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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Steve Vai Taught Me About Performing

A number of years ago, while I was in college (mid 90s), I got to witness Steve Vai perform on multiple occasions. The first was on the Sex and Religion tour when his band played at Graffiti's club in Pittsburgh, with Devin Townsend on vocals. The show was simply amazing, and contained everything... heavy hard rock vocal numbers, melodic instrumentals, great audience participation, percussion/drum solo, jazzy numbers, mind boggling extended solos, and an amazing, and inspired energy.

A couple years later, I saw Steve play on the first G3 tour, and this was a much more concise performance, limited to 45 minutes, and his best material, but still inspired. A year or so after that, he toured behind the Fire Garden album, again playing at Graffiti in Pittsburgh. This show, again was jaw dropping, and felt so special, as if we were witnessing magic, on a particularly inspired evening. The crowd interaction, Steve's between-song banter, and the performance was just ...special.

I decided to drive down to Washington DC to catch the next show that weekend. This show was at the  now defunct Bayou in Georgetown. I brought a guitar student and my older brother with me... they had to witness what I saw in Pittsburgh. Much to my surprise, this show was nearly identical to the show in Pittsburgh, just two nights before. The same set of songs, the same between-song banter, the same crowd participation scenario, almost every thing about it was the same. As soon as it occurred to me that Steve and the band were playing the same thing every night (hey, I was young and I assumed they changed it up), I was a little disappointed. That show in Pittsburgh wasn't special, it was like all the other shows...

This disappointment quickly faded, as I witnessed a seemingly just-as-inspired performance in Washington DC. Steve and the band were still giving 100%. Sure, it was a similar performance to the other night, but that didn't stop them from delivering. There were two differences from this show and the previous one and I relished them. First, Steve's amp crapped out in the middle of the song "Brothers", right before his solo would have started. His band played on, with Mike Keneally taking a keyboard solo while the crew scrambled to replace the amp - which they did just in time for Steve to deliver THE solo!  Secondly, towards the end Steve decided to smash his guitar to bits, and throw it into the audience, and then proceed to crowd surf in a very packed Bayou club. OK, now that was cool. (If Steve reads this, maybe he can interject a little about what he was feeling that night that prompted this.)

My take away from this was an important music lesson for me. When you are performing the same set of songs over and over, or if you are performing a song that you may feel is easy or boring, you can't let it be easy or boring. Your mind should be on multiple things:

1. Song Arc: Be mindful of the overall dynamic arc of the song, from intro, to verse, pre chorus, chorus, etc... How are you going to shape the song?
2. Part Arc: Each part of the song (Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge) has it's own dynamics, timing, and feel. How are you shaping each part of the song? Is it similar or in contrast to the other parts?
3. Line Arc: Each part of a song is made up of musical lines. Are you paying attention to the phrasing of these melodies and/or chord progressions? There may be a question and answer quality to these lines, are you performing them effectively? How are you shaping these lines?
4. Note Arc: Each melodic line or chord is made up of individual notes. How are you shaping these notes? Are they staccato, legato, loud, quiet? Does the timing occur ahead of the beat, or behind it? What is the envelope of each note and chord?

With all of this to think about, you can guarantee that the performance won't be "phoned in". You should be on your toes through every part of the performance. While much about performing is having the material down so well that it becomes second nature, you should always be mindful of how you shape each part of the song (on the macro and micro level). This will guarantee that you are "in tune" with the song, and can go a long way to delivering inspired performances no matter how many times you've played the set of songs.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

11 Pieces of Advice I Wish I Heard When I was a Music Student

Last week I recently received an email from a guitar student in his freshman year at my alma mater, Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. He was asking for some advice, stating,"Adrian, … I am a freshman guitar performance major at  Duquesne.  You are an inspiration to me because you are doing exactly what I hope to do one day and I was hoping you could tell me a little about how you got there. Thanks man.”

It’s funny, because I think people’s perception of “success” changes over time, and quite frankly, for some, it never feels like it has been obtained, no matter how much they have accomplished in their chosen field.

So considering this, my response was, “Hello, thank you for your message, I'm flattered. My story is a long one, but I think if you are looking for some career advice, I have some. I'll base it on what has worked for me, mistakes I've seen others make, and even stuff I wish I had done.”

