Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Columnist: John "Stoney" Cannon

I am introducing a new columnist here at John Berret Music. His name is John "Stoney" Cannon. He is the god father, so to speak,of lokal music here in Augusta Ga. He is someone you will come to know well once you graduate from lessons,to the garage then to the stage around here. He has or is writing for The Metro Spirit, Verge, guest columns everywhere and has created the local go to music site...the cream of the crop around here..Lokal Loudness. He has played in countless local bands( G City Rockers, Vagabond Missionaries, Brotherhood, too many to list), is the creator of the local musician awards show ( you keep practicing and work hard you might end up with one)and is co-host of the local Internet radio show, Confederation of Loudness. His credentials are beyond met to be able to pass wisdom on to aspiring and established musicians. So take in his wisdom. Here is a little about him that I ask every writer to come up with:

Stoney Speaks - The Biz with the Buzz

When the chance to add to this blog came up I have to admit, while on the outside I played it calm and cool, on the inside I was an instant ball of excitement. Maybe not the constant ball of excitement that John john is on a daily basis (if you know John John...) but pretty dang excited! In a city loaded with excellent guitar players John John ranks right up there near the top and the incredible love he has for music and his students is infectious and inspiring to say the least. How could I not be excited to be considered worthy enough to toss in my two cents worth from time to time? The toughest part in the process of jumping on board was first figuring out what to write about. John John has the knowledge to write about just about any instrument and product and recent columnist addition Mike Dinkins is a multi-instrumentalist in his own right. Me? I'm just a guy who first and foremost loves music, finds therapy in songwriting, possesses a pretty good voice, and I can play guitar just enough to get by. Hardly the best prospect for a blog geared towards the advancement of musicians. Luckily John John had just the thing for me to regularly write about. (nope it's not how to get by on minimal ability though...that article may come later)

I caught the music bug early on being introduced to country via my Grandma, 50's rock and roll by way of my Grandpa, and pop and classic rock (was actually brand new back then) from my parents. By the time I reached my teens I was spending my allowance money on rock magazines like Creem and Hit Parader. By the end of junior high (or middle school for some of you) I was knee deep in everything from rock mags to guitar mags. I had yet to pick up a guitar but I loved soaking in all the info especially the non-performing aspects of being an artist. I loved writing and singing on stage but for some reason I couldn't get enough of the many things that have become lost arts now. Things such as how to visually market an artist, how to properly create a promo or press kit. Even so far as the best way to present yourself in a press photo. It was all very cool and while it my have seemed to some like I was reading the same article regurgitated over and over, through the years each and every one had a little something extra to add to the mix.

So with that in mind John John sent me a text that said - "Do how to promote yourself/your band. You're the king of that stuff." The whole "king" thing may be overstating it a bit but I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with veteran musicians and venue owners regarding young bands and their inept booking and promoting practices. In this day and age everyone has some sort of web presence that makes it possible to offer up the entire promotional package but often a cool page design is placed well above information. What good is a cool design if no one can find out anything about your band? The cool design is quickly forgotten and so is your band. I learned this while studying to be a graphic designer. It doesn't matter if your design is great if it doesn't do the most important thing that it is supposed to do - get you message across. Same goes with a cool looking MySpace page band page with no bio, contact info, promo photo and of course my biggest pet peeve - a list of band members who possess no last names or worse yet, play instruments such as the "six-string love gun" instead of "guitar." The venue owner could care less how cool you are, they just want a band that is professional and lives up to their end of the bargain.

So stay tuned young guns...and even old farts who may have somehow missed the boat along the way. Over the upcoming series of articles I'm gonna spell it out for you one important step at a time, possibly stopping along the way to get insight from others. You've already taken the steps. You've learned to play, may even have put together a band or have designs on being a deep singer-songwriter type. The rules are all the same. Now let's just say you're ready to let the world know just how much you rock. You'll be amazed just how simple and obvious it is and the best part, it can be done on your own and at a price that won't break you (or your parents) bank account!

John "Stoney" Cannon
to check out his website on all things local and

check out his local music internet radio show at

The Importance Of..................A Practice Schedule

Welcome to this new installment of "The Importance Of." This time we are going to focus on something very, very important......a regular practice schedule. There are going to be two ways i break this down.

1) for a beginner
2) for an established player

Lets start with the beginner. For a beginner you should at the least try for 20 - 30 minutes a day. It might or might not sound like a lot to you. In reality its not,but with families, school, job, etc. it could be. When you first start playing the first 6-12 months are crucial. Why? Because that's when you are developing your hand\finger muscles. You need to do your finger exercises and chord progressions regularly to develop the muscle memory and coordination. You also need to review your chords and have your hands on your instrument as much as possible to help you remember everything. The first 6 months is usually when people give up. Don't be one of those people. Keep at it. Keeping a regular practice schedule WILL GET YOU TO YOUR GOAL OF PLAYING!!!

