I’ve always liked Chet’s performance of “Windy and Warm” on the Porter Wagoner Show television show from 1961 and finally got around to transcribing it all. Check out the sneaky maneuvers at bars 32-33 and 50-51 that combine open strings and fretted notes. Both sections require a pretty good stretch but they’re doable with some work. Give her a spin and let me know what you think. There are a few slides that I haven’t notated and probably a few corrections waiting to be spotted. And if you enjoy the transcription please consider putting a buck in the tip jar.
This is the first post in a series based on concepts I’ve been introduced to by the books Better Than Before and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I also highly recommend her weekly podcast Happier.
What is The Strategy of Convenience?
Not every strategy will work for everyone, but this one is nearly universal. It’s known as the The Strategy of Convenience. Simply put, the easier you make it to do something the more likely you are to do it. Far more likely. In Better than Before, Gretchen gives an example: “…in one cafeteria, when an ice-cream cooler’s lid was left open, thirty percent of diners bought ice cream, but when diners had to open the lid, only fourteen percent bought ice cream, even though the ice cream was visible in both situations.” Crazy right? That’s a big change. So let’s think about ways to make practicing more convenient. Below is a short list of things that have worked for me.
Designate an area in for practice
Think about where you are currently practicing in your home and whether or not it invites you to play music and be creative. It doesn’t need an entire room – even just a corner will work but it should be someplace that makes you feel happy and is relatively free from distractions. If you don’t feel good about your current location you may want to reconsider where you practice or just rearrange things to better suit you. For example: even though I have a room dedicated to keeping my guitars, I’ve found that I prefer to practice in my kitchen because it is the brightest and sunniest room in the house. Because I do want to spend more time in my music room, I’m currently rearranging the room so I can always sit and practice with a view of the sky from the window. and planning to put on a fresh coat of paint to brighten things up. Most people only practice at home, but I have had a few adult students that keep a guitar in their office and practice for a while during their lunch hour.
Take your guitar out of the case
This is the number one problem that many students have. They come home from their lesson, put the case in their room and forget all about it. Remember the ice cream example? If people were half as likely to buy ice cream with the cooler lid closed, how much less likely do you think you’ll be to practice if your guitar is in its case? So from now on do this: As soon as you get home, take your guitar – and all of your lesson materials – out of the case and leave them in your designated practice spot. You don’t have to start practicing right then, but this way they’ll be ready to play whenever you feel the urge. I call this “making an accommodation for my future self.” Do you remember the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? The guys use time-travel loops to set up many of their successes.
Bill: “After the report we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys and leave them here!”
Bill: “I don’t know. How about behind that sign? That way, when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us.” [picks up the keys] “See?”
Ted: “Whoa, yeah!”
I like to think that taking your guitar and lesson materials out of the case is kinda like that. You are momentarily time-travelling. Getting everything ready for “future you” to log some serious practice!
Accessories can make a difference
You don’t need much but having a few items can make your practice space more convenient. Here’s what I recommend:
This is my absolute favorite thing to recommend and it will make such a difference in your life. If you take your guitar out of the case you’ve got to have a safe place for it. Leaning a guitar against a piece of furniture just isn’t very secure. Personally, I like these guitar hangers by String Swing . They mount securely and do a great job of displaying your instrument at eye level so you’ll be even more tempted to play. I have one for every guitar. Yes, you could get a guitar stand but I really like getting the guitar up off the floor. It looks great, saves space, and keeps your axe out of the way of kids and pets.
People often try to skip out on buying a stand but this is really important! Trying to look at sheet music that is lying flat on a desk or bed is difficult and causes you to hunch over you guitar to see it. You can get an inexpensive stand for about $15 but if you are series look for a heavy-duty one. It will last longer and support heavier books, iPads, etc. There’s a reason every single room in a music school has a stand in it!
Make sure your chair is comfy and promotes good posture. If you don’t like sitting in it, try something else.
Get a little bowl or ashtray or something similar and put some of your guitar picks there so you’ll always have them handy. Keep a separate tin of guitar picks in your case or gig bag. Like this Altoids tin pick pack.
Do you face other issues that seem to make practicing inconvenient? Do you have other strategies you use for making it more convenient? Let me know in the comments!
