The Lockdown

My Gibson J-45 Avant Garde

With the lockdown, it has been such a great time to play guitar. But even before the lockdown, I’d normally play at least a half-hour a day. However, over the last several days, I’ve been putting in some serious time on my guitars, especially my Gibson J-45 Avant Garde acoustic.

One of the things I’ve been doing is recording videos to share on Facebook. Yesterday, I recorded a video with my daughters where we sang a song I wrote for church. This past Sunday, I recorded an old church song since I wasn’t able to play at Mass.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I purchased Carol Kaye’s Jazz Guitar book and CD. This ain’t no step-by-step manual. She just dives right in, assuming you already know what she’s talking about. Thank goodness I already knew my chords and note numbers!

The point to all this is that ever the optimist, playing my guitar and finding things to play has had an enormous positive impact on me during this lockdown.

Think about it: You go on social media and it’s nothing but talk from the shelter-in-place crusaders. It’s ads from news sources talking about the death toll (though they avoid discussions of comorbidities and percentages). It has been fear and panic. Then there are the anti- and pro-Trump factions at each other’s throats.

I certainly have my own views of this situation – and sorry, this isn’t the platform to share them – but in light of all of this, I’d rather play my guitars. Yeah, I share a lot of the stuff I produce, and frankly, it’s not meant to be a counterpoint to the Covid-19 hustle and bustle. My thought is just to do what I do, and let it loose. I couldn’t care less whether people watch it or comment on it.

For me at least, even though I’m working from home, it’s a perfect time to let my creative juices flow.

I love my BOSS Katana Artist. It has such a great sound. And on top of that, it’s incredibly versatile. I can use the Line Out and go directly into a board and keep my stage volume low. It has totally changed the way I approach live performance.

But there’s the rub. For live use, the Line Out is great, but I’ve discovered that for anything kind of dirty, it’s not so good. Or I should correct myself. It’s good enough for playing something dirty underneath the mix, but front and center, well… It’s a little lifeless.

I’ve had the amp for a while now and I only discovered this discrepancy this afternoon when I used the amp to record a track that required some overdrive. I was thinking that I could record silently and just tweak the sound like I always do. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get a good sound out of it, no matter what guitar I used.

I was a little nonplussed about this because I’ve used the amp on stage and my sound has been stellar through the PA. But into my audio interface? Eek!

I ended up just miking the cabinet, which is probably what should’ve done in the first place. Even at quiet volumes, the amp has a big sound. At one point, I looked down at the amp and it seemed to say to me, “Moron… You know I like to push SPLs.” Ha!

When I’ve performed, sure, the amp volume is not as loud as I’d normally have it when I don’t have good sound reinforcement. But I have to cut through the drums, so it has to push some air. And when it does push air, it’s magic.

For cleans, the Line Out works great, and I’ll continue to record clean guitar sounds with it. But there’s nothing that beats letting the amp breathe.

Today, Jack Johnson put on a live streaming event called the Kokua Festival 2020. This is an annual event to help raise money for various schools and to fund various programs in and around Hawaii. Usually, it’s a concert festival with lots of different acts, but because of the lock-down, he live-streamed the event and had other artists such as Willie Nelson and Eddie Vedder live-stream from their homes.

Now imagine my surprise to see Jack playing a J-45! That body profile is unmistakable and, of course, there’s no mistaking the Gibson head stock. And when he played, that round bottom-end and tight mid-range that’re characteristic of the J-45 sealed the deal.

That said, I could be wrong. But there’s no way that it’s a Hummingbird because that guitar has square shoulders, while the J-45 has rounded shoulders and much narrower at the shoulder as well. And no way that it’s an L-00 – it’s way too big for that.

It actually surprised me to see him playing a Gibson because I knew he played Cole Clark guitars from Australia. But hey! It’s always cool to see a big-name artist playing the same gear as you!

