Video: James Taylor & His Tunings

I can’t tell if this video by James Taylor is one of the best lessons I’ve ever watched or worst.

There’s incredible insight on how/ why he tunes the way he does yet, in this 6 minute tutorial, he spends most of his time trying to get the proper tunings.

It’s definitely something I’m going to try, maybe even change my tuning system entirely. Interesting stuff, indeed.

(BTW, I was so relieved his tuner wasn’t as big as I initially thought…)

String tunings (in cents):
Low E -12
A -10
D -8
G -4
B -6
High E -3

RHCP: The Superbowl Dilemma

From Vernon Reid to Axl Rose, people seem to have a huge problem with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’s Superbowl performance. Enough so, Flea felt it necessary to issue a statement.

What are my thoughts? Who cares. If a band decides to take a lip-synching gig, so be it. I don’t have to like, I don’t have to agree – but I accept it. I’m a RHCP fan and, given the circumstances, they did everything right. The track was pre-recorded to fit the occasion, they fake it by plugging in and they did what they felt like doing in that moment.

I’ve played several high pressure gigs, all live. Trust me, having a Plan B is big deal when that much money/ exposure/ pressure is on the line. The RHCP have decades of experience, no need to hide behind production to boost their abilities and no doubt could have pulled it off – but it wasn’t up to them. They were asked to be a guest on the show by the NFL and that they were.

If given two options, which would you choose: perform for millions or just stay home?

Harp Harmonics Video

Patrick uploaded a new video to YouTube, entitled: Harp Harmonics: A’s Lullaby. Using various techniques such as hybrid picking and harp harmonics, he was able to emulate the sound of a music box. Doing so is an obvious nod to the sound of his newborn’s toys.

“A’s Lullaby”, a song celebrating the birth of his son Augustus, is due out in February 2014.

Should A 22 Yr Old Release Outsell Today’s Music?

Many claim the music of yesterday is far superior than that of today. I agree – and this coming from a modern day musician. I’m influenced by the music I grew up on and am trying to capture those same emotions. Further, a lot of today’s music isn’t written by the performing artist (see Max Martin, Diane Warren, etc.). However, some artists do perform their own material and they have my respect. But are they as good as the music of the past?

After seeing the tweet, I thought about it and realized it’s not all that surprising. At face value, Metallica’s fan base may outnumber Korn, In This Moment and Alice in Chains combined. The The Black Album was certified 16× platinum and many aren’t buying full albums anymore – especially modern day releases. After 22 years of digesting all songs from the album, it’s not surprising many want the entire thing as about 1/2 the songs were released as singles.

In today’s music industry, the game has changed. Fading is the full album release but yet vinyl sales are increasing. Ratings are dwindling for reality music competitions yet audition lines are miles long. Who knows where this will lead. For now, all we can do is continue writing, performing and hoping for a change – just like Korn, In This Moment and Alice In Chains.

Are Perfectionists Failures?

Does Being A Perfectionist Make You A Failure?

I had 7 days to learn, arrange, record and publish the Eric Clapton classic, “Cocaine”. There was an online contest looking to create a video medley of all the participants with prizes including a $2,500 Clapton model guitar and exposure on his site. Voting consisted YouTube votes and panel judging. All you had to do was create an instrumental version of the song – right up my alley!

The song isn’t hard: 2 sections, 7 chords total and a basic, repetitious melody; I simply had to throw down a basic drum and bass loop and we’re off. I’m sure I could’ve made it respectable, posted it, hopefully got a few fans and been on my way… but with about 8 hours left, I called it quits. Everything was in order with only the guitar solo left.

Imagine an instrumental guitarist quitting a song when all that’s left is the guitar solo?! But I just couldn’t nail the Clapton vibe. Not that the goal was to play like Clapton; I wasn’t happy with my solos. I felt what I arranged was solid; but none of it mattered. It wasn’t perfect. So I quit. Walked away. But did I fail? Is not putting something out which you don’t believe in a failure?

In the end, I decided it’s better to not release anything I’m not happy with. A failure, to me, is something that flops; something that isn’t attempted because of the fear of failure. I tried and it didn’t work. I consider myself a perfectionist when it comes to music and wasn’t willing to release anything which isn’t my best.

Did I fail? No. Because I learned from it and bettered myself for when an opportunity like this comes along again. Next time you’re presented with a challenge, don’t be afraid to take a step back if it means two steps forward in the future.

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September Newsletter Blog

After being uninvited to play a Battle of the Bands, we had one August gig: the Mohegan Sun Arena. I’m still waiting for the “official” pics/ video from the venue but below are my pics from my perspective. I also kept a timeline on Twitter via the “#CTSunGig” hashtag.

