On March 24th, I attended a very interesting event at Dusty Strings music shop & school in Seattle, WA. The hero of the day was Laurence Juber, a famous acoustic guitarist, the former lead guitarist for Paul McCartney and Wings, and two-times Grammy Award winner.
Laurence conducted a 90-minutes guitar clinic sponsored by Martin Guitars. Later in the evening, he also gave the excellent 2-hours solo concert. Below are several tips and tricks from Laurence as well as some of my observations and musical impressions I’ve got from that evening.
Note: the links to the several products mentioned in this post are affiliate links to Musician’s Friend online music store.
LJ’s answers and my observation from the yesterday’s event
There was about 50-60 attendees on the guitar clinic, and they asked Laurence a lot of questions. Below is the list of some of the answers he provided and some of my observations.
- Laurence plays a custom Martin guitar. He is an expert in guitar design – read his own blog post about LJ signature Martin guitars. Laurence even allowed me to touch his guitar – thanks a lot, I very appreciate that!!! I played for a few minutes and she sounded excellent!!! The playability was very good. String action was pretty low and that surprised me a bit – I saw Laurence hitting strings pretty hard.
- He primarily plays with the flesh of the fingertips and doesn’t like the sound from the nails. He doesn’t use a thumbpick, but plays with the pick in some songs.
- He puts guitar on the right leg (he is right-handed). Classical guitar position (guitar on the left leg) is too formal and inconvenient for his style of playing.
- He uses Ghs Laurence Juber Signature Bronze True Medium Acoustic Guitar String with gauges 13-17-26-36-46-56, but replaces the third string with the thinner one (24th) for better vibrato and strings bending.
- He uses Peterson Stroboclip – Sc-1 Clip-On Strobe Tuner. Peterson is THE NAME in world of musical tuners. I don’t know whether Laurence uses a specific temperament (setting) on that tuner, or just uses the default one.
- His guitar has a D-Tar Wave-Length under saddle pickup and internal Audix microphone installed (If I got it right). Their outputs are mixed in a two-channel Headway Edb-1 Acoustic Instrument Preamp mounted on a short mic stand. Laurence often uses the mute button on the preamp to silence the sound when he tunes and/or re-tunes the guitar (after almost every song).
A few recommendations Laurence gave during the clinic
- Pick the song to play according to you level of playing. Don’t jump on too complex tunes.
- Play for people. It’s an extra incentive to play more/play better.
- Don’t play sitting on a bed (coach, sofa etc. – VB). The height of the chair impacts how do you play.
- Look at “Guitar Hands” hand care & cleaning lotion product. It helps a lot with fingers and calluses.
Note from VB: I’ve used this product for a few months now and pretty satisfied with it. It works well as a lubricant for hands. I would quantify the improvement from using this lotion about at 10-20% level. It also reduces string squeaks. I usually apply it before the recording sessions and performances and sometimes before practicing.
DADGAD doesn’t sound bad. Neither CGDGAE.
Laurence Juber uses DADGAD guitar tuning (re-la-re-sol-la-re) A LOT. He started playing in this tuning in … 1993!
I thought that DADGAD tuning is mostly useful for Celtic music or other musical styles using wide voicing (versus close-voiced intervals and chords). Yesterday Juber clearly demonstrated that DADGAD can be used in very wide range of music styles, especially for tunes where a player prefers to use open strings for bass notes. He showed how he applies it to the standard jazz tunes and tunes from the old movies we all know. I bought one of his DVDs where he teaches how to play in DADGAD and hope to start studying it soon.
By the way, LJ also plays in CGDGAE (do-sol-re-sol-la-mi) tuning too. The Pink Panther sounds so good in this tuning!!! I was very impressed how Mr. Juber knows the fretboard in every tuning he ever used. It takes him a sub-second to play a chord in any tuning and call out all the notes in that chord.
Laurence played a lot of the Beatles songs, some iconic guitar tunes (While My Guitar Gently Weeps), classical jazz tunes and, of course, his original music. I am not the biggest fan of pop music, but this concert was an exception. He clearly showed how solo acoustic guitar can replace the entire pop band.
On slow songs his guitar was saying “I am a special acoustic guitar, listen to me!”. His bendings and vibratos produced very special acoustic sound – I would say it sounded “leisurely”. In fast pop songs he wasn’t afraid to hit the strings and show the loudness of the guitar and good electronics. In the intense, high dynamic strumming I heard some minor “quacks” from the pickup, but overall it wasn’t disturbing. So the light buzzing from the strings in the loudest parts of the songs.
Of course, on that concert Laurence Juber demonstrated the highest level of musicianship, guitar playing and performing skills. Just go to YouTube, search for Laurence Juber, and you’ll see and hear everything yourself. He can play everything on guitar. Tapping with both hands, fast artificial harmonics, every possible virtuoso technique combined with very original arrangements and variety of standard and nonstandard tunings. His musical jokes were funny. I was excited and very glad to be at Dusty Strings for the day, including Eric Skye’s workshop in the first half of the day – I’ll have another post about it.
P.S. LJ’s resources on the Internet: