2-Day GuitArchitecture Book Sale on Lulu.com

11/27 – 11/18 Print Book Sale on Lulu

I’m not a big fan of Black Friday sales in general, but in this case Lulu.com is offering a 2-day sale that benefits the authors there (and benefits myself more specifically as the book cost is taken out on the Printer’s end so it doesn’t cut into my revenue).

(The books and descriptions are listed below).

If you go to my Lulu page:


today (11/27/14) and enter in SUPERGIVER in the checkout code you’ll get 40% off print editions and 5% off PDF editions.

If you go on Saturday (11/28/14) and enter in SATSAVERS you’ll get 30% off print books.

(As I’ve mentioned before – I make more money from PDFS than from Print editions – but I thinks the print editions are much more helpful to people.  For me this is a win-win.  You get a print edition at a drastic discount and I still get paid!)

The books that are on sale are:


12 Tone Cover small

Symmetrical Twelve Tone Patterns is a 284 page book with a large reference component  and about 100 pages of extensive notated examples and instruction.

In “The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns”, Scott Collins has taken the approaches from “Melodic Patterns” and “Guide To Chord Scales” books and applied them to a rigorous examination of twelve-tone patterns that can be used for melodic, harmonic, improvisational or compositional resources.

Eschewing a reliance on academic jargon, “Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns” investigates the material in an intuitive and accessible way that will help players access new sounds in their playing.

minor-scale-2My GuitArchitecture method replaces the standard approach to learning guitar (rote memorization) with a simple, intuitive two-string approach that anyone can learn. This method, where players can actually see scales on a fingerboard, is called sonic visualization, and it can be applied to any scale or modal system.

In this volume of his Fretboard Visualization series, I’ve used my two-string method to present the pentatonic minor scale in an easy, intuitive and musical manner.

This book not only demonstrates how to “see” the scale all over the fingerboard, but also shows how to use the scale in a variety of contexts and presents strategies that can be applied to making any scale more musical.

The Scott Collins Fretboard Visualization Series: The Pentatonic Minor Scale is an invaluable resource for guitarists who are looking to break through to the next level in their playing.


In The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Chord Scales, I show you how to make your own scales to use over chords and how to derive chords from whatever crazy scales you come up with in an easy, intuitive and musical way.

Over the course of its 190 pages, the Guide To Chord Scales not only offers extensive instruction and approaches, but also acts as a reference book covering chord scale options ranging from three notes right on up to the full twelve note chromatic.

While devised as a guitar resource for instructional, compositional and/or improvisational material – this book can be a vital component in any musician’s library.



In The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Harmonic Combinatorics, I’ve gone into the nuts and bolts of chord construction and analysis by taking a systematic approach to generating thousands of chord variations that can be utilized intuitively in any key.

In addition to being a vast harmonic resource, I also show the reader ways to make melodic lines from this material allowing the book to double as a melodic resource as well


In The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration, I’ve taken an introductory guitar exercise and turned it on its head to reveal deep possibilities in not only in positional visualization, but in technical awareness as well.

This book shows how to take a simple idea and creatively develop and modify it through melodic, harmonic and rhythmic variations that can be applied to your own music as well.


In this volume of the GuitArchitecture series, The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Melodic Patterns, I’ve used my two-string visualization method to create a reference book of thousands of melodic variations.

With this information, you will be able to create a near infinite number of unique riffs and melodic phrases, which you can use individually or combined to compose or improvise your own music.

The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Melodic Patterns is an invaluable compositional and improvisational resource for both guitarists and bassists.



Non Book News

I’ll have a new post up soon.  In other news – we’re just mastering the live KoriSoron recording and then pressing some copies which we hope to have available before the end of the year (we’ll have digital down loads up even sooner!)

As always, thanks for your support.  And thanks for reading!


KoriSoron’s Busy November

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a bit since I posted, but I’ve been busy with some projects.

