Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where's your crown, King Nothing?

Ah, what a great tune...Metallica really kicks it on that one!

It reminds me of this dream I had a few years ago. I have the strangest dreams, like the time I was helping my very peaceful mother plot the murder of some scary guys (they had it comin'), and we were gonna buy the guns from old people with Alzheimer's, 'cause they were in a home, and they wouldn't remember who owned the guns...rendering them untraceable. The guns, not the people. Yeah....Doubly funny if you know how non-violent my mom is.

So, anyway, back to the first dream. I was fighting this monster in a swamp, and then I defeated it. I jumped out of the swamp, onto this giant bookshelf. I started jumping up level after level, and shelf after shelf. Each one was completely forlorn and barren, but I kept jumping...level up, level up. I got to the top, and - it was exactly the same as the other shelves.

This brings us to the related topics of ambition and competition.

Ask yourself: Why do I play guitar? (or do anything?)

I play for many reasons, and they subtly change over time. Number one is, of course, my deep love for music. I often feel that this love is inferior to say, Steve Vai's obsession with the guitar, but I'm coming to terms with that, and realizing that hey, this is how I like music, so there.

Competition used to be a very big factor for me, and it's one that I'd like to talk about. I was just discussing this with a client, and it's very tricky sometimes. Competition can give us great motivation, and will provide the discipline we need to excel. Empires can be built on three words: Eat my dust. And a dust cloud we may indeed make, conquering the world with a fearsome arpeggio storm, brotha!

Too often, however, competition turns fear-based. A good way to see if you're tying up your self worth in six strings is to watch this video. If you want to jump off a cliff, it's a pretty good bet that you might want to examine the concept of competition. I did, and I am.

Wouldn't it be nice just to play guitar for guitar's sake? Not to take over the world, or show Jenny what a man she lost, or Henry that his sweep picking is really quite substandard? It's amazing how many of us base our self-esteem on a role we play, be it a parent, a musician, or an athlete. If we're only worthy if we're number one, well, stay away from YouTube. Some four year old kid will cut you down with some shred, brotha. This unhealthy competition, for it is sick to need to prove ourselves with some weedle deedle notes, turns into a huge obstacle for authentic music.

I'm still trying to sort all of this out, and I'd be very curious to hear your thoughts on it. Go ahead and leave a comment! I've been pondering it for years, and have been competing even longer. It's getting old.

I mean, yeah, aim high, but - have fun, dude! Isn't this why we're musicians?

Rock on!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It ain't even croutons any more

Hey folks,

Don't they use stale bread to make croutons, those delectable bread crumbs you put on salad to make you forget that you're eating something healthy? (And usually isn't, after you're done seasoning it?)

Well, I picked up my copy of guitar player the other day, and at the top, there was another article screaming "ten ways to play like _______" (Hey, I gotta keep some anonymity here, so when I finally meet _______, they won't be like "I read your blog, dude, and I hate you." Like ____ would ready my blog. But still!) Suffice to say, this person has been rockin' out the guitar for many decades, and they are rightfully considered one of the top musicians in the field.

But - guitar seems to be getting so stale, that it's not even worth putting on lettuce any more!

A new bee flew right into my bonnet and started buzzing angrily around, yelling "when are people gonna put up or shut up, and start learning to sound like themselves?"

We settle for so much in life, and I see guitarists always consigning themselves to the tribute band mentality without really giving their own sound a try. I think this is because a.) it's a lot more work to be original, and b.) it's totally scary.

I'm working on inventing an electric solo guitar project, and some days it feels like I'm inventing a whole new genre. It's scary, there's no role model, it's untested, and did I mention scary? Ironically, the main reason I'm doing this is because I've had enough of smelly musicians, and I prefer to operate on my own agenda- But that German Farmer tendency looks like it's actually gonna serve me well.

So I boldly assert - let's try to sound like ourselves! Not just musicians - artists, architects, house husbands, every one. Learn what you can from the masters, and then surpass them. Have them pay money to come see you at your shows! This need not apply to only those among us with professional aspirations, either. All you basement junkies, rock the house in your voice.

