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Reefer Madness: 3 Sterling Award Nominations

Reefer Madness, the musical production I was playing in at the last Fringe show has just been nominated for 3 Sterling awards: Outstanding  Fringe Production, Outstanding Fringe Performance by an Actor (Matthew Lindholm), and Outstanding Fringe Director (Amanda Neufeld and Heida Arnason). YAY!

I am very happy that this incredibly talented group of performers I have had the honor to work with has being recognized (again) with these nominations. It's also a nice coincidence that both directors, Amanda and Heida had their birthday in the last days. This must have been a great birthday surprise!

I can't wait to be able to work with you guys again! Every show I did with you was a blast and they keep getting bettter and better! 

I Nail It On The Piano...

An actual piano was harmed in the making of this video.

Here is the story: the art gallery of Edmonton organizes these parties called "the Refinery" every few months. These are costume parties (that explains while I'm dressed in 20's style) where there are some fun activities. Since one of the recent exhibits at the art gallery was a recreation of a conceptual art piece where all the keys were literally nailed down. The Art Gallery provided two extra pianos for the visitor to try the experience in first person. 

I could not pass on this. 

Of course, I had to sign a waiver where I indemnified the art gallery from any injuries or accidental death (you know, in case the piano strikes back...)

At first I tried to nail an Eb (one of the worst keys on guitar, this was my way to get rightful vengeance...), but the black keys were really hard to nail down: they just split or splinter (told you the piano could strike back...). So I decided to nail down a B. 

The whole experience felt oddly good. I cold probably never push myself to do something similar to a stringed instrument, but somehow nailing down a piano key felt satisfying. 

Next time I should probably try it with a drum set. It will most likely feel even better...

 

Musical Envy

I had recently a number of people telling me that they are envious of my musical ability and that "it must feel good being so talented". There is more than one misunderstanding there, so I might better clear this up. 

First of all, I am not "talented" at all. I have no "natural" ability to speak of. I wasn't gifted, and in general when I started out on guitar I sounded terrible. Everything you see today in my playing is simply the result of my efforts and my practice. And believe me, I've still a long way to go! 

This is good news for you: no matter where you are or how un-talented you feel, you can at the very least arrive at my level just by practicing hard enough. More than that, I know many players who are at the virtuoso level on guitar who like me had no talent at all when they began. If they did it, you can too. It's just a matter to practice enough, to practice the things you need (as opposed to waste time on things that are not useful) and to practice in the correct way. 

Second, it is NEVER good to be envious of somebody else musically speaking. If you want to be INSPIRED by someone because they can play at a high level, that is alright. But remember that  music is not a competition. Or, in the immortal words of Bela Bartok: "Competitions are for horses, not musicians". You need not compare yourself to anybody. You are a unique individual, and you are going to be a different musician than anyone else... you just need to be the best musician YOU can be. Envy is just going to stop you rather than helping you.

Finally, realize that being envious of someone's musical ability is actually a form of disrespect. Without exception, all good musicians put in a lot of effort and time into their playing skills. By being envious you are discounting all this hard work. It is like you are telling them that you want their skills, but without paying the price. Sorry, can't do :-) Playing an instrument is fun, but it's not free: if you don't pour some of your life and soul into the instrument, the instrument will not sing for you. 

Stop being envious. Start practicing more (or better). Forget about comparing yourself to other musicians. Make the best of what you ahve and you will exceed your own expectations.

 

Good Music & Good Food

I've recently seen a documentary called "Hungry for Change". It's a pretty interesting piece about nutrition, and despite some obvious exaggerations ("white flour is like cocaine" meant literally, not as a metaphor...) it made a number of good points on how to have a sane or at least a better diet. 

One of the main recommendations was to not bother too much about cutting the bad food, but simply to start eating more and more good food. The organism then starts to get satisfied with the good food, and gradually you will eat less and less bad food. If you think about it, it's a pretty sound plan, and it also does not look as daunting as vowing that you would never touch a hamburger forevermore. It's much easier psychologically to ADD stuff to your diet rather than AVOIDING it. 

