What if it doesn’t work? Risk Taking and Your Career

Not too long ago I went to check out a classical guitar built by Jean Larrivee, a builder know for his steel strings, but who started out building classical guitars under the guidance of a master classical builder. I took a steel string workhorse with me as a possible trade toward the instrument with the plan of selling my Gretsch Anniversary Model to help allay the financial burden. Yes, I’m thinning the herd to make room for something that falls into alignment with my musical goals and long-term direction. My train of thought, of course, was that if the instrument didn’t meet my expectations and requirements, it would not be purchased, but the intent was present and I fully expected that if it didn’t happen that day, it would in the imminent future.

I’m excited about moving forward, but nervous as well. Career decisions are always things that involve mixed emotions and I have been down this road before, sometimes with an aftermath of regret. But here I am, having passed my half century mark two years ago and looking toward both my immediate and long term futures, I can neither imagine myself at 70 doing what I’ve been doing for the past twenty years, nor can I imagine not being an active musician. I’m in this for the long haul and after already investing over forty years in it I cannot conceive of not doing it.

Everything we do in life that has some form of meaning to us involves taking risks, and hoping for a positive outcome. Whether it’s walking out on the stage for the first time, adopting a pet, or more significantly committing to our spouse and having children, life is full of risks. If we do not take these risks then we are not truly living our lives. We, instead, content ourselves with the status quo and insulate ourselves from challenges, never venturing outside of our comfort zones to find who we are capable of being, or what we are capable of accomplishing. I want to continue to grow as a person and human being as I age, and for me the best routes are through music and writing.

The Larrivee is currently residing at my home and the Takamine EAN40C is living with someone else. The Gretsch is going up for sale; I just haven’t posted the ad yet. My new guitar is an L-35 which has a really sweet voice and a nice balance across the strings. It breathes in ways that my other nylon strings don’t and has a much more expressive palette. I’m happy with it and am looking forward to enjoying a long and lasting relationship with the instrument as well as the music that issues forth from it.

Don’t be too afraid to take chances, just try to take the most educated risks you can. Yes, it can be a bit unnerving at times and there is always the chance that you won’t end up succeeding, but the upside is that we often learn as much from failing in our attempts as we do from succeeding. It helps prepare us for the next leap of faith, and if we succeed we reap those benefits as well before finding the next point to leap from. Often it is in the leaping that we learn that we are actually living.

Self-Knowledge and Your Musical Career

I’ve always had problems with straight lines; this is one of the areas where my ADD really kicks in. When I was a kid my friends used to call me ricochet because that’s how my thought process worked. It was all over the place, with sudden bursts of hyper-focus followed by multiple blasts of random but somehow connected ideas. This has always been a factor in my approach to my musical career, which on the one hand has been a blessing, but on the other has been a detriment. I’ve always wanted to do everything, frequently at the same time. I hear good jazz and I want to play it. I hear good classical guitar, and I want to do that. I hear a great funky blues bass player and man, am I there. And I’m quite enthusiastic about each shift, until repetition sets in and then I’m pining for a different direction that will take me somewhere else, somewhere exciting, thrilling, but mostly different. This has made me a quick study when it comes to stylistic and genre shifts, in some ways a Swiss Army Knife musically, or a good reliable musical chameleon. It also has made it difficult to become a true master of any one genre, because that takes dedicated long-term focus, which is quite difficult, particularly for those of us whose brains don’t really work that way.

We are taught from early childhood to measure and rate both our successes and failures. We are also taught that in order to measure where we are today versus where we were last week, we need to deal in a quantifiable means to do so. This means that we must set goals, both short term and long term, but it also means that these goals need to be specific enough to be measured in some way in order to determine whether we have fulfilled the requirements to qualify as achieving the goal. It is not enough to state that the goal is to become a better player or musician, we must also define what better consists of and how we are going to measure that. It is also highly valuable to go further by dealing with the question of why we’re doing it to begin with. I forget who said this but I was listening to a radio program dealing with improvisation and the artist being interviewed made the statement that he practiced so he had the physical skills and abilities to express what his brain wanted to communicate in his music. That’s a solid goal and it is definitely measurable, through self-reflection, review and analysis. It’s also a goal that ADDers can relate to.

