Make Sure You Have Your Bionoculars If You Want To Visualize Something

Hi Everyone!

For some reason, a number of feeds have been popping up in my viewer that talk about the importance of visualization.  I believe in visualization – it’s going to be much harder to get to a specific destination without a goal in mind – but I also think there are two very important aspects to visualization that often get overlooked.

1. Skill set

It’s important to have an end goal but it doesn’t matter that you can see something on the horizon if you don’t have the tools at your disposal to get there.

That’s not to say that it’s hopeless, or that you can never develop the tools that you need.  You absolutely can develop your skills and realizing that (AND ACTUALLY WORKING ON developing those skills/tools in a consistent and incremental manner) is a critical part of that process but I have heard a number of people talk about actuating change in some bizarre adaptation of “The Secret” where they honestly believe that if they can just visualize whatever their goal is in a clear way that it will then manifest itself.

In my experience, this is not the case in playing guitar.

Playing guitar in a live setting (or engaging in any endeavor that requires having to perform in a high pressure situation) always involves a balance between mastering the mental game and mastering the physical one.  I’m a big proponent of overcoming the mental obstacles that hold many players back from reaching their potential, but that has to be balanced with having the physical foundation to support what’s going on mentally.

2.  Visualizing the smaller steps

It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to be a great guitarist.”  but the critical thing after that realization is to answer the question of, “What do I need to do to actually become a great guitarist?”

To reach any goal, it helps to visualizing it but you then also have to visualize the steps to reach that goal, take action on them and adjust your trajectory accordingly.  The process itself is actually very simple but maintaining it is a whole other thing entirely!

This is just a friendly reminder.  And with that, I’m back to the wood shed!

I hope this helps!

As always, thanks for reading.

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Passion Vs. Obsession

Bobby Fischer’s Chess Game Vs. The Cuban Missile Crisis

There is an apocryphal chess story involving Bobby Fischer that I find myself reflecting on often.

As the story goes, in 1962 a number of high ranking American chess players had gathered to strategize and practice for an upcoming international chess tournament.  This happened to be during what would later be know as “The Cuban Missile Crisis”, and everyone on hand was sitting around watching the events unfold on television and talking about what the possible outcomes would be.  Many people thought that we were going to have a nuclear war and, in retrospect, we came very close to having that happen.

Everyone, that is, except Bobby Fischer who was looking at a chess board and getting increasingly annoyed until he couldn’t stand it anymore and finally yelled out, “Can anyone tell me what this has to do with chess?”

Obsession vs. Passion

By their nature of practicing the same things over and over again, many guitar players are obsessive about all aspects of what they do.  Non-guitarists will often laugh as players get into endless arguments about who the better player is, or the better guitar or the better amp or any other aspect of minutiae that is lost on non players.

When you start off playing guitar – you have to have some element of this going for you because the discipline it takes to get calluses, much less get the finger strength to play the dreaded first position F Major partial barre chord, is not something that comes natural to some people.

For myself, I engaged in everything that I did at 100%.  When I was at Berklee, like many players I knew at the time – iit was difficult to find me without a guitar in my hand but if you did – it was when I was looking for new music, reading a book, watching a film or going to the gym – all in service of making me a better player.  For example, I went to the gym to increase my stamina and try to look better on stage.  And there wasn’t a plan – beyond a general desire to become a “professional guitarist” – it was just a series of events and occurrences that came about from having poor impulse control (“Go to a film?  Sure! Let’s go!”) and following things through to some kind of end that either came from boredom (aka the goldfish mentality – “I’m tired of working on this – OH THAT’S a cool Lick!”) or actual completion.

As my life after my undergrad went from months to years to decades after I stopped going there, a strange mid-life crisis came about.

Stage one was, “You’re not going to be a rock star.”  That was okay, because I knew this early on and I also had no desire to be a rock star.  I always wanted to be in a band rather than a solo artist and when I imagined what I wanted to do ideally – it was playing in something like Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds where they could play theater level shows anywhere in the world and make a comfortable living.

