Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are you a mover or shaker, foo?

Hey hey!

It's been a crazy good week! I gave my second clinic yesterday to about thirty homeschooled kiddies who aspire to play the guitar. What a great time! I was running up the road to get to my teaching studio, and I decided to stop to get a sub. I'm standing in line at Subway behind two little old ladies who only wanted HALF of a six inch sub, and wanted to know the price of everything, and were in no hurry whatsoever. It got me thinking about several things. a.) would a stray hair curler most likely left in their hair crumble when I smote them for taking up all my time, b.) how nice it must be to have all the time in the world, except of course, that they'll probably die next week, and c.) how it's gotta suck to be old. Ha ha!

And d.) if I ever run for political office, how you guys will either blackmail the heck out of my bank account, or bury me with all these things I say.

Old people don't seem to like the Information Age, and believe it or not, I'm starting to side with them in a roundabout sort of way. Oh sure, I'm a proud shareholder of Google (I have exactly one share), and I have a feeling my fortune will, at least in part, have a .com after all the zeroes on the check!

But information can be insidious in how it robs us of our power of conviction and action. I see it all the time with my students, especially my clients above thirty. They want to learn the best way, and in seeking the shortest path to the top of the mountain, they spend their day reading the map at the trailhead while everyone else already has their hike on!

And this debilitation in the name of research isn't limited to guitar - on the contrary, I see everyone talking about how to be better people instead of actually going out there and doing the work. This is a broad theme that can be applied in many disciplines.

If you can't think of anyone, how 'bout the person reading this blog right now? AW SON! Gotcha! Well, OK, a little training here and there is OK.

But we need to know when to draw the line, stop researching the perfect running stride, and jump on to the track. Hit the ground running! This brings me to a cheesy point and a question:

Are you a mover or a shaker? Do you get stuff done, or stand there trembling, wondering the best way to do it?

(I tend to be the latter, unfortunately.) But you know what? Before you go out to buy a book on motivation...You know all you have to do to make the transition?

Just start.

That's it!

Rock on!

- Josh

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom's greatest hits


I sure you hope you fellas remembered today is MOTHER'S DAY! I did. (Whew!) I'd like to take a few paragraphs here, and a departure from the normal music vibe, to tell you a bit about my mom.

First off, there's a misconception going around the internet in general, and facebook in particular, that, for example, Joe's mom, or Sam's mom is the best. I'd like to settle any and all rumors, and say for a fact that, sorry Sam, it ain't so. Mine's the best. There. Now that that's been cleared up, we can move on.

I've learned from being raised by Mom that it's not a job for the faint of heart, under-qualified, or lazy. Fortunately, unlike Joe's mom, my ma is none of these things. She did all the usual...Great cooking, reading to us three boys, home schooling us (a herculean effort, to be sure, as we were adverse to learning), teaching us to be kind, and letting us climb trees and catch fireflies. Then there was the unconventional, selfless giving - like the time she delegated the only spare room in the house into a model train room for me. We built an 8'x8' train set, and it was awesome. Or when she gave me half of her studio space to build my own little teaching studio in it...AND let me graffiti the wall to make it look rock 'n roll!

As we grew older, she has evolved into a senior-level cabinet member, a chief-of-staff of sorts for us. Here's a few (paraphrased) lines from conversations we've had over the years...Now, these are the funny lines...I can't even begin to count all the kind, compassionate advice and guidance she's given me...BUT - these are not included here because, a.) go to Hallmark if you want to read mushy stuff, and b.) these quotes are a heck of a lot funnier!

Shopping for an unconventional outfit for my (homeschool) senior prom...
"WOW, these yellow chuck taylors match that cummerbund with the Toucans on it! Buy 'em!"

When I was five, living in Greenbelt, asking how dating works...
"Well, let's say you meet someone...say her name is Nancy. You say "hey Nancy, you wanna go for a walk?" You take a walk with her, and you have a good conversation, and you get to know what she thinks." (I felt the butterflies in my stomach way back then!)

When I was fifteen or so, sitting around the kitchen table trying to figure out a career path.

"Well, it looks like a choice between the sciences and entertainment...." We both looked at each other and said..."Entertainment!"

On careers in general...
"Follow your heart, and the money will follow."

When I was fourteen, and said "Mom, Dad, I think I wanna dye my hair blue."
"It's about time!"

On girls...
"What are you doing with that loser, Josh? What do you see in her?" Then my brothers start chanting "Dump her! Dump her! Dump her!"

On basketball at first glance, trash talkin' at second...
"They used to call me Hoops Lorei!" (I think we figured it out after "Ollie 360 Lorei")

On Killswitch Engage...
"What is this stuff? Little boy music? Get me some real metal."

When I was twelve, and really into bird watching...

"If you like birds, then make 'em your thing! Hey, why not become a world famous ornithologist?!"

(That was especially cool, because it made me believe I could do anything I wanted, and be really, really good at it. I carry that lesson to this day.)

And, perhaps the most fateful...

