Rock guitarist Craig Bartock, who plays for the band Heart, earned a star for com- ing to prison. In December he visited the Thursday afternoon guitar workshop sponsored by the William James Association and taught by Kurt Huget.
One of the many treats participants get out of attending the guitar workshop is meeting great musicians like Bartock, who gave the men ad- vice and showed them a few tricks on the guitar.
“The most important part of playing the guitar is having fun,” Bartock said to the nine students in attendance. Their skill levels ranged from beginner to advanced. “Just enjoy playing the guitar is the best thing I can tell you.”
The class and Huget strummed chords to the song “Let The Good Times Roll,” and Bartock joined in casually, firing off lead guitar licks and improvised rhythms. Af- terword, he answered a variety of questions.
“I’m a Fender Tele-Strat kind of guy,” said Bartock, when asked what kind of gui- tars he plays. “I prefer play- ing electric guitar.” Then he showed the class a few more licks as he played an Arts in Corrections black Fender Squire Stratocaster through a small Fender amplifier that he dialed in to get the tones needed to make his impres- sion.
“I use a Vox AC 30 amplifier,” said Bartock. “I think they’re like the perfect amplifier for rock.” His taste in instruments and equipment comes from playing guitar for what he said has been more than 50 years.
Bartock didn’t look old enough to be a musician for half a century; dressed in a black hoodie, black shirt, black pants, brown boots wearing tinted glasses that matched his brown hair. His years playing easily connects importance of a guitar’s “action” (the height of the strings from the fret board) and the gauge of strings when performing. He said he uses medium strings (9 to 11 gauge) on electric guitar but heavy and medium can vary from electric to acoustic guitar.
“You can never go wrong playing on an acoustic because it builds up your fingers,” said Bartock. He said he plays a 12-string acoustic guitar, and when touring he takes 14 guitars on the road with him that are cared for by a guitar technician, who keeps them tuned and maintains his amplifiers.
Bartock explained alternate guitar tunings like drop-D tuning (D, A, D, G, B, E) and double drop-D tuning (D, A, D,G,B,D).Thenheuseda ball point pen to demonstrate how to play slide guitar blues songs using those tunings. He said musicians Richie Havens and Joni Mitchell use these al- ternate tunings.
One of the students asked about the hit song “Barracuda” by Heart. Bartock answered the question by showing the class how to play
the opening galloping rhythm of the song using the “power chords” E, F sharp, and G ending on two harmonics. He explained the usefulness of bar chords and variations of them on the neck of the guitar.
Huget discussed some of the songs the class was working on. Then the class and Huget played “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band, followed by “Ram- blin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers as Bartock played lead guitar.
his longevity to the time when rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin and The Rolling Stones ruled the airwaves.
“I got so excited about the class today, I almost forgot to sign in,” said Louis Calvin whose been play- ing guitar for al- most two years.
Because some of the men in the workshop were beginning guitar students, Bartock discussed the im-
The questions kept coming, and at one point Bartock was asked to repeat a lick he did in passing on the song “The Wind Cries Mary” by Hendrix. He also demonstrated how Hendrix used his thumb to play bass lines on chords to get a unique sound from bar chords leaving the G string to ring open.
When asked about play- ing the bass, Bartock said “The best thing to do is lock in with the drummer.” Huget then played a blues rhythm on the guitar as Bartock played a bass line to demonstrate for the class.
Bartock’s visit turned out to be a crash course in equipment, guitar playing and on-the-road touring with other bands. He discussed audiences, monitor mixes, the loudness of music during shows and how “so many mu- sicians are almost deaf.”
“It’s like three companies coming together for a show and going their separate ways,” Bartock said when de- scribing a tour. “Sometimes you don’t hear the audience” with the in-ears headphones, he said adding, “It’s really easy to let your mind wan- der,” but “You can save your hearing so much better.”
“It’s a real pleasure to have him come in and share his talent,” said Huget, who oc- casionally brings in guests to inspire the men.
Bartock was cool and laid back. Unlike some newer young artists, he wasn’t pre- tentious and didn’t put on any airs. Over the decades, he’s seen it all. It wasn’t his first time visiting San Quentin. He’s performed at shows here with the organization Bread & Roses.
“Hey, man, I love it,” said Bartock. “I’ll be back.”