Are You Investing Enough In Yourself?

There’s a difference between spending and investing.

Many players spend a lot of time playing the guitar but don’t invest enough time in developing themselves.

A while back, I was reading a collection of interviews with graphic designers and one of them said something to the effect of,

“When people bring me portfolios of their work I often find myself saying, ‘I don’t want to see what you did 2 years ago…I want to see what you did 2 weeks ago, or better yet 2 days ago!”

At different points in one’s journey investing might mean:

  • Buying a guitar to learn how to play
  • Perhaps investing money and/or time into lessons
  • Investing in yourself by practicing
  • Investing in your gear maybe by getting your guitar set up or getting better gear
  • Booking gigs
  • Performing in front of people
  • Recording your music
  • Releasing your music
  • Improving your skills / your tones / your sound
  • Developing your brand
  • Cultivating an audience via social media
  • Developing media relations and contacts
  • Developing products and services for sale

As a whole trying to take all of these things on can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In an interview with Lewis Howes, Chris and Heidi Powell talked about how they work with clients.  I’ve paraphrased one important thread from about the 59 minute mark or so:

  • So often people see the change they want to make as a huge mountain. They go to extremes to try to tackle the whole thing at once and convince themselves that the fun ends here.  Over the course of a day a week a month… they try, and they try and they fail and try and then fail (again).  They continue to fail (by trying to take on something too large to tackle) and before you know it they don’t believe in themselves anymore at all.

 

  • They then try to convince themselves and everyone around them that they’re happy with who they are and where they’re at – because they don’t believe that they have what it takes to (make the change they want to make). They make excuses for other people’s success and say, “well that’s just my limitation. I’m different.”

 

The reality for most people is not that other people are different – but the approach is different for the people who are successful. The people who are successful start so incredibly small…transformation doesn’t happen by committing to 20 things at one time.  It’s about making one unbreakable promise at at time.But you have to do it every freaking day.  You can’t miss a day and it has to be so incredibly simple that you will never miss a day.  Guess what?  By the end of that week you start to believe in yourself and you keep up momentum.

 

“Because we take people who have lost hope in themselves, because they’re looking at me and they say, I’ve tried and failed so many times that I’m never going to get there.  … That’s exactly how we grow it – one simple promise at a time and by doing that you keep yourself winning.  If you can keep yourself winning you start to believe in yourself again and there is nothing more powerful than belief.”

So here’s a question to consider,

“Are you investing in your goals / yourself in some way every single day?”

 

Not: “what did you do a week ago?”

Not: still reveling in that big gig you played a year ago.

Not: the 5 books you wrote 6 years ago ; )

What is your goal? (and what did you do yesterday / today / tomorrow to reach it?)

Not one epic Herculean accomplishment.

One small significant decision.

One small significant action.

For myself this means a lot of changes by the end of the year.  In addition to being 30 lbs lighter (and counting), two new bands, new releases, a re-branding and all new live content.  None of these things came from doing anything really radical.  They came from putting consistent work in.

Follow up and Follow through.

Change comes one decision at a time. 

One action at a time. 

Every.  Single.  Day.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are looking to make a change in something you’re doing.

  • Try making a commitment to making one promise that you will do consistently.  Even if it’s only for 30-60 or 90 days.
  • Build off of small successes.
  • See what happens after your trial period and adjust as necessary.

Here’s hoping this is your best year yet!

I’m at a music business conference next week.  Regular posts should resume soon.

I hope this helps and, as always, thanks for reading.

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Motivation Is A Question Of “Why” Not “How”

Today I want to talk about a technique for understanding and focusing motivation but first…

The Obligatory Update

I have been remiss in posting here.  As I write this I’m taking a break from prep for a back to back recording session coming up on the 15th with I Come From the Mountains (a new duo acoustic instrumental ensemble with Dean Mirabito from KoriSoron playing an Iranian / Middle Eastern / Hindustani hybrid / fusion with me playing modified acoustic guitars (fretless, 10 string guitar modified from a 12 string and a 6-string multiple capos) and Dean playing  tabla and Middle Eastern percussion) and Embe Esti (a loosely Afrobeat inspired electric band with guitar, bass, drums and vocals that brings in a lot of North African and Balkan influences as well).  WOW is that an awkwardly long sentence!

