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IGNORE EVERYBODY

I just finished reading Hugh MacLeod’s fantastic book, “Ignore Everybody,” recommended by my blog-buddy, Ig, of the now-defunct, but well-loved igblog. He said I would love it, and of course, I did. Thank you, Ig!

What’s it about? Mostly it’s about taking personal ownership of your creativity, wherever it comes from, and in whatever shape it takes. Everyone has some sort of creativity inside of them, being it writing, playing music, drawing, painting, what have you. The challenge in life as Hugh MacLeod asserts is owning that creativity, recognizing that it’s yours, giving yourself permission to express it, and not fall into the trap that your creativity should be directed towards what other people say it should be.

I know, it sounds a bit brash and slightly anarchistic, but that’s creativity. You own it. It’s yours. Hell, MacLeod made it big by writing cartoons on the back of business cards! People thought he was crazy, but that’s how he wanted to express himself.

The things MacLeod says in the book are practical; not pie-in-the-sky New Age, metaphorical, metaphysical bullshit. The advice is in your face, and with many of his cartoons interspersed throughout the book, incredibly entertaining.

I was just thinking, what does this have to do within the context of this site? Well, we gear sluts buy acquire as much gear as we do to feed our passion for tone. Guitar is our creative outlet. Reading Ignore Everybody has put an exclamation point on why I play guitar, why I write this blog, and why I spent the countless hours each week sifting through the Internet and trade rags in search of new, compelling gear. I can’t really explain why I love doing what I do. I just love it. And I want to share it.

I encourage you to get this book. It’s a quick read. I started reading it last night, and finished it about half an hour ago. I guarantee it’ll inspire you! And no matter what your particular form of creativity is, you’ll gain a lot of insight into expressing it.

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

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ga_logo

I’ve talked about Guitar Affair before, announcing their arrival on the web a couple of months ago. After a few months of testing the service, Guitar Affair recently released a press release announcing the service’s general availability to the public. Folks, this is a VERY cool service in that it allows you to try out high-end mainstream and boutique guitars before you buy them. Or you can just use the service to rent these awesome guitars. Founded by Jim Basara of Guitar Jam Daily, the idea was to help guitarists have a chance to try high-end instruments to assist them in their evaluations, or be able to rent these high-end beauties for a time. The model is interesting because Guitar Affair really helps out business travelers who don’t want to lug a guitar while on trips, but still want to be able to play while away from home. In any case, here’s a copy of the press release:


An innovative online service that provides high-end guitars on a rental basis to customers in their homes or on business trips and vacations.

Dulles, Virginia (PRWEB) May 15, 2009 — Guitar Affair, an innovative online service that provides high-end guitars on a rental basis − shipped to wherever the customer happens to be − today announced general availability of its offering that has been in testing with select customers since January.

The new Guitar Affair service targets guitar enthusiasts who frequently travel for business as well as those who wish to demo limited availability guitars prior to purchasing them. Under the new program, customers can rent a variety of high-end and boutique guitars, and have them shipped to any location in the US; be it their residence, a hotel where they are residing for business, or a vacation location. In addition to well known guitars like Gibson and Fender Custom Shop guitars, Guitar Affair has struck dealer relationships with small and boutique manufacturers whose guitars are seldom seen in stores. For those who are trying a guitar prior to purchase, Guitar Affair rebates the rental fees when the customer elects to purchase a guitar. The new service allows guitar enthusiasts to enjoy high-end instruments wherever they are, and to demo boutique instruments that would often have to be purchased without trying them.

A new Guitar Affair customer recently related his experience with Guitar Affair, stating that “what I received was an exquisite instrument in mint condition, delivered quickly and with no question about its safety in shipping.” ‘It arrived humidity controlled with new strings, the best gig-bag I’ve ever seen and a strap so comfortable I’d like to make blankets out of it. I’m genuinely impressed and I suspect your other customers will be as well.’

