A Little Rebalancing

It can be frustrating at times, having both professional and personal interests that might easily occupy 24 hours of any given day. For me, those interests are playing music (focusing mainly on jazz these days) and Internet startups. Startups are well known for crazy hours, moving fast, and generally consuming one’s life to the point where not much else exists. Non-musicians might not recognize that the quest to improve musically involves a great deal of “woodshedding,” which can be all consuming, as well as refining one’s skills with live performance. In fact, there is a line in jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno’s instructional video, No Nonsense Jazz Guitar, that goes something like (and I’m paraphrasing): “…if you plan to play parties now and then, practicing an hour per day will probably be okay, but if you want to be a jazz artist, you are looking at 8-10 hours per day.”

*sigh* Maybe I could do both, if I stopped sleeping, spent only 10 minutes on each meal, ignored everything that needs to be done around the house, and didn’t mind if my relationship with my wife disintegrated — none of which I am willing to do. What ends up suffering is the music aspect of my life. Logically, it’s not difficult to justify letting music take a back seat to the rest of life. Even if I were in it for the money, the amount received for effort required does not make sense economically compared to other ways of earning a living. And anyone with both a spouse and a house would probably agree that usually woodshedding is not always at the top of the list of priorities. Some people are here on Earth to play music, and with their unbridled passion they rise to a level of proficiency that allows music to be the primary focus of their lives. This is not me. Although musical passion exists in me, due to choices I have made it is not the primary focus in my life. In my experience, being a musician who does not rely on music as a primary source of income requires a fair amount of balance and compromise. This balance between practicality and passion can be a delicate one.

Not enough balance. That’s been my situation for well over a year, with my last performance being at a book signing party during the 2006 National Biodiesel Conference. Sure, I’ve been practicing a bit here and there, but the amount of music related activity in my life is definitely at an all time low. So how to change that? Simple…

Buy a new guitar! In all seriousness, new gear is definitely a motivator that infuses a freshness into one’s personal music quest. (Sure, you can quote me on that.) I’ve been listening to a lot of nylon string guitar, and find myself enjoying it more than ever. My playlist lately contains the likes of Jeff Linsky, Luis Salinas (discovered during our 2003 trip to Argentina), Getz / Gilberto, Jobim and Gene Bertoncini (particularly the Jobim stuff — going through a bit of a Jobim phase right now). A nylon string guitar seemed like a natural choice to fulfill my recent bout of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

Carvin CL450After over analyzing my options online, I decided on the Carvin CL450. Carvin is mainly a mail order shop, but they have a showroom here in San Diego, so it was easy for me to check out the guitar. I had tried out Carvin electric guitars before, and although they seem nice, they just didn’t feel right. My only reference for a nylon string guitar is a Yamaha beginner classical I have had for 20 years and don’t play much, so my “feel” slate was relatively clean as far as nylon string guitars go. I also wanted a guitar with a cutaway and something I could easily amplify, both of which are features of the CL450. In the interest of remaining objective and uncommitted, I resisted the purchase during my first visit to the local Carvin store, but went back a second time knowing I would be walking out with a new guitar.

During my research phase, I had looked up Jeff Linsky’s schedule and discovered a workshop Jeff was teaching on Solo Guitar Arranging and Improvisation in La Jolla. A rare opportunity that was perfectly aligned with my rekindled interest in focusing more on the music aspect of my life. And of course, in order to get the most benefit from the workshop I must have this new guitar. By the way, the workshop was great. Jeff is an amazing player and teacher. I feel inspired and privileged to have spent two days working on my playing with such a master of the instrument. My new CL450 even got a nod from Jeff.

Also on the horizon is my brother’s wedding. Not only am I fulfilling the Best Man role, but he asked my jazz band, So What, to play a few tunes at the reception. Since Mike (drums) will be out of town, this ends up being a duo gig with just me and Ralph (bass). Nylon string guitar and acoustic bass seemed like the perfect combination for a reception to be held at Quail Botanical Gardens.

The stars seem to be aligning pretty well for music to move out of the back seat of my life. There is also a music project I’ll be digging into with Suzanne in the near future that will make use of my new nylon string interest. More on that soon. I still haven’t figured out where to get that extra 8-10 hours a day, though.