# # Bruce Norton, a Digitech RDS 800, the Harmonic Minor, and Me

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

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Bruce Norton, a Digitech RDS 800, the Harmonic Minor, and Me

Monday Morning Guitar Improv

I’ve been playing guitar with varying degrees of seriousness, now, for almost 25 years.

Knowing that, you’d think I’d be way better at it than I am but the key part of that statement, above is “varying degrees of seriousness.”

I got my first guitar in 1989 thanks to the unwavering support of one Bruce Norton, whom I worked with as a security guard. Bruce was a blues player whose mantra was “anyone can play, even you – and you should: it’ll free you.” I don’t know about all that but I sure freed up some room in Bruce’s house by purchasing a couple of his “extra” guitars.

I never did take lessons from him, though. He wanted me to pick some tunes for him to teach me, so I did: I picked a couple of old Pink Floyd songs like Lucifer Sam. Bruce told me that was too hard. How about something by the Beatles?

How about forget the whole thing!

As with many things I do, I didn’t exactly approach playing the guitar the way one normally does: I was never all that interested in playing anything anyone else had written. I kind of saw that as a lame thing to do. I mean, you don’t see writers approaching their craft by re-writing other’s stories, do you?

I see music much as I do writing and other art: my voice or “soul” if you must. Sure, sometimes I do learn someone else’s song – but it’s rare, dissatisfying, and feels dirty, somehow. Like climbing into another person’s pants and walking around trying to be them. Unless I bring something new or interesting to the interpretation, what’s the point?

And so I forgot about existing songs and, instead picked up a book called “Scales and Modes in the Beginning” by Ron Middlebrook. I went through it and decided the Harmonic Minor Scale had the most notes in it; that’s what I’d learn to play. I’ve learned other scales since but, uh, the harmonic minor is home to me, now

Then there’s gear – the very best piece of gear I ever picked up was Digitech’s RDS 8000 Time Machine. I used this delay unit’s amazing potential 8 second capture and loop to teach myself how to play, and then I used it to compose. I don’t know that I’d even still own a guitar or bass if it weren’t for this machine.

I’ve since picked up other books of scales, modes, tunings, music theory, and the like and have applied them to my noodlings with varying degrees of intensity and success over the years.

Same with gear – I’ve had a number of both great and crappy guitars, bases, amps, pedals, effects units, and recording equipment. Most of it was wasted on me.

My biggest frustration has been recording. I have full compositions and nuggets of said that remain unheard because I’ve either not had recording equipment or oomph. The few pieces I have recorded to my satisfaction – or near satisfaction – can be counted on one hand – the rest are either in my head or on slowly disintegrating 90 minute cassette tapes, captured live on a crappy, little boombox.

At this point I have no way to record multi-tracks, which I would need, and haven’t played daily, studied seriously, in years.

I would like to change that.

For now, I will content myself with a series of (sure to be embarrassing) youtube postings of my hesitant, bleary morning, improvisations on the guitar, shot with an iphone. The idea being that I slowly get better.

Viewing the video above, I don’t see as I have much choice!

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