There are many brands you can start off with for electric guitars, and they are all similar in quality at the entry-level; however, three brands have stood the test of time, and you can’t really go wrong with any of these three brands: Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez. Like anything, you will have a good, better, and best option. For electrics, it comes down to where the instrument was made, hands-on craftsmanship, the quality of the wood, and pickups. There are definitely many other options, but these are the prominent features that affect the price. Here is a breakdown of which guitars I would get per level:
Entry Level ($150-400)
Mid Level ($400-800)
Pro Level ($800+)
Now, after you get your electric guitar, one of the next things you’ll be asking yourself is “what kind of amp do I need?” I can tell you, hands down, the Fender Mustang series is the PERFECT practice amp. It’s literally all you need…so much so, that it is the official practice amp of the Freeway Music locations. One of the best ways to ensure that you get all you need is to purchase a package. So, let’s get that out of the way and talk about it. Here are some packages our friends have at Sims:
The good, better, best for acoustics is generally found in how much solid vs. laminate wood is involved. Entry level guitars tend to have a laminate top and back and sides. Mid-level acoustics have solid tops. The reason they do the top is because that’s where most of your sound resonates. So, if you have a solid top, it makes a difference. Pro-level guitars are generally solid all the way around with solid tops, sides, and backs. For the most part, you’ll run into the usual suspects for guitars. Here are some recommendations for various guitars at each level:
Entry Level ($150-400)
- Fender FA-15 (3/4 size guitar great for a smaller student)
- Fender (pretty much any)
- Ibanez (pretty much any)
Normally, I’d tout Martin and Taylor pretty hard in this range…especially the Taylor GS mini as it’s literally the perfect 3/4 guitar, but they are low in stock. So, I’d check out the Ibanez Artwood Series. They are great mid-level guitars.
Ukes make for AMAZING holiday gifts because they are portable, easy to learn and play, and very affordable. Ukes tend to range between $50—$300, but float around that $50-150 mark for decent ones. Here are some brands to check out:
- Ortega *This is a newer brand that Sims recently started carrying. They look, sound, and play amazing. I just bought one for Sara Ann for Christmas. Don’t tell her ;)…She’s not reading this is she? :/
So, if you’re looking for a serious acoustic piano, check out our friends at Rice Music House. They’ve got a great selection of acoustic pianos and will be of great help to you. The acoustic pianos at Freeway Music are from Rice. You can buy or rent.
If you are in the market for a Digital Piano, I like the Casio and Yamaha brands. You can’t go wrong either way. We stock the Casios at Freeway for our voice lessons.
There are also a slew of portable keyboard options available.
Okay, I JUST started playing drums…so, give me a little grace in this department. It’s okay, I spoke with Justin at Sims, and he is an expert…so we will be alright! Here are some opinions of ours:
**Side Note: The cajon has been a popular instrument for drummers as of late for acoustic sets. Check out the LP Americana cajon… it was designed by our very own Justin Sims! 🙂
So, you wanna ease into recording. The best way to get started is by grabbing one of the Scarlet Focusrite Packages They have two different ones. Both come with a mic, mic cable, headphones, and an intro version of Protools. The only difference is one is solo and has one channel ($219), and the other is a duo with two channels ($269).
There are a ton of accessories such as capos, tuners, string winders, polish, cables, slides, pedals, shakers, tambourines, sticks, picks, and most importantly…Music Lessons! 😉
Whew…That was a lot of information. I hope this was helpful and Happy Holidays from the Freeway Family! 🙂
- Changing Tempo: AnyTune Pro allows you to input a song from your music library and slow it down or speed it up by increments of 1%. This is an amazing feature when a song’s tempo is too challenging. Students can measure their progress by gradually increasing the tempo 5% at a time.
