Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 10, 2012

Garage Band, “Louie Louie”, & Little Steven van Zandt’s Garage

My Guitar Hero "machine", styled after old Woody Guthrie's, plus the axes of a few other punks

I confess I’m a big-time musician “wanna-be”, with barely a speck of actual skill or talent.

Re-posted from blog: "This Blog Loves God's Children"

What I lack in talent on guitar or harmonica, I hopefully make up for in enthusiasm about great music and recording artists, plus a big investment in my son Graham’s musical gifts.

It is likely too late for me to do anything more than just attend some cheesy “rock camp”, wherein I gather with other paunchy, middle-aged smiling hacks and stumble through “Louie Louie”, the universally-acknowledged Number One Garage Band Cover Song.

But Graham, now he’s another story. Not too late for him. He’s actually named, in part, after singer Graham Nash (of CSNY), one of my favorite singer-songwriters. And hopefully my son comes by his musical skills somewhat naturally, as Sue (his mom) played alto sax, violin, guitar and especially piano fairly well while growing up.

Graham is nine, and is now studying piano and violin himself. [ <– Click back there for info on G’s  Skokie studio/school, a good one, run by my friend Rick Cinquemani.] My son practices at home on the same baby grand piano that his mother learned upon, which is also cool. I’ll spare you the glowing details or “humble bragging” about his playing… frankly, I don’t know if he has the makings of a prodigy or not. I don’t need him to be, but if he develops into an accomplished musician, I’d be very happy — for him, for myself, and for whomever benefits from his music.

He’s also just now showing interest in the exciting world of digital music-making, and the next level of technical expertise. He’s very math-minded already, so it’s a natural transition, aided by Sue’s new MacBook Pro and the Garage Band application preloaded onto it.

I was hanging out with Graham last night as he played around with the Garage Band software. He created what may be his first real composition, calling it “Graham’s Blues”.  In addition to being a nice bonding experience, it was fun for me to talk with my son about the specifics of “Seventies Soft Piano”, “Indian Tabla” (a unique percussion instrument), or catchy but annoying Eighties synth-pop. All these, plus other styles and instruments, are offered as drag-and-drop clips in the Garage Band software.

Talent is one thing, taste and social skills are another. I enjoy coaching him on the non-technical stuff, and helping guide his tastes. He doesn’t attend much –not yet– to the Lady Gagas, Justin Biebers,  Green Days, U2s, Johnny Cashes, M. Wards or Lupe Fiascos of the world. But when he starts asking more questions, hopefully I’ll be able to steer him in some interesting directions.

I don’t know if his end product on Graham’s Blues was any good, or if it was bluesy (probably not, from what I heard midway through), or if he even saved it. It’s all about process at this point, not product. Fun with music and “messing around” often leads to coming back for more, which then leads to more knowledge, discipline and skill, and then the sky’s the limit… after that foundation is laid. The discipline stuff is where I always fell short when I was his age, and beyond. I’m glad to see he’s getting over the hump.

Little Steven (wearing do rag), Springsteen, & Clarence Clemons on sax (RIP June 16, 2011)

So now, as Jim James and Monsters of Folk sing “Say Please” to me from my computer’s iTunes,  I am tempted to go on ad nauseum about garage bands, teen angst, Louie LouieLittle Steven’s Underground Garage radio show, The Boss, … and all those essential musical lifelines that playing, singing, writing and recording music (be it blues, rock, country, free jazz, rap or emo) have provided for countless young people over the decades.

But usually, less is more. So I will stop my own “composing” here, and let the links above, and the music, speak for itself.

So here’s one last gift, a piano lesson for all ages:

Carla Bley & her jazz big band – *The Piano Lesson*, 1982, fairly funny, seen live somewhere in France



  1. […] Garage Band, “Louie Louie”, & Little Steven van Zandt’s Garage ( […]

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