About GuitArchitecture

GuitArchitect and Sonic Hooligan: Having received his undergraduate degree in composition from the Berklee College of Music and a graduate degree in guitar performance from CalArts, Scott Collins is a guitarist who performs a wide range of improvised western and non-western music on fretted and fretless instruments, he is a featured baglama (Turkish lute) performer on the Sony Playstation, God of War 2 video game and a soloist on the track “Come Alive” from the RedLynx Trials Evolution game. In addition to numerous live performances, he has toured in both the U.S. and Germany, performed in the world premier of composer Glenn Branca’s “Hallucination City”, the U.S. premier of Composer Tim Brady’s, “Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks” and co-composed and performed the thematically improvised score for the About Productions stage adaptation of Norman Klein’s “Bleeding Through” with Vinny Golia. Scott is committed to an art of real time composition he calls GuitArchitecture. When not performing improvised loop based solo guitar performances, he can also be found collaborating with several projects including Duodenum, an improvising duo with Carmina Escobar that specializes in silent film accompaniment, OniBaba (with Daren Burns, Vinny Golia, George McMullin, Craig Bunch and visualist Kio Griffith), Rough Hewn Trio (with Warr Guitarist Chris Lavender and Craig Bunch) and Dumb and Drummer a guitar-drum duo with an ever changing line-up… Other highlights include performances with John French (“Drumbo” of Captain Beefheart), Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, Mia Mikela (Solu), (Butoh dancer) Don McLeod, Butch Morris, Sahba Motallebi, Ulrich Krieger, Susie Allen, Mike Reagan, Melissa Kaplan (Universal Hall Pass), Jeff Kaiser, The Bentmen, One of Us, Annette Farrington, Tubtime, Sleep Chamber and many more. He has performed and co-lead workshops on improvisation as part of the Imagniary Borders/Imaginarias Fronteras project at the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexicali, Mexico and performed/lead a workshop on “Structured Improvisation in Film Accompaniment” as part of the Cha’ak’ab Paaxil Festival at the Edificio de Artes Visuales – Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán in Mérida, Mexico. An active guitar teacher and performance coach, Scott is the author of Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns for Improvisation and The GuitArchitect’s Guide: series which includes: The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Melodic Patterns The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Harmonic Combinatorics The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration and The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Chord Scales and is currently working on additional books in the GuitArchitecture series to be released over 2012-2013. Scott is endorsed by FnH Guitars. He uses D’Addario strings, Planet Waves accessories, Scuffham Amps and Line 6 gear. In addition to his posts on GuitArchitecture, he had a quick lick lesson in the 2010 Holiday issue of Guitar Player Magazine, and has also had articles posted on Guitar Salon International, Live4Guitar and has a regular interview series on Guitar-Muse.com.

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.

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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.)

Loking Forward To 2015 : How Not To Repeat The Mistakes Of The Past (Or Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse)

It’s that time of year again…

(This is a repost of something I wrote for the end of 2009.  The dates and information have been updated, and this has become one of the few yearly repost traditions I indulge in.)

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At the end of every year, I typically take the last week between Christmas and New Years to wind down and center.  It not only helps me take stock of what worked and didn’t work for me in in the year but also helps me make sure I’m on track for what I want to get done moving forward.  As George Santayana said,

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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As 2014 draws to a close, I think back to many conversations I had with people when this post was first written at the end of 2009.  At that time, it seemed like everyone I talked to said the same thing, “2009 was such a bad year.  2010 has to be better.  It just has to.”

Now it seems I’m listening to the same sentiment with the same people about 2014 and the coming 2015.  And in some ways they have a valid point.  Listening to their recollections, 2014 certainly offered some of these people a tough blow – but regardless of their circumstances, I believe that, unless they experience a windfall of good fortune, I will hear the same sentiments echoed at the end of 2014.  There’s a reason for this:

“If you always do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you always got” – anon

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While I fully appreciate the merits of planning and goal setting – life will throw you any number of curveballs that may make a meticulously laid out plan get derailed.

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A good plan has to be countered with an ability to improvise (as need be) to make sure that even if your mode of transportation is disabled, that you are still on the path to achieve your goals.

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“Improvisation as a practice is the focus of an idea through an imposed restriction.  This restriction could either be self-imposed or could be imposed upon the improviser through other means.

