Showing posts with label midlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label midlife. Show all posts

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guilt Free Guitar Gear

Guitarists love gear. Problem is, we are in a global economic meltdown and your spouse does not understand why you need more than one of anything guitar related anyway. So, buying that unique effects pedal (even used off Craigslist) may come with some guilt. One approach to overcome these obstacles is to create your own housecleaning service.

I’m not talking about going around and cleaning other peoples’ homes. I’m talking about cleaning your own. You do the cleaning and pay yourself what you would pay a cleaner to come in. Sure, this works best if you are a dual income household and already paying for housecleaning. However, you can get creative and leverage social stereotypes to make this work. If you are male and take on the housecleaning duties you are immune, man! Nobody is going to criticize you for picking up a new toy now and then.

This is great exercise for aging rockers, helps build fret hand strength (be sure to wear cleaning gloves), and it goes a long ways towards enhancing marital bliss. Give it a try and start building your gear collection today!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guitar Aging Experiment – How to Create a Relic

The relic guitar market has really taken off and you have to pay a bunch of money to get your new guitar pre-aged, which drives interest in do it yourself approaches. Serendipity happened this morning as I was catching up on my feed reading and ran across the start of a DIY guitar relic experiment on Electric Guitar Review.

Actually, I’m more interested in anti-aging treatments since I’ve hit midlife and try to keep my guitars looking good so they age gracefully. The only “relic” treatment I’ve applied to a guitar was unintentional. But, for those interested in aging their guitars, this series should be right up your alley.

The article is entitled Chop Shop: And So Begins ERG’s Great “Tele Relic” Experiment Of 2008. Anyone who follows these posts should see a blow by blow account of aging a Classic Player Baja Telecaster as well as related links in the articles and comments that should be a treasure trove of information for relic enthusiasts. I’ll include links to these posts as shared items so you can keep up with them as they are published or just subscribe to EGR.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

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!

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?

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, January 2, 2008

Aging Rocker: Side Benefits of Rocking in Middle Age

With some time off over the holidays and over two years into my guitar hobby I thought I would make a list of the side benefits I get besides fun.

“Coolness” Factor: My kids are still not sure why I keep pursuing the guitar. It does enter into the teenage calculus though along the lines of; dad may not have much hair left but he can play “Highway to Hell!”

Concert Awareness: I actually know something about what is going on at a concert now. Previous to picking up a guitar a concert might as well have been a CD player running through the PA system. Now, I know what the equipment is, why it is being used, and have some appreciation for the techniques used by the artists. Concert going is much more enjoyable as a result.

Art of Conversation: I am still a poor conversationalist but now I have more to talk about at a cocktail party than “what do you do for a living” or “how is your 401K plan doing?”

Instant Gratification: With the guitar as in other hobbies you can put in effort and directly see the results. Often times the correlation between effort and results are more nebulous in the work world.

Home Décor: Hanging your guitars on the wall is a great decorating approach.

Blogging: My infatuation with the guitar is what got me into Blogging, which is almost as much fun as playing the guitar!

Happy New Year and keep rocking!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Peace on Earth and a Little “Stolichnaya”

Yep, you guessed it; I made it to my first Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) concert. There were some pleasant surprises along with the standard stage performance.

One thing that immediately struck me as I approached the venue was the demographic represented by my fellow concert goers. Not sure what I expected but a heavy concentration of 20 somethings along with a good dose of those of the midlife persuasion and older was not one of them.

The younger concert goers were not simply girlfriends dragging their boyfriends to the concert either. Paul O’Neill and his collaborators Robert Kinkel and Jon Oliva have reached a demographic to die for, pretty much all of them if the concert I attended was any indicator.

They kicked off the concert by donating over $12,000 to local charity; a dollar for every ticket sold. Their informal survey showed that about 75% of the concert goers were returnees from previous years (since we got our tickets at the last minute and were seated in the stratosphere we got a good view of the raised hands). The TSO has established a loyal following.

