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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Things Every Serious Guitarist Should Know

If you’ve decided that you want to make a career out of music, or just want to play guitar for the rest of your life, then you’ll really benefit from knowing the following ideas and concepts. Overall, You’ll better a better musician and be able to live up to your greatest potential if you’re armed with this knowledge.

1. How To Setup A Guitar & Change Strings. You’ll save hundreds in the long run if you can setup your own guitars to make them play like you want them to. And strings break often, sometimes right smack in the middle of your jaw-dropping solo. Learn to change strings…. Fast.

2. How To Read Music. Although I rarely use notation, it’s really handy to know in a pinch. 90% of the time, I’m reading the timing and not every individual note.

3. General Amp / Guitar / Accessory / Knowledge. Knowing this info will really help you make better purchasing decisions. Having detailed knowledge gives you the power to purchased used gear, potentially saving you thousands of your hard-earned cash. Most of my gear is between 20-50 years old and purchased used. It works great!

4. Good People Skills (PR Work). I can’t really say enough about this. Having good, developed interpersonal skills will carry you a long way in life. It can help you get that gig, develop new business relationships or pull in clients. Overall, you can’t take back your first impression with someone, so make the best first impression you can!

5. Get Paid For What You’re Already Doing. Whether you’re a musician, repairman, circuit mod specialist, or guitar tech junkie, there is a way to get paid for what you’re already doing for fun! I know many successful musicians who have a side job, and make great money doing it. Why not you?

6. Musicians Are Flakes. a recent study shows there are more flakes per hundred musicians than a box of cereal. Don’t rely to heavily on the people around you who are “just doing it for fun”. Especially if you’re serious. When you join a band or group, it’s like a marriage. There are relationships, commitment issues….crackheads. But in all seriousness, ask yourself, “Would I marry these guys?”

7. There’s Always Someone Better Than You. So please, do us all a favor and stop comparing yourself to everyone around you. Being a shredder myself, I used to get jealous seeing someone better/faster/younger. And then, I just stopped caring. Now, I just care about making music that I love, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s very freeing. I have students who have the potential to be much greater than I in the next few years. That is perfectly fine with me. Everyone has a different amount of time, energy and resources to dedicate to their music life, everyone is unique.

If you have any other ideas of what is absolutely necessary for the serious musician to know, we’d love to see it here. Just shoot us a reply or a message and we’ll post it in the next revision. Thanks for reading!!


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pay to Play

So you’ve formed a band, practice regularly, cut a basic demo, and are finally ready to take that next step… Performing. Your friends and family are excited to see you play, the only question is, “where”? If you’ve done any bit of research, you’ll find that most establishments these days are on a pay-to-play basis, or otherwise known as pre-sale. So what is pay-to-play?

Pay-to-play is essentially a push for the venue to  garner more profits and reduce their responsibility. Here’s how it works.  You submit your demos to the powers that be at different venues, and get some interested replies. In fact, most of the clubs are interested in what you do, only thing is, they want you to buy approximately $200-$300 worth of tickets to ensure their profits. Doing so  now passes ticket sales and promotion responsibility onto you and you band. This is where things get interesting. If you happen to be lucky enough to sell your tickets (usually about  30-50 tickets per band), then you and your band will make a profit. However, if you don’t sell them all, you might just end up breaking even, or even worse, actually paying to play a show.

Most bands are so eager to get out and play, they will take just about any deal they can, and unfortunately this is often pay-to-play.  Often bands will start off making money off their ticket sales, but as friends and family tire of watching you play, you’ll start losing sales one by one, until playing becomes ultimately, unprofitable.

There is however, a solution. Many new venues see pay-to-play as a music crime, and thus are opening their doors to new bands, so long as they draw people. The key here, is learning to play a few gigs for free to prove both the quality of your music, as well as how many people you can draw. If you are willing to do this, you will actually open up many new doors, with venues paying YOU to play! This might take a bit longer, and require some patience, but believe me, your friends, family, and co-workers will love the fact you’re not trying to hawk tickets at them every week. Everybody wins!

