Showing posts with label aging rocker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aging rocker. Show all posts

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rock ‘n’ Roll Is My Golf

A coworker dropped by the current issue of Baseline magazine, an Information Technology trade journal because of a “Changing Careers” article. Seems Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are semi retiring to becoming consultants. Some, like Brian Kilcourse, are using their new found spare time for rocking out.

Now, for CIO types, semi retirement as a consultant is more along the lines of going from a 24/7 job to just a full time job. Nonetheless, Brian Kilcourse has extra time in comparison that he uses to pursue rock and roll addictions going back to the 70s. Rock ‘n’ roll is his retirement pastime rather than golf and he sees it as “…loud, pointless and cathartic.” Not sure I see the “pointless” aspect although if you look at life in terms of the grand scheme, what about life doesn’t seem pointless in comparison? Pointless or not, it’s sure fun!

One product of this pastime is the release of original music on CD. Unfinished Business and Megaton Melodies can be found at CD Baby. So, yet another poster child reinforcement for the main purpose of this site; there’s no correlation between age and your ability to pick up a guitar and start making music. Get out there and start rocking!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Too Focused on the Guitar and Not Enough on Age

I encounter something new every few days since picking up the guitar as a hobby at age 50. I get feedback from readers (positive and negative) and appreciate both. My “editorial calendar” evolves from there. I have been worrying about whether I focus enough on aging issues. After all, the name of the blog is Guitar Boomer and we boomers are not getting any younger. Then I ran across this quote from Groucho Marx:

Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.

Jeez, he’s right! Not particularly interesting. Then I realize that the real root of my of my editorial worries is that I'm having too much fun learning the guitar to write about aging issues. Reality is that aging and the guitar have nothing to do with each other. It is just that perceptions of the aging process can hold back otherwise excellent guitar playing prospects from getting into a great hobby.

Not saying there aren’t issues around aging. I’m an AARP member now so I'm far enough along to know that there are issues with aging; just not issues that relate to pickup up the guitar and rocking out. Let this article be your catalyst to join or rejoin your fellow guild of guitarists!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Your Guitar Amp is Louder Than You Think: Check Decibel Levels

I was browsing my feed list and the mention of hearing aids from The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide caught my eye. I still had some ringing going on in my head after cranking up the volume last night so it got me wondering how loud is too loud?

There’s the saying “if I’d known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” Given I’m just now asking myself the "how loud is too loud" question it may be too late. Then it occurred to me that I could use my sound pressure meter with analog display from Radio Shack to at least figure out the damage so far and limit future damage.

The test was simple, I just fired up the amp and the sound pressure meter and started playing at what I thought was a reasonable but rocking volume level. Oops; the meter was hitting a range between 110 and 120 decibels. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association anything over 80 decibels can lead to hearing damage. 120 db is in the "painful" range: jet plane take-off, amplified rock music at 4-6 ft., car stereo, band practice. 110 db is just in the "extremely loud" range; rock music, model airplane. Interesting...rock music is mentioned in both ranges. What did you say?

The moral of the story is that it is louder than you think. But, with some basic measurements you can calibrate your rock out levels so that if you live longer than you expect, you'll still be able to hear the music.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How Much Guitar Practice Is Enough?

I get asked this question a lot. Studies tend to zero in on 10,000 hours as the time needed for mastery. If your goal is to become a virtuoso, there’s your number and no need to read further! For us boomers with a few hours on the meter looking for a great hobby “enough” falls between the minimum (below which you suck) and the maximum (above which you encroach on other necessary life activity such as relationships and career). My minimum is one hour per day and the maximum is two hours and here's how to calculate yours.

Think of the minimum hours boundary in terms of a level below which your playing is such that you don’t enjoy it; the long way of saying you think it sucks. If you come out of a playing session with aching hands and a “glad that is over” feeling, your practice rate has fallen below your minimum threshold. I follow qualitative and quantitative approaches to gauge my progress and how much time it takes to keep the enjoyment factor and that's how I derived my one hour minimum per day. If you practice enough to maintain your minimum you will be energized and want to keep playing, which brings me to the maximum.

