02019-03-04 @ 17:03

I remember reading an interview with a classical guitarist a long time ago. She said that one has to file one’s nails a little bit every day. At the time I figured that the statement was hyperbole, but eventually I figured out that she was right. Nail care is the most underrated aspect of a nylon string guitar player, whether they play classical or flamenco guitar.

In places where the humidity is high nails grow faster, as does hair. When playing in Florida I may have to file my nails every single day, but in a dry climate like New Mexico or Arizona that’s not necessary.

It amazes me how differently guitar players file their nails. There are many different ways people do the filing itself, and also many different shapes that they give their nails. Some guitarists file only in one direction, others file back and forth, some go for flat nails and others for slightly pointy ones. But no matter what, it’s something a guitarist has to deal with all of the time.

It is not good when one walks onto a stage, excited to perform, and then discovers that the nails grew a little too much… and suddenly one gets stuck on strings. A fraction of a millimeter is all it takes to throw the guitarist off and too long is as bad as too short…

I sometimes wonder whether one can observe how people open doors and cupboards and know immediately whether they are guitar players. As a teenager I trained myself to open everything with my left hand, so I would not chance breaking a nail.

There are two reasons to fortify one’s nails: to prevent ripping part of the nail off accidentally during the hours of the day that one doesn’t play guitar, and to enable the player to create a stronger tone. The latter is especially important when one performs with a drummer. Being able to play a little louder makes the sound engineer’s job a lot easier.

Recently I did some research into different ways to protect my nails. In the late Eighties I used a few layers of superglue. In the Nineties I added baking soda. This created a much stronger nail, but was frayed with danger. Adding too much baking soda to the superglue created so much heat that I could develop a blister underneath my nail, a terrible experience. In the late Nineties I switched to acrylic powder with superglue.

Last year I experimented with a bunch of different nail polishes. I figured that since nail polish is a billion dollar industry a lot of research must go into improving it.

I discovered that good nail polish is not actually very hard, and certainly not as hard as superglue with acrylic powder, but it is flexible. That’s how chipping is prevented, and the polish appears to self-repair. And that doesn’t work for guitar playing because it ruins the attack. The nail polish seems to absorb the guitar string rather than to bounce it back.

So now I am back to using acrylic powder and super glue. I did notice that it makes a big difference when I remove the natural oils from my nails by putting a little nail polish remover onto a cotton pad and wiping the nails before brushing on the superglue. And, because it is nice to try something new, I will start using a black acrylic powder I recently found.

Could You Be Loved – Guitar Break

02016-12-02 @ 12:12

I posted a short video clip of me playing the guitar break for “Could You Be Loved” on Instagram a couple of days ago:
Here is a guitar break I came up with this fall, for one of the pieces we played on tour. I remember showing a few funk riffs to the late dancer Vicente Romero years ago. He told me I had to find a way to play that on the flamenco guitar. Since I don't play with a pick (plectrum) it took me a long time to figure out a way to use my index finger nail to do this. I recorded this with my iPhone.

May 2016

02016-05-25 @ 10:05

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Guitar Microphone

02016-04-11 @ 10:04

This Earthworks SR40 is the microphone I have been using on my guitar for over a year now. I haven’t used it for recording in the studio yet, but it’s handsdown the best microphone for the stage I have ever used… and I have used a lot of different ones!

We are often asked which gear or tricks we use to ensure the guitar is loud enough, especially since I refuse to use a pickup on my guitars – I haven’t used a pickup on my flamenco guitars in at least a decade and a half.

Let’s face it, classical or flamenco guitars are puny and quiet instruments when compared against electric bass guitar, drums and keyboards. With this microphone we always have enough level and we don’t have to worry about feedback.

Of course sound level isn’t everything, the quality of the sound is just as important. I feel that this mic gives me the truest guitar tone and makes hearing what I’m playing a pleasure. And that is something we guitar players cannot take for granted.

