Thursday, December 4, 2008

Develop Your Own Uniqueness

The guitar world has always been obsessed with who is faster or better. The reality is that all good players are fast and knowledgeable about chords, improvisation and harmony.

What makes one different than another is not the external factors of technique but the unique projection of personality that comes through the music. Just as you meet one person that you like and another person that you don't like, the audience is only affected by their own individual response to a player.

Does the player move them or not? After all, the audience is not in a position to judge a player on the basis of his or her technique or knowledge. The audience can only react. This is ultimately a good thing.

Bill Evans said something that I always admired . He said you must please yourself. Play what pleases you. You can't chase players or styles or trends. In essence, he was saying find your own voice.

From a marketing point of view, you have to find an audience that likes your style, your sound, your personality.

If you become your own unique self, you'll never be disappointed with the results!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just Jazz Guitar

I'm currently writing a series of articles for the national magazine Just Jazz Guitar. The articles take a detailed look at the process of reading music for the jazz guitarist. The first installment appears in the November issue of 2008.

Just Jazz Guitar, as the name implies, focuses on the art and craft of the jazz guitar.It's refreshing to see a guitar magazine that isn't loaded with Rock guitar gear and misleading columns.

I would highly recommend anyone interested in the jazz guitar to subscribe to this fine magazine.

Contact Ed Benson at and tell him that I sent you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Marketing and Music

No matter what your involvement is in music, marketing needs to be a way of life. This is true more for the musician seeking to make a living in music but it generally applies to anyone with goals other than pure aesthetics.

What is marketing? Marketing is the entire range of activities that involve increasing your exposure in the market that you have chosen. It includes but is not limited to advertising, promotion, public relations, product creation, merchandising, endorsements, establishing contacts etc.

A typical musician runs hot and cold in this regard. He or she gets enthused about marketing and works very hard ... for a couple of weeks. Then, nothing for months.

What you need to do is to set aside time every day for something ... anything ... that would promote you and your work. It's a good idea to follow some simple advice from the exercise world and the diet world. Do what you can maintain. In other words, it's a lifestyle more than an emergency event.

The more you do, the more you will develop an attitude, a momentum. Soon, the process will be natural. It becomes something that you don't even have to think about, to do.

When this happens and continues to happen, you're on your way!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Practice and Performance

Practice is necessary to develop the skills required to pursue music successfully. But practice can also be a crutch - a delay tactic. Just as many people continue their college educations to avoid the necessity of getting a job - of facing the real world. It can be the same in music. You're "never" ready. The fact of the matter is : you're always ready. When you can struggle through one song, you're ready!

As in most things in life, it's important that you strike a balance between practicing and performing. By performing, I don't mean a huge concert venue. It might be a performance for friends or relatives. It could be at a coffee house or an open mike night. Anything that puts you in the position of having to play songs - original or not in front of people is valuable.

Songs are not exercises. They are vehicles of self expression through music. This often strikes fear into the hearts of new performers. This is an understandable reaction. Remember that fear can be redefined as excitement. They have the same physiological symptoms - shaking hands, a feeling in your stomach, the tendency to run. But if you enter the arena of performance, these feelings will ultimately turn to motivation.

So, practice and perform. Make it a lifelong habit!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Versatility

It's obvious to everyone that versatility is an advantage! You're in line for more work and more variety of work. Certainly, versatility is better than limitation. Versatility also allows you to move in and out of areas if you get tired of them. Generally, this is a good thing!

On the flip side of this, there is another issue to consider. Using my career as an example, I was highly reputed in the show side of music and worked in that field for many years, I then got tired of it and went hard in the direction of Jazz concerts. From there, I returned to show playing and studio work. In time, I switched my focus to composing, working in corporate, radio and television advertising. Next was an eight year period of Neo Classical guitar with concerts, recordings, radio and television appearances. From that endeavor, I began writing instruction books on music. And through it all, I continued to teach and consult. The only activity that has been constant in my career has been teaching.

So where's the problem? Recently, I made a hard shift back to jazz concert work. But in my absence, everyone forgot who I was. It's like starting over. The same is true of all my contacts in each other field.

If you can maintain a series of activities simultaneously, it's more realistic considering how quickly the world forgets you. If you leave a field behind and don't go back to it, no problem. But all in all, it's good to have consistent activity in as many areas as you want to pursue.

Balance as always is the key to virtually everything.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Three Words

There are three words commonly used in music that should be avoided - or at least redefined.

These words are Practice, Play and Rules.

Practice - This implies boring repetition. It's uncreative and unproductive.

Play - This connotes casual fun - a frivolous, optional activity.

Rules -These are a rigid set of "laws" which must be followed.

I would suggest that the word Practice be replaced with the word Explore.

I would suggest that the word Play be replaced with the word Work.

I would suggest that the word Rules be replaced with the word Principles.


When you explore music, it becomes fun and exciting. To explore is to discover!

Work in the music business is not like work in any other field. Most musicians feel blessed to make music their career. So work in this context is joyful not tedious.