- Changing Pitch: Once a song is imported, you can alter the pitch. You can click up or down on the # or flat button if you want to move by 1/2 steps, or you can go to as small as .01 movements as you dial in the perfect pitch for the song with which you are working. This is helpful a few ways. One, you can change a song that is pitched down (such as a guitar being tuned down 1/2 step) to make it easier to learn without retuning the instrument. Secondly, you can change the key of a song to fit a singer. Lastly, you can dial in a song that is slightly out of pitch. Some songs are a 1/4 step or even less out of tune due to capos and tape speeds, etc. **Once a song is altered by pitch or tempo, it can be exported that way for a student**
- Time Stamps: As you are going through the song, you can stamp each section with markers. You can use either section markers such as intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Or, you can use number markers. That way the teacher and student can easily navigate through the song and reference points in the song that need practice. For example, the teacher can say, “practice Verse 2 at x tempo” or “work on marker 2.”
- Looping: You can select a beginning point “A” and an end point “B” to create a loop section. This way you can easily work on a part of a song or solo over and over again. The speed features come in very handy while using the looper. The placement of the points is super easy with the “A” and “B” buttons.
- Reframing: This is perhaps my favorite feature of Anytune Pro. You can draw a square or rectangle directly on to the sound spectrum to isolate a specific sound such as guitar left, bass guitar, voice, or a kick drum, etc. This is such an amazing tool if you are having a hard time hearing notes because all of the other instruments are getting in the way. You can also invert it to cancel out the instrument so that your student can play along with the track, effectively creating an accompanying track.
- Practice Tool: So, I mentioned earlier that you can change keys and tempos. Well, you can also set this to occur on each repeat such that the key or tempo changes each time. This is perfect if you want to work on slowly speeding up a lick each time through, or if you are trying to work on being able to play something in various keys, showing that you truly have it down regardless of the key.
These are just some of the features I love about Anytune Pro. There are definitely others, but these are the core uses for me. If you want to exercise your ears, work on transcribing, or need help transposing, this software is clutch. Make sure to check it out and thank me later! 🙂
I still remember the night it happened. I was at Sakitumi, a local sushi restaurant in Columbia, SC. I’d come out to watch a jazz trio play and decided I would sit in and attempt the song “Donna Lee” by Charlie Parker. I had been practicing the song on my own for months, learning the melody, mastering the chords, and working the arpeggios to be able to solo over the changes. The group consisted of a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboard player. In between a couple of numbers, I approached the bass player and asked if I could sit in and play “Donna Lee,” to which he said, “sure,” as is the tradition in the jazz community. So, I watched a couple of tunes and then he called my name. I grabbed my guitar, plugged into my amp, and what happened next changed my life forever…
The bassist turned to me with a fierce look in his eyes and counted, “one, two, ah one-two-three-four, and we were off to the races…at BLAZING SPEED! Yikes! I had never played this song anywhere near this speed. My hands were sweaty, my muscles in my arms tight, as I barely hung on to a semblance of the melody. All the while, the bassist was glaring at me with a look, as though he was testing me with his eyes. Once through the head of the song, he says, “go ahead,” cueing me to take a solo. So, I begin the solo. The changes are flying past like cars on the interstate, and then it happened. I was completely lost. I had NO idea where I was in the song. The bass player then steps up to me and begins barking changes in my ear. I still can’t keep up. The last half of my solo began to dismantle until I finally stopped in the middle of it. The bassist, seemingly unhappy, began to take his solo effortlessly over the changes as I stood there. Then, he walked up to me and said, “Back to the top.” I couldn’t find where I was, so HE began to play the melody (an extremely difficult melody) on the bass. Then, I jumped back in and started playing with him. We wrapped the song, I packed up, and I walked away with my pride hurt a bit.
Now, I know, a lot of you right probably think that sounds horrible, like your worst nightmare. I get it. It does sound painful; however, it was probably one of the best learning experiences that I have ever had. I learned several things that day.
- Practice Songs in Different Ways – Two people will play a song different from one another. I had been practicing the song on my own, my way, at the same tempo. I learned that if I practice songs in different tempos, keys, and styles that I actually learn the song more completely and it prepares me for almost any situation.
- Listening is Key – When I was lost, I tried to think my way out and figure out where I was. I discovered, after a few of these failures, that I just need to take a deep breath, close my eyes, listen, and react. Music is about what you hear, not what you know. Once I discovered that. I could start playing notes that sounded good to me, regardless of the key changes. I could also find my place in the song WAY quicker.