Here is what Earthworks writes about this microphone:

You’ll love what the Earthworks SR40 high-definition cardioid mic does for your recordings and live performances. Its 30Hz-40kHz frequency response means you’re capturing a far wider range than most mics can touch. The result? Better depth and a truer sound that includes more high-frequency overtone content. You’ll also appreciate how well the SR40’s true cardioid pickup pattern rejects outside sources, and how it gives you impressive gain before feedback.


02014-07-16 @ 10:07

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Three Years Ago in Kham, Tibet

02009-09-29 @ 05:09

Playing guitar for the kids at the Zhechen monastery college. Photo by Joan Halifax Roshi. You can find her photos on Flickr.

Two Years Ago: Practice-Space

02009-09-04 @ 05:09

We practice to create space. This is true for playing a musical instrument, but applies to everything else as well, I think. Practicing creates familiarity. Familiarity creates intimacy.

When we practice playing a piece of music or a scale, we train our brain by using our body. We scrub those neural pathways by moving our fingers. And that creates space. If moving from this note to that note has been trained and ingrained, we no longer have to think about that move and are free to consider other or additional moves. If moving from point A to point B has become utterly natural, then I have established space between those two points in which I can make additional moves. Or, imagine jumping from a rock to another rock. Once that jump has become easy, we might add a turn, a twist or a salto. In music, we might add a new note, a trill, a tremolo, a vibrato… We have created space (or time) in which to make additional moves – or choose not to! The more natural that jump or that piece of music becomes, the more space we have created. Then we have more time and more choice.

I find it important that the space we have thus created should not necessarily be filled with additional notes as we can use that space to embue the sound with more intent or emotion instead. When we no longer have to work at getting to the next note or musical sound, we can enjoy playing the current note with complete conviction.


02009-07-28 @ 12:07

Banned From YouTube: Parody Guitar Videos | Underwire |
Earlier this week, YouTube pulled the plug on funnyman and media artist Santeri Ojala, whose hilarious and popular “shredding” videos poke fun at the world’s great guitar players.

YouTube said it received three complaints of copyright infringement and automatically suspended Ojala’s account.

YouTube has a standing policy to suspend accounts after three complaints from copyright holders, whether the complaints are valid or not. YouTube declined to say who filed the complaints, but it was likely the guitar gods themselves — or their representatives.

Ojala, who overdubs rock concert footage with his own bad guitar playing, says he has no plans to fight YouTube’s decision, which would likely require him to hire a lawyer and file suit against the company.

Stephen and I shared a lot of laughs over those videos. They were so funny and well done. Sad to see them go. Hm, wonder which rockstar objected to them…

Cubadisco 2009

02009-05-26 @ 06:05

Back in 2004 I wrote about hearing Ahmed Dickinson Cardenas play during the guitar festival in Tijuna. In 2006 he sent me a lovely live recording of guitar music, his own arrangements and adaptations of music Ñico Rojas had written for piano. Today I received this email from Ahmed:

Cuban guitarist Ahmed Dickinson Cardenas received two prizes at Cubadisco 2009, the most important award of Cuban Music Record Industry. His album debut paying homage to the late Ñico Rojas was awarded in the Best Instrumental Soloist & Best Instrumental Album categories. Cubadisco International Fair, founded in 1997 and organized by the Cuban Music Institute, is the most integrating event of the Cuban Music Industry and it constitutes a preferential space to expose the main achievements of Cuban Music. The winners of its 13th edition were announced in Havana on May 16, 2009.

Congratulations Ahmed! His web site can be found here.

Found the album on amazon:
Plays Ñico Rojas
Downloading now!


02009-03-30 @ 11:03

Stevo’s POV:
Stephen’s Journal and Stephen’s Flickr.

We are in Palm Desert and have a day off. Took the strings off my guitar this morning and cut a little shim from the hotel’s business card, to raise the bone-bridge on the treble side because the high E-string in particular was buzzing – possibly from the Californian humidity. I didn’t bring wood shims or different bridges (bone pieces) on this short tour, but the improvised shim seems to work.


