R.I.P. Allan Holdsworth


My heart goes out to Louise, Rori, Emily, Sam, and all who knew and loved him.

I had the opportunity to hang out for a few hours with Allan at NAMM this year. I was able to really sit and talk with him at length, and tell him how much he meant to me, to his fans, and tell him just how much of a positive impact he had on the world. He teared up a little and was extremely grateful for everyone’s support through the years. In that space, among many other things, I just wanted him to hear how loved he was. How much his fans treasured him.

My favorite moment was sharing pictures and stories of my kids with him. He was so kind and receptive. (We spent maybe a total of 10-15 minutes talking anything about music). Because I know he gets inundated with that all the time, I just let it be a nice time without all of that.

The main point I wanted him to hear was “we love you, we are grateful.” All of us wishing we had said these things, deeply, to him while he was here…I did. For all of us. I made sure of it.

The reason I share the story at all is not to boast. I’m not the only person to have met him or hung out at length. I wasn’t his best friend, nor did I call him every day.

I just want to let everyone know that he appreciated all of you, that he heard about our love clearly, in a down to earth manner, without the usual hustle of a meet and greet, or the pressure surrounding a gig.

It was a unique and special time I will cherish forever. He was such a sweet man and a lovely presence to be around. You’d never know he was a Legend.

Even though the circumstances are profoundly sad, I thought to myself (while driving and listening to Holdsworth), that at this very moment, Allan’s music is likely being listened to, ALL AT ONCE, by MORE people than at any time in history. That brought a smile and a tear.

His impact will outlast us all.

Rest well, Master. You’ve earned it.16422231_10155611750110021_6672013467292161795_o



SUPPORT your fellow musicians and artists NOW

PLEASE. for the love of GOD, SUPPORT your fellow musicians and artists NOW. While they are still alive. Encourage others to do the same. I’m ESPECIALLY talking about artists on the fringe. People like Holdsworth, who have the conviction to STAY TRUE to who they are and not compromise their artistic integrity for a paycheck, they NEED US. NOW. (Imagine a world without not only musicians, but INNOVATORS like Charlie Parker, Holdsworth, Stravinsky, Zappa, Hendrix)

Why are there so few hitting the scene now? Because it sucks to even try for most of them. (Why are we even teaching kids how to play an instrument at all if they are going to just end up broke and suffering?) I often tell MY students, sadly, to do something ELSE for a living, but to try as hard as they can to get as good as they can. THAT is a terrible place to be in, as a society. They should have the same chance to be wide-eyed, dreamers, like WE were.

STOP SHARING FREE FILES. PURCHASE their music. BUY concert tickets and merch. GO to their local shows (and tell the clubs you LIKE them supporting independent artists). PAY FOR LESSONS with them. TELL them you appreciate their endeavors.

Turn your friends, family and students on to their music and teach them about intellectual property, assuring they will be more likely to spend MONEY on the artists they learn about. (Artists BUST their asses on a track, release it and it sinks like a stone and they are often left wondering “why the hell do I even bother anymore?”) Tell them. BUY IT. SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT!

If you have industry connections that could help someone you totally love, SET THEM UP with a contact and help them get support and get heard, so they can thrive.

Do what you can to ELEVATE TRUE artistry and educate people on the emptiness and shallow sea of 4 chord, auto-tuned crap, and the VALUE of breaking down barriers as some like Allan did. Share LINKS to PURCHASE the products of your favorite players.

The occasional YouTube video might get someone interested, but INSIST they go and pay for it. Tell them WHY this is a GOOD thing to do.

Support artists just for being bold enough to take a chance. I lead by example. I often will buy someone’s music to encourage them, even if it isn’t entirely “my” thing. It encourages them to stay true to who they are. THAT is just as important as YOU liking it on a deep personal level.

To you, it’s only $10, $20, $50 but add that up if you ensure 100 other people do the same, Imagine what that would do for someone? And if you KNOW someone who is kicking ass, but broke and not financially astute, GUIDE them to proper decisions, so they don’t make BAD ones and wind up poor in the end.

Thank you. (and share the SHIT out of this post).

Stop Worrying About Becoming the “Next Big Thing”

All too often, I think that players get caught up in becoming “the next Legendary, Impactful Musician” and lose sight of just “Becoming”.
Allow time to pass. With it, let your passion for creating bring you into Becoming. Becoming the fully realized, most authentically expressed possible YOU.
If, over the course of Time’s Arrow, your Becoming is remembered, then it will be.
if, conversely, you spend all of your allotted slice of Time’s Arrow, burning your fuel of Creative Self on trying to be marked as “Great”, or “As Great As”, you will have failed to fulfill one of Life’s greatest achievements: Becoming entirely, your Truest Self.
Those musicians who have become our Legends, have done so with ZERO intention towards the goal of being remembered. Their ONLY intention was to simply Become Themselves, fully expressed.
Ask: “is what I am doing right now, allowing the fullest, most authentic version of my truest expression, to manifest?”
Ask: “is what I am doing right now, merely an attempt at duplicating someone ELSE’S full realization of THEIR truest, most authentic expression?”
Certainly, to be inspired, to be influenced, to model, are all paths to realization. But, at some point, we must release that which sparked our growth, to it’s own path and pursue our own, independent expression.


Experience and Approach

As a Musician:

Styles in which I play and specialize on guitar: jazz, rock, pop, jazz fusion, blues, R&B, P&W/Gospel, funk.

