Professional Advice for Those Caring For Flood-Damaged Guitars

Roy Bowen and Scott Leedy of RS Guitarworks in Winchester, Kentucky had it in their hearts to reach out to Houston area musicians, documenting their experiences gained while working with flood-damaged guitars during the big flood in Nashville back in 2010.  The Unbrokenstring Crew is honored and blessed to be able to publish this document for your edification.  This supplements my previous post, which was general in nature and included electronics.  To wit:


Guitar Flood Triage

Below is a list of steps that we developed while restoring guitars from the Nashville flood and Hurricane Sandy.  The following steps should be taken as soon as possible.


  • First remove strings.


  • If truss rod is not removable, loosen truss rod ½ turn, add a couple of drops of penetrating oil on the threads then tighten ¼ turn.  On vintage Fender or Gibson guitars where the truss rod can be removed, remove truss rod lug. Oil the threads then re-install snug but not tight.  You want to make sure threads are lubed so the truss rod does not rust in place.


  • Remove all parts from body including hardware and electronics.  Wood will try to move and solid items like screws & tuners will not let it move.  This can cause cracking of the wood, as well as cause rust staining in the wood.


  • On bolt on instruments remove the neck.


  • Take all hardware and place it in bags filled with uncooked rice and leave it until you are ready to re-assemble.


  • All electronic parts such as pots and switches should be cleaned with a quality electronics cleaner and then stored in uncooked rice as well.


  • Air-drying of the wood is best after parts have been hand dried inside and out.  Keeping guitars in a small room with a dehumidifier can also help.


  • Do not try to use any cleaners on the finish or hardware of the guitar until it is properly dried and stabilized.


  • Do not try to tape down loose binding or wood coming un-glued as it may damage fragile finish loosened by water


  • Get the guitar to a qualified repairman as soon as possible.


Be sure to visit to tell them THANKS and to check out their restoration work with other water-damaged guitars.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Some Advice for Musicians Whose Gear Was Water-Damaged by Hurricane Harvey

Shortly after the Shuttle Explosion in 1986, the computers onboard the Challenger orbiter were retrieved from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.  Each ‘set’ of boxes was sent to a different NASA Center for analysis.  One set came into the IBM Federal Systems lab in Clear Lake, Texas, where we dried, partially disassembled, and reassembled the hardware in hopes of recovering any clues regarding the accident.  I was the sub-contract manager at IBM at the time and was tasked with engineering support for the effort, including electrical test, micro-soldering, cable assembly, and such.  I am proud to report that the unit came back to life after two weeks of salt water immersion, and the data in the memory core was intact up to the point that vehicle power was lost; That information contributed greatly to the accident timeline.

So I want to weigh in on some strategies for musicians who found that their gear was water-damaged in Hurricane Harvey, which is still affecting Coastal Texas as I write this.  Let’s get going!

  1. Don’t turn anything on to see if it still works.  Odds are, it won’t.  And it won’t because you turned it on, dumbass.
  2. Unplug everything.  Your power is probably off anyway, but it never hurts to be sure.
  3. Remove ALL the batteries.  This includes tuners of all kinds, even the ones built into an acoustic guitar, guitar pedals and effect units, portable recorders, laptops, microphones, everything.  Same process as when your cell phone falls in the toilet.
  4. For all stringed instruments, slack the strings.  You don’t have to remove them, but just remove the tension.  Loosen the pegs on your violins/violas/cellos/basses to slack the strings; don’t bother with the fine tuners.
  5. For instruments with truss rods in the neck (guitars, basses, etc.) slack the truss rod.  Just a half a turn in the direction of ‘more loose, not more tight’ is the way to go.  For most instruments, that’s counter-clockwise.
  6. Drum heads on banjos and drum kits should be slacked as well, if the shell was wet.
  7. Many woodwinds will be OK if you were treating them with sweet oil on a regular basis.  The case will be in worse shape than the instrument.  Wipe everything with a dry towel and let it air dry for a week or two.  Inspect any pads and remove the reed; the reed will need to be replaced anyway unless you use synthetic reeds.

