Stephen Arnold Music

The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America

The Six Strings of Christmas – Behind the Scenes

It’s been a few years since the successful launch of our 1st Christmas album, The Six Strings of Christmas. And with 100% of the proceeds of the sales benefiting Little Kids Rock, thousands of school-age disadvantaged kids across the nation received musical instruments and lessons at no cost. We’re pretty proud of that. So, this year, we are VERY excited to release our newest holiday collection, The Six Strings of Christmas, Volume 2. We’ve been hard at work on this project since last summer (it was sort of strange recording these holiday classics in 90 degree Texas heat). We brought together many of the finest studio musicians who work on our various sonic branding projects to perform 14 tracks on stringed instruments. It’s REALLY beautiful stuff. And again, all proceeds will benefit Little Kids Rock so that more kids can pursue their musical dreams.

All of these cuts were recorded, mixed and carefully mastered at Stephen Arnold Music’s T-Bone studios in Fairview, TX (just north of Dallas). We used a tremendous range of stringed instruments on this project, like dulcimer, nylon, steel and 12 string acoustic guitar, mandolin, double bass, harp guitar, fiddle, dobro, piano and, of course, sleigh bells! (we know, NOT stringed – but they are strung together!) Each of these musicians created their own arrangements of these Christmas classics and performed them either solo or with other musicians. We particularly enjoyed recording We Three Kings with three “kings” of guitar, all playing together in the studio in a single live performance – with no overdubs!

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ALL the musicians on this album are truly “kings” of their instruments. For example, one of our artists, Milo Deering, has toured extensively with LeAnn Rimes, and has played on most of her albums. Most recently, he has also toured with Don Henley. Chris Carrington, classical guitarist extraordinaire, grew up in Caracas, Venezuela and has served on university music department faculties nationwide. He is also a renowned luthier (that’s a guitar maker). You can check out his amazing creations here.

Hmmm…does a guitar maker who builds Martin guitars call himself a “Martin Luthier”? But I digress…

Stephen & Demitri

Stephen Arnold even played a Greek instrument on one of the tracks! One week into the recording sessions, Stephen was off traveling in Greece. While strolling through a flea market, he spotted and snagged a 50 year-old, hand-made “bouzouki” (an instrument that was introduced in Greece in the 1900’s by immigrants from Asia Minor – similar to a mandolin with a long neck). Well, it might have been Greek to Stephen, but since it only has 3 strings (each doubled), he was able to somehow make it work! You can check out this unique sound on the track Joy to the World.

So do yourself – and your loved ones – a favor, and pick up our new Six Strings of Christmas, Volume 2. You can order or download it here.

And while you’re on that same page, purchase a copy of the Six Strings of Christmas Volume 1! We’re very proud of these collections that will bring lots of joy and good cheer into your holidays. Plus, they make a great gift! And remember, 100% of the proceeds goes to Little Kids Rock. Who knows, maybe one of the kids who benefits from instruments and lessons from this project will one day perform on a FUTURE volume of The Six Strings of Christmas! As we say in the stringed instrument business … stay tuned.

The Six Strings of Christmas, Volume 2

It’s Here  – Hot off the Press!

We’re really excited about our newest holiday edition of The Six Strings of Christmas – Volume 2! Our first album was a big hit, and now you can enjoy 14 NEW beautiful performances from our stable of outstanding studio musicians on this latest collection. Best of all, 100% of the proceeds benefit Little Kids Rock, which provides free musical instruments and lessons to underprivileged kids across the country.

Here’s a sneak peek at a couple of the tracks:

It’s available on Amazon right now, so get your copy in time for the holidays! It’s a great album, benefiting a wonderful cause. AND it makes a terrific Christmas gift!

Order yours today, and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Open Your Ears – and Get Recharged with Music!

We all remember them. The songs we heard in the summer when we were 15. The tunes we loved cruising to as we abused our Dad’s car. The tracks we put on our favorite mix tapes and CD’s in high school. Those were VERY impressionable times. I mean, our hormones were running wild! And that music we listened to as we “came of age” is forever emblazoned in our memories…and connected to the experiences we had at the time. I still can’t hear Tower of Power’s “What is Hip” without drifting back to the packed dance clubs in college – baggy bellbottoms, wedge heels and all.

Yet many of us remain locked in those times, still only listening to the music that resonated for us back when we were teenagers. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still great music – whatever the artist, style or genre was at the time. And it speaks to the intense, indelible and emotional connections that music created for us.

But … do we still wear those bellbottoms? De we still wear the acid-washed jeans and turned up collars on pink polo shirts? Of course not! So why do we still listen to the same old music?

There is a HUGE treasure-trove of music out there yet to discover! Older stuff – back to Billie Holiday, Bix Biederbeck and Benny Goodman – incredible music from wonderfully gifted artists. And wow … is there a huge variety of newer stuff out there! Rap, indie, metal, pop, folk, jazz … go ahead – pick your poison. (except for opera. You just can’t pick opera. Trust me on this one. Ha!)

