Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Invitation to the Dance

Here we go into yet another new year.

2010 has been one of the most productive years for me as a composer, and as a guitarist. I put out 2 new CDs and wrote a ton of music; downloads are up (and I’ve tried to make sure that the uploads aren’t down). Also, 2010 brought me a lot of new “fans” especially on Facebook, and I want to thank everyone who has supported me.

So here comes 2011; this year is full of all sorts of possibilities. I’m hoping to actually hear my symphony played, as well as my string quartet. I have music in the hands of some key people, which I hope will result in some publication and/or performances. Some new videos will show up on Youtube, and there may even be a new CD of instrumental music.

The quandary is: how to build a bigger fan base.

I have a very strong group of followers here in Chenango County, and surrounding areas. [Sidebar: did you know that if you take every man, woman and child in Chenango County and put them in Yankee Stadium, you won’t have a sell-out?]. It has also been suggested that my videos would be more popular, especially with a younger crowd, if I included a 14 year old girl listing all the music she has on her ipod. I have often wondered what makes that so interesting.

Someone suggested that, to get a bigger fan base, I would need a bigger fan; and then I’d have to decide between a floor fan, ceiling fan, or one those big barn fans that you used to see on every episode of the X-files. You know, the ones in the big warehouse with the dark blue lighting? But I digress.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to live in an area where there is a base where there would be more fans to build from. But the Musician in the Middle of Nowhere is just that: in the middle. That means that I’m equidistant from everyone and everything and everywhere. And that’s especially true on the internet.

So, here we come to the invitation. I’m going to ask anyone/everyone who is reading this to help us out. If you would be so kind, send a link to my music Tom's website or Youtube or CDBaby, to 10 of your own friends.

And no, this is NOT a chain letter. I couldn’t figure how to put a chain in an envelope anyway. Of course, if you put a link in an email, does that make it a “chain link”?? After all, mail (as in armor) is made of chain links. Is this too many puns? Ha! There can never be too many puns. And there can never be too many fans.

Can you, will you, help?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"The Return Journey", new cd by Bill Cooley

My friend Bill Cooley has recently released a CD called “The Return Journey”. This is his third solo guitar album, and it really does top the other two. A while back I wrote an article about Bill- you may want to go back and refresh your memory.
Briefly, Bill is a very busy guitarist from Nashville. He tours regularly with Kathy Mattea, and has worked with Hal Ketchum and Reba Macintyre.

In the simplest terms, he’s the stuff.

In this CD bill displays some amazing guitar technique, although that’s not really what the album is about. It’s a collection of songs; songs that have no words (all right, except the guest appearance by Kathy Mattea doing Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water”). When you listen to this album you hear the guitar singing these tunes; you can even make up your own words if you like.

You can order a copy of this wonderful CD at Bill’s own web site Bill Cooley Music                   
Or you can visit CDBaby Bill Cooley on CDBaby
If you like guitar music…if you like good music, you’re going to like this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I want to tell you about my friend, Ray Repp.

For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Ray has been described as the person most responsible for introducing folk music and guitar into Christian Churches in 1965. Born in St. Louis, Ray eventually found a home near Ithaca, NY.

In the early 80s Ray published a book of mine called “The Christian Guitar Handbook” and we struck up a solid friendship, and in 1985 he asked me to arrange some new music and play guitar on a new album. It was originally titled “Ever Bless” and was issued on cassette only.

I recently discovered that this wonderful album is now available on CD through Oregon Catholic Press. They have changed the album name to “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” and it contains all the music from the original release. Of all the recordings that I have worked on with other people, this is my favorite. The songwriting is superb, the singing is impressive, and the lyrics are lovely, being deeply rooted in scripture.

You can download the entire disc, or individual songs. I hope you will check it out:  YESTERDAY, TODAY, and TOMORROW

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Art of Music Appreciation

Is guitar player A better than guitar player B? Should the innovative, but not very popular sax player from the ‘50s be discussed in the same breath as the not very innovative but extremely popular sax player from the ‘90s? How can I possibly appreciate something I don’t like? Why I should I listen to, or care about, music that isn’t in the style I prefer?

Loaded questions, all.

Here’s something to consider: my personal preferences are not automatically someone else’s; your personal preferences are not necessarily my fact. Ergo, when we claim to be learning about music, we must put aside those personal preferences all together. Appreciation of music comes down to this: it’s the way you listen, not what you listen to; it’s the search for the answer to the question “why?”; it’s music education in its purest form.