If you come out of a practice session and your significant other says something like “well, hello stranger” you know you are in upper boundary territory. Notice, this upper bound is not defined by desire or goals; just practical reality. You’ve reached middle age and have stuff happening man! This becomes sort of a self correcting limit (you know when you've reached it) and that's how I arrived at my two hour maximum per day. If I'm really into it I find optimal ways to get the time in so it minimizes impact to the life balance. I have plenty of time management tips for that. Just click the labels “practice” and "guitar practice".

So, over time, just keep track of your playing time in relation to your enjoyment level balanced against everything else going on in your life and you will come up with how much is "enough" practice time for you. Simple huh? Now, time to rock!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Les Paul is Still Going Strong

I ran across this Bob Edwards interview of Les Paul during my morning browse. Les Paul should be a motivator for anyone seeking to learn the guitar later in life (10 for some, 70 for others).

Give it a listen.

Bruce Cameron – Psychedelic Rock Redux

While browsing my vintage rock news sources I came upon a story of Bruce Cameron and a free download of Midnight Daydream, his one and only album. I’m listening now and this brings me right back to nighttime FM radio of the late 60s early 70s (wind chimes tinkling in the background, unstructured playlists, lots of b sides).

Part of this sound is no surprise given he somehow got artists such as Jack Bruce, Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, and Mitch Mitchell of Cream, Band of Gypsys, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience to play on this album. But, that is not the strangest part. He dies mysteriously just after the album is released; kind of like an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Did he take his own life or was he murdered by a jealous girlfriend?

While none of this is overly memorable (track 1 “Midnight Daydream” sums it up; inane lyrics along with some incredible psychedelic guitar runs) it does instantly evoke the vibe us aging baby boomer rockers grew up listening to. Since it was recorded using analog equipment it also has that presence in the mix that you just do not hear anymore with current recording and mixing techniques.

So, take a look at this strange bit of rock history, and let me know your thoughts. As for me, I’m going to get my guitar out, plug in the crybaby and fuzz face, and have some fun!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Highballs and Hydrangeas – Multi Generations Gather and Rock

Continuing music education for my wife and I this weekend was Highballs and Hydrangeas at Cheekwood. Cheekwood is an art museum and botanical garden located in the mansion and on the grounds of a grand estate completed in 1932. Most notable is the diverse crowd this event now attracts.

Highballs and Hydrangeas is a great party that raises money for Cheekwood. Music was provided by the Pat Patrick Band. Although Cheekwood might be associated with the longhair art crowd all demographics were represented. We saw everything from two rockin’ grandmothers accompanied by their grandson designated driver (iPod ear buds firmly in place) to the youngest and hippest of the contemporary crowd.

The Pat Patrick Band rocked (my favorite moment being when the lead guitarist slipped the intro for Purple Haze into one of his solos) and the dance floor was like a roller derby tournament.

This all reconfirms for me that music (and highballs) knows no age boundaries.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I’ll Never Play Like Jimi Hendrix

I’ve outlined the many benefits to making music in midlife and beyond. Beware though the baby boomer overachiever complex (man, I’ll never play as good as [insert your guitar legend here]).

You have a few hours on the clock now and likely have achieved one or more key life milestones; education, reproduction, career, scratch golfer, sports car, etc. You’re going to come into music making with high expectations only to have them dashed when you realize you aren’t measuring up to your favorite guitar legend. Don’t sweat it.

The guitar legend that got me motivated to learn the guitar was Jimi Hendrix. Reportedly the floor was awash with the tears of the other guitar legends of the day when they first saw him perform so I was setting myself up for disappointment. The thing is, comparing yourself to a guitar legend is no different than comparing yourself to Tiger Woods if you are a golfer.

The guitar like golf is a matter of practice. It takes 10,000 practice hours to become an expert at an instrument or the golf course. At this stage in your life you have a lot going on and probably do not have 50 hours per week to allocate to the guitar. So, why stress out by comparing yourself to those that do? Instead, maximize the potential of the time you do have for this hobby and enjoy its benefits!