You can see my advice below. After I read it, I wished someone told me some of this stuff when I was his age.

In no particular order:

1. You are at Duquesne, a great music school. I had a lot of fun there and excelled. I can't think of a music class there that wasn't important to my development as a musician... but while music is not a competition, the music business is. Look around to see how much people are practicing, and practice more. 

2. I'll assume you are in choir, which is great. I wish I continued to pursue singing more. If you aren't now, make sure you are working on your vocals. I love instrumental music, playing it and composing it, but the amount of gigs I could have gotten had my vocals been more together could have made a big difference. I am now singing more, and it's paying off. Every band audition I have gone to asks about singing.

3. My general advice to musicians is: Perform as often as possible, with as many people as possible, for as many people as possible. This is important. You will be making contacts that will turn into opportunities much faster the more gigs you play. A band leader, audience member, manager, agent, club owner, fellow musician, etc... will eventually refer you to another, bigger, better gig. The experience of performing, and entertaining is important and something you can really only learn on the job. In addition, you will be expanding your repertoire and musical vocabulary along the way.

4. When you look for a job, try to only do music related jobs... like teaching. I regret taking some office jobs for a few years, it kept me from getting where i am today that much sooner. Your 20s are a perfect time for living on hotdogs and paper plates, so pay your dues then, not in your mid 30s and 40s.

5. Take a performing job at the local theme park, or during the summer on a cruise ship. I didn't, but the guys who did ended up with serious reading chops that will come in handy for session work. Don't be embarrassed about playing goofy "Mickey Mouse" type music there, because your friends will be flipping burgers or working at the GAP... but, you'll be honing your chops, expanding your vocabulary, and meeting other musicians, playing 3-7 sets a day.

6. Buy these books and read them thoroughly: "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" by Bob Baker (this book will give you the fundamentals of marketing, and sales, and help you get some success under your belt). "Everything You Need To Know About The Music Business" by Donald Passman (this book will aid you when the industry  start to recognize your success, and keep you from getting screwed). "The Music Lesson" by Victor Wooten (everything you kinda knew about music, but couldn't put into the right words).

7. Learn Jazz, Blues, Classical, Rock, Metal, Country, and finger style acoustic playing. Have a firm grasp of these and you can teach more students, perform more gigs, and record more sessions.

8. As soon as you have enough money saved, move to LA, NYC, or Nashville. In this day and age of internet, a lot is possible, but if you want the referrals and opportunities for the BIG gigs, they happen there. I don't know of anyone from my home town of Fairfax, VA who has gotten that huge tour/gig ... that didn't move to a music mecca first.

9. You can only rely on yourself. This business is rough, it isn't easy. Be focused, keep your eye on the ball. Those with a weaker stomach will quit, thinning "the herd", but you'll be gigging, networking, and getting your reputable name out there. Get a website and start putting together a press kit about yourself. You might not have much to put in there now, but its a start. When networking, it's not about what others can do for you, its really about what you can do for them. However, one day you may want to cash in on all those favors.

10. Be on time, know the material, perform, and know that there is huge value in that. Anyone can play great guitar (just check youtube!), but apparently not everyone can show up to a gig on time and know the material. Be polite, professional, and keep negative opinions of other artists to yourself. 

11. As a professional musician you will have to wear many hats to make ends meet: Teacher, Band Leader, Sideman, Session Guitarist, Songwriter, Producer, Engineer, Composer, Author, Clinician, Solo Artist... get started now.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Everyone is Saying about 'Tone Poet' (Press and Reviews)

Below you will find all reviews and press for my newest album, "Tone Poet". Keep checking this blog entry as more press and reviews will be added as they come.

"Tone Poet is definitely one of those albums where the sum is greater than the parts and the way the album flows across styles so effortlessly is one of its main strengths. The recording too is excellent – the punchiness of the drums really adds a lot to the dramatic impact here that Galysh has strived for." -

"Technical proficiency is alive and well on this offering of half pop-metal songs, and half melodic prog instrumental workouts". - Modern Drummer 

""Tone Poet" presents an entertaining balance of melody and menace - power and passion." -

    Read the whole review by clicking here:

Artist Empowerment Radio Podcast Interview

*An interview with Bob Baker for his podcast, "Artist Empowerment Radio". Bob is the author of the excellent book, "Guerrilla Music Marketing for Musicians", which I highly recommend! 