Other skills include: arranging, orchestration, music production, music for media, composing and co-production of experiential theater shows.

Although I play guitar as my main instrument, I also play drums, bass, keys, write for all contemporary instruments, full orchestra, vocal ensembles, percussion ensembles etc.

As an Instructor as it applies to level and age:

I have been teaching privately since 1992.

I teach all levels, all ages, beginning to advanced; experience with special needs students (my son is Autistic and has Down and I’m familiar with, and not at all apprehensive with, students who have similar challenges; I have had several students with varying special abilities).

I develop relationships with parents and inspire them to be motivational and supportive to their kids in a way that is not overbearing. BEGINNING AND YOUNG

Practice schedules (daily, weekly, monthly) are given with accountability to time spent. Incentives given for tasks completed. Depending on the age, a parent initials. BEGINNING

Energize and inspire students’ love of music, many styles, with respect for what they already know and enjoy. ALL LEVELS

Remind them that this is supposed to be fun. Practice is something to which they can look forward, not dread. No fear of reprisal if they don’t get something right away. ALL

Instruct on a personal level with students: developing a plan unique to each student and their own personal goals, dreams, etc…not simply drive them through “Method Book Series 1-6”, so to speak. I create my own lessons from my own vast library of resources. Many materials are in electronic file format and can be easily shared via email, or Dropbox folders. ALL

I give clear expectations from week to week, goals to be met. When certain goals are met, they earn the reward of being able to choose something (a song they like, etc) to learn. It incentivizes them to work on the tools they will need to learn those songs. ALL

I remind them that time spent is more about quality and consistency, not merely minutes or hours in one sitting. Practicing daily, for a minimum time is better than 6 hours one day and skipping the others. ALL

I teach proper physical maintenance: stretching, rest, breathing, sleep, diet, listening to their body if it is tired or fatigued. ALL

I teach a similar foundation of basics:

The notes names and locations on instrument, tuning, chords, scales, functional harmony via understanding of number system and chord scale relationships; development of their inner ear via ear training so that they can, on their own (eventually) learn songs by ear with full awareness and understanding of what they are hearing. Develop a desire for them to write their own music via that same understanding and experimentation with chords through harmonic function exercises. ALL

In the context of, and throughout the duration of lessons, I teach:

theory, harmony, improv, songwriting, composition, active listening, music technology, orchestration and arranging of (everything from rock bands, jazz ensembles, to full orchestral music), music history, music production and public release, live performance (song preparation, equipment, etiquette, overcoming stage fright). ALL

MUSIC APPRECIATION: I introduce them to many different (age appropriate) styles of music beyond which they have been exposed in listening sessions or via recommended lists. ALL

I provide 400+ backing tracks via Dropbox over which students can try out improvisational concepts, rhythm and harmonic concepts. ALL

I bring the experience of having been a full time musician since 1990 (having played guitar since 1980, drums since 1974). I’ve played with dozens of bands, been the full time staff arranger, music director, guitarist at a mega church for 18 years, writing and performing on a deadline for performance before 2,000+ people per week. I’ve transcribed, composed and arranged somewhere between 5,000-10,000 pieces of music in every style, performing close to 6,000 shows in various contexts since 1990.

Accomplishments include:

C.D. Released in 2003 made the Grammy Finalists list for nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album;

In 2005, I was in the top 4 in the top 10 finalists for Guitar Player Magazine‘s contest, flown out to perform live at the Rock and a Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland before judges Joe Satriani, Steve Lukather and the editors of Guitar Player Magazine (3,000 audio submissions from all over the world were my initial competition).

My recent contemporary jazz release “Remember” in March 2015

Cirque du Soleil drummer, Andre Boyd, will be performing several of my contemporary jazz compositions in his drum clinics all over the world this year, beginning in Asia and Australia.

My orchestral media cues have been licensed exclusively with Audiosparx since 2011.

I’ve been commissioned to write pieces for churches, orchestral arrangements for songwriter/artists, guest guitar solos on major releases (Deane Ogden, Chris Crain, Jon Gillespie, Basil Fearrington, Wendell Holmes, Ryo Ishido).

I bring the experience of every note I’ve written, on a deadline; every moment on stage, under pressure, (during performance as a leader or a sideman) to each student I teach. I make every effort to instill a passionate, strong work ethic; as well as proper attitude and character towards their fellow musicians.



The Loss of James Horner and the Lasting Emotional Resonance of Film Music

The overwhelming reaction to the tragic passing of composer James Horner is not just a testimony to the impact of HIS music and life (which is staggering) but even more so, the impact of film music in general as a soundtrack to ALL of our lives.

Films have increasingly evolved into alternate timelines for us all. Realities that intertwine with our own so tightly that it’s impossible to recall our own lives without referring to favorite films as signposts, benchmarks and placeholders.

We go to movies to be entertained and in the flash of 2 hours, we are transformed. The events occurring in parallel in our own lives are forever etched into our deep memories and guided there by these plots and arcs and characters. But then, burned even deeper by associated themes and melodies, glorious soundscapes and unforgettable motifs brought to us by the world’s great film composers.

The film composer’s main purpose is to accent and help color an emotional moment and breathe life into the souls of characters, to weave connective tissue into the fabric of the story. Our collective experience as a species has been profoundly connected through movies and by the universality of the language of music.

