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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I've been considering a lot of things this year: it boils down to ordering my priorities, which has always been important to me, but even more so since the autumn and winter when my E-Rex had his cancer treatment.   He's doing excellently, by the way.

It's necessary to consolidate how I spend my time, even more than I already have.  So .... at least for the time being, and it may be permanent, or maybe not, I'm going to suspend the podcast.  It has been a hard conclusion to reach, but because it requires a lot of time, not just accumulating the info I want to podcast, but then the syndication and the show notes etc., I will replace the audio podcast with blog posts, akin to the show notes I posted here for each show.  I'm going to work more with social media, so there will be the same amount of content, if not more, than when I was actively podcasting.

I want to thank all the listeners who tell me they enjoy the show. I'll try to keep  the same vibe, here on the blog. 

Expect a long post that would have been a podcast by the beginning of the week.  Until then, I'm D A Arlaus, "doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time."