Now that everything is stable, let’s consider the recovery options.  The challenges we face are as follows:

  • Acoustic instruments made of wood are not damaged by a little water.  A lot of water will swell the wood and stress/break the glue bonds.  The sooner the liquid water is removed from the surface of the wood, the sooner we can begin the process of drying the instrument.  Wipe it down with a dry towel, inside and out.  There are instances of classical guitars stored in a basement in Central Europe that had absorbed TWICE THEIR WEIGHT in water that were successfully dried and returned to play-able condition.
  • Acoustic instruments made of wood ARE damaged by too much drying.  Shrinkage causes the wood to pull away from glue bonds and pull away from itself e.g. crack.  This Peavey neck became over-dried in hot attic:Fortunately, we have (and will continue to have) PLENTY of humidity so a good, slow, open-air drying over the next couple of weeks will cause the least damage to our acoustic instruments.  Resist the urge to pull out the hair dryer!
  • Solid body instruments are, more impervious to liquid water by virtue of the fact that they are usually finished in polyurethane or other rugged finish.  Again, wipe it down with a dry towel.  We’ll come back to work on the controls in a moment.
  • Martin guitars with the composite bodies, and Ovation guitars with their famous ‘bowls’ may be difficult to recover.  The sound board expands and shrinks at a different rate than the rest of the guitar.  Ovation will (upon request and sufficient $$) replace a wet top with a new one.  The Music Factory in Pearland has done this with a few of their new Ovations following the last hurricane.  I have not spoken with Martin but my guess is, you might have to call them and discuss the options.  Many of the composite/laminate guitars are under $500 which limits the range of repair options.

The areas of concern with our electronics fall into these categories: (1) cabinets and grille  (2) loudspeaker cones  (3) controls and switches.

Note that I did not say anything about the electronics themselves.  Electronic assemblies built after, say, about 1990, are mass produced by a process that uses water as a cleaning solvent.  This is called ‘aqueous cleanup’ and is almost ubiquitous in all electronic assembly shops around the world.  Your electronics will fare fare better in the flood than you think, particularly if we don’t energize them while wet.

  1. Let’s start on the cabinets and grilles.  Remove the grille and dry what you can with a towel.  The frame is almost always wood, and the fabric is almost always a synthetic.  The wood should be allowed to dry slowly over the next couple of weeks.  Do not apply any heat.  The frame may still warp a little, but we will deal with that when we reassemble the cab.
  2. Wipe all water from the cabinet, paying particular attention to the inside and bottom of the cabinet.  Remove the reverb tank, if it is present, and set aside.  Again, with the cabinet, a slow dry may be all it needs.  If the cabinet is made from particle board, you will see swelling which may spoil the appearance of the unit.  The particle board will never be as strong as it was before it got wet.  If your cabinet is particle board, you might convince yourself that Harvey has given you permission for an upgrade to a pine or plywood cabinet.
  3. Carefully remove any remaining liquid water from loudspeaker cones.  Let everything dry out for a week or two.  Then GENTLY push the cone evenly forward and back and listen for any rubbing or scratching noises.  If you don’t hear any noise (called ‘motor noise’) you may be OK.  Unfortunately, some magnets have a high concentration of metallic iron, which will rust (and swell) in the presence of moisture.  If the rusting is bad enough, the loudspeaker needs to be reconed or replaced.

Let’s take a look at the electronics.  The controls and switches on guitars and the controls and switches on amplifiers are treated in a similar manner.  Circuit boards and wiring harnesses are not hard to clean up if you are handy.  If you are comfortable disassembling your amp head or accessory, then Read On.  If not, there are many shops (not just mine) that are on Facebook that are competent to perform these repairs.  I am detailing these procedures so that the do-it-yourself-er can have some confidence to proceed, and also so that the non-do-it-yourself-er can speak competently with your chosen tech.

