Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Question For The Guru - How Do I Find Similar Musicians?

Hi Bob.

I got a question, its not really about my playing abilities, its about what I want to play. I've been playing guitar for about 8 years now, and have always wanted to play with other musicians of the same style or genre of music that im into. The thing is its pretty rare to find people who want to play like this, alot of people around here claim they can, but just happend to not know what their talking about which is a real waste of time for me. I'm a neo-classical/shredder type guitarist, I like playing stuff like Yngwie Malmsteen, Impellitteri, Michael Angelo, Vinnie Moore, Rusty Cooley, Jason Becker,ect. I've played with other bands and people, but get bored really fast because of the style/genre, although playing them is not a problem, I've also tried to find people who don't even know how to play anything at all and teach them, but they always want to learn punk or something along those lines.


Hey Derek:

You’re not alone. Many a musician has stood in your shoes facing the same dilemma.

“How do I find musicians of my caliber who wish to play the same style of music?”

This question becomes exceptionally difficult to answer when considering your musical influences and the type of music that you find motivating. It’s not like your interests and skills fall along the more simple formats of rock and roll, like cheesy pop punk or basic blues. You happen to be influenced by very skilled players who use their technical ability to its full advantage when creating and playing music.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is quit admirable, however it does diminish the size of the talent pool considerably. This type of a musicianship is very rare, as you have encountered.

Trying to train relatively unskilled musicians in your style of music is ambitious to say the least.

I’m not surprised it hasn’t really panned out. While your familiarity with this genre is obvious, musicians who are new to their instrument will find this style of music to be very hard to digest. Indeed, they will consider it an almost impossible mountain to climb. Imagine trying to comprehend Rusty or Vinnie’s technique when you were barely crunching out your first pentatonic box. It would be like a three year old trying to comprehend training to run a marathon. The goal would seem so far off in the distance that it would be almost impossible for most people to use as motivation.

The roots of rock and roll were grown in simplicity and that aspect of the music is quit appealing to both musicians and listeners alike. Many a great rock song could be played by a blind man with only two working fingers and a three chord vocabulary, and I love that aspect of rock and roll. New musicians can be almost instantly rewarded by learning simple rock and roll licks and that’s a good thing too. If they find it fun and it motivates them to keep playing, then more power to them. Perhaps one day they will find themselves on a similar path to yours.

So, this leaves us with your predicament. How do you find musicians with your same skill level and interests?

In your case, the answer is almost too easy.

The common denominator amongst the entire list of guitarists you mentioned is their almost insane desire and ability to learn and practice. These are all musicians who are very dedicated to their craft and the musicians who would enjoy playing with them would certainly be of the same mindset. We are talking about hard core students of their instruments; serious practicing musicians.

And where do we find serious practicing musicians?

These guys are hungry for knowledge and they will seek places that can give it to them.

Certainly, they will be hovering around the local music school waiting to take their next lesson.Your local University will have a music department, as will your local junior college, make it a point to go visit, take a lesson, sign up for a class. Remember, learning music isn’t always about studying only your favorite style, it’s about growing musically, and this is done by studying many styles. Practicing musicians might be taking a classical class, or music theory, jazz, improvisation, you name it. You don’t need to be a full-time student to take these classes, you don’t even have to be of college age; you just need the desire to learn.

Another great place to find these guys is at your local music stores in-store event. Often, professional players are required as part of their endorsement deals to tour these local stores and do in-store clinics. Knowledge hungry players of all calibers will flock to these events hoping to catch an eyeful of a new technique or trade secret.

Whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to only guitarists or players who work in your favorite style of music, check out drummers and bass players of all styles and genres.Your next bass player might very well be bellied up to the front starring wide eyed at Billy Sheehan’s amazing techniques, I know I was. Maybe your next drummer is digging the Tamma clinic run by Jason Bittner or Kenny Aronoff.

Now, depending on where you live, you might need to drive into the larger cities where the bigger in-store clinics happen more often. Get on their mailing lists and check the store flyers for more info. Trust me, they want you to come. Manufacturer websites are often quick to promote these events as well. Check out the “Artists” links. Fall is a great time of year for these clinics as the manufacturers are trying to push products for the holidays.

I’m sure you can see the trend here.

Just go to where the learning is happening, and there you will find serious practicing musicians of all kinds and calibers.

The other important point to all of this that I feel compelled to make is that very often these dedicated practicing musicians are somewhat introverted socially.

(Yes, I know, Yngwie “I’m a major cocky jackass” Malmsteen would definitely be an exception)

They tend to be low key soft spoken guys and will most likely not be running around talking to strangers. I guess that all goes along with the personality type that can sit in their room working new scales or paradiddles for 8 hours every day. You’re going to need to be a little more aggressive in your social skills to engage these players. However, I have yet to meet a skilled player who won’t open right up when talking about what music is motivating them, or what they are studying lately.

These guys/girls are not hard to spot. You’ll see an intense look of concentration on their face when their watching the clinic. You might even see them crack a smile when they are impressed with a musical phrase. They definitely won’t be the posers standing in the back of the crowd talking to their 3 friends about how they could do it better. Avoid those boners like the plague.