This was less of an issue for me than it was for other people.  In other words, as the years went on and I got better as a player and a teacher the people around me (who really cared about me but didn’t understand what I was doing), started pushing the whole, “So since this music thing isn’t making you any money perhaps its time to move on and do something else.”  See the rock star thing wasn’t interesting to me, but being able to devote myself to something I loved was interesting to me.

Stage two was, “You’re not getting any younger and the music business isn’t getting any better.”

The first step of this involved taking a series of gigs that I didn’t like just to keep playing guitar and feel that I could call myself a professional musician.  This was basically letting the judgmental nonsense of other players I knew infect my head and drill down into my feelings of self identity.  This lead down a very dark path that took me a long time to understand what was going on and to swing out of.

The second step was just seeing all of the traditional paths that I knew worked vanishing in front of me.  In hindsight, not a bad thing but that was pretty scary writing on the wall for a while.

So everything was an end to a goal.  I’d take a day job to pay bills and do whatever I had to try to advance myself at the same time.

But a lot suffered because of it.  Because of this self added pressure – I was always wrapping my head around what the next step would be.  Everything was goal and task driven which was great for goals and tasks but not so great for everything else.

And life is mostly everything else.

I’d go on vacation and get really tense because I wasn’t getting anything done.  I’d watch TV and run scales because at least I was “doing something”.  It was crazy making and while it was supposed to be self-empowering it just became self defeating because no matter what was done – there was always more to do.  Literally everything became, “What does this have to do with guitar?”

And I burned myself out.  With so many things fighting for attention and fighting for mental bandwidth the circuits just fried.  And getting back up on that horse and engaging again was BRUTAL.

Doing anything at a high level requires some level of passion in either the thing being done or in the person doing it.  Obsession is a common side effect of diving full in to something but – trust me here – in paraphrasing Socrates, the obsessed life is not worth living.  Not if it’s at the extent of something else.  You’ll either burn out everyone around you, burn out yourself or both.

Bobby Fischer was a brilliant chess player but there’s nothing else in his life you want to model yourself on.  Be passionate and be engaged but keep an eye out for your Cuban Missile Crisis freak out as well.

I hope this helps!

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Respect The Process (Effectiveness and Efficiency in Practicing)

Efficient Vs. Effective

We live in an era of tricks and hacks and workarounds all in the name of efficiency.

Being efficient can be a very good thing but doing effective things is (IMHO) even better.

Most people equate the two terms but I think that’s a mistake.  Here’s a shortcut to differentiate between the two:

Efficient means doing things better.
Effective means doing better things.

You might be able to learn every trick in the book to be able to analyze a spreadsheet as fast as you possibly can (i.e. be as efficient as you can) by hand, but if you have an app that can interpret the data in the same way (and that is also working in an efficient manner) – that app will do it faster than you regardless of whatever steps you take to be efficient.

Ideally, it’s good if you can do things effectively and efficiently because that maximizes what you can get done but determining what is effective and efficient in practicing is often counter intuitive.

Effectiveness and Efficiency in Practicing

Many players I come across equate skill set with mastery.  Particularly for lead playing, the concept seems to be, “Here’s this lick.  I’m going to get it under my fingers and then it’s going to be something at my disposal when I play.”

In context, it’s akin to saying, “I’m going to lean every chord voicing I can on guitar so I can use them live.”  You can learn a few voicings for a 7(b5 b9) chord but if you don’t understand how to use that chord in the context of a song knowing some fingering isn’t going to help you remember to actually play that chord on a gig.

In other words, mastery is also contextual.  If you don’t have a specific reason why you are trying to play something then it will be much harder to be able to access it when you really want to.

So what’s effective practice material then? 

Well – it’s an elusive question as what’s effective for players changes over time as their ability level increases.

For example, I think developing aural skills (be that formal ear training or the ability to really listen what is happening in a musical context and know how to engage with that in a musical manner) – is a critical skill regardless of how long you’ve been playing but if you don’t have any technical or theoretical skills at your disposal it’s going to take even longer to utilize that ear training and be able to translate that to your instrument.

Effective practice requires reflection and analysis.
It requires the ability to look at what’s going on with your playing and make it better. You don’t get that from learning lick #4 from someone’s YouTube channel. (p.s. there’s nothing wrong with that either – but interacting with someone else’s material in a vacuum generally won’t reveal what you need to work on in your playing.)

