Making music for Oligarchs

I read this quote last night, and it got me thinking for a bit about this business of Music.

First, one of the definitions of an Oligarchy: “A government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes”. In this case the government we are talking about are Major Record Labels, RIAA, Billboard, The Recording Academy(Who runs the Grammys), and music media.

So artists/musicians are making music for a small group of people who exercise control for corrupt and selfish purposes.

‘Tis true in my opinion that that is a very accurate description of the music industry today. You have artists who aren’t that interested in their fans, but spend most of their time making and producing music for approval from a select few. Once you’ve been “picked” by these authority figures, fans will automatically buy into it even if its not that good. And they will do it every single time.

There is your real business. Artists deal with music business people to get their attention and blessing. And whatever time is left over, they will pay attention to the actual fans.

However I will say that there are a few major artists who don’t like this at all. They are truly bummed that there is so little interaction with their fans.

If you are reading this, you probably don’t listen to today’s modern music. And most likely don’t care. I don’t think we are missing out on anything amazing.

“Making music for Oligarchs.” What an interesting sentence which is so sadly true.

I watched the Master on Saturday night, Carl Verheyen

Most people have never heard the name Carl Verheyen, but every single one of you reading this has heard his playing because he’s playend 1000s of other people’s song, commercials, and films.

Carl has such a great and unique style. What’s more interesting is that his unique style was something he has worked on. He didn’t just pick up and guitar and became instantly unique. He worked hard at making music sound different, fresh, and exciting.

After watching he and his band perform, I was struck at how the art of improvisation and communicating with the other musicians while playing is a lost art form. Today’s bands and artists don’t communicate much on stage because they have rehearsed themselves to perfection and possibly boredom.

How refreshing it was to see guys play around with dynamics, signal to each other when the improv was about to be over or when the ending would come. Here is the interesting thing. They have smiles on their faces, and so did the audience.

In other words, we love people who are human beings. Not music automatons who recite music perfectly note for note. To watch humans in their essence of being human is a wonderful thing. Something which everyone should have to opportunity to watch and be in that presence.

I can't help it, I'm a tech nerd!

Remember those days where it was so cool to be dumb? Nerds were lame and not popular. While playing in many bands over the years, it was still cool to NOT be smart. Over the last few years watching people integrate laptops and computers into live performance and watching other artists taking the time to understand how gear works, it looks like some musicians and artists are fine with being nerdy about technology.

And I don’t mean simply having a smart phone nor using social media. I mean really getting into how to program music parts, understanding how to sync up and sequence multiple pieces of gear and route things differently in order to come up with new and interesting sounds. I do this quite frequently, and many times its just to see what will happen.

I absolutely love my gear and learning new ways to use it. Its even better if its a piece of old gear and I learn something new many years later.

I hope as time goes on more and more people dive into new places. Perhaps it was cool to be dumb in school, or perhaps even your own teachers told you you were dumb. Time to ignore that crap, engage curiosity and jump in. The good news its safe to do.

I’m going to go experiment with a few things now. Why not?

Uggghhh.....these Space & Astronomy headlines.....

This is what I saw from National Geographic: Our Galaxy is due to crash into its neighbor - But when?

The truth is that none of you reading this will be alive when this happens in about 3.5 billion years. And even if it does happen there won’t be a spectacular explosion like in the movies. No because there is an enormous amount of space between the planets and stars so most of these objects won’t actually collide into one another providing some cataclysmic out of this world explosion.

I know they write these headlines in order to get you to click and read, because clicks are definitely being counted in our internet world. I believe in science and more specifically science dealing with Physics and the Universe at large. So these scary headlines in order to grab your attention with fear is a little annoying to me.

Then again a headline stating that our Milky Way will collide with Andromeda in 3.5 Billion years probably won’t get the clicks.

Yes I’m just venting at ridiculous headlines. Thanks for reading.

More brutal truths about guitar.

I saw someone post on The Gear Page how innovative a guitar pedal manufacturer was in creating a Dark Side guitar pedal. Instant Gilmour/Pink Floyd in a box. He felt more pedal manufacturers should do the same for other guitar players/bands.

Do I understand how as a guitar player wanting to sound just like your hero(s)? Oh yeah…absolutely. But the brutal truth is that a pedal isn’t going to do it. I thought about it further and recalled Gilmour’s opening solo on Shine on You Crazy Diamond. That sound is unmistakably a Strat. And upon a lot of experimentation, I discovered I got a similar response with my Strat by picking softly.

So the question is: If you want to sound like Gilmour, and more specifically his sound on Shine on You, why aren’t you asking for a pedal which sounds like a Strat? For example you have a cheap Ibanez with humbuckers, but you are really gunning for that Gilmour tone. Ask a pedal manufacture to create a pedal which will sound like a Stratocaster picked softly.