The electro-acoustic global fusion group I play in, KoriSoron, has a bunch of things going on this month.

  • This Friday we play a double header: A noontime concert at HVCC (Hudson Valley Community College) and then at 7pm – we’re back for our monthly residency at Arthur’s Market & Historic Coffee House on 35 North Ferry Street in Schenectady. We have a new indo/funk-ish tune we’ll be pulling out for the Arthurs Show as well as all the old “classics” – We have about 15 tunes in repertoire at this point and I don’t know that any of them are particularly easy to play.
  • We’re recording an EP mid-month which we hope to have out before the end of the year.  It’ll have some Bulgarian, Macedonian and Middle Eastern inspired pieces on it with Dean Mirabito on percussion and Farzad Golpayegani on guitar and violin.
  • We will be playing a really cool Festival Cinema Invisible event “Pathways to Iran: Silenced Sounds – Music and Censorship in Iran” on Sunday 11/22 at 4pm at Proctors GE theater.

    In addition to KoriSoron playing, the event will also have a rare screening of two short documentaries by director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb that share common themes of music and censorship in Iran. “Back Vocal” (Sedaye Dovom – 40 mins.) and “Off Beat” (Saze Mokhalef – 45 mins.). KoriSoron’s own Farzad Golpayegani, who is featured in “Off beat” will also be part of a Q & A panel to discuss his experience in the film. The discussion will also include a Skype call from Iran with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, the director of both films and a Skype phone conversation with Mark Levine, the author of the celebrated book, “Heavy Metal Islam”. Persian style tea and sweets are also included in the $10 admission. Event information and tickets available here:

Regular posts will return soon and some other announcements along with some more guitar related things!

As always, thanks for reading!


“Guest Lesson” With Jack Sanders

Jack Sanders

Years ago when I was at CalArts.  I studied with Miroslav Tadic and he had me play something for him and immediately came up with this analysis.

“Your left hand is completely compromising your playing.  You have to address your fingers and your pinky or you’re never going to get to where you want to go.”

Correcting that was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  It turns out that I had YEARS of bad habits ingrained in my muscle memory and adapting to proper technique was a real struggle.

Enter Jack Sanders.

Jack is a brilliant luthier (check out this video and this interview I did with him on his builds) and also an incredible teacher.  He happened to be teaching at CalArts my last semester and so I took lessons with him that completely changed how I approach guitar.  So much of the things that I assist students with in terms of hand tension, positioning, posture and attack now came directly from things Jack and Miro and I worked on.

Guitar Salon (a cool blog that has been kind enough to repost several of my rantings) has uploaded several mini lessons that Jack did for them that use scales as a diagnostic for left and right hand technical issues.

The advice he gives is gold, and well worth your time.

KoriSoron comes to Boston

In other news – KoriSoron is making its Boston debut at Johnny D’s on Wednesday October 21st on a VERY early show (we go on at 7pm) opening for Bob Forrest (Thelonius Monster / Dr. Drew).  Ticket info here.  Facebook here.

We’re really excited to be playing this show.  As a preview, you can see some Al DiMeola / Vlatko Stefanovski inspired improvised soloing on “Drowsy Maggie” here.

And we hope to see you there!

“Everyone has a plan, and then they get punched in the face.”

I’ve talked before the amateur mindset and embracing lessons from temporary setbacks in earlier posts, but there’s nothing like taking a (figurative) punch to the face at a gig to see how much you get rattled.

Last Friday evening, I played the kickoff event for the BuckMoon Arts Festival at Fulton-Montgomery Community College with KoriSoron.  We were experimenting with a new live set up and performing in a theatre we’d never played in as a group before.

The day itself was warm and humid and I was sweating as I loaded things in.  The theatre itself was relatively cool.  We got everything set up and soundcheck went okay, but people were coming in and sitting down during soundcheck to watch us play which is always a little challenging.  Not wanting them to leave, I said that I just needed to take care of a few things and that I’d play a couple of solo pieces before the set.

