Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

Over the past week of 2, a few students have played exceedingly well.  Not only does it give me great satisfaction, but they will have the honor of being mentioned in the next show's Student Spotlight segment.  I have another week before the first August podcast will be recorded, but suffice it to say that for now, congratulations are due to Bridget, Gary and Shira.  I hope I will have a few more names to add to the list by next week, when I record.  

Great playing, everyone.


I don't even know if bombardment is a word, but it is what Guitar Center has been doing to me, and probably to you, too.

If you are one of their customers, you know that they have been relentlessly hurling ads your way.  I have received them in print and online.  The online variety come just about daily.  Surprisingly, the print ads are at least once a week, sometimes, twice.  

This escalation in advertising me causes me to wonder whether things are so good, in the industry, or so bad.   The online advertising doesn't cost anything over their already employed media people's time and expertise.  The print advertising, offering flash sales, used gear, workshops, enumerating their near future podcast topics etc., are a little harder to fathom.  

Have you been to your local Guitar Center lately?  Was it busy?  I'm in an area where there are several Guitar Centers, a few independent guitar shops and I'm just a short ride from Mandolin Brothers, on Staten Island  and the multiplicity of guitar stores in Manhattan.  My local Guitar Centers are buzzing from November until January, with the gift giving season, but when I drive by or go into them, there isn't much traffic.

In all fairness, I get ads via the web and snail mail from other major retail guitar outlets, too.  However, none of them are as unceasing as Guitar Center. I know they are celebrating 49 years in business, but if they don't moderate the   constant shilling, I'll be left no choice but to remove myself from all their lists.


I was making buttons for my other blogs and thought it was a good idea to make one for this blog, too.  So, I'm just using this post to upload the image, and thereby use the source code for the image when I create the button.  Earth shattering, I know. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pushing Through

[07/15/13 show notes from Guitar Technique Tutor Podcast Episode 108]


I meant to record Saturday, but there was an on again off again surprise birthday party that ended up being on, and on yesterday. The honoree was well and truly surprised and a fabulous time was had by all.

I’m loving my DRs. People, if you don’t use DR Strings on your acoustic, classical, electric or bass guitar, I just have one question. Why not? I think I mention DRs in 98% of my podcasts. I am not sponsored by them, but now that I think about it, I should be. All kidding aside, I have played guitar, literally, for decades. Since the first ad I saw about DRs in one of the guitar magazines, a long time ago, I tried them and I have never deviated - except in the case of my nylon strings. I’m a more recent new comer to DRs for nylon because I was so fixated on the combination of strings I used to use, I couldn’t open my mind enough to think DRs could compare. If your mind is totally closed about this, you better expand your thinking. What do I always say when I’m discussing your playing? It’s all about the sound. Well, strings are a huge factor, so try a set. These are the best strings I have used, and I have been sent strings by countless manufacturers. Try a traditional set or a coated set. I recommend the latter. Hey, a string change isn’t a big deal You should be changing your strings frequently. If you don’t like them (and I can’t image that could happen, but it’s possible) you can always just change your strings again. Your risk is the price of a set of strings. Your potential gain is a much better sound and longer string life if you decide to try a coated set. Live on the edge. Try them!

Au revoir, Arno. He and his family left for a few weeks in Paris. He’s French and will be seeing family as well as traveling while vacationing there. I doubt he’ll be doing any playing, unless one of his cousins has guitars and they jam.

Hey, did you hear that Jon Bon Jovi donated a million dollars to Super Storm Sandy relief at the NJ shore last week? He’s from Sayerville, and that’s where he presented Governor Chris Christie with a check for $1,000,000 for the relief effort. Thank you, Jon.

He said, “My being here is not political, it's emotional," then he said, "I grew up here. I went to school here. I met my wife here." He reminisced about his early days as a musician in Sayreville as well as his recent visits following the life changing storm.
"One thought came to me,” he said. "What can I do?” One of the residents who was affected responded, saying, 'Use your voice.’”

Well, Jon has more than put his money where his mouth is. He has performed at multiple fund raisers as well as making this extraordinary donation.

