Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tis the Season

Last week, a student told me they home make wine - and he added that it was good wine.  That reminded me that Fender, a company well known for branded gear of every description, is now offering wine in their store. (Over the legal drinking age, please.)  They also have a promotion that if you purchase $75 worth of merchandise, you will get a free set of Fender ornaments.   Nice deal.  

In the Fender shop, you will find merchandise in these categories: Santa's Workshop (parts and tools), Gifts Under $50, Holiday Cheers (cool barware), Stocking Stuffers, Home for the Holidays, Cold Weather Classics, Fender Fan Club, Fender for the Road and Old School Cool.  Then, of course there's the standard list that contains media, books, collectibles, Fender King Baby ® Jewelry, memorabilia, posters and prints, furniture, wall decor,  mini guitars and don't forget the wine.  

If you have some Fender fans to shop for, this could be your first destination on cyber Monday.  

New in Takamine's G Series

I was glad to see an email from our friends at Takamine during the week.  Taks are nice guitars.  I was even happier to see their G Series round out to now include Classical and Bass guitars.

The specs reveal that the G Series classicals  are all at modest price points (about $290 to about $585 street.) There are 3 acoustics and 3 electric cutaways.  They are all spruce top guitars, and in both categories the 2 higher priced models have solid spruce tops.  All the necks are mahogany and fingerboards are rosewood. They are all 19 fret instruments, 2 inches at the head nut, with a 650mm (25.6 inch) scale length and a flat neck radius.  Pretty standard.  Nothing unusual in the bracing, either. 

As for the G Series bases. they are at reasonable prices, too. There are 4 instruments: 2 "30s" and 2 "72s."  The 30s have mahogany back and sides and the 72s have maple back and sides. The 30s are street priced at $730 and the 72s are street priced at $860.   If you haven't listened to acoustic electric basses, they don't sound like solid body electric bases.  They're tasty!  All the bass guitars in this line are fretted. They are 1.77 inches  at the head nut and have an 864mm (34 inch) scale length. Like the classical models, the higher end  guitars have slightly more expensive tuners.

The 30 is available in either black or natural and the 72 is available in sunburst or natural. Both guitars have jumbo bodies, so play one in person before you buy or order one online, if you have never held and played a jumbo before.

For this price range, Takamines are a great choice. Their quality is reliable.  If you're buying or gifting a nylon string guitar or an acoustic electric bass, these are instruments you should consider.  

Don't forget to get some genuine R Series Raptor picks for the guitarist in your life.  They're available 24/7 from Raptor Picks USA.  They're the pick that's made for the guitarist who wants to play more creatively.  Free Raptors with an order of  4 or more is just another way of "spreading the excellence, one guitarist at time."  (Raptor™ picks are a registered design all rights are owned by Black Carbon.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So, my student who was making a last ditch effort to learn guitar from a 3rd instructor (me) had his second lesson last week. We had contact during the week and to say he sounded exuberant would be an understatement.  He was looking forward to our lesson and so was I.

He was well prepared, practice-wise and well prepared with some good questions, too.  I think he was a little surprised by having been well practiced. yet making mistakes when he played for me.  Anyone who has had an instructor has lived through that unsettling and humbling experience numerous times until they realized that once you and your axe emerge from your practice space, you need to over practice to compensate for the stress mistakes one tends to make when they are playing for someone else. It's a shocking and memorable lesson. 

His sight reading wasn't flawless, nor was his ear training, but he did very well, considering the morass of confusion to which he was previously subjected. 

At one point he showed me a lesson assignment  one of his previous non-teachers gave him. He had no idea what it meant and the non-teacher didn't explain it well enough for him to understand.  I can't believe I just wrote that. The guy didn't explain it even marginally - never mind enough for him to understand. I'll try to explain what it was.  Imagine a chord diagram grid  with numbers at the fret locations of the sequence of sounds of a particular variety of pentatonic scale.  Don't imagine it, take a look:

This diagram didn't have finger numbers (which are not really necessary with a diagram, since it's understood that you're fingering in the position of the diagram) but rather it had some Arabic numbers that weren't finger numbers. It confused my student and the first thing he asked me about it was  if there was more than one place to play the A that on the 5th fret of the  low E string. If you are a novice and you look at this cryptic (because of lack of information) diagram, it's a reasonable question.when I explained that open A and the 5th fret  low E string A are the same pitch. He didn't understand why the 3 different 6s were on the diagram.  He said the non-teacher gave it to him (actually, his diagram was a small segment of what I've illustrated above) and the show-er told him it was phrasing. (Not!) The following week he played a chord progression and wanted my student to play "phrasing" over his chords.  I mean, really?!?! I knew it was bad out there, and devolving quickly, but I hadn't imagined the state of what's broadly called "guitar lessons,"  was barely on life support.

