Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sloppy Joes

[05/17/2013 show notes from Guitar Technique Tutor Podcast Episode 104]

On the show, this week, there’s 1 student in the Student Spotlight, the Question of the Week is, 'How can I do it?', News is about the budget friendly Squire Affinity Series from our friends at Fender, and my Take Note topic is Sloppy Joes.


So how were your last few weeks? I know I one more week than my original plan, but thanks to an old dear friend, birthday festivities for me began a week before my birthday. I want to thank you  listeners for the birthday wishes I received by email.  I appreciated them. Thanks!

Tomorrow we are venturing to the Jersey Shore for the first time since Sandy devastated it.  We aren’t going to the State Park beach to which we usually go, but rather to Ocean Grove, a town we love.  It’s loaded with Victorian bed and breakfasts, cute shops, great restaurants and Day’s home made ice cream.   There are a couple things going on there that will make for an enjoyable day, and a little sea breeze makes it all the better.  The weather will also be cooperating with us.  On this podcast I have mentioned the food bank fund raisers done in Ocean Grove, to benefit the Monmouth County food bank.  It’s always a good time and the musician who donate their time and performance are always accomplished ones.  

The Sandy NJ Relief Fund is making a significant difference in the recovery effort, so if you’re so inclined to assist residents and businesses return to stability and productive commerce, know your contribution there, will be put to wise use quickly.  Or, if hands-on is your thing, there are always  projects for which your willing hands can be a welcome addition.  Clean up and restoration is going to take years.   Just this past week, the gigantic Seaside Heights Ferris Wheel was removed from the Atlantic Ocean, where it had languished since the storm October 29th.

On more guitar-y topics:

In previous episodes I spoke about the importance of a guitar fitting your body size, and that the comfort level you have with a proper fit will allow you to play better.  One of the brands I have mentioned is Luna.  One of my guitars is a Luna. I have only one small design criticism - and it’s really minor.  Lunas are great guitars for anyone of petite frame -- I often recommend them to my small female students.  How would you like to win the Luna of your choice?  Yvonne, at Luna has created a Pin & Win contest. If you win, you will receive the Luna instrument of your choice!!  The contest began May 15th and runs through July 14th.  I’ve said this before, about other contests that I have mentioned: If the deadline is a given date, be sure you get your entry in at lease a day before - just to compensate for time zone differences etc.  If I were entering, I’d have my entry in by July 12th, rather than  15th, but that’s just me.   So, if you’re a Luna aficionado or would like to be, the contest doesn’t cost anything but your time and creativity.   Check it out.

Don’t forget that Experience PRS 2013 registration opens to the public May 20th through August 15th.  If you are a PRS devotee, like I am, and can attend the event,  which kicks off on September 19, let this reminder serve as your stimulus to make your plans.  Yes, I know that’s several months away, but if you need to arrange time off from work, or to make travel arrangements, now is the time to get your ducks in a row.

Wednesday, I  made a DR Neon Believer of my student, Bridget.  We put pink Neons on her acoustic guitar. She dressed for the occasion - when I arrived, she was sporting pink, head to toe, including pink nails.  

I love that K3 coating - and pink, all the better.  DR, the best string I have ever used, and I’ve used them all, makes coated bass, electric and acoustic strings.  They aren’t all neon. There are black, silver, blue and red if you’re a demur type.   I use DRs and only DRs on my guitars.  IF you’ve never played them, you should try a plain or K3 coated set. DRs are the best strings out there. For the life of me, I don’t know why Taylor Swift doesn’t use the red ones, since her trademark color is red. Maybe she hasn’t tried them.  If that’s the case, Rosa better get on it!

I want to say happy housewarming to my student,  Aviv, and her family.  They just moved into a new home, which I’ll finally see in another week.