If you have contributed in any way to help restore lives and livelihoods at the Jersey shore, thank you ever so much. If you have not and would like to, there are several trustworthy organizations. I always link to Sandy NJ Relief . They are extremely efficient at directing donations to capable local groups, which can mobilize and get the necessary work done. Here in NJ we’re in clean up day 258 since the storm.

This week, there is one student debuting in the Student Spotlight, yay! The Question of the Week came from Paul in the UK and is about his callouses, News is about the result of the Les Paul 98th Birthday Bash auction guitars and Take Note is about the new affordable PRS S2 series of guitars. You know me, I never met a PRS guitar I didn’t love.

Don’t forget that if you don’t yet have the collector set called Thank You, Les, it’s available and belongs in your personal library.

We’re still thinking about our countrymen in Oklahoma, too. If you can volunteer, or contribute to the ongoing cleanup and recovery, I am sure it will be most appreciated.

Student Spotlight 

In the warm glow of the Student Spotlight is Luis. Nice going, dude. This is your first time in the spotlight. Drink in the accolades and let’s have a repeat performance.

Luis is a pretty busy student and businessman. He doesn’t miss practicing too often, but sometimes he’s unable to take his lessons. It’s always a challenge to keep a student motivated in that circumstance, but we have an arrangement, that when he thinks he’s mastered what I have asked him to work on, he contacts me and I give him some additional work to do. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than him hanging out to dry for a couple of weeks at a time. Luis has become even more dedicated to moving his playing forward and is exercising unusual diligence and profiting tremendously from it. The change is hard but it’s for the better. Excellent work.

Question of the Week

This week's question is from Paul in England. It’s about his callouses. Here’s what he wrote:

I'm a 47 year old wannabe guitarist, I first picked up a guitar about 3 years ago, and have practised virtually every day since.

The tips of my fingers have got callouses on them,  but  I wouldn't say they were great. I still get very sore fingers every time I practice, along with angry red ridges where the strings have dug in. I still get patches of dry dead skin that peel off the end of the tips.

Should they of hardened off more than that, everything I read say that people have got great callouses after weeks of playing, should I moisturise the tips?

Any hints or tips to alleviate the pain, and improve my callouses.

Thanks, Paul. "

Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I assume no responsibility for your actions after reading or hearing this segment. Check with your physician before implementing any suggestion that follows.

Well, the first thing I would ask is are you diabetic?  Why?  Well, I understand some diabetics have much more sensitive nerve endings than those who are not.  If you are not, here are some other thoughts I have:

You have 2 different issues going on.  One is the soreness and the other is the dry dead skin that peels off.

The soreness should have subsided after a few weeks of playing daily unless you are doing what I call "pushing through the fingerboard" of strangling your guitar.  I find this to be somewhat common with some of my male students, and from time to time, a female student.  After a specific amount of fingertip pressure on the string, any more is useless and even counter productive.  If you don't have an instructor, you will have to be the judge of whether you are exerting way too much pressure or not.  Ideally, when you depress a string, you want to use the very tip of your finger as close as possible to the fret with out being on it AND using just as much force as is necessary to play cleanly (without any buzzing.)  Any pressure more than that causes tension in your fretting hand, which then hampers speed and agility.  If you have been "over playing" for a few years, this may be a hard habit to break, but with attention to what you are doing, it can be accomplished.

If you are "pushing through the fingerboard," you may have too much callous on each fingertip.  Think of this like a corn on someone's toe.  Basically it's a concentrated bit of callous, in a spot that is subjected to friction and produces pain.  Your callouses should be tough and leathery.  Hard is okay, but not thick and hard.

Do you have very dry skin on your hands?  Or is it just on your callouses?  If your hands are very dry, you should moisturize them, including your callouses.  Most men and lost of women, don't want the greasy residue that often accompanies hand moisturizers.  A two that are not greasy are Corn Husker's Lotion (it's kind of gelatinous) and Udder Cream.  There are some more pricey ones out there, but either of them will soften your dry skin without leaving grease.

If it's just your callouses that are dry and peeling, I imagine that they are too thick, so with a very fine grade emery board, file them smooth - this just takes a few well positioned swipes of the board. If you have a ceramic or glass file, they work very well for the purpose, too.  Buff the callouses down to smooth. Don't burn them by too much fast friction.  