Nobody has to convince you that you like a certain artist, you already know that. Knowing that, then, is a good place to start. The next, and most important question, is: why do you like certain music?

Is it just the beat? Is it the intricate interplay of voices or instruments? Is it the arrangement? Is it the production values? Is it the songwriting? Is it the lyrics? Is it the melody? Is it the fact that you can sing along easily? Is it all or none of the above?

When music is popular, that means a lot of people like it. That’s an obvious statement. On the other hand, if you can’t listen to a style of music and figure out why it’s popular, you’ll never learn anything from it. You’ll never be able to work in that style, and you’ll be that much poorer in your general music education.

Personal example: I dislike bluegrass. Did I just hear a gasp? Regardless, I once set myself the task to listen to a 3-hour bluegrass program on a local public radio station, every week for about two years. When I started to listen for what made this music what it was, I found a whole new, fascinating mother lode of techniques. Being a guitarist whose music incorporates jazz/folk/classical influences anyway, I started to learn some of the hammer-on riffs and lead fills that bluegrass musicians use regularly. After working them out, I then took it back into my own music to see how I could make it part of my personal style. My music expanded.

When you start to compare songwriting techniques of (say) the Beatles with Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day), you may run into a bit of a stylistic preference problem. You may not. Either way, it makes absolutely no difference whether you like one, both or either of these artists. What matters is, can you get past your preferences to take a look at what they wrote and how they wrote it? Use the list of questions above as a place to start.

Bottom line: As musicians, we grow or we grow stale. Music is always changing and there’ll always be something new coming along that a previous generation of musicians rejects off-hand as not worth their attention. Don’t fall into that trap. Listen to everything. Learn to appreciate. Then, like whatever you want.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stringin' you along

If someone had told me (years ago) that I would one day be writing a string quartet, I would have laughed at them. “Ha ha,” I would have said.

But I’ve done it.

The inspiration for this 4 movement piece came from the fact that the studio next to mine in downtown Norwich is occupied by a very talented violin teacher, Debrah Mineo Devine. She also is a terrific player in her right.

So I got started writing a little 8 measure snippet for her, and asked her if she thought it was worth expanding on or if I should just throw it away. She said it looked interesting, and so I began working on it. The whole piece runs about 12 minutes and is called “Numerical Values”.

There are four movements called "Elegiac Pentameter", "Triangular Prism", "Trillium in Spring", and "Quarter Moon." The third, "Trillium" will be posted soon for you to preview.

I’m hoping one day to hear this piece performed live. I’ll let you all know if and when it is.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God Bless the World

Is it too late to react to the events of September 11, 2001?


 As I was driving down the road one day near where I live, I saw a roadside business sign that read “God Bless the World” and I was quite struck by the contrast between that sentiment and the God Bless America that we hear so often.

The World Trade Center was not simply an American tragedy; it truly was a worldwide disaster.

Unfortunately, opinions have become so polarized that there seems to be no reasonable dialog, no true search for understanding, no seeking for peace; instead we look to place blame, and the result is hate in equally disastrous proportions to the event itself.

A few years ago, I finally put these thoughts together and created this song. It attempts to remind us all that there is something greater than our own reactions, some wider view that can be adopted. It is offered in the hopes that we will all come to our senses and seek peace. It can be a reality, not just a dream.

It is available as a download single at CDBaby, or Amazon, or iTunes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Significance of 10,000

In Chinese traditions, the number 10,000 stands for “all things in nature”. In internet traditions, the number 10,000 is fairly low, especially when considering hits for a web site or for a video.

Be that as it may, I am celebrating this week because I just passed the 10,000 view mark on Youtube. That means that over 10,000 times, someone somewhere in this wide world took the time to look at one of my videos. The ones that have received the most attention are the “Brahms Lullaby” and my arrangement of “Jupiter” by Gustav Holst.

Hey, I realize that these musical performances aren’t anywhere near as interesting or captivating as some young girl telling us what’s in her purse, but then I like to think that I appeal to a more sophisticated audience…you.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who watched even one of these vids, and to invite you to watch the rest; and to pass the link along to a friend…or 10,000 friends. It would be really remarkable to see the number go over 20,000 sometime this year; you can find my various videos here Tom on Youtube

Friday, September 3, 2010


Yet. This is one of the most important words in my guitar studio. I teach it to all my students. “Yet” is the explanation of a learning curve. It is a positive point of view. It works like this:

- I can’t play these chords…yet.

- I don’t know how to coordinate my right hand and left hand…yet.

You get the idea.

Of course, you can try this with non-musical problems. Anything that you are attempting to do or learn can be tempered by the addition of the word Yet. What it really means is that you eventually WILL be able to do, or know, whatever it is.

Side note: lose the word “but” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the words “and so” and you will be the road to a much more positive approach to…well, everything!

Friday, July 23, 2010

My "New" Guitar

There is a phenomenon among guitarists called G.A.S.-- “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” which includes instruments, amps, pedals, and of course, guitars.

Although I never have really experienced this malady, I did just purchase my 4th guitar this weekend--a no-name archtop steel-string guitar. According to the little information that came with it, this instrument was first purchased around 1950. It has some nice binding around the F-holes, and I am of the opinion that the scratch plate was added later…it rattles.

The real point is this: I have use for 4 different guitars. This new instrument will now serve alongside my main ax (the Yamaha classical cutaway), and my solid body electric, and my Martin D-20 12-string guitar. Each has a unique sound and a unique feel to it.

At this point, I can’t see myself ever getting another instrument, unless I swap one of these for something new. The last time I bought a new guitar, it replaced one that I had been playing for 29 years!

To hear what I do with all these guitars, you can check out my video selections Youtube or sample of my music at Cdbaby.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Significance of 10,000.

In Chinese traditions, the number 10,000 stands for “all things in nature”. In internet traditions, the number 10,000 is fairly low, especially when considering hits for a web site or for a video.

Be that as it may, I am celebrating this week because I just passed the 10,000 view mark on Youtube. That means that over 10,000 times, someone somewhere in this wide world took the time to look at one of my videos. The ones that have received the most attention are the “Brahms Lullaby” and my arrangement of “Jupiter” by Gustav Holst.

Hey, I realize that these musical performances aren’t anywhere near as interesting or captivating as some young girl telling us what’s in her purse, but then I like to think that I appeal to a more sophisticated audience…you.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who watched even one of these vids, and to invite you to watch the rest; and to pass the link along to a friend…or 10,000 friends. It would be really remarkable to see the number go over 20,000 sometime this year.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I’m in the process of writing a new set of songs for a CD that will be released this fall.

I say “songs” because the majority of them will have lyrics written by my very good friend Douglas V. Rose. Doug and I wrote the cantata “God’s Gift of Music” last year for the Norwich-based Monday Evening Musical Club.

The mood and feel of the music is best described as “new age”. Much new age music is expressive of the artist’s spirituality; our songs will do the same, but in our own unique way. I’m pretty excited about this project because it is yet another departure for me; another new avenue of musical expression.

It is also great fun to be writing with Douglas. Not only does he have the most uncanny way of molding words, but our friendship dates back to (dare I say it) 1963! Wow, that would make us…younger than we’ll be next year on this date.

We’ll post an announcement about the new CD “Journeys” as soon as it’s ready, hopefully around September.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2 new songs

Here are two chances to add to your evergrowing Tom Rasely music collection:

OVERNIGHT ON THE RADIO is a catchy, country tune about...listening to overnight radio! You can download it here:
and watch the video here:

And in honor of our 39 (!) anniversary, a bonus free download, NEW LOVE SONG:


Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Single Available

"God Bless the World" is now available as a download; $.99 and it's yours!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I do most of my writing in my 5' x 10' office--

surrounded by things that inspire me, like my Dopey collection,

and Groucho,

and classic scifi!

What inspires you?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Boght Arts Center, Cohoes, NY

A casual Friday evening performance.


What a Musician in the Middle of Nowhere does on a day off:

Our first bees!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From the "Life on the Road" Department

I had to travel all the way to Indiana for this story.

Way back in October, 1983 I was touring churches and Christian coffeehouses all over the place, trying to make a living. One evening, I was booked at a coffeehouse in Indianapolis. More than likely it was called The Lighthouse or The Upper Room- they all were. The place was a mess: buckets catching water dripping from the ceiling, the place wasn’t well lit, I was worn out from the traveling, and my host wasn’t there- that happened a lot.

Well, I did two sets of music that lasted an excruciating hour and a half. When I finished and was packing up, a young man who had sat in the back the whole night, came up to me. He said, “Man, that was great. God really blessed me. I had a hard day at work and that was just what I needed.” I think I had the presence of mind to thank him and shake his hand, but I distinctly remember thinking “Brother, if that’s what you needed, you DID have a hard day at work.”