 

Improvisation as it relates to common experience can be seen in the example of the car that stops running in the middle of a trip.  A person experienced in auto repair may attempt to pop the hood of the car to see if they can ascertain how to repair the vehicle.  Or they may try to flag down help.  Or they may try to use a cell phone to contact a garage.  The point being that within the context of a vehicle malfunction, different actions are improvised based on the improviser’s facility with both the situation at hand and the tools at their disposal.

….life is essentially an improvisation.  As individuals we come into each day not exactly knowing what will happen.  We know that there is an eventual end, but we don’t know when or how it will end.  But we continue to improvise, because it is in both the active improvisation (the present), the skill set and knowledge of that improvisation (the past) and in the philosophical/worldview/goals guiding our improvisational choices (the future) that we create meaning.”

 

If you approach life’s problems with the same mindset you’ve always had 

-and your new year’s resolutions run contrary to that mindset -

your resolutions are doomed.

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I say this as a seasoned graduate of the school of hard knocks and as a person who found that while success feels a lot better – ultimately failure is a much more thorough teacher.

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2014 had some great ups and downs for me and now there are a number of life and playing upgrades I’m going to put into practice in 2015 to address the things that didn’t work for me.  For those of you who are interested in making a real change the new year – here’s what worked for me going into 2014 that I plan on using this year as well:

 

Know the big picture.

If you have a goal – know why you have the goal.  As Victor Frankl once said, “He who has a why can endure almost any how.

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Take stock of what you have done and identify what needs to change.

Have you done things that work towards that goal?  If so, what have you really done? What worked?  What didn’t work?  And what parameters can you put in place to make it work better?

What decisions did you make that set you back and how could you alter those decisions in the future?

Sometimes honesty is brutal but this isn’t about beating yourself up.  It’s about taking a realistic stock of what worked and what didn’t work for you in the year, reinforcing that things that work for you and discarding what didn’t work for you.

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Revolution not resolution

People typically make resolutions because they recognize a need for change in their life.

Personally, change hasn’t been about making a momentary decision as a knee jerk reaction to something (which usually lasts as long as the time it took to make that decision).

The long-lasting changes in my life have come from making lifestyle changes, setting priorities and working within those changes.  Change is not a temporary compromise to a current observation but is instead a revolt against habitual modes of thinking and operation. 

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Positive habits

Making something a daily positive habit (like brushing your teeth) makes it easier to maintain over the long haul. (See my post about the value of rituals for more on this.)

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“Don’t make excuses – make it right” –  Al Little

People make excuses for things all the time.  No one cares about excuses because nothing ever got done with an excuse.  People (typically) only care about results.

There will undoubtably be moments that you relapse into older habits.  Instead of making excuses for why it happened – just acknowledge it and move past it. When you fall off the bike, it’s not about sitting down and nursing your scrapes.  It’s about getting back up on the bike again.  As it says in The Hagakure“Seven times down – eight times up”

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There’s strength in numbers

Try to surround yourself with supportive people.

  • Not enabling people who will make changes more difficult for you.
  • Not negative or judgmental people who will scoff at your desire for change

Like minded people who have goals and are motivated.

Talk to the friends and family who will give honest and supportive feedback.  Here’s another important tip – don’t burn those people out with your goals.  The people around you have their own lives, so if every conversation becomes about you and your goals, you’re going to see less and less of those people!

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In addition to (or in some cases in lieu of) that support, you may want to look into some free online accountability sites like Idonethis.com (post on this here) or Wunderlist.com which maintains a private calendar to help observe progress.

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Commit to One Change

It’s easy to get hung up and overwhelmed with the specifics of a long term goal.  Try making one lifestyle change and commit to seeing that through.  (Again, you can read my post about the value of rituals for more on this.)

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Be motivated to do more but be grateful for what you have

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who took a moment to come here and read my writing.  I hope this helps you in some way shape or form and I hope that 2015 is your best year yet.

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The Guitar Hero Has Left The Building

Hear My Train A Comin’

As I write this, a Jimi Hendrix documentary is playing in the background.  That got me thinking about the traditional guitar hero and realizing that we’re not going to see one again.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Hendrix as a player, for me there can be no argument  that you basically have electric guitar before Hendrix and electric guitar after Hendrix.  Just like you essentially have Flamenco guitar before and after Paco De Lucia or classical guitar before and after Segovia.  These are the players who pushed the envelope and ended up building a foundation that everyone built on in one way or another.