The Principles of music hold the key to the development of your potential. Within these principles, there is unlimited opportunity to expand your creativity.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Entertainment as a Career

Let's say you are pursuing the life of a performer. Whatever makes you inclined in that direction tends to make you "un-inclined" to follow up on the business side of music. Are you sure that you want to pursue this as your business? Are you sure that this pursuit is not just a hobby? If it is a hobby, that's fine. But if it's going to be a business, then you have to take care of "business".

Back in the day, a manager was necessary to pursue this field. Today, things have changed so much that I'm not so sure that it's as necessary as it once was.

What do you absolutely need today? An agent's job is to get you performances. That's essential! There is no performing career without performances. How about a lawyer, an accountant, a road manager, a sound company, a lighting company, roadies etc,etc. Well, all in good time.

But I want to focus today on the role of Public Relations. At one time, this may have been considered a fancy luxury. But, considering the changes in the industry, I feel that the role of PR is now one of those necessary things to have. Of course, it has to be a good firm that can deliver what they claim to be able to deliver. That will take some searching and some interviewing - both on your part and on their part.

Some simple guidelines. The firm or individual should have been in business at least 10 years. They should specialize in music - in particular your kind of music. They need to be flexible as far as the programs that they offer and the fees that they charge. After all, you're not usually rolling in money at the beginning of your music career.

It's a search but it's well worth the effort. So that's my overly simplistic suggestion. You need an agent and good PR. The rest will be up to you!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Angel Blue A Tour of Jazz Review

Angel Blue A Tour of Jazz

In the liner notes, Chuck Anderson mentions that this recording marks his return to Jazz after spending several years exploring the art of the Neo Classical Guitar. This album of original material begins with an easy swing tune, "Aqua Blue". Other selections include a bossa composition entitled
"Soft Breezes", a very pretty ballad, "Angel Blue", and a funky "Street Strut". His influences are Johnny Smith, Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. Anderson has a nice tone and feel to his single note lines. The phrasing is relaxed, and flows through the chord changes effortlessly.

Along with Anderson's guitar, this group includes Ron Kerber on tenor and soprano sax, John Swana on trumpet, Dan Kleiman on piano, Gerald Veasley on bass, and Ronny Barrage on drums, percussion and wave drum. The band works very well together, giving each player the opportunity to highlight his solo skills. The rhythm section of Veasley and Barrage keeps things moving over their solid backing. "Angel Blue" is a quality effort by very good players.

Reviewed by : Vince Lewis
Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

Monday, September 22, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Music Business

By the music business, I don't mean the recording or the performing artists. My reference is to the business machinery that is supposed to drive the music industry.

Musicians and entertainers are not supposed to chase club managers around, negotiate contracts or even collect the money. They should be spending all their time developing and polishing their skills as performers. Yet, the majority of up and coming artists spend the majority of their time spinning their wheels in the frustrating search for work, for publicity, for recognition. Could this be one of the reasons that we have relatively few quality acts today? I think that this is a major contributing factor.

It's not that talent doesn't exist. It's not that the drive or the ambition of artists are lacking. It's not that people are not trying. It's that there has been a complete collapse of the internal business of music. Changes in the industry have certainly contributed to this problem. But the real problem seems to be a lack of interested, committed people to work in the industry.

A case in point is the agency business. A music agent is a person that pursues and hopefully, gets work for artists. For this effort, they receive a commission. At one time, this business had prohibitive expenses associated with it. Phone bills and the mailing expense of promo kits mounted up. But today, you can get unlimited phone calls across the country for $39.95 a month. EPKs (Electronic Press Kits) have eliminated the publicity pictures, the bio, the credits and the demos (CD or DVD). They have also eliminated the mailing expenses associated with these items.

So what does it take to enter the agency business? ... A phone and access to the internet! From there, select your artists in the genre that you want to pursue and begin.

What are the music business graduates doing when they graduate from college with their degrees? It's not obvious to me!

Without agent Sol Hurok, Andres Segovia probably wouldn't have had a career. There are many examples in music history, where agents have been responsible for the development and prosperity of an artist's career!

Derek Siver, founder of CD Baby has recognized this need and is beginning a business called MuckWork. I am 100% behind Derek and his new business endeavors.

Check Derek's new endeavors at

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today's Music

I think that the state of today's contemporary Pop/Rock/Indie music has reached an all time low. Most groups that I see on TV can't move, sing, write or play. Their personalities could be described as cardboard but that would be an insult to cardboard.

Why they are in music at all is a mystery to me. My only guess is that it beats working for minimum wage.

It's obvious that they don't study or practice or do anything other than exercise their egos in front of the public. The fact that they have audiences is either a tribute to their marketing skills or a general insult to the listening public.

There is a silver lining to this sad story. I once thought that there was a correlation between talent and success. Instead, I've replaced that theory with another theory - and it is generally optimistic! Don't worry about being good enough or having any talent. Don't worry whether or not you can recruit adoring fans. Anyone can find a niche for whatever they do. And with some effort, you can turn that niche into a fan base with income to follow.

Your conscience should be your only barometer and without any conscience the sky's the limit!