02009-02-23 @ 15:02

Collecting ideas for videos.

Cello Scrotum – the truth at last

02009-02-02 @ 10:02

Cello scrotum — the truth at last | Oddly Enough | Reuters
“Cello scrotum,” a nasty ailment allegedly suffered by musicians, does not exist and the condition was just a hoax, a senior British doctor has admitted.

Back in 1974, in a letter to the British Medical Journal, Elaine Murphy reported that cellists suffered from the painful complaint caused by their instrument repeatedly rubbing against their body.

The claim had been inspired by reports in the BMJ about the alleged condition guitar nipple, caused by irritation when the guitar was pressed against the chest.

It’s time to redesign the guitar

02009-01-06 @ 12:01

Blog: It’s time to redesign the guitar | Music |
Why are they still making guitars with “real” strings that are difficult and boring to learn how to play and really make your fingers hurt? What is the point? Do we still slaughter our own cows? Dig our own wells? Work in the turnip fields for 18 hours a day, six days a week? No. Buttons have proven themselves to be much easier and more efficient.

Stevo is selling his guitar

02008-12-23 @ 08:12


Bendy Wires + Song Titles

02008-11-07 @ 08:11

Interesting series on the BBC called The Story of the Guitar. Select other vids here.

Was listening to some Jazz this afternoon and came across this title, possibly one of the best song titles ever?
The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are some Jive Ass Slippers
– from the album Let My Children Hear Music by Charles Mingus.

Sunday Morning Link

02008-07-20 @ 09:07

YouTube – Paco De Lucia Shreds – part of the “Shreds” series. Others include Steve Vai, Eric Clapton and more. Stevo found this yesterday and we had a good laugh about it. Haven’t laughed that hard in a while. If you have never seen a “Shreds” vid by this guy, he basically takes guitar-hero videos and overdubs (((he replaces the original soundtrack with his own))) his own guitarplaying, timed perfectly to the movements, and played for optimum comical effect. Because it is so funny, most guitar-heros allow the videos and don’t have them taken down.

Last Night

02008-07-16 @ 12:07

Chair + Guitar
Flamenco Blanca (Blanca/white means that the back and sides were made from Cypress, while Negra/black means that the sides and back were made from Rosewood) with ebony pegs by Lester DeVoe. This is also the guitar on the cover of The Scent of Light. While Lester usually puts a one-piece tap plate (golpeador) on his guitars, I always request two pieces, leaving the area underneath the strings unprotected. I think it allows the top to flex better and sounds more “open”.
Stage, The Triple Door

Traveling with a Guitar

02008-06-03 @ 10:06

I have to tell you that this Accord case in combination with this Colorado Case cover (mine is a little older and does not have the pocket on top) is the best way to travel with a guitar. The guitar fits in (almost) every overhead bin on airplanes and when I do have to gate-check it for a flight on a small prop-plane I am confident that the guitar is as well protected as it can be. Highly recommended!

Laughing Nuisance

02008-05-30 @ 11:05

When the guitar
Can forgive the past,
It starts singing.

When the guitar can stop worrying
About the future,
You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance
That God
Will lean down
And start combing you into his hair.

When the guitar can forgive
Every wound caused by
The heart starts singing.

– Hafiz

Well, I will admit that Hafiz wrote violin instead of guitar.
Thanks Y.


02008-05-03 @ 20:05

This morning it was very cold. Went to Upaya to return something I had borrowed.

Water from the Right

At noon I went back to Upaya because Roshi invited me to lunch and it was nice to catch up with friends. After lunch I noticed the sun lighting up the Buddha in the window:


Left to pick up my Negra1 (DeVoe 2002) from Keith Vizcarra, who installed his V-Pegs for me. Now I will sit down to play that guitar and this evening I am expecting Rahim, who is coming by.


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