Get Better

Jimmy Bruno

Jimmy Bruno is 3 years older than me. And he is an incredible jazz guitarist. He started his professional career at 19, touring with Buddy Rich. He also led Frank Sinatra’s band.

I am now a virtual student of his and I am thoroughly enjoying working through his program. I am enrolled for a year. The program is very challenging particularly in the advanced levels.

I was looking for ways to be challenged and to get better on the instrument. Most of my playing is within a church context and I was not growing musically. The charts and arrangements, although interesting, are not technically demanding. I found that in the past few years, I was getting stale.

My goal for 2015 is to excel in jazz guitar and Jimmy’s workshop will help me in my journey to become a better musician.

Super Champ

Phil Keaggy

Early eighties. I went to see Phil Keaggy play.

I was totally blown away. What a guitar player.

He had the simplest of setups: a Strat, a Fender Super Champ and a Shure SM-57.

I already had a Strat and an SM-57. All I needed to sound like Phil was a Super Champ.

I went out the very next day and picked up a brand new 1984 Fender Super Champ. In response to a steep decline in amplifier sales in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Fender had restructured their amplifier design team in 1982. Managed by Paul Rivera the team moved quickly in creating a series of Fender Amps of which the Super Champ was one. I did not know that the amp would one day become a bit of a prized collector’s item. To me, it was my guitar hero’s amp.

It is one of the few pieces that I have carried with me as a guitar player over the past thirty years or so. That and my 1972 Guild D-40 and my 1976 Les Paul.

Well, I plugged it in a few months back.

Fender Super Champ

Bang! Poof!

A thick, noxious plume of smoke emerged from the amp. Not good.

I took it in to my amp tech for repair. Here was his diagnosis:

Hi Richard,

I’ve had a chance to look at your amp. The main problem: shorts in your filter capacitors. This also burnt some of the dropping resistors in your power supply.

Usually I can replace a single can (containing 4 capacitors) with single capacitors. On this amp there is no room under the chassis to do this.

I will have to order this multiple cap can from the US.

While I am replacing these caps, I would strongly advise you to replace all the remaining electrolytic caps in the amp as these will all go bad eventually.

In for a penny, in for a pound. Of course it needed to be recapped. It is, after all, a pretty old machine. It has great sentimental value to me that little amp. Should be back home in another week or so.

The Perfect Moment

There is no perfect time. There never will be.

Just so you know, nobody is going to give you any moments. You have to take moments.

Hunt them. Chase them. Make them happen.

Scratch and gouge moments out of other times. Chip off tiny flakes of moments from the monolith of your day. Use your teeth if you must — bite off mouthfuls of those moments.

You are holding the chisel and the pickaxe. You are the miner of your moments.

This frustrates us, of course.

It shouldn’t be this way, we think. Everyone else’s moments just… come to them. Everyone else has enough time. Enough money. Enough motivation. Enough information.

But it is this way. For everyone.

This is how it is, with moments. Moments resist expectations like water resists the intrusion of oil.

However, there is a perfect moment. There is actually always a perfect moment.

That perfect moment is now.

Although focused on fitness and nutrition and an obvious marketing pitch at the end, this post is a powerful statement on why some people achieve their goals and others do not.

Getting started now is a big part of making something happen.

Quest For Tone

There is usually quite a debate about pedals and tone. One thread that I have followed recently involved the use of Boss pedals and whether there were any particular advantages to using boutique pedals from a tone perspective.

For those that may not be in the know, the holy grail of overdrive pedals is the Klon Centaur. The originals are generally available on eBay for somewhere around $1,500 – 2,000. That is a lot of money to spend on an overdrive pedal.

But, as this video demonstrates, there really is very little difference in tone between the Klon and a Boss pedal. And very little difference between the Klon and a few other pedal choices.

Perhaps I need to give up this quest for tone and buy a bunch of Boss pedals.

Best Reads in 2014

A friend asked me for some recommendations from my reading list last year. I generally read 30 – 50 books a year.

Some of my favourites from 2014:

  • How Google Works – Eric Schmidt
  • Flash Boys – Michael Lewis
  • Zero to One – Peter Thiel
  • Fewer, Bigger, Bolder – Sanjay Khosla
  • Left Brain, Right Stuff – Phil Rosenzweig
  • Scaling Up Excellence – Robert Sutton
  • Overworked and Overwhelmed – Scott Elbin
  • The Organized Mind – Daniel Levitin
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • The Phoenix Project – Gene Kim

There were a number of books that I did not enjoy in 2014. I tend to either ditch them early or endure them with the faint hope that perhaps things will get better later on in the book.

One example? Capital by Thomas Piketty.

This is what Stevereads had to say about it:

Like a few other culprits on our list this time around, Piketty’s bloated, nearly-unreadable crap-suzette ‘study’ of the fissile nature of capitalist societies wouldn’t have gained anywhere near the level of notoriety it did if it weren’t for the craven me-tooism of its reviewers. For two awful months (until, South Sea-style, the thing’s bubble burst under the pressure of its own absurdity), it was lovingly and lengthily reviewed in every literary journal in Christendom, and if professional reviewers were out of their depth and required actual economists to step in and write pieces pointing out Piketty’s errors, fair enough. But the only reason so many non-economist reviewers even attempted it in the first place was a plain, damning thing…

The book that I enjoyed the most from 2014 was Console Wars by Blake Harris. From the website:

Console Wars is the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, give birth to a sixty-billion-dollar industry.

Antelope Canyon

Here is a black and white shot of Antelope Canyon in Arizona:

Antelope Canyon

And here is another one:

Antelope Canyon

The difference? Composition and post processing. And something else.

The second shot is from Peter Lik and it recently sold for $6.5 million which makes it the most expensive photograph ever sold.