If you find that your callouses are particularly jagged after you have showered or swum or had your hands in water for an extended period, you can dehydrate bloated callouses with a COOL AIR hair dryer. Do Not Use a Heat Setting.

Send Me a Question of the Week or suggest an additional segment topic.
If I use it, I'll send you a Guitar Technique Tutor pick.


In the news this week is an update on the Les Paul 98th Birthday Gala, held in June, who won the autographed guitars.

Although I attended the previous 2 Les Paul Birthday Gala’s at Ramapo College, which were an extension of the huge Les Paul in Mahwah: Tribute exhibit at the Mahwah Museum, this year, I couldn’t attend. If I had gone, I was going to bid in the auction because at the past 2 Galas, the auctioned guitars went for ridiculously low bids, in my opinion. The first auctioned guitar was a white, Epiphone Les Paul Royal Standard, signed by Bucky Pizzarelli, Lou Palo and others, with a Les Paul autographed pick guard. It was won by Clare Sheridan. She also had the winning bid on the second prize, which was an Epiphone mahogany Les Paul Studio model, autographed by Lou Pallo, Peter Frampton, Al Caiola and Peter Townsend. I wish I’d have been able to attend. I’d have out bid her for sure. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Take Note

My take note topic this week is the  PRS S2 Series. You who have listened to me for a while, know that I love PRS guitars. They are pricey and not in everyone’s budget, but they are masterpieces of guitar design.

Here’s what our friends at PRS have to say about this new, very welcome, affordable line of guitars:

The PRS S2 Series offers the fit, finish, feel, and attention to detail of PRS craftsmanship in a straightforward design. Standing for “Stevensville 2,” S2 Series instruments are made at our Maryland shop blending new design elements and manufacturing techniques with practiced quality control and workmanship to create reimagined, fresh guitars that reach a more affordable price for players.

The S2 Series is comprised of three models: the S2 Mira, S2 Starla, and S2 Custom 24. These models share several key features, including PRS S2 locking tuners, custom-wound pickups, PRS neck shapes, PRS S2 bridges as well as PRS fretwire, nuts, and double-action truss rods. The new asymmetrical, beveled body shape offers a vintage vibe, and the flatness of the top gives these guitars a big, resonant voice.


Whether the S2 Series means your first PRS or an addition to your arsenal, one thing is certain: each model in the PRS S2 Series is a solid American-made guitar that makes no sacrifice in playability or tone.

Wood is the foundation of a guitar’s tone. If you sacrifice the foundation, there is little hope of achieving an exceptional instrument. Believing this, we have chosen the same traditional tonewoods that are used on PRS Core guitars, such as maple tops, mahogany backs and bodies, mahogany necks, and rosewood fretboards. While some of the design and construction methods used in the S2 Series (the neck blank’s starting dimension across the Series and the S2 Custom’s wood grade, for example) allowed us to use less expensive and more readily available woods, no compromise has been made to the tone or integrity of S2 instruments.

Wood is the foundation of a guitar’s tone. If you sacrifice the foundation, there is little hope of achieving an exceptional instrument. Believing this, we have chosen the same traditional tonewoods that are used on PRS Core guitars, such as maple tops, mahogany backs and bodies, mahogany necks, and rosewood fretboards. While some of the design and construction methods used in the S2 Series (the neck blank’s starting dimension across the Series and the S2 Custom’s wood grade, for example) allowed us to use less expensive and more readily available woods, no compromise has been made to the tone or integrity of S2 instruments.

Finish should do three things: most importantly, it should enhance the tone of a guitar. It should also feel good to the player’s touch, and it should look good. The finish used on the PRS S2 Series accomplishes these goals by featuring a polyester basecoat and an acrylic topcoat (reminiscent of the finish system used on PRS Core guitars for twenty years (before the introduction of V12)). We have updated the process of this finish system to allow S2 guitars to move through the finish hall smoothly and quickly while also requiring a thinner topcoat for optimal tone. This old-but-new finish maintains a hi-gloss, attractive aesthetic, and the translucent and opaque color options offer vintage and modern flavors that allow players to choose the look that fits them best.