They performed the story and songs of “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” followed by a mix from their other albums and some covers. All this was accompanied by a dazzling set of lighting and laser effects synchronized with the music.

It seems that anyone who wants to maintain a long term career in the music business needs to continually adapt. The founders of TSO have pulled together a diverse set of influences and created a great product with a loyal fan base.

We’ll be back next year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Guitar Resources: Great References from the Blogosphere

When you take up the guitar in middle age you want to move fast and make up for lost time. Doing this just means taking the same systematic approach you’ve taken in living your life to this point. One important aspect is availing yourself of the valuable resources at your fingertips thanks to the Internet.

I recently outlined a set of resources that have helped me pursue my midlife guitar goals and when roaming the blogosphere yesterday I encountered a couple more I wanted to share.

The Boomer Chronicles has a recent post regarding The Berklee College of Music out of Boston and that they provide instruction online. My first instructor went through the program there and spoke highly of it. Since I have to hold down a full time job with lots of travel, doing a program in Boston would not be possible. However, I earned an MBA online at the University of Phoenix for the same reasons and that worked well. If the Berklee program is set up the same this could work out great. Check out the post and the Boomer Chronicles.

I ran across this post yesterday on "I Am an Offering", a site that has some easily digestible coverage of music theory. What theory I have learned to date has really benefitted my progress. However, I still have a lot of gaps in understanding. This site has helped and also provides information on another online resource;

Hopefully these will be of interest. Let’s Rock!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Guitar Technique: The Iterative Approach

In my previous post I describe a recent revelation I had regarding parallels between the waterfall and iterative methodologies in the software world and methodologies for learning the guitar. I left off at the point where I had hit a brick wall in attempting to learn Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". The best thing I ever did for my continued progress was drop it and move on to other areas.

I continued practicing the fundamentals; scale exercises, learning new licks, and working on speed. At the same time, I continued exploring new songs. GuitarWorld is a great resource as it includes transcriptions in each issue. A few months later I picked up “Crazy Train” again and iteration two was much improved.

Although I hadn't been practicing “Crazy Train” specifically, I had been building my chops by working on other songs and continuing to learn new licks and build speed on my scales. I was able to hit about 80% of the song at its actual tempo such that it was recognizable compared to only hitting the intro at a reduced speed on my first iteration.

The premise of all my posts is maximum results in minimum time for us midlife wannabe rockers who want to make up for lost time. When starting out, you will make the most progress by iterating through a variety of songs and technique exercises rather than slogging away on one song in a waterfall approach. I know it is gratifying to be able to play one of your favorites beginning to end. But, if the song requires technique you do not yet posses, move ahead to new territory. The key though is to incorporate those difficult technique areas into your daily practice routine.

For example, I incorporate the licks for “Crazy Train” that I still cannot handle into every practice session. Once you feel you have improved in those technique areas, do another iteration. The critical thing about iterations is that you measure the outcome of each as I have indicated in previous posts. I guarantee that after you compare a second iteration to a first iteration you will realize this is the quickest approach to developing your technique baseline.

If you keep this up you will reach the point in no time where you have mastered the fundamentals such that you could quickly learn a song whatever methodology you choose to follow. I'll be here trying to keep up with you :-).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learn to Play the Guitar: Acoustic vs. Electric

I recently posted a comment on a blog that was asking one of the perennial learn to play guitar questions; acoustic vs. electric, which told me I should outline what my own experience has been. After going through the startup process my conclusion is that you should learn to play on both guitar types and starting on an electric gets you there the quickest.

In my first post I described how an umpteenth listen of Jimi Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe" got me to finally commit to pursuing my life long dream of learning the guitar. No surprise that I started off with an electric guitar. However, I believe my interest in the electric also helped me make quicker progress, and picking the guitar up in middle age should be all about maximum results in minimum time.