My first question was, did the non-teacher explain and have the student work with major or minor scales.  No, he hadn't.  I explained to my student that the Arabic numbers on the diagram were the degrees of the the pentatonic's corresponding major scale.  He didn't have a clue what I meant.   Neither would you if you'd only been shown weird diagrams, been given an incorrect tab for some song and never heard a word nor played a major scale.  I mean really, what is the point of highlighting degrees of a scale about which the student has no knowledge? It can only precipitate confusion.  All I can guess it that this non-teacher was some guitar hack who wanted to try to pick up some extra cash and didn't have a clue how to teach guitar.  I can also guess that he looked at some other lame person's YouTube "lesson" and did to my student what the YouTube non-teacher did.  Man! (If this mirrors your experience as a student and you live where I teach, please contact me. I can teach you to play and understand exactly what you're doing. Then, you'll be a musician, not a hack nor robot.)

My student finally doesn't feel like learning to play correctly and well is something beyond his reach.  


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Glorious Rosewood

I love wood. I especially love all tone wood guitars.  It made me so happy to read about Fender's drop dead gorgeous Limited Rosewood Telecaster.  

Fender built several rosewood instruments in the late ’60s. These were in production very briefly and are now extremely collectable. Jimi Hendrix reportedly had one of the first Rosewood Stratocaster® guitars, and George Harrison  used one of the original Rosewood Telecaster guitars on Let It Be and for the fabled Apple Records rooftop concert in 1969.

Fender says:

The Classic Rosewood Telecaster is now offered as a Limited Edition for 2013 and is a meticulously crafted replica of one of the most sought after guitars in Fender history. Features include a rosewood body, rosewood neck with early-’60s “oval C”-shaped profile and no skunk stripe or plug, rosewood fingerboard with 9.5” radius and 6105 frets, vintage-style hardware, Twisted Tele® pickups with modern wiring, and satin urethane Closet Classic finish. Each guitar comes with a Limited Edition case, decal, neck plate and certificate of authenticity.

Price?   Well, you know the possessor of an instrument like this, has champagne taste.  This beauty has an MSRP of $7,000.  I've seen it on line for about $1,500 less street price.  

Love the guitar but you could never afford it?   Why don't you look into the Fender 60th Anniversary Lite Rosewood Telecaster.  Street, on that one can be as low as $1,600.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Really Big Show

No, not a concert - sorry if you were salivating.  

Last week I got a call from a guy looking for guitar lessons.  We spoke for a while and he related two recent experiences with so-called guitar teachers, and he called because he took a look around my web site, and thought I might offer him the guitar instruction that has, thus far, alluded him.  

He told me about being shown a pentatonic scale by one teacher and the following week, being asked to "phrase" that pentatonic scale while the teacher played a chord progression.  I think he said that the other teacher showed him some chords and found the tab online to a song he wanted to learn. (This is where I need to mention that this caller was in a band when he was considerably younger, and was a bass player.  It's not like he never had a stringed instrument in his hands.) When I asked him why he was looking for a third guitar instructor, he said that after the lessons he has taken with the 2 aforementioned teachers, he hasn't learned anything.  He was taught a song, incorrectly (those are his words) and a pentatonic scale.  

I discussed my method with him and explained the general order and process I use, and why.  I explained to him that what he'd experienced, which is what countless people who engage guitar instructors to teach them to play experience, is being shown how to play something but not being taught anything. It's perplexingly common.  I have had students join my schedule who "took lessons" for a couple years, yet knew nothing - not the most simplistic musical concepts, nor any basic guitar knowledge (fret board and actual.)

You may be among those who  find it hard to believe how far reaching the problem of these show-ers is. It's everywhere. If you're a guitar teacher, I hope showing is not what you do, but rather that meaty, logical, knowledgeable   instructing is.   If you are a show-er, you may play, and you may even play superlatively.  That doesn't mean you can teach. You have to be able to play, to teach. But teaching is a skill set that most players don't have.  Be honest with students, and with yourself.  I can only guess at the amount of money the guy who called, and who I will begin working with this week, threw away on some get togethers, that were anything but guitar lessons.

Guitar students: If your teacher has shown you  a pentatonic scale, why are you playing it it?  Are you playing a fingering pattern or are you listening and can you hear the scale?  Do you have a clue what distinguishes a pentatonic scale from a diatonic major or minor scale?  Why is is called pentatonic?  Why can you begin playing it anywhere in its sequence, play any arrangement of its notes and stop anywhere and have the result sound like a complete musical thought even though those results don't occur if you do the same randomizing of a major or minor scale? Are you being taught the universal language of music, namely, notation?  If you aren't, there is no logic to what you're teaching.  Learning how to read and write music it utterly liberating and if taught correctly, lends clear understanding to whatever you play, compose, write, learn, hear or dream.

If you are looking for an instructor that will teach you correctly the first time,  contact me, if you are in my area.  If not, please read my find a teacher on the web site, so you will be well informed as you vet a potential teacher.  You don't want to hire a show-er.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Some of my guitar students really like playing and improving their technique.  Some of them love their guitars and for them, their music is an extension of themselves - a very important, serious and passionate pursuit. Then there are some who love the instrument so much that they want to know everything about it and dabble in guitar building.

