Sunday, February 24, 2013

the voice

So how was your week? Mine was just fine. I had a very light teaching schedule because a lot of schools were on mid-winter break and so many people were sick.  

I met with prospective new student, Thanh,  and we’re pretty sure we’re going to go ahead with lessons.  He’s a great guy and a former Marine.  He had a health crisis this week. When we were scheduled to have our first lesson, he had a severe allergic reaction to something and had to go to the hospital. Thanh is a lefty and for him and him alone I will teach him to play lefty. As you know if you have ever read my Lefty? link on the web site, that  I teach all my lefty students, righty.  Well, Thanh will be that exception.   He was in a terrible motorcycle accident that caused extreme damage to both of his hands.  The right hand tendons were able to be repaired surgically, but not the left.  So, this lefty  has more use in and dexterity of his right hand, so it will have to go on the neck of the leafy guitar that was given to him.  The index, middle and ring fingers of his left hand cannot close all the way.  So, he will be  my anomaly.   I’m looking forward to working with him after he recovers from whatever took him to the hospital Thursday.

Have you seen the Fender Edition Volkswagon Beetle?  It’s cool. I blogged about it during the week.  

The count down to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival NYC and the first weekend of Coachella continue, Anya. I’m recording this on February 23, so it’s 47 days.  Move on it now if you’re looking for tickets.

I heard a report on the news from a mayor of one of the NJ shore towns, that their beach was not going to open this summer.  I’m sure it will devastate the town’s finances as well as the incomes of those whose businesses are there. 

Here, in NJ we’re in recovery day 117.  Thanks for your prayers, practical and financial support.  If you desire to help more, you can, at  the Sandy Relief NJ Fund.  I’ll have all the links on the  podcast page and on the blog.

Danielle’s SG is now sporting lime green DR NEONs.  She hadn’t changed the strings since she got it and she loved the sound, feel and is digging the K3 coating.  My local guitar shops don’t have  the pink NEONs I want to try so mine have been ordered and I’ll have them soon.  My strings are getting deader and deader.  Sting changes and haircuts are the things I have the most difficulty scheduling a “just the right time.”  I wait until I can’t bear to play anymore before I change my strings and I wait until I can be mistaken for a shaggy dog before I call my stylist for a haircut -- which I should do this coming week to prevent the shaggy dog scenario. Let’s see if I do it. I promise I’ll tell you either way.

The Les Paul in Mahwah:  A Tribute exhibit will run until June of this year.  (Although I have the idea that there may be yet another extension of the large exhibit, but I have nothing upon which to base my idea.)   There, you can get a glimpse of the prolific output of inventions and hear the guitar mastery of the late, Mahwah resident, Les Paul.  His inventions still have relevance and his breakthrough, sound on sound recording revolutionized  the way music was recorded, and the kind of sound, the music consumer heard.  He was a true genius.  

Les Paul in Mahwah: A Tribute at the Mahwah Museum

Thank You, Les is Lou Pallo’s great tribute to the man and his music. Get it in whatever form of media to which you are partial.  It’s an homage like no other.

This week there are no  students in the Student Spotlight, the Question of the Week came in by email and is about how to fix messed up picking, News is about the Play Crossroads contest by Ernie Ball, which is getting down to the last days of buzz voting and Take Note is about finding your voice. 

Just to let you know, there’s a high possibility of me not recording a show next week.  I will be away 1 day of the weekend, our elderly neighbor will be having extremely serious surgery and I will be caring for some things and a rather cute feline in her apartment and I have a 3 Sunday long commitment that begins next Sunday.  All of those things may require all the time I have to create a new show next week. So, if you don’t see anything in your iTunes or on the web site by the  1st Tuesday in March, assume no show.  I’ll Tweet and post on the blog if I decide to skip.

