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Jane Miller: Newsletter

touch - August 23, 2006

a cute little dog nose touches the back of my hand. never the other way around, unless it's very gentle and loving. "touch." bop. then a quick look to the other hand. sure enough, a treat is there. i move my hand somewhere else. "touch." bop. look. "catch." snap. my hand holds "funny monkey," our current favorite stuffed toy. "touch." again with the nose bop, this time on funny monkey's belly. "where's funny monkey? get funny." trot trot trot. then loud laughter escalating into wild jungle sounds. funny monkey has been caught and tickled and squeezed and is now screaming as betty runs her back to me.
touch. i am touched by a piece written by lucy holstedt, for which i arranged a guitar part. betty the six month old dog decides it would be cool to get in on the collaboration and brings funny monkey to lucy's feet under the piano. let's put funny monkey away for now, pal. what's the difference between improv and composition? there's no punch line. just wondering. what's the difference between a puppy who wants to be recognized and musicians at work? not much, sometimes.
"touch." someone gets a kick out of me and puts both hands on one of my arms leaning into me, having a good laugh. i notice it whenever it happens again because i like that. bop. look to the other hand.
positive reinforcement. persistent optimism. benevolent leadership. artful respect. good morning mary sunshine. how did you wake so soon? da da da da da da da da and shined away the moon. happy conversations that happen in one second our time, one hour someone else's time. too bad. so good.
"touch." bop. look. "look." two little squinty eyes like little opie looking up in the sunlight wondering what will happen next. how could it be anything but good? touch. nice and gentle.
teach. benevolent. positive. reinforcement. when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. is the teacher ready? what would you like to learn? betty come. go get it. should this be a diminshed 7th chord or a dominant 7 flat nine? oh my god, what's the difference, can't we just go swimming? nice and gentle. positive. run like a pretty wind. zoom zoom zoom. massage therapy, pretty guitar music, very sore knee, touch. music on a vibrational level. music so deep that it is completely simple and basic and makes me dream about the essence of touch.
touch. out the door. oh, my aching knee.
run like the wind, betty-i'll catch up.
it's a happy latin groove on a major chord and it's touching and promising and fun.
when the teacher is ready, she will write more.
sleep sleep sleep.

dog days - August 2, 2006

hi folks,
come on out to the acton jazz cafe on friday night to catch the doug lowe group. well, it's actually my trio with doug on saxophone playing his material and some standards that he has chosen. details on the calendar page, or visit
stay safe.

proud - July 17, 2006

here's a fun link which will take you to a page on my friend SONiA's web site.

social studies - July 5, 2006

when fran lebowitz' book by that name came out in the early 80s, she was prompted during an interview with a boston tv news anchor: "and it is the sudy of..."
"social," was, of course,her response.
it's remarkable to think of just how many social skills most of us have together. i mean, i can pretty much get through a gig without too many three stooges moments. that gets a bit more challenging when i'm with bob and don, but still.
now that i have a four month old puppy, i can see where zero is. betty is beyond that, but closer to that end of the scale than, say, i am. for example, here's what went into her mouth today on a routine trip to the lake: a piece of old fish skin with scales, an unidentified kid's sponge football, my wrist, sand, pine cones, dog (or was it cat) poop with a side of pine needles, water and treats given by me in an attempt to flush out the previous stuff, a pine cone, a plastic lid, a frisbee for about one second, pop corn, seconds on the poop with pine needles, and more water and treats with disapproving looks from me.
on the other hand, she very skillfully socialized with a couple of people, including a woman who just thought she was the sweetest most well behaved calm puppy as betty sat up close snuggling against her legs and looking up angelically at her. this was immediately following her second helping of...well, let's move on.
i am tinkering with some new arrangement ideas, and betty is peaceful while i practice guitar. that's a blessing.
she is sleeping off the day right now under my chair, now and then moaning and stretching, and i wonder just how long it will be before she comes to the full realization that she shouldn't have eaten that. who hasn't had that feeling after a summer holiday party.
hope you can join bob and don and me at the heaing light institute concert for peace on july 15. full details in the calendar section of this site.
also, i hope you'll have a chance to read the tales from the road story on the mel bay web site. click on tales from the road.
please feel free to sign the guestbook here and let us all know how you're doing and what else we could be bringing to you on this site.
see you in a couple of weeks.

puzzle answer - June 22, 2006

wo, i really left you hanging for awhile on this one. didn't mean to, you know. here are some names for that chord i was writing about last may, for you guitar players:
E-7 (11)
D6/9 (sus4)

some you might love, some you might never use. it's just nice to have some options.

my trio will be playing at a concert for peace in worcester, ma on july 15th. check the calendar page for specifics. my good friend sonia and disappear fear will be there, too. so will kim and reggie harris, whom you must hear and see. they are wonderful.

i'm working on another piece for the mel bay e zine "guitar sessions." it's for their "tales from the road" column, and it should be in the july issue. this one is tearing me up emotionally, but i hope you'll think it's a good story.

little betty wants to be supreme ruler of the universe, but i told her i already have that job, so she can just carry sticks. two control freaks trying to live together. sheesh.

hope to see you in july. peace.

reading and writing and... - June 2, 2006

I'll write some news soon, but in the meantime, check out this month's Mel Bay Guitar Sessions web site. I contributed the City Scene column.
oh, also, yes that's me in the Acoustic Guitar magazine Reader's Rig column in the current issue. early in the magazine, there's a very small preview picture, promoting their on-line stories. on the opposite page, there happens to be an add for epiphone guitars with a great big picture of paul mccartney. my mother saw it and said "oh there you are opposite what's-his-name."

