10 Life Lessons Learned on Stage

inspiration musings Mar 21, 2020

I've earned my living from playing music on stages large and small. Sometimes for festival audiences of thousands, sometimes to the sound of one fan clapping in a small club. Along the way, I learned a few lessons that inspire and inform other life endeavors. Here are my top 10 lessons learned from the stage that apply to living "the good life."

  1. Serve the song, don't make the song serve you. Your best work comes when you are present and generous and not attached to a self-serving outcome or agenda.

  2. You don't work music, you play it. The point of work worth doing is not to "win," but to be able to keep "playing the game."

  3. Music is a language and languages are for communicating, connecting, and collaborating. Knowing what your work is for is essential to doing it well. Dial in the motivation, intention, and aspiration of your work and keep it top of mind as you proceed.

  4. Music is a collaboration, not a competition. Self-expression is very...
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Life Lessons Learned at a Guitar Retreat

inspiration musings Sep 05, 2018

I'm just back from a week-long gig as a guest instructor at Martin Taylor's Guitar Retreat in the Catskill Mountains of New York. In addition to the many memorable musical moments, the week was spent in great company, dining on exquisite meals, and taking in great weather and scenery.

Although I enjoyed sharing some of my musical knowledge and expertise, I also savored many benefits myself during the experience. What follows are a few highlights.

The Importance of "Getting It Away From It All"

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." - Seneca

There was NO cell signal at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York. I spent the entire week unplugged and away from my phone!

If you're like me, you love the work you do. You're enrolled and invested in it. You engage with it daily with discipline and determination. It's easy to become so thoroughly absorbed that it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. You may find yourself caught up in...

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Why Play the Blues?

musings Aug 12, 2018

All American music springs from or is informed by the blues. The form is simple and employs fundamental changes easily mastered and memorized. It encourages self-expression and cultivating a player's unique voice while dealing with profound issues.

The blues is simple, but it ain't easy! The blues form, changes, and rhythm give aspiring guitarists instant access to 100s of songs in the blues, country, rock and jazz traditions and all styles that spring from them. Diving deeper into blues changes, melodic articulations and improvisation provides a lifetime of learning material that improves a guitarist's playing in any genre and more important, encourages and cultivates players to find their unique and authentic style.

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We Are All Musicians (& This Simple Exercise Will Prove It)!

inspiration Nov 17, 2016

Are You a Musician?

The answer to this question is usually based on whether the person being asked plays a musical instrument or not. If they do, then the answer is of course “Yes.” However, if they do not, the answer is most frequently “No.” This is both sad and incorrect. We are all musicians and I can prove it. Just answer the two simple questions below.

What Is Music & What It’s For

Music is a language. Like all languages, it’s simply organized sound. What’s it for? Well like any language, music is for communicating and connecting with ourselves and others.

Question #1

Have you ever sung a tune? Hummed or whistled one? Be honest. I mean have you ever done this? If you think not, ask your mom or dad if you did so as a child. I bet’cha did.

Question #2

Have you ever danced to music? Clapped your hands or tapped your feet to it? Felt it reverberate inside you? Again, I mean have you ever done...

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“I Didn’t Have Time to Practice” - AKA “I’ve Been Really Busy….”

inspiration Oct 13, 2016

Really? You poor thing! Thank goodness you had time to breathe, eat, sleep and everything else essential to remain alive!

But how sad. You didn’t have any time to improve or edify yourself or elevate and enrich your life (and the lives of those who care about you and that you care about).

And how inconvenient that you had no time whatsoever to:

  • shop for stuff you don’t really need.
  • check or answer email.
  • watch television, Netflix or YouTube videos.
  • check in on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.
  • listen to commercial radio.
  • whine, complain or procrastinate.

Please, do share the essential and imperative duties and obligations that required your every waking moment….

Or perhaps you should, instead, stop ignoring and distracting yourself from improving upon the great work you are capable of. We need that. Go!

Guitarists Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

An effective practice routine is simple, but simple isn’t easy!

Get the Free Guide: 5-Steps to an...

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The 3 Relationships All Advancing Guitarist Need to Cultivate

musings resources Sep 12, 2016

Are You an Advancing Guitarist?