- I Will Fail, and I Must Try Again – As I mentioned before, I had several instances where I failed. I could have easily have thrown in the towel, called the bassist a jerk, or conceded to doing something easier. I instead churned those emotions into positive energy which made me practice and try again, getting better each attempt, to the point where I could feel relaxed in those situations.
- Jump Into the Fire – To say I was nervous that night would be an understatement. I tended to, and I watched my students, procrastinate and not get out there and just play. In my experience, no one is ever 100% “ready” to do something challenging. Set a goal. It can be an open mic, open jam, showcase, recital, recording date, video, social media post, whatever. Just set a goal and do it. You WILL have failures, you WILL have successes, you WILL grow if you just jump into the fire.
Students often ask what areas of guitar should they should focus on. So, I took the time and compiled a list. It is not exhaustive, but certainly a great start. Here are 11 Areas of guitar focus that every guitar player should look into.
Chords/Chord Building – Great rhythm players make for great lead players. Chords aid songwriters, lead players, hobbyists, and every other kind of musician you can imagine. My suggestion is to take the time to learn the basic triads: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Then, make sure you get at least these seventh chords down: major7, 7, min7, and half-diminished. There are tons more, but those are a good start. Systems like the CAGED System are crucial for helping students grasp chord voicings and how they fit up and down the neck.
Scales – Scales and arpeggios get a bad reputation for being shredder tools. Yes, scales are one of the main ways for soloing over a song, but there is much more to learning scales. Scales can create riffs and melodies for singers, etc. Start with learning Pentatonic and your Diatonic (major and minor) scales. Then, you can expand into Harmonic and Melodic Minor. Make sure you know how and where to use them.
Arpeggios – Arpeggios, like scales, are often associated with shredder guitar players. We have all seen Shreddicus Maximus showing his guitar prowess by ripping through arpeggios as fast as possible. Though there is a place for shredding, is not the only purpose for arpeggios. Perhaps one of the most tasteful approaches to soloing is “chasing chords.” “Chasing Chords” essentially means, following the arpeggios of each chord in a given chord progression, highlighting the notes within each chord. This is great for improvising, writing melodies, etc. Start with the basic chord types mentioned above in the chord-building section and learn those arpeggios in all positions on the neck.
Music Theory – Music Theory was the most confusing concept for me when I started playing guitar. Every time someone said it out loud, they could never quite explain it to me. It is often the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The Wikipedia definition of Music Theory is this: “Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music.” That is a never-ending rabbit hole if I ever heard of one. Start with these questions: what are the 12 keys, what notes are in each key, what triad chords are in each key, what 7th chords are in each key, how are those chords determined, how does harmony work, how do melodies work over chords, etc.
Rhythm – Rhythm is the foundation of music. Victor Wooten once said, “People feel music before they hear it” in his book, The Music Lesson. If you want to be a great lead player, learn how to be a great rhythm player first. MANY things go into being a great rhythm guitar player from subdivisions, to muting and resting, to string sets. I wrote a blog series to cover several of these components a while back. Check it out.
Technique – Techniques are like muscle on guitar. You want to work them out, not so you can flex necessarily, but so that you have the strength to pull off what you need to, and do so comfortably. For example, when you work out the muscles of your body, it makes it easier to lift lighter weights and perform certain tasks, making you feel more relaxed. Being relaxed on guitar allows you to have better feel, better creativity, and overall, just enjoy playing more. Examples of techniques are hammer/pull exercises, speed drills, endurance exercises, pattern exercises, string skipping, string crossing, sweeping, etc. Basically, whatever technique you suck at, get better by isolating it into an exercise, starting slowly and increasing the tempo over time. The metronome will be your “weights.”