I’m great with ideas, directions, short-term goals and bursts of focus. It’s how I’m wired, but long term goals and extended plans that range over weeks, months and years are the stuff of nightmares. There are so many opportunities for distraction that I find myself walking through a musical minefield that provides a multitude of triggers for shifts in direction and focus. So how does someone like me achieve a straight-line approach to building a satisfying, life long career in my field? The answer is painfully obvious as long as we look at from outside of the current conventional non-ADD model, and it is critical that we do so. ADDers are great at seeing connections between things that others might not notice. We are happier when we are dealing with variety; ironically enough it can help us focus. For instance, as musicians we are often faced with technical exercises like scales. They are a great way to build fluid and controlled finger skills, but can be amazingly boring simply due to repetition. In his book “Pumping Nylon,” Scott Tenant points out that there are many musical pieces that can provide the same benefit as running scales. By working those sections as an alternative to running conventional scales and you have the dual benefit of banking the advantages of scale practice with learning a new piece of music. This also provides a remarkably broad source of musical technical exercises for those of us who end up running away from our technical practice.

We also need to redefine what success is while embracing the way our brains work. Yes we do need to buckle down and do the work, but we need to find ways that we can do so and be happy both with the process and with the results. For instance, in my case I have a tendency to get down on myself because I have immense difficulties sticking with one genre of music. I truly love many different avenues. The fact is, I function best when I’m not boxing myself in, so when I’m dealing with multiple projects that deal with different types of music, I am a much happier person, which in turn means that I am a much happier, and much more productive musician. So if my definition of success includes being a happy and productive musician, then my chances of achieving this are greatly enhanced by pursuing multiple projects that inherently provide the variety I crave. If my definition is one dimensional, for instance limited to one area, and is guaranteed to make me unhappy then I definitely need to revisit my definition and re-evaluate what I am doing.

I also have a real need to perform, and this is one of my major driving factors, and also one of the ways I define whether I am succeeding as a musician. There is a definite correlation between how much I am performing and how happy and well adjusted I am in my day to day life. I have generally found it to be true that the fewer gigs I have in a month, the less happy I am. For one thing, I view music as my primary career and the most obvious and prominent measure of success is found both in the number of performances I have on my schedule and the amount of money that is coming in from my work. If I don’t have a busy performance schedule, then how else do I measure my success rate, by how much I am practicing? Well, that does play a major part in success, yes, but in reality the major reason why I practice is so I can perform/work. It defines who I am and what my purpose is in many ways. It has also has a major impact on my emotional well-being.

So, if I, like so many other ADDers out there, am going to move forward in my career I need to both embrace my mental process and define what a successful music career is for me, both now and in my future. This requires honesty and self –reflection, which brings about self-knowledge in terms of our identities and what makes us tick, both emotionally and rationally. In my case I need to accept that the straight line is not the best route for me and I’m not at my best when I try to force myself into that model. I need to embrace the fact that I am a multi-faceted musician, with many interests and the ability to pursue them simultaneously due to my wiring, but I also need to be aware of so I don’t permit myself to overcommit. Sometimes more is just more and not better. How about you? Are you comfortable with your current approach or are there ways you could modify it that would be to your benefit? Take the time to reflect because it will save you time and a lot of misdirected effort in the long haul.