Monday, September 8, 2008


Progress is in direct proportion to the time spent on disciplined practice and creative performance. But a musician's growth is not determined by practice and playing alone. Life experience is an integral part of a musician's development. As an individual matures, the learning experience requires increasingly thoughtful decisions. The musician must learn to decide when practice is most important and when the value of other pursuits outweighs the value of specific practice. Many people do not achieve their goals because they use time unwisely. This is a most common source of frustration. But it often takes this frustration to enable the individual to see the necessity of making better decisions on his own priorities of time.

Practice should be approached as a means and not an end. Music should be a personal expression and not an endless series of exercises.

Music Pursuing the Horizon
by Chuck Anderson Available at

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Angel Blue Review Bob Miles

Angel Blue Review
Written for Jazz Improvisation Magazine by Bob Miles

Chuck Anderson is certainly no stranger to the Philadelphia music scene. In the seventies, Chuck's first release "Mirror Within a Mirror" was an extremely popular album that featured the late Al Stauffer on Bass and Ray Deeley on drums. Angel Blue is Chuck's second jazz release after so many years. Why the extended absence? Chuck explains it this way: "I left the jazz field in 1978 to explore the art of Neo Classical Guitar. It was during this period that I began to focus on composition and ultimately made my way back to jazz."

Chuck Anderson is an impressive guitar force with boundless chops and interesting, unpredictable ideas.

Angel Blue features an eclectic collection of jazz styles. Chuck has decided to take "A Tour of Jazz" rather than focus on one particular style. Having several Philadelphia "heavy weights" including Gerald Veasley on Bass and John Swana on Trumpet certainly propels this tour along the jazz topography.

All but the Eleanor Rigby Medley are Chuck's compositions. The opening selection, Aqua Blue, is a melodious piece which features guitar, trumpet, sax and piano trading solos. Chuck opens with a relaxed solo with a very warm tone. Later, Swana skillfully shows his aural talents by repeating the five end notes of Kleiman's piano solo to start his solo.

Soft Breezes is a Bossa Nova, which opens with Chuck comping on a nylon 6 string.
Solos are rhythmically charged between Chuck and Dan Kleiman on piano and are reminiscent of Stan Getz's solo with Chick Corea on the Windows album. As the song progresses, it starts to build momentum as Veasley solos on his electric bass. Soft Breezes then concludes nicely to an all out samba.

The title track, Angel Blue is a ballad where Swana plays the melody with a muted trumpet reminiscent of Miles "Kind of Blue". The sensitivity with which they handle this ballad is top shelf. Swana lights a few sparks while Chuck fans the sparks into flame.
Chuck uses a subtle touch while settling in behind the beat.

Pirouette enters with Chuck's free style blowing gradually building into a modal setting. His solos center on Veasley's repetitive bass note pattern. Chuck's use of open strings and fourths effectively sets a dark tonality for which he is well known.

The next stop along the Tour of Jazz is Chuck's jazz/funk composition "Street Strut". Street Strut is what you would expect of a seventies style fusion piece ala Stern or Brecker. His solo would have been better enhanced with distortion as the notes and feel are certainly there. Chuck is right at home with a funky style which I find hard to say for other guitarists who have his technical facility. The funk kicks into high gear with Kerber's solo. Of course, Veasley's incredible chops add the final punch.

Flying Free is a contemporary jazz piece suitable for the smooth jazz audience. Should Chuck decide to expand into the smooth jazz market, I am confident that he would become an instant success. Chuck does open up as the song fades.

Danielle is Chuck's second ballad. This is nicely shared between Chuck, Dan Kleiman on piano and Ron Kerber on tenor. The solos are slowly drawn, relaxed and hold a nice sense of calmness throughout. Again, Chuck reinstates his interesting lines with a warm, almost silky tonality.

VSQ makes a return from Chuck's first release, "Mirror Within a Mirror". This nicely features a quirky melody injected between solos. The energy is high with Ronnie Barrage adding a feverish drum solo. Chuck again draws upon that dark tonal quality combined with an extraordinary display of confidence in his solos.

Eleanor Rigby melody opens to a solo melody and chord style with Chuck using parallel fourths and contrary motion for much of the melody. Gerald Veasley again supports Chuck with a mega- chops solo. Veasley's frequent use of fifths during Chuck's solo is a nice touch.

Dance of the Algons is the final track and is free form featuring mostly Kerber, Anderson and Kleiman. Chuck's six note motif is often heard underlying the solos throughout.

Chuck's compositions are outstanding at both a harmonic and melodic level. They remain interesting throughout the entire CD. Chuck solos hold because of their sheer musicality.

Chuck Anderson does accomplish what he set out to accomplish. Each track nicely and authentically covers the various styles from Bossa Nova to Smooth Jazz and in - between. It's great to hear that Chuck has made his much anticipated return with such highly regarded players in this art form.

I recommend Angel Blue to jazz educators who want to introduce their students to the various forms of jazz. I also recommend Angel Blue to those who just want to have a great listening experience!

Friday, September 5, 2008

On Practice

Practice is that inevitable "dues-paying" time that everyone must invest to pursue music. In the self study approach, the most difficult aspect of practice is the organization of musical and technical principles. Too often the player works in circles not really progressing, not knowing what to practice. Becoming aware of this lack of progress, he begins searching for sources of information. Books, recordings and other musicians are primary sources. Though these approaches are sometimes helpful, they are not flexible enough to solve specific problems for specific students. An individual can form habits from misinformation that can be detrimental to his progress for years.

