Archive for November, 2011

November 25, 2011

Interview: Jen Trani


photo courtesy of the artist

I first discovered Jen Trani while looking for videos about soloing and lead guitar on Youtube.  I was pleasantly surprised to find she had an entire series on soloing.  I also found a wonderful tutorial of hers for beginners on how to play Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car.  Jen has some of the best online tutorials I’ve seen online.  They’re concise, easy to follow, and fun to watch.  Enamored of the videos, I had to learn more about Jen.  I found her website, got to listen to some of her music, and instantly became a fan.  The stories and advice I gleaned from our interview are inspiring.  Check out what Jen had to say below.  And then you can hear some of Jen’s music here.


Your bio says you started playing guitar on your mom’s old acoustic.  Can you talk a little about that, and about why you decided to start playing?

I always had a love of music from the time my grandmother bought me my first record player…that’s right..i said record player.  man, i must have been 5 years old… i would listen to cyndi lauper ‘she’s so unusual’ for hours and just dance and sing.  melodies would go through my head non stop during the day but i had no way to express myself musically.  i tried a couple different instruments before the guitar found me.  i tried taking lessons with those first instruments but i couldn’t stay motivated.  i always knew my mom had her old college guitar but it did really interest me until i was 12 and me and my mom were watching a movie.  there was a quick scene of a guy sitting on the edge of the bed playing guitar.  the scene was small and pointless but something clicked in my head the and i though ‘i could do that’.  i asked my mom if she still had her guitar and if i could have it.  she said she did but it needed a bunch of work done to it…(it only need new strings but we didn’t know anything about the instrument at the time).  i insisted that she get it down from the attic but she said no.  then, to my surprise, for my 13th birthday she hid it under my bed with new strings and a newly decorated case (my initials in musical note stickers) and a video…that’s right VHS tape of how to play guitar.  she told me that since she really didn’t have to spend any money on it that it was up to me how much i wanted to practice.  she wasn’t going to force me to take lessons…i could do my own thing.  i watched the video and learned a little but it was C and G and D7….it was all too happy sounding to me so i stopped.  i couple months later i was bored, as teenagers are a lot and thought i would give it another shot.  i fast forwarded past the all the major chords and got to a new song called “scarborough fair”.  that was how i learned about dark, depressing minor chords and i have been hooked ever since. : )  just had my 17 year anniversary of playing.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps, cables, pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

Jimmy Vaughn Signature Strat

ESP ltd delux

Martin dc16-gte

ovation set up in nashville tuning

fender hot rod deluxe amp

Lots of pedals, boss trem, tuner, line 6 echo park, tube screamer, big muff, ernie ball volume, wah, micro amp, xotic ac plus, pedal power, akia head rush, line 6 m13

cables i have mainly monsters and george L’s

my taste in gear has changed a little but not much.  that set up will get me through any gig/studio session that i’m called for.  so while it’s not the most interesting to read about (since it’s all standard equipment) it has definitely paid for itself several times over.  i got lucky when i first started buying gear that i got some great advice from people that i really trusted.  i have only sold one guitar and maybe 3 pedals.  the stuff that i have now will stay with me.  but you know i’m always looking to add to it.  i’ll probably get a blues jr to take to smaller venues and i’ve been eyeing a fender jaguar for about  a year now.

Do you have any go-to techniques?

Honestly, this may sound totally cheesy, but my go-to technique is to play with confidence (or at least fake like i’m playing with confidence) hahahaha  when i second guess what i’m about to do it always comes across like i’m scared…because if i’m questioning myself that means i am.  i have to get myself into the mentality that every note is right and i can make anything work on the fly.  it doesn’t always sound as ‘pretty’ or ‘clean’ as i would like but i comes off a lot better then ‘pretty’ ‘clean’ notes with hesitation or no feeling.

What is your songwriting process like?

it’s a totally different experience each time.  sometimes a melody or riff comes to me (usually while i’m driving or in the shower….are i guess anywhere where i can’t get to my guitar or a recording device hahahaha)  i play off a lot of the other musicians/songwriters that i work with.  i mold myself to their writing style to try and make it as easy for them to get what they want out of me.

How and when did you decide to start teaching online?

about a year and a half ago a friend of mine saw an ad on craigslist for a female guitar instructor to do 10 videos.  i wanted to eat that month so i decided to take the gig…which is usually how i pick all my gigs hahahaha.  i went in did the 10 vids, the company (mahalo.com) liked what i did and a couple months after they were uploaded i got great numbers on youtube soooooo i just kept making more and more and more.

What projects do you currently have in the works?

right now i’m writing with several people.  eps for a couple new artists, a possible showcase at the sundance film festival…oh and abby (jenandabby.com) and i have started on a concept album which we are hoping to debut as a theater show sometime in the middle of next year.  we are super excited about what we are creating.  it’s going to be very very different from what we have done in the past.  it’s too soon to say what direction it’s going to fully take but we have committed to getting it done.

Name one or two (or more!) artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) you find inspiring.  Why?

well my brightest diamond is one of my all time favorites.  what i like about her is that even if i don’t particularly care for something that she is doing, she always challenges me to think outside of the box harmonically and with her choice of instruments/arrangements.  right now i am crazy, crazy, crazy about the new florence and the machine album ‘ceremonials’.  that album has hit me in the right place at the right time.  it’s dark and uplifting, strong and vulnerable, driving and delicate.  and if i ever need to remember my roots as a songwriter and have a good cry i just keep it simple with a little patty griffin.  there is so much more but we haven’t got all day have we ; )

November 25, 2011

Jen & Abby Video!

November 17, 2011

Wild Flag On Sound Opinions

Chicago public radio’s Sound Opinions featured Wild Flag this weekend. Videos are available on their website, and the show itself is available as a podcast on iTunes. Check it out

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November 13, 2011

The Kitten Covers

In case you haven’t seen this, a group called Aymvisuals has taken famous album covers and redone them with kittens as the subjects.  My favorites are T. Rex and Let It Be.  That little John Lennon kitten has a freakish likeness to the original.  Check them all out at http://thekittencovers.tumblr.com/.  All Songs Considered also did a write-up on the artist responsible for the covers, Alfra Martini.

November 11, 2011

Keith Levene Is Too Cool For School

We are learning this in guitar. I will defeat this m-fing song if it kills me. I hate that Keith Levene looks so nonchalant as he plays the guitar part. Grr.

November 11, 2011

14 Year Old Girl Covering Steve Vai

I love this!

November 6, 2011

I Haven’t Forgotten You. Here’s a St. Vincent Video.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting more interviews, along with some tips as well as a software review.  But not this morning!  I need to write fiction today, my loves.

But I don’t want to leave you hanging.  This St. Vincent video has been out for about two months, but perhaps you missed it.  I only saw it last week.

It is super creepy…

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