( In a gear related note – with the exception of the fretless guitar –  all of the guitars and amps I’m using are from Yamaha – so Yamaha Guitars / Yamaha THR if you’re reading this and have any interest in sponsoring a future recording session please feel free to get in touch! ; )  I’ve been working with their THR100HD amp and have gotten some really great tones with minimal pedals  so I’ll share my different rigs with you in a future post).

So writing a lot of new material and developing new projects.  New websites for both soon!

The Best Free Lesson I Can Give You

If you go through old posts you’ll see that I hammer this point over and over again.

You have to have a why to travel any distance on the path to mastering guitar.

 

Here’s why this is important.  Let’s say you’re in a playing rut.  You keep playing the same thing over and over and don’t know how to get out.  You get motivated and sign up for a video course and give them your credit card number.  You log in the first day and start working on the first lesson.  In this case, you happened to go with a player you like but you didn’t understand that the material is way too hard to process at your current skill level.  So you work with it for about an hour and take a break for a bit…and then never come back to it.  Or you buy a book and it comes in the mail and you crack the cover and never return to it.

Does this sound familiar?

The problem most players face at some level is they don’t understand why they are doing what they’re doing.

As a beginning player:  if you don’t have a strong enough motivation you won’t play enough to develop the callouses you’ll need to play.

As an intermediate player: if you don’t have a strong enough motivation you won’t practice the things you need to work on to develop the skills you’ll need to progress to higher levels of expression.

As an advanced player: if you don’t have a strong enough why you may get to a point where you have developed a substantial skill set but can not earn a living from that skill alone.

This is kind of the mid-life crisis of guitar.  Fortunately, I’ve gone through many of these throughout my time playing guitar but players who have never faced can be in for a devastating experience .

See The “What” Is Easy

There’s 12 notes.  Simple.  You can get the basics of chords and scales in a day, grasp them more fully in a week and start to really do something with them in as little as a month if you really put the work in consistently.

The “How” Is Also (Relatively) Easy

When you buy an instructional product  what you’re buying is instruction on the how.  There is a literal deluge of instructional material both online and in print.   Even the most basic of searches will lead you to someone who can show you how.  The how is something that is also pretty easy to get under your fingers if you really put the work in consistently (and can be patient about how long it will take to do that work).

The “Why” Is Where You Are On Your Own

If you don’t have a reason for why you are doing what you are doing you won’t put the work in day after day and without that consistence – you will never progress.

Here’s the simple thing to do to get to the core of matter

When I teach a guitar lesson to a beginning student I will often attempt to drill down to what the motivating factors are by asking a series of “why” based questions.

Q: “So what brings you here today?”
A: “I want to learn how to play fast?”
Q: “Why?”
A: “Why what?”
Q: “Why do you want to learn to play fast?  What will playing fast allow you to do that you can’t do now?”

Based on the answer – this starts a series of drill downs of variations on the question to get to the bottom – why are you really here?  What are you really trying to do and most importantly, what is the real goal that you are working towards?

Playing fast isn’t a goal – it’s a pathway to a goal that might be better reached a thousand ways.  If the actual goal and motivation is understood it’s much easier to commit to putting the work in consistently to reach it.

Here’s a hypothetical non-musical example played out a little longer

“I want to exercise”
“Why?”
“So I can gain muscle”
“Why”
“So that I look better”
“Why?”
“So people will date me”
“Why?”
“So I’m not alone”

So in this example the exercise is in service to a larger goal – excising loneliness.

This process for me came about after years of me feeling guilty about going to Berklee and never really delving into jazz improv, only to dig deeper into why I thought I should be working on that and realizing I didn’t really like a lot of standards  I was pursuing it in a half-assed way because I thought it was a skill set I should have, but in reality the tunes never moved me so my motivation to work on them wasn’t there.  When I spent the time working on things that moved me emotionally, I got into more challenging music that required doing some of the work I didn’t want to do before because the context was one I wanted to explore.  So I kind of came to the same place through the back door…

Here’s the takeaway

If you have an issue with motivation, try diving deep with a series of “why” questions to get to what the underlying reason behind what you are doing really is.  Once you understand your real motivation, it’s easier to be more objective about how to best work towards realizing an associated goal.