So just get on Apple Music, iTunes, Groove Music, Spotify, or SiriusXM … you’ll discover an INCREDIBLE range of great music right at your fingertips … much of it capable of being the new soundtrack to the wonderful experiences you are NOW having in your life. Just open your ears, mind and heart to older and newer artists. This music can be the creative bookends to the tunes that you listened to as a kid. Exposing yourself constantly to new music can re-inspire you, get you out of a rut, and bring newly-found excitement to your life! Sure … keep listening to that music that inspired you when you were younger. But do yourself a favor. Explore the vast array of newer and older music that will create new, emotional and indelible memories for you – for years to come!

Promax 2016 – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Guitar Giveaway!

Promax_NY_Guitars_1At the PROMAX Conference at the Midtown Hilton Hotel in New York City, June 14-16, Stephen Arnold Music (SAM) will again be conducting an exciting guitar giveaway. Be sure to stop by the Stephen Arnold Music kiosks, which will be prominently displayed at the Conference, to check out this year’s “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” selection of legendary Beatles guitars. To enter the raffle, just drop off your business card in the box near the display. You could win a replica of Paul McCartney’s famous Hofner Violin Bass guitar!

The drawing will be held at the SAM guitar display on Thursday, June 16th, around 4:15pm during the “Networking Break.” You must be present to win. So don’t miss it! You’ll get to see some cool guitars, learn a little something and maybe even win that Hofner bass!

Here’s some cool facts about the collection:

2005 Re-issue Gretsch G6122 Country Gentleman (George)

When the Beatles started to get famous in the early 60’s, George bought a 1962 Gretsch Chet Atkins “Country Gentleman” guitar. George can be seen using this instrument more than anything else on stage, but he didn’t use it as much in the studio. It’s interesting George would use this guitar, as he admired and was inspired by much of Chet Atkins’ work. In 1965, the original Country Gentleman flew off the top of their tour bus and was destroyed. As George recalled: “Fourteen of our guitars were strapped to the roof of our Austin Princess, and the only one lost was my Gretsch. It fell onto the road and into the path of the oncoming traffic. About thirteen lorries went over it before our chauffeur could get near it. Then, one of the lorries stopped and the driver came up with the dangling remains of it and said, ‘Oh, has this banjo anything to do with you?’ Some people would say I shouldn’t worry, because I could buy as many replacement guitars as I wanted. But you know how it is. I kind of got attached to it.”

1959 Gibson J160e (John)

johnLennon2John Lennon couldn’t quite afford his first Gibson J-160E in 1962, so he cajoled Beatles manager Brian Epstein into co-signing for the guitar. Epstein obliged, and ended up purchasing one for George Harrison as well. Both guitars ended up making rock and roll history with the Beatles, appearing on countless studio recordings, movies, and live performances. This is the acoustic-electric guitar John Lennon used in his initial songwriting with Paul McCartney, writing such classics as She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Please, Please, Me, All My Loving, From Me to You, and others. John’s original model was lost in 1963, but mysteriously re-appeared in Los Angeles in 2015 and was auctioned for close to one million dollars. Today’s Gibson J-160E replica features the same round shoulder body design, with a Sitka spruce plywood top and mahogany back and sides, producing a full-sounding, balanced tone with warm, rich lows and crisp, presence-laden highs.

1990 Rickenbacker 355 Limited Edition Signature, 148 of 2000 (John)

0eacbf5b8c380b812d4fff4ae52b1dd1John Lennon had seen guitarist Toots Thielemans, of George Shearing’s Quintet, playing a Rickenbacker 325 in 1959. He immediately decided he had to have one. In Hamburg in 1960, John and George went to Steinway MusicHaus, where George bought a Gibson amp and John bought the “guitar of his dreams”, a Rickenbacker Capri 325 in natural finish. When recalling the purchase of the amp and the guitar, George Harrison remarked: “I think we bought them on “a knocker.” One pound down – and the rest when they catch you. I don´t know if we ever paid them off, but…” True to fashion, John soon had his Rick painted black, so as to appear different from the other garden-variety 325’s on the scene.

The 355 guitar is one of 3 Lennon models that Rickenbacker re-issued in the early 1990’s. The set included the ¾ scale 325 model like the one Lennon used live, on recordings and in the film “Help!.” The 355 model is like the 325, but in a full-scale length, while the 355/12 is the full-scale, 12-string model. All the pickups have that unmistakable “Rick” single-coil twang that made them synonymous with The Beatles, as well as the sound of the 60’s British Invasion.

Hofner Violin Beatle Bass (Paul) – GIVEAWAY

SMG_Paul_McCartney_63_HofnerAfter bassist Stu Sutcliffe left the band in 1961 in Hamburg, Germany, Paul reluctantly stepped in as the Beatles bassist. Looking for an instrument, McCartney recalled finding himself in Hamburg’s Steinway Musichaus. “I remember going along there, and there was this bass which was quite cheap. I couldn’t afford a Fender. Fenders, even then, seemed to be about £100. All I could really afford was about £30, so for about £30 I found this Hofner violin bass.  And to me it seemed like, because I was left-handed, it looked less “daft” because it was symmetrical.  Didn’t look as bad as a cutaway, which was the wrong way.  So I got into that.”

