Tag Archive: guitar


You were not happy when you didn’t have shows booked for Friday and Saturday. But you thought it was a good thing when you came down with a cold because the weather was changing. You feel better Monday and feel like you can play. Whether it’s a gig or an open mic, you’re ready to get out and play. You order a glass of water with your beer – because you usually do and, well, you’re not stupid.

Then you get called to play before you’re ready. In the middle of your routine, as it were. You take your water with you. You tuned your guitar as soon as you knew you’d be playing. But it’s outside on the patio and you’re praying it stays in tune – which it usually does. But you keep checking to make sure.

You start the first song and your voice sounds better than you thought it would. Then about the third line you realize that moisture is escaping from your mouth in rapid fashion. Just before you hit the chorus, you feel a frog crawling up your throat. Well, not quite a frog really – more like one of those little frogs that used to be as prevalent in a backyard as fireflies, but you don’t see them much any more.

You turn your mouth away from the mic – hoping it’s quick and quiet – while still keeping the rhythm going. You recover in time to start the chorus – maybe a beat late. You finish the song with only a couple of incidents.

You keep drinking water. As each successive song goes by, you begin to think you’re going to pull it off. As the water begins to run out, you take a chance and push it a little, getting a little louder. You finish with another loud song. Fortunately, no one heard the coughs and gurgles.

The crowd enjoyed it and you leave the stage to get more water – hoping you didn’t do any damage to your vocal cords. The time I refer to was not too bad. Unfortunately, other times have not gone as well.

What is your “show must go on” story?

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

 

Vinnie Smith and I

After our tour of my old digs in Nashville on Friday, the 14th, Cameron and I had lunch at The Row and then headed out to the V-Picks shop. It’s actually a building outside of Vinnie Smith’s house on his property. We talked about picks, guitars, music, and this, that, and the other thing. He gave me a good deal on picks so I could stock up.

Vinnie also said he would send me the V-Picks logo so I could put it on the banner for my merchandise table.

The table I use for my drink, capos, harmonicas, etc.

Which, incidentally, Cameron is making for me. Naturally, it will be guitar-shaped. You can see other examples of Cameron’s work in the store at DanRoark.com.

After we visited for a while, Vinni had to go check on some people doing repair work at the house. We said our good-byes, then Cameron and I headed for Memphis.

When you come see me play, you’ll get a v-picks demonstration. Or you can order a few to try at v-picks.com. The cost is more than regular picks, but they heat up with your fingers helping them to stick to your skin and it takes a good while before they wear out. And they really make the instrument sound good. Each pick has their own unique sound. They also work with ukuleles and mandolins. Give them a try.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

V-Picks

There came a time when I could no longer buy any more guitars. I certainly don’t need any more guitars. Which is what led to the moratorium on buying guitars. Well, that and Cyndy wouldn’t buy any justification I might come up with.

So when I worked the Dallas Songwriters Association booth at the Dallas and Arlington guitar shows, I started looking at accessories. I have an impressive capo collection (more later). I have picks of many sizes, shapes, thickness, material, etc.

For years I used Fender medium picks like everyone else. Then John Pearse picks with the off-center point that helped with the way I played. A few years ago, a lot of people started making picks out of just about anything you can imagine. I have one out of petrified wood and one of granite.

So I began to experiment with all different kinds of picks. They were cheaper so Cyndy didn’t mind. It had never occurred to me how the pick can change the sound. Like everyone else, I tried different strings, different gauges, and so forth. I was amazed at the different sounds I could get with the different picks.

Then Vinni Smith introduced me to his V-Picks picks. I use them exclusively now- except for finger picks, which he doesn’t make. I also use different picks for different songs. The picture below is my V-Pick leather wrist band with the picks I use. Check out the website and see the variety of shapes and styles. There is bound to be one that fits your sound or even enhances it. They are made with Vinni’s special acrylic blend. And they stick to your fingers with the heat of your fingers.