Covers vs. Originals: Really? Another Argument?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed arguments in band situations about whether the band should perform original music or covers. I’ve also seen online arguments between original devotees and cover bands, which have essentially degenerated into accusations of selling out as if the concept of walking away from a gig with payment in hand is a bad thing. With bands it seems to all too often boil down to either/or, rather than a happy combination of the two, and it’s often not even a question of whether the band members can write material. Instead, it becomes a battle of concepts and whether or not members want to get paid to play, because somewhere along the line bands that play originals don’t expect to get paying gigs unless they “make it” in the grand scheme. Personally I’m the kind of guy who wants to get the cake and eat it too, so the entire back and forth makes no sense to me. Plus, having come from a conservatory background with intensive training in classical music the whole concept of an evil associated with playing “covers” is kind of preposterous. It’s repertoire, the bread and butter of making a living. Additionally, there is a long history of guitarists producing new works while simultaneously performing other folks’ pieces as well.

Let’s face it, not everyone can, or is willing to put in the time to create their own pieces of music. This does not mean that they can’t be stellar performers of other people’s creations, nor does it mean that they are not creative. It takes an immense amount of skill and creativity to translate someone else’s ideas into a living piece of music. Whether it is reproducing an existing piece note for note, or re-arranging a piece to better fit the performer’s personalities, it is a creative act, and it is work. Simply playing all the right notes at the right time doesn’t breathe life into a piece; there’s something more that happens when the performer has come to live with the music and reflect his or her own experience through it and the relationship that has been built with the piece, whether it is Beethoven, Bruce Springsteen, Prince or Charlie Parker.

And then there’s jazz. Yes, some groups and individuals write their own material, but it is truly amazing how many folks are still recording and performing standards that have been in place for decades. There have even been movements to start incorporating more contemporary pop/rock tunes into a new group of standards in order to break fresh ground while maintaining a common jumping off point. Jazz is particularly interesting from this perspective because it is often based on essentially playing covers, however the end goal is that each time the cover is performed the end result is different due to the improvisational nature of the genre. The individual tune provides an overall structural map, complete with a melodic starting/ending point. There is also healthy respect between those individuals who are writing new pieces and those who are performing standards. Both camps willingly recognize the creativity and skills required by what they are doing. This is also generally the case with much of the Blues that is performed as well.

No, this seems to be something that is relegated to the current pop and rock performers and I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve played; East coast, Southwest and Midwest, mostly among the younger folks who seem to be eager to suffer for their art and decry anyone they deem as not suffering the same way they do. The concept of working out sets of covers that can coexist with the bands’ original material seems to be something from the past, back when you got the gigs and expected to be paid, worked in your own angle on things and gradually worked in your own material until it was what people were coming out to hear, people who weren’t just your friends, current squeezes or coworkers. When you got a gig, you played for the night, at least three 45-50 minute sets and you didn’t wait to gig until you had enough original material. You put together a show, and started moving in your original material as you produced it and mixed it in with other material that made sense stylistically.

We all pay dues, and at the end of the day the real questions are how we performed and who did we touch with our performance. We also all have egos, as well as superiority and inferiority complexes. Over the years I’ve played in fully original bands, cover bands, bands that mixed covers with originals as well as both a classical soloist and ensemble player. The situations that brought the most pleasure inevitably were the ones that mixed things up, which brought the audiences closer to the band. Music requires an audience; for most performers it is not a complete experience without an audience and the more actively attentive and positively interactive the audience is, the better the experience becomes for everyone involved. The whole either/or exclusive approach, particularly when coupled with embattled egos, does no one any good. If anything, it stifles an art that is all about expression.

How to Get Fired from a Band

Often bands are faced with the dilemma of what to do about a band member who isn’t quite cutting it on one level or another, and all too frequently it can be a situation where the member in question has brought the band to the edge of dissolution. Bands that work are made up of people who share the same goals and aspirations for the band, who maintain mutual respect for each other and where each member is contributing to the best of his or her ability. Problems with members do arise and frequently can be resolved without it being a make it or break it situation, but just as often a problematic band member can result in the demise of a band if he or she is not fired. The two areas that most often lead to band members being asked to leave are being difficult to work with, and a lack of professionalism either during rehearsals or performances.

