One of guitar legend Les Paul’s favorite jazz musicians was in Tahlequah on Friday to conduct a free workshop at Northeastern State University’s Jazz Lab.
World-renowned guitarist and educator Frank Vignola, along with fellow New York guitarist Vinny Raniolo, provides insight on what it means to be a musician.
Raniolo began playing at age 6. His love of playing guitar and music began after listening to jazz records with his dad, who would host Thursday rehearsals in their New York-area home, and still loves to play guitar today.
“The first records I heard were Les Paul records, Charlie Christian records, Joe Pass records and Django Reinhardt records,” said Raniolo. “My father was a fan of guitar and banjo music. He still plays today semi-professionally. He showed me some chords and some of the songs. I played along to the records for the first three or four years.”
Raniolo was introduced to rock ‘n roll when he was in his early teens, listening to Frank Zappa records.
“I was like, woah - listen to that,” he said. “So I got into rock ‘n roll through that while I was still studying jazz.”
Vignola’s love of music and guitar was also born at home, but was further developed at the Cultural Arts Center of Long Island. He emphasized the importance of embracing diligence and studying the history of the music to the aspiring musicians attending Friday’s workshop.
“I practice almost every day. Usually I practice the material [Vinny and I] are working on,” said Vignola. “For years and years, I had a very detailed daily practice routine [that would last] probably 45 minutes to an hour. [I did] that in addition to all of the playing and the gigs that I got. Collaboratively, we work on our material basically at sound checks and when we’re on the road.”
Vignola has played venues around the globe and with noted musicians like Paul, Ringo Starr, Donald Fagen, Madonna, Wynton Marsalis, and Tommy Emmanuel. He also performs with groups like the Boston Pops and New York Pops.
During Friday’s workshop, Vignola and Raniolo played a few tunes, including Richard Rodgers’ “It Might As Well Be Spring,” and Tommy Dorsey’s “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”
“It’s important to learn classic pieces,” said Vignola. “You can’t be afraid to play for people or to sit in with people. It’s so important to get out and work. I learned more on the bandstand than I ever did in a classroom.”
Raniolo said anybody can pick up a guitar and learn to play, but added that a guitarist reaches the level of which only he or she is willing to commit.
“Some of the stuff that we do isn’t very technically difficult, but we do it all the time. We try to get the best sound that we can get,” he said.
Anybody can pick up a guitar and play a song and have fun. The more you do it, the better you get. You just have to start with a good spirit, and how well you sound will depend on the amount of dedication that you put into it.”
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