Most of the students I have had, who became guitar builders, began with a guitar that needed repair.  Some of them wanted to tackle the task alone and others made it a project with a friend or their dad. Some of them looked for cast off guitars, just so they could fix them.  Others, went whole hog and began  from scratch or ordered kit guitars, tools and made dedicated spaces in their dwellings, in which they planned to make guitars.  

I have been thinking a lot about one student, in particular, who was bitten by luthier bug.  Several years after we stopped having lessons, I taught a student in the same town in which he lived, who had a really nice guitar. It was a no-name guitar, which is unusual.  I asked the new student where they obtained the guitar, and sure enough, that former student had built it.  Apparently, he had a very lucrative business making semi-custom guitars while he was in college.

If you or someone you love has a Fender that needs a fix or the idea of building a guitar, not exactly from scratch, appeals to you, Fender is offering necks and bodies that might be just what you're looking for.  Maybe you have your dad's old Fender that isn't worth "restoring" but is worth the price of a genuine, precisely measured and fretted Fender neck.  

Check  out Fender necks and bodies, if the smell of luthier's glue makes you giddy.

2014 PRS Private Stock

Private Stock.  It's a great term and depending upon who you are: age, background, social circle etc., the term may conjure different images.  When you put PRS in front of Private Stock, my mind's eye beholds guitars that are works of art.  I know,  works of art is a term I frequently use in regard to PRS guitars, Private Stock models or not, but it's the right description.

PRS Guitars is proud to officially announce the 2014 Collection Series by Private Stock. Introduced in the fall of 2011, the PRS Collection Series is made up of a very limited number of instruments each year that are made with the most prized components in the company's possession, using PRS's most exacting methods. Paul Reed Smith, along with the Private Stock team, designs and oversees all aspects of production, including the selection of all woods.

The 2014 Collection Series is comprised of one steel string acoustic, one nylon string acoustic, and one electric model. These instruments proudly incorporate a balance of PRS traditions and innovations.

These guitars are not entry level instruments (there will be a future post on that topic if it interests you). They are works of art in design, craftsmanship, tone and quality.  If you're in the market for that oh-so-fabulous new axe, you should definitely check out these beauties.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Update or Upgrade?

I still don't know what to call it.  Last week I had yet another reprise of telling  a young guitarist that it's time for a new axe. In this case, my student has outgrown the Little Martin she's been playing for a couple years.   She grew a lot over the summer and when we resumed lessons, I realized that the Little Martin was now, a travel size guitar for her, not the right size for her to play regularly anymore. When I brought it up, she wasn't as enthused as I'd hoped she would be.  This is a student I have always seen respond to new and different with eager delight.  At first I was a bit surprised, but after I thought about it,  I realized that despite her tender age, she loves her guitar. It was her first guitar and the instrument she held and heard every time she played, since the very beginning.  I was viewing it as a temporary measure, but it has become as intimate a part of her musical expression as any adult's beloved instrument. 

I'm not big on anyone playing a guitar that doesn't fit them. That usually means that someone has a guitar that is too big either in body, neck length or neck width.  But in this case the old faithful friend has become a liability because it's too small. My student is still what I'd classify as petite, so this week, I took my acoustic electric when I taught her.  I wanted to satisfy myself, that the correct acoustic electric will fit her, if the bout is the proper dimension. I also wanted to whet her appetite for an additional guitar, not a replacement, because her Little Martin can never be replaced. 

My scheme was highly successful. (I haven't been doing this for decades without learning something about my students' human nature, as well as their musical gifts.) I had her play her warm ups on my guitar.  She didn't have any trouble.  I thought she would want to play her lesson  on her guitar, since she practiced on it, but when I asked for mine back, she wanted to continue playing it .  By the time I  left, she was looking forward to a new guitar, but she sharply told her mother that she will never part with the Martin.  I chimed in that it would be the perfect travel guitar for her.  

We get so attached to our instruments.  I know I do.  Not in the material sense, but I think it's the intimacy.  I  have commented about this before - probably in a podcast: At one time, I had a student who loved music and particularly the guitar. He was an exceedingly serious musician, and I would probably still have him as a student if his wife didn't have chemistry issues with him whenever we had lessons.  I taught him for several years.  During one of his lessons, I took his guitar to demonstrate something for him.  At the time he was playing the same make and model guitar that I played.  Although the guitar builder was the same man and the instrument's dimensions were identical to the guitar that I played every day, it felt totally foreign to me.  In fact, it was almost confusing to play because it looked like my axe, but it didn't feel like it nor sound like it.  I never had that experience when playing  guitar models I didn't own.   Since that shocker, I have tried to express that connection as being almost spiritual.  Not in a religious way, but rather like an unexplainable connection. The more you play, the more that axe becomes an extension of you. It can't be an extension, if it isn't part of you.

If it's time for you or a loved one to update or upgrade their guitar, because of damage, fit or genre, see that it gets done.  It's a good thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Little Fall Out

No, not radioactivity.  Not hair (gasp!)  No, this is good Fall Out from our friends at Gretsch.