Yes of course this is ridiculous. But the Brutal Truth is that 1 pedal will not give you the sound and tone of your hero(s). There is so much more to the story. Saying it only takes a pedal is saying that your favorite guitar player is doing nothing special. Its easily replicated by buying a pedal.

Its easy to spend money on gear, its much harder to sit down, listen, and then try to emulate your favorite player by really listening and working on your skill as a player.

About the Grammy's

I read an interesting article about the disagreements between major artists and the producers of the Grammy’s. Some big artists are choosing not to perform. Now personally I don’t care about the Grammy’s. Even as an artist, I don’t really care who wins what award. Its just not my thing.

However I am fascinated reading about it because it appears the Grammy’s are continually loosing their appeal. So much so that the author of said article stated that it looks like the Grammy’s need the Stars more than the Stars need the Grammy’s.

How about you dear reader, I’d really like to know. Did you watch the Grammy’s? Is it something you are interested in? How do you feel about the author’s statement that the Grammy’s need the Stars more than the Stars need the Grammy’s?

The case for music and body

Hard to believe, but making music and playing guitar is not the only thing I do. Though music is my life, I do exercise fairly regularly. And I think this is important. It has been shown time and time again that there is a connection between mind and body. Your emotions and your body.

I have to take care of my body, because without it…..guitar playing is going to become quite difficult. I won’t be able to express my music in the exciting ways I’d like to do.

So don’t be surprised if you see me running, swimming, or cycling instead of playing guitar. Exercise is as important as the music itself. In fact they go hand in hand. :)

Brutal Truths about Guitar......the Magazines

The truth is that Guitar Magazines don’t care if you learn about guitar or get better at guitar. They are interested in selling magazines. Period. I totally get it, they are a business and want to sell sell sell. I don’t have any problem with that.

But if you do care about getting better at guitar, and do want to improve as a player……consider spending your precious time elsewhere.

I do give guitar lessons on Skype for those of you who do actually care. Reading guitar magazines are entertainment like TMZ, but it won’t make you a better player. Send me an e-mail, let’s connect. :)

Yes we do have an issue with our emotions......

Many years ago I had a beginning guitar student who was about 11 years old. I really wanted him to learn how to listen to music and describe the feelings of the music. After all music truly is about feeling and emotion rather than an academic exercise.

I played him music in a major key and a minor key. If you don’t already know, music in a major key tends to be very happy and uplifting. For example the majority of children’s music is in a major key. Sad melancholy music tends to be in a minor key. So does the majority of rock music.

Ok so I played the music for him and asked him how the music made him feel. What kind of emotion was being expressed. It wasn’t for me to tell him the answer, it was for him to determine it for himself. Both times I tried this with him he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know…….what?” As if we were in an elementary school classroom talking about textbook material like the name of the first President.

I get that he felt he was just in another class and the teacher will give you the answer unless you’re taking a test.

I tried this with teenagers as well and they did give answers but they questioned how they felt. For example, “Happy???????” was the answer. They weren’t sure what the right answer was, and looked up at me for the “correct” answer. Yeah…..I know being a teenager is a very confusing time especially for our emotions.

However if we can’t make a connection with ourselves on very simple emotions such as happy and sad, then this is an issue. We have these simple emotions as children, yet it seems to be beaten out of us(metaphorically speaking) as we grow older. Until finally we are too afraid to come to grips with the simplest of emotions.

Perhaps its time to realize what school and corporate jobs have done to our emotions. Nothing wrong with being human.

*For advanced students* - AC/DC is in a minor key, yet it makes me and probably you quite happy when listening to it. Now that’s a conundrum. :)

Brutal Truths about Guitar

Since I was improvising in a Mixolydian mode the other day, I thought I would look up what other musicians do when improvising in Mixo. They all do the same which is tell you the notes of Mixolydian. They pick the key and then tell you to use the scale to improvise. One guy at least showed he draws out chords in his playing rather than just simply going up and down the scale.

Cool, but why is it great players sound so good. Why is that even when we know the notes to play, or even the theory behind scales and modes, we still sound like ass.

Brutal Truth: Its all about rhythm. Why does the great players sound so good? Its their sense of rhythm. Its the way they play with the rhythm. The spaces in between the notes. The pauses for a breath, the mixture of eighth notes and triplets, and on and on. You can’t see rhythm in a youtube video. If you watch your favorite player, you still won’t see the rhythm. You can see their hands, you can see their instrument. But you can’t see the rhythm.

Even when you sit and look at your guitar, you don’t see rhythm. It has to be felt. You can see the notes and patterns all day long, but the brutal truth is you won’t sound very good unless you really understand and feel rhythm.

