As the world we live in extracts new technologies that often speed up the pace we can do something, it is important not to lose track that some things take time. Some things do not happen overnight and it cannot be otherwise.

 

How To Be A Better Guitar Player ... This must be one of the most common questions I get asked.

What is DVDnitus? Well, it's my own term, obviously.

Here's where I'm getting at - I see students of the guitar (and other instruments) get caught up in always buying a new book, new DVD, Blu Ray, etc in order to learn something new.

Come on, raise your hand if that is you. We are all or have been there. 

This can be good, but many players and I mean MANY don't even scratch the surface of what each product has to offer before they get "bored" and move onto another one.

I hear quiet a bit of chatter about guitarists learning things by watching instructional videos on You Tube. Let's face it - You Tube is full of amazing information and many guitar instructors strut their stuff all over the net. Heck, even my "Metal For Life" instructional videos have been seen by close to 4 million people.

Hey Metal-heads,

I want to take a brief moment and talk about something that is truly important to your journey as a musician. That is the attitude you apply to a task or a situation.

What is aggressive patience?

Let's apply this to getting better on your instrument. In short, this unofficial term means staying focused while chipping away at the stone and not expecting the returns on your work to happen overnight.

Everybody goes through periods of when they don't practice their guitar or instrument. Everybody!!

That means you or a professional guitar player you might admire. Things like travel, family, vacations or plainly lack of inspiration to play all take a role in it. Guess what? It is ok. There is no law that states you can not take a few days or even weeks (or months) off.

Quick Guitar Tip!

Do you use active pick-ups (such as EMGs) in the your guitar and your sound is sounding fuzzy, harsh or plain weird lately?

I often get asked about tips on how to to keep guitars playing well.

Outside of the technical stuff like intonation, new strings, thruss rod adjustments and so forth, I often mention keeping the fretboard well hydrated. As we practice or play live lots of crud, oil and general dirt sits around the fret area. Every so often (or, at every string change) I recommend cleaning all that stuff out with products such as lemon oil or Hydrate fretboard conditioner that Planet Waves makes. They all work in similar ways.

Ok, here's a nice quick guitar tip that will help you keep your guitar in tune. When changing strings on a guitar that has no locking pieces at the nut, right before I put the string into the grove at the top of the neck - I sprinkle some graphite from a pencil..

Just a few thoughts below as I often get asked if someone is too old to learn how to play a guitar, etc. In short - your age has nothing to do with it. Unless you are so old that you have no strength left in your arms, if you are thinking about learning how to play, or getting back into playing, I must say - Go For It.

I meet many guitar players (and musicians in general) who have been practicing for many years, but have yet to venture into recording themselves. Through time I found that recording yourself is one of the greatest tools you can use to improve your playing. 

Many guitar students have a very valid question as to when is the right time to change their strings. The answer depends on a personal as well as a technical aspect - so let’s check it out.

I want to share another quick tip with you and this one has to do with extending the life of your guitar strings.

Ok, I must admit that sometimes I'm not a fan of changing guitar strings. Not that it takes too long, but I'd rather be playing them then changing them. I'm sure you might agree.

I was speaking with a friend who is a drummer for a touring metal band. He mentioned that the band he plays for recently downscaled their line-up to one guitar from a previous two guitarist unit. They were not sure how the band’s sound was going to be because in theory one less guitar would mean a weaker sound. Upon my friend’s recommendation to have the remaining guitarist play the metal parts with more of a bigger, aggressive, open, rock feel – the guys in the band actually realized that things are sounding pretty good and have so far continued to tour as a four piece.

I thought about that and I realized that another truth of a great guitar tone lies that example.

As long as I can remember I have always been in bands and projects with musicians who were better than me.

It actually started when I first picked up the guitar in High School and many of my friends were playing since they were 9. Nine! I had a lot to catch up. But, it got me better, quick. I practiced extra hard because I did not want to be the worst guitarists out of all my friends.

