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  Jam Session's Sixstring

The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar.... now, that's my idea of a good time.
-- Frank Zappa


handmade clay slide courtesy of zappatude

Sixstring seems like an odd name for a child at first, but after joining Jam Session it finally made sense. My mother had tremendous foresight. Actually, she named me Michael, but I’m sure that, had she known, she’d have named me something more guitar-ish.

My first love is music. I spent most of my formative years absorbing everything I could get my ears on and dreaming of making those wonderful sounds. My mother is an exceptional pianist, and though she will be the first to admit she hates to teach piano, she gave me beginning lessons when I was ten years old. I was making progress when one day I met a neighbor who had his very own drum set. He let me bang away on them for a while and my focus quickly shifted. I was hooked. I began playing drums in the 6th grade band and continued throughout High School.

About the same time I was playing piano, I was given a handful of guitar lessons. Just the basic finger chords… G, C, D, etc., all the way down to the dreaded F. (That F is a killer for beginners!) I all but dropped the piano in the coming years and split my time between the drums and the guitar. I learned them both the old-fashioned way, which was to put on a record and spend hours and hours toiling over the songs by ear, trying to translate them to the instrument. There’s nothing like desecrating glorious music on a cheap acoustic guitar with all the finesse and technique of a jackhammer. Being self-taught did develop my ear well, but my technique always lagged behind. My advice to young players; get lessons and develop your ear on the side.

Upon graduating High School, I had the pleasure of joining a band with the great StoneDragon. We had played music in band and on the side occasionally throughout High School. After moving away and getting married, I joined a heavy metal band as the rhythm guitarist and back-up vocalist in 1988. A year later, I took over as songwriter and vocalist and we continued on until 1994. We put out a couple demos and shopped them to labels but we were too late, the sound had changed and Grunge was all the rage. Nirvana had sufficiently killed the heavy metal scene. We were in the style of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. You know that saying, "That's so '80's"? Yeah, that was us. Our time was over. Our final performance, oddly enough, took place on the day the world learned of Kurt Cobain’s death.

After a couple years away from writing and playing live, I began to get the urge to try again, this time incorporating some of the jazz that was re-inspiring me to push to a new level. I started a new band with some of the members of my previous band and we played for a few years. It was another great experience, but it just wasn’t what the audience wanted to hear. We were playing for a young audience that now wanted Ska and Hardcore Thrash. Our honed licks were passed on in favor of trombones and a wall of sound. Once again, it was time to bow out gracefully.

Meanwhile, I had been nurturing a dream of doing a set of jazz Christmas classics. In the summer of 2000 I began arranging Christmas songs and assembling a band. By December we had a complete set of off-the-wall original arrangements and standards alike. I decided it was time to step out of the shadow of my good friend who had played lead for me over the years and put myself out there as the sole guitarist. I would either fall on my face or grow as a player. Ah… pressure… there’s something magical in it, isn’t there! We had such a great time that we resumed the following year to do it again. We followed that by playing a set of old jazz standards for a Valentine’s Day banquet and soon found ourselves rehearsing full-time, learning a varied set of blues, jazz and rock. We’ve been playing ever since and it is the most liberating musical experience of my life. We are a five-piece and I share vocal duties with a woman who can sing like an angel and wail the blues. I have the groovin’est keyboard player around, a very skilled drummer and a truly great friend who has been a mainstay on bass with me for years and he tears the thing up. Together, they have inspired me and pushed me as a guitarist. We have found our audience and we love what we do. We have no aspirations of glory, we play for the therapy and love of music. You can check out my Soundclick page for pictures of us in action and a sample of my playing and singing.

I draw inspiration from many musicians, too many to list here, but as I cut my teeth on blues-based rock and roll, my playing is never too far away from that vein. But one of the most influential players in my life is the Owner of this site: StoneDragon. On the rare occasions I’ve had to jam with him, he has always offered me great tips and helped me break bad habits. He has taken the time to explain things in a way that no one else ever has and his input is largely responsible for opening up my playing and helping me make sense of that most rewarding and frustrating of instruments; the guitar. Thanks Stone, I really owe you!

I joined Jam Session to connect with an old friend, pick his great big brain about theory and playing and just hang out with other players and talk shop. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the staff for many years now and I’ve watched Jam Session grow up and surpass the competition on every level and become a monster of a site with a wealth of knowledge and ability that I believe rivals any site on the Net. Not just any guitar site… I mean any site of any particular focus. The staff and members make me very proud to be involved with this site. I’ve made some great friends along the way and I think of Jam Session as family. It has been my pleasure to serve here and I look forward to many more years with you all.

-- Sixstring

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