Some interesting statistics on guitar sales. Last year, the Washington Post carried a story on the death of the electric guitar. The various retail reports that I have read show a steady decline in the sales of electric guitars down from about 1.5 million in 2008 to just over 1 million in 2017.
Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, have seen a rise in sales, about a 15 percent growth since 2008.
The market leaders, Fender, Gibson and Taylor, still dominate in terms of sales volume although Gibson has gone through some tough times. Gibson filed for bankruptcy protection in May of 2018.
There are over 260 manufacturers of guitars that are active right now. Guitar sales total roughly $1.3 billion per year. Here is a breakdown from Music Trades:
The folks at Fender told me about a new series that they are producing called the American Performer. They really covered the bases in terms of marketing on the web. There is coverage everywhere on this product launch.
From Fender’s news release:
Handcrafted in Corona,Â Calif.,Â the American Performer Series elevates the standards of performance-grade instruments for artists, makingÂ deliveryÂ seamlessÂ on stage,Â soÂ playersÂ can focus on their art and sharing that in its finest form.Â FeaturingÂ 98Â SKUs, theÂ AmericanÂ Performer Series brings theÂ Jazzmaster, Mustang and Mustang Bass intoÂ theÂ US-madeÂ line in theÂ $1,099.99 – $1,199.99Â price range.Â After listening to direct feedback from artists, productÂ developmentsÂ focusedÂ onÂ creating solutionsÂ for performers. New features include:Â Yosemiteâ„¢Â pickupsÂ officially introduced for this line;Â patent-pendingÂ DoubleTapâ„¢Â humbucking pickups;Â ClassicGearâ„¢ tuning machines;Â special circuitryÂ andÂ enhanced electronics; a 70s style logo in silver on allÂ models; anÂ oversized â€˜70s headstock on Stratocaster models,Â as well asÂ fiveÂ brand-newÂ glossÂ colors and two satin finishes.
Guitar Center put up a video covering the American Performer Tele.
The Strat, pictured above, is my favourite given the limited colour choices for that model. That said, I am not a particular fan of the 1970s style headstock. These are not custom shop instruments mind you. You buy them off the rack as is for a reasonable price. Nice to see them being made in California.
You can take a look at the series on the Fender storefront here.
One day I would like to play like Pete Thorn. Such a talented and tasteful guitarist.
My friends at Cosmo Music had sent me an invitation to come out to a workshop Pete is holding there today. As I am currently travelling in Florida, I wasn’t able to make it.
I’ve watched pretty much all of his videos over the years. Pete has the uncanny ability to make any pedal, amp, or guitar sound amazing proving that most of what sounds good comes from the player and not from the gear.
Check out his YouTube channel if you haven’t come across him before.
El Capitan is a landscape that I hope to shoot this winter.
I would never, ever try to climb it.
Having had a dual rectifier, I can relate to the challenge for an amp tech to troubleshoot and resolve issues as these are very complicated amps.
Although the video is long at roughly 45 minutes, I found it, well, really engaging, almost like a mystery novel. The Guitologist is quite the tech.
So much circuitry in this guitar amp.
Taking stock, thinking about where you might be over time, setting up goals and objectives, all of that really doesn’t mean anything without consistent actions.
One of Thomas Edison’s famous quotes:Â Vision without execution is hallucination.
I would add to his quote: small actions, applied consistently over time, yield amazing outcomes.
And so it is with this journey of mine to become a better jazz guitarist.
I am making it a point to go to the guitar gym at least five times a week if not more. I have a great program to follow and I am learning a ton about the jazz guitar.
Building extensions from shell chords has helped to demystify jazz comping.
Learning difficult chord melodies has improved my fingering and hand strength.
I’ll document my progress as I go.
At times, I am playing like an absolute beginner. At times, I am showing signs of being fluid and dynamic.
It is certainly a process not unlike what Benjamin Zander demonstrates here (the difference being my age as I am a wee bit older than 7):
Just beginning the journey to becoming a better jazz guitarist.
