Playing Live?

For the music-loving musician, “the gig” is the pinnacle of all melodic experience. Practicing long hours and honing your skill makes all the sense in the world when performing before of a live audience. It’s quite the rush! At least, I know that’s what I feel every time I play for Cari Fontaine, a charming vocal prodigy of stellar proportion! Some people say that playing live isn’t for them. Learning guitar or any instrument is just a “hobby” for private enjoyment. Well, all I gotta say to that is… watch out for the bug!

Music is a force brewing in the soul waiting to explode! First it’s a challenge; next, it becomes a pleasure; finally, it becomes an obsession! And, just like most obsessions, you can’t help but share them in hopes that others will appreciate the spark within you (and maybe catch a bit of it themselves)!

So what should you consider when looking to transition to any live “stage”? From playing for a group of friends during an informal gathering to headlining an official event, here are a few tips:

  • Consider your Audience: What kind of experience are you offering the listener? Like any proper social interaction, the experience should be pleasant, courteous, but most of all, engaging!
  • Consider your Capability: What can you actually pull-off? Rely on your strengths! That’s where you’ll shine!
  • Consider your Gear: Intention, skill and sensibilities aside, having musical instruments that deliver is an absolute necessity! This could be the difference between failure or total success!

Finally, never stop learning! There are a lot of resources out there that can help you become better at sharing your gift on any stage. As long as you keep an open mind and “play it by ear,” I’m sure a musical journey is on the horizon for every melodic traveler.

Should You Buy Guitar Pedals?

Pedals are a huge craze right now (and probably forevermore). With an overabundance of pedal companies out there, the innovation continues. So, do guitar players even need pedals?


First, let’s understand what pedals are and what they do. Simply speaking, a pedal is a circuit that modifies the signal of the guitar going into the amplifier. Do you want to rock hard enough to blow the windows? There’s a pedal for that. Do you want to sound like something out of a dream or make the strangest noises possible coming from a guitar? There’s a lot of pedals for that!

Basically, there are TWO primary scenarios:

  1. Playing on a Modeling Amp/Digital Floorboard (Spider Amp by Line 6, for example): In this scenario, you wouldn’t need pedals. Units like this typically have built-in effects. Furthermore, since these units are digitally-based, they wouldn’t react to certain pedals very well.
  2. Playing on a Tube Amp/Solid State Amp: In this scenario, pedals are awesome and appropriate as both the amplifier and the pedals are based on analog circuits instead of computer processing (generally speaking).

Some further considerations:

  • Modeling technology typically gives the beginner more options at a much lower price point, but pedals themselves, though relatively pricier will offer more versatility in the long run.
  • Modeling gear is a bit of a pre-packaged sound meant to be played through PA type speakers, but pedals tend to sound somewhat different across various types of amps, thus making it possible to build a personal rig that defines your tone uniquely.

So, should you buy pedals? Eventually, if it’s something that is fun and useful to you. In the meantime, I suggest to keep practicing and maybe doing a little research on the pedal craze in order to see what it’s all about! And if the pedal bug bites you, I suggest you jump into your own personal journey of tone discovery; you won’t regret it!

Choosing An Instrument

I’ll never forget what my guitar mentor told me 15 years ago: “Don’t try to be a good guitar player—focus on becoming a good musician.” With various years (and instruments) now under my belt, those words have become my philosophy. While it’s a good thing to set your mind on learning a particular instrument, it’s worthwhile to be flexible. The end goal is to make music an enriching experience rather than a chore. Remember, you don’t “have to” learn guitar or master your favorite songs. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to start learning on your ideal instrument of choice! You may actually find it more enjoyable to start with a different instrument altogether.

The following are my tips for choosing an instrument that will bring you into the musical realm rather than frustrate you into quitting:

  1. Some of us like to learn an instrument so we can sing our favorite songs. Guitar and piano are ideal instruments for this. If you’re struggling, however, try the ukulele! Awesomely fun, portable, and doable! I’ve found that it’s great for kids too.
  2. For those who want to get “lost in the music” but find themselves lost altogether with their current instrument, I highly recommend the drums! A simple beat and a natural instinct for rhythm can go a long way—and it need not be an exact science.
  3. Are there “too many” strings? Are your fingers “too big”? You can’t go wrong with the bass guitar. Often perceived (jokingly) as an underrated instrument in pop music, it’s absence would be sorely missed! And don’t be fooled—bass playing can be quite complex. But you can enjoy playing bass just fine as you play easy to grasp notes while other deal with chords.
  4. Final thoughts: Nylon-string guitars are softer on your fingers than a steel-string acoustic; your electric guitar or bass may need to be adjusted for play-ability; airboards are good replacements for harmonica/accordians; cajon’s are great simple substitutes for full drum sets.

Why Take Music Lessons?

Music lessons are a fun and interactive way to develop your musical talents. That is not to say that you can’t learn by yourself. After all, a weekly guitar lesson won’t substitute your own efforts during personal practice time. But the benefit of music lessons include:

  • Musical mentor-ship and guidance
  • Hands-on teaching
  • Personally tailored and customized instruction
  • Someone with whom you can jam and immediately apply newly learned skills
  • Access to consistent feedback on your progress

More importantly, your success depends on the individual you choose as your music mentor or instructor. They must possess not only musical skill and talent, but also the ability to teach well.

Patience, gentleness, being personable and amicable–these are vital traits to any music instructor. This is especially true when it comes to teaching children. With my education, experience and training (beyond the realm of music even), you can be sure that music lessons won’t be a waste. Instead, they’ll be productive, memorable, and enjoyable!

What should I buy and where?

If you’re buying new:


Some of these offer financing options. Or just walk into a music store to test/buy.

If you’re buying used:

  • Offer Up (or similar apps)
  • Facebook exchanges
  • Pawnshops

Just make sure you research what you’re buying so you don’t get a lemon.

Other conventional wisdom of mine:

  • Guitar/bass: buy commonly known brands, invest in a decent amp
  • Drums: spend just a little more, beware of plastic parts that can break
  • Keyboards: basic Yamaha keyboards give you a good bang for your buck