I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

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Making A Longer Phase From A Few Notes

Just like Ratt – I’m back for more (hopefully you are also).

(Please feel free to insert another random hair metal reference if that suits you better).

I’m in the midst of a bunch of recording and gig preparation, and I thought one of the things I pulled out in a piece might help you.

I have an instrumental track that’s based on a pentatonic I’ve heard in Hindustani music before but don’t know the name of.  Other players have gravitated to this sound as well and in print I’ve only seen it listed as “Indian Pentatonic” (which, if we’re going to call it that, we might as well call it “Vindaloo” because vindaloo is at least tasty.)

Here’s the scale in A descending and then ascending.  Don’t let the time signature throw you off.  It’s just there to get all 5 notes in a bar.

A Pentatonic Asc Desc
In A  – I see R, 3, 4, 5 b7 (aka an A Mixolydian extraction) so this would work over chord taken from the parent scale D major.  In this case I’m using over a G – A vamp.

Start Small

Notice in the descending version I used one note on the B string and then 3 on the G string.  I do this because keeping only one note of the scale on the middle string of a 3 string group (in this case E, B, G) allows me to set up a sweepable version of the scale.

Why do I do that?

Here’s a little secret about guitar.  Certain techniques will take you a VERY long time to get under your fingers so if you’re going to spend the time to work on them make sure you find ways to use them to get the sounds you’re looking for.

Here I’ve taken the ascending scale and added 2 descending notes.  I’ve included 2 picking variations in the first two examples.  In my own playing I find that I end up going to the first Down Up Up pattern more often than not – but it’s worth the time to be able to do both of them.

For the example below – choose ONE picking variation and use it for all the groups of notes.  Pay attention to the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and Hand Tension) and try playing it over a chord to associate the scale with a harmony.

A Pent 3 Note Sweeps

You might notice in the example that the E string always uses the index finger of the fretting hand and the G string always uses the pinky.  That leaves either the 2nd or 3rd finger for the B string note.  The fingering consistency also makes it easier to memorize the patterns.

Then build up

A Pent 5 Note

Now I’ve added a few notes on the G string.  One nice thing about Pentatonics is that they have some built in intervals larger than a major or minor 2nd that make them sound less “scale-ish” to my ears.  I’ve only included one picking idea above.  The 2-note sweep in the middle with the alternating picking would allow you to repeat the picking pattern, but you could also use pull-offs on the notes on the G string.

If the scale can descend on the G string – it can also ascend on the E string.  Here’s a two bar lick based on the idea above and adding in some notes on the E string as well.

A Pent Descending Line

Let’s Break This Down

A Pent Breakdown
I’ve broken this down in overlapping phrases to show how I expanded the initial idea into something larger.

Bar 9 Above:  This is a simple descending / ascending of the scale on the E string

Bar 10: There’s the sweep

Bar 11: This is a similar 7-note descending / ascending idea as bar 9

Bar 12-13: I broke this out to show the position shift to add the C# again with a similar idea as bar 9 and 11

Bar 14: There’s the sweep again

Bar 15: this is an the same idea as before but one octave lower.

Notice how there are two simple pieces of “connective tissue” the sweep and the short one string scale passage that ties the lick together.

Let’s look at another (and more challenging) idea:

Lick #2

A Pent Lick 2

Here I expanded on the initial idea.  I’m using sextuplets now so it’s faster.  In the first measure – there’s a slight pause on the last A in beat 3 to accommodate a position shift for the following beat.  As a phrase, I’d likely sit on that A for a beat or two before continuing but I shortened the time to fit it in a smaller graphic.

The position shift allows me to set up a sequence to ascend the scale again and build a little excitement.  Technically this uses all the ideas that have already been used.

Again – these techniques take time to get them under your fingers so they sound good.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Really focus on the 3 T’s and then find ways to incorporate them in ideas you already are using.

