Category Archives: music

Two Practice Styles

Have you ever considered what sort of point there is to your practice?  Most of the time, a student will simply think that
practice is for becoming a better player.  I would disagree.

Perhaps we should consider the two styles of practice:

1. Practice until you get it right, or
2. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.

Read those two concepts five or six more times.  I’ll wait.

OK.  So now that we agree that the second type is the best, let’s go one step further.  What if you just never played
anything wrong?  Sure, that’s impossible over years of learning an instrument, but I would certainly suggest that we all
spend far too much time being wrong because we are using type 1, rather than type 2 practice.  Would our practicing be more effective if we didn’t just flail about with the thought: “It’s only human to make mistakes, I will keep trying and
eventually I will play this part correctly.”

Right, eventually.  Then you have how many other ways to play that part which are wrong?  15? 30? 60?  Remember, we are training our fingers to play something that we want to hear ONE way.  Why play it any other way?

Try this the next time you start something new:
1. Play slow enough to not make any errors;
2. Play slow enough to not make any errors; and finally,
3. Play slow enough to not make any errors.

Do you see a pattern?  Slow and perfect.  Let me know what you think!


Being a Guitar Teacher (The Experienced Learner)

I saw a quote recently: “It is not that the teacher teaches; it is that the student learns”

I thought about this for quite a while.

A survey that I created and sent to all of my current and former students a few weeks ago has given me some interesting feedback. I have always been under the impression that my perception of our lesson time is likely to be different in some ways compared to the student’s experience. I created the survey to learn some of these differences and which were most prevalent.

Question: “What could your teacher do better?”

Survey Said: “Push me harder.” This was the #1 answer.

If one plays music as a hobby, as most people do, I am not quite sure how much pressure I should apply to students. I think it is best if students find their own true motivation. Perhaps I need to create ‘mirrors’ for each student to view their progress.

I do have one idea brewing that may stimulate motivation for most students.

I have would like to make videos of each lesson for each student. I can make each video viewable on YouTube by only me and the student in it. Of course, students may forward the links of their videos to anyone they wish.

Are there any volunteers to test some sessions?

Until next time…



One’s growth as a musician can be very broad.  There are many areas of a musician’s life that can be developed.  Of course, musical ability is the most obvious.  However, to work well in a group or as a solo artist, the room for growth is wide, deep, and many times overwhelming.

I often consider what my role is as a bandleader in assisting other musicians in developing these areas that I find important.  The situation may be that I am the only person who has an opinion on the matter.  Sometimes, my bandmates have opinions on subjects that I had forgotten or did not consider.

Let’s look at some of these that are requirements for good music such as:

  • Musical skill – the person is either able to play the music at hand, or there needs to be more practice.  Practice is alone, rehearsal is together; never confuse the two.
  • Sense of tempo – Start at one speed, end at the same; or at least really close.
  • Distinct lines – This is the one I am working on all the time.  I think this is the most difficult for every musician.  However, if no attention is paid here, that does not mean that the musician cannot sound good.  Distinct lines, especially from the bassist, set a groove that ‘in-key-noodling’ will never accomplish.  This is why guitarists are often the absolute worst substitute bass players.

In regard to some of the above points that are important to the life of the group:

  • Prompt arrival at gig or rehearsal
  • Being ready to play at official start time of gig or rehearsal – These first two go together.  A prompt arrival really means: Early enough to set up and tune all of your equipment and have nothing else to do at ‘hit’ time except start playing.  Entirely too many players miss this one.
  • Smiling – How could one not smile when playing music?
  • Knowing one’s part before rehearsal begins – Do NOT ask at a rehearsal to hear a song on the CD I gave you weeks ago.  You will be replaced.
  • Being open to suggestions of change in one’s part or playing approach – Rehearsal can also be a time of group experimentation.  This is done after the form of the tune is reasonably comfortable for all involved or there is a problem getting everyone together while playing.  As a bandleader, this is a big responsibility on my part.  I have the responsibility of choosing songs to fit the instrumentation and skill of my surrounding players.
  • Telling one’s own fans of upcoming gigs – Everyone has fans.  Even if it is just your immediate family; someone, somewhere wants to see you perform.  If a band member is not inviting their fans to our gigs, maybe he/she does not really want to be involved.  I have been in groups where I would not invite people to come out and see us perform.