>>Related Posts
Baby Boomer Guide to Guitar as a Midlife Hobby
Why It Is No More Difficult to Learn the Guitar at Age 50 vs 15
Do Baby Boomers Really Need Permission to Learn the Guitar?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dating Advice for Baby Boomers: Learn the Guitar

I’ve found a set of baby boomer oriented blogs that I like to visit and often see ads for baby boomer dating services. So, it occurs to me that this may be yet another benefit of making music. If you find yourself back in the dating scene in middle age, learning to play the guitar may really help you in your quest to find that certain someone.

Flimsy you say? Maybe, but do you see any guitar legends (male or female) lacking for companionship? It can't hurt.

It’s not too late to pick up the guitar in middle age. Apparently the number of dating services oriented towards baby boomers says it’s not too late to be out there dating if you are unattached. “Guitarist” will look great on your online dating profile under “Hobbies” :-).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bob Dotson Covers Aging Rockers

Bob Dotson on Today's American Story covers rockers aged beyond anything I've been imagining in my posts. The segment is "Not Too Old to Rock" and it is worth a look. This group of rockers, the Young At Heart Chorus, has been performing around the world to sell out crowds and will be well known here because they are going to be starring in their own movie.

I realize I've been way too conservative in my posts. Middle Age is a piece of cake.

Three Generations Test Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight

I finally got around to buying Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight and brought it to Florida for the annual Spring Break ritual (not the wild Daytona Beach type; visiting grandparents in active retirement type) where it became an interesting test of music’s universal appeal.

My Gen Y offspring became instant converts on the plane trip down. We’re picked up at the airport by the grandparents and half way through the track “Given Up” the Silent generation is into it as well! Since I bought it I’m biased but my Baby Boomer wife is enjoying it so that covers generation three.

We ultimately pull into a pirate themed beach restaurant for the early bird special with the speakers thumping and heads bobbing. The innocent bystanders getting out of their cars at the same time to beat the early bird cutoff (picture a crowd of salmon rushing up stream to spawn) didn’t know what to make of us. I guess we were difficult to categorize. But, within seconds, the bystanders adjusted (more focused on the special maybe) and we blended right in.

The conclusion I draw from this non-scientific study is that playing and enjoying music is universal regardless of age. My job is to keep reminding people of that. If you have a desire to make music, get going because time is a wasting. Then you’ll know what I mean.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Aging Rockers: You’re Not Alone

I received my issue of AARP magazine today and they feature “Rock of Aged” in the trends section. Seems many of the top touring bands of 2007 are “kinda long in the tooth.”

The Police, average age 59, were actually the top touring band of any age last year with gross receipts north of $120 million. Other high revenue acts were Van Halen, average age 54 (not counting Eddie’s 17 year old son who plays bass), Rod Stewart, 63, and Genesis with an average age of 57.

No excuses Boomers; pick up that guitar and start rocking!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Baby Boomer Wannabe Guitarists: Check Out Free Guitar Lessons

I’ve always stressed the importance of guitar lessons, especially for those of us with a few hours on the clock; not because we’re slow on the uptake, we just want to make up for lost time. One of my readers recommended Free Guitar Lessons by Watch & Learn as a site that’s working great for him. I spent some time this morning looking it over.

I felt in a Bluegrass mood so I checked out flatpicking and learned some basic Bluegrass rhythms and improvisation. This is a great site, especially if you are starting out and overwhelmed with the options. If you find an area of interest they offer premium downloads where you can get more in depth from there.

Another area that should be mentioned is their Guitar Jam Tracks section. My first instructor set me up with “Let’s Jam” by Peter Vogl right away and it was invaluable to learning the rudiments of improvisation, ear training, and staying with the beat. Another benefit of the CD is the suggestions they provide for how to improvise over each track.

If you’re starting out and trying to get your bearings or been playing for awhile and want to discover new territory, give this site a look.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Does a Beard Improve Your Guitar Playing?