Now, what I don’t know at all is if it’s a J-45 Standard or J-45 Standard Walnut. I’m kind of thinking it might be the Standard Walnut because Jack is really big into sustainability and he cares a lot for the environment. Proceeds from the Kokua festival go to a variety of environmental concerns. Even his Cole Clark guitars are all made from sustainable Australian woods. Again, I could be wrong and I’m definitely interpolating here, but it makes sense.

Ten years ago, I was literally gigging over 200 days a year. I played in a band, did A LOT of solo acoustic gigs, and played weekly at church. Back then, I had a big electric board (I know, “big” is relative) that had anywhere from 10 to 20 pedals, depending on the gig. I’d have a wah, three or four overdrives, at least one distortion, a clean boost, various modulation pedals from a chorus, vibe, delay, and reverb, and some pedals that I’d categorize as “weird” such as an envelope filter – which I literally used once. 🙂

Fast forward to today and I’m in between bands right now, only do a few solo acoustic gigs a year, though I do play weekly at church (I’m doing videos from home right now during the COVID-19 quarantine). And here’s the thing: Most of my pedals are now collecting dust!

If I look at it logically, I’ve got a couple of good reasons for downsizing:

I’ve found my sound, so I don’t really feel the need for a lot of pedals.

I really don’t want lug as much gear around (that’s actually true)

But I was thinking this morning. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t want to deal with twiddling and tweaking anymore. I’m not a crusty old guy who’s a grouch all the time. But I do have to admit that I’m kind of set in my ways. Exploring sounds was something that I just always did when I was a younger man. Now? I don’t have much interest in doing that unless I just happen to hear something that appeals to me.

So I let this post sit for a day so I could think about it some more…

I almost posted this article yesterday that included another paragraph that poked fun of my grey-hairedness. But this morning, as I drink my coffee, I have to admit that it’s not just getting older that has made me downsize, but especially during this quarantine period, I’ve discovered that I’m satisfied with what I’ve got.

You see, with my younger kids home from school, we’ve been recording videos and tracks that we share with friends. I, of course, edit the soundtracks to make them clearer and cleaner, and I especially listen to my guitar sounds. The only thing I’ve done with the guitar parts is EQ just a tiny bit. But I don’t feel as if I’m missing a component.

Compare that to 10 years ago, where oftentimes when I’d be mixing and mastering, I might’ve said, Hmmm… this needs X. Oops! I don’t have that, so I guess I should pick one up… Though I’ve either sold or given away a lot of gear since then, I still have lots of stuff – especially pedals – that I just don’t use.

I’ve got more years behind me than I have left, and yeah, I might say I’m getting old, but I like where I’m at right now. I don’t feel as if I’m missing a key sound. And here’s another thing I realized: If I don’t have a key sound, I still just use what I’ve got.

A couple of months ago, I wrote that I had burned out the pedals on my mini-board. I used the wrong power supply on the board, and when I plugged it in, I immediately smelled electrical smoke, so I played my gig without my effects. When I got home, I plugged in the power supply to the board, and nothing worked. I was heart-broken because that board had been a mainstay of my sound: A hand-wired Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay analog delay.

Fast-forward a couple of months and I was doing some recording. I needed a more “spatious” delay and was getting a little frustrated with my BOSS DM-2w. It’s a fantastic analog delay, but after playing with it for the last couple of months, it’s really best used as a subtle slap-back delay, at which it excels immensely, so it will stay on my board.

But while I was recording, I found that getting the DM-2w to a setting where it wasn’t too subtle or just too much was actually incredibly difficult, requiring super-precise, minute adjustments on the intensity knob. I knew I could get there easily with my old Deep Blue Delay.

So here’s where the title of my post comes into play…

I’ve always been deathly afraid of electricity. Not sure why. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, free climbed rock walls, skied super-steep, icy pitches and even bungee jumped off a bridge. I don’t do that stuff now, but they still don’t scare me. Professionally, I design complex big-data software systems. But despite all that, I’m terrified of getting electrocuted, so I’ve generally stayed away from working with circuits and such.

If something burns out, I either have someone else fix it, or replace the unit. So I admit it. I’ve chosen to be ignorant about working with electrical stuff. And I also admit that that ignorance also makes me have knee-jerk reactions when I think something’s gone wrong with some electrical gear.

Back to when I first burned out my board, what I didn’t think to do was test the pedals individually. I just thought all the pedals on the board died. But when I was getting frustrated with getting the right setting for my DM-2w, I remembered that I didn’t check the pedals individually. So I went to the storage box that I put my Deep Blue Delay into, brought it back to my workstation and plugged it in. The freakin’ thing lit up and worked!

I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. But on the bright side of things, I did score a new BOSS DM-2w, and I have no remorse over that purchase at all, despite my frustrations.

Long story short, I was able to lay down my tracks and I was a happy man. The real positive thing that comes out of it is that I now have two great analog delays that actually complement each other quite well. The DM-2w is about the best slap-back delay I’ve played. When using a slap-back delay, I don’t like a heavy pulse. It just kind of has to be there, and the DM-2w satisfies that requirement implicitly.

On the other hand, when I’m playing finger-style or solos, I like to have a slow delay that has a longer pre-delay on it so I get the articulation of the notes, then this cool, smooth delay effect that tails a phrase. For that, there is none better than the Deep Blue Delay which, by the way, the DBD doesn’t do slap-back as well because of its longer pre-delay. So now I have two great delays that I can use for specific purposes!

Yeah… I’m still ignorant about electronics, but this time, at least something good came out of it.

As for the rest of the pedals, I’ll be damned – they ALL worked again! I explained what happened to my electrician son, and he said that I may have heated the circuits to the point where the devices didn’t function at the time, but not enough to completely damage them (I did tell him that I unplugged within just a few seconds). Once they cooled down, they worked again.

When he explained that to me, I just shook my head and chuckled. Then he chided me that here I was, this seasoned veteran of software engineering and I was an absolute pussy with electronics. I shrugged and laughed in response then said, “Well… I’d rather admit to my fear and ignorance than be dead.”

Ageism… Ugh!

There’s a popular T-shirt with an old Samurai warrior on it that bears the saying to the right. I eventually want to make my own T-shirt with that saying but put a guitar player on it; not necessarily Clapton, but maybe some line art or something.

While that’s all amusing, as I get closer to 60, I’ve noticed how people – and not just young people – assume that because I’m a certain age that all I must play are the old classics; especially when I talk about playing at church, many people think I’m a freakin’ organist!

The looks they get on their faces when I tell them I have a rock band, well, I can’t help but laugh!

So here the thing: You’re only as old as YOU believe you are. And at least for me, I’m gonna rock until the day I die!

The choice between the two is not as easy as you might think.

Tweaker – Someone who dives deep into the minutiae of the gear they have and learn every feature and nuance. The more features, the better.

Player – Someone who learns just enough about their gear to play it effectively. Learning nuances is through osmosis over time. Typically, they don’t like too many features in a product.

Let me say this: Neither is better than the other. In fact, over time, both types of people will arrive at roughly the same knowledge of their gear, though admittedly, for straight-up players, that may take years.

And there are no absolutes, no one is absolutely a Player or absolutely a Tweaker. And yes, most people have traits of both simultaneously, but I’ve found in my interactions with thousands of folks over the years that most folks are predominantly one over the other.

In any case, what inspired me to write this post is that I’m in a bit of a quandary right now: Do I get a Strymon Iridium or a Line 6 HX Stomp?

Though I’m probably much more of a Player rather than a Tweaker, one would think that with the limited features of the Iridium, I’d lean heavily towards that unit. But if you’ve read this blog with any regularity, versatility is a key component to many of my buying decisions.