The average moviegoer may not have any specific idea, any tangible explanation for this phenomenon, but for those of us who aspire to become a part of that tapestry, those who have been listening more actively, the impact is much more profound. Those listening intently are awash in the beauty of the craft, but for those not given to a musical mind, it is much more subtle. An average moviegoer has no idea why they are brought to tears, moved to action, brought to their feet, but the resonance of those moments is made possible by the music. The memory of how they FELT in those moments was cemented by the music.

If a composer has done their job, the music in a film never demands attention, but rather invisibly, like the air we breathe, is vital to the life of the film. However, once the moviegoer has left the theater, what resonates, what draws them back to the connection they had, what reminds them of the time and events of their own lives and the associated emotions, is the music.

I doubt, no matter how masterfully shot, that any scene from a film could be viewed silently and carry the same weight as a piece of music heard without it’s associated imagery.

I’m not alone in saying that there are just certain themes and pieces from film music that when I hear them, bring me DIRECTLY back to my OWN experiences at the time. As if the score were written to my life, itself. Being a musician, these scores have also had a powerful impact on my own path, professionally. But being a person, the music breathes life into my subconscious.

All of this said to remind us of the importance of music. Particularly so, the music of film and television. It is as much a soundtrack to our real lives as it is to the stories told on screen.

As we say goodbye to one of the film music world’s greatest, James Roy Horner, let us rejoice in the music he left with us. He gave us all a gift of hundreds of emotional guideposts and reminders of our own lives in his many scores. Our memories are forever enriched by the joy brought to us through his tapestry of themes.

Close your eyes. Listen. And remember.

One of my favorite scores of James Horner:

A beautiful moment for Mr. Horner:

A list of Mr. Horner’s many scores for film:


A wonderfully complete tribute and list of accomplishments from Jon Burlingame:


RECOMMENDED LISTENING – PURCHASE Jazz Guitarist and Composer Juan Dhas

Let’s embrace the clarity that is the incredibly fluid, flawlessly expressed music of guitarist and composer Juan Dhas.

At only 20 years old, Juan Dhas has released a collection of compositions driven by rich harmonic depth, flowing improvisation, colorful atmospherics and silky guitar tones usually reserved for players twice his age.

A graduate of Berklee and student of guitarist Tim Miller, Juan has taken his experience in those environs to the next logical step: forging an original interpretation of his broad influences, nodding to his mentor, and creating something fresh from his recent time in academia.

All too often, jazz students and recent grads plow forward with a relentless drive to impress and use everything they’ve learned on every tune. As if they are in the heat of their senior recital with all faculty ears attuned.

With Mr. Dhas, he presents an amazingly mature soundscape with laser focused clarity and purposefully embraces a pacing that builds. Never falling into the trappings of youthful insecurities, overstating everything to assure us of his prowess.

Quite the opposite. Juan Dhas takes us on a journey. And it’s a journey reminiscent of the late 70’s ECM label, if I am to associate it with anything familiar. Like those classic recordings from the Classic ECM days, there is an arc to each composition. An arc to the release as a whole. And and overall sense of “place”.

The band is excellent, responsive, attuned to one another. They compliment Juan and his vision with purpose and passion, as if the project were their own. Without overshadowing one another, Juan on guitar; Benjamin Furman on Piano/Keyboards; Alex Gorchesky on Bass; and Aaron Lawson on Drums allow the music to be the protagonist of this story. The journey to be the reason to maintain rapt attention.

I’m not the kind of reviewer who, song by song, attempts to paint pictures of each one with descriptions of solos, tones, and moments created. Rather, I will leave that to each listener. Take the journey. Allow your own soul to connect to the aural landscapes within. Know that it’s a journey worth taking and trust that it will leave you not merely impressed, but moved by having experienced it.

At 7.00USD it’s a steal of a deal on BandCamp:


– Scott Jones (For the Evolving Musician, Composer, guitarist)

Recommended Purchase – Scott Henderson “Vibe Station”

Likely the Guitar Release of the Decade, or this Century thus far. Seriously.

Dear Lords of Fusion, the new Scott Henderson release is beyond amazing. His clearest, best conceived work since the mid 90’s Tribal Tech. (And that’s no slight to anything else he’s done, for real, it’s ALL brilliant, just giving a benchmark).

Anyway…The tone alone is orgasmic. A master class in everything that’s great about the genre. The writing, the depth of harmonic concept, the improv language…all truly remarkable and the work of a living legend.

The band is as killing as any he’s ever been with, too. Travis Carlton on bass and Alan Hertz on drums (also engineered). If you play guitar in ANY genre, from rock, to blues, to traditional jazz, to blistering fusion, and you DON’T buy this, shame on you. Your brain will and heart will never forgive you. It would be like not owning Are You Experienced. If you’re a bassist or a drummer you owe it to yourself to hear this sensitive, air tight rhythm section. It’s one of the best and most supportive I’ve heard in years.

(Links to buy below).

Reminder, if you PIRATE THIS, you are STEALING DIRECTLY from the man himself and his family. This includes uploading the tracks to YouTube and posting them throughout the web. Let Scott do that if he wants on his own page and let HIM get the revenue. You do it, you’re just being a thief.

Also, don’t listen to this on some crappy phone or device speakers. The production is crystalline and deep. A ton of work went into crafting the SOUND OF THIS RECORD. Do yourself a favor. Listen on a system worthy of the art.

