Saturday, December 17, 2016

Listen to the Quiet Voice

 Frustrated with recalibrating to a different guitar while I travel, I decided to let go of practicing repetroire and focus on finding new ideas.  Listening, just listening to the environment around me.  Thinking of a time and space a note appears.  Repeat - another note sings out.  Slowly a melody emerges about me.  Then it stops.  Back to listening. just listening for the quiet voice.  Rest repeat.

Open. Listen. Respond. Listen. Open... Quietly.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November Rose

 Sending prayers, love and music on Mom's Birthday.

Mom found my first guitar teacher,
bought me my first guitar,
Loved every note I played,
absolutely loved them all.

She loved me too.
All of me.
Especially when I didn't.

What more could I ask for,
hope for.
Certainly more than I deserve.

Matka Boska.
Yes ...  Yes
Matka Boska - Blessed Mother.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


On the road today, staying in a beautiful home.  A wonderful place to rest and practice.  Walking in a nearby park, I came across four Native American Burial Mounds.  These simple, poignant, natural, mysterious and inevitable reminders of the one fear that always comes true - death.  As I pondered them, I was grateful for the life, opportunities, family, friends & love that fill my life.

After lunch I practiced a bit, then recalled the Burial Mounds.   Being open to the notes that might arise, I listened carefully as I played.  Might the notes wrap the shroud with respect.  A whisper arose and I followed gently.  Another whisper - somewhat surprised I trusted and followed further.  Could this be my humble tribute to these lives that passed?  To all life that will pass?  I made some notes as the whisper quieted and then I rested.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


I stumble upon one, then another.  No guarantee that the desired outcome will be obtained.  Moving through the dark, a point of light shimmers, moves, disappears to reappear.  I listen, step through and persist.  Beginning again, and then again a form emerges.  One passageway leading to another, and then again it could be, but is not - so I explore some more.

After resting, I begin again.  A happy accident embraces my ear. Enthusiasm soars as I continue to follow the whisper through the first passage and then find another way to sound the second one.  Pausing to work out a section of arpeggios, I begin the search again.  My hands move with their own knowledge and another passage, different, yet pulling the previous material along appears.  Be free I whisper to myself, trust the process. Look again, with stillness within.

Listening to a take from earlier today, my mind hears a conclusion.  After playing this through I am not convinced, but listen more and then just maybe the path through is clear.  One more taping.  Then I put my guitar to rest.

Trusting, that my mind will play with this as I sleep.  Tomorrow if I wake, I'll begin again.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Saturday morning I was warming up in preparation of our final day of recording with Tony Geballe.  I found a simple if disjointed melodic idea I played with a bit and then moved on.  Having made a mental note to remember this idea, I revisited this fragment during Monday's practice.  Then on Tuesday night, the idea began to simmer.  I came up with a quick working title as this helps to frame an idea for me, but Where Ya Goin'? did not really fit.  May have had more to do with where the melody was heading, than an actual sentiment or mood.

Yesterday I began to notate what I had of this idea to accompany the rough takes I had, in case I lose track of this over the coming busy weeks.  While capturing what I had in this way, another twist  arrived.  Later on the beach, looking at the surf, another possibility arose.  I tested this idea this morning, am unsure that it works, but strive to remain open to the inherent possibilities.  Early this morning I ran into a friend and we were talking about Transitions.  His work is helping organizations manage transitions.

In my current musical practice, I am in transition on various levels and pondered this as a working title.  Consulting the dictionary for a synonym for transitions I came upon Passage, which is currently the working title.  Noticing a word I did not know Saltation, I read the definition: discontinous movement, advance by leaps. Much closer to the quality of what is happening musically, but not sure this works as a title.  In genetics Saltation mean: a single mutation that drastically alters the phenotype.  I'm looking for that mutation that will bring this piece to life.

Taking a short break to allow the current ideas to percolate, then back to the guitar before one more dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo by Nigel Howe

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why Practice Qi Gong

Recently a friend asked me why do I practice Qi Gong?

I had been exposed to QI Gong on meditation retreats and guitar seminars.  While I liked the affects, I did not practice on my own until I was injured.  A nasty case of tendinitis in my left wrist had me stop playing guitar.  After little progress with Western Medicine I received an acupuncture treatment which had an immediate effect.  Of course the nature of tendinitis and inflammation meant I had to have repeated treatments.  One day I noticed that my acupuncturist Dr. Nianzu Li, also taught Qi Gong.

After the treatment I asked him if there was an exercise which would help my condition. He showed me “Opening the Energy Gates” which I practiced daily until my next visit to his office. I showed him the exercise and he commented that I was doing good.  He then shared a secret with me, if I practiced Qi Gong, I’d probably not need to see him for acupuncture.  I signed up for his next class. 

That was over twelve years ago.  I have learned many forms in this time, relishing in the calm and energy that the practice of Qi Gong delivers.  I developed a daily practice. When Master Li offered a teacher training program I joined with my wife.  Our practice and learning accelerated and I continue to reap the rewards of daily practice.  When we began teaching our own class, I was happy as others embraced Qi Gong for the first time and many have continued their studies.

Last year I had an opportunity to present Qi Gong during a week long residential Guitar Seminar.  What would best serve the guitarists on the course?  I settled upon the Daoist 12 Postures form.  One of the intentions in this form is to release the spine, known as the Heavenly Pillar in Mandarin.  Several of the participants told me how this helped them release their own issues arriving from poor use of their bodies. The various postures are simple, yet powerful and allow the shoulders, arms, elbows, wrist and hands to release the various tensions related to the demands of playing an instrument.  These exercises are great pre-instrument practice warm ups and can be done anywhere at anytime.  Even back stage prior to performing. 

My wife & I will be offering the Daoist 12 Postures for the first time in a class offered by the Takoma Park Recreation Department.  While Qi Gong is great for musicians, the benefits of stimulating our energy flow is great for all.  We’ve had students from the age of 15 to 78.  Join us.

Monday, February 1, 2016


What would it be like to play without desire?

To allow the notes to release from my guitar, just as the waves release from the Ocean.

What might this sound like?

Friday, January 1, 2016

First Notes

 At 10am this morning I began my first guitar practice of the New Year.  I paused as I wanted to know what note I would play and why I choose it as the first note of the year.  I decided on a simple exercise given to me in my early days of Guitar Craft played on an open A string.  I would play this exercise for 5 minutes.

Five minutes of touching the innocence with which I have originally encountered the guitar.  Five minutes of receiving a reminders of the value of small qualitative acts.  Five minutes of embracing an old commitment that has borne much fruit and five minutes of wondering what is now possible.

A few minutes later while playing through The Call, I decided that this same exercise would be how I end my last guitar practice of the year.  Seemed a bit clever at the time.

Then when I sat down with my guitar this evening, I knew my relationship with music had a beginning this year and can touch the end simultaneously.  This is better than clever.

May all of you have a peace filled and loving year.  Rise to the challenges you meet and give a hand to another. 

Photo by Josh James.