Forget snake oil and junk science—bask in the benefits of not giving a $#!*.
In case you haven’t noticed, society is obsessed with efficiency and self-improvement. We read countless books on it (only to find out later that “they” are selling snake oil and junk science … I’m looking at you, Kevin Trudeau). We buy questionable products that claim to magically fix some perceived problem with our bodies or mental outlook. We have apps to help us exercise or eat better. We have to have the latest gadgets because their miniscule spec improvements will save us a couple of seconds when uploading a video or updating our cyber followers on every aspect of our lives. It’s exhausting!
Our most precious of pastimes—playing music—is not spared, either. We’re constantly scouring videos, articles, reviews, ads, and retailers’ websites for info on gear that’ll improve our tone. At concerts, we often spend more time wondering what pickups are in axes and which pedals are behind wedge monitors than we do soaking up the music. We spend countless hours practicing licks and riffs, reading lessons, and watching videos on how to play like our heroes.
Having interviewed hundreds of guitarists and bassists over the years, I’ve heard a lot of advice from world-renowned players on how to improve. The tips range from what sorts of scales or fingering exercises to practice with a metronome to what sorts of players to jam with (“Make sure they’re better than you—it’ll make you rise to the challenge”), what sorts of settings get the most out of a typical rig (“Make sure your amp’s power tubes are really working,” and “You’ll actually sound heavier with less gain”), what books or albums are most educational or inspiring, and what not to do when you’re in a rut (“Don’t play anything when you pick up the guitar … wait for a musical idea to come into your head, then figure out how to play it”).
All of these tips are great (though the bastard in me advises challenging any and every hard-and-fast rule you hear). But some of the most useful advice I’ve heard is something far easier than all of those. Let me rephrase that: Given our obsession with self-improvement, it may not actually be easier—but it’s far simpler.
Put down your guitar and go live. Go have fun. Get away from all things guitar, and spend quality time in other life-affirming pursuits.
Over the years, players of many different stripes have stressed essentially the same idea, but it’s often dismissed, overlooked, or forgotten as we snap back to the 21st-century habit of thinking the solution is always “try harder,” “work smarter,” and “maximize [insert business- or self-improvement buzzword here].”
The funny thing is, forcing ourselves to chill out and have fun has an incredible impact on our lofty self-improvement goals. Many scientific studies affirm that the results refresh us—physically, emotionally, and intellectually—and are more effective than any quick-fix fad or innovative technology.
I recently returned from the first proper vacation I’ve had alone with my wife (i.e., without our three awesome boys) in the 19 years we’ve been together. We escaped the frigid climes of the arctic-vortex-whipped Midwest and basked in the awesomeness of the Caribbean, where it was 80 degrees in or out of the water. We didn’t plan a thing ahead of time. Just drove around the tiny island in our tiny car, chose restaurants on the spur of the moment, snorkeled, petted stingrays in water so aqua you’d swear it was photoshopped, and scuba-dived for the first time ever—on a whim.
I brought along one of my trusty Teles to plunk away on for a few minutes before hitting the sack each night and falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing outside our window. Guess what? As I aimlessly fretted that maple neck, I found myself playing things differently than I’ve ever played before. Not necessarily new riffs or song parts, but a new mentality and viewpoint. “Holy shit—I gotta remember this,” I thought.
A couple of weeks after returning to the grind of reality, my wife and I went to see comedian Jim Gaffigan perform his hilarious brand of food-obsessed self-derision and deceptively gentle commentary on the ironies of modern life—like how weddings these days are like some bizarre, money-vaporizing fantasy about being medieval royalty uniting rival kingdoms. When I got home, I should’ve gone straight to bed. Instead, I picked up another Tele and twanged for a bit. Suddenly, the viewpoint I’d started tapping into on vacation yielded concrete ideas for a new song in what I like to think of as my own style—but with a new twist.
I’m not sharing any of this to brag or act like I’m blazing new trails—intellectually or musically—but I am hoping you take me up on the challenge. Of all the wisdom I’ve ever heard or read from great players, nothing can top it.
Put down your guitar and go live.
Your family, your bandmates, your coworkers, and your soul, if there is such a thing, will thank you when you come back as a new being.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led them to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA