Saturday, June 6, 2020

Black Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter As you know, I'm an Americana guitarist playing a mix of folk, blues, and country. I wouldn't be the guitarist I am today without the contribution of African American musicians. Below, I list black musicians who have been most influential on my musical journey:

Tony MacAlpine

Growing up attending a Chinese Church in Texas throughout middle and high school in the 90s and early 2000s, I mainly socialized within that clique during my teenage years. It was social norm within that clique in that time period that if you were an Asian guitarist, you should either play worship music, or whatever was popular on Top 40 radio. Playing rock and metal electric guitar was taboo, which was what I was into as a teenager. Playing blues, folk, and country was probably just as taboo, although I didn’t get into those music styles until college. When I was in my metal shredding guitar phase, I discovered the guitarwork of Tony MacAlpine, an excellent African American neo-classical guitar shredder. Although African Americans invented rock ‘n’ roll, you didn’t see many African American guitarists playing neoclassical shred metal. As Tony MacAlpine showed me it was alright to break societal norms and be a black neoclassical guitar shredder, I felt more comfortable being an Asian American guitar shredder in high school, and later a folk/blues/country guitarist, even though it was considered taboo within my clique during that time.

Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy

What can I say about Hendrix? I shouldn’t have to explain why Hendrix is an influence on me. He’s probably the most influential electric guitarist ever. Love the rock n roll wildman attitude he puts into his playing, and how he paints sonic landscapes with fuzz distortion and feedback. Of course, I also like when he plays gently like Wind Cries Mary, Castles Made of Sand, and Little Wing. Although I primarily play acoustic guitar these days, whenever I pickup an electric and jam with friends, I love to play Voodoo Child, Foxy Lady, Red House, Hey Joe (I know he didn’t write that song), Wind Cries Mary, and Little Wing.

And there wouldn’t be a Jimi Hendrix without Buddy Guy, who paved the way for Hendrix with his wildman flair, fast guitar playing, wild string bending, use of double stops when soloing, and distortion (he actually discovered distortion early on before rock ‘n’ roll, but Chess Records wouldn’t allow him to record with distortion on their records since they thought it was too noisy). Buddy is one of the few pioneers of electric blues guitar still kicking it.

B.B. King

B.B. King perhaps taught everyone to play efficiently and with economy, employing the “less is more” philosophy of playing. This is a lesson I always try to learn from B.B. King.

Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, and Junior Wells

I love the raw sound of wailing blues harmonica. Sonny Boy Williamson’s album “King Biscuit Time,” was my first introduction to blues harmonica playing, followed by James Cotton “Live at Antones” then a live album with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Although I play primarily guitar, I dabble with blues harmonica in my songs “Jukebox Shuffle” and “Smokestack Shuffle.”

Elizabeth Cotten

Freight Train is one of my favorite songs to play. Although she wasn’t discovered till the folk revival of the 60s, she wrote Freight Train somewhere between 1906-1912, which features very sophisticated and intricate guitar fingerpicking, even by today’s standards. There’s videos of Elizabeth Cotton playing Freight Train live proficiently in her 80s. I hope to still be playing guitar proficiently when I reach 80.

Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder

Unless you’re proficient in jazz guitar, most guitarist have a limited chordal vocabulary. Listening to pianists such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder introduced me to rich chord voicings. Sometimes I enjoy playing chord-melody arrangements of “Isn’t She Lovely” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” in my repertoire.

Texas Johnny Brown and Wes Montgomery

Growing up playing rock guitar as my first style of music, then blues, I was used to playing the guitar with a biting attack, bitchin attitude, and crunchy distorted tones. It wasn’t until hearing the guitarwork of Texas Johnny Brown and Wes Montgomery that I was introduced to playing the guitar gracefully with a gentle touch while caressing each note. Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery are the Yin and Yang of the guitar world. Some of my favorite songs to listen to are Texas Johnny Brown’s rendition of “Ain’t No Way” and Wes Montgomery’s arrangement of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.”


Not known worldwide, Birdlegg currently resides in Austin TX and plays local shows weekly. Whenever I visit Austin, I try to catch a Birdlegg show. Birdlegg is a master of showmanship, and often incorporates humor in his act, as well as audience interaction and wandering into the crowd the majority of the show. Watching Birdlegg taught me that I don’t always have to have a serious guitarslinger attitude when playing live, that I can disarm the audience with humor and that’s it’s not always about whether you play your music flawlessly, but also whether the audience was entertained. Birdlegg isn’t just a performance clown though, he plays a mean harp and his band is tight and always in the pocket.

Friday, July 27, 2018

10-year anniversary of debut album "Geetar"


This month marks the 10-year anniversary of my debut album, Geetar, released in July 2008.  I still sell copies of this album at shows, and perform songs live off this album such as harmonica tunes “Jukebox Shuffle” and “Smokestack Shuffle,” and slide-guitar tunes “The Lonesome Cowboy,” “El Paso Blues,” and “Swampy.”

I composed the majority of these songs between the ages of 18 and 22, from 2001 to 2005, while attending college at The University of Texas at Austin.  I picked up guitar when I was 15, so by the time I was in college, I was still learning and honing the craft of composition and performance.  Up through college, I was a bedroom player since I didn’t have a car to drive anywhere around town.  I was lucky that The Cactus Café, a legendary folk venue where musicians such as Townes Van Zandt, Janis Joplin, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Shawn Colvin, Abra Moore, and Ani DiFranco launched their careers, was located right on campus. 

On Mondays, I would walk from my dorm, guitar in hand, to The Cactus Café to play their open mic.  Prior to hanging out at the Cactus Café, I played mainly electric guitar, and was into classic rock, alternative/grunge music of my generation, heavy metal shredding, and electric blues guitar.  Attending the Cactus Café open mic and free concerts they had (I got to see Tucker Livingston, Abra Moore, Monte Montgomery, Rhett Butler, and David Garza for free 😀) exposed me to a whole new world of singer/songwriter, folk, and Americana music.  The first time I heard intricate fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar was at the Cactus Café.  The first time I heard wailing blues harmonica was at The Cactus Café.  The first time I heard a screeching slide guitar was a Bonnie Rait style player who signed up at the open mic.

With the exception of J-Blues, all the songs on Geetar I wrote in college.  J-Blues is a jazz song I wrote in high school, intended for a 3 piece band (electric guitar, bass, and drums).  However, after discovering fingerstyle playing in college, I came up with a fingerstyle arrangement of J-Blues, which is what appears on Geetar.

After hearing blues harmonica playing for the first time, I returned to my dorm and researched anything I could find on blues harmonica playing.  I went to the university library, and checked out the 2 albums available with blues harmonica frontmen, “King Biscuit Time” by Sonny Boy Williamson, and “Live at Antones” by James Cotton.  After absorbing those albums, I attempted to teach myself blues harmonica from various online instruction, but couldn’t figure out note bending, wah effect, shuffle rhythm, and how to make the harmonica wail.  Luckily, the university offered “Informal Classes” on harmonica instruction taught by J.P. Allen.  After taking several lessons, I went on to write “Jukebox Shuffle” and “Smokestack Shuffle.”

The same thing happened when I heard slide guitar for the first time.  After some research, I went to the university library and checked out “Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings” and “Guitar Slinger” by Johnny Winter.  I loved both these records, especially Winter’s fiery electric slide guitarwork.  However, Ry Cooder would eventually become the most influential on my slide playing.  While teaching myself slide guitar, a friend heard me fumbling.  He leant me a compilation Ry Cooder CD, and I liked how Ry could conjure visual rural landscapes in your head just from listening to his music.  I discovered more of his music in the movie Crossroads with Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai, which I liked even more than the compilation album.  After going through these albums, learning the open G guitar tuning, and teaching myself slide guitar, I wrote “The Lonesome Cowboy,” “El Paso Blues,” and “Swampy.”