I have grown to use this last point as the first criteria for joining or forming a group:  If I don’t like the group or the songs, how could anyone enjoy our performances to the fullest?


Getting a Gig

Recently, I have given myself permission to book my group for any gig available.  Oddly, nobody is calling or e-mailing in reply.

This is completely opposite of a previous band to which I belonged and booked regularly.  I remember a November years ago during which I had 27 engagements.  This was counting rehearsals, but that is still BUSY!

The other band was a ‘70s rock band.  Jus’Tone & Musicianism is definitely not a ‘70s rock band.

Maybe that is the problem.


VA Ten Miler JusTone and Musicianism Video Playlist

Greetings, All,

Just a note to connect you to our uploaded PLAYLIST of videos from the 2009 VA Ten Miler that Jus’Tone & Musicianism played September 26.

We certainly hope you enjoy watching and listening to us play.  We would really appreciate some ‘Comments’ or ‘Ratings’.  This will give us some feedback in regard to which tunes you like the most.



The Starting Gate

I hear from a number of adults that they feel that it is too late for them to begin to learn to play music.  I always tell them that it is never too late to start learning.  I started playing guitar when I was eighteen years old.  I had played in the school band at age thirteen and started playing electric bass at age fifteen.

From what I have seen, on average, my start was relatively late.  I have met a lot of people who started learning music earlier than I.  Most of them stopped playing and learning for one reason or another.

Sometimes, I think: ‘Holy Cow! Imagine if all these people kept playing!’  I probably would not be much competition for them.  Not that my true feelings in music are competitive, but work is work and livelihoods are always competitive in some way.

Frankly, the world would probably be a better place if fewer people quit music because they were getting a job and a family.  A job and a family seem to be good reasons for continuing to develop musically.

My youngest daughter, Claire, and I have been working on some songs that she can sing while I play guitar.  Earlier today, we made some videos of her singing and I have posted them on YouTube.  She will probably get tons more ‘Views’ than I ever have, but she is far more cute and talented.


Cuttin’ Loose

A few recent events have given me reason to ‘adjust some relationships’, so to speak.  Essentially, I have decided what I will and will not expose myself to lower my chances of disappointment.

What I have lost is a bit of bad stress.

One example is an organization, and not the only one in my career, that inquired of my work as a teacher and then used our discussion to develop a class that did not use me as the instructor.  I had a phone contact with this organization today, and a follow-up Project Plan was requested of me.  I did follow-up, but my e-mail was a statement that I would not be sending any information that could be used without me and a request to contact me when this organization is willing to hire me.

In the advertising/promotions industry, this is referred to as ‘giving away the cow’.  You know the saying: ‘Why buy the cow when the milk is free?’  I have given away the cow a few times, and that is completely my fault.

My purpose in each of these examples is certainly NOT the burning of bridges.  Rather, the objective is to establish a relationship that is more emotionally intelligent; a way for us to continue to have our relationship with ‘controls’ in place to avoid negative events or feelings.

Emotionally Intelligent Signage is an interesting concept that I found recently that makes Emotional Intelligence easier to apply.  As an example, here is a way to rearrange our speech without diminishing the point: Sign at Beach

How can you change the dynamic of a relationship by softly drawing lines and improving how you feel?


The Point

Whatever the point may be is different for all of us. Some of us want to help others with a particular issue or set of issues. Some of us want to help ourselves to a certain desire or accumulation of successes or experiences.

Recently, I discovered that I was making myself unavailable for a work circumstance that I have been asked about on a few occasions. The reason I was making myself unavailable was that I believed that what was required of others was more than they were willing to offer in return.