  • Compressed air is your friend.  The air blast will remove any liquid water present.  After disassembling your gear, get compressed air underneath components, connectors, transformers, anywhere there is a place where water can reside.  Those little cans of ‘electronic dusters’ are cool but expensive.  Pull out the air compressor.  Pull the bottom plate off your pedals to gain access to anywhere water may be lurking.  Remove those pick guards and blow everything dry.  Open up those battery boxes (you did remove the batteries, didn’t you?)  Dry everything!
  • Switches need a rinse and then lubrication.  I use ‘Blue Shower’ as a rinse, which is for cleaning television tuners.  There are other products that work as well.  Google “CAIG” read up, and go shopping at Fry’s for some of the CAIG products they carry.  Start with the CAIG F5 stuff as a rinse, then the CAIG GOLD stuff as a protector lubricant.  I use the CAIG GOLD product as well as some MIL-SPEC stuff (because I Am Cooler than you and can get MIL-SPEC stuff and you can’t.)
  • Hit the input and output jacks with a little CAIG GOLD on a cotton swab.  This is just good routine maintenance, and is particularly vital now that your instrument may have been wet.
  • For controls that were working fine before the flood, I would just use a shot of the CAIG Fader Lube (same aisle at Fry’s) as a water displacer and a lubricant.  Don’t try to rinse good controls because you may displace the factory lubricant and put it where it may create noise on the resistive element.  Keep It Simple.
  • Cables may be problematic.  My advice would be to toss the wet ones and get new ones.  My reasoning is this: Cables are often the weak link in any setup, even when new.  You know this.  Water will deteriorate cables because it will penetrate each end of the cable.  Copper and its alloys react readily in the presence of water and contamination (dirt from flood waters, for example.)  Also, the connector itself may be compromised by corrosion, as will be the solder joints or compression welds performed when the cable was new.  It will only get worse.  Toss the cables.  Just do it.  Life is too short.
  • For pictures of what I do with controls, check my previous post on
  • Most guitar pickups are encapsulated with wax or epoxy.  While the pick guard is off, blow out and dry what you can reach.  There may be some very fine wires exposed where they may be damaged, so don’t go crazy with the towel.
  • Reverb tanks have small transformer wound with small wire, like guitar pickups. Also, the springs are fairly delicate. Do what you can to dry them out before rust and oxidation set in. If they need to be replaced, reverb tanks may be purchased on-line for $30-$40 or so.
  • The CAIG Fader Lube is a very good lubricant for tuning machines.  While you’re at it, give them a shot of lube, directing it in such a way that it can enter the tuning machine.  Rinse.  Repeat.



WD-40 is good for your wet car ignition, but it has fish oil in it, which is just plain nasty considering that this is the 21st century and you can get modern products for your equipment.  Some people swear by WD-40, and I use it on lawn equipment and tools.  When people use it on electronics and musical instruments, I swear AT them.

Now that you are Poseidon and can command water to go away, here’s another tip.  If your flood water was muddy or contaminated, you can use clean water at anytime on most electronics.  This includes switches, controls, circuit boards, and all the stuff we’ve mentioned so far.  Your electronics were built in a factory that used water to clean the final product.  You can do this, because you know how to remove water.  And you are Poseidon.

FYI, full disclosure – I don’t own stock in CAIG.  However, their products are Top Drawer and are available at Fry’s in the hard-hit Southeast Houston area where I work and live.  In the Northwest part of town, ACE Electronics has the Blue Shower and equivalent lubricants.  These are the products that are available NOW (er… when the power comes back on and the roads are passable..) and are not vaporware.  Just tryin’ to help.

Again, there are several VERY COMPETENT shops in the Houston area that are willing and able to assist with an attempt to recover water damaged gear.  Check the musician groups on Facebook, and do a search for ‘repair’ before you post anything.  Turns out, some guy posts the same question every week or so, looking for a good repair shop.  And the same answers keep coming up again and again.  Don’t be that guy.  I am booked solid out through the end of September and may not be able to take on your work right away.  If you care to contact me directly, I can discuss some options and recommend some Good People who can get you going again.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Guest Blogger – How Not To Buy Your Child A Guitar

WooHooo!  This posting is the fiftieth blog post for The Unbrokenstring Crew!!