The HX Stomp has so much versatility that there are very few amps and cab combinations – not to mention effect chains – that I couldn’t assemble, however virtually. This is definitely something worth considering because depending on the style of music I’m playing or recording, I could get the exact amp/cab combo that I need with the HX Stomp. It’s a tweaker’s wet dream!

On the other hand, the Iridium has just three amp models and three cab IRs per amp. Far less tweaking (though you can load your own IRs), BUT the amps represent the archetypes on which almost all amps are based. It doesn’t have effects, so if you want effects, you put existing effects in front of it, so no having to learn to tweak virtual effects as in the HX Stomp. For a straight-up Player, it’s very much like just setting up an amp; very plug and play and away we go!

As far as the physical footprint is concerned, with the HX Stomp, once I’ve got it set up, it’s all I’d really need to bring with me or plug into my audio interface as opposed to the Iridium where I’d have to hook up my pedalboard (the Iridium would sit on the board), which takes up real estate – and in a gigging situation, is a MUCH heavier option.

So you see how this could be conflicting?

For a Tweaker, you’d think that they’d immediately jump on the HX Stomp; most probably would, but I’ve also spoken with some guys whom I know who just love twiddling knobs and such who’d rather have the Iridium. And it’s vice-versa with some Players I’ve met and spoken with who look at the HX stomp as a BIG collection of amps and cabs.

So what does it boil down to? To be completely honest, I just don’t know at this point. At least for me, I’m going to have to audition these units. While I really dig all the features in the HX Stomp – including the looper – how much I gravitate towards it will be highly dependent on how easy it is to configure without a computer.

As for the Iridium, since it has a very limited set of features, that means that its sound quality and dynamics have to be absolutely stellar. And from what I’ve been able to surmise, it’s sound quality is pretty spot on. For me, I’m not so much interested in the AC30 sound, but I really like the Deluxe Reverb sounds I’ve heard.

Why Even Consider a Modeler?

I have a bunch of amps, mostly tube amps. I still gig with them, but in my home “studio,” I’ve got limited space. Not only that, even if I record in my man-cave (read: garage) where I don’t have an isolation booth or box, I pick up ambient noises, be they mechanical sounds or just the general activity of my family; not to mention that with the exception of my Katana Artist, I can’t record any other of my amps silently. So a modeler is a great solution to be able to not only eliminate ambient noises, it allows me to record in complete silence. A clean signal is a good signal.

Modeling technology has gotten so good over the years that frankly, it’s just hard to ignore. I’ve never been a purist, preferring instead to look at various types of gear merely as tools. If they get the job done – and especially if they do it well – then that’s pretty much all that matters to me. And with modelers like the Line 6 or Kemper or AxeFX gear and now the Iridium, I love what they bring to the table!

As a performer, I’ve always viewed myself as a singer who played guitar or piano to provide accompaniment for my voice. My voice has gotten me lots of gigs from my longtime, local solo act to singing in an international choir and even some narration. And I’ve been performing with my voice since I was a young boy – almost 50 years now.

About 20 years ago, I kind of came to an impasse with singing. I was starting to sing a lot more musical theater and even some select opera pieces. And though I could kind of fake it, I knew that I was straining my vocal chords. I’d get done singing an aria or big theatrical piece and my voice would be hoarse!

I have to admit that it scared me a bit. So I asked a close friend of mine if she knew of anyone local to me that was a voice coach/teacher that specialized in operatic and musical theater styles and she directed me to a close friend of hers named Kay.

One of the first things I established with Kay was that I actually wasn’t interested in being an opera or Broadway singer. What I wanted to learn was to sing correctly so I could sing the occasional opera piece with the proper mechanical technique. Kay was a little perplexed by my request because all of her students had aspirations to be opera or Broadway singers.