There's a pretty white guitar on the scene, a new-comer to the Signature Series.  It's a Stump-o-matic!  Its full moniker is the G5135CVT - PS Patrick Stump Signature Series "STUMP-O-MATIC" Electromatic® CVT.

For the MSRP of a cool grand, you can appropriate this icy axe.  Gretsch's workmanship is great, especially on their Signature Series models.  Honestly, the $1,000 MSRP is reasonable for this instrument.  I found an online vendor offering a street price that is less, and quite enticing, if you're in the market for a guitar with the Stump-O-Matic's specs.

She's mahogany, 21 frets, the neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard. (I know the more correct word is fretboard, but in my first instructors called it a fingerboard, so in my vocabulary, that's what it is) It has 3 Mega'Tron pickups, vintage tuning pegs and an anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge. The hardware is chrome plated, which I think looks great on a white guitar with a few silver accent stripes.  For more details than this, check out the link above.

This interesting guitar was built to the specifications of the well-known Fall Out Boy singer/guitarist.  

A True Work of Art

A few days ago I received and email that thrilled me, but was no surprise.

If you ever listened to my podcast, when it was a weekly or twice-monthly broadcast, you  probably heard me gush over Paul Reed Smith gutiars.  I probably used phrases like, "I love, love, love them,"  or perhaps, "They are extraordinary works of art."  If you listened to my  podcast regularly, you may have heard it ad nauseam.  It's clear, I'm not the only one who holds these opinions.

On Monday, (that's tomorrow) a custom made PRS guitar will be presented to the Metropolitan Museum, in NYC.   The presentation, which will be made by Paul Reed Smith and Ricky Skaggs, will take place in the Sackler Wing's Temple of Dendur.  It's going to be spectacular! Following the presentation, John McLaughlin will demo the one-of-a-kind PRS for those in attendance.  

The Met has an extensive assortment of instruments and this will be a beautiful addition to its guitar collection.

Here is just a glimpse of the guitar that will be presented.

If you're in Manhattan on Monday, and you can get to the museum in the  afternoon, you can attend! Here are the deets:

  • Date: Monday, October 7, 2013
  • Time: 4:30 pm - 5:15 pm
  • Where: Temple of Denur in the Sackler Wing
In the event this is your first visit to the Met, allow plenty of time. The address is 82nd Street and 5th Avenue. It's a huge museum and it's always well  populated.  I would recommend arriving  (that means after parking, if you're driving) no later than  4:00 pm.  Earlier, is even better. If you walk in at 4:25, you may miss part of the program.  

This special presentation is free with the purchase of a general admission to the museum.

I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Paul Reed Smith and his company, and thank him for  decades of excellence, translated into the design and construction of a rarefied range of electric guitars.   As I've said before, and will continue to say, I love, love, love them.

~ Until next time, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time. ~

Sunday, September 22, 2013

diggin' it? or diggin' out of it?

Got a call last night from a former student, who now has his own medical practice and still plays in a blues band.  He's a monster guitar player.   I haven't seen him for  a few years but every so often we exchange FB messages and when his band is going to play anywhere nearby, he lets me know.  It was great to catch up with him for a little while.

The real purpose of his call was to discuss the possibility of taking lessons again, after all these years.   It isn't that he can't play nor is it that he hasn't been playing guitar.  Quite the contrary. He's fabulous at what he does.  But now, he's feeling like he's in a rut because he isn't being stretched or thought about what his guitar says when he plays.  I reminded him that he's got to assess whether he really has the time for lessons, because with a thriving medical practice, a wife, 3 young children, a home and a band he plays in when they can all get together, he might not actually have time for another thing.  I also talked about the approach I'd use to broaden him as a musician.  I would capitalize on but challenge his ear. I would move away from his blues in order to stretch his articulation. I'd also have him not listen to much guitar music, but some other instruments in the hands of extremely gifted musicians.  He saw the merit of what I was suggesting.

He said he tends to work better within structure and the ideal would be to take lessons.  We'll see if I'll be working with him again.  

The take away I want you to have is this:  even if you're accomplished in your genre.  If you play covers, rather than original music,  you may excel right into a rut that bores you or even worse, makes you feel like there isn't any reason to play, because you already play all the stuff you like.  Gasp!!! There's more to say, musically! There will always be.   You just have to think it, hear it and play it.  That's the challenge that will  stretch and illuminate you.  So, you players who haven't said anything musically new in a long time,  I'm throwing the gauntlet down to you.  Evolve!!

I'll keep you posted if my former student and I resume working together.

Until next time, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Go Have A Fit

While sifting through email recently, I came across a Gretsch's article about its Jim Dandy Flat Top being on the list of the 25 best budget guitars. The list is from MusicRadar's 25 Best Budget Acoustic Guitars in the World Today, posted a little over a month ago.

