Sprint & Measure Your Performance Often

Today, I want to share a cool tip that definitely applies to the guitar.

When we run a marathon (Let’s pretend) how do we do it? We usually start off at a slow pace and run towards to the finish line. Since the finish line is far off, it makes little sense to sprint since we’d be out of breath after a mile. We are in for a long haul.

In guitar playing, however, our playing goals such as better fluidity, better dextrerity, a part of a solo that should be mastered or a new recording can be achieved with better results if we pick-up the pace a bit. Think of these things as a sprint. Set the target and go like hell to the finish line.

Because, unlike a marathon, we are closer to great results than we give ourselves credit for.

I think it’s a wise move to approach guitar playing as a sprint and not a marathon. Or, at least as a marathon that is composed of little sprints. Let’s pick up the pace and be in a bigger hurry to get to the results. That means less goofing around when playing and getting to what we need to work on. Establish razor sharp focus, pick up the pace and lock in.

Things we want to achieve often are closer to us than what we sometimes think.
Anything we watch and stay on top of improves.

Lastly, don’t analyze your playing achievements once a year or every few months. Measure them more often! Perhaps even weekly. What have you done with your playing this week? Was it a day of good practice, 3 days of noodling and 3 days off? Again, if we think goals are far way (Marathon mentality) we don’t press enough. Think sprint and measure often.

I have a strong belief that people who perform at high levels measure their progress very often, perhaps daily if not hourly.

Slow To Smooth, Smooth = Fast.

Last week I had a chance to talk with a pro bastketball player who also teaches and mentors young students. We discussed how when we both (me as a guitar coach) show someone something new, the students often begin to play or simluate what we are teaching them BEFORE we are done showing them what it is that we want them to do. Apparently, this is not exclusive to guitar players šŸ™‚

So, we laughed about that because when you are on the other side of the table – it’s true.

He then told me something about mastering new techniques that he sticks by:

SLOW To SMOOTH, SMOOTH = FAST

With guitar playing, this goes something like this. When learning, we often want to play anything new fairly up to speed and then we slowly adjust something if a part of the riff, lick does not sound good or clean. This is a LONG way to getting something to sound right because we are “feeling out” what is wrong – we’re guessing. With enough time in and with enough guesses will you clean up your riff, lick or whatever? Probably yes! But it takes a loooong time and we don’t have that much time now versus when we were 15.

Even if you are 15 and are reading this – start doing it the right way!

The way to get anything fast is to play is SLOW until you can play it at a slow tempo SMOOTH. The trick is that once you are able to play anything new SLOW & SMOOTH – the speed finds YOU. In other words, you don’t have to work hasrd on getting faster. It’s amost is if, if you take the time to put in the work to learn something slow … speed shows up BECAUSE you no longer have any “ifs”, “not sures”, or “gray areas” that internally (in your mind) stop you from beinfg (or feeling) free to play faster or fast.

One of the worst things to hear is someone not get the intricacies of a lick or riff down and hear him play it lightning fast. Uh, no thanks.

Lessons, studying – yes, we all learn and make mistakes, make adjustments. It’s all good. But, I’m talking about the music store heroes playing stuff they’re not ready for.

So, I want you to think about the above and really stop yourself if you feel you’re not following the above advice. I’m confident is saying that because I’m 100% certain that it works.

Goldmember … Or, Not.

Today, I want to mention a cool thing about cables.

As you are aware, many cable manufacturers like to promote the selling point that their cables have gold tips and therefore probably charge a little more because of it.

Generally, gold is an awesome idea for audio connectors. Gold is a very soft material and works really well in audio and studio environment. Because it is soft, in its own way, it forms to the surface it is in contact with. In a studio plug this is great as you get a great surface contaction and signal flow. Gold is also a good conductor and does not oxidize.

Copper or silver are excellent conductors in their own right and perhaps cheaper, but they oxidize which is not favorable in connections.

The gold idea works super well in areas where cables are plugged in and left there for a long time – studio patches, audio and guitar patch cables.

However, regular guitar cables that get plugged in and out all the time sometimes do not always benefit from the gold tips because over time the gold wears off and you have what is usually underneath – tin. Tin tends to oxidize and thus can affect your sound.

I’d say, this is pretty important is high end pro situations. If you do have a choice of getting a gold tip coated guitar cables or ones that have a high quality “regular” jack – I would not be afraid of going the more “plain’ route with a high quality jack.

It also makes a difference who makes the cables. I have some quality guitar cables with the gold tips and they have been holding up very well.

It’s your money, your choice. In pedal board situations where guitar cables are often left plugged in, I think having gold tips is a pretty good idea.

What Has Always Been – Does Not Always Have To Be

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Very recently I was detailing my car. Detailing cars in a hobby of mine and it aligns nicely with the fact that I dislike dirty, unkept cars, guitars or anything else for that matter.

When I bought my car, the bumper had a small white smidge on it and I tried to clean it couple times in the last few years with no success. I accepted it as something that just is, was always there and it’s just a part of what my car looks like. I did not like it, but after a while it longer seemed out of place.

Until recently …

During my pre-Winter car detail, I decided to use a different product all together to get rid of the smidge and behold – it worked! My bumper is super clean now making the entire car just that much better.

This made me think of what other things can be eliminated that we believe/have accepted are there to stay because they have “always” been there. This is an interesting lesson in changing things that no longer have to take part of your reality just because they have been in it since the beginning or at least for a very long time.

Remember, you can change many situations by finding the ingredient that was missing in order for you to facilitate the chance.

Horns Up.

If It’s Not Boring – You Are Doing It Wrong

Today’s entry is a simple thought that majority of people put an expectation on the fact that life should be entertaining and fun at all times, or something is wrong. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, this is far from the truth.

When we work on our instrument, a skill or when at the gym, very often, the work we put in is pretty damn boring. The results coming from from us putting the time in are not, but the work that takes us to satisfactory results is often repetitive and not always fun.

I think this area is where successful people shine. They understand that doing a task over and over again is part of the road to mastery. With so many of us being entertained all day via devices of sorts and everyone trying to make “our” life easier – I think this simple principle is often forgotten or misundestrood. I think this idea is important to keep in mind for the times when you neeed it most.

Information Super-Shred-Way

Remember, when we used to talk about the internet as Information Superhighway? I started to think about this and how the internet has changed many things for us and how it applies to guitar in particular.

Remember in the 80’s when everyone wondered what kind of amp did George Lynch really use live or how a certain lick was played or how two handed tapping was done? With the invention of the internet we get access to all the information we would ever want. On You Tube alone you can find countless tutorials on what amps everyone is usings, people’s live rigs gone piece by piece, how to play songs, how to use licks as they apply to theory.

What has happened is that information has leveled out and is accessible to anyone at any point.

The ONLY and I mean only thing that will now separate guitar players from each other is not having some sort of secret passage to theory or a know how – but, the APPLICATION of it all. Application = Practice.

It’s no longer about having access to special info. Everyone has that.

The application, practice and dedication to putting this available information in real life is now what solely separates guitarists from great to the rest.

If You Can Do Some Of Of It – You Can Do All Of It

Okay, what do I mean? Well, the above is something to keep in mind as you are attempting to do something that seems difficult or at the time overwhelming.

Let’s look at guitar playing and how it applies to the above header.

Lots of people who read this blog have a talent at playing the guitar. I believe that talent is what nudges you to try something, to develop an interest in something you find cool. When people ask me if they have any talent for playing guitar, I say probably yes. If they are very interested in playing, then I believe that they have at least some basic talent in them. They might not be Steve Vai, but they can enjoy learning and playing the guitar. Or, they might find out that they really do have a thing for playing an instrument. Truth is – you will never, ever know – unless, you give it a true shot.

If you were, just for example, able to learn 1 scale fingering in E minor, then you are 100% able to learn all of the scale fingerings available for that key as well.

It is not a matter “if you can” but rather “am I willing to put in the repetitions recessary” to learn the patterns. Guitar is like that. If you are able to learn 1 hot guitar lick – you are 100% capable of learning a 100. It just comes down to committment, repetition, putting the time in and nothing else.

It is just like learning to walk one step. With repeating the same effort 3x again, you would have walked 4 steps.