Ear-Training – Too many guitar players depend on tabs, YouTube videos, and, sometimes, their instructors to learn tunes. Others read music and never take time to pick out music by ear. All of this can be very crippling to a musician. After all, music is what we listen to…so using your ears is pretty dang important. Just like techniques, your ears are going to gain strength the more you work them out. I’m blown away with how my ears have progressed over the years. My suggestion to my students is to start with something easy and build your way up. Perhaps pick out a simple melody like “Happy Birthday,” or holiday tune. Then, try a video game melody, singing melody, or TV show melody. Start with single notes. Then try picking out some simple solos. After that, try picking out bass notes of chords in songs. Perhaps try to pick out a two-note solo. Next, graduate to picking out chords in songs. You get the idea. Build your ear muscle.
Improvising – This is scary territory for many. This is where what you have learned and listened to collides with spontaneity. The only way to get better is just do it and be vulnerable. With practice you will get better; however, there are some things you can do to help the process. Try these tips: learn about phrasing and its importance, listen to a LOT of solos, transcribe solos and learn those licks, create licks that work over certain chords and progressions, etc. Just try grabbing your guitar sometimes and just play whatever comes out. I’ve written a blog series on how to solo as well for extra tips and help. Check it out.
Creativity – I believe that humans are creative by nature. Expression and creating songs or riffs is one of the most rewarding parts of music for me. It’s extremely energizing and brings much joy to my musical journey. Perhaps start by listening to some of your favorite songs, riffs, etc and study what they do. At first, you can try to emulate what they are doing, or even copy it, and make a version similar but slightly different. Remember that listening is always half the battle. Listen to a LOT of music. Try writing a chord progression, a simple melody, a short riff, a few lines of lyrics, co-write with others, or even try a new guitar tuning. Do whatever it takes to make that spark and run with it. For you songwriters out there, “Writing Better Lyrics” by Pat Pattison is AMAZING!
Performance – Studying, creating, and working hard is awesome, but nothing is more rewarding than sharing that with others. I know, you may be reserved at first. My friend Tom Conlon told me a story once when he asked his grandmother to play the piano for him. She said, “Absolutely! Remember Tom, if someone asks you to play, say yes. It is your civic duty to do so.” I always found that fascinating. There is an exchange that happens when you perform for someone (IF they are actually listening and paying attention). They experience the joy that comes from listening to you play and YOU gift them with that. You get the affirmation and gratitude of the listener and the joy that you shared something with them that, more than likely, affected them in a positive way. It’s a win-win. Start out with an open mic, showcase, playing for a significant other, family member, or a friend. Maybe even begin by making a video or record in the studio. You’ll find an outlet to share that makes you comfortable.
Repertoire – I once asked my good friend Jerry Sims, owner of nationally renowned Sims Music and accomplished guitarist, what was his number one tip to getting better on the guitar. He thought for a moment and said, “Learn a song a day.” I was kinda shocked. I was expecting him to say that something like “go learn your scales” or “practice your arpeggios more, etc.” It makes so much sense though. What’s the point of learning all of this stuff if you cannot enjoy it and use it to help you better understand your favorite music? New songs and artists keep me inspired and give me a goal or a project to complete. Also, every song I ever learned taught me something. Go listen to music, find some heroes, find what inspires you, create a list of songs, solos, etc. that you want to learn, and learn them. More importantly, learn from them.
Any list is subjective, but when it comes to a list of songs or artists, the opinions can vary even greater. After teaching guitar for 20 years, I’ve learned to appreciate almost every style. So, I included tunes that have affected my playing the most and have been super fun to play. Each of these tunes, for different reasons, had me sitting and playing my guitar for hours. So, let’s dive into 8 fun challenging guitar songs.
“Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan
We start our journey off in the styles of the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. This song is deceptively hard. If you are looking to improve your right-hand rhythm technique, this song is a must. This is the basis of Texas Swing. The hardest part about this song is mastering the art of muting adjacent strings while isolating a note or grouping of notes. Not to mention, this song is chock full of staple blues riffs. Make sure to check out several versions of this song, as Stevie plays it the same twice.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
Second on our list is a hairband classic. I underappreciated Slash as a guitarist until I started teaching guitar. One of my students asked me to learn this tune, so we learned it together, and immediately I understood why Slash was such a popular guitarist. This song is a great study for phrasing and having a common theme to build your solo around. The run in the middle of the solo climbing up to the climactic second half of the main solo is a classic and difficult run. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is a good study of using the harmonic scale well.