For the established player try and do an hour a day. That might sound like a lot but again, when you have been playing for a couple years, it's nothing. In that hours time break it off into 10, 15 or 20 minute segments. Make certain days for working on scales. Make others for chords, others for theory, others for arpeggios, etc.. Always make time everyday for exercises. Break your exercises into different groups on different days. Do sweep exercises on Sunday, left hand exercises on Monday, inside picking on Tuesday, outside picking on Wednesday, bends on Thursday, chromatic exercises on Friday, two string exercises on Saturday. That's just an example. Do what works for you, just stay consistent. Always try and push yourself harder and in new directions.

Keeping a regular practice schedule is vital for for all players at all levels on every instrument. I remember in the 90's when grunge came along, alot of players in that time told people that they don't practice and neither should any up and coming players. It was cool then to say you did not practice. There is a place and time to not do exercises and forget everything you learned, we will talk about that later. But to not practice? That's not good. All those awesome players in the 1990's that were telling people not to practice had already spent YEARS practicing. Years practicing, perfecting their chops, honing their craft. Not too many people in the world get good at anything without practice. If you want to become a champion, look at what a champion does to become one.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Music 101 with Dr. Dork

Here is Mr. Micheal "Dork" Dinkins latest blog enetry:

When I was first approached about contributing to this blog, I was asked to think of something that could be useful to music students that either want to pursue music as a career or at the very least as a serious hobby. Barring any unforeseen anomalies in the universe, I am one of the latter. I play in two different local bands because it is simply something that I enjoy doing... not because I am well compensated. Nothing compares to the feeling of creating something that you think is exciting, and especially if you have the chance to share it with other people who find it exciting too and are willing to share the experience. There's that... and then there is the escape from reality. For a few hours a week, I can refocus my attention on something over which I and my fellow bandmates have control. I get to be in the company of friends and have a hand in shaping a small segment of the 'art' being produced in town. And ultimately, there is the human desire to have something to leave behind, however few people may carry it along with them into the future.

So, here are some of the things that I have experienced and learned as the weeks turned into years... as I have played for more and more people and gotten to know 'the system' of it all. The short of it -- be a jack of all trades and learn how to deal with people, even if that is one of your weaknesses. Much of what I say will apply to working in a band setting as that is simply all I have done.

First and foremost, learn your craft. If you're a guitar player, know all that you can about the guitar from the notes on the fretboard to how the electronics are wired and work. If you're writing music, be highly critical of what you write. Be critical of your execution. I've been in situations before at a gig where one person had to tune another's instrument because that person didn't know how and wouldn't commit to even learning this most fundamental aspect of playing. Be highly critical of yourself and push to improve and try new things as often as possible. I've played with guitarists who thought they were a gift to music but in reality could barely fret a chord properly. Be willing to listen to advice other people give you especially when you know you could benefit from it.

If you're in a band and can't necessarily learn everyone else's craft, at least know what they should be doing. If you don't know what the final 'product' should sound like from all angles, it is only to your detriment. Be willing to be the person to stand up and tell your bandmates that they're not doing something correctly if they aren't. I'm not talking about artistic differences. If you're bass player and drummer can't sync up and your band is not Meshuggah, chances are you sound less than desirable. Be willing to push those around you and encourage them. Take the time to work out the simple things if they need working out. In short, never try to find excuses to suck. Practice, and practice the right thing. Ask questions if necessary.

Try your hardest to be original. Try your hardest to make your music memorable. Give people something to latch onto. Try to rise above the lowest common denominator. You won't always succeed, but with every new song or piece of music comes a new chance to create something special. Learn to balance what people expect to hear and then try to give them things they aren't expecting to hear, and it's ok to occasionally completely give them something that will challenge themselves as an audience. A lot of people, especially certain cliques, will talk a good game about liking crazy, unique music but when presented with something that doesn't fit their preconceived notions, they put up a wall. I overheard one kid talking about my band at a show we did a while back-- "I don't really like that band. They don't play enough breakdowns." Art and originality must go out the window for some. But as the ever-illuminous John Berret once told me, "All it takes is for one person to step up and be a leader and once enough people show interest, a lot of others will follow.... if you're good haha."

Pick and surround yourself with the right people. Realize that all people have their own ideas, but if you have a band, each of those people need to see the common theme. If you're doing the serious hobby thing, you may have to deal with more of life getting in the way. In one of my bands, there are 3 guys who are married. Two guys have children. Most of us have full-time jobs. If you're thinking of music as a full-time career and are very serious about this, finding people who are equally as serious as you can not be an item of compromise, however, but it is imperative no matter what your goals are to work with people who will encourage you and build you up rather than try to drag you down. Bands tend to have a fair amount of drama associated with it. Personalities are going to clash and heads will butt, but if you ever find yourself with someone who is obviously a train wreck waiting to happen, it's best to get cut ties as soon as possible. Music can't be any fun if the people you play with aren't any fun to be around.