Raptor Picks USA

Here are 4 descriptions of genuine Raptor™ “R” Series guitar picks with which  I wholeheartedly agree:

"Tools for the Creative”
From the moment you pick up the Raptor™ "R" Series it's obvious a great deal of thought has gone into its design and from the second you touch a string you can both feel and hear the difference between a Raptor and other picks you’ve tried.

“Beautiful and Tactile”
Genuine “R”  Series Raptors™ have three carefully sculpted picking tips. They’ve been created using the same sophisticated design and modeling techniques employed to produce formula one racing cars and the result of this design effort means they’ve been able to take the humble pick to a completely new level of performance.

“Absolutely Amazing”
Each picking tip forms complex curves designed to glide effortlessly over your guitars strings. Raptors produce clean tones with almost imperceptible attack that range from that of the brightest thinnest pick through to the warm rich tones normally associated with much thicker picks.

"The Pursuit of Excellence”
All genuine “R” Series Raptor™ picks are subject to very strict quality control procedures. Each "R" Series plectrum is precision molded from high grade Acrylic, then individually printed and inspected to ensure it meets their high standards prior to leaving their UK based factory.

Genuine Raptor™ “R”Series guitar picks are available 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.

Student Spotlight
The Spotlight is dark this week.  I’m not one for rationalization, but my schedule was extremely slim this week because of illness and vacations.  The students who did have lessons had not had a lot of practice, so rather than mention who played the best of the non-exceptionals, I’ll let the Spotlight conserve energy this week.  I trust my roll of students will resume their normal level of commitment, or renew their commitment to their instruments.  I’m all for energy conservation, but I’d rather have you in the Spotlight, so students, let’s get back on track as soon as you are able.

Question of the Week
This week's question came in by email from Alonzo who lives in Santa Fe (a city that looks like I’d never want to leave).  He wrote: “You talk about pick technique a lot.  At first I didn’t really pay attention to it.  Then, I thought you just didn’t have anything else to talk about because you bring it up a lot. Then I looked at my technique and it [stinks].  How can I fix it? It’s been whatever  for a long time but now I think you’re right and it’s why my playing isn’t going anywhere.  Sorry I thought it was stupid for you to keep talking about it. Can you help me?  

Alonzo, I have a pick on its way to you. I thank you for your question and I hope I can give you some guidance now that you’re actually paying attention.  

Let me address that, first.  You guitarists who are listening, if you have an instructor or a better guitarist than you are, who’s suggesting changes in your approach or any phase of your playing.  Consider what they’re saying to you. Depending upon who is saying it, you should be a good judge of whether they have your best interest at heart or whether they’re just in the game to cut you down.  If it’s someone you know and trust, you should listen to what they have to say.

Okay, Alonzo.  It sounds like you’ve been playing for a while.  I’ll take that to be years, not months or weeks.  So, you have developed habits. The only way to overcome a habit is to make a new one, whether you’re playing the guitar or doing anything else that involves some muscle memory or rote movement. The first thing you have to buy into, is that there isn’t  a quick fix.  I know the world is rife with all kinds of quick fixes or instant whatever, but this is going to take time and focus. If you’re not willing to embark upon this and see it through to the end,  I strongly urge you not to begin.  If you only dip your toe in and don’t go all the way, your playing will be worse than it is now. 

Alonzo, the first thing you should do is stop playing any studies or licks you work on regularly.  Find some alternate picking studies that you’ve NEVER  played.  Not ones you worked on last year or a few years ago.  Not any that require sweet picking or anything other than alternate picking. It’s imperative that it’s fresh material. Instinctive and consistent alternate picking is one of the greatest strengths a developing guitarist can master.  It’s divorced from your left hand technique, which is its own whole arena.  I’d even recommend using a fresh pick and maybe even changing your pick.  If you always play with an ultra thin, get a medium or heavy, etc.  Hey, if you haven’t played with a Raptor, get a 4 pack, which is really 5 picks.  You might even change your strings.  You need to think of this as a new beginning and a departure from the old.  