Abstract Logix: http://www.abstractlogix.com/xcart/product.php?productid=26247
Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00W4EAF1E
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/vibe-station/id985690995
CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/scotthenderson

Facebook Scott Henderson discussion group:

Tackling Stage Fright

Getting Over Stage Fright, the Natural Classical Guitar and Barry Green material).

First of all, it’s important to understand what is the cause of stage
fright. It’s similar to any other fright: if we know we are not able to
control something, we get fright. Just to give you an easy example:
you are happily driving your car, you know how to do the various
things, in a word, you can control your car. But, suddenly, the road is
icy, slippery, you want to turn left but the steer doesn’t work, your car
goes straight. You start getting some fright, so you want to stop it but
because of the ice the brakes have no effect; you get more and more
fright because now you know you can’t control what’s going on and
eventually you and your car end up against the rail of that curve.

The same thing happens when playing an instrument.
The more you know you can’t control the technical aspects of what you are doing,
the more you are going to worry about it. In fact, we tend to get more
nervous about difficult things, because most of times we are not sure
we can control them.

First of all, it’s necessary to solve the problems concerned with the
physical side of playing. So here, for each of these universal fears,
there are causes and cures explained, together with practical

How to use the natural body balances and movements to get to master
difficult things, have a flowing sense and in control, how to prevent

But don’t just read it, do it!


a. Hearing
b. Listening


Causes and cures: tips to practice fast passages, how to learn a piece
to play by heart, which words create a mental state of tension,
while others help to create ease and flexibility, so you know which
ones to use when talking, teaching, even thinking about playing. How
to use your imagination for help with this and to create your musical


Causes and cures: I personally think that this is the most difficult
fear to overcome, because even when you have got rid of the technical
problems that made you insecure, still there is the fear of other
people’s judgement. This applies to many aspects of life, but it’s
especially true of playing an instrument, it’s the identification of one’s
personal worth with the “goodness” of playing.

I personally think that another way to help reduce stage fright is to try
to eliminate this attitude of fierce criticism, so prevalent especially
among music students and no-longer-students. The more you criticize,
the more you are bound to be nervous when your turn to play comes,
especially in front of “friends” or people you know, because you are
aware of what they would think of your performance and, what’s
worst, of you as a person.

So, why not try and stop criticizing other players for every tiny mistake or other things?

I adopted this attitude, “OK, that’s the way he/she plays, it’s their choice,

it’s not my job to judge other people’s playing, it doesn’t make me a better player

so what’s the point of criticizing?”

By the way, I’ve found it useful not only for music, but for other situations,

it makes me more tolerant of other people’s faults and less worried about their judgement.




Playing and practicing is more a matter of mental attitude, not a
mechanical thing, it’s about what we mean to do with it. Here is some
general advice about how to practice (see why practicing itself can be
a major cause of stage fright), prepare for performances. So change
your attitude and you change the results. Read quotes from the
famous violin player Fritz Kreisler, who was famed for not practicing
much, see what he says about relying on muscular exercise only and
about practicing before a performance.

Other things you can do:

When I was working on this, I did all sorts of musical things, which
could, in one way or another, be helpful in improving my playing: I
started playing with all styles of players, in pub sessions, churches,
learned to play by ear (and more…, you’ll see later on), just to regain
that genuine feeling of doing it for pleasure, without worries.

We get used to think that if we make a mistake it’s a tremendous
crime, so we focus our attention only on not making any error,
forgetting the musical communication. Of course, it’s nice not to make
mistakes, but if that becomes your only concern, oh, what a boring

One learns from mistakes, so, something else you could do to
overcome stage fright, is find situations to play where you are
allowed to make mistakes because people are not there to judge
you but they are only willing to receive and enjoy your music.

When speaking with my students or other players who say they get
nervous, I advise them to go and play at their church during a
function, or play at an elderly people’s home or play for little children,
easy things to make them enjoy it, have fun, tell them a story. Even if
you make some mistakes, so, what’s going to happen? They’d never
notice it but they would love you for the gift of music that you can
give them, they’d ask you for more music and this will help you to
build confidence in yourself, in your ability to play and to communicate
and you’ll be able to play more and more demanding pieces.

Then you can go home and practice the passages that need
improvement. And if you can play by heart, without reading the music,
much better, so you can look at people right in their eyes, “talk” to
them with music, smile. Start with something simple and enjoy it.

If you still need some practice in performing your piece in front of an
audience before a big event, the final touch, for many the scariest
thing you can do is some busking. Yes, go and play in the streets,
there you have an audience, the situation is challenging, it may be
noisy, people coming and going, a lot of distractions, you may have to
cope with the idea of “what will they think of me?” (but who cares
what they think?), but if you can cope with this, then performing in
any other situation will seem easier.

To conclude, you can do something about stage fright, improve your
playing and enjoy yourself when you play, feel the emotion of making
and giving music to your listeners, cause emotions in your listeners.

Start giving your music to everyone, see the nice comments you might
receive…and people dancing to your music…and you’ll feel much more confident and able.

I found these books I mentioned very useful and if you have any
doubts about how to solve some problems and so far you haven’t
found answers, I warmly recommend them to you!

If you want some more help and tips, I do teach guitar and bass. This
is the way I teach and I see that my pupils have a nice tone from the
very beginning, enjoy themselves much more, learn more quickly.