“Satch Boogie” by Joe Satriani
Satriani is one of the original guitar heroes. From a rocking main riff to tapping mayhem, this song is loaded with fun guitar riffs. The solo section in this song is a lesson on how to be tasty. You will need a good understanding of how to use a whammy bar to get the true sounds happening. The tapping section at the end is basically an exercise and is super fun to play once you get it. (honorable mention “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen)
“Gitarre 2000” by Doyle Dykes
This is one of the more obscure tunes on the list, and quite frankly, I would not have discovered this song without the request of my student. Perhaps my favorite riff in this tune is the harmonic riff in the beginning. It’s amazingly fun to play and it has been an impressive party trick for my musician friends to this day. The rest of the song is quite difficult, beautiful, and well worth the effort that is required to master this tune.
“Dolemite” by Scott Henderson
If you are looking for a foundation for jazz fusion. Look no further than Scott Henderson. You’ll find a smoking riff, blistering runs, and amazing outside melody lines. This song taught me how to create tension and release, how to play outside lines well, and how to construct a solo in a way to build the dynamic and keep it interesting. This is not a song for the faint of heart.
“Hot Wired” by Brent Mason
Now, we step over into the hot country world. Brent Mason is a legend. He has literally played on EVERY famous country artist’s albums. If you don’t believe me check out his tracklist. On his solo effort, he cuts loose and lets some blazing licks fly. This song will kick you in the rear with chicken picking, flat-picking, bends, and a lick library of hot country guitar licks. For an extra challenge, try to play it like Brent with a thumb pick and alternating between your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
“Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson
This very well may be one of the most famous instrumental guitar songs of all time. Heck, my wife even likes to listen to this one. That’s because Eric’s chorus melody is extremely catchy, and it’s super fun to play. It’s quite addictive. However, around said melody are several brutal licks that will require a LOT of time to execute well. This song is a test of technical prowess. One of my favorite techniques I learned from EJ is to mix up the patterns I play and to incorporate scalar patterns of 6, 5, 4, etc. If you decide to embark on this journey, set aside a good bit of time.
“Capricho Árabe” by Francisco Tárrega
I wanted to throw you a curveball for the end of our list. Tárrega is the OG guitar hero and grandfather of classical guitar. He was a rock star in his day, playing in small parlors and entertaining crowds. Almost all of his tunes are fun to play, but this one is a massive undertaking. I did not start as a classical or fingerstyle player. So, I had to backtrack, learn proper finger technique, and dedicated countless hours on this tune. The left-hand technique and stretches can be as challenging as the right-hand techniques required for this song.
There you have it. This is my list of some of my favorite and most influential tunes I have learned and/or taught over the years. I hope you enjoy them and best of luck to you, should you decide to give any of these a shot.
Did you know today is Backwards Day? While delay effects have provided generations of guitarists with an easy way to take their tone to outer space, nothing turns your sound around like reverse delay. And since the occasion calls for looking at things from the other end, we’re going to dive into some of our favorite songs featuring reverse delay.
Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Beginning with a flurry of reversed sound, this song is a clear example of getting creative in the studio. In the video above, you can see the breakdown of the song, including some of the stresses of analog recording in the past. However, the star of this song was the churning reverse delay on his guitar, singular in its tone that grows in volume instead of trailing off like regular sustain. Of course, there’s more than just backwards guitar, but backwards drums and bass. To consider the fact that this song still holds together, and has quite a groove, is astounding.
Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
A brilliant example, as not only is there reverse delay, but it is the very foundation of the song, attached to the guitar riff that carries through the entire track. Joined by subdued but thundering drums and tender strings, this song manages to achieve a psychedelic tone while still keeping a steady beat.
Dig by Incubus
Jumping genres to 2000’s alt-rock, Incubus has always taken their guitar tones very seriously, winning an instantly recognizable sound, (thanks in no small part to the unique voice of singer Brandon Boyd as well). In this song, the reverse delay contributes in a stellar fashion to the emotional midsection of the track. Altogether, a great example of guitar effects in rock.
