My name is Paul Murin, some folks call me “Lefty” (you may notice that in SOME of my videos, I am lefty…but I tend to flip my instructional videos over to make it look like I’m a righty because the lefty thing is confusing for people). I was born in 1970 and raised in the Chicago area, and have lived in Colorado permanently since 1999. I currently live in the mountains a few miles west of Boulder. I’m married to an amazing woman, Teresa, who has a very successful psychotherapy practice in Boulder. 3 dogs, no kids.
My main gig these days is with DeadPhish Orchestra. On New Year’s Eve 2019, we reached our 10th anniversary together as a band. We are mostly Colorado-based but do occasionally venture out for some short road trips.. I also enjoy playing other various gigs when the opportunity comes up… as much fun as DPO is, frankly, I like to do things other than Dead & Phish whenever I get the chance. And I teach private lessons in and around Boulder (and on Skype etc.) during the week.
Why I Started HCG
Between about 2001 and 2007, I spent a lot of time on the road with the band Phix (a Phish tribute band based in Colorado, now ‘de-funked’ ). I started HCG during that time for two reasons–one, I was bored out of my friggin’ mind in the tour van, and literally just needed something to do while driving from Colorado to the East Coast and back. And also, I felt like I had learned a LOT by studying the music of Phish and the guitar playing of Trey Anastasio, and making a website devoted to sharing that knowledge seemed like a good way to pass it on–I didn’t feel like the knowledge was mine to keep, if that makes any sense.
I was also teaching guitar lessons during that entire time (when I wasn’t on the road), and I realized that, along the way, I had gotten pretty good at explaining stuff to my students. It seemed to me that there weren’t many guitar websites devoted to the jamband genre of music, and I could fill a niche.
HCG has always been a labor of love for me. I attempted to make it into a pay site for a while, but honestly it didn’t go well, and I decided I’d rather just make it free and remove any kind of pressure to add content and stick to a schedule (long-time visitors may already know that my work on this site has always ebbed and flowed). However, I do spend a lot of time on it, and a modest sum of money on web hosting and some occasional design help. So if you do feel inclined to donate, it’s always appreciated (you’ll see the PayPal link on most of the pages).
Musical Roots and Education
Though I didn’t pick up the guitar until age 11 or 12, I was always fascinated by music as a kid. I remember liking The Beatles and The Stones, thanks to my Dad who had a pretty decent record collection, as well as a guitar under his bed that I was always very curious about. It was a Rolling Stones concert on TV when I was about 11 that finally made me want to learn to play–I saw Keith and Ronnie onstage and thought, yep that’s what I want to do. I still listen to the Stones all the time, by the way. It never gets old to me.
I started with the guitar when my grade school music teacher, who I really liked, started offering lessons after school. She taught a folky style of guitar, which gave me a good grounding in the basics of chords and rhythm. She also invited me to join her church folk group, so right out of the gate I gained experience playing with other people. By the time I was in high school my musical tastes had progressed to a lot of great rock bands (and guitarists) like Clapton, Zeppelin, B.B. King, SRV, and Hendrix, and I found a couple of teachers along the way who were able to help me learn to tackle some of that stuff.
Somewhere during this time, I discovered the music of the Grateful Dead and the guitar playing of Jerry Garcia. From the start, I was attracted to the folky roots of their music. By tracing these roots, I was led to the bluegrass that Garcia played with David Grisman and Peter Rowan, and it didn’t take long for me to then discover Tony Rice, Doc Watson, and the other bluegrass players. And thanks to the Dead, for better or for worse, I developed a taste for extended improvisations because of the magic that happens between band and audience during an improvisational show.
In college in the early 1990’s, I discovered Phish, and eventually got inspired to study jazz formally because I could hear things happening musically in Phish songs that I could tell were outside of the standard realm of the rock and roll that I had grown up on. After studying with a private teacher for a few years in the late ’90s, I moved to Colorado permanently and began formal study in the Jazz and Commercial Music program at the Lamont School of Music at the U. of Denver from 1999 to 2002. To this day, I thank Professor Malcolm Lynn Baker and the entire staff at that school for helping me attain a whole new level of musicianship. Most of these teachers are all still around Denver, and I love to get out and hear them play whenever I have the chance.
I also really enjoy playing bluegrass (though it’s mostly only in the privacy of my own home)–largely due to the bluegrass community here in Colorado, which is very vibrant and loaded with incredible musicians. I have found that studying this style of guitar playing has really helped me focus my playing, and it has certainly improved my chops. This work has improved virtually all other areas of my playing. And most importantly, it’s totally unpretentious a whole lot of fun.
In studying all of these styles, I have ultimately come to realize that the different styles of music I have played are WAY more similar than they are different. It’s amazing to me how many of the same–or at least very similar–guitar licks can work in a blues, jazz, rock, country, or bluegrass tune. The phrasing is different, but the notes are the same. It’s all American music, and there are common threads (the blues, mostly) running through every genre of music we have. To quote one of my favorite musicians, Tim O’Brien (multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with the bluegrass band Hot Rize), “You have to know how to play the blues, and how to swing. The rest is just semantics.”
I first joined a band when I was 16, and played in casual bands all through high school and college, playing hundreds of gigs, from house parties to high school dances to shows at music clubs in and around Chicago. In my twenties, I played with a Chicago-based band called Ralph’s Kind. We wrote 4 albums’ worth of original music, played hundreds of local shows around Chicago, and did some regional touring. We were WAY into Phish at the time, and you can hear it in our songs.
In 1999, I moved to Colorado permanently, and soon afterward, joined forces with a former Ralph’s Kind bandmate, Derek Berg (keyboards), to form the Phish tribute band Phix. We spent 7 years touring the country and playing premier music venues and festivals. It’s a time of my life that I’ll never forget and an experience that I could never put a price tag on.
While Phix no longer plays, the project has evolved into something new (and really fun) called the DeadPhish Orchestra. DPO is basically the same lineup as Phix, but with a different keyboard player, and we are making an attempt to bridge the gap between the music of the Grateful Dead and Phish. It’s not all that easy to do, but we have a lot of fun trying and it seems like folks are having fun listening to us.
I also continue to play music in various other projects with various other people, across a wide variety of musical styles. I really love the music scene here in Colorado, full of good friends and good musicians, always supportive, rarely competitive. I’m very thankful that I get to run with this crowd!
My first job as a guitar teacher was at Tobias Music in Downers Grove, IL starting in about 1995. I am eternally grateful to the store owner, Ken Tobias, for giving me that opportunity because it was there, basically through the process of trial and error, that I learned how to be good teacher.
I feel that my teaching really hit its stride after I finished my studies at the U. of Denver. While in school there, I studied with several teachers who are true pedagogues. They were the best musicians I have ever been around in my life (I didn’t even know that musicians could get that good), and they have devoted their lives to music education. Through studying with them, I learned what it really is to be a good teacher, and they set a standard that I will spend my entire life trying to live up to.
I have continued to teach in Colorado since I moved here in ’99, and still truly enjoy this aspect of my life. I enjoy getting to know all kinds of different people through my teaching, I’m grateful that I get to have my guitar in my hands seven days a week.
I hope you enjoy the materials you find here at High Country Guitar!