And one for the road

So far in this lesson we’ve been exploring string ascending / descending scales.  Adding in things like string skipping will give you some wider intervals to incorporate and get you further away from the scale sound.  Here’s one variation below.

Idea 3

My suggestions (should you choose to take them)

  • Find fingerings that work for you
  • incorporate some of the scale sequence ideas into the phrases you create
  • mix and match see how far you can go in one direction or the next before you run out of notes
  • incorporate different scale sequence ideas.  (For more information on this my Melodic Patterns book can open some doors here).

 

I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

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What Scale Do I Use?

Well…

 

Yep – It’s been a while.  A lot’s gone on.   These posts take quite a while to do so I need to either figure out a way to make them MUCH shorter or just post more sporadically.  I had a couple of free hours this AM so here we go!  Let’s get to something you might be able to use.

A lot of times in lessons, I get asked some variation of the question,

“What should I play over this or that chord?”

 

For example, here’s a question I answered on Facebook  a while back and I thought that the answer for approaching any kind of unfamiliar chord might help some of you.

“hi folks!Cmaj7b9#11 what scale can i use???????”

Here’s how I approach unfamiliar chords and it may help you:

  •  If I don’t recognize the chord – I recommend CONVERTING to the key of C.  The reason for this is the key of C has no sharps or flats so any chord formulas become easier to figure out.  In this case we’re already in C (C maj7 b9 #11).

 

  • Make sure you understand the chord. The chord is C maj7 b9 #11. The major 7th chord formula is Root (C), 3rd (E), 5th (G), 7th (B).  On top of that we’re adding a b9 (Db) and a #11 (F#).  Lets find a voicing that makes sense.

 

In a Major 7th chord, the 5th doesn’t really add any flavor to the chord.  It’s just filler.  If you need to condense voicings just remove the 5th (if it’s an altered 5th like. #5 or a b5 – that’s a different story!!).  Here’s a shell voicing of the C major 7th (no 5th):  R-3rd-5th.

C Maj
Now I see that Db – F# as just a barre on the 2nd fret.  (Side note – taken on it’s own I hear this as F#-C# or a F# power chord.  In the following examples I’ll continue to use Db but I recommend paying attention to what you hear and adjusting appropriately).

DbF#

Combining the two produces this:

CMaj 7b9#11_1

As an alternative to this voicing I also like the 3rd on the high E string – so I’ve switched the F# and E around in the voicing below.  Use one of these for the examples below (or any other voicing with the appropriate notes that works for you.)

Cmaj7b9#11_2

  • Now that we know what chord we’re playing the question of “what do we play over it?” becomes a little easier to answer.  My very first question might be counter-intuitive but typically I’d ask, “What chord are you playing after it?”  It’s important to understand how a chord works in the context of the chords around it because ultimately you want to be able to make a musical statement that has continuity through a chord progression.

 

  • For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume it’s the ending chord of a tune.  Start with just the notes of the chord: C, E, G, B, Db, F# 

    in order that becomes C, Db, E, F#, G, B.  Using the notes that are actually in the chord for melodic exploration are the best place to start!  You can always add other notes after!

Here’s a lick that uses the notes of the scale in position.

Scale 1

When I play licks like this I always play the chord first to get the sound of the chord in my head and THEN work on a lick.  You could loop the chord with a looper, record it and play it as a backing track, etc.  the point is to get the harmonic context (i.e. the sound) in your head first and go from there.

Note:  the resolution to C doesn’t really feel complete.  The F# and Db in the chord creates instability.  It’s almost as if the chord is implying (to my ears) a resolution to Em.  When you have chords like any kind of dominant chord – they typically want to resolve somewhere.  Pay attention to where your ear tells you the chord is going and use that in crafting lines and ideas.

So start here!  Just familiarize yourself with the sound of the chord and how the individual chord tones work over it.

  • You could remove any note for a pentatonic (C, E, F#, B, G / C, Db, E, F#, B for example).  Here’s are a few fingerings to explore those ideas.  Apply melodic devices (rests, rhythmic variation, sequencing) to get generate unique ideas.