The good news is that rhythm can be developed. The good news is that knowing less notes yet having a playful sense of rhythm always kills. Knowing lots of notes and patterns and having a bad sense of rhythm will put an audience into a coma.

Learn rhythm!

Why does using computers feel like work?

My question here is very sincere! For example I have BassStation II Synthesizer. Its an absolute blast as I go on a sonic journey creating sounds with it. Yet if I use synthesizer plugin, it feels more like a task or “Work”.

Many people my age and younger are used to computers in our everyday lives. But I get so much more enjoyment from music using real instruments, turning knobs, playing strings, etc.

What if you aren’t making music, how about reading? Do you prefer a book and turing pages rather than reading on screen?

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons and tons of advantages to making music on computers. But there seems to be some fun playfulness missing I think.

What do you think?

Brutal Truths about Guitar

If you read my previous Blog post, you read about BE-ing a musical person and changing your mindset.

But here is another Brutal Truth for you. True or False, you play guitar with your fingers?

Most would answer TRUE. Brutal Truth: This is false. You play guitar with your body. And unfortunately too many guitar teachers would also answer that you play guitar with your fingers.

What’s really going on? As human beings we rarely think about many different things all at once. We zone in on one thing. When it comes to guitar, we emphasize what our fretting fingers are doing and forget everything else.

We don’t pay attention to our hand position. Or what are wrists are doing, our shoulders, our neck, our head, our tongue, legs, feet…..our whole body. Sometimes this is good because it provides a wonderful performance for an audience. Its bad if its affecting your playing.

There is tension everywhere in the body which will hold back your playing if you aren’t aware of it. Personally I notice it in my legs when I’m playing fast and complicated stuff. Its something I work on calming down because my tense start shifting my body into more and more uncomfortable positions. Which in turn start to affect my playing.

So look….go to to Youtube right now and watch your favorite player, but this time you are watching their entire body instead of the fingers. Watch how a lot of their body is being used while playing. They may be tapping their foot, rocking their body, singing, making faces, overusing their shoulder. Moving on the stage in weird ways. Yes they are playing well, but they are still using their whole body to play.

Remember: You don’t play guitar with your fingers, you are using your whole body.

Brutal truths about guitar

Perhaps you’ve heard these phrases:

“Tone is in the fingers” or the way to get the tone or the sound of your favorite guitar player is to use a particular Product(Insert name of amp, strings, pedals, etc).

Forget the guitar and everything you plug into. Here is the real reason why you don’t sound like your idol(s) nor do you play the way you’d like to play.

Tone and musicality start with the person. It starts with your head, your heart, your emotions, and who you are. Its your state of being. The gear is secondary.

It starts with a change in mindset. How do professionals and your idols practice and prepare? Find out and do it like that. How do they view the instrument, music, and their life? Yeah do it like that. Don’t like to practice or at least pick up and play on a regular and consistent basis? There is no piece of gear to help you with that mindset. Come up with lots of excuses as to why you aren’t learning new skills nor going down that path of musicians? Again that’s a mindset where there is no product to buy and solve that.

Yeah you have a job and family to think about. And of course those are important. But changing your mindset, and your internal being is absolutely free to do. Its cost is time. You can BE just like your idols yet still have your job and family. For example I can’t train exactly like an elite athlete, but I can have their mindset and train to a lesser degree than they do because I’m not an athlete for a living. But I have to have the right mindset.

BE that musician before worrying about the gear or even worrying about tone being in the fingers. It starts within you first and will radiate onward.

If you feel this is all really just metaphysical BS, cool. I’m fine with that. Keep buying the gear, the lessons, keep visiting guitar gear forums etc. But when that little voice inside you is still unhappy about how you’re playing or that you don’t sound like your idols…..then please come back and read this again. And again.

Moon Pillar

Gently yet suddenly, its creamy ray beams down to a snowy cold surface. Reflecting joy and wonderment in my eye.

The moon casts more of its diffuse light as far as I can see, and yet in this moment of solitude…..

I’m affirmed that my existence is real, pleasing, hopeful, and exciting.

Tomorrow is not so far off, I’ll make the most of it right now, whilst staring at the Moon Pillar.

Why I use a 40 foot Mogami guitar cable....

For one I use a Strat which can have a bright plinky tone. I prefer a warmer and darker tone. I saw a rig rundown years ago of Santana’s rig and he uses a 60 foot mogami cable. His tech said it was to cut down on the brightness and it gives Carlos lots of room to move on stage.

Mogami is not very expensive cable and it doesn’t have a super low capacitance rating either. But it is rugged cable. Truth be told, I step and trip over my cables all of the time. And I mean quite frequently. The last thing I want is to have a $100 cable I’m tripping and stepping on again and again.

