Adrian's YouTube FAQ
Hi there! I get lots of e-mails from people asking about my YouTube videos, so I've compiled the frequently asked questions here. Each one of these questions has been asked at least five times.
Note that I'm still working on this page, so bear with me as some of the questions aren't yet answered.
How long have you been playing, and how did you learn?
I started playing guitar in 1997, when I was 16 years old. I started playing guitar because I wanted to learn how to play Beatles music. I eventually started playing more classic rock (Cream, Led Zeppelin), then Chicago-style and electric blues (Mike Bloomfield, Albert King, B.B. King), then fingerstyle (Laurence Juber), then gypsy jazz (Django Reinhardt).
I learned on my dad's nylon string guitar, from a beginner's guitar book that he had. I continued learning on my own, with books and Web sites, and by playing with other people.
In 2005, I started taking gypsy-jazz lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago with Alfonso Ponticelli. I wish I would've taken lessons earlier than that, because until then I hadn't been given proper training for things like posture and the ability to look at another guitarist's fingers to see what he was playing.
Are you a professional musician?
Technically yes, in that I regularly perform music for money. Music isn't my day job, but it's a side job that I enjoy very much. My gigs are in Chicago, usually playing gypsy jazz.
Do you have an album?
Yes! Best of YouTube, Vol. 1 is available as of June 24, 2010. Check it out!
Do you have long fingernails?
(Weird question... I'm not sure why people have asked this so often.) No, I don't. I actually use my fingertips, not my nails, in fingerpicking.
Equipment / setup
What kind of guitar is that?
I've used these guitars on YouTube:
- Gitane DG-250M -- A gypsy-jazz ("Selmer-style") guitar used in the majority of my videos. Read more about it here. Sample video: Strawberry Fields Forever.
- 1993 Michael Dunn custom Mystery Pacific (#254) -- A gypsy-jazz guitar with a pretty flamboyant design, including a multicolored fingerboard. This is the only guitar of its kind ever made by Michael Dunn. (It was custom-ordered by a guy, then it was sold at least once, and I got it in a used guitar shop in 2009.) The back and sides are made of Indian rosewood, and the fingerboard is made of purpleheart and boxwood. Sample video: Crying.
- 2009 AJL 503-XO -- A gypsy-jazz guitar used recently (since December 2009). Handmade by AJL Guitars in Finland and an incredible instrument. Sample video: Coquette.
- Custom guitar by Dan Koentopp -- An archtop guitar made by DK Custom Guitars here in Chicago. I don't own this; I borrowed it to record two videos (80 Ways and the "Jeopardy" theme).
- Unknown Dupont guitar -- A gypsy-jazz guitar I borrowed from a friend to record Django's Tiger with Joscho Stephan. Joscho is playing my AJL in that video.
What kind of strings do you use? Is it steel-string or nylon-string?
These are all are steel-string guitars, although I use gypsy-jazz style steel strings manufactured by Argentine. They have less tension than traditional dreadnought-style steel strings and give a more traditional gypsy-jazz sound. They also, coincidentally, work well for fingerstyle.
What kind of microphone do you use?
I've used two types of microphones in my videos:
- A Russian-made Oktava MK-012 condenser microphone. I highly recommend it!
- A Sony PCM-D50 "Professional Portable Stereo Digital Audio Recorder." This is what I've been using lately, as I like the fact that I don't have to use Pro Tools, plus the sound quality is awesome. You can get a good look at it in the Coquette video, where it sits on the table.
What's your recording setup?
It's changed over the years...
- Traditional setup: I use two computers. One runs Pro Tools with my microphone plugged into an Mbox, capturing audio. The other runs iMovie, capturing video with the built-in laptop video recorder. When I'm done, I export the audio from Pro Tools, import it into iMovie, align it properly, then export the video and upload to YouTube.
- Lately, I've been using the Sony PCM-D50 microphone, which adds some labor to the mix. After I record a take, I transfer the audio file from the recorder to my computer, where I mix it with the video in iMovie.
How do you combine multiple videos into a single video?
