When I was a kid, Tyco came out with the Hot Lixx toy guitar. The ads were all some variation of some cool kid, with cool kid hair, blowing away all the other cool kids with their mad guitar skills, while bragging ‘never had a single lesson.’ It was an insult to everything I stood for as a ten-year-old guitar nerd who had even managed to touch an electric guitar TWICE by then.
If you’re planning to start learning guitar, it can be pretty overwhelming. You have to figure out where and how to learn (teacher? Instructional books or DVDs? Online course?). You have to figure out what kind of stuff you want to learn. And critically, you have to figure out what you’re going to play it on. It’s a lot to take in. But I’m here to help you through it! Let me start by telling you a little about when I first started playing guitar.
I haven’t tackled the massive, sad news of the passing of Eddie Van Halen here yet because it just felt too immense. This guy changed everything for everyone. Do you play a Strat-style guitar with a humbucker in the bridge position? Companies make those because Eddie played them. Play a guitar with a Floyd Rose? The fine tuners were Eddie’s idea. Paid attention to metal over the last three decades? You’ve heard the amps Eddie designed. Artificial harmonics, two-handed tapping, Drop D tuning? Eddie didn’t invent them but he sure mastered and popularised them.
Some bands build their early careers on a well-placed cover, like Van Halen blasting right out of the gate with a redefining take on The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” Some bands make a point of avoiding covers altogether. And some love their covers so much that at a certain point in their career they’ll release an entire album of covers. Buried somewhere in the middle of it all though is the covers EP. For many listeners a covers EP hits a certain sweet spot: enough tracks to feel like a little treat, not so many as to lose focus or have listeners impatiently drumming their fingers waiting for the next album of original material.
Here’s something fun. It’s my pick pouch from when I was 10 years old. A little D & J McCallum’s Perfection Scotch Whisky leather thing. And inside… The picks I used in my first year of learning guitar, including 10-year-old-me’s attempt at making my own Jazz III out of an
Ernie Ball Music Man Medium (which I chose for this surgery specifically because it was red). As you can see, I was merciless on my plectra.
These days it’s common – nay, expected – for a big blockbuster movie to have a kickass soundtrack packed with original new tracks by the big heavy-hitters of the day. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time the ‘movie soundtrack’ section of a record store was populated largely by recordings of the actual orchestral music scores of films. If a soundtrack featured pop songs, they were often classic tracks that everybody knew. Even in the case of big blockbuster soundtracks which featured a healthy amount of original new songs – like the album which accompanied the release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 – the tracks were very much mainstream radio-friendly pop. So the 1993 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero and its soundtrack sent shockwaves through the hard rock and heavy metal scene of the day because it was fricken loaded with crushing tracks by metal, thrash, grunge and alternative icons.