Cmaj7b9#11_2

Pentatonic Lick 1_1A

  • You’re only missing some type of A for a 7-note scale (Ab, A, A#)  Let’s say A for now:  C, Db, E, F#, G, A, B

Here are a couple of ideas floating around that.  The first one uses the sequencing idea we saw before – the second is just a straight melody.

7 note with A

  • Repeating licks are something worth exploring as well (particularly if you’re playing the last chord as a cadenza).  Here’s a little McLaughlin inspired run.

Repeating Lick

  • Try extracting some triads, 7th chords or intervallic ideas from the scale.  In the example below, I took a G5 add 2 (aka Gsus2 aka replacing the B in a G major triad with an A) and moved it in scale wise motion on the A, G and B strings.  I added a C in the bass for harmonic context (sometimes played with the thumb but you can experiment with fingerings) to help get the sound of the triad in my head. (Watch that stretch in bar 3!!  If it hurts your hand just tap the C with your picking hand.)

Intervals 1

  • You can get a lot of mileage from just two alternating between 2 sets of triads (or any other type of 3 note cells – the end result is a Hexatonic – or 6-note scale).  Here I’ve used C major and the notes Db, F# B.  I start moving them through inversions and then mix an match to get some more interesting ideas out of the line.

Intervals 2

  • You could also try working in some chromaticism (D, Eb, G#, Bb) etc. for a 8 or 9- note scale:

Chromatic

  • This doesn’t even take into account approach notes (there’s a considerable amount of 1/2 step motion in the chord already (B-C, C-Db, F#G) but you could add in approach notes to B (Bb),  E(Eb), or F# (F) for example, superimposition of other arpeggios / tonalities or a number of other approaches – this is simply one simple approach to get some ideas flowing for approaching how to play over an unfamiliar chord.

 

  • One place where people get hung up on something like this is trying to take on too much at once.  “Seeing” the chord over the entire fretboard.  Working out arpeggios in all positions etc.. Notice that once I worked out a voicing in second position – many of the licks just worked around the chord shape there.  Start small!!!  Find a sound you like and run it into the ground with melodic possibilities and variations and lick ideas. Then try others. One eats an elephant one bite at a time.

 

Ultimately what to play over any given chord will depend on the melody, the chords before and after it, the mood of the tune, and your aesthetic.  It also depends on what you hear – so explore lot’s of variations and work on the ones that sound good to you!

As always, I hope this helps and thanks for reading!

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[Reality] “..Check One Two What Is This?”

My apologies to any regular readers of this blog as I haven’t posted in a while.  I’ve been continuing the research I’ve been doing and involved in a few new projects including forming and writing material for a new loosely Afro Beat / Mail / North African inspired project (tentatively called “Embe Esti”) and working really hard on the final steps of a Middle Eastern / North African film festival (Festival Cinema Invisible (FCI) that now, several years after starting being involved in it, I find myself the Artistic Director of. (For those of you in the Upstate New York area, you can find out more about our 2-day / 58 film festival at Proctor’s GE Theater in Schenectady NY April 22nd and 23rd here.)

But mostly, I haven’t posted anything because, frankly, while I’ve had a lot of thoughts over the last few months,  I haven’t had a pressing need to say anything.

With Allan Holdsworth’s passing I have a thought worth sharing, although perhaps not the most predictable one.

If you aren’t familiar with Holdsworth’s name I’d simply recommend Googling it and checking out any performance videos of him. It may even be understating it to say he’s the most important fusion guitarist in history.

The thing that immediately strikes me, on watching (or listening to) any of his playing again, is not his incredible harmonic mastery, or his other worldly fluidity, touch, phrasing or tone.

It’s the singularity of what he was doing.

No one really sounded like him.  Even now, there are a number of people that have copped elements of his style (like his legato technique, or his vibrato arm phrasing) but, like Shawn Lane (a player who said that his attending a U.K. concert as a kid and seeing Holdsworth was a watershed moment in developing his own singular guitar style), he developed a deeply personal voice that others could do impressions of, but never really master.