One blog I visit frequently is The Boomer Chronicles, which recently discussed baldness. If you visit my profile you'll see I’m an expert and this article prompted me to go the shaved head/goatee route like other rock legends. I did some analysis to see if going for the look has improved my playing.

I evaluated qualitative and quantitative aspects of my pre and post goatee playing and no discernible difference other than an itchy chin. Dang! I was hoping I would maybe pick up a Kerry King/Slayer vibe or something as a result.

Nonetheless, I'm going to stay with the goatee because it sure feels like it makes me play better.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Warm Up Hints When Learning Guitar in Middle Age

If you are learning the guitar in middle age it takes awhile each time you play for your fingers to start responding to what your brain is telling them to do. This isn’t because you are “old”. You just need to warm up like any other guitarist. For maximum progress in minimum time establish and follow a repeatable warm up routine.

Repeatability allows you to judge where you are in terms of flexibility as compared to previous sessions. Your warm up period will give you the feedback to let you know when you’re limbered up enough to start pushing harder. Properly warmed up you will get more benefit out of each playing session as well as avoid injury.

If you pick up your guitar and pound out the intro to Dragonforce's “Through the Fire and Flames” at 200 bpm (transcription in the May Guitar World) as your warm up you may strain something regardless of age. “No pain no gain” doesn’t apply here. If you’re warming up and things aren’t clicking, avoid the pain but get the gain by just doing something else for 10 minutes and coming back to it. You will be amazed at the difference.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Can Baby Boomers Go Home Again?

I ran across this Associated Press article: Returning to the family roost where it highlights a trend towards baby boomers returning to live with mom and dad due to the slumping economy. Yikes!

When times are tough you do what you have to do; I can understand that. However, since I actively advocate that Baby Boomers get music, this scenario is not one I’ve accounted for.

If you’ve decided to take the guitar plunge and will be moving home for awhile (hopefully not because you got in finacial difficulty due to guitar gear addiction), keep in mind that mom and dad may view that as a mixed blessing. Take it from me, in the early going; things may sound better to you than they do to others.

You may want to consider headphones for your practice rig…...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do Baby Boomers Really Need Permission to Learn the Guitar?

I did a brief interview about Guitar Boomer on the Growing Bolder radio show. One of the comments was that it was great that aging people had permission to take up new interests and be successful. I didn’t know how to take that at first until I realized it is about permission from within.

What happened with me was that hitting age 50 was a noticeable aging milestone because of AARP eligibility. While I was happy to join a new club (exploring life at 50 and beyond) I felt like I was no longer eligible for my current club (everyone not clearly defined as ‘old’). This was a bummer given nothing about my attitude and preferences had changed. Instead of learning the guitar which I had wanted to do for years I felt like society expected me to take up water aerobics instead.

In reality it turned out the expectations were in my head rather than societal. While everyone seems to care about what Britney Spears does next, society could care less about someone deciding to start rocking in their 50s.

The bottom line is that if you’ve never played an instrument or haven’t for many years you may experience some angst. However, your angst need not have an age component to it. Once you overcome that attitude you are no different than anyone else wanting to make music. Just view it as a way to obtain dual membership in both the "not yet old" and "50s and beyond" clubs.

Remember; you have your permission to rock out!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why It Is No More Difficult to Learn the Guitar at Age 50 vs 15

One comment I get frequently is “it must have been a lot harder to learn the guitar when you were in your 50s than in your teens.” I have to admit, this is something that weighed on my mind when I contemplated learning the guitar later in life. My experience however was that it is equally hard to learn at age 50 as at age 15.

I found an instructor early on and I had the benefit of observing a beginning player scheduled in the slot before mine. Although he was in his early teens I saw we both had the same issues. We both seemingly had mittens on our hands given our speed and dexterity at the time. We both had sore fingers as we built calluses on our fingertips. We also overcame these impediments at roughly the same rate for about six months until my younger counterpart began pulling away from me.

My first thought was “there it is, he’s got a 35 year advantage on me and it’s finally showing up.” I commented to my instructor one day that his student was really taking off to which he indicated that 9 hours of playing a day will do that for you.