What I have learned is that we should take the time to explore what we are willing to offer in exchange for whatever we are trying to achieve. Someone somewhere is likely to find what we offer and the level of exchange for which we offer it to be attractive enough for each of us to achieve our desire.

Considering all of the musicians I have met and worked with, one might imagine that some of us could work together frequently enough to keep us all busy. However, I have found just two people to be willing to be involved in my odd projects without adding what I consider to be undue requirements.

Interesting to me is that the willingness of these two musicians is less about the music or the money, but more about their attitude regarding the balance between their desires and mine. Their questions about each project are usually: Where is the gig, when is the gig, how long is the gig, what is the song-list and pay-scale.

What these musicians want, I am guessing, is a low conflict musical situation that meets their desires regarding time and income, while offering a quality interaction between us as we perform. They are also quite willing to rehearse, which is quite a rare quality in the musicians that I often meet.

I receive a great deal of reward working with these two musicians. The greatest reward is open communication. I can tell them what is important to me in our rehearsals and performances and what is not important. They are also willing to tell me what they think will improve our performances. They each have played many gigs in many different styles of music and know their instruments and its role in different musical circumstances.

So I am finding myself becoming more willing with each passing performance a growing desire to return to the original point of my work: to teach AND perform music.


Music Quotes

The other day I sorted through some music related quotes of various people.  I am interested to know which of these resonate with you.

I have put my favorites in bold.


A painter paints pictures on canvas.  But musicians paint their pictures on silence.  ~Leopold Stokowski

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~Berthold Auerbach

Without music life would be a mistake.  ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche


Music is what feelings sound like.  ~Author Unknown

If in the after life there is not music, we will have to import it.  ~Doménico Cieri Estrada

Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.  ~Ludwig van Beethoven

My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require.  ~Edward Elgar


Alas for those that never sing,

But die with all their music in them!

~Oliver Wendell Holmes


Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.  If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.  ~Charlie Parker


Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.  ~William F. Buckley, Jr.

Play the music, not the instrument.  ~Author Unknown

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.  ~Robert Fripp

You are the music while the music lasts.  ~T.S. Eliot

Music is the universal language of mankind.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Outre-Mer

Music rots when it gets too far from the dance.  Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.  ~Ezra Pound

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.  ~Victor Hugo

Music is one of the best ways to enjoy the present.  It’s not much fun to look forward to hearing music or to remember what a song sounded like last week, but music right now absorbs you and places you in the present moment.  ~Sonnett Branche

The joy of music should never be interrupted by a commercial.  ~Leonard Bernstein

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.  ~Paul Simon

A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.  ~Benny Green

The notes I handle no better than many pianists.  But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!  ~Artur Schnabel

The pause is as important as the note.  ~Truman Fisher


Silence is the fabric upon which the notes are woven.  ~Lawrence Duncan


An artist, in giving a concert, should not demand an entrance fee but should ask the public to pay, just before leaving as much as they like.  From the sum he would be able to judge what the world thinks of him – and we would have fewer mediocre concerts.  ~Kit Coleman, Kit Coleman: Queen of Hearts

It is incontestable that music induces in us a sense of the infinite and the contemplation of the invisible.  ~Victor de LaPrade

Music is a friend of labor for it lightens the task by refreshing the nerves and spirit of the worker.  ~William Green

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music ~Sergei Rachmaninov

Headbanging…against a wall!

I think I have finally solved an issue that has been driving me nuts for the past two years.

I decided in 2007 that I should experiment with making lesson videos.  The idea being an extension of a Yahoo! Group that I created about three years ago as a way for me to develop week-long support for my students.

The Yahoo! Group allowed me to post audio files so students could hear me playing sections of songs at a slower tempo.  Many of which are still available at my SoundClick page.  We could also discuss any subject related to music and learning guitar on the discussion board.

The point now is that I should soon be able to provide week-long lesson support on video.

Here’s to the progress of a snail.  Cheers!