And maybe someday, there will be a Guitar Player magazine with "Ten ways to sound like ____" on it, and it'll be your name.

If that happens, will you please show me what scale you're using?

- Josh

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Free Guitar Clinic!


If anyone is in the Waldorf area on Saturday, come on by for a free guitar clinic!
I'm hosting it for the community, and it's designed for people who have never played before. (But, if you're advanced, hang around, and we can chat at the end.) I'm super excited to be getting into clinics! I've wanted to host these for a while.

Here's the info:

When: Saturday, March 20th, 12:00 Noon.

Where: The Southern Maryland Business Center, 3195 Old Washington Road, Waldorf, MD 20602.

Who: Anyone. It's free!

Why: For the furtherance of Rock 'n Roll.

See ya there!

- Josh

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ya just gotta laugh

Hey hey!

I'm always going on and on about the musical journey, and what a trip it is. I know for a fact that each and every one of you reading this post has a tale to tell of your own travels as well, so I hope this ties in.

My quest for world domination has been entertaining. But sometimes, after reading a bunch of articles about excellence at guitar, and teaching modes for months on end, I forget about the joy of playing music. The pursuit of excellence can sometimes leave one breathless, unable to slowly inhale the fragrant air whatever, Joe, we can forget that we're rock musicians sometimes!

And I would imagine that would be true of any discipline, or walk of life. Hey all you train engineers - when's the last time you realized you were in charge of a gazillion tons of metal? (And also, train engineers, I want to co-pilot a train some day, so hit me up for some free lessons or something!)

One of my favorite guitarists also has a great sense of humor. Paul Gilber, of Racer X and Mr. Big fame, has one of the funniest sites I've been to in a long time. (Be sure to check out the photoshop section, and take the bass player quiz.)

Check it out, and rejoice in rock. That's why we're in this! Hey...Ya just gotta laugh!

Rock on!

- Josh

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hey Spammers - Brand new opinions needed for a simple AR-15 survey

Plus, you get to keep the bullet!


So some people have been spamming my blog. To add insult to injury, they don't even know me. They tried to post a comment for a hair loss product. I am Poodleman. I have plenty of hair. I will hunt them down. And make them read their bogus business opportunities. I'll make 'em read so many emails, Amnesty International will write me up.

Whew....OK, I'm done. Now, let me just pop my eyeballs back in, and continue on.

Hey, check it! Music has been a crazy journey for me so far, and I know I'm not alone in the Rough road travel club...I know for a fact that everyone has their own story of challenge, triumph, and insight, so this applies to everyone.

Sometimes I get major intimidated. I mean, like maybe I'll never amount to anything, I'm not good enough, I'm not pretty enough.....oops, channeling a figure skater there...

I attended to the 24th Annual Wammies last night. DC's version of the venerable Grammy, the Washington Area Music Awards showcase regional talent, and boy, there's a lot of it. I was so delighted to see one of my friends win an award for Best Traditional Folk Vocalist. What a well deserved recognition, too.

Anyways, I'm sitting there, watching all these fablous musicians, and well, I go inwards a lot of times, and have a lot of self doubt. I was talking to a buddy, and he mis-heard me and said "You said you were gonna quit music?" "No, no!" I stated, and thinking of that conversation later, it really made me think...As far as I'm concerned, I really don't have a choice in the matter of "if it's too hard" or not. This is what I want to do, and this is what I am going to do. There's only way way, and that's forward.

So who cares how hard it is! I'm hearing my own words echo in my head right now. I always tell my students "If it was easy, everyone would do it."

I think that we all have that choice - is this what we're gonna do? Then get it done.

I love that show The West Wing. In a particular episode, Toby and Josh are walking through DC at five in the morning, after having traveled all night, discussing how to re-elect the President. Toby says "well, it'll be hard." Josh says "Well....then we'll do what's hard."


- Josh