New Release And Other News

Hey everyone a few new announcements.

The Emebe Esti Live EP is out

One of the bands I’ve been playing with, Embe Esti – has a new live release out.  It’s basically two live recordings that we smashed into one release called “Live in the 518”.

It’ll be out on iTunes, Amazon, etc. by the end of the year (it takes a while after it’s submitted to CD baby) but for now all of the original tunes are on Bandcamp.

You can check out our cover tunes below:

A little Joan Jett above and Hassan Hakmoun below

All guitar sounds for this were taken from the XLR direct outs on my Yamaha THR100HD.

Recording signal path – Yamaha Pacifica 611 hard tail –> EP Booster ( running 18 volts for headroom) –> boss stereo volume –> md2 delay (1 before amp and delay 2 in FX send  for recording but for current live rig –  both delays are in fx send)–> micro Hendrix wah–> Yamaha THR100HD (this was then run to a Yamaha 2×12 cab for some room ambience – for my current club rig I’m using the 1×12 cab, 1 amp channel and the MD2 and a TC delay in the FX send as a mono signal)

Volume changes on guitar for clean tones (roll off about 50-60%). Spring reverb patch and boost for solos come from the amp.

If you dig the Embe Esti material – you can check out our website or our FB page (likes and follows are always appreciated).  If you like the music in the videos – you can check out my You Tube page which has a bunch of old material (and some new things) that sprawl all over the place.

New Releases for 2018

Recording and mixing is done for the I Come From The Mountains EP.  This is the duo project with Dean from KoriSoron.  We’re just waiting for artwork and some other material to get that out.  I’m expecting January of 2018.

Recording and mixing appears to be done on my solo acoustic ep.  This is a series of live performances that have been documented and pulled together into a release.   I expect to have this out in February / March of 2018.

You can expect another Embe Esti release in 2018.  We’ve been working on some new material, and I expect we’ll have enough for another release by the summer.

Some other new things

I’m experimenting with a few other mediums of expression as this website has gotten a little too unwieldy to maintain and update properly.

I post several times a week on Instagram and on my Facebook page.  Liking and following those pages is the best way to see things I’m working on.  I also started a new 5-minute lesson series (soon to be a 1-minute lesson series as that’s the maximum time Instagram allows for upload) that’s designed to be a series of short tips, hacks, etc. that you can immediately incorporate into your playing.  You can see the first lesson on my FB page, but I’ll post the tab below just to hopefully entice you.

The content will also be up on my new page, along with a lot of new lesson material.  I’m working on new content for lessons so I’m experimenting with providers and the best way to get that out into the world.

That’s it for now.  Today is all about going deep into researching music publishing for me so I have to get to it.

As always, thanks for reading!


A Note From A Show

It was back in Boston.

I had walked into a small club called TT the bear’s (which I had played on many occasions before) to see my friend’s band play, and one of the opening bands was an early incarnation of The Willard Grant Conspiracy.

When I see bands on SNL and there are 10 people on stage individually playing nothing  and it cumulatively sounds like 3 competent musicians are playing it drives me nuts.  In this case, there were six or eight people on stage (all playing acoustic instruments …some acoustic guitars, a violin, mandolin, bass, and Robert Fisher’s vocals) and it sounded enormous.  They devoured the air in the room and for 40 minutes or so –  we were collectively sucked into a black hole and left staring in mute wonder at this immense vortex we were in and then we were spit back out into the reality of a small club with sticky floors.

There wasn’t a II V I or an altered chord in sight. The time signatures were common.  Nothing faster than an 1/8th note was played.  It was a number of musicians playing the same rhythms (and playing off of that rhythm) to create a specific immersive sound.  Everything was in service to the vocal and the song.

It gets easy to get caught up in what this person is doing or what that person is doing online, but it’s the moments that move you that stay with you forever.  I can tell you to go check out their Flying Low cd, but the communal moment I had with Willard Grant and a few other people in that small room is what stays with me as I listen to “House Is Not a Home” as I type this.  My experience in listening to those songs will always be tied to that moment.

Here’s the biggest secret I can tell you about musical performance.

The single biggest factor pulling off any performance for a live audience is conviction.