After that, you have guitar heros who became major influencers.  For example Page, Beck, Clapton, and Townsend in the 60’s.  Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Howe, Frank Zappa, Johnny Ramone and Steve Jones and Holdsworth  in the 70’s. Eddie Van Halen brought hod rod guitar to the forefront and Yngwie Malmsteen brought the whole Neo-Classical and technical guitar trend to the forefront.   Or household guitar names like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai.

But I don’t think you’re every going to see anyone like that again.

I don’t think you’re going to see a major guitar figure again for a number of reasons and I’ll do my best to document some of them here.

1.  The landscape for popular music is different (and the same).  I realized this when I played in a live hip hop band years ago.  In the rock clubs, people were REALLY into the idea that a guitar/bass/drum trio with rappers could create a lot of those sounds, but at the rap shows – that didn’t matter to anyone.  It didn’t matter whether a DJ was spinning a disc or whether that sound was coming from the floor, it was all about the flow over top of it.  To be sure, there are still some diehard fans of certain genres (like metal or jazz) where technical ability is really respected, but for the most part, casual listeners of music don’t particularly care much about what is making the sound they’re hearing and they’re more concerned with how what they’re hearing makes them feel.  In that respect, it’s the same as it ever was but I think that…

2.  The tools have taken away the appreciation of the skill set.  For a long time, the only way to make a guitar sound good was to play it well. But now it’s easy to edit a near infinite number of performances into a useable take that doesn’t sound bad on your laptop.  A trained ear will generally know a live take from one that’s all edited together but even casual listeners understand the ability to edit something and in the back of their head it creates a little suspicion of a skill.

But when you see someone get up and move a crowd with a performance, then you realize what a skill set really is.   It’s one thing to see a table on a showroom floor that’s been computer routed and bolted together – but when you see a master craftsman build a table by hand it’s a radically different thing.

4.  The relationship is different.  When I got the Fixx’ Reach The Beach album I wore it thin with playback.  When I was learning the Rainbow in The Dark solo from a Dio album I listened to that track over and over until I could play along with the solo.  At that time you couldn’t listen to anything at any time so you could only listen to what you had on hand or what was playing on the radio.  It forced you to listen to things in a different (and deeper way).  Musicians still do this.  They still listen to tracks over and over again to learn a song or a solo, but the casual listener doesn’t develop the same relationship with the artist or the material.

5.  The demographic aged out.  This is related to #4.  There’s a reason you still see Joe Satriani or Eddie Van Halen or Vernon Reid on guitar magazine covers – the median age of people who read them is probably 40 or 45.   It’s people who grew up on guitar based music in the 60s/70’s or 80s.   They’re also the ones who are more likely to want to read a magazine instead of a digital version and more likely than not they’re reading it for the gear ads to address their G.A.S.

6 and 7.  The traffic is different and the mechanisms to promote those artists is different.  I think these are  really big factors.  It was just easier to get press and get attention before mp3s.  Yngwie Malmsteen went from being in a Mike Varney Spotlight column to recording with Steeler and Alcatrazz and releasing his own (best selling) instrumental album within a year or so.  Now, anyone can release an album – but getting Guitar Player to write about it i(or getting anyone to pay attention to it) is a whole different thing.  The major labels did a lot of things bass ackwards but they certainly knew how to let people know when new releases were coming out and how to build a buzz.  It was also a limited means of distribution and so when unlimited distribution came about though the web. they really didn’t know what to do.  (and largely still don’t).

So what you get now is you tube artists as opposed to old school artists.

You get Rodrigo y Gabriella instead of Al DiMeola and Paco DeLucia.
You get Joe Bonamossa instead of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
You get a stable of CandyRat guitarists instead of Michael Hedges.
You get a million people playing a million notes and none of them really grab you.

Having said all that, I don’t think the end of the singular guitar hero an entirely bad thing.

People forget that in the heyday of ’80’s guitar that there was a lot of crap with the cream.  There were a number of people who were basically trying to go as fast and as loud as they could to try to be the next big thing and it never came and it just broke so many of those people who were never heard from again.