Any time we work with other people we must deal with personalities and differences of opinion. Being in a band is no different and there will be issues of varying severity. It is not necessary to be friends, but there must be a certain level of mutual respect present if things are going to run smoothly. Some people are drawn to drama like vultures to road kill and where ever they go drama soon follows. Drama kings/queens spread issues like cancer and these issues can become terminal cancers for the band if not surgically removed quickly and efficiently. Drama takes many shapes and forms but is not the only negative personality issue that can lead to being released; being disrespectful of others whether through verbal abuse, physical actions or general abrasive behavior can lead to dismissal. Threatening band-mates physically, being difficult to work with, and threatening to quit in order to get one’s way, particularly in conjunction with any of the above are prime motivators for the band to release a problematic member.

A lack of professionalism on the part of a band-mate is another reason people are asked to leave, whether it is during rehearsals, live performances or both. Respectful behavior is part of professionalism and is expected whether you are in a garage band, semi-pro or professional group. Rehearsals, while fun for many, are also work time. The purpose is to work on the tunes that are the current focus, put together set lists, determine who is doing what and various other things. If people show up intoxicated from alcohol or other substances, this impacts the quality of the work being done and takes away from productive time. Repeated lateness, or not showing for rehearsals, impacts what can be accomplished, as does not being prepared to work on the tunes assigned for rehearsals. Disruptive behavior, such as abusive and abrasive interjections, temper tantrums or bringing non-band members to rehearsals, also negatively affects the quality of work done. Most of us have a limited amount of time to accomplish things so any detraction from this can have a major negative effect on the band. Repeated incidents of these types of behaviors, especially when there are multiple infractions or types of disruptions, usually will result in a band member being asked to leave the group.

Some folks are willing to be more lax with professionalism during rehearsals but a lack of professionalism at a performance is completely unacceptable by any group that is trying to be successful at any level. It really doesn’t matter how big the venue is, or even how many people are in the audience. Every performance should be dealt with as a performance. If unprofessional behavior is tolerated at “unimportant performances,” it will show in larger venues as well, and may very well determine if the band is going to get to those venues at all. Establishing a reputation as being a band that is consistently late also harms bands. Similarly, having crucial members not show for performances has a major negative impact on the band’s reputation as does finishing before the agreed upon stop times. Band members who have temper tantrums on stage hurt performances and stage presence. Playing too loudly in relationship to the other members also has a negative impact on the band as a whole and actively resenting and pushing back against requests to turn down volume levels causes strife, resentment, and a bad performance experience. Being impaired, whether through anger or chemical issues, brings the same result, a sub-standard performance that effects everyone on stage negatively, which in turn effects the audience negatively, which leads to bad ticket receipts and not being asked back. Band members who consistently exhibit these types of behaviors should expect that they will be asked to leave the band.

Granted, we all have our moments, our errors, and our bad days and it would be a sad thing if one such incident would result in our being asked to leave. Sometimes we make one single unforgivable error that results in banishment, but usually getting fired from a band results from the culmination of many things. If a band is going to survive as a unit for any amount of time at all, the bottom line always comes down to what is best for the band. Happy band members ultimately produce the best music and it is important to maintain a healthy environment for all of the members to express themselves in. However, if one member is poisoning the environment, then that member must be sacrificed for the benefit of the many.

Nylon or Steel: Yeah, I’ve Got an Opinion on That!

Over the forty some years I’ve been a guitarist I’ve played and owned a ton of instruments ranging from plywood topped to hand crafted guitars. I’ve fallen in and out of love with many different types of guitars, and yes, there are many which I will always regret parting ways with. I must say, however, that when in the hands of a trained performer, nothing really compares with a quality acoustic nylon string in terms of tonal palette or as a vehicle for sensitivity and expression.