I asked my high school sweetheart and wife of thirty-eight years, Glenda Latchaw, to tell her story concerning a disturbing event that she witnessed while shopping for guitars.  This story is offered in juxtaposition to my blog entry and is intended as food for thought for parents who wish to encourage their children to pursue music.


How Not to Buy Your Child a Guitar

Or maybe I should call this How to Embarrass Your Child in Public. Or maybe more importantly, How to Teach Your Child to Hate Playing Guitar.


I had gone with my darling husband to Guitar Center (shameless plug, you’re welcome…) to look at Ibanez guitars (I had just bought David a used one that he had played and fallen in love with to replace a stolen guitar and I was curious…) while he delivered repaired amps and picked up broken ones for his side gig, (You’re welcome, dear…). I had talked myself into getting a nice little Ibanez classical that I could bar all the way up and down the neck with my bad finger and I had just failed to catch my favorite salesperson, Laura before this family came into the area and grabbed her.


It looked to be a nice enough family, mom, dad, and two young boys. The oldest was somewhere in the middle of the grade school years and the youngest was maybe kindergarten or thereabouts. I heard Mom mention to Laura that they were there to buy the older boy his first guitar for his birthday since that was what he’d requested. I thought, “How nice. Kid’s got an interest in music and they’re going to encourage it instead of letting him sit in front of the tube.” That was pretty much the last thing I heard Mom say. I figured it’d be fairly quick. I mean, Laura has the boy try out some guitars, he picks one out, and they buy it. Right?




Dad opened his mouth next. I could immediately tell he didn’t want to be there. I’m not sure if he was unhappy that the boy wanted a guitar and not some more … intellectual instrument (my intuition’s favorite choice), or that this was going to cost him some money, or that the boy had made a decision without asking his father’s opinion.. Dad seemed a bit of a control freak. And he obviously wanted out of there as soon as possible. He as much as said so as he was staring at his watch. (What a way to make a child feel special. Way to go, Daddy Jerk!)


The boy was not permitted to look at anything on his own. Daddy Jerk did the looking. He wandered to the classical/flamenco wall. “Those have nylon strings. I don’t want one of those. The strings don’t last. I need steel strings so they’ll last.” Evidently the fact that nylon strings are gentler on delicate young fingers never crossed his mind. (Hello? If it hurts, he ain’t gonna’ practice, dodo…) He wandered on to the other walls.


“Those with the thin bodies, they don’t last as long, do they? I don’t see how they could. And they’re not as loud. They can’t be. The body’s too thin. I want a loud one.” He grabbed an adult-sized guitar off the wall. “Here, try this one. Really hit it. Be sure it’s loud enough.” The boy strummed it like you strum a guitar. “No, not like that! Harder! Like this!” He put his hand up next to his shoulder and swung it down like he was using a machete to cut off his toes. “It needs to be a loud one!” (Hate your neighbors, do you?)


He kept looking at the adult-sized guitars, pulling one, then another down and handing it to his son. “Try this one.” Laura tried suggesting he look at the ¾-sized guitars for the boy. Daddy Jerk told Laura, “No, I don’t want a small one. I want to get something big so he can play it for a long time, but not too expensive in case he doesn’t stick with it.” Yes, the child was right there, hearing that his father half-way expected him to fail. Mom said nothing. Laura looked a bit shell-shocked by this time. I was biting my tongue and wondering if my self-control would hold. My husband would have been proud. (He knows me. I don’t deal well with idiots and tact is not my strong suit…)


He asked Laura questions. Stupid ones, mainly. Laura was still too dumfounded with his behavior to say much, but that was okay. He wasn’t listening to her. He didn’t care what she had to say because she didn’t agree with him. He continued looking at adult-sized guitars. He never once asked the child what he wanted or what he thought of a particular guitar. He never noticed that the adult guitars actually forced the child to extend his right arm straight out from the shoulder to put a guitar under it. He never asked the child to try and reach across the neck with his left hand to see if he could actually ‘play’ the guitar. What mattered to him was that the right hand could make a lot of loud noise. (You jerk, just set the kid up to fail, why don’t you?)