‘This is a business that I sought for over 10 years, but could never find,’ states Guitar Affair owner and musician Jim Basara. ‘For over a decade, I managed small technology companies and was on the road constantly. Because of that travel, it was difficult to find time to practice and my playing suffered as a result. I always wanted to find a business that I could call to have a fine guitar waiting for me to get there, along with a headphone amp, cord, headphones and strap.’ This is essentially the business that Guitar Affair has launched, but with an added twist. Basara explains, “Especially in these economic times, it is incredibly challenging to drop $2,000 to $6,000 on a boutique instrument without having played one.” ‘You might have read about the Gigliotti that Joe Bonamassa plays, the Caleb Quaye signature guitar from Brazen, or that Saint Blues has released a line of hand-crafted USA made guitars, and you might hear people talking about how great they are. But pulling the trigger on a multi-thousand dollar order is still difficult because what people love about guitars is such a personal thing.’ With Guitar Affair, such a customer can demo one of their desired guitars in the privacy of their own home, on their own equipment, or try one during a business trip or vacation. ‘For some custom guitars, interested buyers can also get additional necks, each fretted differently with the most popular size fret wire, so that they can feel confident about their choice of neck profile and fret gauge.’

Manufacturers are also excited about the new Guitar Affair service. Brian Halley of St. Blues Guitar Workshop believes that Guitar Affair and its new business model is an invaluable partner for many reasons, most importantly it will allow the company to extend its reach for their new handcrafted Workshop Series guitars. ‘Although we are a brand with history going back 25 plus years, there are still players who will need to feel and hear the instrument prior to making a purchase. Guitar Affair allows interested players who may be on the fence about a brand they haven’t seen every day of their lives to try it for themselves in the comfort of their own home. Our target is the serious and committed player, and we know they take their investment in a new guitar seriously. Now in ’09, as the new St. Blues USA Workshop series guitars are available in very limited quantities, Guitar Affair allows us to reach out to these new St. Blues players by allowing them to play our high-end guitars wherever they want, at virtually no cost should they decide to purchase.’

The rental and demo service is currently available in the United States with plans to expand internationally in 2010.

About Guitar Affair
Founded in 2007, Guitar Affair offers high-end and boutique guitars on a rental basis to customers across the U.S. Using Guitar Affair’s online reservation system, customers can have a complete guitar package, including a top shelf guitar, headphone amp, headphones, cord, strap, and training DVD delivered to them while on business trips, vacations, or at home. Customers can also use the service to demo limited availability guitars before purchasing them, at which time rental fees are rebated.

Contact:
Jim Basara, Owner
www.guitaraffair.com

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collection

This is a bit of a continuation of my previous article about not getting fooled by pedigree. While I was singing the praises of a Saint Guitar Goldtop Benchmark that I was testing, my buddy commented to me, “You sure about wanting to get one of these? It’s gorgeous, and it plays and sounds amazing, but the problem I have with most boutique guitars is I’m not sure how well they retain their value. What if I wanted to sell it later on? Would I get what I paid for it? Will it appreciate in value?”

All valid concerns, but I simply replied that it’s all about your perspective: Are you a collector or a trader?

If you’re a collector, chances are you obtain gear to keep it and use it for a lifetime, or even just hang it on a wall (I know of someone who has 300+ guitars, most of which he never plays). I consider myself a collector. And from that standpoint, I’m what’s called “brand blind.” All I care about is if the gear looks good, plays good, and sounds good, no matter what the brand.

On the other hand, there are those whom I call “traders.” They get gear, but are always open to trading for another type of gear that might be better from their point of view. From that standpoint, brand awareness is important as people will tend gravitate toward known entities, and the brand-names definitely attract more traffic.

Mind you, I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s just a matter of perspective in making a purchasing decision. I used to be pretty brand-centric, but ever since I started writing this blog, I’ve come across some awesome gear that I don’t think I would’ve even considered evaluating had I focused on the brand-name stuff.

And let me say that it’s not that you’re either one or the other. It also depends on the gear. For instance, I swear by V-Picks and Red Bear Picks. I won’t use any others. But I’ll buy off-brand pedals and guitars and amps.

So are you a “collector” or a “trader?”