The first step to legit alternate picking is to play a scale or other exercise and play each degree of it as 8 eighth notes, picking them Down/Up, Down/Up Down/Up and  Down/Up.
This exercise can be as simple or complex as you like, as long as you’re stroking every note 8 times in  that pattern. (Don’t look at either of your hands when you do this.) Boring, right? But it’s the beginning of creating an reflex and instinct in you.  Don’t allow yourself to zone out. I work with this exercise very early on with most of my students - way before I have them alternate pick individual notes of exercises or scales.  I’m looking for a nearly guaranteed correct outcome when I move them to alternate picking individual notes.  This is how I do my part to set them up for success.  

This 8 eighth note picking pattern work should go on for at least a month. I realize this is where I may lose you, Alonzo, but I don’t want to give you the impression that this is an immediate metamorphosis that you will undergo.  It’s going to take a lot of keen attention to accomplish it.

The second step is more complicated. Take the exercise you’ve been working on, and for this,  it’s easiest if you have a print copy of it, and use a very light bright highlighter, and highlight every other note.   So, if it’s an E scale, for example, the highlighted notes will be E, G#, B, D#, F#, A, C#, E etc, for however many octaves you’re playing.  Practice (that means repeat and repeat and repeat some more) picking the highlighted notes and the highlighted notes ONLY, with a down stroke. (Don’t look at either of your hands when you do this.)  Make sure it’s a deliberate down stroke when you move from one string to another, so it doesn’t feel like sloppy picking or sweet picking. (I’m not suggesting the 2 are synonymous, just both not what we want.)   Practice this a lot.   When you begin working on this, also continue to work on the  8 eighth notes exercise with this modification: make it a 2 eighth note exercise and play 1 Down/Up for each note.  

So now you’re practicing the familiar exercise with a quarter of the stroke than originally AND  you’re practicing it in a very new way, which is every other note down picked in a deliberate way.  You should work on this exercise at least 3 weeks, but a month is even better.  

Then, and only then, move on to an NEW exercise.  Highlight every other note. I would not choose anything that requires extreme left hand technique. Begin practicing it SLOWLY, alternate picking, being absolutely certain you are picking down every time you play a highlighted note. (Don’t look at either of your hands when you do this.) I recommend you practice this new exercise SLOWLY for at least 2 weeks.  You can nudge the metronome a bit higher after a week, but keep it in the very slow range.  You need to be making every movement purposefully.    At the end of the 2 or 3 weeks, begin slowly moving your metronome speed a little faster and add another exercise or 2, highlight every other note and practice it at the very slow speed at which you did this originally with the exercise you will now be moving a bit faster.  

The first exercise should creep up in tempo,  the second is practiced SLOWLY for 2 or 3 weeks, then it can very gradually be increased in tempo and a third exercise to be practiced SLOWLY as before, should be added.  I believe that if you incrementally move these 3 different studies through their 3 different tempi, you will be well on your way to resetting your picking instinct.  

The discouraging thing I have to add is that if you wish to be wise, don’t work on any of the music you have played for a long time with bad pick technique. Just let it hibernate for a LONG time.  It’s easy for an alcoholic to be tempted into taking a drink in a bar, but if they’re not near one for a long time,  there will be much less temptation.  It’s the same for you.  Stay away from the stuff in which you’ve massacred the picking in the past.  Just work on new stuff, revel in your success and only after a long time (I’m talking 8 months or a year) revisit the old things if you must.  Be ever so careful when you do.  If you have turned the corner and come to the light side and have done so consistently, you should be able to overcome the rotten picking you perpetrated on your music the first time around. Be vigilant, though.  Old habits dye hard. 

I wish you all success, Alonzo.  And I hope you won’t tune me out if I have to bring up alternate picking again in the future.

If you have  a question that you would like me to address on the podcast, please email it to me at  If I use your question, I will be glad to send you a Guitar Technique Tutor Podcast pick. 