My arrangement of “Noel / Silent Night” happened late fall Junior year of college.  Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I wanted to arrange my own Christmas song which evokes the warm fuzzy feeling of spending time with your family and peace on earth.  I ended up merging two Christmas tunes into one continuous arrangement.  Musically, my guitar-work on this is influenced by two Eric Johnson songs I was learning at the time, “Manhattan” and “Song for Life.”  The way Eric voices chords with wide intervals to give it an open sound is something I mimicked in my arrangement.  After some practicing, I debut my arrangement at a November Cactus Café open mic.  One audience member who liked my arrangement so much wrote on loose piece of paper how much she enjoyed listening to my arrangement, and handed me her note before exiting the Cactus Cafe.  This is technically my first fan mail, and knowing how my playing really helped someone feel better encouraged me to keep working on music.  My love of Christmas music would eventually lead me to record a Christmas album titled “Fireplace Christmas Tunes” released in 2012. 

The last songs I wrote for Geetar were “Giddy Up” and “The Old Cotton Rag.”  I wrote those songs during my senior year of college after being exposed to the fast fiery guitarwork of Tommy Emmanuel.  How I discovered Tommy Emmanuel is a story of itself:

Up until this point, I owned an Ibanez RG120 electric guitar, but not an acoustic guitar.  I borrowed a friend’s or roommate’s acoustic guitar everytime I wanted to play a song at the Cactus Café open mic.  By junior year of college, I had saved up enough money, and decided I wanted to buy an acoustic guitar for myself.  I wanted a real nice acoustic guitar, not an entry level model, and all I knew at that time was that Martin made top quality acoustic guitars.  I was walking past the classified boards in the student union, and saw an ad posted by another student selling his Martin 000-15 guitar in pristine condition for $400, and it was autographed by Tommy Emmanuel.  After some research, I discovered that the Martin 000-15 is ideal for fingerstyle guitar playing, which I was already into.  The price was also within my budget.  At the time, a new Martin 000-15 sold new for $800, so getting it for $400 was a deal.  One thing that bothered me though, is I had no idea who Tommy Emmanuel was.  I didn’t want to play publically with Tommy Emmanuel’s autograph on my guitar if I didn’t like his music.  The University library didn’t have any of his albums, so I decided to download some of his music off Napster.  I figured, if I didn’t like his music, I’ll think of a way to remove his autograph from my guitar.

I downloaded some Tommy Emmanuel songs off Napster, such as “Mombasa,” “Luttrell,” “Train to Dusseldorf,” “Biskie,” and “Tall Fiddler.”  I was absolutely floored by his overall musicianship, the speed and ferocity in his playing, and his ability to shred melodically while playing the bass and rhythm parts without a backing band, via his fingerstyle technique.  I had never heard the acoustic guitar played in this fashion before.  I was exposed to intricate fingerpicking like “Dust in the Wind,” and Eric Johnson’s “Song for Life” and “Song for George,” but Tommy Emmanuel’s fingerpicking was a whole other universe.  You could say that if I hadn’t had bought a guitar autographed by Tommy Emmanuel, my guitar playing might be different today.

My introduction to Emmanuel’s music inspired me to take my guitar playing to the next level.  I subsequently wrote rapid-fire fingerpicking tunes “Giddy Up” and “The Old Cotton Rag.”  Being that I was a young musician trying to gain respect and make my mark on the world, I included “Giddy Up” and “The Old Cotton Rag” on my debut album to showcase my chops.        

In 2005, I graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in electrical engineering and moved back home to my parents in Houston TX.  In 2006, I landed a job in Washington DC.  By then, I owned a car, so I could drive to any open mic or gig I desired.  I wanted to start gigging as many places as I could in my new hometown of Washington DC.  I knew I had to record an album of my original music.