New blogs: Men’s Health Article | When Art Precedes Sound | Will the Audience Really Care

The Mohegan Sun Arena Play-By-Play:

Prior to leaving my gear was packed: 2 acoustic guitars, an extension chord, DigiTech pedal board, Fishman acoustic amp, electric guitar (for anthem), Marshall gig bag &  sitting stool.

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Arriving 2 hours before game time.

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A look at the passes and tickets for the event.

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An assumedly sick joke.  We walked out on to the court to see 2 vocal microphones???

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Rich sound checking at center court.

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I assume this is the backstage area for bands (KISS played the following night).

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The small area next to the stands where we stashed our gear waiting to go on.

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The performances

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I’m hopeful this is how everyone reacted to the performances…

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Men’s Health Submission

** Back in 2012, I submitted an article to Men’s Health for consideration but never heard back. Here is the article in its entirety. Thank you to friends and published authors Patrick Kennedy and Max Klau for their insight, ideas and expertise in reviewing my submission.**

The Beatles!!  Billy Joel!!  Elton John!!  Patrick DeCoste??  Hi, I’m Patrick.  Like the three before me, I’ve played Shea Stadium.  Attendance on record that day was 51,7495.  Granted I wasn’t there to perform a full-length set but I did land the coveted Star Spangled Banner gig.  One minute and 16 seconds of U2-inspired instrumental guitar licks (and a virtually guaranteed standing ovation!).

Like those around me, my life consists of working full-time, family, mortgage and car payments.  But once the clock hits 5pm, I morph from office drone into semi-professional rock guitarist. I may not be running to the John Varvatos store in NYC or Kat Von D’s Hollywood tattoo shop while trying to hang on to those fleeting moments of rock stardom – but I have managed to fit a few hours of guitar into my daily life.

Not just practice time–stage time. My guitar and I have had some unique experiences over the years, from the Shea Stadium gig to toiling in the orchestra pit for the Broadway musical, HAIRSPRAY.

It wasn’t always easy, and not everything went as planned.  My music-biz experience has consisted of rejections and mistakes.  However, I have scored a few important call-backs.  I’m no Eddie Van Halen, any more than my Sport Management degree makes me Theo Epstein. (I’m a grant manager for a major university in Boston as my day job.)  But those shortcomings only make me work harder.

GOING BACK TO THE BASICS

With no less than 50 hours of my week dedicated to working for “The Man”, how did I go from bedroom to ballpark? A quick rehash of the ABC’S:

Ability: No good job can be achieved without skill.  Take the time to hone your craft a day at a time.  Read, listen and communicate with those in your field.  Ability breeds opportunity, which breeds networks, which breeds opportunity, which breeds networks – you get the idea.

Balance: Finding “me” time can be as hard as finding time to dedicate to those things you have to do (you paid the phone bill this month, right?).  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.  If you can commit 45 minutes to the gym three days a week, why not dedicate that same time to your craft?

Commitment: After allocating time for achievement, you now have the ability to go for it.  Write down goals (long term and short term), time frames and start making it happen.  Stick with it–you owe it to yourself.

Sacrifice: With love comes misery.  Expect that you’ll hit some road blocks and stumble along the way, and know you’ll be giving up some nights out with friends or lazy evenings watching TV (pro tip: $8/ month will get you instant access to almost all of your favorite shows).  Moving forward will only make the rewards that much sweeter.

LANDING THE GIG

Scoring stadium gigs and orchestra pit forays don’t happen overnight nor did it happen without its up and downs along the way.

After sending my demo off to most (if not all) professional sport teams from Maine to Pennsylvania, I had my share of rejections. One front office wise guy went so far as to say he was protecting me from getting booed by not booking me.  Typical protocol included getting the contact info through the team’s website, mailing in a demo package and then never hearing back.  Every once in a while you’ll get the “Don’t contact us, we’ll contact you” postcard, even more rare is actually getting booked.

CASE STUDY

In 2010, I was approached about being the guitarist for HAIRPSRAY during its three-week run at the Cape Playhouse in Cape Cod (“where Broadway goes to summer”).  I couldn’t read music, could barely play by ear, and couldn’t improvise.  I played at bars in bands–not at theaters in orchestra pits.  With only three months to learn skills which takes years to learn, I had to find a balance between my full-time job, family and being the best musician I could be.

Comparing a theater gig to a club gig is like comparing a pick-up basketball game to joining a league: same skills, but more rules and higher stakes.  I quickly had to master skills like volume control, page turning, and “vamping” (repeating the same notes over and over until a set or wardrobe change was finished and the show could move on).

I took my first guitar lesson in 15 years.  I didn’t know the first thing about HAIRSPRAY, so I immersed myself in the musical–movies, bios, sheet music, iPod music lists on repeat.  I worked HARD, and I pulled it off because I believed and was believed in.  Before the first note of “Good Morning, Baltimore” was played, there was no one more prepared than me.

