Connecting the Dots ~ Fred Allebach

Fred Allebach Fred Allebach is a member of the City of Sonoma’s Community Services and Environmental Commission, and an Advisory Committee member of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Fred is maintenance chair of the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and an active member of the Sonoma Valley Housing Group and Transition Sonoma Valley. As well, Fred has a KSVY radio show on Sunday nights at 8:PM, participates in the Sonoma Valley Action Coalition for immigration issues, and with the Sonoma Climate Coalition.


Guitar lessons

Posted on May 21, 2020 by Fred Allebach

One day I was searching for Jerry Garcia pedal steel videos and ran into a guy playing the Workingman’s Dead pedal steel intro to Dire Wolf. That guy’s name is Josh Yenne and I found out he gives guitar lessons here in Sonoma. 

I’ve played guitar for 46 years and took piano lessons as a kid for six, so I had pretty good grounding in theory but knew I wanted to grow and learn a few new things. Before my first lesson Josh asked what I might want to work on. I gave him a hot video of Tony Rice playing Shady Grove, and said I wanted to play like that. Tony Rice is one of the best bluegrass guitar players ever. Why not shoot high?

What Josh found with me was someone who had a certain level of natural talent but had never worked too hard to develop it. I had some dumb ideas and went about things bass akwards. For example, I never wanted to play anybody else’s stuff note for note, I felt that would be fake, copying or something. Josh shot that down right away: no, no, no, the melody is the language, you can’t start improvising before you master the basics of the language.

So after a few lessons to work on my right hand and some finger-picking exercises, plus learning how to play open C and open G major scales, and about the CAGED system of chord shapes and scale patterns up and down the neck, I settled into learning the song Old Joe Clark.

This was getting pretty fun, and I had to push myself to be prepared for my lessons, and I started to memorize stuff I never had before. The new material really opened up the fingerboard for me and I could sense all kinds of potential and new relations of a song’s  one, four, and five in different positions. I could hear classical and fiddle tunes in there, little old me using my mongrel skills to get to a fun new level. Touching the same ground as Bach!

Old Joe Clark is a pretty simple tune. It has two discrete parts. I learned it in open G first, my first time with TABs. Then for extra credit I learned  the melody in all the different  inversions of G. This proved to be challenging, as I had to shift my hand to catch the F many times; that made things tough, even for a simple song. When to shift my hand? Old Joe Clark is evolving, I love having it in my repertoire. I also am fooling around with Little Sadie.   

An easier scale exercise is Drunken Sailor. That goes from D Minor to C. D Minor and C can be played in the same hand position, just switch the scales. In every different  position or inversion, simply alternate between D minor and C scales. This is fun. The mind races, the fingerboard comes into focus; the fingers gain a memory of their own. Like riding a bike, you got it. Then I figured out Franklin’s Tower with an open D major to A.

Some days are better than others. I can’t just be totally on it. Got to get warmed up. Josh taught me some good flat picking exercises, how to get into the bluegrass sound from open scales. He’s a real musician. Check him out online.


4 thoughts on “Guitar lessons

  1. Josh Yenne is indeed the real deal. That is why he played pedal steel in my KSVY fundraiser band along with David Thom and Janice Thompson and my buddy Joe Craven from Garcia-Grisman. Josh was great every step of the way. He will one day be a banjo player I’m sure. My all star band. Coyote and the Tricksters will play again when things open up

  2. I’m very glad to give you a plug Josh! Anyone wanting great guitar lessons, now you know who to call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!