The easiest way for most people to understand what will be effective to practice is to take a private lesson with a good teacher.  Mind you I am fully aware of just how difficult that can be.  There are a lot of bad teacher’s out there – but finding someone that can look at what you’re doing in an objective manner makes it easier to diagnose what’s really going on.  The internet makes it possible to take skype lessons with players all over the world.  While not ideal, it’s probably going to get you further than taking a lesson with the 17 year old kid in the back of a music store who is trying to show you how to play the intro to “Sweet Child of Mine” – in response to a generic question of wanting to get better at playing guitar.

Since what I’m saying means that every player will have to tailor what they’re working on to meet specific goals – I’ll throw out one suggestion that I think is universal.  I’ve never once regretted taking the time to learn something aurally.  Whether transcribing it or just being able to play it back – the biggest stylistic elements in my playing came from learning licks from other instruments on guitar and adapting that material to songs I was playing on.
Yes you might get a lick under your fingers faster if you find a tab for it, but you’re more likely to be able to pull that lick out of your hat on a gig if you’ve internalized it and the most effective way to do that is to learn it aurally.

With that in mind, here’s a recommendation that I’d make to anyone that’s practicing anything or trying to gain any kind of skill set:

Respect the Process – Not Just The Product (Result)

So much of what is “sold” to guitarists in instructional material utilizes the concept of a trick or a hack to be able to play something faster – but most players only have a profoundly general idea of what they are trying to achieve on guitar.

If you don’t have a specific goal for what you are trying to do, what advantage is there is getting there faster?

So yes, you have thousands of videos out there now of people playing a lot of notes very cleanly but for many of those people – that’s the extent of their skill set.  There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but having sat in auditions and rehearsals with players that just didn’t have the ability to play anything other than those riffs and solos that they worked out, it became a problem in a larger context of – what are you trying to do musically?

I’ve met many, many players (and former players) who were frustrated because they didn’t reach some arbitrary goal in an equally arbitrary time frame.

“Yeah….I’d love to be able to sweep and I practiced it a bunch for like a month but I just can’t do it.”

When it comes to practicing, perhaps the best advice I can give anyone is to try to surrender to to process of developing a skill set and not get hung up on the end goal.  Players who get hung up on the final product of what they’re doing (like being able to play a certain lick at a certain tempo by a certain time) are typically the ones who reach a frustration threshold and bail on it.

For example: I’m about to record some more solo acoustic material.  Originally, I wanted to track these tings as quickly as possible, but instead I decided to just work on the pieces consistently and adopt the motto of, “It is what it is. – Whatever rate I progress at this is the rate that it progresses.”

By taking away a strict time frame of when I “should” have everything down – I started focusing much more on the nuances of each piece an the things that actually made the pieces more musical.  Now, quite a bit later, the pieces have all developed and matured in ways that I could never have expected and I can communicate them in a much more sincere manner to a listener.  That sincerity is the most efficient way to make that communication with the listener which is the end goal.

Was it the most efficient manner to get the notes under my fingers?  Probably not.  Was it the most effective way to reach my end goal?  Absolutely.

So if you’re someone who gets frustrated with practice, try to think about this idea of enjoying the process of learning something new and being as musical in each moment of practice that you can be.

You play what you practice – so if you can practice in a musical way, you’re much more likely to play in a musical way as well.

Also, one thing I’ve been really focused on in the last year is gratitude and not taking things for granted.  I am so grateful that I can make music and in being grateful that I can do something it makes it a lot easier to approach practice in that mindset as well.  It might be a little woo-woo for some people but – believe me – audiences pick up on it as well.  For a number of years I practiced in a pissed off manner and played that way and let’s just say it didn’t make for a lot of repeat customers. ; )

So there’s a rambling post reflecting on last night’s gig on a Saturday morning!  Hopefully it’ll be of some help to you!

As always, thanks for reading.

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Addendum: for some of the deepest wisdom about this and related topics check out part 2 of my interview with Miroslav Tadic here.

A Lesson On The Lightbulb Moment From Andy Kaufman

What the heck does Gilbert Godfried have to do with playing guitar?