Playing is not just doing all the right notes, as Kató Havas says:

“It is important to realize that our responsibility as musicians lies just
in this – in the lifting up emotionally and aesthetically of all our
listeners, regardless of whether they are examiners, auditioners, or
members of an audience. If all our energies were channelled into
giving people, through the medium of music, a deeper understanding
of their own potential as part of the wonderful mysteries that the
universe contains, we would not only do justice to ourselves as
musicians, but stage fright would be banished from the face of this
earth forever.”

You can never prepare too much. You need as much
knowledge at your disposal as possible. When the time
comes, nerves will be in the distance. Extra work gives you a
backlog of possibility to feed off of, knowing no stone has
been left unturned.

Don’t practice mistakes.

Learn first, then practice what you have learned.

Spend a great deal of time listening to a piece before
attempting to play it.

Practice away from your instrument.

Use the STOP method:
Stop-take a break.
Proceed- get back to work.

Practice slowly.

Internalize by singing what you want to learn.

Don’t over think, just play.

Focus on the music. Not what others think.

Focus on what you have accomplished and what you can do.

Enjoy your anxieties.

Play with an uncluttered mind.

When you desire to have a good performance, visualize it
and you will believe it to be.

A solid, focused warm up routine.

Don’t panic-focus on one thing at a time.

Remind yourself of what brought you to this moment.

Believe in yourself.

To perform fearlessly, don’t be worried about how your music
is received.

Only concern yourself with being honest and convincing.




Reduce your fear and anxiety associated with public speaking or performing.

Lessen your anticipatory anxiety, prior to public speaking and performing events.

Reduce avoidance of public speaking and performing opportunities.

Learn ways to calm your physical symptoms and empower your mind set
when facing this challenge.

Increase feelings of confidence and ease when speaking or performing and
create the possibility of coming to enjoy the experience!

1.) Breathing Patterns.

2.) Visualize The Audience Clapping At The End.

3.) Practice Out Loud And Within Your Mind.

4.) Video Tape Your Self, And Work On Things You Need To Work On.

5.) Use Positive Affirmations.

6.) Possible Use Body Language Gestures Or NLP (Neuro-linguistic
Programming) Communication Techniques.

7.) Tell Yourself Your A Brilliant Player,

8.) Imagine That! You Were In The Audience Watching, And Thinking “I Wish
I Could Do That”, Then Realize Your Amazing! – I’m (whatever age), this is
what I do!


What follows is a thumb-nail sketch of ideas and suggestions.

Aims at presenting an overall approach to the art of playing music with
minimum effort if not effortlessly.

Here are 10 ‘principles’ which
appear in the following order:

Let Nature Support Your Playing
Increase Mind/Body Awareness
Develop Natural Concentration
Cultivate Dynamic Relaxation
Apply the Play-Relax Technique
Refine Your Guitar Skills
Learn from the Masters
Use the Mind Over Fingers Approach
Share Your Enjoyment of Music
Evolve from the Instrument to the Self

An Overview

“The best guitarists make playing look easy. In fact, it is easy for
them”. But how could it be possible for the average guitar player to
reach that distant goal of effortless playing? Simply, by allowing
nature play her part. The cooperation between nature and guitarist
can yield excellent results. Delving into each of the above ten
principles, we observe the following:

1. Let Nature Support Your Playing

The imperative ‘do less, accomplish more’ is the main theme of the
first chapter of this book. I hold the view that the ‘principle of
minimum effort’ is the root idea of successful guitar playing; and in
order to reinforce this view, I marshal some philosophical ideas from
the East, such as Yoga, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism. We learn that
nature loves economy and minimal effort.

Therefore, we should let nature to do her work every time we take the guitar

and start playing a piece of music. Example: An intelligent woodsman

splits a log easier by allowing the natural force of gravity to help him bring down the axe.

Similarly, the intelligent guitarist finds it easier to press down the strings with his/her

left-hand if he/she allows the natural weight of his/her arm to provide much of the pressure.

2. Increase Mind/Body Awareness

In this chapter we find ourselves in deeper water. We may have a very
good guitar teacher, excellent instruction books, and a large collection
of fine recorded guitar pieces. But the value of all these things is
limited if we are not aware of what takes place in our mind, our body,
and in the music we are playing. Here I’ll use the act of eating of an
apple with the playing of the guitar: “To get the full value from eating
an apple, your full attention needs to be on the apple; to get the most
enjoyment from playing the guitar, your full attention needs to be on
the guitar”. This can only be done if we settle our mind and relax our
body. ‘Settling the mind’ means ‘emptying it’. A completely ‘empty’
mind with no disturbing thoughts is like a tranquil lake with no ripples
on its surface. Conclusion: Having a settled mind and a relaxed body
enables us to play the guitar with minimum effort and to become
aware of the subtleties of the music we are playing (tone production,
color, dynamics, articulation, etc.).