It was not until 2008 that I stepped into the studio to record Geetar.  It took me 2 years to get acclimated to living in DC, to navigate the DC open mic and music scene, and to save up enough money to record an album.  Mind you, this was my first job, I had student loans to pay off, and it was my first time embracing adulthood roles like cooking on my own, paying taxes, etc. 

I was lucky to meet producer Jesse Tomaino.  At that time, he finished up recording engineering school, decided to change careers from being a restaurant chef to a recording engineer, and opened his first recording studio outside of DC.  Because his studio was new, he was actively searching for clients to record, and offering his services for an introductory rate of only $20 an hour, which was within my budget.  In addition, Jesse is also a talented multi-instrumental musician who played upright bass and drums on Geetar.  This saved me from having to pay for studio musicians.  I was blessed to meet the right producer at the right time catering to my artistic and financial needs, while still producing a professional quality recording.

Ten years later, Geetar is still an album I am proud of.  It is my debut album that captures my early influences, which have molded me into the musician I am today.  Geetar is my starting point in my ever evolving music journey.  It is my roots of where I come from musically.

Buy Geetar here

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

About to record a new EP "Pick & Grin"

NEWS UPDATE: I am almost sold out of my albums "Guitar Gumbo" and "Fireplace Christmas Tunes." However, I will be recording a new EP this summer titled "Pick & Grin." Unlike my previous albums, most of the songs will be sung (as opposed to instrumental), some with layered vocal harmonies. There will still be plenty of fingerpicking action on this EP. I plan to go on tour in 2019 to promote "Pick & Grin," and plan to hit up NYC, Baltimore MD, Frederick MD, DC, Thomas WV, Boston MA, Pittsburgh PA, Charlottesville VA, Asheville NC, Johnson City TN, Knoxville TN, and Nashville TN.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TAB - "Doerita Forever" by Doyle Dykes

A song I've been digging lately is "Doerita Forever," a beautiful instrumental folk song by Doyle Dykes that makes you feel warm inside after listening to it.  For the past year, I've been searching everywhere looking for a tab of this song, but couldn't find it.  This past week, I finally found the tab on this site post from back in 2001:

However, I've decided to repost this tab here incase the post from 2001 gets removed, or the website shuts down.  Note, this is not my own transcription.  I simply copied this from the site above:


Doobies Forever


| . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |3-----------0---|----------------|----3-------0---|----------------|
B |------0h1-----3|1-0---1---------|------0h1-----3|1-0---1---0-1-3-|
G |----0-----0-----|----------2---0-|----------0-----|----------------|
D |--0---0h2-----4|2---0-------0---|--0---0h2-----4|2---0-----------|
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
E |3---------------|--------2-------|3---------------|--------2-------|

   | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |----------------|----------0-2-3-|------2---0-----|----------------|
B |----------0-1-3-|----------------|--------------3-|----3---3-----0-|
G |----2-----------|----2-----------|----4-2---0-----|------0---------|
D |--0---0---------|--0---0---------|--2-------------|--0-------4-----|
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|2---------------|
E |3-------3-------|2-------2-------|0-------0-------|----------------|

      v--kind of a grace note there (listen to song)
   | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |--------32-0---|----------------|----------------|----------------|
B |------0-------3-|--------31-0-0-|--1---1-----1-0-|--0-1-1---0-1-3-|
G |----0-----------|--2-0---42-0-0-|--2---2-----2-0-|--0-2-2---------|
D |--2-------------|----------------|----2-----2-----|----------------|
A |3---------------|2---------------|0-------0-------|----------------|
E |----------------|------0---------|----------------|3-------2-------|

