Lovely Day for a Bill Withers Lesson

Guitar Noises #3: April 2, 2021

My plan is for a slightly shorter newsletter this week. It’s a long weekend and I expect a lot of subscribers on their work email won’t read much further than this sentence. But don’t go away yet. I have more to say.

To start out I’d like to send my best wishes to Dave from Guitar Tricks. Dave had a medical emergency during a livestream lesson last week. It was a scary situation for his family and an unbelievable one for all the live viewers. I hope Dave makes a quick and complete recovery. Get well, soon!

Anyone who has ever looked for video lessons will know the name Justin Guitar. Since 2003 Justin Sandercoe has posted over 1800 lessons and it is still one of the best sites for guitar lessons period.

Recently Justin’s site got a redesign, which was a work in progress for years. Not only does it look great, but now it’s much easier to find everything. Over the years Justin has inspired more than his students. Fellow guitar teachers, content creators and even newsletter writers like myself have learned a lot from him.

Aside from music, one way that Justin has inspired me is by showing how you can be both busy and happy at the same time. How is it that some people seem to get so much done?

Last year a ton of people had to figure out how to work from home for the first time. Personally, I have a lot of empathy for the people who were already working from home before the pandemic. They had to adjust their routines to accommodate the rest of their family who was suddenly at home too. Sometimes the only way to get your own work done is to help someone else finish theirs first.

You can get better at working from home alongside other people. But a question that always comes back to me is “how do you get things done when you can’t get anything done?” Work is not the only thing that needs doing. That guitar still needs playing and practising.

Get moving for the love of guitar

My current advice for getting more out of your guitar is to do a little physical exercise everyday. I made a rule for myself that I must exercise for 30 minutes and shower before I touch my guitar. This can be a tough thing to start if you don’t already exercise regularly. You could get a second hand piece of exercise equipment if spending money motivates you more. It doesn’t have to be a tough workout. If you can only handle low exertion activities try taking your dog for a longer journey around the block.

The point is to move your body more. The payout from a little daily exercise is much more than feeling better.

As I get my heart pumping faster every morning, I don’t even notice the boredom and discomfort I used to get working out. That’s because I spend the entire workout thinking about music. Specifically, I think about what I’m going to accomplish on my guitar today.  By the time I finish exercising my mind is clear and I know exactly what to do when my guitar is in my hands. I appreciate my time on guitar even more because I had to work for it. All that’s left to do is focus on music and goals.

You don’t have to concentrate on musical goals the whole time. Putting on a playlist of songs you hope to learn someday is another good starting point. 

This newsletter is your direct line to me. You can help shape it by letting me know what topics you’d like to see covered. Are you looking for easier or harder lessons? Please reply with your  suggestions or leave a comment on the website.

It’s a lovely day to cover Bill Withers

This week marked one year since the passing of Soul legend Bill Withers. Off the top of my head Bill Withers has at least two songs that I’d put on my GOAT playlist (Greatest Of All Time). Those amazing songs are Lean on Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. They are both essential, timeless classics.

Not enough guitar players do R&B/Soul music. Is it because The Isley Brothers’ riffs are hard? Or Earth, Wind and Fire songs sound better with horns? 

Bill Withers could be your gateway artist to playing Soul Music on guitar.

The latest issue of Guitar World features a lesson on the guitar style of Bill Withers. It covers eight classic Withers songs on acoustic guitar with video examples and explanations by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers. Most of these tunes involve fingerpicking, but there are a couple that use a pick.

Withers style of playing acoustic guitar was stripped down and simple. His music is a lot easier to tackle than you might think. Use the above link to read the lesson and get all the examples in tab and standard notation.

While you might be able to learn these guitar parts, you’ll never escape Bill Withers inimitable baritone voice that made these songs connect with people.

Sting recorded a version of Ain’t No Sunshine around the time he was working on Soul Cages in 1991. I remember picking it up as a B-Side to the “Seven Days” CD single in 1993. If you have a nice voice you can successfully cover nearly anything.

Lovely Lyrics

It gets played a lot in movies, but Lovely Day by Bill Withers is a lovely song. It’s a great tune to sing in the shower. But there is no shower long enough for me to hold that 18 second note that occurs later in the song. It used to be a world record for the longest held note in a pop song.

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way
Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me

Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day

Lovely Day, Bill Withers 1977

Withers’ approach to songwriting was pretty cool. Just as remarkable as the super long note he holds in Lovely Day, is the classic line from “Ain’t No Sunshine.” In the middle section he repeats the phrase “I Know, I Know, I know….” 26 times! 

Originally he intended to replace that with more words, but the other musicians in the studio convinced him to leave it that way. Bill Withers really had a penchant for keeping his songs simple.

Guitar of the Week

Our previous Guitar of the Week entries have been pretty beat up examples of guitars. This Guitar of the Week could almost be a Question of the Week. If you had $5000 to spend on a guitar would it be this one?

This is Martin Guitar’s new David Gilmour Signature Edition. It's based on the Martin D-35 that was David Gilmour’s primary studio acoustic for Pink Floyd and his solo recordings. After using the same guitar for more than four decades it was auctioned for charity raising 1.2 million dollars. 

To fill the gap in his collection, Martin built new six and twelve string guitars that Gilmour could write and record with. The new guitars have the exact look and sound that the Pink Floyd guitarist was after. Both the six and twelve string versions are priced at $5000.

How do they sound? According to Gilmour, who is pleased with the results:

“I’m not keen on anything too flashy. Sound and feel are my main concerns.”

If you’re interested in hearing them, retailer Sweetwater has a demo video of both guitars.

Do you have a favorite signature model guitar you’d like to play or own? Let me know.

That’s all for this week. I’m cooking up something special for the next newsletter. It will be coming your way in two weeks. 

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.