Don’t forget the Les Paul 98th Birthday Gala  at Ramapo College on June 8th and the Les Paul in Mahwah: A Tribute exhibit at the Mahwah Museum, in Mahwah, NJ.  The exhibit will be much smaller after the museum closes for the summer at the end of June and reopens in September. At that time, the permanent smaller installation will be available to visitors, but it will be a fraction of the size of the current, expansive Les Paul collection. If you’re in the NY Metro area and don’t go to see it, shame on you. The calibre of Les Paul’s genius is rarely seen.  

The Les Paul Trio, Lou Pallo, Nicky Parrot and John Colianni will be among the artists at the Les Paul 98th Birthday Gala and have created an homage to Les called, Thank You, Les.  You should have it in your library.

Raptor Picks USA

Does your or your kids’ dad love to play guitar?  I know,  dads are burdened with life requirements, but if my students Arno and Mike, who have young active families and who commute into NYC every day, to work, have time to play guitar, your or your kids’ dad probably savors his opportunities to play, even if they are limited.  He’s got enough ties.  He’s got enough tools. He’s got enough gift cards.  A handful of genuine Raptor R Series guitar picks will show him you love him because it shows him that you know what he loves.  What are you waiting for?

I don’t know a guitarist alive that isn’t looking for fresh inspiration and he’s no exception. The 3 uniquely and specifically engineered picking tips on the Raptor entice a guitarist to think about and explore the full range of sound qualities they can create with it.  The unique  beveling of the molded acrylic pick offer amazingly silent attack.  He’s going to love them.

The Raptor R Series pick is destined to become a pivotal tool for creative guitarists, whether they’re moms, dads, sons or daughters.  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 anyone will be disappointed when they play with a genuine Raptor R Series pick.

Get some today for the guitarist in your life, or for you  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 Student Spotlight is illuminating one student, Bridget.  Not just because she has awesome pink strings, but because her degree of improvement/mastery has increased yet again.  She’s doing wonderfully. Bridget, you rocked before you had pink Neon DRs on your axe. Now you rock even more.  Great work.  Keep loving your guitar and applying yourself.

Question of the Week

This week's Question was hard to reduce from its original form.  I was working with Danielle this week. She’s extremely talented and we divide our time between playing, studying theory, composition and other musical disciplines.  She said she wanted to revisit some scales she has slacked off playing.  Being the perceptive instructor that I am, I knew it wasn’t the scales she was interested in playing.  So we worked with one scale - a moveable diatonic major one, and then I asked her to move it to another location on the fingerboard and tell me the name of each note as she played.   Most of you listeners know that just like moveable chords, all closed note scales or for that matter, riffs,  transpose effortlessly by changing the position in which you play them.  BUT… that’s just a physical exercise. Yes, it’s something but zipping around the fingerboard with dazzling speed and agility  only takes you so far.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong.  But for Danielle, because her knowledge and understanding eclipse her comfort in some positions, I inferred that what she was really looking to do by asking to revisit some scales that move all over the neck, was actually a cry for help when she wanders into no-man’s land.   She and I know that she has extraordinary muscle memory, a better than average ear and a very agile mind.  If you’re like Danielle, I want to encourage you to perceive, as Danielle has, that there’s an integral piece missing from your musicianship.  You have marry the muscle memory, the ear and the knowledge.  If all you have is muscle memory chops, you  need to train your ear and gain understanding, too, but that’s another discussion.  

I hope some of you are in Danielle’s boat - not that I want your musicianship to be inadequate, but because I want to be of help.  