Studying with a qualified teacher solves the organizational problems and provides a type of security for the student. Having dealt with so many self taught players and their problems, I encourage any serious players to find a qualified and creative teacher to assist their development. Every player is comfortable with and responds to varying programs of study but most can be helped by the right teacher. I do not deny the difficulty of finding this teacher but the effort required is usually worth it.

Music Pursuing the Horizon
by Chuck Anderson Available at

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Teaching Career - Chuck Anderson

My private music teaching career began in 1963. I was sixteen years old and not at all sure about a career direction. Having studied the guitar since the age of fourteen, I was involved in music but certainly not committed to it. Chance rather than planning played a major role in what was to become a life long career and commitment. In the spring of 1963, I was practicing my guitar lesson in the kitchen of my family's home in suburban Philadelphia. A neighbor came over to show my mother an ad that she had read in a local newspaper. This ad was written by a woman who was looking for a guitar teacher to teach her twelve year old son. As there was a transportation problem in their family, they needed someone to come to the house.

I went to the phone and began calling the number. My mother asked what I was doing and objected because “I didn't know how to teach”. My response was “I know exactly how to teach”. With the conviction of my response, my mother let me make the call. Such was the booking of my very first student. Being sixteen and lacking a car, my mother drove me each week to teach. Not long after that, I developed some independence of transportation and began teaching other students in the same neighborhood. I continued through word of mouth to develop students in other neighborhoods. Sometimes this involved teaching multiple students in the same household and sometimes friends on the same block.

I also began to develop students that came to the family home. My studio was located in the recreation room and had a private entrance. For the next three years, I continued developing my schedule in these two ways. A small music store opened within ten minutes of my home and I applied for a teaching position. I taught in the afternoons and on Saturday. When the store went out of business, those students came to my home studio, representing a significant increase in my teaching schedule.

Music in general and teaching specifically began to absorb more and more time, forcing me into my first major decision. I had always been extremely active in sports. Now, teaching was interfering with after school sports practice and performing with a band was interfering with weekend games. I resolved the conflict by quitting sports in my senior year of high school. Though it was not a popular decision at school, it was the official launch point for my music career.

At age nineteen, my father was transferred to Texas. I was about lose my home teaching studio. Since I attended college in Philadelphia, I made the decision to stay in the area rather than relocating to Texas. I found the largest music store in the area and applied for a teaching position. Since I was bringing my own home students to study at this store, I was able to negotiate a higher percentage of the weekly teaching fee. For all students that the store scheduled for me, I was paid the lower and standard fee. I continued to build my teaching schedule up to ninety five students per week while attending college full time. Because I had three times as many students as any other teacher, I was offered the position of director of the music school which I accepted.

The retail store moved the school to a new location a block away. This facility was devoted exclusively to the music school. It was during this time that I began to develop the organizational skills needed to run a private music school. This included advertising, billing, developing policies and marketing. At age 27, I left the school and opened my own music school. Fortunately, all my students made the transition forming the initial basis for my new school. The school was located in a older two story building with stain glass windows and pocket doors. With the help of my father, we incorporated the school, furnished the building and had a parking lot built.

Ultimately, the school had twelve teachers, over 400 students and included workshops, seminars and group classes. We also opened a guitar and bass repair center in the basement. One of the back rooms was devoted to graphics which were used for promotional material and a brief look at the music education publishing business. The school also developed contracts with local schools and organizations which provided additional sources of revenue.

After five years, the school began to take so much administrative time, that I decided a change was needed. Taking four of the school’s teachers, I moved to a smaller facility in the same town. Instead of the traditional arrangement with the teachers, we developed a teaching co-op. Each teacher reserved his own studio for a specific number of teaching units per week. We determined the total number of teaching units available and developed a percentage of shared expenses for each teacher. In this situation, the teacher not the school collected the fees and paid their percentage of expenses. This proved to be an easier way to continue the school as it relieved me of the time required to schedule, bill and collect tuition. Because the overall expenses were so much lower, it proved to be more profitable for all concerned.

This co-op organization continued for the next three years. I had in those three years begun to develop a desire to be independent of organization in general. I began the construction of a custom built teaching studio and waiting room attached to my home. The studio’s construction required a variance from zoning ordinances and necessitated a twenty thousand dollar debt which was paid off in time. The studio long after being paid off continues to operate as the base for my private teaching.

Throughout all teaching transitions, I continued to give concerts, do recording sessions, play shows and pursue an active playing career.

Future plans include more private teaching, books, seminars, workshops, videos, performances, recordings and consultation.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Letting Go

Most musicians at one time or another have problems "letting go". Even if they have developed their understanding of music and their technique, "something" holds them back. This can often be traced to a simple though ultimately irrational fear. Fear of what? Maybe they're not as good as they think they are. Maybe they're not as good as their friends and relatives say they are. Maybe they don't stack up to the competition. Whatever the fear, it is certainly destructive. How many people who have the "right stuff" refuse to believe it and act upon it.

Music ultimately is not a competitive sport. It is a pathway of self expression. How many people have said "I get it", musically speaking. But the problem is that they don't "get" themselves.