If you have it, you can sit on an avoid note and everyone will nod their heads, if you don’t have it you can hit every note with MIDI-like precision and elicit yawns in response.

All the shedding you do is really to get the material under your fingers so you can play it with conviction when you perform.  Some people tap into that with a minimal amount of musical skill and training.  Some people train their whole lives and never find it.  When you speak with authority, people listen to what you have to say (you do have the musical vocabulary and skill to help sustain what’s happening yes? – I’d argue that people who perform with real conviction find natural rhythm, dynamics and other elements intuitively in many cases – the so called “musical” considerations fall into line with the force of the message being delivered.)  Now that audience might ignore it if it doesn’t continue to move or reach them, but it at least gets their ear.

It get’s easy to get caught up in the technique or the application of what we do and loose the forest looking for the tree.

Guitarists serve the guitar but musicians serve the song.  Sometimes that’s Willard Grant, sometimes that’s seeing a video of Yngwie killing it with Alcatrazz on a live show in Japan. Sometimes that’s the song you’re playing and sometimes it’s the song of your heart, but whichever one you’re playing – play it like you’re opening that vortex and bring people in.

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


PS – if you’re happen to be in Gloversville,NY on Saturday come check out my clinic at the Gloversville library at noon.  (

I’ll have my guitar…and some books…and notes.  Beaucoup notes at that!

Notes From A Lecture

“What’s with all these words and where’s the shred stuff?”

I know I’ve been veering away form strictly guitar stuff lately on this blog.  (Don’t worry though, the pure guitar thing is never too far away. A number of new (strictly guitar related) posts have made their way to Guitar-Muse and there’s some new material that will be released either in Kindle or e-book format.)  A large part of the shift in content here is due to a move from focusing on working through the how (how do you play modes on guitar) and shifting the focus more to the why (i.e. my philosophy).  I’ve talked about this before but without a strong sense of why you do what you do, progressing and improving in the long term will fall apart as you face the numerous challenges and obstacles that you’ll be faced with on the long haul.

As someone who plays and teaches, I’m often asked, “How long does it take to learn to play guitar?” It’s a surprisingly easy question to answer.  It depends on what you want to do on the instrument.  If you want to learn to play a few chords to serenade someone on a tune you can get some basic chord forms and strum patterns down in as little as a few weeks.

If you want to really say something unique to you on the instrument, it will take years or decades of hard work and those before you who have already been on the path for decades will tell you that they’re still working on defining and articulating what they say on the instrument. This leads directly into my first point.


The heretic’s statement

While I love the guitar dearly, it’s just a tool of expression.

Guitar playing is only a reflection of who I am at the time I’m playing.  It’s a sonic documentary.  It’s a voice that I control with my fingers.

I need a pen to write ideas down on a piece of paper, but ultimately the ideas behind the writing are a lot more important than some scribbles on a page.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  As I play guitar, I develop as a person as well.  As a person I take a number of influences that inspire me (like literature, film and other people’s music) and use those as spring boards for expression.

While I work at being a better guitarist, I’m also working at being a better person and vice-versa.

To me – it’s all guitar playing.


The How and Albert Ellis

For those of you unfamiliar with the man, Albert Ellis is not some brilliant up and coming underground shredder that will show you how to stuff 15 notes in a 5 note bag.  Mr. Ellis was a particularly brilliant psychologist who had taken some cues from Stoicism, and Levi-Strauss and created a new form of therapy known as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). I had first discovered Ellis’ work in college and while I found his books to be somewhat bizarre in their tone (the writing style seemed to be mired in the 1950’s with references to things like “Pollyannaish thinking”) his approach of using rational thought to break people out of emotional traps they had fallen into was particularly insightful to me and spoke to my own approach to removing emotions from problems and tackling them for what they are.

In the 1990’s I saw that an Adult Education division was going to bring Albert Ellis to speak at the lecture.  To say that Ellis was a brusque man is stating it mildly.  Throughout the lecture he swore like a sailor, called b-s on any number of things and took anonymous audience questions about problems they were having on stage and then talked through how to approach the problem.

