Categorizing Projects And Decluttering Your Mind

I would share with you a system I use to organize some of the projects I might be working on.

I found it too difficult to keep all of the things I have to do in my playing, work and personal life in my brain only. And, we are not great at remembering if we let go of something or did not work on something enough.

So, for the past few years I have been keeping a simple color folder for each project that I am working on. One folder might be called “House”, another “Guitar Retreat 2019”, etc. In each folder, I keep track of what I need to do, what I already finished and I keep my ideas in there. I don’t have dozens of these. This year, I have one for each of my live shows where I keep van rental info in, set lists, hotels reservations, check xeroxes that went out and came in. I have one for my Summer Camp, Guitar Retreat, etc. I often have one for the House and any improvements that I have going on. This system really helps me unclog my brain because it’s already cluttered there sometimes.

Additional plus of this.

The folders also allow me to say that today I want to spend 30 mins on guitar retreat organzation and 30 mins on the show in December. And, I open the sucker up and I start working. Then after my time is up, I close it and open up another project folder. It took me a while to graduate to switch from a project to project like that and put down items that I might not have yet finished. But, just the idea of having things in compartment such as a folder allowed me to keep track of things very well. What is good is also the fact that I can pull up my folder from any year for a project such as a guitar retreat and see what I did then as far as schedule, who was there, the food that was purchased, etc. I can see what I did last year, what my expenses were. This gives me a great starting point for the current year’s folder without having to start the entire process all over again. It saves time, gives you a step up. Inside each folder, I leave notes for myself, ideas. It’s cool, I really can’t see doing this other ways. I might also be a little old school and I don’t work well with keeping everything on a computer screen without physically using a pen to get info down.

Playing In Drop D Tuning As An Alternative To Detuning Your Guitar A Whole Step Down

Today’s blog is actually inspired by a question that one of my guitar students James asked the other day. james asked me if the song “Resurrection” (From Halford’s Resurrection album) was recorded a whole step down, or was it recorded in drop D.

The answer is, as I mentioned to James, is that the guitar was tuned a whole step down. Every string was tuned a step down.

The above made me think how some guys out there play songs such as Resurrection or American Metalhead (also recorded with every string down a step), or any other track recorded a whole step down in Drop D tuning. To me this never sounds good.

When I toured with Sebastian Bach and we played American Metalhead in the live set, I had to resort to playing that track in “Drop D” and I did not like it too much. We had to do it, because it was too much to bring another guitar with us to do all these dates we used to do called “Fly dates”. This means that you play a show, go to the airport and fly to another city or country. Then next day you repeat that and repeat that again. Try that for 4 weeks. It’s gruling and all I have to say is to have some good guitar cases. lol.

So with all of these instruments travelling with us on airlines (and, you guessed it – everytime you check in, its $85-100 per guitar), its gets too much.

So, I traveled with only 2 guitars and had to play American Metalhead in drop D. What I did was I had my main guitar in E, had another back-up for it in E and if I had to do drop D song, I’d just tune down my bottom string a step down.

It worked well enough, but there is something that changes when you play D songs in Drop D. Basically, what I think happens is that the song was written with a different energy using different frets and strings to get the riffs out. When you play the track in Drop D – it is true, you are playing the correct notes, but they don’t have to same dynamic as the original track. I am not sure if the audience notices, but as a guitar player you tent to know these differences.

So, just some ideas on this for the future.

As a side note, with the tuning of the bottom string a lot to D, I stopped travelling with Floyd Rose equipped guitars with Baz. As we know, it is hard to down tune Floyd Rose on the spot without adjustment. So, another compromise – but, in return it made me a better guitar player as I had to really work on and concentrate on my vibrato since I no longer had the whammy bar. It was a great lesson!

Consistency Over Intensity

“Long term consistency trumps short term intensity” …

This is a great quote by Bruce Lee that I want to share with you in our blog today. I use thinking of this effect to sometimes motivate myself out of not feeling like practicing guitar, music, whatever. It does not happen often, but every once in a while it does. This funk happens to every single human being on the planet. The trick is to have a system to help you combat when this season strikes.

I think many musicians await until they are inspired to put in a lot of practice time in and they do just that; they play a lot over some days or weeks or even months and then they are off the wagon hardly touching the instrument.

To a performance described above I always prefer to live by the Bruce Lee quote instead. Do something small with the instrument today and do it again without taking time off. It’s like a constant deposit into the piggy bank weeks after weeks, year after year – it adds up.

Here is the second part of this, as I mentioned before – inspiration follows perspiration. In short, once you have the guitar (or any instrument) in your hands for a few minutes you’ll often get the inspirational spark and you’ll stay playing for a while and you will put in the necessary time. It works hand in hand. First action, then inspiration.

I hope this helps!

Confidence Deconstructed

Ever since I started to play the guitar I have been fascinated with how our minds work, how life’s proven principles work and how that all ties into success on our instrument; whether it’s playing it, forging a carreer out of it, etc.

I don’t really believe that anyone is born confident or born unconfident. Several factors shape our confidence in anything. So I believe that Confidence (in anything) is made out of Courage, Commitment and Capabilities.

We can apply these 3 to anything anyone would feel Confident in. And, just for fun, I run examples of this for myself based on what I want to see in anyone’s confidence or why someone has achieved a goal of some sort that I feel inspired by.

Okay, the pieces.

Courage: Well, nothing happens unless Courage happens. Courage is doing something without knowing what is on the other side. It is buying a guitar at 45 (while your friends give you the eye) and not knowing if you can learn the damn thing in the first place. It is buying a house and saying that you’ll be able to pay for it for the next 30 years. It is asking a girl out not knowing if she’ll laugh at you or not. It is auditioning for a band not knowing if you are good enough.

Commitment is us saying to ourselves that you are in it for a long haul. There might be ups and downs, but you are hauling forward. No matter what happens you will figure the shit out and end up on the other side. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Capabilities is you sharpening your sword. It is getting the necessary skills, wisdom and application of them in order for you to become the best at a task that you can be.

You see, we can’t have one without the other. You have to have all 3 to be Confident in something.

If you are commited to playing the guitar and work on your Capabilities, but are afraid to jam with people (lacking Courage), you will never be Confident in it.

Here’s a flip scrpit. Let’s say you are are always up to playing with anyone (Courage), you can keep constantly looking for friends to jam with (Commitment), but if you never develop your skills (Capabilities), you will never feel Confident, because who wants to jam with people when you feel like you can’t play anything.

Of course, this goes way beyond music and you can apply these 3 to being Confident in anything. I think this is a good lesson. Give it some thought. It is pretty amazing to see and learn lessons from the past as you start reconstructing your past moves. You can see where you dropped the ball and which item (Courage, Commitment or Capabilities) cost you success.

Using Summer Months To Distance Yourself From The Competition

Guitar playing is a Winter sport. I say that as it is easy to stay indoors while the evenings are long and the weather is cold. Once the warm months arrive, many players trade their instruments for beach flip flops. I, however always used the Summer months as opportunities to put in extra work while my guitar playing friends were at the beach partying.

For whatever reason, I always had guitar playing friends who were more advanced than me and who played guitar way longer that I did. And, in turn, I did anything I could to catch up and try to surpass them. And, the warm days were my secret weapon. I used these days to catch up and get better.

When school finished and everyone went their separate ways for the Summer break, I went straight to the basement ready to play the guitar all day long. Once school started many of my friends were no longer better guitarists.

Remember this tip and I hope it does great things for you.

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.