Started: Age 13 in 1964
Instruments: Guitar, bass, harmonica
Styles: Acoustic, Bluegrass, Rock, Swing, Jazz
Books Publications: (National Guitar Workshop Publications/Alfred) Beginning Rock Guitar Intermediate Rock Guitar FolkGuitar for Beginners SwingGuitar (Roots Series) BluegrassGuitar (Roots Sseries) Beginning RockGuitar Lead & Rhythm (DVD
Recordings: Whole new ride (1980) Last fair deal II (1990) True tales (2005) Stacy Phillips & Paul Howard (1996)
Gear: Santa Cruz Om acoustic Fender American Strat w/emg's Guild f-50 acoustic EpiphoneCasino electric
Lesson Text: Learn to Play Guitar With Paul Howard Paul's Rock Guitar Lessons are great for beginners. He teaches you essential Rock guitar skills that enable you to start soloing and playing Rock tunes. Paul's Beginner Rock Guitar Lessons start out with strumming syncopation and movable chord forms. You learn major scales which are applied to soloing over a major vamp, and you practice connecting minor pentatonic boxes and the major pentatonic scale, with exercises combining major and minor pentatonic. Paul shows you how to create some typical Rock sounds, such as open pedal tones with power chords and chord embellishments. You can also learn some "must have" guitar techniques, including bending technique, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and combining bending and vibrato.
Paul operates a private music teaching studio and was also a founding faculty member with the National Guitar Workshop. After working on independent music projects, Paul and the other members of Last Fair Deal are bringing their unique brand of acoustic synergy back to fans old and new with a schedule of live performances and album recordings. With an eclectic repertoire drawing on old-time string-band, bluegrass, swing, and popular music, The Waterbury Republican calls it, "An acoustic treasure chest".
When did you start to play? I started to play at around the age of 13. What got me started was, basically, The Beatles. Seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan sort of cemented the deal for me. I thought, "That looks like a really good thing to do." I played the clarinet a little bit before that, because they said, "You're in fourth grade, now pick an instrument." But I never really did that well with it. It didn"t light a fire under me in terms of playing music. Neither of my parents were musicians. They both loved music, although when I was a kid they didn"t play music around the house much - records and stuff. It was really just something I kind of discovered on my own. My parents said, "Look, if you're going to play the guitar you should take some lessons," so they brought me down to the local music store and signed me up. After I'd been at it for a fairly short time they even bought me a fairly nice guitar. It was a nice Gibson hollow body electric. I sold it when I was in college, because I decided I needed an acoustic guitar. I sold that Gibson hollow body electric for 75 friggin' dollars. When did you start to notice that your playing was different from everyone else's? Early on I noticed that I liked performing; I wasn't the type of person who wanted to sit in my bedroom playing the guitar. I was a singer before I was a guitar player. I had this friend in school, who was into Elvis, and he used to come to school and do this Elvis impersonation and everybody went crazy, and that knocked me out. And then I had an opportunity the following year - we did some kind of show in school in the music program. They asked people to sing, and I got involved in singing and did pretty well. So I started singing and performing then. So when I started playing guitar, it was singing and playing guitar. My career has been more as a singer/guitarist than it has as guitarist / sideman type guy. When did you find your voice as a player? I got turned on by the Beatles, so for the first part of my life I was definitely into rock music. I didn"t know anything about folk music, country music, bluegrass music, any of that kind of stuff. I just discovered whatever rock music I could discover. I had rock bands all the way through high school. I don't think at that point I thought I was going to be a musician. I went to college and studied biology. But I got married very young, when I was a freshman in college, and that changed my life completely. I had two kids by the time I was 22 years old. But I started to write music and become a songwriter, and that's when I think I started to find my voice. And then the big thing that happened was I started to discover acoustic music. I started out as an electric player, but I always had a soft spot for the kind of acoustic rock, like Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young through liking that kind of music I discovered that there was a whole world of acoustic music that influenced a lot of these people, that I'd never heard. When I realized that that was all out there and I hadn't really had a taste of it, my whole musical life change completely. I went full tilt into searching out traditional stuff, acoustic stuff, folk music, bluegrass - I started listening to mandolin players, fiddle players, and thought, "Wow! This is much better than having three guitars in a band." Then in 1975 I joined up with a bluegrass band - a band that I still play in to this day. That really turned me into an acoustic guitar player. Then I really got serious about my own playing - schooling myself, finding out things, and really woodshedding like crazy. What makes a great teacher? A lot of patience helps, and a lot of flexibility in how you work with people. Most successful teachers will probably tell you that they don't have too rigid of a game plan that they follow with people. They have a game plan that they can draw from; but the front of it is kind of finding out where people are at, what turns them on, and what paths you can follow to move them forward. Because people can enjoy music at so many different levels, so many different reasons. For some people it's just a fun hobby... and some people have aspirations to be professional or semi-professional some people just want to be good enough to be in a band I have adult students who don't even play that much, but they love to come to lessons and learn a little more about music. It's just something that they dabble in. Are there one or two core ideas that are central to your teaching that you make sure every student learns? Play in tune, and play in time. Do you have a special place for practice set aside in your home? I have a dedicated place to practice at home - a little home office studio over the garage. Do you have a practice "tool-kit" - metronome, tuner, recorder, etc.? I have my tuner, my metronome, my music stand in case I want to do any reading. Some kind of playback mechanism is important, like a boombox. I have a computer program called The Amazing Slowdowner, which is a great learning tool - you're able to slow the music down without changing the pitch; you can tune the CD to your guitar; you can mark it to play a loop; it facilitates playing along with CDs. I find that I do a