Saturday, December 20, 2008

A new page

I have a new Facebook page. Check it out when you get a chance!

Playing with Butterfly Knives
Segovia class, 1986, USC
Segovia class, 1986, USC
Segovia class, 1986, USC
1976: Pepe Romero masterclass, Houston (age 14)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watch Your Back!

About fourteen weeks ago or so, I decided I needed a massage. Although I made the decision to get regular massage treatments many years ago, this time I had a particularly painful "knot" under my right shoulder blade. This familiar knot has been a frequent nemesis of mine, and a well-known trigger point. A combination of playing my guitar and carrying a lot of stuff on and off planes, through airports, often early in the morning with little sleep and certainly no stretching or warming up, had left the door open for this little pest to pay a visit to my back countless times over the past decade or so. But this time, the massage didn't work.

In fact, the next day, or about two days after I had gotten home from an extended bout of traveling and more constant guitar playing than usual, not only was the knot still there, but a pain was radiating from it down my right arm. This was alarming to say the least. It was a distinctive pain, that of an irritated nerve. And, one day later, the index and middle fingers of my right hand were numb.

I had experienced very mild versions of these symptoms in the years past, but only a coupe of times, and I was able to literally "shake" it off. A couple of shakes and stretches and it was as good as new. This time it wasn't working, and the pain was increasing along with the tingling numbness. It was a combination of one's arm being asleep while someone was hitting it with a baseball bat. No exaggeration. I decided I needed the experts.

I got an xray and an MRI scan. The results showed a bulging disc at the base of my neck. That would be a herniated disc at c-7, for those who like doctor-speak. It is from here that the nerve emerges which serves the right arm, hand, and specifically the thumb, and the first three fingers. I decided on chiropractic treatment, which I am still receiving regularly, over three months later.

This is no advertisement of chiropractors or any other kind of practitioner. Rather, I feel I should tell everyone out there to watch their backs. Playing the guitar as we do leaves all of the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and fascia vulnerable. They are especially open to injury right after an extended playing or practicing session. Over time, if we don't address these items, if we don't maintain the machine, our physique becomes compromised. Like an athlete, we need to tend to our overused muscles and sinews.

I am no doctor, and will give no advice here. But because of my experience with this matter, I beg you all to do some research on your own if you feel you have any pains or tinglings beyond the norm. I now stretch, keep the muscles warm, and always take regular breaks. I massage out any tension knots that I can reach myself, and if I cannot, I have them rubbed out professionally. I also now monitor myself when tempted to sling a heavy guitar case and computer bag onto my shoulders, and roll my bags whenever I can. Things you can look up on Google or even YouTube:
-Brachial Neuralgia
-Trigger Points
-Nerve Flossing (sounds weird, but it works)
-Pinched Cervical Nerves
-Self Massage
-Finger Tingling/Numbness
-Arm Pain, etc, etc.

Since this has happened, I have had to cancel solo engagements for the first time in over 30 years of playing concerts. It has been impossible to get through an entire full length concert program on my own without having to stop and shake out the numbness. The pain has greatly subsided, thanks to the therapy, exercising and stretching. As for concerts with my quartet, those are easier, in that I am not solely responsible for 100% of the notes, and have a few seconds here and there to shake and reposition my arm. I am positive this will clear up, probably within a six-month period. Meanwhile, I'll just keep up the practice.

Please take care of yourselves, and watch your backs!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 2008 Tour

Our hosts in Beijing probably thought we were crazy, and perhaps sponsored by the Starbucks company, as we kept asking for Starbucks everywhere we went. We were elated to find a Starbucks at The Great Wall. Although, we really didn't need the caffeine to get our hearts pumping for the climb; that is one STEEP wall!

In another photo, Bill and Matt catch up on some practice at the Moscow airport. The lack of organization, space, and pretty much anything positive was ASTOUNDING at this airport. I've never been in such a chaotic, frenzied crush of confused & angry humanity than the security "line" at the Moscow airport. Although Moscow and it's people are amazing, I don't look forward to using this airport again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Law of Attraction

Just wanted to jot down something I've been thinking about lately. This comes up all the time when I teach in one way or another, but, now that school is out for the summer, it gives me time to step back and reflect.

It has to do with "the law of attraction", "active visualization", call it what you will. A stream of books, films, cd's, have come out in recent years -"What the Bleep Do We Know", "The Secret", "The Law of Attraction", to name a few - all with basically the same message: laws of physics suggest that when we act, think and feel a certain way, we attract the very thing we are focused on. 

When I was a boy, learning to play the guitar, my teachers would get mildly frustrated with me. I would come into the lesson imitating a different player practically every week. I would see their picture on an album cover and copy the way their hands looked (which was rarely attractive), or do my best to sound just like them. And I became really good at it. When I look back on it, "pretending" was my own way of active visualization; I would copy something, and then let my playing adjust to the physical traits I was taking on. Not always brilliant results, but the self-training was extremely valuable. 

There are a couple of lessons here, I think. First, embrace a child's enthusiasm to pretend, especially when he/she is pretending with artistic projects. What child do you know who doesn't believe they are a great artist when they show you a crayon drawing?

Secondly, grownups should pretend more. We should give ourselves some regular time to let our imaginations out of the cage and go free.

I have had a saying floating around on my computer desktop for a couple of years now, and I'm finally beginning to realize how powerful and true it is, and rarely easy to do: "Act as Though I Am, and I Will Be".

Friday, May 30, 2008

Earth's worst cup of coffee?

After seeing the RyanAir flight attendant use "espresso powder" to make an espresso, I knew I was in for a questionable cup. It was terrible. Took a picture to remember it 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008