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audrey_hypnosis

I recently read a press release on Harmony Central where this company, Hypnobusters, has just released a self-hypnosis audio to improve your guitar playing. I snickered at first because when the word “hypnosis” is mentioned, my gut reaction is, “Yeah, right… just some more of that New Age crap…” But then again, over the years, I’ve developed meditation techniques to help focus and quiet my consciousness to develop and extend my “chi” (for those martial artists out there), and even so far as performing self-healing. In a way, those meditation techniques are a form of self-hypnosis. And if I’ve used self-hypnosis to accomplish different things, why not apply it to guitar playing?

The mind is a very powerful tool. And if you have the ability to quiet your consciousness, and filter out the hustle and bustle of your waking mind, you’ll find that you can much more clearly analyze different subjects or help steer yourself towards accomplishing many things. It’s not hocus-pocus. It’s pure focus.

For instance, have you ever been playing guitar at a gig or in the studio, and you close your eyes because you’re so in tune with the song that what you’re doing is just pure expression? While you’re in that “groove,” nothing else exists. It’s just you and your axe reverberating with the song. That, my friends, is a form of self-hypnosis. That’s happened to me many times in my studio, and when I listen to the printed track, I’m sometimes in total disbelief that I actually played what I played! I’m not really all that good of a soloist, so I suppose any clean take is a good take. 🙂

In any case, I went to the HypnoBusters site, and found their guitar improvement page. The audio session only costs $9.95, so I said, “What the hell? I’ll give it a whirl. Besides, I could use a little mind quieting time.” And really, that’s what it’s all about – quieting your mind, and allowing yourself to explore the limits of your playing. I’ve often found that the limits of my skills on guitar aren’t merely technical – there is definitely that – but also because my conscious mind often tells me “You can’t do that.” It’s like an inherent fear. But as I break through those boundaries, I find that my actual limits are much further than what my conscious mind tells me.

I’ll give this audio a try, and report back. I’m not sure that it’ll make me a better player – that’s purely up to me. But one thing I know about things like this: They help you give yourself the permission to improve.

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PMS

What’s the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist. 🙂

Joking aside, I’m actually serious that PMS can be a good thing, especially for the guitar-playing husband. Let me share my story…

My wife gets PMS – BADLY. It comes on suddenly, sneaking up from behind, and whacking me smack in the back of the head before I have any time to react. One day I’m Super Man and can do no wrong. The next day I’m the Antichrist and everything that’s wrong in her world is all my fault.

Sound familiar?

I used to fight back all the time, and we’d get into these huge shouting matches, usually with me leaving in a huff, calling my best friend, then going down to the local watering hole so both of us could complain about our PMS-ing wives while burying our anger in a cocktail or four (honestly, we have a two-drink maximum because we usually have to work the next day).

But I’ve learned a new tactic: That is simply to not put any energy into fighting back against something I can’t control – and neither can my wonderful wife. Instead, I play the guitar. As in the second line of the graphic, I “Move out of the way.” I will also do some simple maintenance things around the house like scrubbing the kitchen floors (it’s actually a big job) before she has time to complain that I’m not doing anything. Once I’m done with my little chore, I then retreat to my garage/studio to play and let out the pent-up stress by practicing or writing music.

A lot of my best stuff has come from pining away, pondering why I’m going through my private hell at the hands of the woman I love, who doesn’t realize how ragingly bitchy she’s being. In fact, my latest instrumental, “Running from the Future” was written when I just got my feelings trampled, “hiding out” and sipping a shot of fine scotch in my studio. The ultimate thought that triggered the song had nothing to do with how I was feeling about my wife, but that melancholy surely helped me through the writing process. Funny enough, some of the feedback I’ve gotten is that the song is really uplifting. I guess that was my response to how shitty I was feeling. I needed something to pick me up!

All that said, PMS has been a great thing. My wife leaves me alone when I do the chores, and I can be free to play guitar. Hmmm…. looks like the kitchen counters need clearing. 🙂

Care to share your PMS Protection Plan? 🙂

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For the last couple of years, I’ve had a serious case of GAS – not that I pulled the trigger and bought a bunch of stuff during that time – I did get a couple of pedals here and there to slake my appetite, but no major purchases until recently. Now I can say I’m gassed out – at least for now. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know what I’ve purchased, but I’ll recap the major purchases I’ve made in the last couple of months.