The trained performer/player is an important caveat when it comes to classical guitars, because so many different things impact tone production on the instrument. Steel string guitars are much more forgiving when it comes to tone production, regardless of whether you play with a pick or fingerstyle. The type of pick and the angle of attack do make a difference, but obtaining good tone on a steel string is a much simpler problem to solve. Likewise, when playing fingerstyle the angle of attack and having a decent nail surface has an impact, but when it comes to a nylon strung instrument the need for attention to detail is elevated significantly. Nail care becomes a serious need, often involving multiple files and ultrafine grit sand paper for finishing the process. The shape and smoothness of the nail edges make a huge difference in tone production, as well as angle of attack and where the string is plucked. Different finger stroke techniques also come into play and have a much more pronounced tonal shift than when done on a steel string.

The tactile experience of playing a classical guitar is quite different from most steel strings, and is one that I find to quite pleasing. The strings themselves are much more pliable than steel which effects both the tone and the responsiveness to manipulations like pull-offs and hammer-ons. I find them to be less fatiguing to work with as well due to their softer feel. Classical guitars tend to run smaller in body size than most steel strings, although there has been a shift here due to steel string builders producing a wider array of body sizes over the past 30 years or so. Classicals also have wider and much flatter fingerboards, often not having any radius. The standard classical guitar fingerboard is 2” (52mm) wide at the nut with a 650mm (25.5”) scale. The scale length is pretty much the same as most steel strings, but the width is significantly wider which allows much more independent movement for both the fretting fingers as well as the plucking fingers. I find this to provide an optimum ergonomic situation for most of the music I am interested in working on, particularly when dealing with multiple voices working through the pieces.

Classical/nylon string guitars do have some drawbacks. For one thing, due to the nature of the instrument and the strings themselves, they are more quickly affected by shifts in heat and humidity, which affects the stability of the tuning. The strings also stretch much more than steel strings, which requires time to establish stability. Generally speaking, changing steel strings on the same day as a performance is not a big issue, and breaking a string is a quick fix. Nylon strings both take more time to install on the instrument, as well as to stabilize. This necessitates a playing in period, so a broken string during a performance is going to have an effect on the rest of the evening. However, most of this can be dealt with through planning ahead and staying on top of regular maintenance. If you wait until the strings break on a classical to change the strings, your tone will already be suffering more than doing so on a steel string anyway.

All in all, while steel strings and nylon are technically the same instruments, guitars, they do tend to frequently serve different musical purposes and are in many ways different animals. One would certainly hesitate to use a concert classical to play in a bluegrass ensemble, for instance, because the instrument was never designed to perform that purpose whereas a steel string dreadnought specifically does suit that job. However, from my perspective the concert classical has it hands down over the dreadnought when it comes to range of tonal color and sensitivity any day.

Curing the Relocation Blues

While moving to a new place can be motivated by a new job, an educational opportunity, or simply a search for something better, it tends to have the same end result. You’ve left your comfort zone, the place where you’re known and familiar with, in favor of many unknowns, uncertainties and a new adventure – if you can spin it that way. For a musician, moving brings it’s own worries, anxieties, excitement, and an inevitable period of downtime from the gig circuit. If you’re like most musicians, performing is a need, not simply an “it would be nice to . . .” and as the boxes are unpacked, your instrument keeps talking to you from the corner, begging for attention. Making time to practice helps take the edge off, but you feel the need to get out there and get back into performing, playing with others and being involved in the musical community. But how? You have no contacts, aren’t known and don’t know where to go for help. The good news is that there are resources out there to help you find your way into the new local music scene, whether you are a pro, semi-pro, weekend warrior, hobbyist or somewhere in between.

Scouting out the local music stores is a good place to start. Logically enough, the Yellow Pages and your computer are good places to find what stores are in your area and how to get to them. You’re going to want to know this anyway, since you’ll inevitably end up needing either supplies or repairs at some point or other, so any way you look at it it’ll be time well spent. Take a notebook with you, or something that you can store information in, and if you’re feeling confident some self-promotional fliers to post. Most music stores have bulletin boards where musicians can contact other musicians. They’re used by bands looking for members, advertising gigs or CD releases, or by musicians looking for duo partners or whatever else they need. While you’re there, check out the store and the equipment lines they carry. It’ll give you a feel about whether the store can help you in the future. Talk to the sales staff and let them know that you’re new to the area. Usually these people can provide a wealth of information, and it’s in their best interest to help you out – it’s how they build relationships with customers who will happily conduct business with them in the future. Find out if they handle equipment repairs and if they know of any open mics in the area or other ways to meet players.