3. Develop Natural Concentration

This chapter stresses the importance of natural concentration, which
enables us to focus our attention on one aspect of guitar playing at a
given moment (a melodic line, a rest stroke, a shift of the left-hand,
etc.). Good concentration translates into good playing. The technique
of natural concentration can be derived from the practical teachings of

4. Cultivate Dynamic Relaxation

Here the discussion is on the question of balance. The author makes
the point that, when we play the guitar in complete accord with the
principle of minimum effort, we find ourselves in a balanced state of
mind and body. Aldous Huxley has called this balanced state ‘dynamic
relaxation’. Its main characteristic is the balance of opposite
tendencies (activity and rest, tension and relaxation) in both mind and
body. The author recognizes the prima facie paradox of this state, but
at the same time he believes that it is possible for activity to be
combined with relaxation. In this state of dynamic relaxation
(balancing the opposites) we feel completely relaxed, even when
playing demanding pieces of music. Again, the author touches upon
the philosophies of the East, which he analyzes with some examples.

5. Apply the Play-Relax Technique

The ‘play-relax’ technique is based on an ancient idea that, if we want
to achieve a specific result, we must master its opposite. The
followers of Taoism say “empty and be full.” Leo Brouwer, the Cuban
guitarist-composer, recommended the same approach to his students.
There is no doubt that the proper guitar playing demands proper
relaxation. But what is ‘proper relaxation?’ The author says it is “the
balanced alternation between playing and not playing.” A good
guitarist knows how to take full advantage of the opportunity to relax
his/her hands and fingers “between the notes and the playing
movements.” When a balanced alternation between playing and not
playing is reached, guitar playing becomes almost effortless.

6. Refine Your Guitar Skills

I now speak of the importance of perfecting our guitar playing
technique. In my view, we cannot enjoy the benefits of dynamic
relaxation if we pay no attention to details, both musical and technical.

Lack of emphasis on details, such as good tone, effortless flow of
fingers, damping of unwanted notes, shaping melodic lines, etc.,
makes guitar playing less satisfactory and less enjoyable. The beauty
resides in the details (see the colorful structure of a butterfly wing, the
fine veins of an oak leaf, etc.). And while I take the trouble to enter
into the subject of details, I also deal with tone color, articulation,
natural fingering, making left-hand connections, etc.

7. Learn from the Masters

Undoubtedly, imitating good players is one of the most natural ways of
learning to play the guitar. The child learns the mother tongue by
imitating the mother. Similarly, the guitar student learns directly from
the teacher by imitating him/her. Having a fine teacher and using
him/her as a model, the student avoids the common mistakes that
most self-taught students make. A good teacher is able to make
maximum use of the student’s artistic potential. Examining the
imitative learning process, I do not neglect to mention how the
masters learned their craft. There are other natural ways of learning,
such as regular, goal-directed practice, breaking down technical
problems, intelligent repetition, memorization techniques, slow
practice, the use of metronome, and other techniques from which we
get the most benefit in an enjoyable way.

8. Use the Mind Over Fingers Approach

Here we find the common opinion (it was also expresses by F. Sor)
that good and effortless guitar playing requires skill, not sheer
strength. Many guitarists believe that by making their fingers strong
through endless repetition of exercises and musical pieces, they will
eventually play the guitar well. But, according to the author, this is
not necessarily so. [Note: Yet Morales states that Barrios, in order to
master a new piece of music, he played it consecutively 100 times
without error!] The author suggests that the best approach to
‘sharpen’ more effectively our guitar playing technique is through
‘mental picturing’ and ‘mental hearing’. The key is: ‘visualize and let it
happen’. This interesting approach is analyzed in some detail in this

9. Share Your Enjoyment of Music

“It is natural to share your enjoyment of the guitar with others. It is
unnatural to be afraid and keep your talent to yourself.” This,
certainly, makes good sense. However, common sense also tells us
that the guitarist should not play for others if he/she is not thoroughly
prepared. The salient point I make is this: When we are playing for
others, the extra enjoyment we (and the others) draw comes from “a
special kind of energy exchange” between the player and the
audience; and when that occurs, the guitarist and the audience
“become perfectly synchronized with the rhythm and feeling of the
music.” I suggest various steps we can take in order to overcome the
fear of playing for others.

10. Evolve from the Guitar to the Self

Finally, we learn that the guitar is something more than just a musical
instrument; it is an excellent means of self-development. When we study it
intelligently, it can help us learn to concentrate better, to memorize more
easily, to improve mind-body coordination, to perform well while remaining
relaxed, to get along well with others, and to harmonize ourselves with our
environment. I believe that, in the final analysis, guitar playing is a subtle
discipline that helps us to reach not only our full mental, physical, and
spiritual potential, but also to become happier human beings.

Getting Over Stage Fright by Janet Esposito

The Natural Classical Guitar by Lee F. Ryan

The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green

If you have time…

My latest work:

Contact me if you’re interested in private music instruction in person or via Skype

On Outside Playing in Improvisation

There are no wrong notes. Only dissonant resolutions lacking conviction.

First, a bit of clarity on the subject of playing outside.
It’s not a simply throwing chaotic note choices into the mix of “inside” notes.

Playing “outside” refers to an improvisational (and compositional) concept most often used by jazz and jazz fusion musicians. (For the purpose of this article, we will stick with it’s use in improv).

The idea of playing outside simply put, involves moving away from the current melodic or harmonic environment into a series of notes that creates tension, momentarily, by using notes that are in dissonance with that current environment.

The key word in the last sentence is “momentarily”. Why? It’s use is most effectively employed when the improviser creates the tension, but then RESOLVES the tension by returning to the original, or expected harmonic or melodic context. Well, kind of.