When the lecture was over.  People were congregating around to talk to him and he yelled “Excuse me” and “Get out of my way” as he bolted out the door and went to his car.  I believe his logic was, he was paid to speak for two hours, people could ask him whatever they wanted during that time and he wasn’t going to hang out for another hour or two afterwards.  The audience hated this but I saw it as a man who practiced what he preached.  (If you read below, you’ll see that this wasn’t solely about the money – The Ellis Institutecontinues to offer the Friday Night public workshop that Ellis discusses below for the inflation adjusted price of $15 per person.  It’s about not getting entangled in things you don’t wish to).

I made a number of notes at the lecture and I’ve posted them below.  In terms of content, its a little rough and tumble and should act as little more than a “Cliff notes” version of his approach – but you might find it to be an interesting overview in how to remove emotions from problems and attack them in a systematic process.

If you find feelings of anger, depression or inadequacy acting as obstacles in your practicing, playing or goals, you might find Ellis’ approach helpful. I’ll include any new notes in brackets [ ].

Notes on an Albert Ellis lecture in Boston.  December 8, 1994.

Albert Ellis, Ph.D. is the head of the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET). [Ellis used the terms RET and REBT in the lecture interchangeably] He conducts interviews every Friday night at the Institute for $5.

Ellis’ methodology is borne out of a philosophical tradition rather than a psychological one. Of primary influence to his methodology were the Greeks and their focus on the analytical.

You are a talented screwball.


The RET observations:

1.  All people want to be loved and accepted.

2. People meet conflicts with this goal.  The experience rejection/frustration /disappointment.

3.  People refuse to change


Three causes for Neurosis

1. EGO – I am the center fo the universe

2.  Anger / Rage

3. A perception that there has to be environmental control.

#2 and #3 –> refusal to accept (rationalize)

The two words that cure all neurosis?:  Tough shit.

Past events are not the causes for present conditions.

Humans are born with two tendencies

1.  Posessing goals, values, desires, etc and demanding what you want.  Ellis seems to view people generally as babies where immediate needs are the primary focus.  That egocentricity makes people very upsettable.

2.  People have a constructive self-actualizing tendency.  You are born to think.

The net effect of these two statements is that while you can disturb yourself, you can also undisturb yourself.

You balance the rational and the unrational. The Universe is ambivalent.


Three Insights of RET

1.  No one (or nothing) ever upset you.  You choose to upset yourself.

2.  When it [the depression/anxiety/problematic emotion] started is irrelevant.  It lasts because you believe it.  You can’t change people or situations – only perception.

3.  There is no magic. No one’s going to come down from the sky to save you. There is only work and practice.


How to change:

Cognitive thinking

1. Dispute the “musts”  “I must be this…I must do this.” Why must you? [Ellis refers to this in some of his writing as ‘musterbation”]

2. Along similar lines…”I can’t bear it (rejection, etc)” or  “I can’t stand it.” The implication is –   “I can’t stand it and be happy at all.”

3.  “When I fail, I am worthless” in reality – “I acted badly – but I screwed up and I am human.”


There are two solutions to a poor sense of self-worth

1.  I’m okay because I am alive. (I’m okay because I choose to be okay.)

2.  I’m neither good or bad as good implies perfection and bad implies damnable [The terms are all or nothings propositions for Ellis].  I am a human who behaves well and when I agree to reach/perform certain moral ethical deeds, I am behaving well but good deeds do not make me good.  (preferred method). I am not my acts/behaviours.


Self Esteem is an illness

When I am doing okay, I am okay – otherwise I’m a worm and even when I am okay – I worry about being a worm.

Low self-esteem: Because people don’t love me enough and because I act well I am okay.

High Self-Esteem I’m okay when I’m beautiful.

Self esteem is conditional.  The goal is unconditional self-acceptance.  Unconditional acceptance must be taught.


Coping methods

Referencing:  When you do something compulsively bad –  you write down all of the disadvantages of the act and review often.

Rational coping self-statement:  Effective view philosophy [Also written – also reviewed often]

“I don’t need – but I would like.”

There is nothing awful – only inconvenient. “Mind you getting slowly tortured to death is inconvenient but it is not a worse case scenario.  You could always be tortured more slowly.”  [What was implied by Ellis is that you can not be faced with the most awful thing or situation.]