So there will never be another Hendrix.  Big Deal.  We already had Hendrix and he was awesome.  And guitar after him has largely been a really great thing.  More people are making more music and doing things that were never dreamed of before.  Financially it’s a difficult road, but artistically – we are so lucky to be living, and playing and experiencing things right now.  I don’t know what the future holds – but we need to realize that playing really well is less about playing every note “perfectly” and more about making a real connection to fans.

Kurt Cobain wasn’t a great guitar player – but there’s a reason people still learn his guitar parts – they dig the tunes they’re in.

Now let’s get Miroslav Tadic – for my money the best guitarist on the planet right now – on the cover of all the guitar magazines – selling out all of his albums and making a bid to prove me wrong.

Reconnecting by De-connecting

Back in the saddle again….

I’ve been off guitarchitecture for a while.  I posted a new podcast on guitagrip.com, and have taken on a few other projects (I’m the musical director/foley jockey for a new production at Siena College that starts in a few weeks, picked up new students, worked on some consultations for other projects, booked some new korisoron shows, worked with ZT amps for some videos we’ll be doing to promote their awesome acoustic amps and related material).  But more importantly related to my absence here, I’ve noticed some severe attention deficit for my interactions with various things.

In addition to trying to be mindful of the fact that multiple options typically leads to overwhelm and inactivity rather than making better choices – I still found myself struggling with finding time to work out or read a book.  These two activities in particular also happen to be things that are very grounding for me.

So clearly something wasn’t working.  In analyzing my actions, I realized that much of my day was spent working under the illusion of being proactive (checking e-mail repeatedly for example) with being reactive (now forcing myself to react to an email with an immediate urgency for something that wasn’t even an issue a minute earlier).

It’s the illusion of getting something done in a timely manner, but it sabotages short and long term goals.

Physician Heal Thyself

In a recent lesson, I gave a student the same advice that I needed for myself, namely to find the things that trigger a flow state and adapt that to practicing.

By a flow state, I mean events that you can loose yourself in without being aware of time passing.  This might mean playing, or reading or working on your car.  It’s whatever event you can fully immerse yourself in.

For me, that’s reading, and then that’s guitar playing.  As a kid, I would read books constantly not being aware of what time had passed.  Guitar playing came a lot later and had a lot of extra baggage associated with it that had to be overcome to be in a flow state. (such as editing and analyzing what you’re playing as you play it – even having worked on that a lot I still find myself falling into that mode once in a while).

So I got back into reading books.  Physical books picked up from the library.  Serious reading where skimming was avoided (I found myself skimming sections to get to the next part and then coming back and re-reading things in a deeper way) and every word that was on the page came into the internal narrative of what I was reading.  When I lived in Boston, it was easy because it took at least 30 minutes each way to get anywhere by train, so I always brought a book with me and read it on the train.  But now that I drive everywhere, it’s taken a while to get back into the habit of REALLY reading something of substance (just like it’s taken a while to get back into the habit of walking places when you find yourself driving everywhere).

It’s easy to be dismissive of this.  After all to read a two to three sentence synopsis of a much deeper topic is easier, faster and easier to act on yes?

The short answer is no.  The longer answer is, it’s completely missing the point.

The Filter bubble

I was thinking a lot about Eli Pariser’s filter bubble book.  In a filter bubble, uncommon data is eliminated so that the more common data rises to the top of the searches.  So when you do a google search for something, you’re only skimming the surface of the data out there.  This is great when you want to find specific data (like a water table for a county for a specific year), but not so great when you’re looking for specific topics.

Years ago, my friend Randy saw a Charles Manson shirt and commented that people used faces like Manson and Hitler to be provocative because they weren’t well informed enough to find more relevant contemporary people.  They went with what was easy or immediately accessible.

So a filter bubble is like handing someone a 6-string guitar with only 2 strings and saying, “ok here’s a guitar.  Now go play “smoke on the water.”  You can play the main riff of the tune on 2 strings, but without the rest of the strings on the guitar you’re missing out on a lot.  In my case, it’s engaging in reading as a process to come to a deeper understanding of something, rather than developing a “hack” shortcut.