You CAN utilize the concept of “resolving” to outside notes as well, which is the idea to which my opening statement refers. This requires that the “resolution” on an outside note be played with utter authority and total conviction, lest you sound lost or uncertain. Landing on intentional, tense resolutions CAN be really effective when used properly.

First……and most importantly, though:

To effectively employ outside concepts, one must first have a firm understanding of playing INSIDE. Be able to cover the harmonic environment within expected and consonant parameters. This is crucial to the effective use of dissonance.

What gives outside playing it’s power, often times, is the fact that the notes used are actually inside a melodic space that simply is not where the current harmony resides, thus creating tension for the listener. And that tension having an actual form, shape, or formula provides a clarity rather than simply imposing chaos with no underlying framework.

So be aware that merely haphazardly playing random note choices isn’t necessarily the most effective use of the outside concept. But rather, it is the careful and deliberate choice of notes, superimposed from an opposing construct.

Those deliberate note choices can be scales, triads, intervals, arpeggios that fall outside the the harmonic surroundings. Now, the cool thing is that those note combinations ARE derived from existing shapes, so they may actually contain notes that are common to the given key. Those common tones then provide a connection between the “inside” chord tones, scales, intervals, and the “outside” ones.

So, to reiterate, it’s vital that an improviser have a good grip on the concepts of INSIDE playing before just throwing a bunch of these concepts around.

However, for this article, I’ll assume that you DO understand and are comfortable with playing inside, covering chord changes, etc…and assuming that you’re ready, here are some ways to experiment with stretching the boundaries of creating tension and resolution in your solos:


One of my approaches to playing outside is greatly based on the use of chromaticism…which I define as half-step movement, applied to ANY musical concept, not JUST using the chromatic scale.

1. Chromaticism applied as approach notes to chord tones

Approaching chord tones from either a half step below or a half step above.

The chord Cmaj7 : C E G B
With approach below: (B) C (Eb) E (Gb) G (Bb) B
With approach above: (C#) C (F) E (G#) G (C) B

You can also approach from:

above/below/then chord tone A/B/CT
for example: if the note G were the chosen chord tone you get, G#, Gb, G

below/above/then chord tone B/A/CT
for example: G being the chosen chord tone you get, Gb, G#, G

other variations: CT/A/B/A/CT (G, G#, Gb, G#, G)

So, just outlining a Cmaj7 chord using this concept, with these variations (and others) allows for some very colorful tension and release as you approach the chord tones: C E G B.

2. Chromaticism applied as half step movement of “like” shapes to “like” shapes.

Take an Am triad A C E ( ascending or descending ), and look for when the shape appears throughout a chord scale and as it applies to Am as an upper extension, Amin9 (E G B).

In the key of C major:
A C E is an Amin triad in the key, but the SHAPE also appears as the upper extension E G B, of the A minor 9 chord: A C E G B.

Realizing this, you can move chromatically in half steps from the A C E up or down, using the same SHAPE, toward the E G B extension. It creates a chromatic descent (or ascent) of minor triads, until it reappears as the related extension.

A C E (Amin), Ab Cb Eb (Abmin), G Bb D (Gmin), Gb Bbb Db (Gbmin), F Ab C (Fmin), E G B (Amin9 extension)

This can be applied to any triadic shape in this fashion, as well as four note, tetra chord shapes or motivic cells based on those same triads.

E C B A (Amin-5 b3 2 R), Eb B Bb Ab (Abmin-5 b3 2 R),
D Bb A G (Gmin-5 b3 2 R), Db A Ab Gb (Gbmin-5 b3 2 R) etc…

Extrapolate this idea out to other “like” triads, arpeggios, motivic cells of similar shape or contour.

ALSO: merge the idea of approaching from above and below, using the entire triad.
Amin> Bbmin>Amin>Abmin…etc

3. Chromaticism as applied to intervals.

The same application works with intervals as it does with triads.

Look for “like” intervals with key and move between them chromatically with the same interval. Minor third to minor third. Major third to major third. Any interval.

Find where they appear and reappear and ascend or descend chromatically from and to.

Amin: the B to D is the 9 to 11. It’s an interval of a minor 3rd. The minor 3rd interval appears again as A to C, the R to b3.
Move it chromatically descending as B D>Bb Db>A C

As with any of these applications, extrapolate from them that you can apply them to any other combination within this concept. 2nds, 4ths, etc…

4. Chromaticism as it applies to passing tones within a scale, either standard diatonic modal, symmetrical scales, etc.

This is filling in the whole step gaps within a scale with passing tones.

For instance, a C major scale: C D E F G A B C

Simply filling in EVERY gap ends with a chromatic scale, which is NOT the strongest application, rather, fill in specific gaps, leaving a PART of the diatonic in tact, as such: C D D#E F G G# A B

This way, you don’t lose the strength of the sound of the scale with a blanket use of chromaticism.

You can extrapolate from this example that it can be applied in a similar fashion to all modes, symmetrical scales, other modal systems like melodic minor, etc.

5. Chromaticism as it applies to side stepping, or the half step raising or lowering of an entire modality, motif, cell, scale system, triad, interval, etc…within a single phrase.

This is used when, say you are improvising in A minor pentatonic and temporarily step up to Bb minor pentatonic and resolve back to A minor pentatonic.

Or step down to Ab minor pentatonic, and back up to A minor pentatonic.