Psycho-educational techniques:  Good books, video, etc prosleytize and teach so that you can learn.

Modeling:  find good role models

Role Playing: stop at anxious (or appropriate sensation) moments and analyze.  What am I thinking right now?

Positive thinking is okay but does have it’s limitations.  Its achilles heel is that it can reinforce the “must” syndrome.

If you’re afraid of something. Do it.  repeatedly.  Rewards afterwards and “punish” if you fall through. [Ellis used a couple of examples here but he said to a woman trying to lose weight, “Okay.  You want to loose weight.  And you eat cookies all the time so as one step of this, you’re going to stop eating cookies.  What do you hate to do in the world more than anything? ‘Call my mother-in-law.’ Okay then.  So from now on if you eat a cookie, you’ll have to call your mother-in-law and talk to her.  But you really have to do it!  It only works if you follow through.” In more extreme cases, Ellis recommends people burn money as a punishment.  “After someone burns their second $20 bill, they stop doing what they’re doing pretty quickly”]

You let other people affect you but not disturb you.


Grief vs depression.

Grief is okay.

Grief:  I’ve lost something and that is bad

Depression: Isn’t it too bad that I’ve lost something?


Problematic Solutions

When a situation is bad – do not leave when you are upset because you’ll take those emotions with you into every other situation.

1.  Analyze how upset you are

2.  Act rationally.

The approach seems to have several steps.

1.  Problem identification

2.  Statement and picturing of the worst thing that could happen.

3.  Identifying feelings with that scenario.

4.  Changing feelings/perceptions of the worse case scenario used rational coping self statements repeatedly and setting up small reward/punishment systems to work on those statements daily.

This last step implies a lot of time.  There is no quick panacea for your problems.

Dr. Ellis has a hard methodology.  It makes the individual fully responsible for his/her actions, works within a closed system and puts emphasis on the body’s cognitive powers. He is violently opposed to most forms of therapy which he feels puts too much emphasis on past actions and events and not enough on present responsibility.  While he isn’t opposed to all forms of psychotherapy, his motto certainly seems to be, let the buyer beware.

His lecture was filled with cursing.  It seems to be a part of his shtick, but one of the things that it did was keep the audience laughing – and laughter (along with responsibility, work and perception) seems to be a very important part of the RET methodology.

*Those are all the notes I had from the lecture.

I hope you found this interesting, insightful, or helpful in some way and, as always, thanks for reading.


Moving With Musical Instruments By Mail

As I’ve posted before, I just recently moved from South Pasadena, CA to Brooklyn, NY.  I did a similar move back in 2006 when I moved from Boston to go to CalArts in Valencia, CA and in both cases people were shocked when I said that I mailed everything.

Had I already owned a car, I might have looked into getting a trailer and doing the move, but since Boston isn’t a very car friendly town (as one winter of $600 in parking and tow fees attested to),  I had gotten rid of my car years ago and renting a car for that distance and time wasn’t financially viable.

So we mailed it all and then when we came back to the east coast, we did it again.  We spent about $1500 in shipping to get everything here.  Given that the estimate for a POD delivery across the coast would have been close to $7,000, the van rental would have been about $4-$5,000, I got off light.  (Mind you, if the move was a shorter distance, we probably would have gone with the POD option).

If you have to go this route I can give you some suggestions based on my experience – but keep in mind that other options may be available and/or preferable to you.


One thing I looked into initially was freight shipping (where all of your stuff is clear wrapped on pallets, billed by weight and typically shipped by truck).  While this would have been cheaper that piecemealing the shipments as we did, it was a little too rough for the instruments.  They’d get hit with a lot of heat and while any commercially available guitar goes through the same process essentially to get to the store – it wasn’t something I wanted to risk.  The logistics of getting something freight shipped to NY and then getting it to our apartment also wasn’t feasible.