The synopsis approach in action

The reality of the above mentioned two to three-sentence synopsis for most people is some variation of this process:

1.  Read the synopsis.

2.  Do an internal litmus test to see if it seems plausible.

3.  Google the term to see if there’s a common consensus on the topic.

4.  If it’s determined to be correct, then it’s added to the list of things that they learned today,  filed it into memory and then transmitted to other people as knowledge.

In other words, it’s very rarely acted upon.  This is what happens when you are reacting to data all the time.  You get overwhelmed and can’t really internalize things.

Another YouTube Rant

It seems like every day someone is sending me some new YouTube link to some playalong or performance. You want to know why there are SO MANY videos of technical guitar videos on YouTube?

Because (in the scheme of things) it’s not that hard to do.

You could train a monkey to play the version of “flight of the bumblebee” that so many guitarists post (btw – I blame a Guitar Player transcription/lesson of Jennifer Batten for this version being in existence because that seems to be the one everyone is referencing for fingerings).  It’s not about music, it’s about getting a few specific techniques under your belt to meet a specific goal.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a limited end unto itself.

I pretty much stopped watching YouTube guitar videos because:

A:  I saw the filter bubble in action.  So many of the videos I saw were clearly guys who had watched the same video, or learned the same tune.

B:  I have my own thing to work on, so unless it’s really special, I really don’t care what other guitarists are doing.

So, I don’t care about shred videos on YouTube.  I don’t care that an 8 year old can play “Scarified” not all that well at near the recorded tempo.  What DO I care about then?

This in contrast is a lot harder:

This is making music.  This is what happens when a master musician becomes a shaman and invokes the spirit behind the song.  It’s about being completely in the moment.  It’s about having something to say and speaking it directly to other people.

It’s being in the flow and taking other people with you.

It’s about being in the present.  Not checking your email every 15 minutes to see if you’re missing something.

It’s about the duende moment.  The moment the hair stands up on your arms and you feel more alive than before.

That doesn’t happen online.  That doesn’t happen in a text.  That happens with people in a room sharing an honest naked moment.

Creating that moment starts with you, the performer being in the moment and bringing people there.

Being in the moment is something that has to be practiced.  Now, possibly more than ever.

That’s why I started working on things that fell into my flow state more often.  The more I enter flow, the more easily I can enter in in other areas of my life.  The more I can bring that when I perform.  The more I can create something beyond the veneer of flash and get to touching people in a real way.

So, that’s where I’m at.  A work in progress moving towards reconciling an analog past with a digital present and doing it (for now) increasingly offline.

As always, thanks for reading!  I hope this helps you in some way!

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Guit-A-Grip Podcast #17 – Building An Audience Business Panel

Hello everyone!

Episode #17

Guit-A-Grip Podcast Episode #17  is out and available for download/streaming.

Subscription Notes:

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Show Notes:

BuckMoon Arts Festival Panel Workshops

This podcast features an audio recording of a panel discussion from the BuckMoon Arts Festival which was held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY.  There’s more information about this on episode #16 but the “Promoting Your Art – Building An Audience and Building A Buzz” panel with panelists Bill CoffeyMike DiminYvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain.

The event description was “Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?” and the panel went into a number of related areas to how does one get one’s voice heard in the world.  Hopefully you’ll hear some interesting stories and find some things that help you!

Technical Note:

While we did have a feed off of the PA to record audio for the event, not all of the panelists were able to get near mikes and in some cases the audience members audio was inaudible.  Attempts have been made to smooth some of these large jumps out but despite those efforts the audio quality is spotty in places…..

Panelist Bios:

Bill Coffey  was raised in Douglaston, New York where he began, at age 12, working in a local woodworking shop as he went through school. After college graduation and armed with a degree in photography, Bill joined the corporate world. He worked for companies such as HBO, but always had his hands in woodworking as a budding creative interest. Not one for convention, for a two year stint Bill decided he wanted to learn the art of welding and even worked in that industry for two years.  It is here that independent artist Bill Coffey, orchestrates a graceful collision of the old and the new with stunning results. Bill has a passion for the mountains and a keen eye for using unique resources. Each piece he creates is one of a kind and Bill’s work can be seen in galleries nationwide including NYC, Jackson Hole, WY, Telluride,CO and Glens Falls, NY.

Since Bill’s ideas had outgrown his current gallery space, his new studio is under construction and with an anticipated opening Fall 2014 in Northville, NY. You’ll find it at the intersection of Rustic and Contemporary!!