Lesson learned: you never know who’s listening or how it will affect them, so always play your best.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wrong or write

Someone* said that the art of writing is actually the art of re-writing. As a composer, I can vouch for this. Once I have an idea for a song, I try to get a sense of where the lyrics (if any) want to go. Then I write on instinct. When I get a piece to the point where I can see it is a complete song, I usually set it aside for a short time: 24 – 48 hours, generally. Then I go back and start the re-write process.

Even in my recordings, I will put in all sorts of instruments, some of which will not make it through the editing. Each part must have its own place in the mix, and no one part can get in the way of another part. This requires some intense listening. The best way I know to accomplish this is to listen as though it was someone else’s song.

In the end, I hope that I create music that musicians will want to perform more than once, and that people will want to listen to more than once. If you haven’t sampled any of my music, you can do so on iTunes or Rhapsody, or any number of music download sites.

*Might have been Kathy Mattea. She said "You have to write badly to write at all. If it`s crappy, I will rewrite it later. But it will be mine. You can hear the resonance of an artist who goes into herself."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Belated tribute to April 15

What do you call a guitarist who breaks up with his girlfriend ?
Homeless ..

Two guys were walking down the street was destitute ...
the other was a guitar player as well ..

What do you call a successful musician?
A guy whose girlfriend has 2 jobs.

How do you improve the aerodynamics of a guitarist's car?
Take the Domino's Pizza sign off the roof.

Know how to make a million dollars playing guitar?
Start with two million.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playing at the White House

I distinctly remember the day the phone call came in 1998 inviting me and my friend and musical partner Scott B. Adams to play at The White House.

I had been told it would never happen.

A store owner had given the Clintons a gift basket containing (among other things) one of my CDs, and, after that, anything seemed possible, even performing at the White House.

Of course, it took almost 4 ½ years to accomplish it.

I sent at least 4 different demo copies of CDs and multiple letters (sidenote--this persistence has earned me the nickname "Mr. Squeaky", a topic for a future post), until someone from the Music Committee (who even knew there was such a thing?) was compelled to champion us in. We played for the VIP Christmas Tours, when staffers from all over Washington were invited to come and see the decorations. We did not see or meet the First Family, but we performed in the East Room; what a thrill!

In 2002, I went again, this time as a soloist. The experience was about the same; that is, just as exciting. Once again, I did not see or meet the Bush’s, but I performed my Christmas arrangements in the East Room. The White House staff treated me like royalty and (trust me) they know how to do that!

Will I go back? Who knows at this point? Not me. I’m sure I’d like to, but it really is more a matter of time than anything else.

If the call comes again, I will let you all know.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From the "Life on the Road" Department

One of my favorite guitar arrangements is the Erroll Garner song “Misty”.

One day in the early 1990s, I was playing it as background music for a function at the Morrisville (NY) College campus; when I finished the tune, a little old (blue-rinse) lady appeared at my left elbow.

She said, “That was just beautiful. Could you play “Misty”? I hesitated, looked at her and said, “Sure.” And I played it again. She stood there and listened to the whole thing (again), and when I finished she said, “Thank you; that was lovely” and left.

To this day I have no idea what she thought she was listening to the first time I played it. I still occasionally play “Misty” and every time I do, I think of that lady. It’s a moment to be treasured.

To find out where I’m performing (which is rare), and where you can go to request “Misty”, check out the Schedule page on my web site:

Monday, March 29, 2010

In the Psalm of My Hand

Did you know that there are 150 Psalms in the Bible?

Did you know that the book of Psalms is often referred to as the songbook of Israel’s Second Temple, and that the literary genre known as Psalms began during the Babylonian Exile (1030 – 962 BCE)?

John Tesh would call that some very good Water Cooler material!

As a songbook, Psalms isn’t terribly long on melody, although there has been an attempt to work out some sort of melodic system; however, this book provides a composer with a potential 150 sets of lyrics!

Recently, I completed a set of 10 anthems based on the Psalms 20 – 29. My working title for it is “Psalms: The 20-Something Collection”. The challenge was to give each one its own musical “voice”.

One of these pieces was written over 30 years ago (not quite as ancient as the lyrics), and the last one was completed in March of this year. They are all for SAB voices and piano…no guitar. I’m hoping that a publisher will be interested in the idea, but I plan to make these available soon either way.