What's in a guitar pick? Well, apparently a lot. I have been thinking about how I found the guitar pick that I have been using for the last 15 years - the amazing Dunlop H3 Tortex. I have been using and experimenting with different picks for a long time and when I found the Dunlop Jazz III I thought I had it. But, as it turned out the smoother side of the Tortex pick worked out even better for me.

Here are a couple of quick tips that I hope will help you in getting the best out of your instrument.

Number one. Remember that your live performance will usually never be better than your best practice session. Use this fact to gauge how much work you or your band might still need to truly be great.

Throughout the years of teaching guitar I learned how to pick up on various behavioral patterns in my students. Depending on the student’s age, experience and commitment, some of the patterns are pretty typical such as expecting the teacher to magically do all the practicing for them, not bringing in ideas as to what they would love to learn next, being late for a lesson, etc. You get the idea.

However, today I want to talk about one of the biggest self-sabotaging mistakes many guitar students make. And, this silent assassin even applies to some of the most committed students that I teach.

Ever since I started to play guitar in my teens I was reading positive thinking books. They helped me inch along and motivated me stay on path at the times when I could not find anyone as serious about their music as I was.

Today in similar fashion I want to tell you about an absolutely awesome series from my friend C.J. who is the driving force behind Metal Motivation. C.J. has been making some serious waves with his Metal Motivation vision and the Life Domination Series is an awesome force designed to equip you in life. I listen to it often and these messages made a great gym companion on my ipod. 

One significantly important area for musicians is the world of written agreements and how one’s services relate to the industry they work in.

Let’s get the first thing out of the way. Most musicians hate talking about business and money with their employers and partners. Or, should I say, most hate talking about it publically, because when you get a couple buddying musicians together in private one subject that usually comes up is the business.

Here is a topic that is much discussed in the music circles. It is the idea of being a self-taught musician and also the possible pros and cons of it.

There is a certain level of pride that many musicians carry with them for being presumably self-taught and I can understand why. By considering themselves self-taught some take pride that by not taking “lessons” the ins and outs of playing an instrument were found on their own time, by their own skills. On the surface this seems to make sense, but I don’t buy it.

When I was studying from a mail-order guitar course a long time ago, I'd literally wait by my mail-box until a new lesson or just as important - a new newsletter showed up. The newsletters were often full of motivational stuff. I'd eat the stuff up. One Spring a newsletter showed up with a headline that a heavy metal camp has arrived - it promised hanging out with Ozzy, mud wresting Lita Ford and jamming with Angus Young. I could not believe. Well, by the time I finished reading the article - there was no metal camp.

I want to briefly touch upon a subject that many guitar players (and musicians in general) seem to have a mis-understanding of. Often I hear people tell me that they want to take a lesson with me because they have reached a certain 'plateau' that they can't seem to get past. It sounds good, but it's unfortunately wrong.

Today I’m going to talk about something that should hit close to home for us creative people: inspiration — and how we, as humans, relate and perceive it. As musicians, we often wait for the golden gate to open, rays of inspiration to shine in and — presto — we bang out a great new song, lyric, etc. Those moments do happen, and they are awesome. How often they happen might depend on the state or clarity of your mind — or maybe even your luck.

One thing I realized over the years is that there is no magic wand or anyone that will come out of your computer screen to make you better as a guitar player, songwriter or anything similar. In short - the greatest way to achieve progress is to define goals of what you would like to accomplish with your guitar playing and start chiseling away at them as the year progresses.

Many guitar players complain that they can not keep their Floyd Rose (or Floyd Rose style bar system) in tune. Because of this, many write off the Floyd all together. I believe that a Floyd system is one of the greatest inventions on the guitar, so in order to fully defend the faith - I'm hoping to give a few tips to help with the 3 most common problems you might encounter.

OK, I admit I'm a bit compulsive when it comes to keeping my guitars clean. And I don't mean that in the "Look, but don’t touch" way, since many of my guitars have dings and small cracks. I mean it in terms of keeping my guitars CLEAN. So I've been known to drive my techs a bit nuts. But let my pain be your gain! I'm going to share some secrets on how to keep your guitar’s finish spot-free. Did you know your guitar’s paint job is similar to a car’s? It’s true.