I explained to her that to me at least, learning how to sing opera would bring me back to the source of all singing technique; especially with respect to breathing and projecting. I figured if I could effectively sing an opera tune, I could sing anything. Long story short, I took about half a dozen classes from Kay – we treated our sessions like a master class – and I learned valuable lessons in vocal mechanics. As a result, I could literally do 6-hour gigs (with breaks, of course) and still have more in the tank to sing.

So you might be wondering: What does this have to do with guitar?

I spent all that time above talking about how I’m a singer first. That remains true to this day, but as you know from this blog, I have a passion for playing guitar. And in the last 20 years, I’ve taken on more and more lead guitar duties. I never sought to do this. I kind of fell into it.

But lately, I’ve been feeling as if I’m just playing a variation of the same thing for all my solos, and it’s frustrating. So I’ve decided to go back to the source and take some lessons; specifically, take jazz guitar lessons, and not just any kind of jazz, but a study of old jazz standards.

I realize that a lot of that is going to be a review of chord theory, which is actually pretty exciting to me. But more important than that, I want to learn chord comping and instead of just playing note scales, actually play chord scales. It requires a bit different way of thinking, but that appeals to me because long ago when I was taking piano lessons, rather than teach me standard scale theory, my teacher focused on chord theory.

The teacher whom I am hoping still gives lessons is Carol Kaye. She’s a legendary bassist, but she’s also an accomplished guitarist. Ms. Kaye has a resume of touring and session work that most people can only dream of. Most notably, she was the sole female member of the famed “Wrecking Crew,” responsible for creating HUGE hits of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. (And by the way, that whole “Wrecking Crew” name, according to Carol Kaye, was made up by Hal Blaine) The bass line for the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, well, that was all her. Freakin’ amazing!

What inspired me to seek her out was this video of an interview she gave in 2013 (it’s over an hour long, but SO worth it):

The way she talked about her approach to music completely jibed with what I’ve been aspiring to achieve for years. I’m hoping she will accept me as a student!

Summary: True to form, here’s another quality pedal board from Vangoa. Roughly half the depth of its bigger brother the 20″ x 12″ board, this is a convenient board that can carry up to 7 pedals in a staggered setup (see image below and how I’ve set up 4 pedals – 3 can easily be staggered above).

Pros: Like the other boards I’ve reviewed by Vangoa, the build quality of this board is unquestionably high. No cracks in the joints; everything is straight as an arrow. The included cable ties, VelcroTM, and patch cables are a nice added touch.

Cons: Functionally, I have no issues with the board at all, though as with the other boards I reviewed, the dimensions are just a little weird. And as with the other boards the bag material seems a little thin. But that said, it’s not a problem as long as you take care and not throw the bag around or overload it.


  • Aluminum allow construction
  • 1 Roll Self-adhesive Hook&Loop
  • Carrying bag with inner pocket to hold extra cords and such.
  • 3 Nylon Cable Ties
  • 3 35cm Plastic Cable Ties
  • 6 9.7cm Plastic Cable Ties
  • 5 Self-adhesive Cable Mount Base Holders

Price: $59.95 at Amazon.com (no, this is not an affiliate link)

The quality of this board is clear. But at least for me, the size is perfect for my acoustic rig as I can fit a larger vocal processor/looper on it and still have plenty of room for modulation pedals, which was always my issue with the old Nano board.

Vangoa is one of numerous Chinese companies selling their wares on the market today. And they’re a testament to just how good Chinese manufacturing quality has become. I’ve tested and reviewed two of their other boards and have not been at all disappointed. In fact, their big pedal board is now my “big show” pedal board when I’m doing larger venues and need a bit more variety with my effects – especially overdrives and distortion, and need some space for a wah wah pedal.

When Vangoa sent me this mini pedal to review, this time, they also sent me aluminum alloy ingots, which were about a centimeter wide and almost a meter in length. I asked Jack, their sales manager what they were about, and he replied that he wanted to share the actual raw material from which the boards were made. Admittedly, it was a little humorous to me. But it did tell me that he was pretty serious about the product and wanted to prove that it wasn’t made of some other type of material.