Open mikes are a great way to meet other musicians and start to network. As mentioned above, you can find out about the local ones from the music store staff or you can hop online and find listings on the inter-net from sites like http://openmikes.org/. Find out where the ones are that are going to fit your playing styles/interests and show up early. Most open mike hosts have-sign up sheets, and if it’s a popular one the sign-up sheet can fill up fairly quickly. Some don’t use a sheet; the host keeps his or her eyes open and notes who comes in with an instrument. It’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to the host and ask what the procedure is to play. Never expect that you’ll necessarily get up on stage, but always hope to. If you get your spot, don’t change your mind and bow out, do it. Most open mikes are nurturing situations that encourage beginners to get up and play as well as seasoned players. Others aren’t quite as tolerant. Get a feel for the situation, and as usual bring something to write with. You’re there to have fun, but also to make contacts. Bring some cards with whatever contact information you’re comfortable passing out. Introduce yourself to players, pass out the cards and see if you can get contact information. If you get a chance to play, do your best but remember to let the others on stage have their chance as well.

So, you’ve done some ground pounding by scouting the music stores, posting fliers, and attending a few open mikes. There are still some other options available to you, not the least of which is the internet. There are many web sites dedicated to helping people find other people, and many of those cater to musicians, artists, and writers. Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) is a great resource for quite a few urban areas across the country, especially areas that tend to be more technologically savvy. You can post, reply and read musical want ads from the comfort of your home, request information about the scene: you name it; it’s there. This can be a great asset, especially since it’s free and covers areas from national to local. There are other sites which serve smaller and more localized areas, and there are also pay to use sites that perform the same services but charge subscription fees.

If you choose to post on one of these sites, there are several things to consider. First of all, it’s always a good idea to avoid directly posting your contact information. Remember that when you post you’re taking a risk – no one else is screening the replies you get, so take advantage of whatever anonymity protection the site can give you. Don’t post your address, and try to keep private information secure. Using the anonymous aspect gives you a buffer so you can decide whom you want to take a risk on in replies and further contact. What type of thing should go in your posting? Primarily what you are looking for and what you have to offer. Focus on your abilities and what you want to find, not your equipment. False modesty isn’t your friend here, but neither is over-stating your abilities. If you successfully make a contact, or get an audition, you’re going to have to deliver what you said you would.

While the internet is a great resource, not everywhere you might relocate to is a hot-bed of technological prowess. Another less technological resource is the local entertainment newspaper. Many urban areas have their own independent entertainment publications which feature arts calendars giving the lowdown on what’s going on in the local music, art, theater and cultural scenes. There are frequently advertising sections related to musicians seeking musicians and a whole lot of live music venue advertisements as well. These can help you ascertain just how active the local scene is, what venues cater to different types of music, and help you find places to catch local and national acts performing.

Depending on your perspective, another way to get involved is to find a music teacher and take some lessons. Most of us could use a touch up or two in some area of our playing, or have an area we’re interested in that we haven’t worked on. Finding a teacher can help you address these aspects, as well as provide you with a resource to find people to work with. Your local music store is a good place to start for this, or contacting the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) local can help you find a teacher too.

Some might find joining the AFM useful, particularly if you’re planning on going pro or semi-pro. While the union has nowhere near the presence it did years ago, it’s still the only way to get into certain types of musical work. The union can provide many things such as access to playing in musical theater, pro recording situations, built in networking, contracts, legal representation and all sorts of other benefits. The national website is http://www.afm.org/. From there you can find your nearest local.

