big one. Certain personalities are more suited to learning than others. Since guitar lessons (at least with me) are not always about playing a piece you have practiced, we have to be ok with making mistakes and learning from them.

No guitarist steps on stage or records without preparation. It is unfair to compare ourselves with what we hear or see. So, we practice. We make mistakes, and some terrible noises along the way. We get up, dust ourselves off, and one day realize that we make less mistakes than we did before. So things get better.

Keep that head down, take a baby step. Don’t keep wishing we are at the top of the mountain because we saw some rock-guy-flavor-of-the day who seems to be there (he isn’t). Funny thing, no matter how many years we put into it, we only realize that there is just so much more to learn. And we have to be OK with that, and even embrace it.

This kind of person makes the best students who will carry music and creativity with them forever.

It is the Parents that Make Children Better Students

It still amazes me about some parents who bring their children to lessons, that they haven’t fostered any type of appreciation for music themselves much less with their children. The children of these types of parents do not even know what a guitar sounds like, much less what it is capable of, or the rich history of guitar-based music. These are the hardest students to teach because they are not even quite sure why they are there. It is really the parents’ job to foster an appreciation for music throughout the child’s life, so the child really wants to be there. This can simply be having music on in the house or car a lot, to taking the child to see concerts and other performances, to regularly singing songs to or with your child.  In truth, all of it is important, and a child is more likely to work hard on something that they enjoy doing with their parent.
It is a great thing for a parent to be involved in as well, either sitting in lessons to understand what I teach, or to learn alongside their child. Then they have something they can do together.

Supportive, interactive and music-loving parents make the best environment for learning.