Not that it would’ve mattered because when I first took out the board, I thought it was – as my Aussie mates say – “the duck’s nuts.” Quite simply, the board is well-made. As I mentioned above, there are not cracked joints and it’s just… well… sturdy.

A HUGE thing for me with the Vangoa boards is their use of rubber feet that not only prevent slippage, but more importantly, elevate the board above the floor to avoid potential spillage; something that I have personally had to deal with when playing in clubs when some idiot decides to dance in front of me with a beer, or stupid me, knocking over a water cup (which I don’t do any more).

Fit and Finish

I’ve already mentioned how the board itself is great, so no need to belabor the point. But it also comes with a nice carrying case. The material is good enough, and though it’s not made of high-velocity nylon, it works pretty well. And most importantly, it’s padded. But as with any thin nylon, you’ll have to be careful with it because over time, it eventually will wear out. Also, you never ever want to overload a bag like this. It will tear.

The extra accessories that that bag comes with are a very nice touch. This has what has always impressed me with the Vangoa bags. They add a bunch of stuff that you will need. For instance, the plastic cable ties are awesome. I already had a bunch of them in my workbench, but having some extras to tote to a gig? You never know when you’ll need ’em.

Waiting for the Lock-down to End

I haven’t gigged with the board yet because as with the rest of California, I’m in shelter-in-place lock-down for a few weeks, so no church, no clubs, blah, blah, blah. But once the lock-down is lifted I will be using this board as my acoustic/clean rig. I like the depth of the board because I can fit larger pedals on it such as a vocal processor/looper and still have plenty of room for modulation effects.

At least in this case, size really does matter. And this is important, especially with a solo act where consolidation is huge. One of the issues I had with the my old Nano board was that I could only fit four pedals on it. Period. If I put a vocal processor on it, like a TC Helicon VoiceLive unit, forget it. I had room for one extra pedal. So I always had to transport it separately. That also meant that once at a venue, I had to set it up separately. But with the Vangoa Mini board, I can fit a vocal processor on the board (I’m looking for a new one) and still put all four of my modulation pedals on it.

Overall Impression

Yeah, pedal boards are fairly pedestrian accessories, but when they’re well-designed their inclusion into a rig should be seamless and transparent. This Ghostfire Mini is great!

Click here for more information on Ghostfire board.

I’ve skied for over four decades now. And in my younger days, I did a bit of racing. I’ve loved watching and following ski racing since I was young boy, even before I knew how to ski. There was always something almost mystical about how these men and women can schuss down a hill carrying lots of speed and completely under control.

The amount of training that takes is immense. I know. I tried to do it, but I didn’t have the funds nor the sponsorship to go very far. I don’t know how I would’ve done, but I also knew that to get to the highest echelons of the sport, money makes the world go ’round. But my failed attempt didn’t mean I lost my passion for the sport of competitive ski racing.

Having followed the sport for most of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to see the occasional phenom pop up in both the men’s and women’s disciplines. Men like Franz Klammer and Ingemar Stenmark; women like Lindsay Vonn and Lara Gut. And as of late, Mikaela Shiffrin (pictured above), whom in her early twenties is destined to break and set new records in the sport.

But as of late, she has been struggling; but to be clear, it means she’s not getting first place. She’s still placing in the top three. But even still, there’s a noticeable drop in her confidence on the snow. To the average viewer, they may not notice a change in her skiing, but to an experienced eye, there’s a tentativeness that I’ve rarely seen in Shiffrin in the last couple of seasons.

And in a pre-race interview, Mikaela admitted that she was struggling and that it will take some work. Paraphrasing what she told the interviewer, she mentioned that her success has been less about her talent and much more the product of being prepared and hard work. The races where she has not won as of late were at venues where she didn’t have much time to train. And after hearing that interview, I immediately thought of my own journey as a guitar player and performer and this became the gist of this latest entry.