The reality of the situation was that my hands felt sticky and were sticking a little bit to the back of the glossy neck of the guitar.  This was not a huge problem but was enough of an issue to be disconcerting.  I made my way to the bathroom, washed and dried my hands and came back to give it a go.

The first two solo pieces went off fairly smoothly.  It was still a bit before the set was supposed to begin so I had to pull another piece out of the hat and start playing that.  The spotlights were on and the stickiness got worse.  Having been in compromised performance situations before, I went into “grin and bear it” mode and did my best to get through the piece.  A lot of notes (and a few clams) later the piece ended and I wiped down the neck of my guitar.

One of the other things I experimented with at this show was a longer explanation about the songs we were playing.  In previous shows, I’d just make a song introduction and crack a joke but I realized it was hard for the audience to engage in tunes that they had never heard before and didn’t have a context for.    So I added the context.

As I was talking about the first tune, in the most non-nonchalant way I could imagine I tried wiping down the back of the neck furiously to remove any dried sweat or anything else that would keep my hands feeling sticky on the neck.  I called out the next tune and within the first two bars my hand was sticking again.

There were four things I could have done:

1.  Since I didn’t have the foresight to bring any talc on my own, I could have reached over into Dean’s stash of talcum powder for his tabla and put a squirt into the palm of my hand.  Problem solved.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this solution until 2 days after the gig.

2.  I could have adjusted my playing.  I could have recognized that instead of fighting the situation that I could work with it and just slowed WAY DOWN and played as simply as possible.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this solution until the drive home from the gig.

3.  I could have had a complete meltdown.  Fortunately, this is not a option for me but I’ve been on several gigs where other players have addressed things in this manner and…well…I guess the kindest thing I can say is that once you’ve seen that you’ll never forget it.

4.  I could decide to suck it up.  Grin and bear it.  Refuse to adjust my playing to the situation at hand and then get frustrated that I didn’t play as well as I thought you ought to.

Option 4 meant that we made it through the gig without any train wrecks (we even got compliments on the show) but that it did not go as smoothly as hoped (I have yet to crack open the recorder and see what we have recorded (that’ll happen later!).

The practice room is a critical stage in getting any material ready for prime time, but there’s nothing like a live gig to take you out of your comfort zone and learn where things are really at in your playing.  Every fighter has a plan when they step into the ring, but the ones who typically do well are the ones who can take a punch to the face and adjust appropriately to what’s going on.

Sometimes you NEED to stick to the plan and sometimes you need to adapt to the situation you find yourself in.  That presence of mind comes with experience and even experienced performers will sometimes drop the ball on this.  Hopefully if you find yourself in a difficult situation at your next gig, you’ll remember this tale of woe and be able to adapt and adjust (or just bring baby powder!) and not just swing for the fences!

As always, I hope this helps!


Acoustic Plugged in – Electric Unplugged

Hello everyone,

I’ve been delayed in posting for a while as I’ve been knee deep practicing material for some upcoming Korisoron shows and recording later this summer.

(If you happen to be in upstate New York, we’ll be playing July 10th as part of the kick off event for the BuckMoon arts festival – https://www.facebook.com/events/792648237521231/)

Some video of one of the songs we’ll be playing is here:

I’ve talked before about some aspects of practicing on an acoustic guitar, but performing with KoriSoron has taught me a lot about what a different animal acoustic electric really is.

The biggest thing has been how radically different the experience of a mic’d acoustic versus a piezo-equipped acoustic really is.  With an unplugged acoustic, what you hear is what you get – but unless you’re actually recording it with a microphone – what you hear – particularly for lead playing – is not what comes across in a live room.  This is an even bigger chasm of experience when dealing with a piezo pickup.  This wasn’t a huge difference when playing with my ZT amp but going into a pre-amp pedal and out to a PA (or recording direct) became a head scratching experience.  Now that we’re looking at recording some demo material from live performances (and getting the tablas and percussion a little more front and center) – I’ve been researching  how to get a simple system that amplifies sound and records what were doing.  We’ll do our first live run at Buckmoon this Friday – but I’m feeling pretty good about the initial options here.