London Calling by The Clash
While only featuring in a hidden lead guitar tone, easily outshined by the banging rhythm and punky vocals, the reverse delay in this song demonstrates well how a single note, fluctuating and warping with the effect, can make a song come to life with a texture that connects otherwise separate song sections.
I’m Only Sleeping by The Beatles
George Harrison blew the world’s collective mind with a truly pioneering backwards guitar solo when this song released in 1966. Perfectly lending a dream-like quality to a song about sleep, and phasing in and out of consciousness, the reverse guitar solo is an inspiration in regards to what a well-placed, sparse, but effectually intentional lead guitar can do for a song’s composition.
January 28th is known as National Kazoo Day, a day to celebrate one of the most accessible and underrated instruments of all time. A relatively recent musical invention, Alabama Vest of Macon Georgia made the first Kazoo in the 1840’s, though commercial production of the Kazoo didn’t occur until many years later in 1912. Requiring no training, anyone can rock a kazoo by simply humming into the instrument. Because of this, and the inherently goofy sound, it’s an instrument that can always make a song that much more fun. To celebrate this zippy little underdog of the instrument family, here are some examples of kazoos featured in songs from massively influential artists!
But first, here’s a fun video about the history of the kazoo, created for the Kazoo Museum:
Lovely Rita by The Beatles
This track, one of many bouncy multi-instrumental compositions on this multi-colored wonderland of an album, features a very important kazoo moment. While this song also featured mouth percussion and other strange choices, not to mention its curious subject matter (Paul McCartney falling for a meter maid who gave him a parking ticket), the seamless deployment of the kazoo cemented the instrument in the discography of the greatest pop ensemble of all time.
She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina by The Kinks
Almost a spiritual cousin to the Beatles song, this track also features a mix of interesting instruments (harpsichord, honking horns) and ample amounts of that British bounce. However, once this song reaches its hard right turn into rock territory, it is flanked by searing kazoos that fill out the sonic wall before it reaches its second twist into a sped-up refrain. Quite a strange, very English, journey!
Corporal Clegg by Pink Floyd
It shouldn’t surprise you that there is a kazoo in this cacophonous, super heavy, mega-70’s jam from these psychedelic rock godfathers. In a moment of pure jubilation, an orchestra of kazoos breaks through the fuzzy din to deliver a rousing melody. Be sure to check out the music video to see Floyd at peak haircut!
Crosstown Traffic by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Another classic example, this song features a kazoo that carries the curl of a Hendrix riff. A solid, excessively fun song, the kazoos pan in stereo and carry the song nearly the whole way. A brilliant tribute to a brilliant instrument!
Thanksgiving is a time for thanks… giving. What better time is there to reflect on the best songs on the topic of giving thanks, (that we are, in return, very thankful for!), than this? Here is our list of the top five best songs about gratitude. You better be grateful!
5. A Moment Like This – Kelly Clarkson
While this is off of an album called “Thankful”, and there is another track on this album literally called Thankful, this is the song chosen to kick this list off because of how well it describes a certain feeling. The feeling of gratitude one feels during a first kiss, and finding real love in this world, is exceptionally brought about in this song, with its explosive, emotional chorus. It is a triumphant and beautifully sung song from someone who seems truly appreciative of her success, love, and fortune.
4. Family Business – Kanye West
From Kanye West’s debut album, College Dropout, this song perfectly exemplifies familial love. At various points throughout the song, Kanye reflects on the pride he has in his family, their support, and their love, (even when they bring up embarrassing stories about his youth). This is a bonafide Thanksgiving track, and I challenge anyone to keep their toe from tapping if you put this on while the turkey’s still in the oven.
3. You’re My Best Friend – Queen
“Ooh, You Make Me Live!” – What a brilliant shout out to besties! There may never be such a good tribute to one’s best friend than this track by Queen, released in ‘76. With lyrics reflecting on how much this friend is there for you when things are bad, that they are the sunshine of your life, and how long the friendship has lasted–it’s enough to make anyone get a little misty-eyed when thinking of that friend in their life.
