Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Years resolutions...? More like Pushing the 'Reset' Button!

"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."

Two things in the past two days have really hit home with me. They pushed the 'reset' button on my attitude and artistic vision. They stimulated me to revisit, rethink, and refresh my goals and direction for the near future.

The second was recommended by my friend Pat Pendleton, an article from the Huffington Post:
Art and Music Are Professions WorthFighting for

The Video
Steve Vai "How to be Successful"Private Sessions Guitar Center 
 I stumbled across this video while checking out various YouTube guitar lessons and whatnot. It really resonated with me. So much so that I sat down and transcribed the whole thing. Then I thought about it and worked on it and integrated the information into my own personal artistic vision and goals. 
I am going to post the transcription here, because I think that the information is powerful and profound, and that anybody in the arts; be it music, visual art, or whatever, would be well served to read, listen, and take this advice to heart.
I took what was relevant to me and my own artistic vision and path - and there was something valuable in every single sentence.
See what it offers you. Take what is said here - first in its original context, then as it applies to whatever creative pursuit you are involved in.

How do I become successful in music?

  • Identify with what it is that we really want.
    Because whatever it is you really want – that's what's gonna come out.
  • The thing that you're most comfortable with, that you do the best.
    I've got strengths and I've got weaknesses.
    I don't work on my weaknesses. I ignore them, and I cultivate my strengths.
  • The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it.
    Because the only thing that is holding you back is the way that you're thinking.
  • Pick a song in your head that you'd like to be able to play; something that's within your reach.
    • Imagine, right now, that song.
    • Picture yourself playing it. That's the first part of the exercise in achieving it.
    • As you picture yourself playing it, imagine what it sounds like – perfectly.
    • See and hear yourself playing it – elegantly, beautifully – whether it's an aggressive metal track, whatever it is... see yourself playing it from beginning to end – perfectly, with confidence.
    • The more you're able to crystallize that vision, the more you're gonna become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let's talk about practice. 
Let's talk about spending time to reach your goal.
Because I know the complaint. We have obligations in life, we have responsibilities, we have so many other things we have to do... how do we find time to play the instrument?
I recommend that you pick a time that's yours; a time when you shut off the cel phone, shut off the telephone, turn off the internet, and sit and focus on your goal.
Whenever you get discouraged, go to the big picture; go back to that place of excitement. That's how you get through it; you go to the big picture, go to the chief aim... because it's so crystallized in your head, that you know when you feel “I can't do this...” you know, you go back to that picture, and you can see yourself doing it.

Now you gotta put the work in.

It's no work – there's no work involved, because it's all a joy, because you know you're reaching your goal.
I never worked a day in my life, I mean with the guitar. I never struggled. Honestly. I've had a lot of challenges; I've been through a lot, but when it came to my feelings about what I do, and my (self?) so to speak, I never struggled a day in my life.
Because for me, playing the guitar was my juice.

So you break it down piece by piece by piece. And if it's a classical song, say, you go one bar at a time, then you go to the next bar, then you go to the next bar... Eventually, you'll be able to play through this piece of music – you won't play it great, but you'll be able to play through it.
That's when you gotta stick at it, stick at it, and keep playing it. Because at first it's getting your fingers in shape, it's getting all that. But then, once you 'own' this piece of music... then it flows, then it's like this whole other thing comes over you. It's this ability to become the music.

I have even more respect for Steve Vai now than I did before. This simple discussion encompasses artistic vision, practical goal-setting, perseverance, discipline, and spirituality in one elegant discourse. 

The Article

The article really hit home because it made me realize that in my life, everything else was "Plan B."
In other words, everything else I did was – and is – what was necessary in order to keep doing “Plan A” - which is Art and Music.
Read the article. I applaud Blake Morgan and agree with him 100%.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Is The New Pain In The Ass

So I found my long-lost black guitar strap.

It was in a drawer, nestled snugly between a couple of black t-shirts. How it got there, I do not know... Oh, I have some far-fetched theories and Rube-Goldberg-esque mental images, but in reality I have no idea.

Years ago in art school, I started to wear black. Not because it was hip or fashionable. Because it was PRACTICAL. When you work in charcoal and graphite day in and day out, the only way to NOT look like a displaced coal miner is to wear black. The more black, the less things you have to get black all over - at least as far as it shows.
* A side note - it does not preclude the need to wash your hands and face regularly and check in the mirror... as I found out when talking to a cute redhead on the bus ride home from a long day at the Academy, only to get home and look in the mirror. I discovered - to my shock and horror - why she was giving me strange looks. I appeared to be some kind of coal miner or bizarre inverted mime or something. I laughed so hard I cried.

On top of that, being a rock musician, all of the cool gear is - of course - black. Guitars, cables, straps, carrying bags, amps, microphones and cases. And of course, accessories: pedals, stomp boxes, stands, headphones, connectors, etc. etc. etc.

Then, I recently thought it would be a cool idea to finish the apartment in black - black chair, desk, table... black sheets, pillowcases, comforter and bedspread...

And of course, all my computer gear is also black. Computer, keyboard, monitor, digitizing tablet and pen, speakers... and of course cables, accessories, mouse, etc. etc. etc.

Yeah, it was all very cool. Dude, I'm rockin' the black! But is there such a thing as too much cool? Is there a coolness threshold, beyond which there is no going b(l)ack?

The problem started when they began making all the cool technology stuff small... and black.

Now I set down my phone or flash drive, drop a guitar pick or set aside a computer cable, and I CAN'T FIND ANYTHING!!!
There it is...
Can you find it?
Imagine this: The phone rings. Set your black digitizing pen down on top of the black bedspread on your way to pick up the phone before you miss the call. Then try to find it later. 
Or accidentally drop a thumb drive into the laundry basket, on top of a pile of black t-shirts and socks.Worse yet, drop it into a black shoe without seeing where it went. You get the picture. LOL

Oh yeah... Black is the new pain-in-the-ass.

I have solved the problem for some of the smaller items by wrapping a tiny bit of neon-green duck tape around them. The bright color makes it a bit easier to find against an all-black apartment. LOL
But I am wondering when the pendulum will swing the other direction, and the place will become such a cacophony of intense color that it will be overwhelming, making it impossible to find anything... yet again. Like trying to track down a clown in a carnival. It just blends in... natural camouflage.

Around and around it goes...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

DEAR SANTA... prove that you exist... I DARE YOU!

My trusty

I've been thinking about all the awesome guitars I currently have in my collection, and all the cool guitars I have had the privilege of owning over the years.
I was reminiscing about my Ibanez Paul Gilbert PGM300. It was a great guitar; it looked sharp, played well, and got so many great useable sounds. It was probably the best all-around guitar I ever owned. I do miss that guitar from time to time.
Still, it's fun to think about owning one again.  
So... I started to do some math...

Here's a simple math equation for you.
I decided to look it up online just to see what they were going for these days.
Just for fun.
...Oh yeah, they've increased in market value since the day when I originally purchased mine. That's what I was expecting when I typed "Ibanez Paul Gilbert" into the search engine.  But what I wasn't  expecting to find was this:

Ibanez FRM100TR Fireman
Paul Gilbert Signature Electric Guitar
Transparent Red
I mean... just look at it. What a perfect complement to the Iceman, the Flying Samurai...
It would go great in my collection of somewhat unusual guitars.
I even found a cool interview with Paul Gilbert about the concept and design of the guitar.

Soooooo...... a little re-tooling and I came up with an advanced euqation:
This is the "new math." ;)

This post is tongue-in-cheek; the whole Santa thing is merely a jest.

Don't misunderstand my intentions - I'm simply musing about my personal guitar collection; the adding/subtracting is a process that I enjoy.
A little insight into Mikey as a human being: 
I do not believe in looking to some benevolent external being to give me what I want. I look to myself - my knowledge, skills, experience, and resourcefulness - to acquire and achieve those things that I desire - material, emotional, spiritual. And I believe that it is not only possible, but meant to be.
In my life, I am Santa Claus.

If anything, it is a notice to myself to get crackin' and 'make some shit happen!' LOL

Monday, November 18, 2013


I saw a post that 20 years ago today Nirvana performed 'Unplugged.'  Wow.
That, in turn, got me thinking about my Harmony Buck Owens American guitar.
Of course. 
Which got me to thinking how nice it was to have the guitar home again.
Which led me to the realization that this is the first holiday season that I have all these guitars in the same place - MY place - in over a decade.
It's good to have the family together for the holidays. 
Special thanks to Dino Aristides and Stacey Hanson, for taking care of my guitars for me; and to Pierre Rose and Cassie Owens and Robb 'Hurricane' Zerr, for bringing the last one home. 
And, of course, to my nephew Brenden Lean, who looked after my entire collection with loving care for years while I was off running around the globe.
The 'Family' Top to bottom:
Ibanez Iceman "Stanley,"
Gibson ES-175 "Sonny,"
Harmony Buck Owens American "Buck,"
Fender Acoustic "Samantha,"
Yamaha Flying Samurai "Sam I Am."

Monday, March 4, 2013

New page for JJandMIKEYmusic

JJ and I continue to play acoustic music... now under the name
(yes... it's a very original name....)
Come check us out at