For the mixing desk – we’re using a TASCAM DP32-SD.  It’s a standalone recorder kind of like an updated version of the 4 track cassette version some of you remember from your own early forays into recording.  It seems like an odd choice – but here’s why I liked it.

  1. My laptop is a little too unstable for live use.  I tried running some signals from a previous show to the laptop and it look close to an hour to set up and a 1/2 hour to tear down, and I wasn’t psyched with the end result.
  2. Increasingly, I like the idea of a limited function machine.  It doesn’t check email or make videos it just processes audio.
  3. The Tascam does what it does well.  It records 8 tracks simultaneously (more than enough for a trio) to an SD card is is DEAD quiet.  The faders are non automated and old school but useful for my application and it features lots of routing options, some onboard digital effects (compression, EQ and verb are useful for monitoring – in this case going out to the house) and a pretty straight forward interface.  I like the fact that I can set it up and just move on.
  4. The Faders and monitor out allow me to run a signal to a powered speaker and act as a gentle push for live sound.  The ZT amps work great for live use – but sometimes we need to get the tabla and other percussion out in front a bit more.

With that in mind, we’re trying to run the least amount of mics on stage as possible, so we’re currently using some Yamaha gear to help with that.  I’ve been using a Yamaha THR5a in lieu of my AG Stomp and I have to say that I dig the amp as a practice model.  You can tweak the sounds with a computer interface to a much greater degree than just the amp controls – but it sounds quite good for what it does.   I wish they got rid of the battery compartment and added some XLR outs (the only out options are USB and headphone out – the biggest drawback to the amp) but I really cant complain about it as a live interface.

Practicing acoustic plugged in to get ready for the show has really been a revelation.  It’s forced me to make major adjustments in my left hand and focusing on it like a classical player and pay deep attention to the nuances of tone.  Again, playing it acoustic it sounded one way, but practicing it plugged in gave me a much more realistic impression of what the audience was hearing – and that’s making me dig deeper and really tear apart all of my 2-string building block shapes and work on getting them to sound clear with the piezo.  It’s a bear, but that work really pays off and has made a difference in the overall tone of the acoustic playing as well.  It’s the exact opposite of my advice to play electric guitar unplugged to make sure that you could make out every articulation – but both roads lead to the same conclusion.

As before, I need to give a lot a credit here to Miroslav Tadic and Jack Sanders who really did a lot to open that perception for me and make it something I could develop!  I just wish I pieced it together earlier – but better late than never.

So we’ll see how all of this goes on Friday and we’ll see if I’m still chipper about this next week. I guess the lesson here is – don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions – often.  Very often I teach lessons with students who say, “Oh I know that” and when we go deep into it they start to realize just how little they know.  The teacher is also the life long student – so even when confronting something and saying, “Oh – I know that” it’s amusing to see the beginner belt come out and realize that all roads lead to Kata – the basics – the fundamentals – and you can never know them as deeply as you think you do.

I hope this helps!

If you’re in the area, I’ll be playing with KoriSoron at the FM Theatre at Fulton-Montgomery Community College at 8pm on Friday, July 10th.  The event is free and open to the public.



(The) Primacy of the Ear

Saving Pretty Polly from the train tracks

I left my last post with a little cliff hanger:

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

I’ve talked a lot about the pluses and minuses of going to music school and some of the pitfalls in being an autodidact, so while I’m not going to talk about the big issues behind both of those approaches I do want to briefly outline what the great self taught players and great formally trained players have in common.

Ability to analyze.

Here’s a quote from my interview with Miroslav Tadic that bears repeating:

Understanding what you are playing while you are playing it puts you into a whole different place. This is extremely rare with classical players and this is what marks a great classical player and sets them apart from the other players. You have a player like Glenn Gould who had everything memorized and knew what was going on in every note that he was playing. After he stopped playing concerts he would go to the studio and everything that he recorded (and he recorded a vast amount of music) was all played from memory. The reason why you can have that kind of memory is because you understand what’s going on in the music. It’s not just having photographic memory or sitting there and having a technique for memorization it’s having the understanding of music. Even if you’re only going to play classical music, if you sit down and as you’re playing, go through the piece and ask yourself – what am I playing or what is this?

….You can really make it much more enjoyable and can really help you eliminate the dreaded memory lapses because you know what you’re playing. It’s not just this part that’s abstract to you. If you blank out all of the sudden and you have no idea of where you are. But you can always remember, oh that’s the F major part, before the cadence that takes us back to D minor or whatever. It’s not the theoretical knowledge of someone who’s a music student but the connection between theoretical knowledge and the actual living knowledge of music. The sonic knowledge. This is a really important thing. For example, you can know what a Neapolitan chord is – but you’ve also got to be able to spot it every time you hear it. Those guys who wrote that music – you can bet they knew what it sounded like. It’s not an issue of them sitting there and making calculations or something. It’s a flavor – like hearing a pentatonic scale. If you hear Pentatonic Minor riff, is there any question about what someone is playing? No. You can hear it and recognize it for what it is because it’s the music of our times. The same way, if you’re playing music from some other time well you should know it like the music of your own time.

This doesn’t mean that great musicians are in a perpetual state of constant analysis of everything, but if you have a deeper understanding of what is going on around you, you have a higher likelihood of being able to interact with it on a deeper level.   Some players have an intellectual knowledge of this, “There’s a minor vi to I in this part of the tune.”  some have a sonic knowledge of this (i.e. they hear the chord progression and know what’s going on in a deeper level.)

And here lies the other big similarity between the aforementioned players,

the ability to hear and listen

And, in my mind, there’s a big difference between the two.

Hearing is reactive – (“someone’s playing something”)

Listening is proactive (“the soloist is playing a line based in 4ths, I’m going to play something complimentary under that.”)

I may be in the minority for making that distinction but I think it’s an important one.

At Berklee, the classes that caused everyone to groan were the Ear Training (“Ear Straining”) classes.  The reason for this is because the classes focused on intervallic drills, the ability to hear chord qualities (major, minor, 7th chords in inversions) and transcribe melodies from ear.

In other words, all things that you need to be able to do in the real world – but a lot of the material was not something that would inspire you.

When I went to CalArts for my grad studies the only other school that I looked at was New England Conservatory and their Contemporary Improvisation program.  Ran Blake (the former chair of the program back when it was called Third Stream and a current faculty member there) has just released a book on the methods that he uses to teach there, called Primacy of the Ear.  It’s a thin book, approximately 125 pages of with 30 pages of indexes, sells for $30 and it’s a bargain.  It’s entirely possible that I never would have gone to grad school if I had this book back in 2005  (which would have been a huge mistake for me).

Having met Ran, I can guess that the book is a number of lessons, conversations and observations (you can read a very early pdf regarding this topic back in the third stream days that was substantially revised and expounded upon here) that co-credited author Jason Rogers edited together into a coherent guide-book for those people who want to truly own their music.  What’s interesting about the entire approach is how one he relates this process to creating an original style.

For those of you who don’t want to get the book, I’ll illustrate a process that Ran outlines in much greater detail that will help you with your hearing, phrasing and overall improvisation (I know I’ve done this before).

Step 1.  Pick a tune and a performance of that tune that inspires you.  Don’t pick something you want to learn because you think you should learn it.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with this process, so make it something that you REALLY want to learn.

Step 2.  Passive listening.  Play a recording of the tune throughout the day.  The goal is to start getting the song form in your ears.  This is like when you hear a commercial over and over again and find yourself able to sing back the melody away from the commercial later.