The boy kept sneaking looks at the smaller classical guitars and the ¾-sized ones. For a smaller person (ahem, like me and that poor child) the adult-sized guitars are just too hard to handle. The necks are too wide, the bodies way too big. The boy knew it. He managed to take advantage of Dad’s distraction by the ‘big, loud’ guitars once to get his hands on a smallish classical. He put his left hand on the neck and was playing around with it. He could reach all the way across and fret that sixth string. He was comfortable with it and it looked good on his knee. It tucked neatly under his right arm. Daddy Jerk saw him. “Put that back. It’s too small. And I said I wanted steel strings on it.”(Hey, whose birthday gift is this anyway, <insert obscenity of your own choice here>?)


Another customer eventually took pity on the boy and handed Daddy Jerk one of the advertised ‘under $100’ guitars that he’d been playing, saying he’d been thinking about buying it himself. It was a name brand, Yamaha, I think. It appeared to be satisfactory in the loud requirement. It was still too big, but not quite as too big as the others Daddy Jerk had pulled down. Daddy Jerk looked interested. He was ready to get the flip out of there and here was this guy recommending this guitar. Perfect.


He looked at Laura. “What about tuning it? I’m going to have to tune this for him.” (What? Wait a minute! Isn’t part of tuning it part of learning to play it?? Did I miss something here?) Laura mentioned that the particular guitar they were looking at had the built-in tuner and demonstrated how it worked. “That’s good. We’ll take this one.”


And then on the way out of the acoustic room, Daddy Jerk asks, “Do you have any books of chords and things that he can use?” I interpreted that as “I don’t want to have anything else to do with this idiot instrument that my idiot child wanted,” even though all I heard was “I, I, I,” throughout the whole hour of excruciating hell that he had just put his son through in picking out ‘his’ birthday guitar.


In summary, this is how not to buy your child a guitar:


  • Act like you have something more important to do. This will make him feel really special.


  • Don’t let him look for himself. After all, you know best and it’s your money.


  • Don’t buy a guitar that fits his size. He’ll grow into it, assuming he stays with it long enough.


  • Don’t buy a guitar that he can actually play using both hands. It just needs to be loud. He won’t need all those extra notes on the neck for a long time.


  • Don’t consider something that might be easy on the left hand’s fingertips. Pain’ll make him want to practice all the time.


  • And most importantly, don’t ask what him what he thinks. You’re buying him the stupid guitar he wanted.


I hope the boy’s still wanting to play his birthday guitar, but I doubt it. Thanks, Daddy Jerk. I hope your younger boy asks for a real drum set and bangs on it all the time.



Glenda has published articles for The Texas Clogger Magazine, and was the creative genius behind the selection of ‘unbrokenstring’ as the Web identity for the blog you see here.  She is the dance instructor for The Rhythm Cloggers of Houston, Texas, is a charter member of The Science Fiction Book Club, and serves as staff for sixteen cats on the Sprawling Branch Latchawvian Cult Compound, hidden somewhere in northern Brazoria County, Texas.

An Engineer’s Tips For Selecting Your First Guitar

A guilty pleasure of mine is to sit in the ‘acoustic room’ at a national chain guitar store and play expensive guitars.  When I was growing up, we had no real opportunity to see and hear, even less to touch and play, expensive guitars. Nowadays, it’s easy to have unfettered access to so many models and price ranges of guitars.

This weekend, I was camped out in the acoustic room, confirming that my playing skills were equally poor on an expensive guitar as they were on an inexpensive guitar.  Four ladies were shopping for a musical instrument.  The ten year old played flute and clarinet, but her asthma caused her to consider another instrument.  Her six year old little sister enjoyed playing with ukeleles.  Mom watched her daughters go through the overwhelming selection of instruments.  Grandma, who was apparently bank-rolling the whole enterprise, glanced nervously at the price tags.

Mom walked past me as I was playing a few scales.  She turned and asked if I worked here.  “No,” I replied, “but could I help you?”

“My daughter is shopping for guitar or ukelele.  She plays in the school band but wants to consider another instrument.  How do we find the right guitar?”

So the conversation that followed was the genesis of this blog post.

Three Criteria For Selecting Your First Guitar

Guitars come in many sizes, shapes, styles, sounds, colors, and technologies.  For a beginner, guidance from a music teacher, price and playability are significant criteria to apply when choosing a particular guitar.  Let’s set aside everything that makes a guitar what it is EXCEPT those parts that touch the string e.g. tuners, the nut, the fingerboard and frets, and the saddle.  Let’s also look at ergonomics e.g. size and shape of the guitar, and derive some selection criteria that may be of use when choosing a guitar or ukelele.

Tuner and Nut

Loosen and tighten each string.  Does the pitch of the string change smoothly, or does the tuning ‘jump’ suddenly?  Does the string ‘pop’ or squeak when moving through the nut?  Jumps and pops can be corrected by a luthier, but we want to purchase an instrument that works from the outset and does not need additional work ‘out of the box.’ (Image credit:

Fretboard and Frets

every note
Play an open string, then play each note in sequence moving in half steps up the entire fretboard.  Does each note sound clear and crisp?  Is there a buzz or muffled sound?  Is the note played a the twelfth fret exactly one octave above the open string?  Buzzing and muffled sounds from any string, or intonation problems, can be corrected by a luthier, but again, why pay money for a guitar with a problem?  (Image credit:


Barre all six strings at once with one finger.  Can you hold all the strings down WITHOUT using the thumb of your fretting hand in a vise-like grip?  Or do you have to whip out the ‘Kung Fu’ vise grip to hold all the strings down?  Holding all the strings down is easy with a ukelele, but can be difficult with a guitar, particularly a steel-stringed guitar.  (Image credit:

Hint – Hold the body of the guitar against your body firmly with the elbow of your plucking arm (right elbow if you are playing right-handed.)  Now pull back against the strings with your fretting hand and execute the barre without using the thumb of the fretting hand.  Sounds odd, doesn’t it?  No, you won’t break the guitar in half.  A common bad habit among guitar players is to grasp the neck so tightly that your hand aches after ten minutes of playing.  Pushing the neck of the guitar forward, by pulling the body back towards you will lessen the load on your fretting hand.  Try it!  The longer you can practice without tiring your hands, the better and more-motivated a player you will become!

Now that your thumb can take a break, is the width, string spacing, and curvature of the finger board compatible with the construction of your barre index finger?  Every individual has a unique fingerprint.  By extension, I would assert that everyone has a slightly different internal construction of their hands.  The location and size of the knuckles, tendons, muscles, and scars becomes relevant when making a barre.  Does this guitar allow you to hold down every string so that they ring clearly when played?  For a beginner, this will require some experimentation even with an easy-to-play guitar.  If you find the guitar that is easy to barre, you are well on your way to choosing a good guitar.


Earlier, we discussed holding the guitar body.  Some guitar bodies are thin, such as solid-body electric guitars and jazz acoustics.  Others are made thinner but are otherwise normal acoustic or classical guitars.  Likewise, some guitars are intentionally scaled smaller to accommodate children and youth, and people with small frames.  My wife plays a smaller guitar whenever possible.  In my case, I prefer thinner bodies to compensate for my big gut.  Some guitars, particularly solid body electrics, are best played standing up.  Find what is comfortable while at the same time allowing you to easily reach all the strings and frets with both hands.  Pass on any guitar that places a sharp edge or corner on your arm or leg or makes you reach uncomfortably.  (Image credit: and


Our young musician picked out a nylon-stringed classical guitar, in 7/8ths size. The guitar only cost about $139 but was an excellent instrument which passed all of our criteria above, had a very pleasant voice, and was easy to play. Everyone, including the six year old, was enthusiastic. Grandma was particularly happy to make this moderate expenditure, and had no problems purchasing a bag and a tuner for her granddaughter’s new guitar. I recommended a good teacher in her part of town, plus we exchanged email addresses so that I could send some more links and supplementary material about practicing, guitar music theory, and caring for her new instrument. Life Is Good!!

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom.

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE


The Greatly-Hated But Mandatory “About Me” Post

A co-worker asked for an e-mail that she could send to her musician friends who were looking for someone to fix their stuff.  I sent this text:


The Unbroken String         David Latchaw, EE

Mainly focused on difficult or unusual repairs on wooden stringed instruments such as guitars and basses, amplifiers of all technologies, sound gear such as mixers, amps, microphones, synths, MIDI, pedal boards, etc.

Consulting by appointment but dumb questions are always free.

Cell phone is:   two eight one – six three six – eight six two six   (spelled out to defeat the phone spam bots)


I have a day job, the best job I’ve ever had in my thirty-five years of working in the electronics business in Houston.  Go to and also look for Spectrum Scoreboards on FaceBook.  The warden lets me out from time to time during my lunch hour, to visit my friends at various music stores in the Hobby Airport area of southeast Houston, near where I work.


I also make house calls.  Or, maybe I should say rehearsal room calls.  It is a true joy to meet many talented musicians who sometimes need a quick fix or just a second opinion on a setup problem or an intermittent issue that ‘changes’ when the item is hauled off to a service center.


As I said, ‘dumb questions are always free.’  Do not hesitate to send me a text.  If you call and I don’t pick up immediately, please leave a message.  I hate to talk on the phone and attempt to drive my truck.  And if your number is not a number that I recognize, I just assume that it’s someone ignoring the Do Not Call List again and I may not answer it.  But leave a message anyway.  Thanks!



On Performance

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” wrote William Shakespeare, in his play As You Like It.

Hmmm…  Not much of a stretch to visualize a guitarist up on the the stage.  We’ve seen thousands of pictures and videos (no exaggeration here) of guitarists in performance.  However, even with your guitar in your lap in the most secluded closet recording studio, or practicing alone in the darkened living room, you the musician are exposing yourself in ways that would make the non-musician feel squeamish.  But being up on the stage…  Woah!  Does that terrify you? Are you terrified that someone in your own house would hear you play? Public performance is not why you play guitar, is it?

Let me speak to those of you who haven’t performed in public.  You practice your drills and repertoire diligently, yet you play in private. Why? To what end? “Where is your head at?”

Let us delve into the unseen world of the human mind. Allow me to reduce the workings of the human mind to a more-manageable level by introducing three terms from a field of psychological study called Transactional Analysis:

(1) The Child corresponds to the “id.” The child in you and me offers our most basic, instinctual drive.
(2) The Parent corresponds to the “super-ego.” The parent in our mind tells us what we ‘ought’ to do.
(3) The Adult corresponds to the “ego.” The voice of reality in our mind attempts to reconcile the conflict between the child and the parent.

This is a handy tool to analyze many of the conflicts we endure, and to posit a solution. For instance, the Parent says we don’t practice enough because the Adult says that we must seek perfection. The Child wants to have another cookie and go to sleep.

Or, my parent says that I need to work on this Blog, and my Child says to play another game of Internet Spades. My Adult is particularly weak, so, more often than not, the Child wins out.

Here’s another one. The Parent is fearful of humiliation if we perform our art in front of others, and so the Child is happy to take flight to escape the fear. Thus we run away from the possibility that we perform in public.


What is an Adult to do?

Let me offer a glimpse of something that may be of value to the Adult in resolving the conflict between the Child and the Parent, to the end of moving out into public performance.

Dave Goggin was VP of Data Processing at Gulf Oil Corporation in Houston, Texas up until Chevron purchased the company back in the 1980s. I was fortunate enough to know Dave socially through our joint involvement in square dancing and clogging.