As my three-week run in the orchestra pit for the Grammy-winning, Tony-winning musical came to an end, I began to fade.  I was still working my full-time day job-during it’s busiest season!-while playing eight three-hour shows a week and commuting over 200 miles a day.  The brutal schedule took its toll but the rewards far outweighed any negatives.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY

After the gear is packed and the bar is just a room full of empty bottles rolling around the floor, the ride home allows me to reflect.  What went right, what went wrong?  What’s next?  Through reflection, you can accurately access your positioning and plan for the future.

Dreams vs. Reality: playing Guitar Hero on Xbox doesn’t make one a guitar hero, just as playing Monopoly doesn’t make you a banker.  Take the time to work and hone your craft.  Accept the rejections while making adjustments along the way.

Opportunity vs. Entitlement: No one wants to work with someone who feels they deserve something.  Be humble.  Work harder for less.  Giving someone an excuse to not hire you is never a good career move.

Start small, think big: I labored in the Boston “open mic” scene for years.  That meant late nights performing between the old guy who wanted to be the next Paul Simon and the sorority girl doing Alanis Morissette covers.  Being a small fish in a big pond allows you find your niche, brand yourself and build momentum while collecting small victories along the way.

Remember that trip to Paris?  Or those college parties?  They happened because you were there.  You make the choice to go for it.  Make that your mantra–-do it.  Do it now.

MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU

Personal goals are labors of love.  You do it because you love it.  I can’t make mortgage payments on the 33 cents I make off each MP3 download.  Nor can I afford a week-long tour in half-filled bars, 11 p.m. set times or numerous trips to studios for recording time.

What I can do, however, is throw my acoustic guitar in the back of my 2-door Honda Civic and head out to the neighborhood bar to entertain for an hour.  My man cave (i.e., my allotted space in the back corner of my basement) allows me to record music on my laptop to distribute online.

Make your craft work for you.  Let your enthusiasm for your art shine, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve found a way to pay the bills while still cultivating your passion and sharing it with the world.

IN CONCLUSION

Armed with tips and tricks to start making your hobby work for you, those “what if?” questions should hopefully become “why not?”  Be inspired.  Be grateful.  Be opportunistic.  Be who you wanted to be.  Fight through the adversity.  Do it.

Every day I look back at what I’ve accomplished and feel the thrill of satisfaction.  I also see how the work I put in yesterday sets me up to achieve even more tomorrow.

How do you want to be remembered?  How do you want to be perceived?  One thing is for sure: sitting there won’t get you where you want to be.

Get up.  Plan it.  Do it….and enjoy the ride along the way.

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But Will The Audience Care?

Tone (noun \ˈtōn\): vocal or musical sound of a specific quality; especially : musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression

Tone can make or break a show. Venues get a bad rap if someone thinks a guitarist’s sound was sub-par when, in reality, it was the artist’s fault. Blown tubes, over-saturated distortions, too much bass/ treble and cheap cables may all be grounds for putting on a bad show.

If you’re an artist, the question becomes: if you go all out on your gear spending thousands while lugging hundreds of pounds worth of gear (think amp heads, pedalboards, amp cabinets, combo amps, etc.), will the audience care?

It’s said tone comes from the hands. If I were to plug in to the Edge‘s gear, I wouldn’t sound like U2. John Mayer would still sound like John Mayer if plugged into Angus Young‘s rig. To think with all guitarists in the world today we all have our own unique set-up is amazing.

From the guitarist’s hands comes the rest of the deciding factors: guitars (inclusive of string choice), pick choice (thickness, material, shape, etc.), cabling, pedals (inclusive of FX Loop and and how they’re routed) and amplifier/ DI options. Should two guitarists share the same set-up, will their pedal/ amp settings be identical? Probably not. But will the audience care?

With technology rapidly advancing, we may not be far from an amp modeler emulating a boutique amp with undeniable precision – we may be there already with such devices as the Axe FX II and the Kemper Profiler. In 2004, when Inside The Unsaid was being mastered, engineer Larry DeVivo was able to recite back exactly the amps, effects and guitars (including their model numbers) I used on the CD within seconds of listening.

But, again, will the audience care? Of course, there will always be gearheads and tone chasers looking for the next big thing while nitpicking the sounds of others. One of the first things I do at a show is checkout everyone’s set-up. Especially in the instrumental genre where the guitar is our voice, we better be comfortable with the sounds we’re putting out there.

That being said, yes, the audience will care about how you sound if you’re not satisfied with your sound. The audience will care if you clearly don’t. The goal of the artist is to put forward their best show with the most important part of that show being what you’re playing for them.

Of course, you can always pretend like you’re playing through certain gear when you’re actually not. It sure doesn’t seem like this audience cares those amps are fake:

blackveilbrideswarpedamps2

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