I use Mogami because its inexpensive and you can buy bulk Mogami cable in numerous places. I use 40 feet because its more than long enough for me, and it EQs my Strat sound just right for my ears. The longer cable provides a “warming” pre-eq before hitting the amp.

No hard and fast rules when it comes to cables, you just have to experiment.

Let me know what you are using, I’d really love to know!!!!

Note: I may change my mind next month for all I know and use a short length very low capacitance cable. It seems our ears and minds are constantly changing what we think sounds “good”. Uggggh.

My phrases are stumbling, stuttering, and sometimes incomplete. I’m happy about that

When I was in music school, I had a female classmate named Dawn. She was a very cool person, but not that great at guitar, and she had little performing experience.  

Fast forward about a year, and Dawn & I were in an open counseling where we can get extra help and attention with our playing. She was improvising, and although she was tripping over her phrases, stumbling and stuttering, I could hear the huge improvement in her playing. You could hear she was on her way to making better phrases on guitar.  It wasn’t mindless rambling of incoherent notes, but tiny little musical phrases and some stumbles and pauses.

And lately when I improvise I hear these same stumbles, trips, stutters, and pauses. This is amazing for me because if this is what is happening in my playing, something is happening even though its not where I want to be just yet.

This is very much like children learning to talk. The phrases are very short, very simple and there are lots of pauses, stumbles and wrong ways of saying things. Yet you can understand what they are trying to say. And you just know that in time their sentences will get longer and more coherent.

Have you practiced at something and seen these stumbles and stutters? Its a good sign. :)

The infinite mystery of the Guitar Cable

So simple yeah? One end goes into my guitar, the other end goes into my amp or the first pedal. Yeah there are patch cables too, and there can be yet another cable which goes from the last pedal or interface to your amp. So many variations, but I really want to keep this simple and to the point. One cable from guitar to amp. Ok? Cool, let’s do this.

The cable itself already has sooo many variable. Lots and lots of people talking about capacitance and capacitance per foot, transparency of sound, brightness, darkness. How about the connectors? Some are great, some are crappy! I’ve actually had connectors which weren’t quite the right size and just barely didn’t make the connection to my amp unless I pressed them hard into the amp. What the Hell?

First thing to realize is that the cable does make a difference and you should spend time thinking aboutit even for a bit.

Things to think about:

The guitar cable does apply some EQ to your guitar sound before you even hit the amp. And this depends on the cable itself, how its made, and its length. Generally speaking, the longer the cable, the more your high end is rolled off, the more your signal level drops. Despite what most on the internet say, this can be a good thing. Eric Johnson and Santana use 40-60 foot cables for a reason.

You should care about cable construction as well as the warranty. Most people aren’t super gentle with cables, better construction leads to longer lasting cables. I like knowing that when I plug in there won’t be an issue so I can just get in and play. Whether performing or just sitting down to practice, the cable matters. You don’t want to waste your time dealing with a cheap cable. Durability matters!!!!! So stop buying the cheapest cables you can find.

Make your own cables? Its actually quite easy and there are tons of youtube vids on making your own cables and soldering. Personally I do make my own guitar cables.

Don’t worry about buying THE most expensive cable out there. DO experiment with cable length. Ask yourself if you care more about expensive and absolute perfect tone, or more about getting a good sound and durable cable. I care more about a good cable which is durable. Super duper cheap cables aren’t good for anything. Seriously, don’t skimp on cables.

Truly, we could just keep going on and on with guitar cables. There is a lot to it. Shoot me an e-mail, let me know your thoughts and experience with cables.

How streaming music pays the artists making the music

Most people nowadays stream their music through Spotify, Youtube, Amazon, Apple Music, etc etc etc. Quite literally any song you can think of is out there for you stream again and again and again. There is literally no scarcity to consuming music.

When there is a nearly infinite abundance of something its price comes pretty close to zero. So what do artists actually make when you stream a song?

There’s a lot of different factors but let’s take a simple example of a music artist who doesn’t write their songs. But they do have a record label.

If you stream 1 of their songs, they get paid about 1 cent for the stream. In reality its typically many times less, but I’m going to use 1 cent as the math will be easier. Ok, so they get paid 1 cent. But wait, the artist doesn’t have their personal bank account tied to Spotify. Nope. That 1 cent gets paid to their Record Label first. According to the contract with the artist, the label keeps its share and the rest goes to the artist.

So let’s say the label is generous and keeps 50% and gives the artist 50%. Then your one stream of their song give the artist 1/2 of 1 cent. Now think about this, if their song is streamed 1000 times, the artist would make $5.

Truth be told, I’m being very generous to the artist in this example because record labels typically keep these payments all to themselves until they are paid back for all of their expenses in recording and promotion.

Don’t get me wrong, you should stream music because you have that choice. Hell, I stream music too! But now you know how little artists make from streaming.