The initial qualifier, to make it onto this list is, to quote MusicRadar, is, "Not only do they all sound great, most - if not all - are easy on the eye, and best of all, they all retail at under £500 / $750."  So, there is your price point.  That makes the range roughly $800 - $1200, here in the US.  It's a good list and I applaud MusicRadar for doing the research. There are a few tweaks I'd make, but it's worth a read if you're in the market.  

Let's say I have a philosophical issue with the first sentence: "Generally, when it comes to buying a guitar there are three key factors to consider: how does it sound, how does it look and, perhaps most importantly, how much does it cost?"

If you have listened to my podcasts or are a student with whom I have gone to purchase a guitar, budget or otherwise, you'll know that, sure, sound is the first consideration. If it doesn't have the sound you're looking for, what's the point of even purchasing it?  But the second very serious consideration is how does it fit?   I feel like I'm alone in the desert on this one, but as guitarist and instructor who has accompanied more friends, friends of friends and students than I care to quantify, to return guitars they bought or were given, that are downright uncomfortable to unplayable, I have to  hold firm on this one. 

Of course you don't want an ugly guitar.  Obviously, you can't buy a guitar you can't afford.  But come to grips with that no matter how well-priced and pretty and gorgeous-sounding it is, if you can't hold onto it comfortably, you're not going to be able to play it well. You may be able to play around with it, but play it?  Uh uh.  

Kids, extremely muscular men and petite people (usually women, but some men, too) have the hardest time finding a guitar they like that fits them.  With the major gift-giving time just around the corner (2 months and a bit until Hanukkah and 3 months and a bit until Christmas) please take what I'm saying under advisement:

If you are purchasing a guitar for anyone other than yourself, or an adult who has played the guitar they have asked you for, give your recipient a gift card or photo of the guitar or some other representation of it, until they can go guitar shopping with you.  I realize that you may want to do your shopping online.  In that case, still take them shopping to a guitar store, where the model of their desired guitar is available for the lucky one to play. In more than half the cases of kids or petite adults I know, the guitar they thought they wanted sounds great but they can't hold it comfortably. 

Don't allow them to get locked into thinking they only want a particular body shape.  Hey, dreadnoughts aren't for everyone.  Neck profiles vary noticeably from maker to maker, as well as from model to model from the same maker.  Their left hand needs to be able to grip properly.   If that left hand has to support the neck while they play (because the counter weight of their right arm isn't sufficient, or because their right shoulder is up so high, when their right arm is over the guitar, it's not the guitar for them.  Sometimes, that's hard to take.  I've been with students who owned the guitar they were about to buy, in their mind for a long time.  Try as they might to justify buying it when we were at the guitar shop, they could feel that the axe wasn't right for them.  

Okay, the annual rant is out of my system.   If you're buying online, verify that you have a reasonable return/exchange policy, and don't allow the recipient nor yourself to mark, scratch, bump, nick or otherwise compromise the cosmetic appearance of the guitar before you or they are sure they're going to keep itIf you're shopping online, use a reputable dealer, not an unknown. 

Now, and through the holidays, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, 1 guitarist at a time. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lessons for Babies

My schedule is just awaiting a few returning Jewish students to finish up the fall holidays, before it's set for this new "academic" year. My students who took the summer off, are back and I'm getting calls from new potential students and 

One of the parents who called about her way-too-young child, the other day was surprisingly receptive to allowing her kid wait a while before beginning.  It seems that a lot of parents who may even know better, are reluctant to say "no" to anything for which their children petition, especially, if they can financially afford it.

If  you know me from all the podcasts, you know I'm not a huge fan of putting a guitar in a child's hand before they are likely to have success learning to play it properly.  In my long experience, the low end of the age scale for guitar lessons to be permanently worth the child's effort and the parents' money is about the age of 9 and sometimes later for boys.  There's the whole eye hand coordination thing, and the using the non-dominant hand, if the intended student is a righty. Let's not forget the general complexity if music in general.  Below that age, I suggest parents surround their children with music of all styles and from all cultures. Even if really young ones want to play guitar, little minds and fingers can only benefit from having a keyboard in the home, if there isn't a piano there, already.Young kids can be impressed for a long time by failure and especially failure at some endeavor at which they really, really, really want to succeed. 

I have taught some young prodigies.  They are the exception. One young girl I taught, who also played piano, danced, painted (Mom was an artist) and played sports, in addition to the highest grades in school, was particularly remarkable. She was a little peanut of a girl and played a very well made, vintage 3/4 size guitar. There was nothing she couldn't do and there was nothing she didn't understand when I broke it down and explained it clearly.  

The first time she played in drop D tuning, I had her sight read and play a simple instrumental piece.  She did very well.  In that piece, the only note affected by the new tuning was the low open D string itself.  There were no other notes on that altered string.  When we moved on to music she had practiced in standard tuning, I didn't remind her to re-tune that low string to E, because I knew the unpleasantness of hearing a wrong pitch by fretting a note where it is sounded in standard tuning would be the best way to teach her to retune her guitar immediately after she is finished playing in an alternate tuning. To my amazement, as the low E string notes approached, she made a wincing face and recalculated her fingerings, to accommodate a far away G#m which was no longer at the 4th fret, but at the 6th.   She didn't play one incorrect note.  When we were finished, she asked, "Can we re-tune my guitar now?"  I never told her how astounded I was.  I did have her mother walk me out to the car and I told her.  For the student, it was "normal," for her.  She was so musically gifted and it still makes me smile when I think about it.  