Like Lane, he also died with very real financial issues.  Consider for a moment a quote from this obituary:

“No official cause of death has been disclosed. In a Sunday afternoon email, Holdsworth’s publicist, Dan Perloff, told the Union-Tribune: ‘I talked to his daughter this morning and she told me that his roommate called her and her sister to tell them that Allan hadn’t come out of his room in a very long time, and when they knocked down the door they found him dead…’”

Holdsworth was 70 years old.  The most important fusion guitarist ever and also one of THE most important and influential electric guitarists in history with a career that spanned almost 50 years and saw 12 solo releases – was living with a roommate in what I’m purely and wholly speculating was necessity rather than choice – presumably to make ends meet.  Googling “Holdsworth Yamaha” in an attempt to remember what gear he was using turned up a whole series of gear sold for him on Reverb.com in the last two years. He made no bones about this in the past.  Many of his interviews over the last 30 years included at least some reference to the financial challenges he had in making a living by making his music.  (This article from 1986 seems to be no less accurate in 2016).

I mention this for several reasons: (Note: This is not in any way a judgement of Holdsworth as a person or as an artist.  Artistically, as a musician, I really think he’s untouchable and everything I’ve seen seems to indicate that he was a really good guy).

1.  Talent alone will not save you.  There are still people who believe that if they just do work hard that solely on the basis of excellence that they will rise to the top and receive popular acceptance.  While Holdsworth rose to the top of his playing, he never experienced the mainstream recognition that he deserved.

2.  (and this is the more controversial and likely the more important take away) There is sometimes a cost to being the first in anything substantial.

Holdsworth was so far ahead of the game that I don’t think that many people understood what he was doing.  (Also true to some extent of Shawn Lane).  Players after him copped elements of his style and were able to make it more accessible to listeners and received more mainstream (i.e. short term and financial) “success.”  Holdsworth made it into the history book, but that in and of itself doesn’t pay the bills.

The Citizen Kane example:

A friend of mine saw Citizen Kane for the first time in the last year and told me that it was the most over-rated movie in history and they didn’t see what the big deal was. That reaction makes sense to me watching it now.  To “get it” I think you’d need to watch it in context.  If you watch other movies made at the same time, you’ll see that this film was completely different from anything else released at the time.    There are film making and writing devices used that were never employed before that film.  What happened (eventually) was the film was so influential that what was the avante-garde became part of the regular film making vocabulary.  It’s easy to not get it now because so much of what you know as regular film making devices had its origins in that film. (And coincidentally, it’s the film that simultaneously launched his career and started it’s long decline).

For me, it’s the something similar with Holdsworth except that, as guitarists, we still haven’t caught up to fully integrating that into the guitar vocabulary.

When you’re at the start of something truly new – you get to blaze a path but the reality is that it may be a path that others find success on.

Holdsworth made the music he wanted but paid a terrible economic price for much of his career (by other means of example see some thoughts from Holdsworth himself on how far south a crowdsoucing campaign for a recent release went behind the scenes here (and/or as an alternative view, Gary Husband’s perception of the same events here)).

But there’s also a tremendous psychological toll being truly first takes as well because as Charlie Sexton once put it, “The beats so lonely – I’ll bet it’s lonely at the top.”

With each attempt to move forward can come crippling self doubt about the quality and/or validity of what you’re doing.  It’s Nikolai Tesla being right when the rest of the world is wrong, and you need unbelievable callouses and self driven habits to overcome those obstacles to maintain any kind of inertia.

Earlier I spoke of Holdsworth’s voice on his instrument – a magnificent, nuanced and soulful voice that could move listeners with anything from expansive ethereal chording to angry snarling cries that seemed to burrow into, rub up against and burst out of the chords weaving around him.  But the irony was where everyone else heard magnificent beauty –  he heard potential mixed with self doubt.  He heard music that was almost good enough….playing that was almost good enough….  Perhaps it was what drove him to push himself harder, to write new music.  It’s a sign of other issues (fear, self doubt, etc.) and those things can tear you apart.  And yet that is what many people face when they scale the mountain forging their own path – the tools that allow then to ascend the mountain are the same ones that can cause them to fall.