Do you have a favorite Psalm? Or a Psalm story? Why not share it here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect...Practicers!

Question: Hey buddy, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Answer: Practice!

Conventional wisdom says, "Practice makes perfect.” Usually, when you take music lessons, you are expected to spend a certain amount of time practicing. The truth is that sometimes the only thing practicing makes you perfect AT is practicing.

My idea has always been that, if you insist on using the word “practice”, use it in the same way as doctors and lawyers.

When doctors talk of practicing medicine, they do not mean that they are rehearsing in order to get better at it. The same goes for lawyers. It reminds me of what Yoda says in Star Wars, Episode V, “Do or do not; there is no try.” I tell my students to Play, even if it’s a simple exercise. Consider that every time you play, it’s a performance, even if you are the only one in the audience.

So, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? PLAY!

Friday, March 12, 2010

My First Composition

The first thing I ever wrote was a very (very) short piano piece called “The Robin’s Song”. Chances are that I was inspired by all that wonderful music in the Schaum piano method books; I think I only ever made it to Book B (I know the series went at least up to G). Anyway, I was 8 years old and riding in the back seat of the family car. I had a small notepad with me and I began by drawing music staff lines. Adding a g clef, I started to pen (or pencil) my master opus. The whole song lasts about 20 seconds. Frankly it isn’t very good, but it’s a first, and I still have that original sheet of paper.

Instead of laughing at it, my parents were quite excited that I had written musical notes of my own choosing. They always encouraged me, and I hope that I am passing that along to my students and friends.

Encouragement--pass it on.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Along with recording more music than even I can usually remember, I’ve written quite a lot of instructional material to make learning the guitar easier…and fun. Titles include:

  • The Chord Chart Guitar Method

  • A Complete Explanation of The Circle of Fifths

  • The Un-dreaded Barre Chord

  • Unlocking The Upper Neck

  • Stuck in a Rut

  • Writing for the Guitar

    The underlying purpose of all these books is Practical Theory. Too many guitar books either over-explain, or under-explain the operation of music theory in regards to the guitar. With concise text, plus a lot of musical examples and songs, these books can be a terrific help to the guitar hobbyist, or to the professional musician

    All these titles, along with a lot more information on each, can be found on my website at and can be ordered through Paypal. They’re all well worth the price (if I do say so myself!).

Monday, March 1, 2010


March's free download is called "Six Days" and is a fingerstyle piece with a bluesy feel. Enjoy it and share it with your friends.

Monday, February 22, 2010

CD Giveaway

Late winter seems like the perfect time for some grassroots marketing; let’s keep me inspired with some new readers.

Tell one new person about the Musician in the Middle of Nowhere and then post here about who you are and that you spread the word about Tom Rasely’s music (or on Facebook .

You don’t have to walk up to strangers either. Write the blog address on a post it note and leave it at the music store. Email a coworker who likes music; leave the Facebook link scribbled on a napkin at the Open Mike night. The idea is to spread the word about the nowhere guitarist and help my readership grow.

So post today who you told and that’s it--you’re entered in the drawing. At the end of the week, I’ll pull a name out of the hat and announce it on the blog and Facebook. Then you email me and I’ll send you the free cd; couldn’t be easier.

(Thanks to Jenna at Coldantler Farm for the idea).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My drummer buddy, Bob Tousignant

Not all of my friends are guitarists. Bob Tousignant (too-SEE-nyahnt) is a drummer…an extraordinary drummer. I met Bob through a mutual friend, Chris Natoli. Bob is one of the more serious students of drumming; he practices rhythms that he’ll never get a chance to use, just for the joy of learning them.

You probably have heard Bob play. He was the drummer for The Music Explosion (“Little Bit O’ Soul”) and Crazy Elephant (“Gimme, Gimme Some Lovin’”). Bob has performed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame where the Music Explosion album is part of the Bands from Ohio display. One of the biggest differences between Bob and me is that I had to pay to get into the R&R Hall of Fame, and he was invited to play in the main foyer.

Bob has no web site, but if you are anywhere near Chenango County, NY you might catch him playing with Eric Porter and/or Jes Sheldon some night. You can also hear Bob on “Tea with the Man in the Moon” on my HALFWAY CD, and “Mon Ami” from my ONE TO ONE CD.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who is the Best Guitarist?

Get two or more guitarists get together, and the discussion will eventually wander to the question: Who is the best guitarist?