Dave had many roles to play in the day-to-day operations of the Data Processing division. At the time, Dave’s division printed 2.2 million credit card statements a month. He had over two hundred employees to manage. He wore many hats. To keep it all straight, he shared with me the fact that each morning, as he sat on the pot, he read through his personal planning calendar to see what needed to be done at work that day. He said that he would check on a department first thing when he got there, call a field office at nine AM, pick a fight with an employee at 10am so he could fire him, speak at a board room luncheon at 11:30 am regarding changes in billing information in two Western states, go back to his office at 1 pm and close the door for a nap… you get the picture.

He really got my attention about that ‘task’ on his calendar of starting a fight. Other than knowing that he was a Marine radio operator and prisoner of war in the Korean conflict, I never perceived a single mean fiber in his body. Sure enough, Dave told me that work was a lot like acting. He had different roles to play, and he was a ‘real good’ actor. He would fulfill the role of supervisor at 8 am, play the part of a friendly voice on the phone at 9 am, act like a tough guy at 10 am, become a news anchor at 11:30 am, and so on. Driving home at night, he practiced his acting skills while fulfilling the role of courteous Houston driver, which, he intimated, was particularly difficult for him on those days of the week that end in -day.

Dave told me that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” You act. Even when you don’t want to. Very Adult. …and it seems as if I’ve heard that quote before…

So, the Adult may use the ‘thespian arts’ to reconcile the Child and the Parent. The Adult may now motivate us to behave in such a manner to change us for the better, to cause us to take actions that will improve us, and the world, for the better.

So you have art within you. You are made in your Creator’s Image, so, obviously, a portion of that Image is to be creative.  You make music, dontcha?

You must ‘do’ something to release that art, to give it an existence in the real world. Just as a sculptor sees a statue trapped inside the block of stone, or the wood carver sees the finished carving inside the block of wood, you have a song, a riff, a melody, a chord progression, a lyric that MUST be released. You are powerless to do otherwise. In the current context, you pick up a guitar and create melody, rhythm, lyrics, and/or accompany someone else going the same musical direction as you.

Now you have created the art. What are you going to do with it?  The Adult creates a New Guitarist Person.

My premise in this blog post that you must perform your melody, rhythm, and lyrics for someone else to see. To do otherwise is to hide your art under a basket. Your creation is, by definition, a candle, a point of light, a piece of love. It is something good and of value. This is a dark world, and can use all the light, all the candles, all the love, we can muster.

Further, the act of sharing, of giving, changes you. I don’t mean that your bank account gets larger because you are booked for a hundred dates around the world in the coming year, although it would be cool to find out what that feels like, but rather, your soul is nourished by the act of giving away your art, your creation.

Don’t ask me how this works. The old saying goes like this: in the baseball game of life, you can’t really play ball wearing two catchers mitts. There is a time to catch the ball, and there is a time to throw the ball to someone else, for their benefit and for the good of your team. This, herein is the benefit of performance. Giving has a bigger spiritual effect on the giver than on the audience.                                                                                                                                       2013-03-03_14-13-48_680

To get over the threshold from introversion to giving, the Adult must construct a new theatrical character, and give that theatrical character a purpose, dialog, musical chops, and the opportunity to hone thespian skills. Plainly stated, you are the men and women on the stage. You are the playwright. You are creating not just music, but the character to play that music.  As the creator, you arrange rehearsals, costuming, find a stage, props, lighting, equipment, and promotional opportunities that will allow this new theatrical character.

Haven’t you dressed up for Halloween?  Or participated in the annual “Talk Like A Pirate Day?”

What I’m talking about is creating a new character.  This character plays guitar.  This character has a name (not your real name) and a costume.   You are now “Doing Business As” someone else.  Ever heard of Slash?  The Edge?  Zakk Wilde?  Piggy D?  Their mama didn’t give them their names.

That new person is who goes out in public.  That new person gets the stage fright, not you.

Yeah, that works.  Get out there and let’s see what you’ve got, New Guitarist Person!