PRS S2 Series proprietary pickups are built to our exact specifications, including wire and coating materials, winds, and resistance. Whether harkening back to our original HFS and Vintage Bass pickups or designed to work with the unique tones of a Bigsby tailpiece, S2 pickups were designed to capture the distinct tonal character intended for each instrument in the series.

All of the models in the S2 Series feature a 3-way blade pickup switch with a master volume and a push/pull tone control. Coil-tap functionality adds versatility by allowing players to split the humbucking pickups into singlecoils, providing a vast array of tones. The jack assembly used on the S2 Series is the same jack as our Core line, providing a clean connection point to amplify your sound.

The tone of a guitar is influenced by several factors: wood choice, body style, pickups, scale length, metals and other materials used, etc. Some of the most impactful components are those that directly affect the vibration of the strings: the tuners, the nut, and the bridge. This is because it is the strings’ vibration that the pickups sense and that creates the sound wave the ear will ultimately hear.

The bridge is the anchor of the guitar. It is here that the vibration of the string is transferred into the body of the guitar, bringing out the inherent tone of the woods chosen. Each S2 instrument features a different bridge style. The S2 Mira features the same stoptail that is used on Core PRS instruments. We use an unplated bridge with brass studs. The S2 Starla features a time-tested Tune-o-matic bridge with a Bigsby B50 tailpiece. The S2 Custom features a PRS tremolo (the same bridge found on our SE line of guitars).

The nut also plays a critical part in the transfer of tone. The nut on S2 instruments is the same nut we use on our Core guitars. The nut is strong and long-lasting without “grabbing” the strings, and it is imbued with brass, a highly musical metal.

Our PRS S2 locking tuners are used across the S2 Series. These proprietary tuners are reminiscent of our “Phase II” tuners and follow many of Paul Smith’s “tweaks,” including a brass shaft and specially-configured internal construction. The locking mechanism itself is identical to the one used on our Core guitars, which helps the guitar stay in tune.

Whether using parts shared by our Core manufacturing line or newly-sourced proprietary parts, we always chose to use musical materials (such as brass) and avoid materials that deaden tone (like nylon washers), maximizing the guitars’ overall resonance, musicality, and tone.

When designing, sourcing, and building the S2 Series, we were encouraged and excited to build quality instruments that were both inspired by our Core line but also truly new for PRS. We believe this is evident in every detail. If there was a time that we could not share a component with our current Core lineup, we set out to design a new process for ourselves or source new, proprietary components from our partners.

That said, the nut, jack assembly, fret wire, electronics knobs, and strings are all shared between our Core and S2 instruments. It is long-lasting and is comfortable to play. The electronics’ knobs are made in our own proprietary mold, which results in a handsome and ergonomic design. As with all of our solidbody guitars, we use PRS 10-46 strings. S2 Series guitars come in a nylon gig bag to make heading out for your next show that much easier.

PRS’s starting price for these beauties is only $1179. Music to my ears.

•••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.

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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 marvelous tribute to Les Paul by Lou Pallo, the trio and other musical friends, called Thank You, Les.

Live on the edge and try a set of DR strings if you haven’t already. I think they’re the best string on the market.

Kudos to Jon Bon Jovi for putting his money where his mouth is and donating $1,000,000 to assist relief and rebuilding at the Jersey Shore after the devastation of Super Storm Sandy 258 days ago. You can help by volunteering to work or contributing something to Sandy NJ Relief.

Excellent work and dedication, Luis.

Paul, if you’re not diabetic, your callouses may hurt because you’re strangling your guitar neck or because your callouses are too thick.

Clare Sheridan won both auctioned guitars at the Les Paul 98th Birthday Gala in June. Rats! Had I gone, I’d have outbid her for at least one of them. Maybe next year.

Great News from PRS: an affordable line that begins at $1179. Check out the S2 Series.

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. If you’re going on a vacation - ask a friend to keep the guitar at their home until you return, if you can.

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.

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, and until next time, which should be around the first week in August, I’m doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time.

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