For multitrack videos, such as Super Mario Bros. 2, gypsy-jazz style, the process is the same as in the previous question, except I edit the video in Final Cut Express instead of iMovie, because the former program allows me to put two videos on the screen at the same time. I figured out how to do it by reading this thread.
Where can I get your tabs?
The large majority of my YouTube videos are of songs I've arranged on my own. That means I didn't learn them from tabs, nor have I written down the tabs. Creating accurate tabs takes time, and I'd rather spend my time playing guitar or recording more videos, not creating guitar tabs.
If you're a guitar player who wants to learn one of my songs, I'd urge you to watch the video repeatedly and work it out by yourself. The process of figuring things out by yourself will make you a much better guitar player in the long run. I know that sounds a lot like "eat your spinach," but it's true.
Do you give lessons?
I don't give lessons online at this point, but I do indeed teach guitar classes here in Chicago, at the Old Town School of Folk Music: the "Django Guitar Styles 1" and "Django Guitar Styles 2" classes. Here is a list of the classes I'm currently teaching.
How did you learn fingerpicking?
I started by learning Beatles songs such as Blackbird, Julia and Dear Prudence. (It's pretty easy to find lessons for Blackbird online.) Then I kept learning more songs in the style, and eventually it became natural enough that I could create my own arrangements of songs in this style.
How did you learn gypsy jazz?
I've been listening to Django Reinhardt since the summer of 1999, but I didn't get serious about playing in his style of music until 2005, when I started taking lessons with Alfonso Ponticelli in Chicago. I think it helped a lot that I obsessively collected and listened to Django recordings for several years before attempting to play the music -- I'm the type of musician who learns songs best if he already knows the melodies, so by the time I was ready to learn, I knew all of the melodies.
These days (even in the short time since I started playing gypsy jazz), many more instructional materials are available. Check out YouTube or djangobooks.com for all sorts of good stuff.
What's a good starter gypsy jazz guitar?
The guitars made by Saga, under the Gitane brand, are decent for a reasonable price. Search the djangobooks.com forums for a ton of chatter on this topic.
What guitarists should I listen to?
Everybody has different taste, and I can only give you my personal favorites. Here's my answer from an interview I did:
Nobody tops Django in my book. His expression, his tone, his improvisations, his passion – he can’t be matched. But aside from Django, let’s see…
I love Chet Atkins’ playing, not only for his expression and technique, but for his innate sense of melody. The guy never disrespects the melody.
Les Paul is awesome. His 1950s recordings with Mary Ford are wonderful. I also love his duet albums with Chet Atkins from the ’70s.
In the acoustic world: Laurence Juber is great, particularly his Beatles and Wings cover albums. He’s another guy for whom the melody is paramount. I can’t get enough of Pat Donohue’s instrumental albums, too.
Classic rock: Jimmy Page, of course, particularly his blues playing (like on the “BBC Sessions” album). Also, ’60s era Clapton, with Cream, but his later stuff I could take or leave. George Harrison, too, of course – the master of “hummable” guitar solos.
Modern rock: Elliott Smith and the guys from Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. All three have a great sense of melody.
Gypsy jazzers: Honestly, not many of the modern-day gypsy-jazz players really stand out to me – most of them kind of sound the same and either play too fast or repeat the same recycled riffs. But there’s a guy named Adrien Moignard who plays with a band called Ensemble Zaiti…man, this guy is amazing. I've seen him perform several times and have been consistently blown away. There’s a fantastic player called Olivier Kikteff who plays with the band Les Doigts de l’homme. I also really like Gonzalo Bergara from Los Angeles and Benoit Convert from France.
What advice do you have on writing your own guitar arrangements?
An easy way to get started is to learn the chords of the song you want to arrange, then fingerpick the chords slowly while emphasizing the melody notes. If you're dealing with a melody note that isn't part of the chord, then add it to the chord. It's kind of tricky to explain; I'd like to make a video about the process one of these days.
What's the most important piece of advice you have for guitar players?
Listen to a lot of music!
How do you choose the songs you play?
Melody and appropriateness for guitar. I'm most interested in songs that have memorable melodies.
Do you take requests?
Not at this time... I've already got a long list of songs I'd like to record!
Thanks for reading and listening,