I started off with a borrowed guitar, Danelectro single cutaway U2 model. Although I tried using an acoustic several times early on, I found it difficult compared to the Danelectro in both playability and production of decent tone. After each attempt, I would return back to the electric and keep working on building my chops and ability to produce better tone. My hypothesis on the difference is that the Danelectro had a thin narrower neck with lighter gauge strings compared to the acoustic; meaning better playability for someone starting out. In addition, you can derive some tone out of an electric earlier than an acoustic given you have an entire signal chain between your playing and the tone that comes out. Granted, this is somewhat of a crutch given you can be more effective at improving if you hear everything in its lack of glory. On the other hand, when you first start out you want to have enjoyment from day one and part of that is that you can generate some tone you appreciate right away.

I continued primarily on the electric for the first eighteen months and then decided to allocate half my practice time to the acoustic. By this time, I had built up my chops, purchased an electric guitar with higher gauge strings and a wider neck, and developed better tone. In no time, I found that I could finally extract something out of the acoustic guitar. I think the progress I made on building my chops plus development of tone got me to the point where I could appreciate what an acoustic has to offer sooner.

In summary, my opinion is that if you want to learn to play the guitar, you should plan on learning to play both electric and acoustic. The objective when starting out, especially if that is later in life, is maximum progress in minimum time. View starting out on electric as a training aid that lets you build technique and tone so you can more quickly appreciate the acoustic guitar for what it has to offer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Aging Rockers: Led Zeppelin Affirms Aging Wannabe Rockers

No doubt everyone has seen coverage of the long awaited Led Zeppelin concert in London. The Rolling Stone’s Rock Daily provides some great coverage as well as links to YouTube videos at the concert. What this coverage affirms for me is that the concept of learning the guitar or rocking out in general is a great hobby for midlife and beyond.

Reviews of the concert are generally positive. This one sums it up:

“Page may no longer swagger across the stage, his guitar worn low like a gunslinger as he churns out riffs. And Plant can’t scram and strut like he did in his rock god heyday. But the awesome power and majesty of the music was undiminished.” (The Daily News)

I picked the guitar back up at age 50 after a brief try at it in high school. As the intervening years went by I starting thinking it was too late. This is retroactively embarrassing as Led Zeppelin are in their 60s; with Jimmy Page at 63 and also overcoming a broken finger last month. My thinking is even more embarrassing given the legendary Les Paul is still playing at 92, arthritis and all!

If the years are going by and you have always wanted to learn the guitar or used to play and want to pick it up again, “too late” is not an excuse you can use. Another excuse you cannot use is “Well, of course Led Zeppelin can play in their 60s since they’ve been at it all their lives”. Keep in mind; they started rehearsing back in June. They didn’t just walk out on stage and magically became Led Zeppelin again.

If you want to get back into it, do it! With this site, a million other great sites, guitar stores, bookstores, and most importantly a good instructor to get you started, you have the resources necessary to maximize results in minimum time and start rocking another few decades.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday Special: Thank you, GuitarWorld!

I started learning the guitar at age 50 as a midlife hobby. Although my family tolerates it, they have not embraced my love of heavy blues and rock.

Then along comes the latest issue of GuitarWorld with a transcription for “Silent Night” using fingerstyle and all of a sudden there is a lot of enthusiasm from the family to the extent they want to join in. The benefit I expected was to explore learning fingerstyle and received in addition something beyond tolerance for my hobby!

There is something for everyone in this publication from the teenage shredder to aging wannabe rockers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Middle-Aged Rocker: How to Avoid Guitar Store Angst

I bought the stereotypical sports car for my midlife crisis before learning to play the guitar. The guitar is much more satisfying and the gear doesn’t depreciate like an automobile either. To get this gear you have to go to a guitar store of course. I researched prior to heading out to my local guitar store the first time but research didn’t prepare me for the angst I felt when seeing that the oldest worker in the store was half my age! In spite of my angst, I received great advice on finding what I needed to get started and keep the hobby rolling.