In the news this week is Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival NYC April 12 & 13, 2013, to benefit Crossroads Centre Antigua and the 


Ernie Ball Searches For The Next Best Undiscovered Guitarist For A Chance To Perform At Madison Square Garden

Ernie Ball announced the 2013 Play Crossroads contest a while ago, in which the legendary string company will be partnering up with Guitar Center, Guitar World, and in a global search to give the next best undiscovered guitarist a chance to perform live on stage at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 at Madison Square Garden on April 12th-13th.  

Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013, presented by Chase, draws thousands of fans from around the world to witness live performances from legendary guitar players.  Past festivals have included memorable sets by Clapton, BB King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Steve Winwood, Vince Gill, ZZ Top and many more.

"Ernie Ball partnered with Eric and his foundation.  They’re excited to find the next great guitar legend, and look forward to helping the winner grow and establish their career. They hope this opportunity acts as a massive springboard for the winning artist!"

Since January, unsigned musicians were invited to enter the Play Crossroads contest for free at by completing a short informational profile and uploading one MP3. Entrants were encouraged to use ReverbNation’s promotional toolkit provided on each band/artist profile, to promote their entry all over the web and drive traffic to their profile.

The winning artist will earn the opportunity to perform live on the Madison Square Garden Stage (the world's most famous arena) at Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013, presented by Chase, in front of thousands of fans.

Prize pack for the winning artist also includes:
  • Performance Slot at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden.
  • Ernie Ball String Package and Endorsement
  • Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar Endorsement
  • Guitar Player Magazine Feature

For the next few days, you can give your buzz support for the artists who have submitted their music in the contest.  This will be an amazing career boost to whoever wins.  

Additionally, Ernie Ball has partnered up with The Crossroads At Antigua Foundation to release a limited edition Eric Clapton Crossroads Collection Guitar Straps, available exclusively at Guitar Center, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the charity.  Inspired by the iconic design style of European automobile manufacturers, Ernie Ball's Crossroads Collection Straps feature premium Italian leather and hand-stitched threading for maximum appeal. Putting a primary on performance and comfort, these straps also feature a thin layer of padding and and an ultra-rich suede back.  These limited edition straps are a must have for any Clapton aficionado, or any guitar player seeking a high-quality strap that's built to last. These are pricey but some of  the proceeds are going to the Crossroads At Antigua Foundation.

As far as ticket prices to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival 2013 NYC goes. as of today, the lowest price ticket to the Crossroads Guitar Festival was $331 and the top was $80,113  for an 18 person suite on the madison level. Of course, the closer the concert gets, the less accurate the aforementioned will become.

For More Information:

Take Note
My take note topic this week is tone and your voice - not your singing voice, but the voice of the instrument or instruments you play.   As an instructor, I’m frequently reminding students to listen to the music they play and asking them how what they play sounds.  I don’t only mean are the notes correct or is the rhythm right.  It’s a bigger issue than those things.  THEY are a given.  Your voice is how you play, what you play, what it sounds like, and what other people hear when you play.  For the same guitarist, it can be different from genre to genre and from axe to axe.  I know I don’t play my nylon string guitar the way I play any others.  It has its own voice and attitude and style. Likewise my other guitars.  There are techniques every guitarist should learn and master, depending upon the genre or genres they play.  Then what?   What’s the point all the speed and stretch and fine technique, control and rhythm?  Is it for its own sake?  Of course not.  I want to ask you to think about your sound or if you’re a guitarist in progress, the sound you aspire to command. Notice, I didn’t say, the sound you want to have.  YOU are in control of your sound. It shouldn’t be the other way around and it shouldn’t be that your sound controls you --- especially it shouldn’t be that IT limits YOU.    What’s that voice?  What’s YOUR voice? 