So what does that mean for the rest of us?

There’s a top NYC player I know of who splits a small apartment for his own little corner to practice and see students and create. He has name recognition, cover in trade publications etc – but is cash poor.  That lack of creature comfort is the trade off for living in the city he feels he needs to be in doing what he wants and how he wants to do it.

Increasingly, this is what it means to be a professional musician for most people. Whose couch are you sleeping on?  Is it more important to tour or to eat?

With this in mind I ask the following:

  • What are your priorities?
  • What is important to you? (Hint – the important things in life are the things you do.)
  • What are you willing to do or give up to make the thing that means the most to you in the world happen?

What Holdsworth faced financially was simply ahead of the curve on many other musicians who, in the current gig economy, find themselves making all manner of compromises to make their music free of compromise itself.

If you’re willing to blaze a path, can you do it for the love of following what you feel you absolutely need to do or will you going to get bitter when (or if) others build on your groundbreaking efforts and move themselves forward?

Coda:

As of this writing there’s a Go Fund Me page to help cover Allan’s funeral (and other expenses).  The irony of which is that only two days in has already passed its $20,000 goal and reached over $100,000 (and counting) with 2,570 people contributing.  This is very likely more money that he ever made in any one year (much less in two days) of his career).

I wish he had that kind of financial support consistently throughout his career but I also hope that if he knew that so many people were moved by his music and contributed money it might make Allan happy.  Or at least crack a telling smile.

To one of the greatest guitarists of all time – thank you for blazing the path for the rest of us!

Here’s a clip from 1974 to send you back to the shed:

(Check it out from about 28:00 – or so and trust me – his playing gets more ferocious as he gets older!)

As always, thanks for reading.

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New KoriSoron Release “Triad” Now Available on Band Camp

TRIAD
triad-cd-cover

Just a quick post for readers.  I’m pleased to announce that the new KoriSoron release, Triad, is now available on bandcamp.  (you can find it here.)

The EP has 5 tracks – which include some of the most challenging material that we play.  I don’t like talking up my playing but I’m actually really happy with my playing on a few of the tracks (like Cadineasca (9/16)).

KoriSoron is:

Scott Collins:  Acoustic guitar, loops, effects, ebow

Farzad Golpayegani:  Acoustic guitar and violin

Dean Mirabito:  Percussion

  • The EP was recorded, mixed and mastered  by John Chiara at Albany Audio Associates.
  • Farzad did an original drawing for the release and did all of the graphics and layout.
  • I wrote the tunes on the release except for 75 (Farzad Golpayegani) and Cadineasca (traditional – arranged by Scott Collins and KoriSoron).  All tunes arranged by the band.

We’ll have the release available on other outlets (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) as well.  I’ll put an update in when that happens.

In other news – I have a new electric project that I’m excited about and have more acoustic material coming out this year as well.

(And I mentioned it before but if you like the electric guitar lessons on the blog – you might dig the This Is The Rough Hewn Trio release –

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also on Bandcamp.  I’ve plugged it before but I’m psyched to get it out into the world!)

As always, thanks for reading!

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Some Observations In The New Year

The Preface:

I haven’t been writing a lot lately.  In addition to playing, recording and working on a number of projects, I’ve been doubling down on my research in habit forming, short term skill acquisition, long term mastery, business development, entrepreneur vs. freelancer and thinking about THE BIG PICTURE.

This blog tends to focus more on the motivational / philosophical aspects of making music and playing guitar rather than how to play a specific lick or where to put one’s fingers on a guitar.

There’s a substantial amount of lesson material here, but write more about the WHY of guitar playing because for intermediate to advanced players, the WHY is much more problematic than the HOW or the WHAT.  Understanding the WHY is also what will keep you playing guitar (or whatever other endeavor you want to insert here) past a certain point instead of moving endlessly from one temporary obsession to another.

Reactive vs Proactive:

At the end of every year, I tend to take a few days and take general stock of where I am, of where I’ve been, of where I’m going.

The big surprise for me this year, is that much of my life has been spent with reactive action driving proactive movement with an underlying need to play guitar as the catalyst behind it.