So get out and play!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Giggin'

Often, the rank of a successful show is how many people show up, or how well you actually perform. This is simply not true. Although having a good-sized audience helps, and playing well is awesome, they shouldn’t be used as benchmarks for the success of a show. The success of a show should be dependent on one thing; education. Did you learn something from doing this particular show? If you learned something you’ve never thought of, or something you can apply next time to perform a better show, than that show was a complete success. I’ve done many shows, but no matter the crowd turn-out, or my physical performance, I’ve always made it a point to analyze the entirety of the performance to understand what I could do better next time. Typically the ideas you want to analyze are:

Marketing (Inviting friends and family, creating flyers, creating a buzz)

Setup (Setting up very fast and efficiently, and making sure you bring more than enough gear)

Performance (Playing well, and having showmanship)

Public Relations (Taking numbers, and e-mails to keep people informed, as well as get new gigs)

So the next time you play out, think about all these different aspects and hopefully, you’ll get a little better at each one with each new gig. ‘Till then, keep rockin’!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How To Practice

So often we get caught in the trap of practicing only the stuff we’re good at. Unfortunately, this also happens to be the stuff you already know. We tend to practice this material more, simply because it’s encouraging to our self-esteem to know we are still capable of playing well, and are not inadequate in our own eyes. The good news is, if you are practicing this way, guitar has become an emotional connection with you, helping to improve your self-esteem. The bad news is, if you continue to practice this way, you will seriously hinder your progress in the future. So here are few brief tips to help you maximize your practice routine, and get the most from every minute.

1. Warm-up. Enough cannot be said about this. Too often guitarists think a warm-up session is an unnecessary waste of time. Well, take it from someone who never used to warm-up before playing; you can develop tendonitis, and other repetitive motion injuries. It’s very important.

2. Stick to a Goal Each Practice Session. For example, a goal may be to nail a particular part down, memorize a chord, or even organizing your material. The idea is, every time you walk away from your guitar, you know you’ve accomplished something and can do things you couldn’t do before.

3. Try the 75/25 Method. Spend 75% of your practice time on new and developing material, while only practicing 25% of the time on material you already know and can do well. This means if you practice an average of an hour a day, you should be working about 45 minutes every day on developing material, and only 15 minutes on old stuff. This balance will help you maximize your time, as well as keep your confidence high.

Until next time, keep practicin’



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Build Your Own Pedalboard

So you’ve got the gear, you just need a place to put. Unfortunately, today’s new pedal boards cost quite a bit. We’ll here are some rough plans to building your own, for less than $30.

Items needed:
Large board
Plastic zip ties
Small screws
Small washers
Rubber feet
Velcro (optional)
Metal strapping (optional)

Tools needed:
Circular saw
Jigsaw (optional)
Drill
Screwdriver
Wirecutters or scissors for the zip ties

1. Start off with a large enough board to fit all your pedals, powerstrip, powersupply, and handle on. Make sure the board is thick enough so that it won’t crack, and that it’s not warped in any place.
2. Place your gear down, and mark drill holes for the plastic zip ties you’ll use to keep everything in place. Make sure to leave plenty of room between pedals for cables.
3. Mark off where you’re going to cut your handle at. You may want to cut it off- center if one side of the board is heavier than the other. This helps to balance it in your hand.
4. Zip tie all your pedals down loosely, making sure to have them all completely connected to each other. Make sure to tape all of your necessary power supplies to your surge protector BEFORE you zip tie it down, or you’ll have to cut them off and do it over.
5. Use small screws with 1-3 small washers on them to act as sway stops for your pedals. This prevents them from moving side to side. The washers raise the screw up, as well as prevent it from puncturing the other side of a thin board. Screw these into the board pushing the washers tight up against the pedal.
6. Cut your handle, and if you wish, wrap around notches for any extra cable from the power surge unit. Make sure to place the handle at least 3/4 into the board. If you place it too close to the edge, it will just snap with all the weight.
7. If your board has fairly heavy items, or you just feel you should, cut small pieces of metal strapping to fit around the handle, screwing them down. This creates both a larger, more comfortable handle, as well as strengthens this section of the board in case you accidentally step on it.
8. Add rubber feet of some sort to prevent it from slipping on un-carpeted surfaces.
9. Finally, tighten down all of your zip ties, cut off the excess, and Velcro all of your excess cable. You’re done!


Keep rockin'

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finding Musical Inspiration

So once again, you’re sitting, guitar in hand, trying to put the finishing touches on your latest song. Only problem is, you’ve been trying to put the finishing touches on this song, for the last 3 months.