I’ve now been playing guitar literally for fifty years. And looking back on where I was when I started and where I am now is the product of work. Lots of work. Though born musical and raised in a musical family, and while I have a strong sense of what works musically and what doesn’t, that knowing has been much more the result of literally tens of thousands of hours of work and practice.

What Mikaela Shiffrin said in her interview resonated with me because, at least for me, hard work is the only way I know to get better. I’ve known some prodigies that just pick stuff up. But even they practice and practice and practice to get their technique as close to perfection as possible. The point here is that some people have an easier time getting to particular level of skill, but no one can avoid having to work to get there.

For me, I love the struggle of having to work for it. When I was younger, I didn’t have the financial means to get the kind of gear that I have now. My guitars were kind of crappy and by their very nature, they made me work to get good sounds out of them.

And I know it sounds a bit screwy, but I used to have this inherent fear that people would think I was horrible at playing (I still have that fear, but it’s a lot less now than when I was younger), so I would practice for hours on end to make sure I was totally prepared when it came time to perform.

A couple of weeks ago, the pastor of my church and I were having a conversation, and at one point, he complimented me for the job I was doing at our church services and my musical work with the teens in leading their praise and worship sessions. Then he remarked at how I made it seem so effortless.

I thanked him and said that obviously, I’m spiritually inspired. But I also emphasized that what most people don’t know is that I’ve practiced for several hours by myself leading up to the events I perform with the church. I also added that to me, it’s important to struggle. It’s important to work through every possible scenario that I can so I can be as prepared as possible.

If you’re motivated to being better – at anything – struggling is a good thing because it drives you to get better. I remember struggling through learning to play a major scale from any point on the fret board – a key component to playing modes (though just knowing a major scale is just part of the picture). I shared that I struggled with my crappy gear, but that just made me learn how to be so much more expressive.

Failure is struggle. Hopefully, we take those failures and learn from them. And as long as we don’t let our failures discourage us, we trudge on and do better the next time we’re faced with circumstances or situations that made us fail.

And yes, there are those who seemingly have an innate ability to pick things up. But make no bones about it. Even they have to work, even they have struggle because their talent will only take them so far. And yes, that level of so far might be a long way, but if they want to be better than that level, they’ve got to work at it.

Even at 58 years old, I play every day. For me, there’s always something to learn. Lately, I’ve been learning phrasing over “Blue in Green” by Miles Davis (er… Bill Evans?). No, I’m not trying to become a jazz player. Honestly, I don’t even like most jazz. But there’s something about the album “Kind of Blue” and especially “Blue in Green” that has always resonated with me.

In that particular song, there seems to be this Dorian-Mixolydian thing going on, so I’ve been experimenting with different phrases. It has been incredibly challenging because as much as I know the fret board, playing modally reaches to the outer extents of my abilities. But to me, that’s the beauty of the whole process.

It’s a struggle. But in the few weeks that I’ve been messing around with it, I’ve feel as if I’ve started to get a better awareness of how to link my phrases together. They’re not very fast – that’s not my intent – but they’re starting to flow together, and more importantly, it has forced me to play out of my comfort zone and do string jumps or play half steps where I would’ve never even thought to do that. And I’m not even done yet!

Two of my sons have picked up the guitar and they’re both getting pretty good. They ask me a lot of questions on technique and such, but most of the time, I just tell them they have to work through their issues or problems. Being digital natives, they want instant results. But I explained to them that the ONLY way I know of to master a technique is to work through it; practice it over and over again until you’ve got it down.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” he states that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master anything. 10,000 hours! In the book, he describes the experiences of various famous people such as Bill Gates and all the things they did and do to develop their skills and reach the pinnacle of their experience and expertise. The gist of the book is that expertise comes from a very large investment of time and effort, much more so than pure talent.

So if you really want to get good at something, you gotta work at it!