Michael Dimin “wrote the book” on the art of solo bass, through his groundbreaking books, “The Art of Solo Bass” and “The Chordal Approach” and as columnist for Bass Sessions, Bass Guitar Magazine (UK), Bassics, Bass Frontiers Magazines and as a guest columnist for Bass Player Magazine. Mike has taught clinics and master classes at Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, The Bass Collective, the National Summer Guitar Workshop, The Detroit Bass Fest and many more. Mike is a clinician for Zon Guitars, EA Amps, Boomerang Music and Thomastick Infeld Strings. “Mike’s taken his revolutionary approach, unparalleled technique and mastery of the instrument and combined it with a sense of musicianship and lyricism that transcends the site of a solo bassist on stage.”  http://mikedimin.com

Yvonne Lieblein uses pedal-to-the-metal curiosity, music (music and more music), and over two decades worth of high-octane experiences as a writer, producer, and marketing strategist to fuel her creative life and passion for helping artists and entrepreneurs flourish. Yvonne’s debut novel, The Wheelhouse Café, will be published later this year and features an 11-song soundtrack. She has produced several music festivals and poetry experiences on the North Fork of Long Island. Yvonne is also a co-founder of theBOOKPROJECT, a novel night out for readers.

As a marketing and communication strategist, Yvonne thrives on delivering innovative solutions and inspiration. She began with a Triple Word Score role at the National SCRABBLEAssociation and then launched her own company, liebleinassociates, in 2003. Yvonne continues to be a champion and compass through her ongoing Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) workshops for entrepreneurs, True-U personal development retreats for women, speaking engagements and consulting projects.

Website:  http://yvonnelieblein.com.

Patrick Longo is an author, keynote speaker, composer, musician, screenwriter, husband and father to two young boys.  He also is the founder of Upaya Productions (ooh-pie-yuh), Upaya Publishing, and Team Earth, an environmental awareness apparel company.  Patrick is a former full-time Creative Writing instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and currently is a literature adjunct instructor at Schenectady County Community College and Director of Talent Acquisition at Transfinder, a global transportation logistics and location intelligence software company.

A graduate of the prestigious Graduate Creative Writing Program at Brockport College, Patrick majored in Creative Writing, with a concentration in poetry.  He moved from NY to San Francisco where he wrote, directed, produced, and composed music for his second play, The Curse of Funston Munley and played drums, sang, and composed music and lyrics for the band Moe Road.  In addition, Patrick was involved in the writing, production, music composition, and promotion for several short films. After “Funston,” Patrick was inspired to write a sung-through musical based on Cassandra, the cursed prophetess of ancient Troy and after raising $23,000 on Kickstarter, is set to debut a concert version of Cassandra, The Musical at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY on September 12thand 13th, 2014.

He is the co-author and editor of Great Salespeople Aren’t Born, They’re Hired, as well as Hire, Fire and The Walking DeadFind Your Spinach, The Just Disease, an illustrated children’s fantasy novel named The AcesJeb’s Wish, a traditional novel, and the play Toast and Coffee with Frank.  Patrick is currently writing and publishing pop music, working on a traditional musical, Oops! I Married a Nazi, continuing to pitch his steam punk screenplay, Chasing the Pigeon, finishing his next business books, Service is a Table Stake and I’m a Sales Doctor, Be Patient!, developing curricula for business culture, and making occasional appearances as a personal and business self-development speaker.

Website:  http://cassandrathemusical.com/

Brian McElhiney has written about music and art in the Capital Region and beyond for more than six years. He is also a musician and visual artist, and is currently the Sunday editor of the Leader-Herald in Gloversville.

Mark Swain is a business and faculty member at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.  Mark earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Brunel University (England), a New York State Teaching Certificate from Siena College, and Master in Business Administration (MBA) from University at Albany. Prior to joining FM’s full-time teaching faculty, Mark worked in business for the first ten years of his career in both in the U.K. and the U.S. After leaving the U.K. in 1995, he worked at General Electric as a corporate financial analyst for several years and moved on to become an Associate Director at MVP Healthcare, working in their model office. Mark began teaching in 2003 which included work at Schenectady County Community College as an adjunct professor and teaching business fulltime at Galway High School.

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals – or at least keeps you amused until the next time!

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!

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