Learning the guitar or golf or any other skill is a matter of storing information in your brain’s neural tissue. The way this happens is through practice. Rocker turned neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin indicates in his book “This Is Your Brain On Music” that 10,000 hours of practice rather than talent is what makes a virtuoso. In fact, reading this book may be one of the best guitar accessories for aging wannabe rockers as it shows the connection between music and brain function and how that is what determines your musical progress vs your physical age.

If you are in average health there is no evidence supporting the assumption that picking up a guitar later in life would be more challenging than earlier in life. It is just a matter of training your brain (practice) and you already have decades of experience doing that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Baby Boomer Guide to Guitar as a Midlife Hobby

Researchers have proven that music making will:

· Exercise the brain
· Fight memory loss
· Reduce stress
· Lower blood pressure
· Stave off depression

Who wouldn’t want some of that? Especially those of us with a few hours on the meter. The guitar is a highly portable instrument enabling music making anywhere any time. So, what stops us Baby Boomers from picking up the perfect hobby? Well, here's some common mental blocks and how to avoid them.

People will think I’m nuts starting at my age.” Don’t worry; you will have lots of company. There are so many people in the baby boomer demographic picking up or re-picking up their axes it is almost a cliché.

I don’t want to even go into a guitar store; I’ll stick out like a sore thumb.” I interviewed a guitar store worker last week for an upcoming post and he indicates 80% of their business is "old guys" coming in with a gleam in their eye and they’ve got the money right now. Believe me, the guitar store will be happy to see you.

I’ll need lessons and I can’t see myself dealing with some hotshot teenager.” Hey, your money spends like anyone else’s and they will be ecstatic to have a student who will actually practice between lessons.

I’m just too old; I don’t have the reflexes anymore or whatever is involved.” Well, they don’t have a little blue pill for guitar playing prowess but Les Paul is still playing in his 90s arthritis and all (doctors orders – there’s those benefits again). Just don't think you can use this one as an excuse.

I feel like a rocker inside but I’m bald now on the outside.” Listen man, check out lessons, you don’t play with your head! Granted, when you were growing up, rock was synonymous with big hair. Lots of rockers shave their heads now anyway whether bald or not. Joe Satriani is bald. ‘nuff said.

Rock out, you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Guitar Gear: Going Acoustic

I finally fell off the gear abstinence wagon and bought my first acoustic guitar; well, the first since the cowboy special I had at age 12; the one with the action an inch off the fretboard. The journey began with a wine tasting at Arrington Vineyards and ended up with a helpful salesperson guiding me through a dizzying array of models and features at Guitar Center.

My parents came into town for a visit and we brought them out to Arrington because they frequently offer live music (makes sense given it is owned by Kix Brooks). While enjoying an acoustic trio I cracked the ‘how many guitars does a guitarist need; just one more’ joke, fishing for validation and my 72 year old mother comes through with “if you don’t have an acoustic guitar yet you really do need one more.” Thanks, mom!

I got a crash course in guitar physics during my recent visit with Bill Hollenbeck, master luthier. I also read a helpful acoustic guitar buying guide from my Guitar World back issues where contributing writer Chris Gill echoes my mother’s statement. According to the article, regular practice on an acoustic helps build your technique by encouraging you to play more cleanly and accurately.

Entering the acoustic room at Guitar Center was still overwhelming in spite of my bit of research. My goal was a low priced import that sounded almost as good as a higher priced domestic model, like the Epiphone Dot Studio I wrote about recently. No go. After trying 5 or 6 different models in that range I realized the price would go up.

The salesperson outlined that the main difference for the next price range up was solid woods vs. laminates. So, the next 5 or 6 I tried were Sitka spruce tops with rosewood sides and backs and mahogany necks. From the first strum I realized this was a different world. The tone was lively and had a lot of presence. They all sounded great, just different and I chose an Epiphone Masterbilt (AJ-500R pictured above), which had the sound I envisioned for an acoustic.

Whether you want to explore your gentle side or simply improve your technique, take it from Guitar World and my aging mother; every guitarist needs an acoustic guitar. Go out and get yours today!