It is important to remember the above saying when you wonder, question your ability to learn new ideas and master them.

Remember: If you had “enough” ability to learn “some” of it; you have the ability to learn all of it. Stick with it.

Minset Of A Specialist

The Specialist Mindset.

Many career minded, younger musicians ask me about what they should do when playing/getting better on their instrument. One of the pieces of advice is to be honest with what type of player they want to be/are and concentrate their efforts on that ultimate goal.

For example, although other styles of guitar playing do interest me – I choose to practice and get better on what fits and improve my particular style. I concentrate my efforts there.

I always preferred to get really proficient at one thing vs. being pretty good overall at many things, guitar playing wise.

This is the mindset of a specialist.

It does not bother me if someone is a better classical or a jazz player than me. All good. Since I never cared in joining a cover band, being a fill-in guitarist or overall an utility, paint by numbers type player – I am completely fine in being accomplished in what it is that I like. Food for thought. I always felt this outlook helped me progress faster through the ranks than players trying to be great at everything. We only have so much time.

Of course this depends on your goals. If you want to be a studio musician or work in many styles and capacities – then being able extremely well rounded stylisticaly is super important. Different goals and different paths to get where you want to go.

Guitarists: The Importance Of Recording Yourself To Get Better

Today, I want to stress the importance of recording yourself in order to speed-up your guitar progress.

Guys, I can not stress enough how important it is to record yourself on video (or, even audio) and what listening back to yourself does to your playing.

The thing is that no-one has to pin point many of the mistakes, since you know yourself what can be improved. This constant checking-in with your playing really accelerates your progress.

I always say it is like leaving the house without looking into the mirror, brushing your hair in the dark & picking your clothes blindly. After you see yourself in the mirror – you go wow! Little improvement might be needed. And, I can only say this because I’ve been there, too often as I matter of fact.

One thing I believe that helped me get better quick is that I was making music demos from very early on. I did not wait til I felt good enough. I just did it. They were demos to show my songs and with each one, I got better because I learned. Even with musicians, you can see the progress from their debut album on. It works like that with the guitar.

Whie we play the guitar it is very hard to judge your progress from day to day. But, when you look back at a video from 3 months ago, you can really see if you have improved or not. This is very helpful. I would say it’s essential. You see where you are yourself. Have you improved? No? When you see improvement – it’s super encouraging to keep going. Great plus.

Eventually, you come to the place when you realize that it is hard to master the guitar while mastering how to record it, so it sounds good. You get to know your instrument so well when recording it for real.

Also, my last point. To master something does not necesarrily mean to become the ultimate jedi master of it. It means to be able to recall something quick. Even when you master something and think you are the jedi master; there are always another levels to getting something down even better.

So, think about it and hope it helps.

Thoughts On Bolt-On & Neck-Through Guitar Designs

Every so often, I get an e-mail from a fellow guitar player who wants my opinion on bolt-on and neck-through guitar designs.

Since I have played both versions of guitars, I am going to put down a couple of points that quickly come to mind. In the beginning, I only “heard” that neck-through guitars had supposedly more sustain.

Those type of guitars were usually out of reach for me price wise, so I stuck with my Ibanez RGs (which, I still like a lot) and then ESP models. A while back, you would not dream of owning a neck-through guitar unless you got the expensive models.

Guitar manufacturers offer a lot of bang for the buck these days in order to stay competitive. I am not saying that bold-on guitars are always more expensive; they are not. You just could not get one until you reached a certain price point years ago.

When I got my first USA made Randy Rhoads V, I ended up with a neck through guitar and yes; I definitely did notice that the guitar sustained longer and overall had a warmer, rounder tone to the notes.

One thing, I DID notice however, is that my old neck through guitars has much more immediate notes. It is hard to describe this, but the notes on my bolt-on guitars were quick to leave the guitar and were crisp.

In a way this makes sence why many shredders use bolt-on necks, be it Ibanez or Fender or similar guitars. So, in short – there is no better. It still goes back to preference.

I am happy to be playing my neck through guitars for the last 20 years or so and I have learned to play with their drawbacks and advantages. Guitarists should always choose what suits them best personally and what their budget allows. Good luck!