Aside from schools, clinics, and the odd online learning forum, another great option for forming a band can be classifieds. A quick search on Google for Musician Classifieds will bring up several popular options like: bandmix.com and jamconnect.com.

Another great option for local classifieds is Craigslist.org.

Many a great band was formed thanks to a crappy classified ad soliciting a new member. It can work, however be ready for lots of posers, losers, wannabees, and slackers.

(Wait, I just described my first high school band)

If all else fails, desperate times call for desperate measures.

When you head off to the next Outworld concert, you could always have a black t-shirt printed up with large neon green letters that say “I need a damn drummer and bass player”. This trick can also work for attracting groupies and sugar mommas; however the quality of the catch is questionable.

Seriously, I can tell from your influences that you are on an excellent musical path. Others are walking similar paths right now and I’m sure they would be very interested to know that you are as well.

The bottom line here is that you need to do a little networking. Put yourself in the position to talk to people with similar interests. Go to the places of learning, place the classified ads, and don’t be afraid to start up a musical conversation or two.

I’m confident that your band is out there right now just waiting to tear the roof off your next gig.

Just remember to hook your ol’ buddy Bob Narley up with a backstage pass.

Oh yeah, and be sure to lie to the groupies when they ask you my age.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Big Thanks to Dr. Issam Awad

One of my relatives recently met with a super cool doctor.
His name is Dr. Issam Awad MD.
He's actually a brain surgeon in Illinois, and a professor, and pretty much an amazing person.
Dr. Issam actually has some really cool videos on his website if you ever want to check them out.
It's nice to know that people like Dr. Awad are still out there researching and teaching.
Thanks Professor Awad :)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Question for the Guru - My Fingertips Hurt...

Hello, I just got my guitar today and my brother has been teaching me a few chords. My fingertips are starting to hurt really bad. Is that normal? If so, how long is it supposed to last and what do you suggest to alleviate some of the discomfort?

Thank you,


Hi Alexia,

The pain in your fingertips is normal, although I'm sure it is uncomfortable to say the least.
What's happening is your fingertips are not use to pressing so hard down on thin metal strings. Ouch.
You do not have any calluses built up yet, and until you do, they will get sore pretty fast.. especially if you like to play and your motivated to learn.

The good news is that eventually it will go away. Well, it will get much better. It's not uncommon for a guitarist who has already built up calluses to still experience some finger tip soreness after playing for very extended periods. The more you play, the more you will build up calluses, and the longer you will be able to play without feeling discomfort.

The fact that you have experienced this soreness says to me that you already have a good interest in your instrument. That's great! Don't let this "right of passage" stand in your way to becoming a great guitarist and musician.

To answer your questions:

Is it normal? Yes, it's completely normal and it will get better.

How long will it last? Good question. Everybody is different. Your going to really feel it the first few weeks, since most likely you haven't got any calluses built up on your finger tips. They will get red, sore, and definitely feel uncomfortable. If you play a little bit every day, or at least a couple of times a week, you will get the best results. Take your time, there is absolutely no need to play while in pain. If you feel pain, STOP, take a break. You can always study your scales, theory, notation, etc. There are many things you can do to advance your playing without actually playing the guitar. Even listening to your favorite artists will help, now that you put a guitar in your hands you will start to hear music differently.

There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two break to let those sore finger tips heal. As they heal, thin layers of skin will build up on your fingertips, the more skin that builds up the better.

Remember, if you feel pain, STOP, take a break, or call it day. I would even suggest that as soon as you feel discomfort, which might be pretty quick, STOP, and take a break. If it hurts, call it a day.

What do you suggest to alleviate some of the discomfort? So you got your new guitar, and boy are your fingertips hurting. I would suggest soaking them in a glass of cold ice water. It will get the red out, help with any minor swelling, and cool and relieve those sore digits.

Every time that you play, you will get stronger and build up more tolerance to those tiny metal strings that are making your fingertips so raw. The process of playing and then resting is what will allow you to play longer and stronger. Take your time, there is no hurry and no reason to feel discomfort. Eventually you will build up enough calluses and tolerance that one day you will forget all about these early days and you'll just keep playing for hours and hours.

Congratulations! You have already taken your first step to becoming a great guitarist.

Welcome to the family.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Open Mind to New Music

Someone once said, “Music is life”. While that might seem as a very broad description to rookie players, any veteran would probably nod his head in agreement. Every culture, every generation, every musician, has their own way of interpreting their life, feelings, emotions, pain, and happiness, into their own music. By opening your mind and allowing yourself to listen, to really listen, to the many different styles of music that is available, you are allowing yourself to grow as a musician in ways that a narrower minded musician might never understand.

Whenever I meet a new student for the first time I usually ask them who they are influenced by musically. What kind of music do they like to listen to? Who are their favorite bands and Guitarists? More often than not, I hear a very narrow list, and almost always it’s from the same musical genre. “I like Punk, Blink 182, and Green Day” or “I’m really into System of a Down, Soil, and Disturbed”.