Aracom VRX22 Head with a custom Aracom 1 X 12 cabinet with a Jensen P12N

What an amp! I’ve shared with Jeff Aragaki, founder and designer of Aracom Amps, that the VRX22 is the perfect amp – at least to me. It’s a low power amp that packs a HUGE punch; both in tone and volume. It’s something I can use either in my home studio, or gigging. No matter what volume level I’m playing at, the VRX22 simply sounds awesome, never getting flabby in the low-end, and sporting what I consider to be the best Master Volume in the business.

For more information, check out the Aracom Amps web site.

Prestige Guitars Heritage Elite

The more I play this guitar, the more I fall in love with it. When I first got the guitar to evaluate it, I felt that all the adornments were a bit over the top. I’m a fairly uncomplicated guy, and I appreciate beauty in simplicity. But as time wore on, and I got to know this beauty queen better, the more she grew on me. So I decided to keep the guitar. Her new name is “Sugar” because amazingly enough, not only does she sound and play sweet, she actually smells like bubbling brown sugar! Could be because of the maple, but when I opened up the case for the first time, I was overtaken by the sweet smell of this guitar! So that’s how she got her name. She’s an incredibly expressive guitar, capable of producing gorgeous, ringing cleans to heavy grit. Brightly voiced, her tone just cuts through a mix like butter. I am really enjoying this guitar! Here’s a clip of both the VRX22 and the Heritage Elite:

For more information, go to the Prestige Guitars web site.

Saint Guitars Goldtop Messenger

In answer to my wife’s latest question, “Honey, how many guitars do you need?” I use the standard answer, “Just one more…” This was the exchange we had when I told her I was having Adam Hernandez, a close friend and founder of Saint Guitar Company, build me a guitar. It’s a Goldtop with a twist: Instead of the classic single cut body, I’m having the goldtop done on a double-cut. The body back is solid walnut with a maple top, and rock maple neck topped with an ebony fretboard. I wanted to go for a totally non-standard mix of woods that would produce a very bright tone. The bright tone, combined with the super sustain of Saint guitars in general, promises to be one sweet sounding tone machine. Of course, time will only tell, but I have high hopes for this guitar!

This isn’t even mentioning the smaller things I’ve purchased, but at least for now, I’m GASSED out – I’m also broke – again. 🙂

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Pick up one of the major guitar mags, and you might think that to be considered a “good” guitar player nowadays you have to be able to shred it up playing 64th notes up and down the fretboard non-stop. I know, that’s a bit of an exagerration, but the major mags’ focus on shred disenfranchises a very large sector of the guitar-playing population that either can’t play that fast, has no interest in that kind of music, or want to focus on other things rather than speed – like musicality and expressiveness.

Hands-down, Jeff Beck has earned the right to be called a Guitar God. No one sounds like him, and while many people have been able to glean certain Jeff Beck techniques, and can get somewhat close to what he can do with a guitar, duplicating his style of playing is next to impossible. But I’m not here to talk about technique. I’m here to talk about the whole musical package that Jeff Beck delivers in his guitar playing. It’s pure magic. He’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to communicate with his audience through his playing is unrivaled.

Sound like a bunch of hyperbole? Just watch the video below. But don’t just observe what he’s doing with his left hand, which really isn’t all that difficult. Look at what he’s doing with his right hand, manipulating the tremolo bar and volume and tone knobs to achieve different voicings. That’s the magic in the performance of the song! No one does it as well!

Let me be absolutely clear here: The things that Jeff Beck does with his right hand while playing aren’t just parlor tricks to show off. They’re done to ellicit specific responses from his guitar, and make it sing like no one else can. To me, being a good guitar player isn’t just about technique; it’s about getting your message across. As Albert King once said (and I’m paraphrasing Steven Segal here), “The challenge [speaking in reference to the blues, but can be applied to any style of music] is to get your message across in as few notes as possible.” Sometimes that takes a bunch of notes; more often than not though, you can say the same thing with just a few, but express them in a such a way to make your point.

I’m of the school of thought that playing music is having a conversation with your audience. The best conversationalists do it with an economy of language, fully conscious not only of their glossary of terms, but the expression and inflection that goes along with communicating.