Unless your young child is extraordinarily gifted, let them wait until a competent instructor thinks they are ready for guitar lessons.     

Epiphone has a gift for you!

Well, it's Epiphone Month and that means there's a manufacturer's perk for buying and registering a new Epiphone axe.  Cool!

Who wouldn't want a free EGi cable interface?   The deets are fairly simple and quite clearly enumerated on the site. A list of countries will define what you must do to quailify.  

If you have apps on your iPod, iPhone or iPad, this is the interface you need.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

If You Have $5 Grand

In the category of drool-worthy, the extremely limited  edition Takamine TLE-M1 has a preeminent position. How limited?  How's 50 worldwide?

This looks like a masterfully crafted instrument.  If you used to listen to the podcast, you know I prefer ebony for my fingerboards.  This jewel, appropriately, has a gorgeous ebony fingerboard. The tone woods are just right, bear claw Sitka spruce and blackwood. Personally, I'm not a fan of spruce, because it's crisper than what appeals to my ear.  The Takamine TLEi reported to a warm sound, which I have to infer is due to the blackwood.  Sounds like this orchestral size instrument would delight my ear.  

Although I haven't been enamored of very much spruce, I do like the split bone bridge.  If you have an exceptional ear, you're a frustrated guitarist - unless you have an expensive guitar.  It seems the more you spend, the closer to really in tune you can get your axe. The truth is, we  compromise for playability. A guitar is rarely completely in tune.  the split bridge or in lower priced guitars, a slanted bridge, compensates for the limitations  

The onboard electronics are the top of the Takamine line. Because there are 2 pick ups, including a soundboard transducer, which offers a broad range of qualities, not found on all guitar in this price range.

The MSRP, not "street," is just a touch below $5,000.    Does this Takamine limited edition resonate with you?  She's s beauty!

No matter what your axe of choice is, whether is set you back $5 grand or $150, strings will make all the difference in the world.  If you are not using DRs and have not yet tried them, what are you waiting for?  They're the best strings I have ever used, whether electric, acoustic, nylon or bass.  I understand that strings are a very personal choice, but I encourage you to try a set.  If you're like me, you will love the sound.  If not, it's just  a string change.

New guitar or old one, catapult your creativity with a genuine Raptor R Series pick.  It's unique and offers 3 distinctly different picking tips to enable you to create an array of timbres with the same pick. Get yours today, at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Best Laid Plans

So, there I was, with all intention of blogging this week, since the podcast is suspended.  Great idea.  Then, the bottom fell out.

E-Rex has just gotten out of bed today, for the first time in a week, excluding when I was just barely able to get him to the Dr.  Those of you who have been listening to the podcast or reading show notes know that any kind of illness, after what he's already been through, is troubling.  

Last night was his first night without a high (over 103ยบ) fever and multiple night sweats.  He needed a lot of attention, so I'll dispense with the medical report.  He's improving, but he's my excuse for not getting to the blog.

Summer is winding down, my students are returning from far flung parts and potential students are calling.  

If you're looking for a new axe or gear, at this point, you might just hold out for Labor Day sales, if you are reading this in the US.  All the big guitar sellers have sent a barrage of emails and USPS mail about their so-called, great deals.  I'd call them "sales."  Any discount is a discount if you're watching your budget, so comparative shop.

Yesterday I had a call from a guitarist, who I steered in another direction, for lessons.  We had an interesting conversation.  I'm not surprised when new, self-taught players tell me that they are teaching themselves from tab and YouTube. I am surprised when someone who sounds very serious, and is seeking to become an excellent jazz or classical guitarist, doesn't read or understand the nuances and meaning of the music because they can't or won't read music notation.  Clearly, the guy I chatted with was serious and he'd had a fabulous instructor, whose name you would recognize,  some time ago.  He's a jazz cat.  He said his strength is soloing.  He also said he was really fast.  What my brain heard was, "I can play it faster than anyone, but I have no idea what I'm saying or what I want to say."  That's not a slam or criticism.  He didn't say his strength was improvisation, because if he had, I'd suspect that he did know what he was saying and what he wanted to say. I also suspected that his lightning fast chops were owing to taking time to play speed studies from tab.  I asked if he realized that to excel, he needs to work with music notation and I asked if he reads music.  His answer was something like, "I can but I don't."  

The only reasons someone seriously pursuing jazz guitar would not use music notation would be either because they were told tab is just as good and they believed it, or they don't want to put in the effort, because it feels like they're going backwards to take the time and have the discipline to learn it or brush up their skills.  I tried to explain that you can learn to speak a language well enough to travel and get directions, order food, say hello and make small talk with Rosetta Stone, but you'd never be able to read a literary masterpiece in that language. Jazz music, done well, is a theoretical smorgasbord and although a good ear is a great asset, and speed is never a bad thing, provided you can control yourself and play at whatever tempo is appropriate, if you can't decipher  the nuances and beauty of detail nor actually understand what the work is saying, you'll never be better than mediocre.   He listened intently.  I don't know if he will heed my heartfelt counsel.  I may or may not hear from him again, but I left the door open.  