lot of practicing like that. Do you have a regular practice regimen? I play in two different groups, so there's always a lot of work to do to keep the material together for the groups. So a lot of my practicing is just running down material. I"m not the type of person that spends a lot of time playing exercises. I know people who really have a regimen. They warm up for such and such a time, and then a certain amount of time on scales - I've never been quite that disciplined about practice. I tend to be a little more practical. What is it I need to learn? What is it I"m working on? What are the new songs I'm learning? What are the new songs I'm writing? I have my little notebook and my list of stuff that I"m working on. And when I have a chance to practice, I open up that list, and look at it, and I say, "OK, I'm going to work on such-and-such," and away I go.The notebook is like a to-do list. You"ll start working on certain things, and then the next time you sit down, you might forget a couple of songs - "Oh! I really meant to practice that!" And what will happen is, you"ll get to a rehearsal a week later, and someone will say, "Did you work on that new such-and-such that I showed you?" and you"ll say, "Damn, I totally forgot about that song!" Sometimes I practice for chops. I play a lot of old-time bluegrass fiddle and flatpicking kind of stuff, which is a pretty demanding technique, for the right hand, especially. And I find if I don't do a certain amount of regimented practice, I can lose my chops for that. I like playing music as opposed to exercises, so I tend to find music that gives me the kind of practice that I need. Sometimes I'll write exercises so that I can practice a certain technique, but when it comes to fiddle music, there are millions of tunes, so I just pick out tunes that have certain technical challenges in them, and then I'll work out ways of solving those technical problems. When I do that fiddle tune practice or scale practice I do use a metronome a lot. There are tricks to using the metronome, too - like making the metronome click the backbeat instead of all the beats, which is an essential technique for most types of music -makes the metronome much more musical, for one thing. I do that a lot. Then there"s the technique where you know what your comfort zone is and then you keep trying to push the envelope a little bit as you practice it, increasing the speed little by little. Is there one piece of gear you just can't live without? I'm not much of a gear head, to be honest with you. The Amazing Slow-Downer is a great thing. I love those new Elixir Strings, with the coating on them. I have really sweaty hands. I've killed many a set of guitar strings in my lifetime, but those are just great. How do you keep your playing fresh? I try to write stuff. I also play in a duo with a guy who's always wanting new things in the repertoire - and very, very eclectic. So, through playing with him, I've played more different styles than I might have ever tried if I hadn't played with him. He and I play an incredibly varied repertoire of tunes - everything from swing to Hawaiian to Latin stuff, eastern European klezmer music. Do you have a musical wish list - other instruments to learn, people to play with, artists or styles to explore? I'd like to learn to play the mandolin a little better. I have a mandolin and don"t practice it as much as I'd like to. What do you do when you get stuck? One of two things. Either I slow way down to see if I can get it together slowly, or I put it away for a while and come back and visit it another day. What do you still find hard to do? Flatpicking on the acoustic guitar up to tempo has always been a hard thing for me. It"s something I have to put my attention on; it"s not something that comes very easily. That"s something I always have to work on. What are you listening to these days? Do you search out music that"s new and unfamiliar to you?I really like Tim O'Brien - he's one of my favorite players. His playing and singing are always at the highest level. And he plays a lot of different styles. But he's very true to his own approach. It's not like he affects a different thing when he plays with his Celtic band, or his bluegrass band. It's just his thing. He'll put out two albums at the same time, with two completely different bands - it's amazing. I'm also a big fan of Gypsy jazz; I've been a huge Django Reinhardt fan ever since I discovered acoustic jazz. I've been listening to some of the modern day Django-style players, like John Jorgenson and Stocello Rosenberg. A friend of mine just gave me a CD the other day of this guy, a French Gypsy named Joscho Stephan - unbelievable! Another guy that I love is Martin Taylor. His album, Spirit of Django is a great album. It"s the spirit of that Django stuff, but it doesn't sound like the Hot Club of France at all. It's a more modern-sounding band. It"s gorgeous - it's one of my favorite records. There are some great young players in that style (flatpicking), like Bryan Sutton and David Grier. Do you find yourself returning to listen to the artists who inspired you when you first started to play? Yes. Unequivocally. I go back and listen to a Beatles album, and I still come out of it shaking my head. On a lot of levels it still affects me like it did when I was a kid. The stuff that lit your fire originally - it"s hard to get that out of your brain. The other guy that really got me turned around is Dan Hicks - Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. That was how I discovered that I wanted to play with mandolin and fiddle. Then I went out looking for fiddle players and mandolin players, and of course you know the end of that story - I discovered bluegrass. Does your playing change when you switch instruments? My playing changes dramatically when I go from electric guitar to acoustic. I"m sure there are certain things that carry over, but I tend to approach them a good deal differently. How often are you surprised by your playing, or what you're listening to, or music in general? A pretty good percentage of the time. Part of it is that I"m really open-minded in my taste. I tend to listen to a lot of different things, so I'm opening myself up to being able to be surprised, because I often listen to music without expectations. And in my own playing - we'll be having a band rehearsal, and we"ll launch into a tune and be working on it, after we've run through it a few times, suddenly you'll get in that zone playing a tune, and when you get done everybody kind of looks at each other and says, "Wow! That was great!" Those moments, when those things happen, that"s kind of why you do it. 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? I wish I would happen a little more often, but it happens often enough. It's a pleasant experience. It's one of the reasons I like playing in a band, more than by myself. It happens more often in that setting, for me. How do you learn best? By listening. Having big ears and listening carefully to stuff - and then trying to make it happen
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