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I don’t post as often as I’d like on thegearpage.net, but I certainly lurk there at least three or four times a day. For the last couple of days, TGP has been down due to a hardware failure of some sort. While it was down, I realized just how much I liked visiting that site. I’m not really friends with anyone there yet, but it’s a place I definitely enjoy visiting. It’s a great community!

I’m pleased to announce that TGP is back once again, and running like nothing happened! That’s awesome! Now I can while away the hourse once more… 🙂

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yodaAh, Padawan. Come to receive the wisdom of the ages, you have I see. Into the realms of guitar playing greatness delve deep do you wish; to play among the stars of guitar such as Vai, Satriani, Johnson and others of that ilk. Good for you! Welcome you with open arms, do I. Now dispensed with the pleasantries have we Padawan, it is time to let you down…

  1. There is no magic wand I can wave to make you great
  2. Wish all you want, and you’ll never become a guitar god.
  3. Meditate on the virtues of truly great guitarists – It will do you no good.

Now that sufficiently crushed your dreams of guitar greatness have I, tell you I will the secret to achieving your place among the titans:

There are no shortcuts!!!

Bwah-hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Okay, enough of the Yoda talk… 🙂

To be completely serious, if you want to be a great guitarist, there is no other way to get to greatness without dedication and focus. Simply put, you have to practice – a lot! You can learn all the theory in the world, you can take all the A/V classes out there. All of these things are absolutely helpful. But until you apply the things that you learn and master the techniques, you’ll never get there.

Playing guitar, or any instrument for that matter, isn’t something that you can be good at simply by intellectualizing being good. It takes practice – every day – to develop the skills to play well. I look on my own experience with playing guitar. Yeah, I’ve been playing for over 35 years, but I’ve only reached a certain level of proficiency in the last five years when I decided that I wanted to change the direction of my music, which was almost entirely acoustic, to include more electric guitar.

The experience in the last five years has been both rewarding and painful. When I was starting out, it was so frustrating because I could hear in my head what I wanted out of my guitars, but I didn’t have the technique. So I put my head down, so to speak, and started playing and practicing everyday, seven days a week. I’d even bring a couple of guitars and an amp on vacation! I try to play at least a half-hour each day. It’s not necessarily just straight practice of scales, and different techniques, I also spend a lot of time exploring how to express music that comes into my head.

I’m still learning. I feel I have so much further to travel, but I have also come a long way compared to where I was five years ago. Back then, all I knew were chords and playing chords in alternate tunings. I could fingerpick pretty well, and do a lot of stuff with an acoustic guitar – that’s all great, and I don’t want to discount what I could do on acoustic, but my abilities on the electric guitar, especially with doing improv, were sorely lacking. But from constant practice, I can do at least a basic lead in pretty much any key. That’s the reward; having the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made a lot of progress.

I originally got the inspiration for this article from a blog entry I read at GuitarVibe. It really got me thinking about what I’ve accomplished over the past few years, and moreover, how I got to where I am. Like with anything in life, learning is often fraught with moments of despair and discouragement, but it also has its times of complete satisfaction and reward.

So go practice, young Padawan, and may the Force be with you!

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Gear-aholic. Tone Freak. Gear Maniac. At least that is what I have been called. I like to think of myself as a “Tone Crusader.”

I comb the ethers in search of implements to try to catch the unicorn called “Tone.” And since tone has so many faces, I need different kinds tools to help me catch the unicorn.  Thus, I have an arsenal of axes, both custom and commonly available; a bank of sound amplification devices to announce my presence with special foot pedals to alter my sound to affect a different response.

I spend hours upon hours developing and honing my skills, and learning how to most effectively use my tools. I am a warrior who must constantly be at the ready to perform.

And like the Crusaders of old, my quest for the tone unicorn is a life-long pursuit that has been fraught with both times of extreme joy and with days of dark dispair. But despite its ups and downs, I cannot even begin to imagine abandoning this pursuit! I’ve seen the unicorn! I have even come close to touching it! And until I do touch it, I will never give up. Never!!!

I fully realize that I may go to my grave without ever catching the unicorn. But it is not the goal that matters to me in any case; it is the journey that matters.

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