Friday, February 26, 2010

CD Release Concert Review: An Interior Monologue

nice venue a little bright it's not too noisy i hope people are comfortable i hope some people show up ah the sound man young dude seems slightly incompetent i left nothing to chance so much can still go wrong cds cds cds who will buy? there is a lot of new music on this program sadie is so cute oh! there is Jen my lovely wife who will show up? look more friends who is that? many people many moods fine backstage i feel like a rock star backstage show time! family a little cold my hands are clammy sound ok? i think so oops feedback damn feedback i am ready am i? that note was loud that note was wrong that note was sweet that note was gone ok starting to groove now where is the beef? feel emote be the ball oh look dancing girls that is not cute i am not looking now i knew this kid once he told me I could play so many excellent guitarists in the twin cities thanks to the mn guitar society for having me more notes feeling groovy talk chatter smile audience seems content I am mildly shaken but not stirred have i ever played this tune before? am I in tune? play play my damn hands won't move fingers dance ah sweet music kind of bored with this tune love this one so much new music on this program never played these live before no need to panic just adjust mid-flight ah better the winter olympics have been so fun to watch this year snowboarding is a rush what time is it? i hope i sell some cds sweet sweet music i am so glad to be here and there looking forward looking back nice moves stay in control balance tension release tension tension hang on awesome! oops. what is next i see more sounds tone is solid people seem content audience is applauding will they want more little time left make it big play strong be bold don't blow it i am digging this a little unsettled do they notice? mistake mistakes sweet sounds mistake beautiful someone turn the lights down good thing i practiced remember to smile and say thank you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preparing for the Olympics

Watching the Winter Olympics this week has been a tremendously inspiring experience. I am not a world class athlete (never will be). I am not a world class guitarist (maybe someday). However, in a very small way I can relate to the athlete's intense preparation, the complex psychology, the emotional extremes, the personal triumphs and failures, the plateaus, and the elation that comes with achieving your goals. I mean, who can't? If you are involved in a job, activity, sport, something that you are remotely passionate about, you can relate.

This coming weekend is my CD release concert. Sure, by direct comparison, it is an embarrassingly minor event, but, no matter how small scale a show may be, in my mind, I am always preparing for the biggest concert; my title match, my Grand Slam event, my Olympics. This is how I push myself to stay sharp and hopefully improve along the way. It helps bring the mind and body into proper focus and to ready myself for a performance of the highest standard. On the lighter side, at least I don't have to wait another 4 years to try again and I have not sacrificed a virtual lifetime for one ultimate attempt. I mean, I will get another shot next week at my cafe gig right?

I have always been pretty much a lone wolf, attracted to the more independent sports: track, boxing, tennis, golf, skiing, you know, the basic one-on-one, mano-a-mano stuff, you against the other guy, and perhaps, even more so, you against yourself. As a performer, and a self-diagnosed head case, various applications of sports psychology are particularly useful in combating the potential influx of internal turmoil that can come into play just prior to a concert.

After her gold medal winning downhill event, Lindsey Vonn described how she wasn't nervous, that she was able to empty her mind, be brave, and was able to just go for it. She had prepared properly and she was ready. Before his super fights, Sugar Ray Leonard always said to himself, "Just be the man. Be. The. Man." And he was. Prior to the Miracle on Ice, Herb Brooks, pumping up team USA for their infamous hockey game against the USSR, said (paraphrasing), "Screw 'em!(referring to the almighty USSR team)This is YOUR time! Now go out and take it!" In other words, all insecurities do not count right now, they are not allowed, they must be banished, and, you almost have to trick yourself (at least I do) at that moment, just when you are about to hit the stage, you are the best. You must believe this. If you are well prepared, then your mind, body, and hence, the music, will respond. To me, that's a powerful way to launch into a solo guitar performance.

And so, here it is, the final stretch, the final week of practice. My tunes are tweaked, the set list is complete, and I am ready. On Sunday, I will step into the ring in quest of that elusive world title, that Grand Slam victory, that Olympic gold medal. This is my time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The World Is Not Small

The original title of this articles was "the world is small", as in, the "world is getting smaller". However, as I began to write, I realized, quite the contrary, the world is not getting small, it is getting huge. The world I am talking about is my world, my 12x14 basement studio space. The dwelling place of my guitars, my recording gear, tunes, books, computer, and now, a web cam. This is the world where I spend many of my waking hours, sometimes long and lonely, working on my craft and attempt to conduct business.

You see, I just gave my first online video lesson by way of the videoconferencing application, Skype, to a new student who lives in New Jersey; a great guy and a perfect candidate for this new teaching venture. Online lessons are kind of becoming a 'thing'. Many world class guitarists are offering lessons through this medium, and, slowly, but surely, it seems to be taking off. Needless to say, I was pretty honored, given so many other (IMHO better) available options, I was sought out.

For years, the standard teaching routine is such that I go to the studio, students come and go according to schedule, quality face-to-face time, and done. Now, I can walk downstairs, login, and there is my student, right there, about 2 feet and 1200 miles away. Sure, I know videoconferencing technology has been around a while. We have had several family gatherings this way, but, this experience was different. This was my first tangible happening in terms of applying it to my business, allowing a stranger into my personal creative domain, and, it is nothing short of revelatory.

Of course, the standard, now traditional, teaching routine has forever been altered, and, with that, so has the methodology. When I first met this student, I couldn't shake his hand. We had to fumble a few steps getting the video and audio to synchronize. I couldn't play or evaluate his guitar or get a full read on body language and posture. I couldn't zero in on technical aspects with my usual scrutiny, and, several times, while going over the music, I caught myself pointing at the transcription, the one that was sitting on my desk, in front me. "Oh, yeah, he can't see that". I would literally catch myself pointing at the screen, a mad attempt to reach out to his fretboard, to help him navigate a fingering or two. It was odd. And fun. In the end though, we found our rhythm and got into a groove with the lesson, just as most lessons go, but it was a new groove and a new learning curve. Already, I have ideas on how to improve the experience next time.

After the lesson was over, I went upstairs to grab another cup of coffee and when I returned to the studio and resumed my work for the day, I couldn't shake the feeling that the student was somehow still there, but he wasn't. I would look up at the monitor, expecting him to ask me a question or two, but he was gone. Everything was shut down. I guess, in a way, I am not alone anymore.

Suddenly, I have a whole new world, in the global sense, of potential students. I get it now. As I catch wind of listeners from Finland, China, Spain, and so on, suddenly I have a whole new world of potential listeners as well. I get it now. This is the Web 2.0 experience that a friend of mine recently helped me understand. I get it now. It is wild and whacky stuff.

Yes, my world is definitely getting bigger, and oh, the possibilities...