I submit for your consideration, 2 video interviews that Paul Reed Smith did over the past few months.  They aren’t long.  Don’t listen to the guitarists in the videos, with competition or comparison in your mind.  Listen to how they talk about the sound or voice with which they now play and how those sounds evolved.  Take a few minutes to watch and listen to these guitarists from varied genres talk about the “voice” of their music and how it came to be.  The links will be on the show notes page and the blog, which is  

Don’t turn a deaf ear to the musicians who are not from your preferred genre. THEY are the most important for you to listen to. It’s not in your best musical interest to only listen to your personal guitar heroes. Actually, it’s in your best musical interest to listen to everyone except them.   You should also listen to instrumentalists who aren’t guitarists.  That’s what will broaden you.

Your voice as a musician, whether recreational or pro, is the most important thing, once you have emerged past being a beginner. Think about it and appropriate it.

Raptor Picks USA
Once in a great while, something comes along that's literally revolutionary. The Raptor™ R Series guitar pick is just such a creation. It affords its user a sublime quartet of sounds which can be summoned with a mere rotation of the brilliantly designed Raptor™ pick. Not only is it a beautifully executed, ingenious idea, but the first experience of playing with it is almost impossible to describe because it’s so different from anything you’ve ever employed.

Get past the unusual feel of the Raptor™ guitar pick and the door to faster, cleaner and more creative playing swings wide open.  Your grip will be sure.  Your attack will be silent. Your projection will be enhanced.  Add to that the technology  that enables the pick to glide over your strings, rather than bluntly striking them and the genuine Raptor™ “R” Series pick stands alone as an asset to every guitarist who uses one. 
Seasoned pro? This pick allows for more subtle differences of expression because of the variety of timbres it  produces. 
Intermediate recreational guitarist? Improve your sound by upgrading your pick.
Rank beginner? Prime your creativity right  from the outset.  
Genuine Raptor™ “R”Series guitar picks are available 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.

I hope my pink DR NEONs arrive soon. I’m really in the mood. If they do, I may even go for a haircut. 
I hope the Spotlight will regain its glow next week.  
You’ve got to make a completely fresh start, to fix bad technique. That’s why I always caution you to learn and perfect each element of your technique thoroughly - learn to play correctly the first time.
Vote your Buzz Support for the artists contending for the Play Crossroads 2013 opportunity of a lifetime.
Articulate your voice fully. If you don’t have a voice, it’s time to find it. 

If you’d like to further assist SuperStorm Sandy victims, Sandy NJ Relief Fund will put 100% of your contribution to excellent use.  The recovery here is going to take years.
Don’t forget the Les Paul in Mahwah exhibit at the Mahwah Museum in Mahwah, NJ which is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and the marvelous tribute to Les Paul by Lou Pallo, the trio and other musical friends, called Thank You, Les. 

If you’re not comfortable, your guitar isn’t either, so don’t leave your guitar in a cold car or basement, or a hot car or attic. Humidify if your guitar lives in an environment in which there is less than 40% humidity.
You can follow me on the Guitar Technique Tutor blog on blogger or on Twitter, where I'm GuitarTechnique. I'm not a tweeting maniac, I tweet to update anyone following me and retweet what I think is interesting. 

If you're seeking expert competent guitar instruction in the Bergen and Rockland County towns in which I teach, such as Airmont, Allendale, Fair Lawn, Franklin Lakes, Glen Rock, Hawthorne, HoHoKus, Hillburn, Mahwah, Midland Park, Montebello,  Montvale, Oakland, Oradell, Paramus, Park Ridge, the hamlet of Ramapo, Ramsey, Ridgewood, River Edge, Saddle River, Suffern, Tallman, Teaneck, Tuxedo, Tuxedo Park,  Upper Saddle River,  Viola, Waldwick, Washington Township, Westwood, Woodcliff Lake or Wyckoff please contact me. For lesson inquires, calling is best and my number is on the web site. If we can coordinate our schedules and you're a good candidate to learn to play the guitar, perhaps we can work together.
Whether you are a beginner guitarist, a gigging professional or at any level in between, a genuine Raptor™ guitar pick will catapult your playing forward.  Visit RaptorPicksUSA.Com to order yours today.
Practice, have a great  week, practice  and until next time, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time. 

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