Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why complacency will kill you

"He's gotta keep on rockin', he just can't stop. Gotta keep on rockin', that boy has got to stay on top, to be a Juke Box Hero, got staaaars in his eyes."

Hey rockers! Here's a political question for you that will pertain to guitar in a minute: How do you lose Sapphire- blue Massachusetts to a republican?

I guess you become complacent.

When I heard that Scott Brown had won the special election yesterday, I was floored. Then I was convinced that a certain campaign manager should be placed on a donkey, and shot immediately with a rifle used to hunt elephants. It would be symbolic, and only fair. Then I was comforted by the thought that the fact that they'll never, ever be hired again in that capacity.

Then I decided to add a few more years onto my life by breathing deep, chilling out, and trying not to get worked up about politics unless I'm involved in them.

And THEN I got today's lesson. To paraphrase Twisted Sister, Stay Hungry!

The students who really excel are the ones who just can't get enough of music. They're always asking questions, learning stuff on their own, jamming, starting bands, and just totally enjoying being guitar players.

And think of any artists you like - the ones that grow are the most exciting to listen to. Each album is a new palette of colors, and it's like watching a great athlete reach for the world record.

Bring it back to your creative process, be it guitar, art, sports, cooking, or drag racing. (Or whatever the heck you like!)

It would seem that the sharpened appetite precedes the lightning bolt of inspiration. By stayin' hungry, we create the thunderclouds from which inspiration can answer. Become complacent, and everything is a sunny blue day.

And stuff really doesn't happen when the weather looks like a travel brochure.

Thumb your nose at the clear blue sky, cackle when you see the thunderclouds, and next time anyone says "can't complain" when you ask how they're doing - Deck 'em. (And if you meet Martha Coakley's campaign manager, deck them, too.)

Learn the lesson from the epic failure of the Massachusetts Dems. Complacency will kill you!

Rock on!

- Josh

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Making of an EP - Live from the woodshed


Happy 2010! Boy, oh boy, I am ready for a rockin' year!

For starters, my CD, Northbound, is getting so close to completion. I hit my deadline of finishing the songwriting, and now I'm in the practicing phase.

I had a dilemma that perhaps you've had....The one of creativity vs. killer technique. For me, practicing scales and alternate picking is totally boring. I hate it. But - I realize it's the only way for me to achieve the level that I want to on the guitar. (Mind you, everyone's goals are different, so just because I say "Blah Blah Blah Scales Blah Blah Blah" doesn't mean you have to subscribe to this view to meet your musical vision - I mean, check out Kurt Cobain.)

But - scales have nothing to do with my songwriting process. I learned this lesson the hard way. Just because you have good technique doesn't mean you'll write good songs! Nine years spent on technique, and all of a sudden I'm playing catch up, and looking for a way to apply the skill I had gained. It's aggravating to be able to play all this goofy extreme rock guitar stuff, but not be able to come up with a cool riff that makes sense!

So for the past year and a half, I've been focusing on songwriting. I've improved drastically in that field, playing has suffered. It's gotten more creative, but my speed has declined, and the rust is creepin' over my fingers.
And I certainly don't want to put out an album of great ideas, but no chops to back 'em up.

Enter the practice phase: I've gotten my material written, arranged, and scratch tracks recorded. Now, I'm giving myself time to go back, use that metronome, and dust off my skills. They're coming back, I'm happy to say!

Now I'll know where to use those skills.

I guess life is made up of seasons and tides, and music is no exception.

Stay tuned! (Both on the blog, and make sure your guitar's singing properly!)

- Josh