Saturday, May 30, 2009

Practice Habits

Any musician will find about 1,000 different theories on how best to practice their instrument more than likely 500 of the theories will conflict with the other 500. Music pedagogy (that's a $25 work for instruction technique) is full of very expensive ideas as to how best to learn an instrument. The fact is, there are only two absolutely indispensable elements to learning an instrument REALLY well;

  1. A motivated student
  2. A relevant musical style
Notice that I did NOT list a competent instructor. Good instructors, of course, help the process - and poor instructors can hinder it. But a truly motivated learner will do the bulk of the teaching him or her self. Most of the time, students learn by imitation. In the case of guitar players, a lot of the imitation is from recordings of music that deeply inspires them. We hear sounds that give us goose bumps and we just have to copy them. What an instructor brings to the table are some or all of the following;
  1. A breadth of knowledge of music that may also inspire the pupil.
  2. A knowledge of the most efficient methods of learning techniques.
  3. The ability to chart a course to accomplishing the pupil's goals.
  4. Encouragement!!! I say again, ENCOURAGEMENT!!!
Music is an auditory art form. For three hundred years music teachers have been emphasizing music reading as the principal skill of music performance. I would like to remind all that most of the world teaches music by means of mentoring through rote methods - the reading of music is a European emphasis. There is no substitute for our ears as the first line of music instruction. Hearing the elements of music performance is ALL important in learning the art form. I strongly encourage my students to listen to music and listen carefully. Pay attention to tone, phrasing, elements of technique. In the case of guitar music, here are some items to be very aware of;
  1. The timbre of the note as it is being struck.
  2. What tool was used to initiate the tone (pick, fingernail, flesh, hammer on, a mixture)?
  3. Fretted or open string?
  4. Speed of the phrasing.
Listen for those elements as you are learning a passage. Try to imitate the player's phrasing as you learn the passage. Don't worry about being a "clone" of another player. You are an individual and even the most diligently imitated music will bear your own signature. By imitating what you hear you will expand your own library of skills.

Spend a generous portion of your practice time listening to recordings that really excite you about your instrument. Consult your teacher as to additional recordings or artists that you can listen to who may be in a similar or complimentary style. This will vastly increase your tool box of techniques with which to make music that satisfies your soul!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Here is a picture of the look that I am going for with my strat.

The Re-Making of Old Blue

Since 1986 I have had this wonderful blue Stratocaster. Sometime in the mid 90's I converted it from a standard strat to an '80's machine with active Seymour Duncan pickups and a Floyd Rose style tremolo. Whether or not that was a mistake is debatable. However, I decided that I would rather have a more vintage, standard stratocaster. So began the rebuilding of Ol' Blue.

The first thing to change was to remove the old pickguard and electronics which are all now on sale at Soundcheck Music.

The next step was to remove the "Floyd Rose" style tremolo. After removing the studs upon which the unit moves, I had to plug the holes in the body.

I used hardwood doweling (7/8" seems to fit well) to plug the holes with Gorilla glue as the adhesive. Gorilla is flexible, holds tenaciously, and acts as filler as well. Then I touched up the surface with some blue paint. This area will be covered by a combination of the pickguard and the new bridge. When the tremolo was installed, the tech had to rout away some of the surface area of the bridge cavity - you can see in the above picture where the paint is gone. I may have to replace some of that wood to make the standard strat tremolo fit. I will know next week when my new trem arrives.

I purchased "Texas-vintage" pickups (true single coil) from Guitar Fetish and rewired the electronics. Everything had to be mounted to a new pickguard (also from Guitar Fetish) since the old one had been cut for a humbucker in the bridge position.
This is the first time I have re-wired a guitar, so I was a little nervous about the soldering. I checked the signal, however, and it sounds true and clean. I am expecting the guitar should sound great when I get the new bridge mounted up.

This is where the project stands for now. I will post more during the bridge installation.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Welcome, and stay tuned!!


This blog is not because I am lonely (I have wonderful friends and a great family) but because the pursuit of guitar playing as a vocation or avocation is a lonely business. It requires practice and sacrifice and frequently puts you at odds with the rest of the culture that is more interested in cheap, immediate returns. This will be a place where you can get lessons, insights, technology tips, and general guidance as to how to live with being a musician.

More coming soon. Stay tuned!

About Me

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Musician, educator, audio engineer, guitar junkie!