Step 3.  Active listening.  Now you’re only listening to the tune in short intense stints.  This is sitting down at a desk with no other distractions and really listening to what’s going on.  Noticing nuances, inflections, that type of thing.

Step 4.  This is the actual bear.  You start learning the components AWAY from the instrument.  So you learn the melody by ear.  You learn each phrase away from the instrument and get to the point that you can string it all together.  You want to be able to pre-hear the melody in the song.  Once you have this material mastered (i.e. can sign any part of the melody from any point in the tune), then learn it on the guitar using your inner hearing to guide the process.

Step 5.  Repeat with the bass line of the song.

Step 6.  Repeat with the chord progression of the song.  LEARNING EACH INDIVIDUAL VOICING of the chords one at a time melodically.

I’m sure that some of you at this point are thinking, “this is insane.”  If you’re thinking, “Oh I could do that.”  it’s very likely that an attempt to do this at this level will have you also come to the conclusion that it’s an act of insanity.

But it’s not insane.

This is a DEEP methodology to get into what is really happening in a song.

This process basically ensure that you know the song at the microscopic level and have a much deeper likelihood to engage with it at a core level.

This process has been adapted to all kinds of music.  In this video, Ran combines the music and biography of Mahler with film Noir to create a performance that is a true synthesis of styles.

This is only possible with an intimate understanding of Mahler and film Noir music.  That comes from deep engagement and deep listening.

How would you do it now?

Coming back to the original cliff hanger:

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

Knowing what I know now – if I didn’t go to undergrad –  here’s how I’d do this from scratch.

1. Get great teachers.  Yes plural – Teachers.  I’d take some classical lessons to get proper technique.  I’d take some lessons on theory to augment my own study.  I’d take lessons on any specific style I was interested in for as long as it made sense.  If I was interested in rock playing, I’d get some rock approaches down and if that got me what I wanted I’d move on from there.

2.  Take some classes at a community college.  College really isn’t for everyone at every time of their life.  There are people at 18 who are just not in the headspace to commit to full-time enrollment in college.  But try some courses in music theory or liberal arts to expand your horizons.   IN GENERAL – try a number of different approaches to learning and LEARN WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.  For me, being at a college surrounded me with other people and that immersive process was really important for me at that time in my life.  Now that I know how to teach myself, I can learn things on my own time and it’s more efficient.

3.  Get good materials to study on your own  I’d look on Amazon for the best reviewed books and order them through inter-library loan.  The ones that resonated with me I’d buy.

4.  Listen to as much different music as possible (preferably live music) and go out of your comfort zone whenever possible.  Expose yourself to things and find out what resonates with you – and more importantly WHY it resonates with you.  This is also where teachers/mentors/peers are critical because they can help articulate things going on in the music that will help you determine why something is cool.

5.  Perform in low risk setting at first to get your footing and play with people better than you.  As much as possible.  Determine from those experiences what you need to work on and work on them in a focused, deliberate way.  It’s a “7 times down 8 times up thing.”  Great teachers will help you here too.

6.  I’d learn as much music as I could by ear.  I’d transcribe anything that interested me.

7.  I’d continue to try to find favorite authors and artists and engage in their work in a deeper level.  Go deep with what you know and keep your eyes open for new things.

8.  Since this is about what I would do rather than spending 60k at a private undrgrad college – I’d go to a community college and get at least an associates degree in business and/or communication.  I would do this with the filter of learning anything that would help me become an independent musician.  I’d augment this with interning at a PR company or something similar to gain any insight on monetizing what I did, promoting it or drawing customers to whatever services (like lessons) or products (like mp3s, cds or dvds) I’d be providing.

9.  I’d make connections with other people and connect with existing community or create new communities.  Find like minded people and develop an inclusive scene.  There’s nothing wrong with online groups, but if they don’t have a component (or at least the potential component) of engaging face to face it’s not going to help you in the long run.