We’ve all been there, writer’s block isn’t exactly pandemic, but it does seem to hit you with some sort of regularity. Overcoming writer’s block is really just as easy as changing your environment. So often, we practice, play, and compose songs in the same places, our bedrooms, living rooms, and maybe even the garage. The problem with this is the same reason why you prefer to write songs here, you’re familiar with everything, and everyone. You can’t really force inspiration, often feeling much like a tornado, it seems to take you when it wants to, and drop you off in the middle of some random thought that could have been the next mega-hit. You can’t force inspiration, but you certainly can prod it in the right direction. Some of the best music I have composed, was when I was completely out of my environment, camping in Idyllwild, or on the flat-top roof of my sister’s house.

So why would I do so much better playing in a completely different environment? The answer is simple. If you play in a different environment, you will have new things to sense. Different sights, smells, and sounds, all which influence the current moment. So the next time you find yourself with a headache-sized case of writer’s block, try walking to the front porch, or better yet, the local park, and see just how much of a difference a change of environment can do!

Keep Rockin'


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How To Gain Confidence

Years ago, I remember watching an X-Games competition for BMX biking where one of the entrants fell within the first few seconds of his performance. I knew from experience he was probably going to fall again. Unfortunately for him, I was right. The problem wasn’t his technique; he was obviously good enough to get into the X-Games in the first place. The problem was simply a case of blown confidence.

Our confidence tends to be compound in nature. Let’s, for example, re-imagine the previous scenario. If the biker had done well in the first few seconds of his run, his confidence would compound positively, earning him even more self-confidence.

So the real question becomes, how can we use our level of confidence to our advantage to help us earn confidence-interest? The real answer is failure. Failure and embarrassment are great motivators for us to work harder for what we want. Although these concepts may cause us to doubt our self worth and esteem, they also help us to realize we never want to feel those emotions again.

So the next time you do a gig, event, or anything else important to you, and it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned, just remember to use the experience to fuel growth and better your skills. As Aaliyah said so well, “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.”

Have any embarrassing music moments? We’d like to hear ‘em.

Keep Rockin'



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What To Pack In A Gig Back

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to a gig, realizing far too late I forgot some important piece of very necessary gear. Typically the gear needed is always the cheapest, most inexpensive item too. In all honesty, you wouldn’t forget your guitar or amp, but how easy is it to forget a battery? Now, after much experience and quite a few embarrassing gigs, I always take two kits with me; one I call my insurance policy since if it goes wrong at the gig, I can usually fix, adjust, or make-do with something in that box, and the other is strictly an emergency kit. Here’s a basic outline of what’s inside.

Cables
I play guitar and sing so I have both XLR and ” instrument cables. I tend to keep at bare minimum 5 XLR cables (for a total of 3 mics) and at least 5 extra instrument cables. Also, keep a healthy supply of patch (mini) cables, since they always come in handy. It’s also a good idea to pack adapters and converters. You may rarely use them, but when you do, you’ll be glad you packed them.

Extension Cords
This is one of the things I think consistently gets under packed. Try to have an extension cord for your pedal board, amplifier, rack, and at least 2 extras of varying length. Often, someone will pack one 50 ft extension cord thinking it will be long enough to reach the power sources. The only problem with that length is, you’ll be able to plug in your pedal board, but unless your amp is right next to your power conditioner, or an outlet you’ll have no way of plugging in your amp. I’ve found having multiple 8-20 ft extension cords is better in the long run. It is important to pack 3 prong plugs since non-grounded cables can cause shock which can cause death.

Repair Kit
Your on-the-go repair kit should consist of at least extra strings, string winder, wire cutters, extra picks, hex-key wrenches, various-sized screwdrivers, and polish and a cloth.

Miscellaneous
Make sure to pack thinks like masking tape (for taping down set lists), 9v batteries, pens, a notepad, an outlet tester, audio hookups for an ipod, pick holder and anything else specific for the type of gig you’re doing.

Lastly, try marking down the contents of your kit somewhere so when a band-member needs tape or an extension cord, you don’t have to get it for them, they can find it for themselves.

Keep Rockin’

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free Stuff From LessonsThatRock.com

So here’s the deal, we’ve got totally free stuff for ya including free bass and guitar tab, chord diagrams, blank fretboards, and best of all free stickers.

“So what’s the catch?”

There is no catch whatsoever.

Check out these cool links to learn more.

Free Stickers

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Keep Rockin'



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