    *Have a listen to Part 1 here:

    *Have a listen to Part 2 here:

Seymour Duncan Interview

Adrian talks Tone with Seymour Duncan pickups' Jay Hale in this interview. Read the complete interview here:

"Guitar fans will love this album as will prog metal fans as Adrian’s playing and songs complement Mark Boals vocals so well." -

"Every once and a while a musician comes along and releases an album that truly deserves attention and accolades.  In 2013, that musician is guitarist Adrian Galysh and the album is Tone Poet... Tone Poet rocks, is creatively excellent and sonically superb. Buy this one and play it loud and often." -

     Read the whole review by clicking here:

Guitar Player Feb. 2014

"You don’t even have to be a “guitar guy” to get into this one, you just have to have an appreciation for rock music that’s on the creative side." -

     Read the whole review by clicking here:

"In the daily muddle of music submissions, every once and a while, there comes an album that's bright and refreshing, even unexpected. Such is the case with guitarist and composer Adrian Galysh's fourth album, Tone Poet." -

     Read the whole review by clicking here:

9/10! "This is something different and wonderful, and it should be savored". - Power Play Magazine (April 2014)

"It's remarkably understated for a solo album by a virtuoso guitar player and is full of really nice melodic moments and can be rewarding to repeated listens. If you have wide musical horizons and enjoy tasteful musicianship then 'Tone Poet' is definitely worth a listen." -

Read the whole review by clicking here:

"If you seek music that is different, moving, and mind expanding; your search is over, 'Tone Poet' is sure to satisfy and it's a keeper. The musicianship on this recording is truly world class." - Tony Cruz Sison

      Read the whole review by clicking here:

Interview with Dedicated Rocker Society 

"Hailed by critics and fellow musician alike, Los Angeles guitarist Adrian Galysh, showcases his guitar talents with anthem-like instrumentals, that put the focus squarely on catchy, memorable melodies. "I suppose its because I grew up listening to the hard rock bands of the 70s and 80s, like Van Halen, Scorpions, and Deep Purple," Galysh testifies, "I always enjoyed big riffs, catchy choruses, and interesting musical hooks". - The Dedicated Rocker Society

Interview with Classic Rock Revisited

"Classic Rock Revisited caught up with rock guitarist Adrian Galysh’s new album titled Tone Poet, which features vocalist Mark Boals and Styx drummer Todd Sucherman.  The album is a rich, well crafted, brilliantly composed work of art. In the interview below, Adrian takes time to share how the album came to be, his creative process, how he approaches guitar solos and his future plans.Enjoy this interview with a guy that may be under the radar, for now, but with Tone Poet, will be growing in both reputation and popularity."

     Read the whole interview by clicking here:

"Although Adrian was soloist, but this album Tone Poet, contained half vocalized track. This unfortunately makes him 'half-banned' from the guitar shred instrumental album. But his half of instrumental tracks really paid off the situation and make it great for guitar fans. Check him out as well as this awesome album." -

Read the whole review by clicking here:

"Melodic, yet powerful is how I would sum up the music of  Tone Poet from Adrian Galysh. The fluidity of his work on the fret-board is hypnotic and magical. If you love music made for the love of music Tone Poet by Adrian Galysh is a necessity in you music collection." -

      Read the whole review by clicking here:

"Galysh has crafted an album with an abundant musical landscape with plenty of multi layered musical pieces featuring choral vocals, orchestral pieces and keyboards alongside his guitar which obviously takes the focal point of all the tracks." - Woody's Melodic Rock and AOR Reviews
     Read the whole review by clicking here:

"The album begins with a church-like choir, bringing Galysh's two-minute solo on to a higher purpose in "Resurrectis." The band moves like a tight unit through "Brick By Brick" as Galysh combines orchestration with his hard rocking solo. The tempo slows down quickly for the power ballad "When You Fall," which showcases Boals' vocals perfectly." - JP's Music Blog

"A chorus, an orchestra, and Adrian Galysh's guitar opens Tone Poet. His lead lines weave over piano and something seems to be brewing, as if this is an opening overture to a larger experience." -

     Read the whole review by clicking here:

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