Last week, I got an email from Vinni with the picks on sale and a new pick. The Nashville pick is a return in his special acrylic blend to that same Fender pick except “on steroids.” I didn’t like using a heavy pick, but I love this pick. It rounds out my wristband onstage selection quite nicely.

Check out the website. They have sets you can order to try different ones. Tell Vinni I sent you.  Or catch me when I play and you’ll have a demonstration. I’d be glad to show them to you and let you try them.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

When I’m headed to a show, a few blocks away from home I reach back and pat my guitar case in the back floor. As long as I’ve got my guitar, everything will work out. Even if I’m missing a cord or other piece of equipment, I can still play the show as long as I have my guitar. But I’m usually not missing anything.

I had a friend who had to borrow my guitar at an open mic. He brought his guitar case – his guitar just wasn’t in it. Another friend left his guitar in the parking lot when he left for the evening.

Anyone that knows me knows I am a creature of habit. I’m not anal about it, but I do things the same way all the time. And I usually have good reasons for doing so. As the previous examples illustrate.

But (didn’t you see a but coming?), a couple of weeks ago, I was heading to an open mic. I loaded everything but my water bottle and my guitar, as usual. Something distracted me: a phone call, unexpected conversation, who knows.

I said good-bye to Cyndy and left for the restaurant. I was wrestling with the air conditioner for the first part of the trip. I got to the restaurant, got my backpack and my hat. As I opened the back door, it occurred to me that for the first time in over forty years, I had left without my guitar. And for the first time in quite some time, I hadn’t reached around and patted my guitar case. I won’t make that mistake again.

But I sure felt stupid. And I don’t like feeling stupid. What did you do that made you feel stupid?

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

 

guitar-tableDon’t know what to get that guitarist in your life for Christmas? Why not give him/her a guitar-shaped table? Perfect for using at the gig for drinks, picks, capos, etc. (see picture below), or for eating dinner in front of the TV at home.

The prototype was made with a Fender cutting board. I was the recipient of the first one. I’ve been using it for two years now and it still works great.

Each table is one of a kind. Different guitar shapes are possible. Or you can just choose Stratocaster or Les Paul. Each table will be handmade.

Order at www.danroark.com/store. Price does not include shipping. After ordering, contact Cameron Roark at CameronRoark23@aol.com for shipping information and custom orders. That allows you to choose the shipping method you prefer. Shipping will be paid by Paypal or C.O.D.

Time is running out to receive it by Christmas. If we can’t get it to you before Christmas, you could order a table and let them know it’s coming. While you are in the store, you could also pick up some stocking stuffers.

Peace be with you.20160402_184735_resized

Dan during video shoot

The week before we filmed footage for the What the Lord Intends (Sack Summer Hunger) music video, I kept practicing the song. I had already been playing it frequently in support of the program. But since we were going to film me playing the song, I wanted to be able to do it in as few takes as possible.

On Friday night, I played it numerous times. Then I got up Saturday and played the song to warm up. I arrived at the church at 8 a.m. I set up my camera and filmed myself playing the song a couple of times. Marcus Belmore arrived and began getting footage of the volunteers, including me, sorting and delivering the food to the families whose children received free or reduced lunches during the school year, but nothing during the summer.

I don’t know about other songwriters, but when I write a new song that I really like, I have a hard time getting it out of my head. And since I was playing it in support of the program during the summer, What the Lord Intends was really stuck in my head. I played it a couple of times after I got home from the church.

After a nap and dinner, I later decided to play the song again. I fingerpick on the song and couldn’t play the opening licks for the likes of me. My fingers just wouldn’t work together in the syncopated way they normally would. It was comically frustrating, if you catch my drift.

The lack of dexterity actually concerned me for a moment – even though it was only on that song. Working at the computer a lot of the time, I’m used to carpal tunnel type symptoms. I exercise my hands frequently. Playing guitar helps to stretch the fingers. Except in this case when the two worlds collided, so to speak.

Are there any lessons to be learned? Never play guitar after a nap and dinner? I don’t think so. Never film a video at a church on Saturday morning? Again, no. Don’t play the same song one more time, being tired, without playing other songs? That’s closer.

