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Six Acoustic Guitar Tips
Here are a few free acoustic guitar tips every beginner will probably learn sooner or later. Some are harder to learn than others; forewarned is forearmed.
The Virgins and ASCAP: Did A Performance Rights Organization Do Anything For Us?
In 1995 I moved back to my hometown of Milwaukee with a group of college friends to start a band. We called ourselves The Virgins. Over the next five years this name would prove to be somewhat prescient. We played hundreds of shows throughout the Midwest, recorded one six-song cassette and two CDs, and made a lot of naive assumptions.
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Cool Gizmo Alert: Genz-Benz G-Flex 2x12
We're proud to launch a new product review series sponsored by YourGuitarist. is a web site offering Internet based development of custom guitar tracks for artists worldwide. allows musicians to avoid the high studio fees usually associated with producing guitar tracks for their songs.
Berklee News

The Feel

Soulful music wisdom from bassist Meshell Ndegeocello.

Meshell Ndegeocello (center) speaks to students during one of her master classes while faculty member David Fiuczynski watches.

Meshell Ndegeocello uses the word "blessed" a lot. Engaging, humble, and exuding positive vibrations, she marvels that she - who had no formal musical training, who left home at 15 and played music in clubs four nights a week - was speaking and playing music to a roomful of Berklee College of Music students. "I'm not that articulate in terms of music language. . . . I hear things in phrases," Ndegeocello said.

A singer/bassist/composer/producer/soundtrack artist, Ndegeocello held two Berklee clinics and performed with students at the Berklee Performance Center in early November. She spoke to a nearly full house and played with numerous students at the David Friend Recital Hall on a Wednesday afternoon for nearly two hours. "When I don't play, I don't know what to do with myself," she said.

The session was moderated by faculty guitarist David Fiuczynski, who arranged for Ndgeocello's visit and rehearsed students for weeks in advance of her arrival. Fiuczynski met Ndegeocello 12 years ago in New York.

Ndegeocello took a hands-on approach during her residency.
"Someone said she was looking for a guitar player and I needed a gig," he said. "I love her music and the unique way she can combine bitonal elements in a groove situation without sounding stuffy or heady. There's an unbelievable 'groove pocket' on the bass, a very individual sound going on, her vocals [move] seamlessly from sung voice to spoken word to rap."

Ndegeocello's singing was not on the agenda during her Berklee visit. Her master classes focused on musicianship and ensemble playing. And in the concert, Ndegeocello, Fiuczynski, and two student groups performed primarily recent jazz-influenced originals, expansive compositions that were both soulful and highly improvisational. Students did all the singing while Ndegeocello played bass and directed the band. This setup mirrored developments in her own career, where she's singing less, playing bass more, and likely playing all the instruments on her next recording.

"I have music in my head all the time," said Ndegeocello, who grew up listening to Sting, Level 42, and Prince. "I hear music all the time. It's like a blessing and a curse. And it's how I express myself the best." Her aim when she started, she added, was not to be a virtuoso, but to be able to compose like Jaco Pastorius.

Ndegeocello—born Mary Johnson in 1969—talked about how important it was for the bassist and drummer to "lock in" and demonstrated with several students. "Some bass players learn the notes," she said, "but not the feel. That's what we're gonna work on." She wanted the rhythm solid, but unshowy: "Other people get to express themselves at the forefront," she said. She cited the bands of Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as paragons in this regard, bands "that do not veer from the lock." She also emphasized that as a musician you had to hear the other players. She must have intoned "If you can't hear the other people, you are too loud" half a dozen times.

Up to eight players at a time joined Ndegeocello on the small stage—several guitarists and a saxophonist got their spots. The music moved sinuously from jazz to metal, with lots of ebb and flow. She coaxed a young bassist out of the crowd to play, and when he explained he was a lefty, Ndegeocello told him that was cool, just flip the bass over. He played tentatively, but was received warmly, with Ndegeocello stressing music was not a competition, but something to play with "your brothers and sisters."

Ndegeocello, naturally humble, said she had to develop her extroverted side—partially to get work. "It's about who you know," she said. "That's how you get work. I'm not very social, but I'm just starting to get (that way). It's about getting out, being gregarious, meeting people at the (movie) premieres, creating a reel of what you can (on soundtracks)."

Ndegeocello took questions about her gear—she plays a beaten-up 1960s Fender Jazz bass—and her hardware. She has a lot of high-tech toys, but will sometimes use just a simple cassette recorder. She cautioned that "a computer gives you infinite opportunities, but sometimes I want to keep it linear. Don't let the 'box' be the thing that writes for you."

Ndegeocello (right) takes a break from a group demonstration to make a point.
When asked about making it without a formal music education, Ndegeocello said, "Pray and be a decent human being. No one gets everything they want. Nothing is promised. Enjoy what you do. Expectations cause you suffering. Appreciate what you have at that moment—this is a fleeting experience. Just enjoy it."

Jim Sullivan is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Grand Stand

MusicDish Network Promotes 60's Love Child Astrella-Celeste

MusicDish, an Internet music magazine publisher and artist marketing/development firm, is proud to announce the addition of Pop/Jazz singer Astrella Celeste to the MusicDish Network roster. Combining a variety of online viral marketing strategies, the MusicDish Network will be coordinating a broad campaign in support of her debut album "Blue Star" (the Spanish translation of Astrella Celeste).


MusicDish At MIDEM: J-Music Distribution, France

J-Music Distribution describes itself as "the very first European distributor of Japanese music whose activities link Japanese artists and their management, Japanese record companies, and European distributors together to provide a stable framework of distribution from artists to music retail store."

Formed in December 2005, J-Music Distribution representatives brought their business vision to "MIDEM, The World Music Market's 40th Edition" conference in Cannes, France.


Toshi Reagon to Present Fanny with ROCKRGRL Women of Valor Award On April 20
Toshi Reagon has been named to present pioneering all-female rock group Fanny with the ROCKRGRL Women of Valor Award, Friday, April 20, at the Berklee Performance Center, located at 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Read more...
Musicians Turn to Short Run DVD Production
Today's independent musicians have started using new technologies including On Demand Short Run CD/DVD Production, enabling them to order smaller batches of CDs and DVDs in real time online 24/7 and ship to customers, one at a time.
Press Release
Synesthesia Announces Mandala 2.0 High-Def Drum And Synthesizer