Be aware of what is going on around you. In the music world, there will be people looking to cut your metaphorical throat. In the last two years alone, I've known of bands that have paid to play bigger shows, cutting others probably more deserving out of a spot... bands that have weaseled and whined their way onto shows, only to show up and be complete jerks and run people out of the venue... bands that have tried to have others kicked off shows...bands that have lied about how many people they can draw to a show when trying to set up gig swaps... bands that demand a bunch of money even though they have no fan base in an area... and bands that are willing to break an agreement made in good faith because they think there is a greener pasture... and that's before personalities get involved. There will people who will admire you, who genuinely like you and want to support you, and there will be people who will dislike you, and even people who wish you would get hit by a bus. I've found that it's best not to engage in any negativity back and forth with people trying to spread rumors and talk trash... especially on the Internet. Nothing makes someone look more foolish than an Internet flame war. And even in the real world, most times people will dig their own holes if you just disengage.

Be genuinely friendly to everyone that you can. If you're not a people person, do your best to become a people person. You can take the cynical view that anything nice done by someone else is all done for their personal gain, but that will ultimately lead you to apathy. Take interest in what other people are doing. Go out to see other people perform and support them even if you're not on the bill. In turn, they are much more likely to support you. Talk to people about your project.

Be confident and competent but modest. Never boast that you are the best band in town, even if you objectively know this to be true, and especially if you're not even close. I've literally seen a brand new band come out and proclaim themselves the best before ever playing a gig. Most people are put off by rock-star attitudes. I was once introduced to a guy in a visiting band, who turned and walked away once he realized that I was just a guy in a local band rather than someone who would stroke his ego. Likewise, I've also seen people around here look down their nose at myself and others because they knew the 'right' people and had the 'cool' friends. However, you can't be everyone's buddy. There just isn't enough time in the day and not enough days in a month to be everywhere and support everyone at all times... and eventually, if your band is good and works hard enough, people may begin to see you in a different light after some time passes. One of my friends has often remarked, when his band was at their peak, that people would seem to get offended that he didn't give them enough attention... and because of that, he must now feel superior.

When you put yourself in the public's eye... no matter how big or how small that eye may be, there will always be some negative things associated with it. BUT... and a big but... a lot of that is diminished if you are good at your craft and you treat people with respect and can show that you are genuinely out to have fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Student Spotlight: Alex Cooke

It is a new month, so now we have a new "Student Spotlight." This months spotlight is on a very multi-talented person. His name is Alex Cooke. Alex is 16 years old and is a student at Davidson Fine Arts Academy. He started lessons with me on June 4, 2009. What made Alex want to play music? He wanted to be able to write his own songs and perform them. I would call Alex one of my most ambitious and talented students. He has high hopes of doing musical theatre while in college. He has some family that is musical, some of his aunts and cousins play drums, guitar, sing and do musical theatre. He is also a very talented visual artist. You may have seen some of his art work posted here on my blog. He did a slammin picture of a young Paul McCartney and also designed the flier for Big City Music's summer rock band camp. He did the best drawing of me I have ever seen on that flier( he did a bang of job of drawing Adam Tolar too). If he could open for any band, anywhere, at anytime in history, he would open up for the Beatles when they played the Ed Sullivan show for the first time. The Beatles are also his favorite band of all time. A close second is the band All Time Low, who would be his choice to open for of all the bands that are currently around. Along with guitar and visual arts, Alex plays the bass, sings, plays the saxophone and a little piano. Music and arts are entertainment and hobby now but he hopes to maybe parlay it into a career. He hopes to be in a band soon. Alex has been a standout in the Big City Music concerts and did an amazing job at the Rock Band Camp's show on July 4th for River Blast. He says the River Blast gig was his best gig that he has played so far. The guitar of Alex's dreams??? None other than a Gibson SG. The SG is a favorite of mine as well as guitar legends like Angus Young, Tony Iommi and countless others. A new question I am asking the student in student spotlight is " What is the most embarrassing song on your ipod ?" What is most embarrassing to Alex ? He has the Demi LaVato song catch me on his ipod. Alex is someone I see excelling at anything he does in life. He has great work ethic, is very intelligent and is a great person. His personality will win him fans. He writes alot of great songs. I love performing his songs with him. Hopefully he will record some soon and release them. Expect to see Alex out playing soon, either with a band or solo. So here's to you Alex......keep rockin......keep playing.......and keep having fun!!!!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rock Band Camp Pictures


here are some pictures of whats been happening at Rock Band Camp so far!!!

Rock Band Camp Ends

Rock Band Camp is nearing an end this week. It has been a blast and the kids have worked hard. They are ready for their performance this Sunday July 4Th in Downtown Augusta Georgia at The Commons. The kids go on at 4:00. Get down there early and show them some support! Its all ages and free!!! Come hang a little early before you watch the fireworks. Its been a great two weeks at Rock Band Camp. We had guest speakers like Pete Boyzuick, who talked art and music with the kids and Rob Boggs who talked sound and music with the kids. I would like to thank Mr. Nick Laws , from Sector 7 G, who let the kids have a "field trip" there and get a rehearsal on the stage there, complete with lights and a killer p.a.. Adam Tolar, Big City Music andmyself would like to thank all the kids and peoplewho helped us out this last two weeks. See everyone on Sunday!!! Be safe this holiday weekend.

here is a group pic and a piece of art one of the rock band camp students(alex cooke) drew!