I’ve taken stock of where I am as a player and where I want to be in six months and out five years — should I still be on planet Earth.
To build a program to keep me on track, I needed to address four elements:
- Define practice areas
- Create a framework
- Follow specific exercises
- Feedback and refine as needed
Define Practice Areas
Based on my six-month objectives, this was pretty straightforward. Here are my practice areas:
- Standards (repertoire)
- Chord Melody
Create A Framework
How will I spend my practice time? Not on duration but as a percentage of the time?
- Warm-up — 5 percent
- Repertoire — 50 percent
- Comping — 20 percent
- Chord Melody — 15 percent
- Phrasing — 10 percent
Follow Specific Exercises
In my case, I have an online teacher even if most of what I am doing is self-directed. The courses are very specific and well designed. I can readily measure my progress with this online course.
Feedback and Refine As Needed
Don’t rush. Keep each session focused. Don’t take on too much at once.
In other words, be patient. Build the skill on an incremental basis. Small changes performed consistently will yield impressive results over time.
I might revisit my framework and adjust the percentages here and there. I may not need to spend as much time on comping over the next few months as I already have a pretty rich chord vocabulary on the guitar. I might need to spend more time on chord melodies and phrasing as they are both areas of development for me.
Every two weeks, I will give myself an evaluation and see where adjustments need to be made.
Although aimed at the jazz guitar student, the lessons I have been taking are widely applicable to other pursuits in life.
I was asked to do the following as part of my jazz guitar training:
- Take Inventory
- Define Long-Term Goals
- Define Short-Term Goals
Here I was asked to identify my musical victories, failures and strengths. It was relatively easy to identify musical victories over the past 50 years. There were specific highlights, special concerts during my touring years, my first paid gig as a session player in a recording studio, my first album as a sideman, teaching and mentoring younger players, serving as a guitarist in various churches, and so on.
Failures? Well, there have been many. Some were tough to write down but basically my failures all centred around one basic theme: I was never good enough. The positive side of being so harsh on myself is that I had a strong incentive to become better. And it grounded me in terms of the journey of life. We all start from somewhere and, if we apply ourselves, we can improve and we can help others to improve. I would consider that desire to improve to be a strength. The inner critic, not so much.
This was hard for me to do. It is difficult to dream about where I might be as a player in 5 or 10 years when, without being unduly morbid, I could be dead. Joe Pass, an incredible jazz guitarist, died at 65.
So I have to choose the mountain carefully. My dream is to play with enough skill that I can be a strong contributor to a skilled jazz trio or jazz quartet before 65 years of age.
Ten of them. I had to think of ten long-term goals. And by long-term goals, specific objectives within 5 years.
Here we go:
- Have 50 standards memorized and under my fingers in my jazz repertoire.
- Cut a 10-song smooth jazz instrumental project.
- Play out with a jazz group at least once a month for a year.
- Be able to improvise effortlessly over the most common jazz progressions.
- Master arpeggios across all the jazz chord types.
- Learn to play effortlessly off a fake book.
- Create chord melodies from scratch for 10 songs.
- Learn to comp across all dominant jazz styles.
- Study the improvisation of five jazz masters by learning solos note for note (2 songs per jazz master).
- Move from novice to advanced skill level with the instrument.
Five goals for practicing over the next six months. Which, in theory, supports achievement of the long-term goals.
- Memorize 3 standards: Misty, Autumn Leaves, Take The A Train
- Complete Jazz Improv 101 course
- Complete Jazz Comping 101 Course
- Complete Chord Melody Crash Course
- Complete 25 Exercises For Better Jazz Guitar Phrasing Course
That is what frames the context for my musical journey over the next few years. Although a similar approach could be taken for almost any area of interest: where am I now, where do I want to be in the future, what specific goals do I want to achieve in the next five years, what will I achieve over the next six months.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll write about the program I created to guide my daily practice activity.