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New Year’s Resolutions for the Acoustic Guitarist

Handy, pre-fab resolutions you can use at will.

Full disclosure: I never make New Year’s resolutions. But it never fails, somebody asks me if I’ve made any, and I have to come up with something on the spot or feel like a total doofus. I’m guessing, PG Nation, that there are more of you like me than otherwise, so here are some handy pre-fab resolutions that you can use at will.

I will not bite my nails.
This is a perfectly sound resolution, and requires no “Oh, it’s a guitar thing” explanation. Bonus, you get nails for more aggressive fingerstyle playing. Here’s an article with further inspiration on helping your fingernails survive the winter months.

This summer, I will not spray my arms with bug repellent and then spend several hours in the sun sweating all over my vintage Martin HD-35.
True story: Bluegrass festival in the ’70s. Guy with a brand new Martin HD-35 sprayed himself with bug spray and then spent the next couple hours standing around in the heat pickin’. When he went to take his guitar off, a big chunk of the finish stayed on his arm. Double ouch.

When I go to replace stuff that breaks, I’ll buy the best stuff I can afford to replace it, even if it hurts a little.
Buying better cables means you will spend less money replacing cables. Cheap cables break frequently, and most of them, frankly, sound like ass. Seriously, you dropped a few Gs on that awesome axe and shopped around for just the right pickup, and you’re gonna use the cables they give away at the store with a purchase of $20 or more? Don’t make me come over there...

Pedals, effects units, tuners, PA gear, mics—everything that you use is breakable. But when you spend a little more to get better gear—and when you spend just a little more yet to protect that gear with slip covers or road cases—you end up spending a lot less in the long run. Honest. I’m not just saying that because I’m ridiculously addicted to gear. (I can stop anytime I want.)

I will learn (or write) no less than one new song a month.
One of the things I learned in my years of slogging away at higher-education marketing was that the more a website was updated with new information, the more people returned to it and referred their friends to it. Same deal with a performing musician: Keep it fresh and they’ll keep comin’, and they’ll bring their friends, and their friends will bring their friends...

I will join or start a (song)writers’ group.
There is nothing better for the songwriter’s soul than to have people to be accountable to. People who are going to be excited to hear anything new. People who are going to be politely disappointed when you don’t have anything new to share. People who are going to give you the most constructive criticism of your life. My writers’ group includes a couple poets, four songwriters, a playwright, a memoirist, a novelist, an essayist, and a comedy sketch writer. I honestly cannot wait for the first and third Wednesdays of every month. It’s been hugely beneficial for me as a songwriter and as a columnist. Yes, they hear my columns before I send them in to PG, and when they’re not up to snuff, they bust my chops. They also hear all my songs before anybody else, and they have made some of the best suggestions for improvements. Multiple heads are frequently better than one.

When I buy music from independent artists, I’ll seek the route by which they get to keep the most money.
It’s great that so much music is available for download, but please, download it from someplace where the artist gets the lion’s share of the money. When you go through a subscription service, the artist usually only gets about one cent, sometimes two. If you’re going to pay somebody 99 cents, pay it as close to the source as possible. One cent per download is not helpful, unless you’re that horrid Bieber creature and you’re getting a zillion unexplainable downloads at one cent each. Most of us are not that horrid Bieber creature; please seek out more helpful ways to support the arts.

I am going to take 10 minutes out of every day to prevent the kinds of injuries that can keep me from playing all these lovely guitars.
Ten minutes a day is all it takes to keep your muscles and joints happy so you can play pain-free, at-will, and long-term. Here’s some priceless advice from a chiropractor who doesn’t want to see you.

I am going to appreciate the guitars I have instead of buying too many random guitars. When you absolutely fall madly in love and cannot contain yourself, and if you’re not taking money out of the kids’ college fund, then yes, you have to have that guitar. I’m never going to tell you no in that case. But if it’s just a passing fling, a “gee-whiz, this is shiny” moment, consider whether you honestly need it. Because if you don’t, and you buy it anyway, there will come a moment when you fall madly in love and you’ll have blown the budget on stuff you’re not madly in love with. Go to as many guitar stores as you can, haunt the damn places, play every awesomely shiny, wonderful axe they have, over and over, drive the sales staff nuts. But don’t take them home unless they’re really worthy to meet your mama.

I am going to read Gayla’s column every month, ’cuz she’s awesome, clever and gives such fantastic advice.
Thanks! And please do come back. I’ll make cookies. Happy New Year.

Gayla Drake Paul is a guitarist, songwriter and writer, working as a soloist and with the Gayla Drake Paul Trio. Her CD, How Can I Keep From Singing, is in the Ten Essential CDs for Acoustic Guitarists at Her new CD, Trio Plus Three: The Luckiest Woman, can be purchased at