Anyone had this, or something similar, happen to them? Any other lessons to be learned? I laugh about it now, but it was scary for a while, not having the fingers work on a song.

Peace be with you.

V-PicksAs my post on the DSA blog (re-posted here) stated, I worked the booth at the Arlington Guitar Show. I enjoy working the booth at guitar shows, because it’s a chance to play guitars I will never own. Some of them were worth so much money, I just look at them from a distance. If I see a good deal on a guitar that looks, sounds, and plays really nice, I take two deep breaths and move on. If I take another guitar home, I’ll need to take divorce papers with me. So I look at the newest gadgets, like capos, picks, etc.

For many years, most guitar players used Fender medium picks. Of course it was not entirely universal, but “as a general rule.” The shape would change, depending on the instrument. If you wanted a new sound, you changed the brand or gauge of string you used, or even the guitar. There weren’t as many different picks back then, so changing picks usually never crossed a guitar player’s mind. I did, however, change from Fender medium to John Pearse medium, which I still use. It has an offset point which is easier for me hold and attack the strings.

My statement about “most guitar players,” refers mainly to acoustic guitarists. Although a lot players I knew used medium exclusively, more and more guitarists began using heavy gauge picks for playing electric guitars. Now it’s all over the map as far as shapes, gauges, and types of materials for picks are concerned. Which is precisely my point.

Since I had to set my sights on lower cost items, I started looking into different picks at guitar shows. It’s incredible how many different materials they make picks with. Now I have a lot of different picks. But I’m still married! Then I was introduced to V-Picks. Each of the picks has a different tone or resonance. I am experimenting with different picks in their line, but my mainstays are the blue Lite Tradition and the Euro II. I stocked up at Arlington show because they always have their biggest booth there.

I also like to see the different picks they’ve come up with. Even though they’re made of an acrylic/glass type of material, they still wear down. It takes a little doing, mind you, but they still wear down. One of the good points of the picks in general – other than the unique sound – is that it sticks to your fingers with the heat in your hand. It’s hard to lose these picks while playing. Give them a try. At the very least you’ll make some good sounds and have fun.

Peace be with you.

[Re-posted from DSA blog]
Bobby Montgomery at DSA BoothThe second special event of October was the DSA booth at the Arlington Guitar Show on Saturday, October 17, and Sunday, the 18th. Bobby Montgomery set up the table on Saturday – and worked all day both days, God bless him! I joined him shortly thereafter – after waiting in line to park. I helped with the booth until about 12:30.

I was watching the booth when Bobby stepped out for a bit. I looked at my phone and saw a notification from Facebook. It was one of those “what you were doing last year” posts that Facebook does, with a picture from a year ago. It was the picture I took of Bobby behind the booth last year at the guitar show. It looked similar to the picture above, but I think the table looked better this year.

After a couple of hours I had to leave in order to host the DSA Showcase at the Farmers Branch Manske Library. I don’t know if any volunteers showed up to help Bobby after I left. I didn’t have a chance to browse the booths before I left. I did do one thing, but that is a different post.

On Sunday, Bobby and I opened the booth again with a little help from my son, Cameron. Then I had the chance to wander around and drool at the guitars, amps, and accessories. Among the wandering and drooling, I stopped at the Guitars for Vets booth. I met George Jordan, head of the Dallas Chapter.

George told me how the program worked. They give each vet ten guitar lessons. If the vet completes all ten lessons and shows interest, they give him a guitar. When I told him I was with the Dallas Songwriters, he got excited. They were trying to come up with something, after giving the vet the guitar, to keep the interest and effectiveness going.

I told him the DSA would be happy to support them in any way we could. We have worked with many veterans over the years. If music and playing guitar can help them maintain, then surely songwriting would help. Without a doubt, they have stories to tell. For several years, Dallas Songwriters distributed a cd entitled Songs from the Soul of Service: A Collection of Songs written by U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Surely telling those stories through song – or even spoken word over guitar – would be comforting in nature. I will be contacting George soon. Stay tuned for future development.