You can launch a modal line beginning in D Dorian, step up to D# Dorian and back.

And so on…extrapolate from these examples, the application to other scales, modal systems, etc.


Superimposing tonalities:

For instance:
A minor vamp>>Eb major triad and supporting framework.
Bb major triad and supporting framework.

This imposes tension that brings color to the moment, not expected.

Experiment with a static root and playing different triads, not in the expected key or related framework to discover other interesting sounds.

Superimposing parallel modalities:

You’re in A minor with a Dorian modal context? Then shift between A Dorian, A Lydian, A Locrian, etc…..experiment with shifting back and forth like this with every kind of modal context and the original context, keeping the root the same.

Now for the opening statement…

As I stated previously: no wrong notes, only dissonant resolutions lacking conviction.

First, a short story.

Back in my younger years, I quit playing guitar for a year to immerse myself in studying orchestral composition. At some point, I realized that I wanted to return to guitar. I considered the likelihood that I would be rusty and may be hitting some “wrong notes”, because of lack of practice. That led me to an interesting process.


I proceeded to explore “wrong notes”. In every possible context, I intentionally landed on notes that would normally induce a sour face or grimace from myself, or the listener. (a b9 over a Maj7 chord, etc).

I then proceeded to look for “justifications” for any note over any harmonic environment. I looked for scales that COULD be launched from those “wrong notes”. I looked for chords I could justifiably super impose, using the “wrong notes” as springboards.

In this, I discovered a great many possibilities that I’d likely not have found, had I simply ALWAYS viewed those notes as sour ones, or mistakes. I began to then follow the path of seeking out intentionally resolving on “out” notes, leaving them as they were, landing on them with conviction, rather than as if I’d touched a hot stove.

With THAT approach, I left it up to the LISTENER to fill in the rest of what might have come after that note.

With the idea of hitting those notes with intensity, or conviction, I began to consider that ANY note, or series of notes, CAN work, if played with zero uncertainty, with complete assuredness.


As it sounds.

In a given harmonic context, tension can be effectively created by superimposing harmonic movement over the top of that environment.

For example, over an A minor chord, one can imply an altered V chord (E7alt) sound from a variety of angles. Depending on the altered context, you can draw from E half whole diminished; E Super Locrian, etc.

Another example is over a static vamp, to cycle through a chord cycle, implying a iii vi ii V; a chord cycle moving in 4ths or 5ths; cycle through dominant chords in minor thirds. Over a Dominant tonality, implying a iv min/maj7 chord has a great, colorful effect. Example: over A7, superimpose a D min/maj7 sound (D melodic minor).

Something else to consider. I often joke that if you venture out, if you end your phrase with a blues cliché, then that’s your way of asking forgiveness, and the listener will stay with you. LOL!

And seriously, if you treat EVERY NOTE as a part of a melody, if you phrase the notes as such, no matter how much you stretch the boundaries, it will have a more pleasing sound and will be more palatable.


Lots to digest, I know. However, it’s worth the effort to seek out more possibilities for expressing your own unique language in the art of improvisation.

Finally…all of this is about tension and resolution….you start somewhere familiar, stretch it out, and spring back into place.

In everything…play with CONVICTION….if you are taking chances that YOU don’t back up with authority, then the listener will think you are nuts, and tune you out….if you launch EVERY idea with an attitude of complete control, you will convince the listener as well as yourself.

Improvisers who mastered outside playing that you should listen to, obsessively:
John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, John Scofield, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, David Liebman, Richie Beirach. All reputable jazz and fusion improvisers are well-versed in this concept, but those are a few who impacted MY approach, through the years.

If you think that I may be helpful to you through private instruction, feel free to contact me here. I teach via the web, locally, and can custom make video lessons as well.


If you have time, check out my latest efforts here:

I’ve gone back and re-tracked ALL of my guitar parts on several previously released compositions of mine with the fabulous Carvin HH2, Holdsworth model guitar.

Support by sharing the link everywhere with anyone who might enjoy it!

(Donations are gratefully accepted for the release, as well).


For the Evolving Improviser – Listen to Other Instrumentalists – RECOMMENDED LISTENING – Michael Brecker

When I’m asked who I listened to while developing my improv language, one of the first on my list is the brilliantly inspired late sax player, Mike Brecker (March 29, 1949 – January 13, 2007). Certainly one the finest improvisers in all of human history. 

 No matter what your chosen instrument of expression is, you should ALWAYS be listening to a wide variety of instrumentalists.

If you’re a guitarist with a strong desire to break from sounding like “all of the others”, then listen to sax players, piano players, trumpet players, bass players…

Even if you don’t quite understand the actual, precise language of a soloist in action, then listen for shape, phrasing and contour; gestures and bursts of energy; the range of the solo; the dynamics, the interaction with the rhythm section. Then as time passes and you unravel the concepts, it will become more clear to you, exactly what is going on in someone’s solo.

Here’s one of my favorite solos from Brecker, or from anyone. Ever.

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and Steve Gadd aren’t too bad, either.

Michael Brecker from Chick Corea’s Three Quartets release:


If you have time, check out my latest efforts here:

I’ve gone back and re-tracked ALL of my guitar parts on several previously released compositions of mine with the fabulous Carvin HH2, Holdsworth model guitar.

Support by sharing the link everywhere with anyone who might enjoy it!

Donations are gratefully accepted for the release, as well.