A true musician (or artist of any type), must be a lifelong student. Whatever level of mastery we think we’ve achieved, there’s always more to learn (not to mention lessons worth revisiting). Learning moments come from mentors, bandmates, fellow travelers, critics, rivals, fans and hecklers. Are we open to them? Can we put your ego aside to listen, learn and improve? We better! As Ryan Holiday points out in Ego Is the Enemy, “If we’re not still learning, we’re already dying.”

The more accomplished we become at our craft, the more likely we are to allow ourselves to feel accomplished. We avoid challenges to or reconsideration of what we know, or think we know. We are quite happy to sit in our comfort zone where we never feel inept or stupid and where we are never called out or upon.

I frequently catch myself enjoying this false sense of achievement. Happily ensconced in the warmth of familiarity, complacency and...

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The Elements of Style for Musicians

musings resources Sep 07, 2016

The Elements of Style for Musicians
(And We Are All Musicians!)

Music is a language and language is used to connect and communicate, to express and convey and to tell and be told stories. Language is a powerful tool. It is can be both constructive and dangerous. Through language we can elevate or degrade, soothe or make suffer, sanctify or defile, gather or divide, testify or discredit. How do you use language? Remember music is a language.

Remember William Strunk Jr.’s guide The Elements of Style? For my generation (and my parents’ and grandparents’ as well), it was the Bible for how to use language correctly and well. It instructed us to omit needless and fancy words, to not overwrite or overstate and to avoid affecting a breezy manner. It also directed us to place ourselves in the background and prefer the standard to the offbeat.

What do Rules of Usage, Principles of Composition and An Approach to Style have to do with music?...

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A Teacher's Job Is Not to Satisfy, But Inspire Curiosity

Uncategorized Aug 23, 2016

Teaching is not instructing, or directing or managing.

Teachers, people like us, lead.

We connect, we encourage, we motivate, we questions, we transform, we initiate, we cultivate and we inspire curiosity.

It's a journey undertaken by fellow travelers where there's no clear ultimate destination, but we've planned a little ahead and we're focused on the right now.

Sooner or later our paths will part. No matter. There are many paths and many teachers.

In the end, if a teacher has done their job well, they've instilled the ability to teach and to lead.

People like us do things like this - be a teacher.


Guitarists Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

An effective practice routine is simple, but simple isn’t easy!

Get the Free Guide: 5-Steps to an Effective Guitar Practice Plan!

These five essential steps will help you get started or get back to a rewarding guitar playing adventure. Get guided and get going!

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The Power of Acknowledgement, Silence and What Comes Next

inspiration musings Aug 19, 2016

The Power of Acknowledgement

It’s so simple, really, isn’t it? Someone holds the door for you and you say “Thanks.” Someone posts a milestone event or achievement on social media and you "Like" it. You call your folks on a special day. You do this daily, right?

I try to. But with a new intentionality and level of depth. Not just saying “thank you” or "Liking" or calling, but connecting and communicating appreciation for a specific gift, lesson or benefit that someone provided to myself or another. Connection, acknowledgement, gratitude. If you want to feel it, you must do it.

The Power of Silence

Ever listened to Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue? If not, do so, now (you’ll thank me later).

Kind of Blue is the best selling jazz record (ask your parents), of all time. It's generally considered the greatest recorded achievement of the iconic artist’s career and...

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Teachers Shake Us Free From Our Fears and Point Us Toward Our Possibilities

Uncategorized Jul 26, 2016

I Was Lucky

Not bright enough nor dumb enough to warrant attention, I languished in the public school system. Through some serendipitous circumstances, I was enrolled and attended Wilbraham & Monson Academy where I thrived academically thanks in no small part to fantastic teachers.

They were engaged, empathetic, and eager. That experience inspired me to pursue teaching upon graduating from college. I didn’t last long as a history teacher, but I have taught all my life. After all, teaching is not a job, it’s a way of interacting with others.

What Teaching Is Not

Instructors disseminate information. Usually, in the same meaningless way, it was dripped to them. They believe knowledge is power, a weapon to wield, not a gift to share. It is in their interest to withhold some of what they know to retain their position of superiority.

Directors, managers, foremen, shift leaders and the like are all just variations on the same theme. They seek and retain authority through...

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