Thirty-day challenges are a fun way to step out of your comfort zone. I have seen several such challenges on Twitter and in the blogosphere for a few years now. Some focus on music, others on photography, and there is even a recent 30-day challenge for baseball card collectors.
If you are a creative type, you may enjoy Creative Sprint by Noah Scalin and Mica Scalin. There is not one, but six 30-day challenges presented in this book to help overcome roadblocks in your thought process. Creative Sprint can be used by any type of artist: writer, photographer, painter, or musician. There is space provided on each page to document how you incorporated the prompt into your work, and several prompts suggest a bonus challenge.
The six challenges focus on different themes: “Dream Small,” “Perfection is Overrated,” “Limitations are Your Friends,” “Work with the Unexpected,” “Expand Your Default Settings,” and “Inspiration is Everywhere.” Throughout the book, the Scalins include testimonials from artists who utilized the Creative Sprint method in their work, and quotes from creative types to help spur you on.
Creative Sprint will challenge and has the potential to improve any artist’s work.
B.B. King’s Lucille. Eric Clapton’s Blackie. Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat. Keith Richards’ Micawber. Over time, guitar legends become so connected with their instruments, that it is difficult to think of one without the other. It seems strange to imagine Slash playing anything but a Les Paul, or Yngwie Malmsteen with something other than a Stratocaster (and a vintage white one, at that). In Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition, Dave Hunter explains how these musicians became so connected to their instruments of choice, often revealing how such instruments were acquired and why the artists chose them.
This book covers a variety of genres, from classic rock (Duane Allman, Clapton, Richards) to blues (King, Stevie Ray Vaughan), alternative (J Mascis, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo) to punk (Joe Strummer, Steve Jones) to country (Waylon Jennings, Brad Paisley). You will read about Reverend Horton Heat, Ike Turner, Nels Cline, and even see a picture of Billy Gibbons sans beard. One of the best entries describes Randy Bachman’s work on a 1959 Fender Stratocaster he named “The Legend.” The leader of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive changed nearly everything he could change on “The Legend,” which was stolen years ago. Bachman said, “It would be the thrill of a lifetime to get he guitar back, but it was just a wreck, so unless someone knows what it is…But what a sound and monster it was.”
A fantastic collection of stories and photographs, Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition shows that music history is not made with pristine instruments designed to be on display in glass cases, but with beat-up, modified, and often underappreciated models.
AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History
by Phil Sutcliffe
Voyageur Press, 2015
The most popular rock group to ever come from Australia is no doubt AC/DC. But the group was not an overnight sensation; it took years to break into the United States, though now their sound is so distinct one can recognize them usually by the first few notes. In AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History, Phil Sutcliffe presents a history of the band through photographs, beginning with the Dave Evans era. Several photos show the band in clubs during the early days, while the later images display the rockers on larger stages, playing to massive crowds.
Album reviews written by various people are scattered throughout the book, and the afterword is penned by Def Leppard‘s Joe Elliott. Sutcliffe’s treatment of the band’s history takes the reader all the way up to the modern day and Malcolm Young’s recent health struggles and Phil Rudd’s run-ins with the law.
AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History is a fantastic book that covers the Aussies’ entire career, shedding light on how the group was viewed during the 1970s before they achieved their massive success with the Back in Black record. Classic rock fans will dig the photographs of the band playing on grand stages with a sea of young metalheads watching their every move.
Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle
by Keith Cameron
Voyageur Press, 2014
Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Those are the names most often associated with the Seattle music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But there is another band, one that predated the explosion of Kurt Cobain in the mainstream and probably influenced him more than he would ever admit: Mudhoney, comprised of Mark Arm, Matt Lukin, Dan Peters, and Steve Peters. Largely forgotten by so-called fans of grunge music, Mudhoney never achieved the commercial success of their peers—which was never the band’s aim. “They’re four guys who got together and played music for fun, and the grand plan ended there.”
Author Keith Cameron’s definitive work on the overlooked grunge rockers covers it all, starting with each member’s upbringing and musical influences, early endeavors, and coming together to form the classic lineup. The band received critical accolades for their releases on Sub Pop, and disdain for the materials released by Reprise. Drug addiction and turmoil among the band members, dwindling crowds and IRS audits were among the many struggles the band faced during their career, ultimately leading to bassist Matt Lukin’s departure from the band. Soldiering on despite many difficulties, the band still exists today on a smaller scale, playing smaller venues, but still releasing new music for fans. While many of the grunge bands of the past have abandoned their roots, Mudhoney embraces them.
Whether you are a fan of the musical output or not, the story of Mudhoney deserves to be told. A story of realistic expectations and resilience through adversity. Cameron’s Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle leaves nothing out, and is a worthy addition to any rock fan’s bookshelf.
The Fender Stratocaster Handbook, 2nd Edition
by Paul Balmer
Voyageur Press, 2012
Whether you are looking to purchase a new or vintage Fender Stratocaster, or fix up that Squier axe you picked up at the pawn shop, this is the place to start. Author Paul Balmer breaks down the guitar, explaining each part and its importance to the integrity of the Stratocaster model. The subjects of adjusting the bridge and neck, aligning the tremolo, and replacing parts are all covered in this handy guide. Balmer examines several different types of Fender Stratocasters, from those made in Japan and China to the ones crafted here in the United States. He wraps up this useful book with a brief look at some of the most famous Strat players in history, from Buddy Holly to Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix and back to Clapton again.
If you’re interested in the Strat, you’ll be interested in this book.