Started: Age 13
Recordings: Two self-released EP's to date: Live EP and Valentine EP. A full length album is due to be released in late November 2006. Back-up vocals and flute on Jenny Owen Youngs' "Batten the Hatches" - Network 2007
Gear: Taylor 410 CE acoustic guitar Gretsch Electromatic electric guitar
Lesson Text: Guitar Songs With Bess Rogers Bess is a great teacher of guitar songs who will motivate you to learn many of the Folk classics she teaches at the beginner and intermediate level. Besides the guitar songs, you will also learn the techniques that are required to play them: barre chords, hammer-ons and pull-offs, boom-chick strumming, ornamenting a bassline, and Travis picking, among other techniques. Here are some of the guitar songs you can learn with Bess: "Auld Lang Syne," "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Bess started playing music at age five, and took up guitar at age 13. She teaches private lessons full time and holds the post as director of the DayJams rock music summer camp in Long Island. Bess also performs in New York City as a solo act, as a synth player in The Age of Rockets, and in various other projects, including Funny Energy and The Folksong Revival. The biggest thing in her life right now is her new record, which will be released in late November of 2006. She has been working on it for over a year, and is spending the majority of her time finishing up recording and planning for the aftermath of a release. Among her favorite artists are Radiohead, Kate Bush, Elliott Smith, The Beach Boys, The Kinks.
When did you start to notice that your playing was different from everyone else's? When did you find your voice as a player? I started to find my own voice as a guitarist when I was starting college. As a songwriter, I was using the guitar to accompany myself. But as I learned more, I became more interested in using the guitar creatively. I started writing guitar parts that were just as important to the song as were the lyrics and melody and began to do a lot more fingerpicking and melody within the chords. How do you keep your playing fresh? I keep it sealed in an air tight container. Also, I get bored of myself very easily, so I'm always trying to move forward. I'm overly conscious of repeating myself, so I rarely let myself do it. What do you do when you get stuck? Call for help. If I'm having really serious writer's block, I play other people's songs and make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are precious. They lead to the best ideas. A lot of things that I've written have come from playing something wrong and using it in a "right" sort of way. What do you still find hard to do? I still have a little trouble playing the guitar with my toes. How often are you surprised by your playing, or what you�re listening to, or music in general? Hmmmm... It's been a little while since I've been "surprised" by music. The last time was, maybe... hearing Blackalicious's "Alphabet Rap". That song really shocked me. I think I met have even fallen down while listening to it. It's insane. Do you have a regular practice regimen? Do you have a practice "tool-kit" - metronome, tuner, recorder, etc.? Do you have a special place for practice set aside in your home? How do you practice on the road or when you travel? I'm a very busy lady, so it's hard to find time to sit down and practice. I practice whenever I have a spare moment. Even if it's for 15 minutes here or there. Every little bit helps. As for a "tool-kit".... I enjoy practicing with a metronome. It works such wonders for your sense of time, and it's easy to track your progress. Is there a piece of gear you just can't live without? I left my Taylor in the trunk of a cab once. It was missing for four days. I got that guitar when I was 16 and have written almost every song on it. When I lost it, I was an emotional wreck. Thankfully, it came back to me unharmed and I do not have to face life without my Taylor. Are there one or two core ideas that are central to your teaching that you make sure every student learns? I try to make learning music a fun and enjoyable experience. Students should leave every lesson with a feeling of confidence and accomplishment, not frustration. Learning music should be a joy, not a chore. I also make sure that all of my students understand the importance of regular practice. Do you find yourself returning to listen to the artists who inspired you when you first started to play? Who are they? All of my favorite artists back then are still some of my favorite artists now: R.E.M., Jeff Buckley, Patti Smith, Elliott Smith. Does your playing change when you switch instruments? Yes. How often, when you're playing, do you find those moments of pure music, when your head is clear, your fingers are working, there are no distractions, and it�s just you and the music? When the moon is full and the stars are aligned. I find that it happens mostly while I'm practicing in a room by myself. It's easy for me to get lost in the music when I'm not on stage in front of people. During live performances, it's easy to get caught up in your thoughts; the sound in your monitors, who's in the audience, the lights making your sweat, etc. It does happen on stage, though. Really, the more often I play out, the more often I can relax and have those kinds of moments. We have a feature called "Big Ears", where we suggest interesting music to our members that they might not have heard before. What would you suggest for them? I would suggest listening to Kate Bush�s "Hounds of Love" or "The Dreaming", Laura Vier�s "Year of Meteors" and Neutral Milk Hotel�s "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". What are you listening to these days? Do you search out music that's new and unfamiliar to you? I have a lot of friends that are constantly recommending me new music. The latest thing I have been listening to is Death Cab for Cutie's "Plans", and the new Sigur Ros and Joanna Newsome records. I don't know the names of the records. Do you have a musical wish list � other instruments to learn, people to play with, artists or styles to explore? I would like to be able to play the saw. Really, I'm serious. I REALLY want to learn how to play the saw. And the theremin. Have you ever had a really great teacher? What made him/her so good? I had some really great professors in college. The best ones were the ones that treated me as just another musician, and as an equal. That's how I like to treat my students. As a teacher, I am just imparting what I have learned onto them, and they can do with it as they wish. How do you learn best? I learn best from just playing with other musicians. Everyone has their own way of playing and their own set of experiences. When I make music with other people, I like to be a sponge and just soak up all of their knowledge. PRACTICE TIP from Bess Rogers: Be patient and don't discard your mistakes, especially if you're trying to write. The best way to do that is to record everything that you do. Listen back and you'll probably find some interesting stuff. visit Bess at www.bessrogers.com,
Lakeside, CT 06758
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