Putting your self into the music as fully as possible starts to break this negative tendency. Not worrying about the reaction of others is an important step in developing the skill of "letting go".

Don't fear mistakes! Fear not taking chances!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Parental Objection to the Pursuit of the Arts

Parental objection to the pursuit of the arts is premised on what? It is based at least in part on a lack of clear-cut evidence of potential in the field. Because of the confusion concerning the stability of the field, it is possible that those with great ability never pursue a career in music. If they do not pursue it, are they even aware that they have a potential! Certainly, there are many who do not seek their sphere of greatest ability because of fear - fear of failure - failure measured in any way. The same type of uncertainty faces people in other fields but the unknown has always been exaggerated in the pursuit of the arts. Thus, most have pursued "secure' jobs which has often led to discontent. Frustration is typically the result of pursuing work that is alien to one's inclination. Since so many people are engaged in work that is unfulfilling, the entire work ethic is deteriorating or has deteriorated. The majority of the work force clamor for a shorter day, more income and more benefits. Dedication to any field calls for enormous commitment of time and energy. Perhaps an advantage of the arts is that few people pursue them without dedication. If one is not happy with one's work, why does one engage in it? Some possibilities are a lack of ability, foresight, courage or determination. There is no shortage of alternatives. Since so many are engaged in work which does not satisfy them, the world is filled with mediocrity. Why has mediocrity become the standard of acceptability! What is wrong with the criterion of excellence? Is it truly more difficult to attain ? Even if it is more difficult, the rewards and personal satisfaction of accomplishment are sufficiently great to justify the time, effort and struggle.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Unlocking the Guitar - Notes on the Neck

It's unbelievable how weak guitar players are on knowing the notes on their own instrument!

No other instrument suffers from this same fate. Imagine a piano player not knowing the note names of the keys...or a trumpet player not knowing what notes come out if they push specific valve combinations. Yet, an amazingly high percentage of guitar players don't know the notes on the neck.

This problem has certainly been created by the guitar world's penchant for tablature and chord picture diagrams. Despite this, there is no excuse for the failure on the part of guitar players to learn what is absolutely rudimentary on any other instrument.

If you need help overcoming this particular problem, check out my handbook Unlocking the Guitar - Notes on the Neck. It gives different approaches to learning the notes as well as drills to master the topic.

Reading vs Sight Reading

I receive many questions on sight reading. The implication is that it is a special skill with tricks. The reality is that sight reading is nothing but a high level of reading. Guitar players are infamous for their lack of reading skills. Starting with sight reading is akin to wanting to go for your Doctorate before your Bachelor's degree.

Reading encompasses the following skills:
1) Note Recognition and Execution 2) Note Location 3) Fingering Solutions 4) Rhythm Recognition and Execution 5) Ability to follow the "roadmap" - a series of written instructions that moves you from one section of a piece to another and indicates something of the interpretation of the piece.

Putting these together is reading. Putting these together without preparation, just as you would read a book or magazine, that's sight reading!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Progress - Pursuing the Horizon

Progress is never measured from where you are to the horizon but rather from where you were to where you are. Those who focus on what lies ahead to the exclusion of their accomplishments are destined for frustration. To keep balance, use the following affirmation. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’m looking forward with great anticipation to what I will accomplish”.

Music Pursuing the Horizon
by Chuck Anderson Available at

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Politics of Music

"Who you know" is a commonly thought prerequisite of success in the music business. Though there is a certain amount of truth to that, it is highly overrated. "Knowing" people who can assist you in your music career is nothing more complicated than meeting them. I do not deny the importance of "contacts" or the difficulty of making them but many people allow this problem to disrupt their determination. It is commonly said that contacts allow one to enter a field but ability allows one to remain and prosper in it.

Determine a Direction

Before even considering contacts, one must develop abilities and determine a direction. Whether this involves formal study or self teaching is inconsequential. The important thing is that the physical ability to perform is developed along with the creative sense and the sensitivity of the ear.

At whatever point the individual feels that he is ready to pursue a specific direction, he can begin his search for contacts. The most important fact to remember in this search is that you must locate the contact not the reverse. Though you may disagree, the contact has less to gain than you do, at least initially. You are vitally interested in yourself and your future. The contact is typically not that interested. Thus, the pressure is on you to make the moves. You do not have to be born into contacts. You do not have to live next door to a contact. You do have to open a strong, definite line of communication between yourself and everyone with whom you come into contact. If you are shy and reluctant to express yourself, you must work on overcoming this problem. Though it does require an effort, it is well worth it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tribute to Al Stauffer

Al Stauffer was a giant musician but a gentle and supportive human being. Someone asked me recently what was it about Al that was so important to me. I must admit that no one ever asked that question of me before. It wasn't difficult to answer but it was important that I got the words right.

Al was strong, creative, encouraging and rock solid. That not only describes his music but also his character. He was always ready for something new but also valued tradition. His ability to respond musically to the moment was legendary. Whatever I played, he had a spontaneous musical reaction to it. He was the proverbial team player and yet a completely original voice.

Al taught for me at my school Modern Music Studios in Berwyn, PA for 5 years. Every night after teaching, we would go to a local pub where he would eat a roast beef sandwich and drink a couple of beers. My weakness leaned toward ham sandwiches and birch beer. Late into the night, we would talk music, sports or anything else two friends would talk about.

Al kept a distinct line between his musical life and his personal life. I realized that after he was gone, that I knew nothing about his personal life. I didn't know where he lived except in a very general way. I didn't know much about his family or his life outside our music. I didn't know where he went school or where and how he trained musically. Despite this, I always felt that we were remarkably close.

I'm always disappointed that when I see any mention of Al in print, that it never mentions our collaboration. We did concerts, taught together and recorded for 5 years at a critical point in my musical development. Fortunately, our work continues on through the recording, The Vintage Tracks.

I owe a great debt to Al for his support of my music.

Chuck Anderson

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Commercial Work

Commercial work is filled with adjustments. The musician interprets them as compromises, a term filled for the most part with negative implications. The music, atmosphere and audience are rarely to his choosing and still more rarely to his liking. The gap between what he has prepared for and what he finds is difficult to reconcile. The aspiring player begins a war within himself. Accepting work for the income it provides gives way to refusing work in order to preserve artistic integrity. Feeling financially pressured, he accepts work again only to be caught in the same dilemma and so the vicious circle continues.

Those who accept all commercial work to the exclusion of any other musical pursuits have usually made their decision in favor of income and a degree of stability. Those who turn down all commercial work in favor of artistic pursuits have made quite another decision. For some this decision has led to income and stability but only for very few. For the majority, the decision has prevented them from achieving financial rewards and those things which society equates with success. If the individual has made the decision that finances are unimportant to him and if he can remain immune to society's pressure, he will be free to pursue his art in peace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Composer versus the Song Writer

To many, the terms composer and songwriter are interchangeable, In reality, they are not! They certainly share many common skills but there is a significant difference between the two.

A songwriter writes a single melody line and lays it over a chord progression. Lyrics are added if the song is to be a vocal tune. The order in which he or she creates these elements is irrelevant.

Sometimes these elements are created by a pair or team of writers. Sometimes they are created by a single writer.

A composer, on the other hand creates multiple streams of melody which harmonize at certain points to create harmony ie the chords.

Songwriters tend to use chord symbols in generating their songs - composers don't tend to work that way. Many songwriters start their songs with a chord progression - composers don't.

Songwriters tend to use basic harmonic rhythm and standard theme lengths and structures - again the composer does not.

Certainly writers can operate in the song field and the composer field but it does take the development of the knowledge, experience and the techniques of both fields!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Neo Classical Guitar

What is neo classical guitar? According to some, it's a style of lead guitar featuring speed as well as "classical scales and arpeggios" such as the Harmonic minor scale and the diminished 7th arpeggio.

To claim that this has anything to do with classical or neo classical guitar borders on the ridiculous!

We certainly recognize the form called classical guitar as a nylon string instrument, played on the left leg, using the nails and fingertips of the thumb (p), the index finger (i), the middle finger (m) and the ring finger(a). This is the form made popular by Andrea Segovia. Its repertoire as well as its sound and technique stamped this form as classical guitar.

I think the form that I developed in the 80's qualifies as Neo Classical Guitar. It's characterized by the use of the modern guitar, acoustic or electric, played with a pick and performing transcriptions of recognized classical composers.

If you would like to hear this form, check out Kaleidophon the Art of the Neo Classical Guitar.

There is a demo at The CD is also available on the same site.

Look for two new Neo Classical Guitar CDs titled "Timeless": and "Virtuosity" to be released in the Fall!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Music and Selling Out

We hear much about "selling out". What does it mean! To many it means playing anything that becomes financially successful. This is an extremely narrow and destructive point of view. An individual can "sell out" in only one way. That is to violate and give up the pursuit of goals and ambitions for himself thus never achieving a meaningful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Music and Age

The musician too often convinces himself that at the age of eighteen or twenty-two or. . . his decision is irreversible and has lifelong implications. This is not true. If he follows his own inclinations and tries, he will be moving toward the realization of a goal. This movement is important because it is a positive attempt to move forward. It is not the crippling inertia caused by indecision. It is never too late to change directions and to reshape goals. It only takes courage and effort to do it.

Talent must reflect individuality

Every individual is unique. Talent must reflect individuality. This unveiling of the unique individual reflects varying degrees of depth, perception and maturity. The uniqueness of an individual does not primarily center on physical ability. The physical ability to play is a mechanic and can be acquired by most with sufficient work and determination. Physical aptitude should never be equated with the possession of "talent". The physical is an essential means to the ultimate goal of revealing the self through music but it is by no means the only factor. Talent strives forward and upward on two fronts: the technical (physical), and the musical (creative). Missing or limited development of either interferes with the development of the musician's totality. The fusion of the physical and creative aspects of music reflects the ultimate possibilities of development for a particular individual.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Students and Practice

Students seem to think that they should be above low points of practice enthusiasm. They are perhaps unknowingly denying their own humanness. No one is perfectly consistent. Musicians are not machines. There will be peak periods and the opposite. The true measure of one's potential is not the consistency of highs but rather the ability to recover from low periods. During periods of depression and sagging enthusiasm, students often begin to tell themselves that they must not have the ability to achieve in music. Because if they did, so their reasoning goes, they would not have any difficulties with their own motivation toward practice. They tend to look at an established player and assume that this player never had problems like theirs. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is their assumptions only that is giving them their "information". If the established player were to be questioned and if he were to be honest and open with the inquiring student, he would reflect the same problems as the student himself. Naturally, it must be looked at within the framework of the established player's development.

Music Pursuing the Horizon
by Chuck Anderson Available at

Music - Self Reflection

Music is basically a type of self reflection, a communication form intended to convey the uniqueness of the individual player. The uniqueness of an individual is the sum total of his experiences. These experiences shape the personality of the individual to a great extent and it is this personality which is reflected through music. The importance of life involvement and life experience is greatly overlooked. Many have confused the reality of music with the theories of music. Music is part of this world. It is not above, beyond or outside of it. It is so integrated with day to day living that it should not become separate. Those who have decided that a four, six or eight hour practice day takes precedence over or eliminates the need for other experience should reevaluate. Based on the thought that isolated practice is the key to success, all great players should be single, unattached, without responsibility or pressure and totally free to devote all their energy to music. However, the smallest investigation reveals the opposite facts. Great players throughout history have been human beings fully involved in the business of living as well as in the pursuit of their art. They have married, divorced, had children, mortgages, debts and emotional trauma. In short, they are exactly the same as non-players except for their specific ability and direction.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Friendship and Bands

Here is a common problem in bands. You start a band with your good friend. You're not concerned with the fact that your friend doesn't play well. You're just glad to be making music. Over time, it becomes apparent that your friend is not as committed as you are. Perhaps you study and he or she doesn't. Perhaps you practice but he or she doesn't.

The progress of the band suffers and you suffer! The chain is as strong as its weakest link. But you don't know how to handle this problem. After all, it's your friend, maybe your best friend.

This is your first test of developing an attitude of professionalism - or at least seriousness.

If your "friend" won't put the effort into improving, you should replace him or her in the band. Don't let some misguided sense of loyalty stop you from doing what you should do. It's not fair to you to be held back by such an individual.

If this individual is truly a friend, go to the movies with him or her. Hang out, eat meals together, go to a ball game.

Be a friend but don't let it interfere with your future!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Performance and Teaching

It's commonly believed that teaching and performing are mutually exclusive. Not so!

Each of these pursuits is an outlet for creativity. They are separate but interrelated.

The effort and energy required to pursue two fields is certainly greater than the effort required to pursue one field. But it can be done. Typically, anyone involved in teaching and performing tends to favor one or the other at various points in their career. But if you've trained for both, you should be able to pursue both.

This applies to every field, even Classical music. I remember reading an article about Janos Starker, a famous cellist. He performed and taught at Indiana University. He was the first Classical musician I ever heard who stated emphatically that the duality of teaching and performing could be a reality.

Remember, perform seriously and teach seriously. Each will enhance the other!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Promotion in the Music Industry

There is something about musicians that resists marketing, especially self promotion. I think there is a perverse pride that musicians have about not being in business. This alienation to business creates a great disservice to everyone involved.

If you don't approach your music as a serious endeavor, it will not be taken seriously. Is music your full time career or is it a hobby? The answer to this question is central to your decision as to how you should approach the business side of it.

Think of any business, product or service. They all have one thing in common. They promote, they advertise, they sell. This is not a violation of your internal commitment to the arts and creativity. On the contrary, it's what makes you a professional as opposed to a hobbyist. Playing music as a hobby is fine. These comments are more addressed to professionals and those who want to be professionals.

Creativity creates your product or service. Then, you have to introduce it to the public, find your audience and provide something of value.

This is simply a mind set. Learn to think business after you have created your service or product.

Your reward will be the opportunity to indulge your passion while making a living.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Value of Formal Music Study

Should you study music with a teacher or should you "wing" it on your own? This question always comes up in this type of discussion about music.

An objective assessment of the two alternative approaches leads me invariably towards the formal route. Why? Because without guidance, there is a tendency to go in circles, What do you practice, when do you move to the next topic? When are you doing something wrong? How do you practice what doesn't exist to you?

Many complain about time as a factor leading to the decision not to study. I would suggest that exactly the opposite is true. Those with less time need the efficiency of study. Without it, there's a tendency to "practice" what you're already good at. Study ensures that you will be working on your weaknesses. The results of self teaching are obvious. A player may get good at one thing but have blatant weaknesses in another.

If you use famous players in the past as your justification for not studying, you'd be wrong! Wes Montgomery was self taught - there's your justification. But is it? Wes was self taught because there were no teachers at that time. I don't mean no qualified teachers. I mean no teachers. Wes told me "Make sure you study. Don't do what I did."

All this, of course is premised on the presumption that you study with a qualified teacher. What makes a teacher qualified and how do find such a teacher? We'll save that one for the next installment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Diversity of Music

One of the most fascinating aspects of music is its diversity. By diversity, I don't mean styles of music. Certainly, there are many forms of music available - Classical, Jazz, Rock, Folk, Blues, Country and on.