In other words – stumbling into a long term career instead of planning a long-term career.

I think this is how it is for most musicians outside of the classical world and I think it’s a  mistake for anyone who wants to try to make this a career.

In the classical world, traditionally you were typically either a soloist or an orchestral player so your entire skill set development went into following those paths.  Building repertoire and resume’s and moving up the orchestral ladder to ultimately get a coveted spot in a well regarded orchestra.

In contrast, consider the previous band success model of playing in multiple bands to finally get into “the right” band that built larger and larger followings and finally gets to the point where they reach the end goal of signing to a major label.

But reality has changed both of these models forever.

Orchestras are in increasingly difficult positions and more and more people end up playing in part-time capacities in a number of different orchestras just to try to make ends meet.  The major labels are more selective than ever when it comes to artist signing and with most of them demanding 360 contracts with artists – they want a pound of flesh from artists with their signatures.

While some people will have the right combination of skills, contacts, timing and luck to be able to fall into a career –  for most artists, the path can no longer be an auto pilot. But requires a plan.

Start With The Vision

The most successful things I’ve ever done in my life came through Reverse Engineering.

  • Taking a desired outcome
  • Working backwards from that outcome to determine the steps needed to get there
  • Putting daily work in on those steps and moving forward on those goals.

Whether it’s having a goal to play like your favorite player or having a goal to be a full-time musician or desiring to be retired by age x – if you don’t have a vision of where you want to go then you will simply drift around aimlessly moving from one thing to the next.

That’s fine if you want to explore and see what happens.  It’s not so great if you have things you want to get done.

Be Clear On Your Brand (and Re-brand when necessary)

I’m going through the process of updating social media, consolidating and getting ready to launch my new lesson approach / series and what cracks me up is how positively schizophrenic my CV is. It cracks me up because it makes the job of getting my name out and getting calls for various things almost infinitely harder than it needs to be.

For example I’ve played in Trip-hop, Hip hop, Metal, Rock, Pop, Country, Rockabilly, Jazz, Industrial, Art-Pop, Theatrical, Fusion, world music and a host of other genres.  That makes me a generalist.

The difficulty in being a side person, for example, is that people look for people with specific skills in a specific genre.  The guy who was a side man in a dozen metal bands is more likely going to the the person who gets a call from the band who needs a metal player unless they’re looking for something specific.

I have a very distinctive sound.  If I’m playing something, you’ll know it’s me regardless of the effects or context.  I’m typically the guy who plays with a lot of passion and can play a lot of notes.  In teaching, I’m the guy who can identify blocks that students have and can help them overcome them.  I have a specific voice for communicating things both in presentation and writing style.  But when people are unclear on your brand, they’re unclear on what you have to offer and (here’s the important thing to being in demand forever) how you can help them.

After I spoke at TedX I was leaving the venue and one of the organizers came up to me and said,

“You know, when I saw that you were going to be speaking my first thought was, ‘Oh no!  Why is he speaking?  I don’t want to hear him speak!  I just want to hear him play music.’  But then I saw your talk and it was really great.”

That’s what happens when people don’t understand your brand.  People who saw KoriSoron might see me play electric and say, “I didn’t know you played electric guitar!” and people who see me play electric are surprised to find out that I play acoustic.  Or fretless or saz or bass or any of the other things I pick up.

That’s why I now realize that it’s important to have projects that serve a long term goal, rather than have an expectation that people will be able (or even willing) to follow a narrative of what I’m creating.

There’s a business adage that, “It’s not who you know – it’s who know you”.  An adaptation of that might be, “People can’t call you / see you / support you if they don’t know what you do.”

The new KoriSoron release will be out in February and I have some new things in the works.  There will be some posts related to this year as the journey continues.

A lot of my teaching and a lot of my posts center on mistakes I’ve made and documenting them to help other people avoid the mistakes I made and (hopefully) shortening their own learning curve.  With that in mind, I hope that this helps you in some way.

As always thanks for reading.

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PS – I’ve mentioned it before but my new instrumental release with the Rough Hewn Trio is out now and you can purchase it in a pay-what you want model here.