Somehow I can't fail to see a parallel with good music and bad music. And I know that when I say that there will be someone telling me that all music is good music, and it's only a matter of taste. Sorry, it is not true. It's full of "junk music" out there. And, like as food, there is a full spectrum of music from the one you should avoid at all cost, to the one that is simply great for you, but you may not like at first.

Ands as in the case of food, the best plan is not to stop listening to bad music. It is simply to start listening to good music, or at least to better music. A friend of mine calls this kind of "musical diet" the "Bachification" because his recommendation is to listen to Bach for one hour every day (you can do other activities in the meantime). I think it's a great plan, and if Bach does not suite you, you can substitute him for something else (but really, who does not like Bach?)

Why should you do it, you may ask. For food it is obvious: you want to feel better, with more energy and a better health. But for music? Simple, you are going to enjoy it MUCH more. You have not even an idea how much more. Your ear will sharpen up, you will be able to follow more than one musical thread at the same time, your perception how harmony will increase. 

All this just by listening to an hour of deliciously good music a day. Good eh? 

 

NOTE: for anyone who will read this and think: "yes, I like Bach but it didn't change my perception of music". It works only if you DO it. You actually NEED to listen to 1h of Bach (or Beethoven, Vivaldi, Chopin...) a day. Just "liking" him won't give you anything, just like how thinking of going to the gym will not help you get in shape unless you actually go :-)

Rhythm Essential: African Percussions Seminar. Don't Miss It!

 Hey guys. Here at Edmonton Guitar we managed to get a GREAT percussion player to teach a seminar on African Percussion. This is a great opportunity for you guys to learn how to play a conga or a djembe (or other hand drums) from a real working musician and expert.

It is also an occasion for all of you to work on your Rhythm Skills. My advanced studetns know how much I insist on mastery of rhythm, and how this is important ESPECIALLY for lead playing (which is actually more rhythmicaly difficult than rhythm playing). 

Do not miss this opportunity and book your place NOW! The seminar is going to be on Sat Feb 23, all details are here: African Percussions Seminar

Guitar Pickups and Pickguards

WARNING: gear-intensive post. Reading may cause confusion (if you don't know anything about pickups) or sudden urge of buying more gear for yourself. You have been warned :-)

Those of you who know me, know that I like trying new gear to see what sounds I can get out of it. In time I have developed a sense of what I liek and what I don't, and I discovered that I am really picky on some things that previously I didn't thought much of.

For instance, pickups. 

I used to care just about playability and resonance on an electric guitar guitar, on the ground that everything else - pickups included - could be changed anytime. What I didn't realize until recently is that with my experience I can not only detect the nuances of different pickups, but that since pickups influence my sound, they also influence my playing. And that's why I started searching for the perfect pickups :-) 

Right now I am about to change pickups on my Strat, and endless research has led me to realize that I don't like at all the standard "3 single cois" or "a humbucker + 2 single coils" configurations that are traditional on a strat. What I really want is one humbucker on the bridge, and one single coil on the neck. I never use the center pickup.

Sure, the ones among you that know what I am talking about may try and warn me that this set could be unbalanced. Well, don't worry about that: with the pickups I'm going to install (which will stay a secret for a while...) and a bit of electronic magic the set is going to be balanced. 

No, the real problem was that I could not find a Strat pickguard without the hole for the central pickup. In fact I had also another "problem": I use only one Volume and one Tone, and I tend to leave empty the control position closer to the strings (this way I have more space to flick the pickup switch on the fly during a solo). Again, I would like to not have a hole there. I was in fact resigned to try adn order a blanck pickguard andcut it by myself  (how? no idea...). 

Just by chance I found out that Warmoth has a nifty applet online to order your custom guitar pickguard, with just the holes you want and in the position you want. Genius! And all this for $25 + $20 for shipping. Needless to say, I ordered it immediately and it is now shipping. I *love* living in the Internet age - you can have custom gear made for you for little money and have it arrive at your door in few days. 

Stay connected for the "tone tests" that I will do once the new pickguards arrive (I already have pickups and electronics ready to mount). 

Jesus Christ Superstar Scores!

 I finally got in my hands the scores for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. We will be on scene on the Easter weekend (of course!) I'm so happy of playing in this production, JCS is one of my favorite musicals ever!

Of course, I spent the whole day (well, most of) going through the score and playing my favorite numbers :-)

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