In this context, I'm talking about the many levels of music. How many ways there are to enjoy and appreciate music.

1) Music is intellectual. There are so many principles behind music that one could spend a life time unravelling them. As a profession, we could call one who pursues these principles, a theoretician. But on a more casual level, understanding what is behind, what is beneath the music merely enhances one's enjoyment of music, regardless of the form that music takes.

2) Music is emotional. Whether you are a singer, an instrumentalist, a composer, a song writer or just a fan, music provides a deep sense of emotional satisfaction. It's difficult to find another activity that offers so much to so many.

3) Music is physical. Musicians train endless hours to develop the strength, agility and stamina that it takes to play music successfully. In this sense, the pursuit of music is like the pursuit of athletics.

4) Music is psychological. The control of the mind and the psyche is enhanced by the development of patience, the ability to communicate, the ability to work with others and the ability to balance ego and humility.

5) Music is philosophical. In music, many have found a way of life that benefits them in many facets of their own lives. The Greek Golden Mean of moderation, harmony and balance provides a basic structure by which you can guide your life.

These are just a few of the many ways that music influences and impacts lives.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Music as a Business

As you develop your career in music, remember it is a business! No, business is not a dirty word nor will it ruin your creativity. It will allow you to make your living in music, Not a day job with some music on the side but a real job with real income. You should be able to buy a house, a car, have a family. etc Your parents may even stop asking you "when are you going to get a real job"? Some parents never stop asking but you won't mind anymore because you're a music professional.

There has always been resistance from musicians to promote, to advertise, to seek new opportunities, to market their services. Yes, music is a service business. Can you imagine any business not promoting their services?

Do you have to be the best? Well, you certainly want to work hard to develop your potential but all you really need to do is develop a market. Did you ever hear someone who is not particularly good? Yet, they are still making a living in the music business - sometimes a huge living!

In the business world, this concept is called niche marketing. It simply means - get enough people to like what you do and are willing to support you in your chosen profession. It could be performing, teaching, writing, selling CDs and books etc

Begin to think like a professional in any other successful field. It will pay huge dividends!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Careers in Music

A common question asked is "how can I make a living in the music business"?

Well. the first thing you have to do is to define "a living" and "the music business".

Your financial needs are critical to define. Of course, everyone would like to maximize their income but what do you actually need to live? If you have a day job and you have been meeting your bills and obligations, then to switch to music full time, all you have to do is equal your day job income. If it's $500.00 a week for example, then that's what you have to make from your music business. If your music provides a second income, that's fine as long as you're willing to keep 2 jobs.

Next - The Music Business

Well, there's more variety possible than most people think. Being a "star" is an option. Though the odds are longer than normal for the "star" approach, many people do become stars. Some become major stars and some become minor stars. Remember, we're talking about making a living not appearing on The Lives of the Rich and Famous.

Teaching holds great opportunity for those who are inclined and prepared. In my book The Private Music Teacher's Guide, I outline a very serious approach to making a serious living in private teaching. Some teach in the public or private school system. You can teach for a music store or school or open your own facility.

Beyond teaching, playing offers many opportunities for income. The club level, the wedding and party bands, the hotel circuit or country club circuit, the retirement communities all offer opportunity. As usual, you can work for someone or start your own thing.

Beyond these suggestions, there are opportunities to write, Songs, jingles, soundtracks, TV themes ,video game music or the next great symphony. This blog could fill several books, so to keep it short and to the point, all these opportunities have one thing in common. They all take training, preparation, hard work, persistence and a little luck.

If you need help with any of these issues, E mail me at

Check out my website at There could some books in the online store that may help you in your pursuits. Keep checking back, because I'm always working on new material to add to the site.

Chuck Anderson

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chuck Anderson Performs - Pirouette

Here I am ( Chuck Anderson ) performing my original composition "Pirouette" on Miles of Music ( hosted by Bob Miles.,

My Short Jazz Guitar Bio

As a Jazz guitarist, Chuck broke into the Philly Jazz Scene with the Chuck Anderson Trio in 1973. The group featured Al Stauffer on bass and rotated Tim Paxon, Ray Deely and Darryl Brown on drums. The trio played concerts throughout the east coast and recorded its first album in 1975. the album, originally titled Mirror Within a Mirror is included in a compilation CD titled Teh Vintage Tracks. This CD, released in 2005, contains all of the trio recordings from the 70's.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guitar Players' Issues

It's unbelievable to me how weak guitar players are on knowing the notes on their own instrument!

No other instrument suffers from this same fate. Imagine a piano player not knowing the note names of the keys...or a trumpet player not knowing what notes come out if they push specific valve combinations. An amazingly high percentage of guitar players don't know the notes on the neck. Is it more difficult than other instruments? No doubt. But that's the price you pay for playing the guitar.

This problem has certainly been created by the guitar world's penchant for tablature and chord picture diagrams. Despite this, there is no excuse for the failure on the part of guitar players to learn what is absolutely rudimentary on any other instrument.

If you need help overcoming this particular problem, check out my handbook Unlocking the Guitar - Notes on the Neck. It gives different approaches to learning the notes as well as several drills to master the topic. It's available at