"Why don't we get you an electric guitar? You can try out Uncle Mike's, and see if you like it. "

Thank you, Mom. You've done, and continue to do, one heck of a job! Happy Mother's Day!

Love always,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mike's advice


Got some great insight for you today...Actually, it's from my buddy Mike.
I've known Mike from Driver's Ed way back in the day...We both suffered through a program we were sure was run by the mafia. I mean, the instructor was an old Italian guy, and he hated the class. We were pretty scared. For example, the first day of class, the dude holds up a steering wheel. "This is a steering wheel" he says. "No KIDDING!" the class yells back at him. He snapped, yelled at us, and we were all scared of him ever since. During the two weeks of terror, since we were sitting at the same table, we found out we were both musicians. While some of the other kids were on a smoke break (and they were really smoking, and it wasn't tobacco), I got to chatting with Mike, and we've been friends ever since. Mike showed me how to mix live sound, and he's off in LA doing sound for movies and TV shows right now. (He's a great example of how a great work ethic gets you far.) I'm always calling him up asking for advice about recording gear. I've asked him a million questions, and he's walked me through setting up a great little home studio.

But listen up, all you gearheads - remember, the gear serves the music, not the other way round!

I was asking him if he thought I should get another piece of gear to finish tracking vocals on my CD (which has been in the works for almost two years), and here was the quote of the week!

"People are always looking for the next piece of gear to sound even better, but there comes a point where you just gotta say "I'm recording this" and focus on the creativity, not the gear."

Bravo, bravo! Well said, Mike!

Draw a line, state what it's going to sound like, and get it done!

Rock on!

- Josh

Monday, May 3, 2010

A mega, mega justification

Somebody get me a DOCTOR!

My adopted sister pointed out that I have the fatal signs of G.A.S. today...Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Yes, yes, it's true! I just ordered THIS:

Ohhhhhh Boy! I can't wait for it to arrive! It matches my yellow and black Nike's (courtesy of my mama!)

"Doc, is it bad that I bought a guitar to match my shoes?"

"No, son, it's called having an image."

Yes, yes. I can no longer justify guitars as tax breaks, even though they are. I am writing this one off in my mind as a necessary expense of visibility, which is what I'd like to discuss today.

I learned a lesson the easy way last year when I was playing my first stadium gig. OK, OK, I was one of many local musicians playing at a sub-minor league stadium for a charity even, and only a smattering of people noticed me, but - there were close to three thousand people there, and I did get to say "What's up, Waldorf? Are you ready to ro000ccck?"

One of my buddies said he showed up, and saw my rig set up from across the stadium...He wasn't sure it was mine, but then saw the Plutonium orange Ibanez RG and said "oh yeah, that's Josh's setup."

Visibility, be it literally, such as highway safety colored guitars, or from a multitude of positive interactions with people, is something worth boosting. Get out there and shake hands (and don't give 'em the dead fish grip), look people in the eye, and say "Hi, I'm here to rock your face off. Hope you enjoy!"

What can you start doing right now to boost your image in the industry and the scene?

Here's what I'm doing - maybe you'll get some ideas. (Remember, I have an over-the-top persona, blending close to a musical comedian.) I know they're specific, and may only work for me. Take it with a grain of NaCl2 (salt.)

- Zany colored guitars. I've got the M-16 (photos coming soon. Friend me on facebook in the meantime to see it there), and the Tiger is on the way. I plan on spray painting a strat, and that'll be my AK-47. Add that orange Ibanez, and I'm literally visible from space, bro!

- Shoes. Talk about a great conversation starter, and something for people to remember you by. My current favorites are a pair of Nike's that match the Tiger guitar. (Yellow, with a black swoosh.) I've gotten money playing street music because people liked my lime green wrestling shoes. Ironically, they walked away when I started playing, which was discouraging, but hey, I got the buck!

- Positive, professional interactions. Be polite, be on time, smell nice, thank people after the gig, and be that consummate pro that you're striving to be.

- Talking to the crowd. It's just fun! People seem to like it, too. Hey, it makes me feel like a million bucks. For all my cynical comments, I genuinely like people, and connecting with them from the stage, including them in the music, lifts the whole room to a better place. Are you ready to ROCK?!

- Stupid props. I've got a cordless drill a la Paul Gilbert (check it out on youtube) that alternate picks REALLY fast, and makes a cool sound with the pickups! Now that's 9.6 volts of pure memories.

- Of course, playing good! I'm working so hard on writing, playing, and putting on the best show that I can. For me, time onstage has helped me a lot. Practice does indeed make perfect, or at least a good rock show. Well, I'm gettin' there. I've come far enough to see how far I'd like to go!

- Free stuff. I'm working on my marketing strategy right now...OK, just pondering it...But it seems that an investment into free stuff like stickers, CDs, etc, is probably the best advertising budget. I'm not sure yet, and I'll report back to you when I figure it out.

Hopefully these actions gave you a few ideas of your own. The point is - take action! All the World's a stage...Own it!

Hey, maybe visibility can be my mega, mega justification of my new guitar on the way.

Can you see me now?

World, are you ready to ROCK?!

- Josh