2nd ending
   | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |----------------|----------------|2---------------|3-----0-0-2-3/7-|
B |--0-1-0---------|----0-----0-----|----0-----0-----|----0-----------|
G |--0-2-0---2---0-|--------0-----0-|--0-----0-----0-|--0-------------|
D |------------1---|--2---3-----2---|1-----2-----1---|0-------2-1-0---|
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
E |3-------2-------|0---------------|----------------|----------------|

      more grace notes (I'll try to notate them here)
   | . | . | . | .  |  . |   . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |------------5-7-|7h8--5h7 5-------2-|--3-----5-------|3/5-5-------5-7-|
B |--------5-------|- -5-- - ----8-----|0---1-------7---|6---6-----6-6-8-|
G |----6-8-6-------|- ---5 - 5---------|----------5---5-|5---5---5-------|
D |--5-------------|- ---- - --7-----0-|--2---0-0-------|0---0-0---------|
A |----------------|- ---- - ----------|----------------|----------------|
E |5---------------|- ---- - ----------|----------------|----------------|
     grace notes are the note before and a hammer on real quick. Notated as
   a hammer-on inbetween dashes

   | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  | . | . | . | .
e |8---7-5---7-----|3-----3---------|--2---2---------|2-------2-3-5/8-|
B |10--8-6---8-----|----3-------3---|----3-------3---|----3-----------|
G |--0-----0-------|------5-------5-|------2-------2-|----2-----------|
D |----------------|--5-------5-----|--4-------4-----|--4-------------|
A |----------------|3-------3-------|3-------3-------|2-----2---------|
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|

   | . | . | . | .  |  . |   . | . | .  | . | . | . | .  
e |----------0-5-7-|7h8--5h7 5-------2-|--3-----5-------|
B |------6---------|- -5-- - ----8-----|0---1-------7---|
G |----7-----------|- ---5 - 5---------|----------5---5-|
D |--6-----6-------|- ---- - --7-----0-|--2---0-0-------|
A |----------------|- ---- - ----------|----------------|
E |0---------------|- ---- - ----------|----------------|

And then back to the main theme and then the bridge which I won't tab :)

                                              copyright for Gleb

Sunday, March 16, 2014

live video "Irish Fiddler"

Hi everyone, with St Patrick's Day right around the corner, I decided to upload a live video of me playing my original fingerstyle composition "Irish Fiddler." It's a fast paced jig.

You can download the studio version of this song (accompaniment from upright bass and light drums) from my album "Guitar Gumbo" at

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Music Featured in movie Hookman 2

Hey everyone. Two of my songs ("Lowdown Blues" and "Stop N Go Blues") off of my album "Guitar Gumbo" have been featured in a local Maryland indie horror movie Hookman 2. You can find more about the movie at

Here is a clip where my slide-blues song "Lowdown Blues"was used in the bar scene where the main character takes shots of whisky because something from the past haunts him. I personally like this clip and believe that my song "Lowdown Blues" perfectly evokes the mood the director is trying to capture.

This next scene uses my song "Stop N Go Blues." In this scene, the main character tries to assemble a team of vigilantes to take down the main villain serial killer Hookman.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013: Year in Review

Happy New Year. Hope everyone is starting off 2014 on the right track. 2013 was a busy and productive year for me. I released my second original album "Guitar Gumbo," and songs from that album like "Irish Fiddler," "Midnight Serrenade," and "Blues Bop" have become live staples and favorites at my show. In that year I also started a new bi-weekly friday residency at Viet Thai Paradise restuarant in Annapolis MD, which has been going well and receiving lots of great feedback. 2013 was also the first time I toured extensively through the East coast, through Johnson City TN, Asheville NC, Souderton PA, Philadelphia, Brooklyn NY, and Providence RI. It is always fun to explore new places and make new friends/fans.

I hope to keep booking tours in 2014, and plan to tour through the mid-west this year and explore places like Cleveland, Detroit, and the Chicago area. With 2 original albums under my belt now, I plan to pursue some licensing opportunities in 2014 to get my music into films, tv, commercials, websites, mobile apps, video games, whatever. Being an instrumental artist, there are only so many musical opportunities available to you, and licensing is one of them.