Now, Danielle and I have particular studies, exercises, scales and music that is used expressly for technique development.   Danielle knows her tendency is to just memorize it and play it until it sounds the way she wants it to, in terms of speed or rhythmic precision etc.   It’s hard to break habits like that when it’s easy for you even though it takes you counter to your real goal.   So, what do we do with a guitarist as wily as Danielle?  We have to make everything random and force her to learn or relearn in the same manner as she did when she took her first guitar lesson. I like to employ the alphabet game. I have mentioned it before on this show but if you missed it, the challenge at first, is to choose a note - any note including chromatics.  Find every one of them on every string.  Sometimes work from the 6th string to the 1st. Sometimes the 1st to the  6th. Sometimes randomize the string order.  Daily choose 2 or3 well separated notes with which to practice the alphabet game.  A seasoned guitarist should do it with eyes closed, allowing their ears,  instinct and 6th sense of their axe’s fingerboard to guide their finger placement.  Another exercise I want Danielle to work with is a somewhat unfamiliar ascending melodic minor scale that changes position a few times.  We worked with it in her lesson. I want her to practice it, by looking at the fingerboard and literally saying the name of each note out loud.  I also asked her to do the same thing with the same scale at another starting position, mainly because she will have to really engage her brain because of the peculiarity of the key. Danielle asked why I thought these 2 things would be helpful. You don’t know Danielle.  She wasn’t challenging me or questioning my judgement. She genuinely wanted to understand.  I explained to her that my goal is to be able to put my finger on any string and any fret and for her to be able to tell me what note will be produced, without working from some anchor fret that she knows better.   I believe that if she plays G# at the 9th fret of the B string enough times, arriving there via varied and random processes, it will eventually be remembered and be recallable.   This is unconventional, but Danielle is a procedure junkie and she creates ways of doing things - not just musically - which have far too many steps to get to her end result.  I hope that if we counteract it in her guitar playing, she will find ways to counteract it in some of her academic pursuits, before they get her into trouble.

So, if you’re a strictly physical player, mend your ways and balance out your musicianship.  

I hope you found this a helpful discourse.

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


In the News this week I wanted to mention Fender’s Squire Affinity Series.  Don’t roll your eyes at Fender Squires.  Not every guitarist can plunk down a grand or more for a guitar. This line includes something for everyone, and boy, I like the colors!! Lake Placid Blue, Surf Green,  Black (I know it’s not really a color), Olympic White (ditto, not a color), Arctic White (ditto),  Butterscotch Blonde,  Montego Black Metallic, Metallic Red (that would be mine), Torino Red, Brown Sunburst,  2-color Sunburst, Gun Metal Gray, Shell Pink (that would be mine, too), Burgundy Mist Metallic  and to make it a hat trick, I’d take the Metallic Blue as well.  MSRPs run from  $100 to $499 with many right in the middle. The models in this Series are: Stratocaster HHS, regular Stratocaster, Stratocaster Left-Handed, Telecaster, Telecaster Left-Handed, Mini, Precision Bass, Precision Bass PJ, which is new, Bronco Bass, Jazz Bass and 5-string Jazz Bass V.  The 5-string is the pricier one. By the way, the names of all the instruments I just referenced are Trade Marked and Registered to Fender.  (My brother is an attorney - I don’t want to get sued!!)

Sure, these are not signature models but they don’t command signature prices.  They’re fine entry level axes or secondary instruments.  They’re okay as entry level guitars and basses, but if you or a young person in you home is going to be working with an instructor, check with them, before you buy anything.  They may recommend particular parameters for your first guitar.

Take Note

My take note topic this week is Sloppy Joes.  No, not the messy meal. Sloppy Joes and Janes and Toms and Dianes are players who are sloppy. Are you sloppy?  It manifests in a number of ways.  It can be that you pick a different string than the one you’re fretting, or that you over strum chords and inadvertently strike non-chord tones that make your playing sound off, at best and muddy and nondescript, at worst.  Perhaps your barred chords are thuddy and each of the notes of the chord do not sound cleanly, or maybe you just guestimate the rhythm.  All of these qualify as sloppy playing and if any of them sound familiar, you should do something about it.  

My guess is that unless you’re a fairly advanced and accomplished guitarist, the easiest place for players to “slide” is in rhythm, especially if they were self-taught or not taught well by an instructor.  Metronome to the rescue, providing you understand and know what you should be doing and just aren’t doing it.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, get help.