As many of you know, a key interest of mine involves exploring things that interest me and then adapting them to things that I do.

(I talk about how critical I think this is to developing an individual voice in this article (linked here) which manages to reference Ludwig Wittgenstein and my awkward exit from the guitar major program at my undergraduate institution all in same article.)

One thing I’ve been listening to every week has been the “Gilbert Godfried Amazing Colossal Podcast” (you can find it on iTunes or here).  Be forewarned while it is generally NSFW (the Danny Thomas stories alone are not suitable for any location outside of Gomorrah) – Gilbert and co-host Frank Santopadre’s encyclopedic knowledge of the golden age of television and film is endlessly fascinating and (to me at least) endlessly entertaining.

Recently the show featured Bob Zmuda, the comedian who started comic relief, was a writer for (and co-conspirator with) Andy Kaufman and often subbed for Andy as one of Andy’s most despised charaters – Tony Clifton.  On the show Zmuda talked a lot about the early days with Andy and revealed this story which sparked the fire for this blog post.

It appears that Andy was attending a two year college (“Grahm Junior in Boston – it’s not there anymore and it was the only one he could get into”) and was smitten with another student at the school.  She was in a bind and, having had another act back out at the last minute, asked Andy if he’d ever done stand up.  “Sure”, he said, “When I was like 11″. (Andy had been performing since he was 9 years old.)  She asked him to do it and at first he was resistant to the idea because he didn’t want to do the same set that he did as a kid.  Finally, he relented and was shocked that the audience loved the set.  It was the light bulb moment for Kaufman and Zmuda went so far to say, “Without that (moment) – you never would have had Andy Kaufman.”

So what’s the lesson here?

I think there are several.

1.  He had guts.  Not having been at the event, I can’t speak with certainty, but I think that it worked for Andy because he did everything all in and completely earnestly.  I think that Andy Kaufman was one of the few people who could pull off making an audience buy into the idea of an adult doing an infantile act without it being creepy.   What was great was that he had the guts to be willing to take a risk and look foolish but had the sincerity to (somehow pull it off).

2.  He saw opportunity.  It takes a person of vision to see beyond an audience reaction and see opportunity.  I think where he succeeded artistically was in recognizing how to leverage his delivery with material and ultimately create a completely unique voice artistically.

3.  He took it all the way.  I think Andy’s genius was in taking his ideas and pushing the boundary of them to the point of breaking.  Just as important,  every when he did break it he continued on and rolled with the punches.

You never know when or where a light bulb moment is going to come from but it’s never going to happen if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and leave yourself open to experience something new. 

It’s like the Tom Robbins quote,

“I show up in my writing room at approximately 10 A.M. every morning without fail. Sometimes my muse sees fit to join me there and sometimes she doesn’t, but she always knows where I’ll be.”

(The podcast also features a story about the lengths Jim Carey went to to get the Kaufman role in Man in the Moon which is pretty much a master class in what it takes to be competitive at that level in Hollywood (or anywhere).)

That’s it for now!  As always, thanks for reading!

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Doing Something Versus Getting Something Done

Has this happened to you?

One thing I run into with students very often is a common sense that while they’re playing a lot or have played for years that their playing never got any better.  Perhaps some of you have come across the same thing.

Generally they’ve confused doing something with getting something done.

Here’s the difference:

Buying a gym membership is doing something.

Going to the gym and getting a good work out accomplished is getting something done.

A golf story:

I’ve only been to a golf course once and I didn’t like it so feel free to take the following observations with a grain of salt.

One thing I noticed on the course was that most players weren’t very good. (I’m being kind in my description here – awful would be a more appropriate term for what I saw.)  We’re talking about players that couldn’t approach par – but – and this was the part that was shocking to me – some of these guys had been playing for 20-30 years!

It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but eventually I figured out that they were following Einstein’s model of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  For example, let’s say one player learned a basic stroke from another player.  Well, what had happened was this player never examined what they were doing.  He simply learned the stroke and then repeated it over and over with the assumption that since the stroke must be “right” that it was simply a matter of mastering it.  So he went out and hit thousands of balls for hours on end over the course of years using the same poor stroke over and over again and then wondered why he wasn’t getting any better.  A lot of these guys there talked about new clubs and more expensive gear – but the issue wasn’t the gear – it was poor muscle memory that came about from ingraining a bad practice model!