10.  Don’t lose the forest in the tree.

There’s a teacher at CalArts that had my favorite quote about the biggest potential pitfall that students can engage in.

“CalArts….come here as a decent reed player and leave as a mediocre tabla player.”

The biggest challenge with self-study is that you need 3 things to ask a question:

1.  You need to know that something exists to ask about it.

2.  You need to know that asking a question is an option.

3.  You need to have someone to answer the question in an intelligent way.

When you self study, you’re often missing most (if not all) of these factors.  It’s the “You don’t know what you don’t know” paradox.  The last thing that I would do all over again if I could instruct an 18 year old version of myself, would be to tell them that learning is a process not a destination.  You will always encounter things that, at the time, will seem like things you should have already known.  Don’t get hung up on should.  Realize that you are on a spinning ball, spinning around another spinning ball that’s spinning around an infinitely deeper structure.  Where one is physically appears to be the same place but is always changing.  Understanding where you are in music or life is the same thing.  I’m always surprised at how different perceived knowledge is from real knowledge is.  Don’t let it beat you up.  Just re-assess, adjust and keep moving forward.

Now back to that ear training.

As always, I hope this helps!


Practicing Performing

As musicians, we spend a lot of time practicing things but a lot of us don’t ask WHY we’re practicing.  We have vague notions of things like, “to get better” but nothing concrete.

This leads to things like shred guitar groups on Facebook where it’s a constant one-upsmanship of technical skill.  And while that’s a natural phase of skill development, it often doesn’t have a whole lot to do with making music or being musical in a band context.  Paul Gilbert once talked about how he had to completely change the way he soloed when he toured with Mr. Big because the highly technical things that blew people’s socks off in 500 person clubs in LA were completely lost in arenas with cavernous reverbs washing everything out.

Why we do something can inform both what we’re doing and how we’re doing it as well.

Last night, I played a gig with KoriSoron, the band I play in with guitarist Farzad Golpayegani and percussionist Dean Mirabito.  The money was negligible and the audience was small but that gig was more informative that a month in the practice room because I had real time analysis of what worked and what didn’t work in a live setting.  Furthermore, when I looked back at my improvisations I could determine what I thought I was playing versus what I was really playing.

If you want to play live music, you should play live shows as often as possible and see live music as often as possible to see what works.  I’ll add much better clarification of this idea with a quote from what I would say is a must-read  interview I did with Miroslav Tadic:

Performing has both a physical and the mental aspect to it. They’re connected but people have different levels of reactivity to each of them that can only be tested in performance. The good news is, you don’t need to be in a club or a concert hall with a bunch of people who have paid for tickets to see you to develop that skill. All you need is for a couple of people to actually sit down, listen and pay attention to what you do.

Most people, including myself, have found that there is really no difference in playing for ten people in your living room or playing for 2,000 people in a concert hall you’ve never played before. Mentally it’s the same thing and in both situations you go through the same kind of reactions. Once you learn those reactions and observe yourself in that situation, those reactions are not going to surprise you when you’re on stage and this is the most important thing.

For example, lets say the physical reaction is that your hands are sweating, shaking or cold. These are all physical reactions to this mental state of performing for people. You don’t experience that in the practice room, but if you go in front of people and all the sudden your hands are sweaty and you’ve never played with sweaty hands, it’s a terrifying experience. But if you know that your hands sweat when you go in front of people and you know how that feels you will know that you’ll still be able to play. It’s not going to be as enjoyable as when your hands aren’t sweating, but you’re not going to be completely thrown off by that because you’ll have already had experience with that. Eventually they’re not going to sweat, because what’s making them sweat is going to go away. That terror of being in front of people will turn into inspiration.

Next time, I’ll talk about ear training, the one music book I would tell every musician interested in improvising to buy (no it’s not the Real Book) and how to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in tuition by doing so.

As always, thanks for reading!