Gratitude – Earth Wind and Fire
Earth, Wind, and Fire are a classic example of pure positivity in music. Nearly all of their songs send happiness directly into the heart of the listener. This song sends thankfulness and love to the heavens above–speaking on the gratitude they feel to the great beyond, their religion and faith being a focus of this thankfulness. It certainly features a groove so divine, you question its earthly origin!
Thank You For Being A Friend
How could we forget this classic? Forever immortalized as the theme song to the octogenarian hit sitcom, Golden Girls, this song is cheery, sweet, and traces a friendship from young partying days into the great cosmic beyond. Humorously, it mentions the trials of getting older, “And when we both get older / With walking canes and hair of gray / Have no fear even though it’s hard to hear / I will stand here close and say / Thank you for being a friend” However, the most touching line is towards the end, where the gratitude even extends beyond the grave!
And when we die and float away
Into the night the Milky Way
You’ll hear me call as we ascend
I’ll say your name then once again
Thank you for being a
Thank you for being a friend
What a touching tribute to friendship, gratitude, and everything that this holiday is about. Make no mistake, we are thankful for these great musicians!
In case you didn’t know, November 26th is Cake Day, and while they might be referring to the confectionary treat, we think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate one of the most unique and unmistakably groovy bands in alt-rock history: Cake.
Born in Sacramento, CA, Cake is known for their eclectic genre-bending music, ranging from country to hip-hop, jazz to nu-metal. However, the one thing that ties everything together is the distinct vocals and lyrics of singer John McCrea. If you’re listening to a song and you hear the singer shout “Aw yeah!” or “Aw right!”, chances are it’s a Cake song. However, to explore some of the other hallmarks, let’s take a look at their top five songs of all time.
5. I Will Survive
I know what you might be thinking–” How dare they include a cover on this list!” While, yes, this isn’t an original song by Cake, this cover is so uniquely their flavor that it almost says more about the band than many of their originals. Featuring McCrea’s, signature monotone delivery with ripping electric guitar and slight lyrical variation, this cover is a perfect introduction to their sound. Of course, lest we forget, underlying the Niles Rogers-Esque funk chords and gorgeous trumpet is one of the most satisfying funky bass lines in the game.
4. Never There
Demonstrating well their glee towards conceptual tracks, Never There begins with a dial tone, perfectly in key with the rest of the song. As well, we hear McCrea’s vocals through a static telephone filter. Why? In this song, Cake wistfully bemoans the absence of their lover whenever they call them on the phone. Hardly a new concept, but executed with such exceptional flair that it’s forgiven, especially considering the heavy exacting drums and the haunting, poetic imagery in the lyrics (“A golden bird that flies away / a candlestick of flame”)
3. The Distance
This wouldn’t be a Top 5 Cake Songs list without mention of their number one hit. When this song dropped in ‘96, it soon when platinum, and took the country by a storm. The spoken-word delivery, heavy guitars, and absurd, driven lyrics were different enough to make alternative fans everywhere rejoice.
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle
An unbelievably catchy track, this song is a surprisingly sharp critique of the music industry, posers, and false rebels, set to an ultra-crunchy guitar. As McCrea throws shade at the shameless sponsorships of certain pop stars, (“As long as the soda cans are red white and blue ones!”), the songs make a point about the inherent hypocrisy of ‘purchasing’ a rock and roll lifestyle, wherein you inevitably support those you initially wished to provoke. A killer message with a killer chorus.
- Short Skirt / Long Jacket
With lyrics inherently poking fun at “the strange behavior of the human mating ritual”–this song hits all the hallmarks of a great Cake song. Ripping electric guitar, bubbly brass, shouty-group vocals, and completely glib vocals, culminating in a fun “Nananana” reprise over a lightning tight bassline. Add some complex and ingenious percussion, and you have the most Cake you can fit in one song, which puts it at the top of our list. Finally, this song features what is possibly the best music video this band could make: a bunch of people listening to Cake. Brilliant.