There are a number of things that separate professional and amateur players – but here’s a big one that I’ve noticed in a lot of pro (and pro level) players that isn’t intuitive:

Pro players don’t tend to operate on some of the assumptions that amatuer players have.

For example – Many times when I’m teaching a lesson to a beginning or intermediate player who wants to get into lead playing I’ll bring up the major scale and nine times out of ten, they’re completely dismissive and say, “Oh I already know that.” and proceed to play it in one octave in position.  I’ll start taking the student through the paces of the scale, “just humor me…” and within 5 minutes or so most of them realize that they don’t know the scale as well as they thought they did.

“The tyranny of the shoulds”

One related lesson I had to teach myself involved getting rid of the “shoulds” in my thinking.  Should is an amateur concept.  “I’ve been playing arpeggios for the last day, I should be able to play this other form ( even though I haven’t practiced it before) because it’s also an arpeggio – and I know those!”  “I can play sextuplets at 120 so I should be able to play this sextuplet at the same speed.”  Pro players move away from should and focus on can.

Can I play this?
If not, why not?
What do I have to do to play it better?

Pro players examine WHY something isn’t working and then address it.

The dojo story

I saw a Karate demonstration once.  While the young guys were showing off the flashiest moves they had, the master was in back doing Kata – which (in a reprehensible over simplification) are the basic starting points for the style.  in other words, fundamentals.

Guess what happened to the flashy kids in the demonstration?  Strewn all over the place.

Everything you do on guitar is based on cumulative development.  The better you can execute basic techniques, the better you’ll be able to adapt to new techniques as they’re thrown at you.

That means really being present in practicing.  Really focusing on hand tension, timing and tone and using the “Do – Observe – Correct” model to make sure you’re practicing it the right way.  Pro players do what it takes to make things better.  Sometimes that’s practicing something at a VERY rudimentary level to make sure that it’s  fundamentally sound before trying to get it up to tempo.  In other words, they’re willing to humble themselves and do some (often) unglamorous work that other people aren’t willing to do.

A lot of players who play guitar have been playing the same tunes the same ways for the last 30 years and then never wonder why they don’t get better.  If you’re one of those people, don’t assume that a new guitar will make it better.  It might be as simple as taking a lesson and getting a handle on what you’re doing wrong and developing a proper methodology and practice schedule to get something done towards achieving your playing goals.  It may require getting out of a comfort zone – but that’s where the rewards are!.

That’s it for now!  I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

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Practice The Way You Want To Play

Recently I had a Skype lesson with someone who wanted to learn more about practicing and while we talked about a lot of different elements of things to work on I forgot to mention one critical thing (that may be a good reminder for you):

When you’re practicing you should practice material the way you ultimately want to play it.

(Be forewarned – this simple sentence requires some context.)

When I was living in small apartments I was really mindful of other people and not disturbing them and made sure that when I practiced that I was really quiet.

Guess what happened when I went to play live?  You couldn’t hear me or make out a single thing I was playing.

You can’t practice something in a passive or lethargic way and expect to play it aggressively /dynamically / with conviction / in a way that creates a moment in a live context.

This is one reason I recommend that people work on specific licks or approaches for short periods of time as a big part of practice is examining nuance and attention to detail.

Here’s (one way) how I approach something new I need to learn in a practice session.

1.  Figure out what I’m playing (and why I’m working on it)

Even before I go to a metronome, I make sure I understand what I’m playing.  If I’m going to add it to my musical vocabulary – I need to understand how it fits in a context.  Examples of this would be:

“Ah..it’s a pentatonic based lick”
“It’s an arpeggio pattern based on harmonic minor chords”
“It’s a scale I’m not familiar with” (Then I need to learn that as well).

The why is generally, “it sounds cool.” but usually it’s tied to a specific song, solo or approach for something I’m going to play in front of people or record.