Sloppy strumming is characteristic of a guitarist who doesn’t know why you would or would not include certain strings when playing a particular chord.  That screams, to  me, I’m playing a shape, not a collection of tones.  There’s really no excuse if you’re looking at a proper diagram and you’re still over strumming.  Yikes!!  

If you go to play a little riff or melodic line only to realize 4 notes into it, that you began playing on the wrong string, your ears are the culprits.  Remember, it’s all about the sound, not fingerboard geography.  

If you play solitarily and don’t have someone teaching you, do yourself a favor and record a practice or 2.  Don’t stop recording until you’re completely done playing.  The recording will reveal your weaknesses in a brutal way, but if your goal is to master our great instrument, consider it instructional.  If you’re a Sloppy Joe or Jane, begin correcting the problem today.  The first step is admitting your problem. The second step is focus.


Register now for the Experience PRS 2013 and make your plans to have a great weekend in September.

Yvonne at Luna Guitars invites everyone to Pin to Win the Luna instrument of your choice.  

Bridget, you go and think pink.

My DRs have are still okay, love that K3 coating!!  

Keep the Les Paul 98th Birthday Gala in mind and get your tickets ASAP if you plan to go. There will be raffles and auctions. 

Randomize to overcome habitual memorization that leaves you musically uninformed.

The Fender Squire Affinity Series is priced right and good looking.

Sloppy Joe sandwiches are intended to be messy. Sloppy Joe players will never climb out of the pit of mediocrity.  Admit it if you’re sloppy, focus and dig yourself out.

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: A Tribute  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.

During the past couple of week, during which I did not record a show, I did some life assessing.  Hey, every time a birthday has a zero in it, I think it’s time to take a personal inventory.  Here’s what I have concluded:  I’m a blessed individual, personally, professionally and in all other ways. I have also concluded that at this stage in my life, I need to keep my priorities in view, and one of those priorities if down time or what might better be called personal or family time.  I don’t really have enough. I have realized it for a while and it came clearly into focus since we concluded E-Rex’s daily cancer treatment schedule. (Oh, by the way, his first follow up PSA was great, 1.7. That’s excellent news.) Anyway, I’ve concluded that one way I can have some more family time is to cut this podcast back from what I had been doing weekly, to twice monthly.  I will take a stab at blogging and Tweeting more frequently, so if you don’t read this blog regularly, you might want to subscribe to it and/or follow me on Twitter. I hope you understand this decision.  I don’t want to cease podcasting, but real life is real life.  It’s brief and a treasure.  At this time, I’m planning to produce a show the 1st  and 3rd weeks of the month, barring something unforeseen.  I may make a switch in July to the  2nd and 4th, so as to have the holiday weekend free. We’ll see.


If you're seeking expert competent guitar instruction in the Bergen and Rockland County towns in which I teach, such as Airmont, Allendale, Cresskill, 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.

Your guitar player dad is awesome, why not get him some Genuine R Series Raptor guitar picks?  Visit RaptorPicksUSA.Com to order some today.

Practice, and until next time, I'm D A Arlaus, doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time.  US listeners, have a great Memorial Day, next weekend! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

sorry - no podcast this week

I had every intention of recording a podcast for this week, but things have developed that will make it impossible. Unbeknownst to me my birthday celebration which should begin this coming Saturday, began last Saturday. After the impromptu celebration last Saturday with a select friends, we had grand party to attenda On Sunday. This week holds normal work, a few social engagements, regular routine of life things and birthday celebration on both Friday and Saturday. I regret that there will be no Guitar Technique Tutor podcast this week, but all things being equal, a new episode will be live on the internet on May 20.
Thanks for your forbearance, practice the hard stuff more than the easy stuff, taking care of mom on Sunday and I'll be back online with you in two weeks.
If you have not yet tried Raptor Picks, what are you waiting for? Catapult your playing by changing your pick