While moving can interrupt your musical life, it’s not necessarily the end. In fact it can often lead to a much better situation, and help you to focus on what your actual musical needs are. Whatever the reason for the move, there are resources available like local music stores, open mics, entertainment weeklies, websites, instructors, and even the musicians’ union that can help you reconnect and cure your relocation blues.

A Sense of Direction

Yesterday I brought home a Larrivee L-35 classical guitar. It’s a 1995 and has a very sweet well-balanced voice. Jean Larrivee is known for his company’s steel string guitars, but he got his start as a classical builder, studying and building for a master of the art. There are no classicals currently being built in the Larrivee product line and haven’t been for some time from what I understand. Mine is a 1995, and is quite clean on the whole. There are two professionally repaired humidity cracks, which are actually even difficult to see. When I purchased the instrument I traded in a Takamine EAN40C with smoking low action and a nice acoustic sound, another discontinued model (actually renamed), and I’m planning to sell my Gretsch Anniversary Model to help allay the additional expense, thus thinning the herd while bringing in a better classical guitar. My purpose in doing so is a long-term shift in focus musically, one that will allow maximum growth potential and longevity as a viable performer. After over forty years as a musician I cannot conceive of not being a musician for the rest of my life, and I want to ensure that as long as I am on this planet I am evolving as a musician.

For the past twenty years or so I’ve been working as a musician in bar bands, and dance combos with the occasional foray into jazz. My educational background was primarily classical music, but I deviated from that long ago to explore other opportunities. These other experiences have had their rewards along the way and have allowed me to be an active performer over the years, but I’ve always felt that I left something of worth behind me by doing so. In many ways from a personal perspective I took the easier road where I didn’t have to spend hours working on pieces to make them sing and I could rely on the thousands of hours I’d already spent in the practice room to carry me through. Honestly I still function this way in the bands I work with. If I know how the song sounds, and the form is present in my head, doing something that works for it isn’t too difficult. It’s essentially music minus one in my head, now let’s play it on the gig. If I’m uncertain, I chart it and bring the cheat book to the gig – I read, even sight-read, very well.

Formal guitar music and performance is an entirely different animal, from equipment requirements, to performance requirements, to the actual music. It takes cumulative work, constant attention to detail and a conscious dedication to moving forward. It also takes an inherent interest in the pieces and interpretation thereof, as well as focus. There is purpose in practice and a respect for the music that is being produced, as well as conscious connection. I am seeking this connection, this focus and a sense of self-fulfillment; these are things that I have been missing in my musical practice as a popular music based performer. I have enjoyed what I’ve done over the past twenty years; I’d be lying if I said otherwise, but I haven’t had a sense of fulfillment from it. I don’t find that connection to something greater than the self, and while I might have fun I don’t feel like I have grown, or contributed to someone else’s growth, through doing it.

My shift back toward formal music has been brewing for quite some time, but I think that my perspectives about it are much healthier than they were when I was in music school. For one thing I have a much more egalitarian perspective toward different genres of music. I’m not about to stop listening to a variety of things, nor am I going to cast aspersions upon any of them. It’s not about that; it’s about what fits for me, and my journey. I’m also not in it for the competitive aspects. As a young guitarist I was, somewhat unknowingly, extremely driven by competition, or at least a sense of competition with my peers. Yes, I still want to be good, but the only better than that I want is to be a better musician than I was yesterday. This is a much healthier perspective, I think, and one that leads toward a more enlightened approach to one’s art.

So here I am on the next leg of my journey, heading into the forest with a twenty year-old new guitar. I am content, but simultaneously excited by the possibilities in front of me for the first time in quite a while. I have a lot of work to do in order for my hands to accommodate to this change, but it’s all part of the journey and I’ve got the rest of my life to get there. There is a refreshing simplicity to it as well, because it’s just me, my guitar and the music; no props, pedals, or other various implements of distraction. Now, the big question is what am I going to do today to get me closer to my goals?   Sit down with my new guitar.