Yesterday was also the end Raptor Picks USA flash sale. I hope you got in on it.  Perhaps there will be another before the Labor Day drawing for a free Raptor.  To be eligible this time, you need to like the "Thanks to Joe Isaacs for the like"  post on the Raptor Picks USA FaceBook page during this month.  If you aren't using this revolutionary guitar pick, I don't know what's stopping you.  Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I abandoned the pick I used exclusively for decades after my first experience with a Genuine Raptor R Series pick.  It's amazing.

Hey, have you got an affinity for Monet or Degas?  If impressionist is your artistic sensibility, you should check out the beautiful new swirl finish on Fender guitars!

I love them!  I have only seen this finish available on a strat and tele, thus far. All I can say is, "Ooooooo."  

I'm hoping to post again very soon, provided that E-Rex continues to improve.   

"Until next time, I'm D A  Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Transition

This is the first show notes replacement post since i have decided to suspend podcasting, at least for the time being.  If you have listened for a long time, you can "hear" me, I'm sure. Going forward, the format of this blog will be more blog-gy than show note-y after this post.  Let's call this one the transition. 

So, how were your past few weeks? Mine were okay, but I did a lot of life and time analysis. That's when I concluded that I need to reclaim more time from my usual schedule. The podcast was the only "non-essential" from which I could grab some hours. That's how and why I made the decision. 

My DRs? Of course they're great. I have had a bit of email feedback from listeners to the last podcast, saying they were going to try DRs and get back to me. I have great expectations. I love, love, love them and think you will, too. If you try them as a result of my endless urging, please, let me know.

A few days ago, I was at a public venue where several singer/guitarists were playing. From the sampling I heard, I'd say they were professional musicians, but that they probably hadn't been for very long.  One dude in particular, stood out.  I'm not going to mention the venue nor the artist's name.  Here's the thing:  He wasn't very good.  I don't know if he was having an off day, or if he just doesn't play nor sing well.  I made a mental note to throw this out to you, to see where you come down on the question that begs to be asked: 

If you're trying to break into a career singing and playing, do you take every opportunity to play, whether your chops are where they need to be or not?  Or, do you hone your skills more before going public?  

It can be rationalized from both sides.  Let me know what you think.  I'll tell 
you what I think in my next post.

Congrats to Gary and Shira for making it into the Student Spotlight over the past few weeks.  They have not been frequent headliners in the Spotlight.  I was so impressed with both of their last guitar lessons before taking some time off.  Nice work.  I could see the result of your focus and diligence in working through your music.  This will be the last mention of the Student Spotlight  if/until I resume podcasting. 

I had a question by email from Dirk in Cheshire, England.  Thanks, Dirk.  His email was long, but his question boiled down to this: I've hit a wall with my speed and dexterity and I'm only an intermediate level player. What can I do?

It's a good question and what's even better than the question is that Dirk has realized that he's hit a wall. Most of the artists (of any description, not just musicians) I know, have an inflated view of their abilities.  It's rarely the other way.  Dirk recognizes that something needs to be modified for him to continue to grow technically.

The single most effective thing you can do, is stop what you're doing, in terms of studies and exercises.  If you're serious, I hope you're working on speed and dexterity studies.  If you're working from music notation,  (I realize, most of you who read this, aren't) my advice to you is: start somewhere else

Huh?  Are you playing a linear or horizontal exercise based on a scale or mode?   If it's 2 or 3 octaves, begin an octave higher than usual, play ascending, return,descending all the way to the lowest note in the study and then play back up to where you began.  That's one way to change your rut and your dependency on a predictably muscle memory and sound.   OR if you always begin studies ascending, descend first, then, ascend. OR if you play arpeggios ascending and then descending, reverse it. If you practice something in triplets, change it to sixteenths.  Do you play only major scales?  Learn minors or modes.

I know what some of you are thinking: If I do that, my speed and dexterity will decrease!  Well, yes and no.  It may, initially. If it does, what's revealed is that your muscle memory or trained reactions are imbalanced. The more your brain can participate, consciously, in your technical workout, the better player you will be.  If you can think it and hear it in your mind's ear, you should be able to play it, or be striving to be able to do it. If your exercises and studies are entirely by rote, and you zone out while you're doing them, you're better off not doing them.  Disengaging your brain will never move you forward. If your studies and exercises bore you, then modify them.

I must add, all of my remarks above are assuming that you have proper physical technique.

Dirk, I hope this is helpful.  A Guitar Technique Tutor Podcast pick is on its way to you.

If you have a question you'd like me to address here, send it along.  If I use it in this podcast, I'll be glad to send you a Guitar Technique Tutor pick. 