2.  Figure out where to put all my fingers

Again, still no sign of a metronome yet!  Here I’m looking at the fretboard shapes involved and make sure that I understand what I need to do physically to perform it.  Recently, I was working on a descending scalar pattern for an original tune and realized that the fingering I was using was really difficult and didn’t sound that great.  Even playing it at the slowest possible tempo, it was difficult to get the articulation I wanted.  After about 5 minutes of running options, I discovered a string skipping shape that made it much easier t play and (more importantly) sounded better.

Included in this step is also  addressing what the fingers of the picking or tapping hand need to do.

3.  Understand the phrasing

Usually I’ll try to sing along with the line to help internalize it.  I’m not a vocalist.  You’ll never hear me on American idol.  I don’t do it because it sounds good, I do it so I can really internalize the rhythms and the phrasing.  Tapping my foot helps a lot with that as well…..

I heard a guitarist of some renown play recently and I was shocked at just how bad the phrasing on his tunes was.  Every note was played in the right order but it just didn’t sound musical at all.

4. 
Set a metronome marking

There are a couple of ways I’ll do this but in general I’ll find the fastest tempo I can perform the idea following the 3 T’s (Tone, Timing and hand tension and by “perform” I mean playing it totally in the pocket and every note jumping out at the listener.) and then move it up a few metronome markings until it starts to fall apart.

One place where I think some people get hung up on this is (on the physical side of practicing) equating playing with conviction = playing aggressively = playing with excessive tension.  As the saying goes,

“Tension is trying to be where I think I should be”
“Relaxed is being where I am”

Take your time getting to this step if you need to!  I might be practicing the idea for a couple of sessions before I even get to the point where I can play it in time.  I work on playing the phrase with conviction and intent and then worry about tempo.  Playing all the notes on the guitar quickly doesn’t mean much if you can’t move listeners when doing so.

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where your overall level comes up and you can start playing things closer to the tempo you hear it.

5.  Do.  Observe. Correct (if necessary).

That’s the crux of it right there.  Not getting emotional about what you’re doing or getting hung up on where you should be – just performing it.  Observing what worked.  Correct if necessary.  If I can play something 3-5 times without a mistake – I’ll generally bump up the metronome a few markings and try it again.

(Make sure to check out The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner for more on this.  I had another descriptive but I liked his description of “Do Observe Correct” so much that I use it in my own teaching now)

6.  Keep track of what I’m doing and work on it daily

This is an old topic for me but daily focused work makes the difference.  Writing it down let’s you see what kind of progress you’re making.

As a shortcut think of it this way (I stole this from a book that is definitely worth reading - The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremo)

You want to practice like you’re the number 2 player in the world and have something to prove.  Practice with grit and drive and instead of being totally focused on the end goal – try to be engaged in the process of what you’re doing.

Having said that, when you play or perform – you want to do so like the #1 players in the world.  Those players play with no tension.  Their hands are lose and relaxed and they’re focused but not over-focused.

If you practice in an engaged manner you’re more likely to perform in an engaged manner and that’s a good thing.

There’s a lot more to practice than what I’ve outlined here (If you check the blueprints page you’ll see a lot of material specifically related to guitar practicing) – but I really think that the steps I outlined offer a reasonable starting point and (perhaps more importantly) can be applied to any skill set you want to achieve.

That’s it for now!  I hope this helps and as always thanks for reading!

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To Stay In For The Long Haul You Have To Play The Long Game

“It’s been a long long time”

Hi everyone,

As I write this I’m just getting over food poisoning that I got on Christmas day that has now kept me down for 3+ days.  The odd thing is that an experience like that can really get one centered.  When things are going bad and someone says, “Well you’ve always got your health!” it’s easy to be dismissive but there’s something about being doubled over in your bathroom for days on end trying to find any kind of relief that really makes a lot of the hubris of what really amounts to little more than obstacles and daily annoyances fall away.

So now that I’m at a stage where I can focus for 2-3 hour blocks on things I thought I’d get this long overdue post out.  First some overdue clean up:

GuitArchitecture cross polenation

Readers of this blog may dig a few posts that have gone up on my other site, GuitArchitecture more recently.

This post - talks about a musical director gig I got this fall and how it illustrates the 4 steps that need to be taken to to get any gig.

