Whether a chance of location or starting a new hobby, how trying something new can open new doors to your musical growth.
We all get into that comfortable space at times. Sometimes it happens with work when things are rolling along and everything is just kinda there. Other times, it’s in our relationships—things feel pretty good but nothing new or exciting is happening. Stasis. That’s not such a bad thing and feeling comfortable has its benefits, thus its name. However, every once in a while it can be extremely rewarding to totally break out of the box and try something we normally wouldn’t do. This month I wanted to share a few experiences with you that illustrate my point and how they relate to my growth in music.
Moving to Arizona nearly seven years ago was a life-changing experience. After living in Seattle for the previous nine years, I’d had my fill of rain, clouds and cool weather. Growing up in the Bay Area, I was used to my fair share of sun and warmth. Seattle, while beautiful, took its toll on my mood. Moving to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area was like a prescription for a new life. I vividly recall stepping off the plane in my winter jacket and feeling the 90-degree heat welcome me. From one of the coldest winters on record in Seattle to this shorts-and-tank-top weather was a great start. I mention this because the change in temperature had a profound effect on my psyche and my guitar playing. Going from doom and gloom to sunshine opened my mind and let me see new possibilities that extended into music and live performance. Just the fact that my hands weren’t frozen into a permanent barre chord was a testament to the wonders of warmth. Just a few months after arriving, I began putting together a ’70s tribute rock band called Alive!
I wasn’t alone in finding Arizona to be cathartic. It ended up that my neighbors were musicians like Troy Luccketta (Tesla drummer), Robert Mason (vocalist for Cry of Love, George Lynch, and now Warrant) and Dave Henzerling (guitarist for King Kobra, among others). Over the course of the first year in Arizona, I created the band and got back to my true loves—’70s classic rock, Les Pauls and Marshalls. We played our first show about six months later and the backline consisted of four Marshall stacks (circa 69-73), two Orange stacks, three Ampeg SVTs and a Ludwig Vistalite kit. Why do I mention this? Because I have no idea how I could have achieved all of that without the drive that came from this change. I didn’t have any of these things a year earlier, but sheer drive and determination created that. In that process, I learned a ton about the inner workings of the amps and it led to establishing an amp club that still gets together every week to work on our amps (the JTS club, see the JTM 45 roundup).
Build a Guitar? Me?
For my most recent “and now for something completely different” installment, I am about to embark on a journey I’ve wanted to take for 25 years—building a guitar. Back in high school, I was like a lot of kids who wanted to make a guitar. Keep in mind, there was no Internet, no templates or other helpful hints to the budding builder (at least not any that were easily and readily available like today). So, we went at it blind and you can imagine the results. Stan Fosha had put a shoe through the planer the day before, so when I went to plane my body blank it ended up coming out the other end pitted and chewed up. The end result looked about as good as it played. Not good at all. This time around I’m going to do it right! Not only am I upping the ante by building a classical guitar, but I’m also doing it through a class that a local builder puts on. That’s right, 15 Saturdays in a row, from start to finish, eight hours each time. You will be reading about this in a three-part series I’ll be writing about the experience. Let me tell you, this will be interesting coming from a guy with little to no woodworking chops. I’m told that the instruments that come out of this class are fantastic and well beyond the expectations of the students. You’ll hear all about it, promise.
Hey, You Can’t Do That!
You may have noticed that my column doesn’t cover topics like “How to speed pick” or “Demystifying the modes” because, frankly, that’s already happening to a great extent in PG, as are many, many other topics. When I began writing this column, I named it “Hey, You Can’t Do That!” because that’s exactly how I wanted to approach subjects. How does talking about moving to a sunnier climate or taking a class on building a guitar change your approach to music? I can say with absolute certainty that it does on many levels. In the time since I’ve been here, my entire career changed from working in the computer tech field and doing music on the side to being the owner of my own corporation that provides music and production services for film, television and video games. Not to mention, I have an amp club and great new friends—and I get to write every month for Premier Guitar. Was it all because of the sun? Doubtful, but it was the necessary catalyst for change, and that’s a great thing.