No matter where I go, like my local guitar stores, whether national chains or privately owned shops, when I show guitarists the Genuine R Series Raptor Pick, the ones with vision immediately comprehend that it’s not just another novelty pick that’s going to end up somewhere with all the other weird picks they have tried or people have given them.  They try it, they utter a soft “hmmm” and they keep playing. And playing and playing.  Most of them tell me they expected it to feel weird but it’s comfortable and just feels different.   When I ask them what they think,  they say they want it and ask where they can get one.  

You may or may not be in the market for a new guitar, but I don’t know a guitarist alive that isn’t looking for fresh inspiration.  The 3 uniquely and specifically engineered picking tips on the Raptor entice you to think about and explore the full range of sound qualities you can create with it.  The unique  beveling of the molded acrylic pick offer amazingly silent attack.  

The Raptor R Series pick is destined to become a pivotal tool for creative guitarists.  Personally, I haven’t played with anything but a Raptor R Series since the very first time I touched one and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed when you try it.

Get yours today at   Free Raptors with a purchase of 4 or more is just another way of “spreading the excellence, one guitarist at a time.”

Raptor™ picks are a registered design. All rights are owned by Black Carbon.

G 10 Series
G 20 Series
G 30 Series
G 50 Series
G 70 Series
G 90 Series

Have you seen the new Takamine G Series?

These are nice guitars at lower-than-usual prices for Takamines.  I'm detecting a trend, lately.  If you recall, in a July podcast and the show notes called Pushing Through, I mentioned an "affordable," PRS line of guitars, the S2 Series. Some high ticket guitar builders are introducing instrument lines that are more economical, that retain the best aspects of their more expensive predecessors. We saw it in PRS and now in Takamine.  I think it's a wise more.  In the line I'm highlighting here, the lowest price G10 is less than $300 MSRP and the highest price G90 is under $800 MSRP.  (I don't know if there will be a traditional "street" discount at the big guitar stores, or if, because this is an economy line, the MSRPs will hold.)  You can check out the specs for yourself.  If you're looking for  Takamine quality at an inviting price, this line may be just right for you.


Are you a pickup geek?  Do you love  early Les Pauls and the sound of PAF pickups?  Jonesing for that sound?  

The ProBucker pickups by Epiphone may be just what will float your boat. 

At the 140th Anniversary weekend, Epiphone offered guitarists the opportunity to play guitars outfitted with ProBuckers and other pickups.

They set up two sets of three Les Paul Standard PlusTop PROs--in Vintage Sunburst and Heritage Cherry Sunburst--and encouraged visitors to check them out. Both groups of Les Pauls were set up with new Epiphone ProBucker pickups as well as two other very fine boutique humbuckers.
Many guests participated in the "blind" challenge including pros, guitar magazine editors, and guitar collectors. While every pickup sounded fantastic and the differences were slight, Epiphone's ProBuckers were chosen as the preferred pickup by a majority (61%) of the players. 

These amazing pickups come stock on the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PRO and Custom PRO guitars, but that doesn't mean you can't tweak your arch top or other Les Paul and replace your current pick up with one of these.

You should play and listen to either of the PROs mentioned above AND watch the video. I know I mentioned pickups, at length, in a podcast, probably during 2013, but don't quote me on that.  Remember, humbucker is a term coined for the pickup's purpose, which was to buck the annoying hum that its predecessors had.  Read more about these fabulous PAF ProBuckers.

Epiphone ProBuckers feature 18% Nickel Silver unit bases and covers, the same alloy used by Gibson. The use of Nickel Silver reduces the occurrence of eddy currents due to low conductivity and provides a more transparent and crisp output. The size and shape of bobbins also has a great impact on tonal response. The bobbins used on the ProBucker pickups duplicate the size and shape of the gold standard in the industry, Gibson humbuckers. Epiphone ProBucker pickups also feature Sand cast Alnico II magnets, high quality 4 conductor lead wire and are vacuum wax potted to eliminate microphonics.

Check them out, if you're looking for the diversity of sounds these pickup deliver,

Don't forget that if you aren't comfortable, your guitar isn't either.  DO NOT leave it in a hot car or attic nor a cold car or basement.  Make sure its environment has at least 40% humidity - if not, use a humidifier.  Always use a humidifier if the A/C is on or if the heat is on.

Try DR strings. They're the best strings I've ever used.

Beautiful work Gary and Shira!

Mix up your studies and exercises if you have hit a technique, speed or dexterity wall.

The Takamine G series is reasonable for Takamine quality.  These instruments range from $280 to $795.

Epiphone's ProBucker pickup is a force to be reckoned with.  61% of guitarists who took the ProBucker challenge preferred it. (It's a subjective thing, but if you like the PAF sound, check it  out.)

This will be the last "show notes" style blog post.  From tonight forward, post will be more frequent and may not cover multiple topics.

Enter to win a Raptor pick at the Raptor Picks USA FaceBook page. You'll see the post you need to Like in order to be entered for the Labor Day Drawing.  

Until next time, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time.