With so many players to choose from, in so many different styles- let's face it, there never was, and never will be just one "best"; and after all, what we really mean by "the best" is "my favorite". Insisting on your favorite will only prolong an argument, not end it. It's a classic case of apples and oranges, or even fruit salad.

Don't get me wrong; it's good to have guitar heroes. It's good to have opinions about players. However, a better question to ask might be: WHY do I think that (fill-in-the-blank) is the best guitarist? When you answer that question, you actually begin to learn something…or teach something!

One of the reasons that guitarists look for "the best" is that we secretly want to BE the best. And even the best players have other players who they look up to. Andres Segovia, the grand master of the classical guitar, had the inspiration of Gabriel Ruiz de Almodovar, of whom he said "I felt like kissing the hands of a man who could draw such beautiful sounds from the guitar"; and although he'd never met Tarrega, the maestro reverently referred to him as the man who "created the soul of the guitar".

So, here's the bottom line: aspire to be the best (at whatever you do), and remember that even the "best" players are trying to do the same thing.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My guitar buddy, Bill Cooley

Bill Cooley is not a household name...unless you happen to live at Bill Cooley’s house…or at Kathy Mattea’s house. Kathy Mattea is one of the truly great musical artists whose voice lends itself to a variety of musical styles. From “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” to “Where Have You Been?” to her provocative CD “Coal”, her constant musical companion has been lead guitarist Bill Cooley.

I met Bill on the forum at and it turns out that we not only share a love of guitar playing, we share a birthday. We also share that birthday with Jimmy Page and Les Paul!! That’s all “good company”.

Bill has released several CDs of his own music that deserve attention. You can find out more at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ave Verum

A video of my arrangement of Mozart's "Ave Verum" is now available on Youtube Also available for the guitar players out there, is a chart on my website

The experience of video recording this motet was a summation of some of the joys and trials of being a Musician in the Middle of Nowhere.

--Finding a room in our 900 square foot house large enough to position the camera for two difference angles.

--Working with our noisy surroundings--the slim but real possibility that the phone might ring, a rooster who crows morning, noon, and night, and the ticking of the wood stove (you can hear this last one at the end of the song).

--Lousy lighting 'cause it's the middle of winter in upstate NY, although the sun did shine enough to cause a reflection on the guitar.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quotes About the Guitar

Did you know that Ludwig van Beethoven once called the guitar a “miniature orchestra”? Did you know that Beethoven never wrote anything for the guitar?

Frederick Chopin, the Polish piano composer once said, “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.” Chopin also never wrote anything for the guitar.

The eminent guitarist Charlie Byrd once said, “The guitar is the sound of simplicity in a technological age.” Perhaps that is why it is so difficult to write for.

And classical guitarist Andre Segovia said, “Among God's creatures two, the dog and the guitar, have taken all the sizes and all the shapes, in order not be separated from the man” which doesn't have anything to do with the other quotes but sure sounds impressive!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My guitar buddy, Chris Woodward

Chris Woodard is an extraordinary musician: a fine guitarist, a teacher, a recording artist. I met Chris in 1982 in Ithaca, and over the years I was privileged to play on several recordings of his with Celtimorphosis, visit . Chris not only plays classical and fingerstyle guitar, he also plays a variety of pick styles, as well as lead guitar. Chris gave me my one and only lesson on slide guitar- over the phone!

Chris’ solo album “Guitar Stories” is available through his web site:

Monday, January 4, 2010

On Writing Music

I write to task. I seldom sit down and write something just because I think I should, although my string quartet would probably fall into this latter category. I write with a specific performance in mind, a particular set of lyrics or idea, a deadline. Because of this I have never experienced what is known as “writer’s block”.

My composition teacher at SUNY Fredonia (NY), Walter Hartley, once said about writing, “If you are a composer, you will pick a note to start on. If you are a really good composer, you will choose a second note and it will be the Right Note.” It took me over 10 years to understand this. What he was saying is that the second note is “right” not only because it leads from the first note, but it also leads to the third note. That’s what makes it so difficult.

When writing a vocal piece, I try to let the words sing for themselves. Words are very lyrical, very melodic, if you know how to listen. This also does not happen overnight.
You can check out some of my music on

Friday, January 1, 2010

Free on the First, "Miriam's Dance"

Welcome to the very first "Free on the First" post. At the beginning of every month, I'll be offering a free download of music, sheet music, guitar tabs, etc. Let me know how you like this one, it's called "Miriam's Dance":