Watch Gretchen Rubin’s video on The Strategy of Convenience
I’ve been using Fender Blues Junior amps (I have two of them) since about 2007. I’ve never had any problems with them but decided that after seven years of use on the original tubes it might be a good idea to have them looked at. I’d also heard a lot of great things about the Eminence 12″ Cannabis Rex as a replacement speaker for the Blues Junior, so decided to pick one up and have it installed in one amp while the amp was in the shop.
I asked Athens area guitar and amp tech Jon Fluharty* to do the work for me. He tested the tubes and found out that all of the preamp tubes were pretty well shot and the power tubes were severely mismatched. I’m not at all knowledgeable when it comes to tubes so I went with Jon’s recommendations that he said would give me a bit more more headroom and better clarity. The tubes installed are as follows: V1 JJ 5751, V2 Sovtek 12AX7WC, V3 Sovtek 12AX7WC Balanced, and V4/V5 Sovtek EL84M. Jon also biased the amp and then took care of breaking in the new speaker by hooking it up to an old Jeff Beck recording and just letting it play for a good 40 hours. Who else would you rather break in your speakers?
There are a ton of mods out there for the Blues Juniors, and although I didn’t ask for this, Jon went ahead and made a couple of tone stack modifications. In the stock amp, it is impossible to completely attenuate the mid frequencies. Jon corrected this so that the mids can be turned down completely if desired. He also beefed up the response on the bass knob. Where once the bass was anemic and made little difference below a setting of about 8, it now has a huge bass response and with lot more even control.
Since I now have both a stock amp and the newly modified one sitting next to each other, I attempted to create a video to demo the differences. Please note that the camera’s internal microphone did not do a very good job of picking up just how much difference there is in the the low-end response and the noticeable volume boost the modded amp has. I don’t know if the changes would be everyone’s cup of tea and some might even suggest that I should have bought a different amp in the first place, but I’m extremely pleased with the result of the updates and mods and look forward to upgrading the other amp sometime soon.
*Jon Fluharty does not currently have a website but if you are interested in contacting him please leave a note in the comments or email me via the Contact John page and I’ll put you in touch!
Guitarist Adam Rafferty is now introducing digital downloads of his popular instructional videos that walk players through his funky fingerstyle arrangements of Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five. This is a great solution for folks who primarily use devices that don’t contain DVD players or who just want to be able to access the video lessons on their mobile devices.
I’ve tried the digital downloads out and they work great. Here’s a quick overview of the process:
The videos are sold via a company called Leaping Brain who also distribute content for Homespun Music Instruction and dozens of other well-known clients. You can visit this page to see all of Adam’s available titles: https://leapingbrain.com/modshop/?shop=194&
Upon purchasing a video, PC and Mac users are be prompted to download a special “Adam Rafferty Player” which basically acts as a container to organize the raw video and PDF files. Users can then download and launch all of their purchased content via the player. The videos will launch in their own player which has the ability to play the lessons at half- and quarter-speed and to select a portion of the video loop over and over. Great features for those elusive sections you need to see and hear several times to get a grip on them!
Tablet and smart phone users are prompted to click through to Leaping Brain’s “MOD Cloud Player” which loads as a regular browser page showing all of the purchased content available for streaming. I first tried the cloud player with Adam’s “How to Solo Over II-V-I Changes for Jazz Guitar” and found that the videos did not stream. However all of the other titles work just fine on both my iPhone 4 and on my PC. The vids all feature excellent sound and video quality and buffered almost instantly. I suspect that the II-V-I video had just not yet been converted for live streaming as of this writing.
Leaping Brain also offers an iPhone/iPad app called MOD Mobile that sells for $1.99. This app allows users to transfer the video files from a PC or Mac to a mobile device via iTunes. It takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish this, but if you don’t want to eat up your data plan or bandwidth streaming the videos this solution makes a lot of sense as all of the files will reside on your device. Although there are some negative reviews of MOD Mobile on iTunes, The app worked flawlessly for me.
One more special feature of the digital download are the newly formatted booklets of the arrangements. The music in the included files is significantly larger than what is in the booklets that are provided with the DVDs. This makes for much easier reading and study. However, in order to protect the content the music only opens in it’s own PDF reader-type program and can’t be copied or shared. The booklet may be printed to your default printer but you can only print the entire book so be sure to have plenty of paper (about 60 pages) and ink ready to go!
These digital versions of Adam’s instructional videos are an excellent value and will likely be the preferred method of delivery for on-the-go players.