I definitely had the sense that the people working these stores love music and are enthusiastic about anyone learning an instrument. Beyond that though is that aging wannabe rockers like us are helping guitar sales skyrocket. The instrument makers and retailers love us! As I continue to age, I plan to keep rocking out instead of going quietly into the night.

When you go into one of these stores, just keep in mind you are part of a valuable demographic of like minded rockers and the retailer is more than happy to help you meet your musical goals.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Midlife Crisis: How to Buy Your First Guitar

For every guitar that is played, there are many more gathering dust in the closet, possibly to become “vintage” a few decades from now. You want to start out with an inexpensive model initially. If you later decide the hobby is not for you, you are not out a lot of money. I got into the guitar based on an interest in exploring blues driven vintage rock, but the comments would apply to any type of guitar you wish to acquire. I was lucky enough to have a co-worker who loaned me a guitar out of his 20+ guitar collection, a great option if you know any guitar enthusiasts. However, with a little research, you can purchase your own and will find that inexpensive does not mean poor quality.

The major makers produce guitars that range from a couple hundred to many thousands of dollars. Manufacturers such as Fender and Gibson and many others produce quality guitars with good playability for a low price point.

Playability is especially important when you first start out because you are building new muscle memory for fretting notes, picking strings, forming chords, and building calluses on your fingertips. You are not going to progress as quickly as you are capable of with a poor quality guitar unless you are especially gifted. Just because Jimi Hendrix started out on a ratty guitar with one string does not mean you have to or can. Think of it the same way you would about golf clubs with perimeter weighting for a larger sweet spot. To find the guitar that will give you that sweet spot playability, your best chance of finding it for the right price is to do a bit of research.

Bookstores such as Borders® and Barnes & Noble stock a large variety of magazines devoted to the guitar, all of which include gear reviews in each issue. Experienced players conduct these reviews and clearly outline the pros and cons of each model. In addition, these magazines provide web links and other resources for further exploration. For example, the Epiphone Dot Studio, pictured at right received high marks in GuitarWorld magazine and sells for under $200 at "Guitar Center" stores. Through research, narrow down the options that appeal to you and then head out to your local guitar store!

Guitar stores feature electric guitar starter kits (guitar, amp, cable, strap) especially during the holiday season. Likely, the guitar options you are interested in based on your research will not come packaged like this. Starter kits will likely have a lower price than the guitar you have decided on but remember that the goal here is the best playability for the lowest cost. This enables you to maximize the practice time you have available. Stick to the research you have done and leverage the knowledge of staff at your guitar store.

I have yet to visit a guitar store where the staff was not knowledgeable and enthusiastic about more people learning to play guitar. Outline to them what you are looking for, the research you have done, and go from there. Worse case, if you do not like your purchase these stores usually have generous return policies.

Lets Rock!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Midlife Crisis: Learn to Play the Guitar

One day waiting for my order to be delivered at a Sonic drive-in restaurant I was listening for the umpteenth time to “Hey Joe” as covered by Jimi Hendrix in his debut album, “Are You Experienced”, which launched him as a superstar. For the umpteenth time I said to myself, “How did he do that?” Ever since a brief and unsuccessful encounter with guitar playing in High School, my response to “How did he do that?” has been “One of these days I need to try the guitar again.”

What was different about that day is I had recently become eligible for AARP membership and the midlife crisis that accompanied it. The “One of these days…” response was looking more like a punt. I needed to do something, either try it again or move on. Thankfully, I decided to try it again, and two years later, I am still at it and enjoying what has become an enjoyable and sometimes overly absorbing cure to the midlife crisis. What became immediately clear was that picking up the guitar in middle age has different dynamics than picking it up as a teenager.

As a teen, you have state of the art plumbing, lots of free time, and limited financial resources. Middle age is usually the inverse. Much of the first few months turned out to be a struggle on how to improve rapidly with limited available “hobby” time. The purpose of these postings is to outline what worked and what did not. If you are about to rock, spend five minutes reading a post and learn something that took me days or more to figure out.

Let’s Rock!