Some of you might find this story's headline (Give Yourself Permission to Be a Musician) a little confusing. Most of you play an instrument, and many of you are serious about following your passion — making guitar playing your profession. So what’s this about permission? Let me explain.

I want to share a quick tip with guitar players that will make things easier in your search for the perfect guitar sound when recording. Most of you will probably agree that you often start with an amp setting, tweak as you go through a few other options and then tell yourself that some of the initial settings sounded the best. However, you realize you have a hard time pinpointing exact previous locations of the control knobs. You can get it close, but not exact. Once you start adding pedals and studio gear, things can run away from you pretty quickly. Here’s what you do.

Young musicians often ask me about endorsement deals and how to get them. I think most can see an endorsement deal as beneficial to their career and, in a way, a positive nod from the music industry. In most cases, however, players who ask me this question don't know how to go about getting one — and what an endorsement deal might actually look like.

Guitar players are usually on some sort of a mission to improve our guitar tone. For many, this journey never ends. I dare say we're obsessed with it. The point of this blog post is simple, and I’m not going to comment much on the new toys for our guitars. However, I can tell you without any trepidation that the single greatest way to improve your tone is practicing.

I was thinking about how we, as musicians, advance and make progress in our careers. I've come up with something that rings true in terms of every situation that has helped me in my personal journey. It comes down to this: Anytime anything happens “for us,” it comes as the result of a recommendation from someone else. Or someone we knew thought of us. It's as simple as that.

Just a few days ago, I spent a week with 42 metalheads aged 10 to 19 at a destination Metal Camp at Camp Lakota in Wurtsboro, New York. It was a fantastic, positive experience on several levels, fueled by young energy, enthusiasm and "go get ‘em" attitude from the young rockers. Many of them wanted to make metal music their life. While I was there, I started to collect my thoughts on the definition of "success," and what it could mean to them as metal musicians.

In photography, the term "depth of field" is often used to describe what object retains the focus and what is blurred out. In a long depth of field, everything is sharp and ready for examination; in short depth of field, you will see the sharpness emphasizing the main subject, while the remainder of the picture is blurred out.

While doing my metal guitar workshops, one of the topics I hear a lot about is the art of tackling the ability to play lead guitar. I often hear guitarists tell me they want to know how they can begin to play more lead in their band. They are interested in sharpening their skills, but they seem afraid and unsure of just how to dive in. Often they feel there is an invisible wall stopping them. They just don’t know.

For guitar players, quality cables are sometimes an overlooked item. We are always looking to buy the best guitar, the best amp and the best sounding pedals we can afford. Then, once we got 3K invested in our gear, we go out and connect everything with cheap guitar cable.

The truth is, guitar and speaker cables matter – a lot.

Many guitar players often struggle with finding the time or feel the need to be inspired in order to practice their instrument. Sure, there are days when we are all inspired to pick up our guitars and play. How about the other days?

One of the questions I am asked by many guitar players is what gauge of strings should they choose to string their axe. And, while I give them the answers that it does depend on their own preference, the brand of strings, etc – I realized that guitar players also suffer from the Bigger Then The Next Guy syndrome. What I mean is that many players simply choose to go for bigger strings to make themselves feel better about their guitar ability.

Let's talk about a topic that is not often discussed in guitar circles. In 2006 when I played guitar with former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, we have done quite a lot of touring with Guns N’ Roses. While on that tour, I have spent some time speaking with Chris who was a guitar tech to then GN’R guitar player Robin Finck.

 

One day I was in the storage area and decided to shift some guitars around, take inventory, etc.

I started to dig up cases that were from some of the first guitars that I ever owned. I had a laugh as all the cases already had my name stenciled on them w. spray paint and had numbers from #1 on. If you did not know anything else, you would think I was preparing for a world tour. The truth was however, that by that time, I have maybe played one or two shows ever in my life.

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