This post - talks about being in the moment in life and performance.

This post - talks about how you’re not going to see another Jimi Hendrix (and why that’s not a bad thing).

And finally, I have a yearly post on GuitArchitecture I post on how now to repeat the mistakes of the past that you can find here, but I wanted to talk about a new project I’m working on and about the thinking behind it may help you.

LRAN

LRAN Test

This is a tentative logo for LRAN (Local-Regional Arts Networking), a Facebook page and podcast series that I’ll be doing a soft launch for in 2015 with a specific focus on interviewing artists, and small businesses associated with any kind of arts affiliation (promotion, grant funding,  business development, etc.)

There are several reasons I chose the name I did:

1. While I’ll be interviewing primarily people in my own region, my hope is that the information will be applicable to artists working in any scene.  So, for example, a podcast name like “518 arts networking” limits the audience at the get go because people outside my area code either will have no idea what that means or will never listen because they assume that the podcast isn’t for them.

2. It’s Local-Regional because I really believe that any kind of long term survival requires local and regional support.

3.  It’s Arts for two reasons.  A.  because I don’t want to limit it to any one type of artist (or arts business) as say a gallery owner might have an insight or perspective that could help a local band book better shows and B. because music is really in a funding ghetto in the arts world.  To see what I mean if you look at any arts grant page or residency page you’ll see the percentage of grants and residencies for visual artists versus performing musicians.  Usually, musicians have to sneak in under the guise of a title like “composer” to even qualify for funding.

4.  Networking.  Because I think it’s important to view networking as a verb instead of a static noun.  (I have some related posts about this idea “How not to Network” part 1 and part 2)

Get the focus off the small-small

When I told a friend of mine about the idea he said, “So wait a second.  You’re going to do a podcast that essentially gives free advertising to different people.  What do you get out of it?”

And here’s a paradox.  “What’s in it for me?” is both the small and the large world view.

In the small world view, “What’s in it for me?” means passing up opportunities because you’re more concerned with what you believe you’re due versus what you’re willing to do (Check out my post Due Versus Do for a step by step analysis how I’m applying this to my project with Farzad Golpeygani –  KoriSoron)

Yes, everyone is self serving on some level.  In the case of this blog (and the GuitArchitecture blog), I spend a LOT of time writing posts (hence my long break here for a while) about my own process to help people with their own learning curve.  I do this to give back, but I also do this to establish myself as someone who knows what he’s doing so that when I release a book, (like An Indie Music Wake Up Call) people are more likely to read it.  On GuitArchitecture, I wrote a lot of lesson columns to help people but it also promotes my books that I sell there.

“What’s in it for me?” can also be long term thinking as well.  Because for the audience or for any kind of collaboration – that’s their question to you.  “I already have too many things competing for my attention why should I give it to you.”

“Because I have a pretty song” will fail.  “Because I have a song that’s going to become your go to song for the next year” is going to get more people to invest time in what you’re doing.

It’s about what you do and how it affects other people.

It’s about becoming the “go-to” for someone.

So getting back to the new podcast, I help promote the scene and people in the scene but I also start making contacts and building a (virtual) rolodex of “go-to” people to call when I need that thing.

We are trained to look for immediacy.

But immediacy is a short term game that we have to endure to play for the long game.

Players in the long game look to the horizon.  How does what I’m doing fit into my 5-10-20 year plan?

Long term players work in the now for results later.  Mind you, it’s a balance.  You can’t look too far into the future if you don’t have a roof over your head now, but don’t lose the forest in the tree.

2015 is going to be all about the “we”.  This quote from a post Do you want to be right or do you want to be paid?

Sometimes you have to move past who is right and who is wrong and get to the central idea of weas in coming up with an answer to how do we both get what we need out of this?

Don’t worry if you can’t answer that question right now.  The industry can’t either.  It’s about having a game plan and adapting (i.e. figuring it out) as you go along.

I hope 2015 is your best year yet and I hope this helps (or at least entertains you) in some way.

As always, thanks for reading.

-SC

PS – if you’re in the Capital Region of NY, KoriSoron has a bunch of shows coming up in the weeks ahead!  (you can check those dates out here.)