(the profile of me being a gear-head is found more toward the back of the magazine).

puzzle - May 3, 2006

here's one for you: put your first finger across the 7th fret barring the first 5 strings (EBGDA). add your second finger to the 8th fret on the 2nd string (B string). what chord do you get? what do you want to call it?

name all of the notes that you have under your fingers. then think it through this way: if E is the root, what would the other notes be and then what could i call this chord? if A is the root, what could i call it; if G is the root, etc. etc.

ready for answers?

the notes are, from the bass notes to the high notes: EADGB. sound familiar? like the way the guitar is tuned. so, if E is the root, then here's how it lines up: E-1, A-11, D-b7, G-b3, B-5. so let's call it
E-7(11). nice chord.
continue on with each note taking a turn being the root (what would the bass player play) and get a new chord name each time. that's a baragin. but don't stop there- what if the bass player plays a C? how about F? keep going. let me know what you come up with. it's a great deal when you can grab a pretty easy to grab chord ("nice holds" as they say in nashville) and be able to use it in so many contexts.

answers next time. or you tell me.

what's new? well, i am wrapping up the semester at berklee, i have tilled the garden, i got strawberry and raspberry plants in the mail, i played a fun gig with dave clark and willie sordillo, one coming up with cercie miller and dave clark on may 25th, and i have been solidifying some writing ideas. i have been sleep deprived. oh, and i have been playing with betty, my new puppy.

really, i've just been mostly doing that last thing. playing, feeding, caring for, training, cuddling with, being horrified by, being awestruck by betty, elizabeth the great, the smartest cutest most mischievous little yellow lab in the world. she's the only being in my life who couldn't care less about the condition of my hands. guitar player, schmitar player- i'm biting them. sleep, schmeep-let's go outside.

ok, cutie-i'll be right there.

new tune - April 7, 2006

well, it's not a new tune, really. not by a long shot, actually. but it's newly available to you. check out the music page and scroll down to find a solo guitar version of "gratitude." it's unreleased; can't find it anywhere else. please drop me a line to let me know what you think of it, and of the idea of making things like this available from time to time.
happy spring.

La Guitara - March 29, 2006

La Guitara is a group of women guitarists representing a variety of genres gathered together on tour and on CD by Patty Larkin. Included on the first CD are artists such as Muriel Anderson, Mimi Fox, Badi Assad, and Jennifer Batten, to illustrate the huge scope of this project. Currently touring along with Patty are Sharon Isbin and Kaki King. To help us celebrate Women's History Month at Berklee, the three of them are doing a clinic on Friday March 31st from 3-5pm at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave. in Boston. Later that night, they will be in concert starting at 8:15. If you're near Boston, don't miss these opportunities to watch and learn from three of the greats in their fields. I will be the moderator at the afternoon clinic and I look forward to hearing questions from those attending and coming up with a few of my own, too. If you can't make it but you have questions for Patty, Sharon, or Kaki, let me know via my guestbook here, or send me an email.
Here are a couple of links for more info:
Hope to see you there.

GO - March 14, 2006

when i was in the 5th grade, our creative english teacher walked calmly to the board and wrote the word "GO." we all looked at it for awhile, and then she told us "this is the GENERIC word 'go'." after we learned what "generic" meant, our task was to come up with a list of other words we could use instead of "go" that would be specific, more descriptive. the list began: walk, run, amble, drive, skip, fly, scurry, leave, hurry, scatter, split, boogie-ok, some of them i'm making up now. but each one evokes an image. it's a picture of going that adds excitement to the language.
when you're given a lead sheet, say from your songwriter friend, or a page from the real book or whatever, and the chord says "C," what else could you play? Cmaj7, Cmaj9, maybe it belongs in the dominant family: C7, C9, C7b9. maybe it doesn't really need a 7 in it, but Cadd9 might be a nice color to try. if the next chord is D minor, would Dmin9 work? or Dmin11? sometimes a lead sheet offers a general outline of a tune, but it is up to us to interpret it musically, tastefully, adventurously perhaps, or with restraint perhaps. each context calls for its own descriptive sound. what word could we choose that makes our story telling vivid and alive? what variation of a chord could we choose that makes magic with a melody? how many fingers do you have left over-what happens if you put one right there...
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