For instruments – I’ve always used UPS.  They’re not the cheapest method of shipping – but the UPS stores I’ve been to do a better job packing than I would have.  It’ll cost you about $30 a box to do – but the shipping is determined by whichever is more expensive.  So in the case of guitars, the expense comes from the size of the box being shipped, so the weight isn’t a factor.  In once case I stuffed a heavy-duty music stand and instrument stand and it all got wrapped and shipped under the $30.  I shipped 3 basses together this way in 1 oversized box.

For my electric in a (high quality gig bag) they:

  • Wrapped the entire case in thick bubble wrap
  • Covered the case and the bubble wrap with an additional piece of card board (imagine a cardboard blanket)
  • put it in an appropriate sized box that was well tapped and
  • filled it with about 2 trash bags worth of peanuts.


So, yes you can do it cheaper on your own – but if you don’t have that much bubble wrap or peanuts handy (or a guitar sized box) – do you want to be running around trying to deal with that?


A note on UPS insurance:

You get $100 insurance on everything you ship automatically.  You can get more insurance BUT if you pack it on your own, they can dispute the claim because they don’t know what measures were taken to ship it.  So for that reason alone – it’s worth the $30 for them to pack it.


Tips on shipping guitars.

  • Slack the strings as much as possible before shipping them.  Strings usually break when you bring them back up to tension anyways, so if possible just take the strings off entirely and just plan on putting a new set on.   If you have an archtop style bridge you may want to lightly scotch tape it to the top of the guitar so it doesn’t move.
  • If I’m shipping the guitars in a hard case – I’ll usually run a little piece of bubble wrap around the neck where the neck is resting in the case.  Even though better quality cases have a lot of padding there, I’ve still gotten neck dings from the case in tough trips.  It might be paranoia now – but it’s worth the extra second to me.


Using the Po-O

The post office was invaluable to be in getting a lot of other things here.  All of the pedals and assorted small hardware shipped Priority mail.  In addition to the free box – the rule is: if it fits in the priority box – it ships – regardless of weight.  And I took full advantage of that.


Packing tip: 

A long time ago at a day job I had – I was berated by a boss for not using a full roll of tape on a computer box he was shipping.  “Tape is cheap – fixing something that fell out of a broken box is expensive.”  With the priority boxes I write the addresses in marker on the box – and then encase the boxes in clear plastic packing tape.  It addition to giving the box more support structurally (believe me I had some heavy things worked into those small boxes), it also prevents the address label from getting ripped off (lesson learned the hard way leaving Boston) and it makes the package less susceptible to rain damage.  Pedals were bubble wrapped as were expensive audio converters, headphones and other fragile items.


Music books, DVDs and CDs (remember them?) – were all shipped media rate in boxes I grabbed from the local pharmacy. The grocery store is a good place to look for odd sized boxes – but be sure to only use boxes with canned or dry goods.  You probably don’t want all you’re clothes to stink of rotting ice cream.  The heaviest boxes I shipped cost $20 or less to ship from one coast to another.  That’s an amazing deal to me.


A note on shipping USPS:

I don’t get insurance but I get delivery confirmation on EVERYTHING I ship.  The critical thing to know about this is that USPS isn’t well-organized with backtracking things.  So – when I shipped some priority boxes to Mrs. Collins (with – unbeknownst to me – about $1000 worth of flamenco shoes and accessories) and then misplaced the receipt – they had no way of looking up the package.


If you have the receipt and the confirmation numbers – they can find anything

without them – you’re screwed.


Organization is a key component to a move like this anyways.  If I was really organized this time I would have had a book, and a numbering system for each box where I could tell you exactly where anything.  The move was chaotic enough that it didn’t happen.  The plus side is that by keeping all the receipts (and the confirmation tags) – I could go through and make sure that everything got here (which it finally did).


This was of moving definitely isn’t for everyone.  You have to surrender some control and get used to the idea that things show up in a time frame when they do. But it’s worked for me so far.  It also had the additional benefit of exposing me to everything I was moving and allowed me to find some things I was looking for and get rid of a lot of things I didn’t need anymore.  “Do I really want to spend money to have this in NY?” got rid of a lot of things I wasn’t using anymore.
If I think of more about this I’l update the post.  In the meantime, if anyone else has thoughts or ideas about shiping instruments or moving by mail – please post them!
I hope this helps and as always thanks for reading!