McCartney would soon become forever associated with this distinctive model.  He used this bass on stage and in the studio through “With The Beatles,” at which point Hofner gave him a new model.  So in 1964, he had his first bass refinished in sunburst and installed new hardware, after which it generally took a back seat to its newer brother.  It appeared again in late 1968, minus the pickguard, for the “Revolution” video, and was last seen in footage from the film “Let It Be.”  Soon afterward, it was stolen, most likely from a closet at Abbey Road studio. But Paul continues to play a Hofner violin bass guitar to this day.

PromaxBDA: The Conference is being held this year at the New York Midtown Hilton in New York City from June 14-16, 2016.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Few can deny that music is an indelible part in their lives. But how does that happen? When does it start? And why is it so persistent and pervasive?

Many say we were first exposed to music through our mother’s womb, but I can’t say that Patty Page and Perry Como made much of an impression on me as a child! But it certainly starts penetrating our brains at an early age – through parents, siblings, etc. By the time we hit school, music has already carved some strong emotional connections with life events. To this day, I can’t hear Mantovani strings without feeling hopelessly listless as I lay sick with the mumps on the living room couch on a hot Sunday in July 1957, unable to reach the radio. Desperate times, indeed!

But kindergarten was fun; learning cadence, marching about with bells, tambourines and clapping in time. Even then, you could see the more talented kids, effortlessly feeling the beat as they experienced the joy of first making their own music.

Little boy pianoThen, in early grade school, the dreaded music lessons appeared. In my day, it was piano lessons. Skills and Drills, learning notation, scales, key signatures, all written out on those notebooks with the staff lines. But being “restless” and somewhat artistically inclined, I drew army tanks and planes instead of notes. BIG explosions – with sound effect words, too. My teacher, a full-fledged member of the Sisters of the Benedictine Order, was none too impressed, however. Exotic Catholic punishments ensued, until my mother yanked me out of lessons because I was wasting their money. It wasn’t due to lack of talent, however…I just didn’t see anything relevant in taking piano lessons at the age of 8. I was bored silly with the drills and the archaic songs I had to learn.

Fast forward 3 years, though, and music REALLY hit me – head on! The Beatles EXPLODED on the American scene and changed popular music forever. Suddenly, it was cool to sing, get a guitar, practice…anything to imitate these coolest of cool guys. It was literally a cultural revolution, with every British band immediately dominating the American rock scene. Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds and others ruled the musical roost in rock n’ roll, and ruled my life as well.

Music became everything for me – it was personal, it was part of my social currency. At home, I grew up with my raggedy Kingston guitar perpetually hanging on my shoulder, torturing my family with rudimentary versions of She Loves You, Paint it Black and House of the Rising Sun. And my parents put up with it, thank God. But most of all, this music became RELEVANT to my life. I was totally motivated to learn these songs, and my bloody guitar fingers showed it. This wasn’t the old classical stuff that was forced on me in piano lessons. It was new material from MY generation. It was fun, a bit dangerous, and our parents HATED it! (which made us love it even more) And of course, this music hit me during one of the most socially intense times of my life – being a teenager. Impressions and emotions ran rampant, and the music was my personal soundtrack for those impressionable times. Just a few notes can bring back vivid memories. Even today, I hear a song on the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album – and POOF! I’m running around on a lakeside dock in the summer playing ragtag with my friends…especially the girls!

So what’s the point of all this musical musing?

First, most people “connect” somehow to music, either consciously or unconsciously, and those connections are formed in different ways. But most importantly, they are all EMOTIONAL connections. Music can excite us, inspire us, soothe us, even annoy us – all emotional reactions. And we associate those emotions and related experiences with the music we were listening to at the time. And we build new associations constantly as we are exposed to more music. Music is, you might say, “emotional shorthand.” It can connect us to experiences and emotions MUCH faster than a photo or the written word. As such, music exposure and education is critical to our learning and creativity, and should be encouraged strongly in both our homes and schools. Take, for example, the Little Kids Rock program, which transforms kids lives through dynamic and exciting music education. At Stephen Arnold Music, we support this program BIG time. Check it out!

Second, I think it’s important for anyone exploring music and playing an instrument, that they be exposed to learning music that is relevant to their lives. While we all need to learn our scales, practice technique and learn the “classics,” being allowed to learn tunes that you’re excited about is essential to fueling and stoking that musical “fire” that can burn within. Look at this program that really gets the kids excited!

So if your child is just beginning music lessons, get them excited about also learning to play the songs they already love. Encourage them to just – kind of pick ’em out by ear. Believe me, when they string together a few familiar notes, the light will pop on and their eyes will widen: “Hey…this isn’t all work, this is FUN! Can I start a band in the basement?”

Hmmm…at least you’ll know where they are at night!