Dickey Johnson and Michael Brandenberger arrived at the booth before I left in time to get Cameron back home to go to work. We talked to quite a few people at the booth over the two days. We have two pages of names and emails to enter into the mailing list and into a drawing for a chance to win a free year’s membership. If you are on that list, you should receive an email from me before too long.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

The Hammond Organ

Hammond Organ

Cyndy and I went over to my Aunt Marie’s house a couple of weeks ago to help Dad take care of her possessions. Dad told us that anything we wanted for sentimental reasons and were going to keep, we could have. There was nothing I could think of that I actually wanted. I knew there were a few types of things I would like to keep just because they were hers. But I knew I would “know it when I see it.”

After my father first told me we were going to have to move Marie to an assisted living facility, I began thinking about the past – see previous post. When I was in junior high (not middle school – just saying) and high school, we would alternate between our house, Marie and Pick’s, or Jack and Juanita’s. When we were at Marie and Pick’s, it wasn’t long before I would start messing with her organ. She would come over and sit by me and help me play something that didn’t sound like zoo animals on the warpath.

But I thought the organ was really cool. The adults would be having a conversation that I was not invited to join. I would just sit at the organ and move the slides around and step on the pedals like I knew what I was doing. When Marie had the chance, she would slide onto the bench beside me and teach me a little something about playing the organ – before having to return to hostess duties.

Cyndy and I arrived at Marie’s where Dad was working to clear things out. We walked around the house. Some of the kitchen stuff we wanted. I spent time putting aside things we can sell online and make money for ourselves and the estate. Marie had so much that it was a little overwhelming.

I walked into another room and was rendered speechless. Against the wall was Marie’s Hammond organ.

“I’ll be damned,” I said out loud to myself, “she still has it.”

The organ is now in our living room. It needs a serious “tune-up,” as it were. I look forward to being able to play the organ (a little). Until then, I look forward to seeing her and playing my songs for her again – even though she may not recognize me.

Peace be with you.

Loews Hollywood Hotel

I had the pleasure of attending the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) conference in LA last week at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Things are just now getting back to normal enough that I can post about the trip and the conference. Our middle son, Cameron, went with me. The conference began on Wednesday evening with badge pick-up and opening networking reception. Cameron and I flew out on American Airlines from DFW Tuesday morning so I could show him a few things and see some sights.

We were all in our seats and ready to go at the departure time of 9:05. I was enjoying the fact that I had walked my guitar on without any problem and it was safely resting in the overhead bin. The plane had been started. We’re all thinking “here we go” and getting ready, when the pilot comes on the speakers.

“ Ladies and gentlemen, we have some liquid on the side of the plane. It’s probably just fluid that leaked when it was filled up, but we called the mechanics and they’re here to check on it so hopefully we’ll be taking off shortly.”

After a very pregnant pause, he came back on to tell us we would be changing planes. After we had all left the plane, we were sent to another gate. After we got there – some of us anyway – it was not long before they found us another plane. However, this was a considerably smaller plane. Cameron and I thought that some people would not be able to get on the plane, but there were empty seats on the plane when we took off. Some people, I’m sure, made other arrangements if they had connecting flights in LA.

The flight left without any further delays or problems. When we arrived in LA, we were just about to come in on the runway when the pilot suddenly jerked the nose up and hit the gas. We shot up and then headed out over the ocean. It wasn’t my first flight there so I was pretty sure I knew what he was doing.

Then he made a hard banking left. People were beginning to wonder if he was going to take us into the water. But he finally got turned around and told us that the air traffic controllers had switched runways on us at the last minute and we were circling around to try to land again. Which we actually did, thank God. We arrived at LAX almost exactly two hours late.

Cameron and I had a reservation for our GO Shuttle two hours earlier, so it didn’t take long to get on a shuttle. After the obligatory run back around through the airport to check for more passengers, we were on our way to the hotel. We checked in at the hotel and put our stuff in the room. Then we went to get something to eat before I played at Pig ‘n’ Whistle on Hollywood Blvd….

Peace be with you.

 

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