When I ask an accomplished guitarist this same question, more often than not, I will get an answer that covers a much wider range of musical influences. “I’ve been studying Luigi Boccherini lately, and listening to George Benson, Louis Armstrong, and Corrosion of Conformity.”

(Flash back to 6 years old at the dinner table)

“How do you know you don’t like Peas if you never try them?” My mom said while waving her boney finger in my direction.

As much as I hate to admit it, my mom was right. How would I know?

By listening to other writers and musicians and their various approaches to creating their own unique style of music, you are opening your mind up to new ideas and possibilities that you might never have discovered on your own.

It’s a fact, we are all influenced by that which we are exposed to, and these influences will always manifest themselves in our music. It’s a good thing, even if the influences begin to border on obsessions, it’s all good. Just remember, there is a whole huge world full of different sounds and styles, tones and tempos, grooves and guidelines, all combined in the most unusual and creative ways. Expose yourself to as much as you can, soak it all up, take a great big swallow and you will be rewarded handsomely, I promise.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Win a Fender DG 8S Autographed from Maroon5

Win a handsome Fender DG 8S natural-finish dreadnought acoustic guitar that was recently attacked with Sharpies (autographed, that is) by all five members of bazillion-selling modern pop megastars Maroon 5: vocalist/guitarist Adam Levine, guitarist James Valentine, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden and drummer Ryan Dusick.

You’ll also get three Maroon 5 picks (not five Maroon 3 picks) that the guys very generously threw in, plus, coolest of all, a real Maroon 5 set list—tattered, creased, doodled-on and everything—from the group’s April 14, 2005, show at the Palace at Auburn Hills in Detroit, Mich.!

Click Here to Enter

Good Luck!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Win a One of a Kind Les Paul

Win a One-of-a-kind Les Paul
Register NOW to take home Gibson’s “Blue Heat” guitar, custom painted by JB Grafix.This amazing Les Paul Supreme features blue and green tribal flame graphics with an iridescent sheen, and customized nickel hardware. Contest Ends September 30th! Enter Here!

Monday, September 19, 2005

oooooooo The Pain!

While flipping through my favorite guitar magazines I often notice that during interviews with “Pro” guitarists that these “Pro” guitarists love to brag about how they used to “Play the guitar until my fingers bleed”, as if this is something to brag about.

Listen, if it hurts, Stop!

Sure, it might sound cool to your cronies at the lunchroom table when you tell them how you were playing the guitar so hard and for so long that the blood actually rand down your hands and covered your fret board in a ¼’ thick ooze. Maybe you could even bring in some of the rusted strings with your dried flesh hanging off of them. Chics would surely dig that. “Look guys, I’m such a great guitar player that I’ve ruined my hands and won’t be able to play for a week.” Um, wow.

Yes, rookie guitarists will most definitely feel uncomfortable as they press their little pink digits unto the steel strings for the first time. That is to be expected. Truly, many a newbie has grimaced his face in pain as he tried to play his first F chord. There is no argument to the fact that sometimes we will experience uncomfortable situations as we learn and experiment with new ideas on the guitar, however it shouldn’t hurt.

Listen, if it hurts, Stop!

Honestly, this is important. If you feel a painful cramp in your thumb as you try and squeeze your fingers against the fret board, STOP! It’s possible that if you ignore that pain in your thumb/hand that you can permanently damage the muscle. If you damage the thumb muscle you will never have the strength and agility that other guitarists will have. It will cripple your playing ability for life.

This thumb cramping issue was brought to the forefront by my classical guitar teacher. Classical Guitar students will often find themselves frozen on the neck stretching their fret hand fingers beyond belief trying to play a difficult new chord. The fret hand can become cramped; a painful knot feeling in the lower thumb muscle is the warning sign. If you feel this pain, STOP. Take a break. Shake it out and relax the hand for a few minutes, then try again.

I promise, you will build up plenty of strength by going slow and avoiding these painful muscle injuries. You will do far more damage than good by ignoring the pain.

As for the “Bloody Fingertips” that “Pro” guitarists often brag about; never, ever, never, play with bloody fingertips. It can be easy for experienced guitarists or rookie guitarists on a roll, to be so focused on playing that they simply do not realize that their fingertips have started to bleed. Most often the bleeding occurs under the fingernail as a result of the skin separating or cracking from the extreme pressure. If your fingertips start to bleed, stop playing, properly clean the wounds and call it a day.

The guitars fretboard is a heaven for bacteria and germs. That’s just the way it is. By continuing to play with an open wound you are inviting the bacteria into your body. Your fingertips will grind the old dead skin, oil, and rust from the strings, bacteria, germs, all into your open wound. If the fingertips become infected, you’re done playing for weeks, and you will loose far more ground as a player than you could have possibly gained. It’s even possible to get blood poisoning this way.

Like an athlete, you need to take care of your body. Like a surgeon, your hands are extremely important. Go slow, never play through the pain. If something starts to hurt, take a break, and then try again. The process of trying, then taking a break, is what will help you gain strength and dexterity.

Now go east some pea’s and get back to practice.