4 essential and easy guitar tips for beginners

Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball.com
Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball.com

When I started out playing the guitar I didn’t know any theory. My older cousin taught me these 4 tips and they carried me a long way for a long time until I had a chance to study music in college. So here they are! Follow these 4 tips and this will get you rolling on guitar in no time. Have fun!

  1. How to hold a pick

For years I played with incorrect picking technique and it took a long time to retrain and learn proper picking technique. Hopefully the following clips will save you years of unwittingly using improper form. Both focus on alternate picking which is really the test when it comes to proper picking technique. Alternate picking is another technique I wish I had learned about early on. If you’re interested in soloing, it is essential that you possess this skill.

  1. Power Chord

This is the first chord I learned before diving into any music theory. It only requires 3 fingers and it can be played all over the guitar neck so it’s extremely versatile. You’ve heard this chord before in many classic rock and punk music such as Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Ramones, etc.

  1. Pentatonic Scale­

This is the first scale most guitarists learn. This scale is also very movable along the guitar neck and versatile. In many cases this is the only scale learned by guitarists and it carries them along many songs and even genres of music such as Blues, Rock, Pop, Country, Jazz, you name it.

Pretty cool huh­? I will be expounding on these topics in future blogs but for now this is an easy way to get started. Have any questions or topic ideas? Let me know.


Four critical steps to efficient recording

The first thing you want to do to have a smooth recording session is write out a plan for the session. It’s true. 30 minutes or so of planning and prep work can save you hours of wasted time during a recording session. Want to learn how to reduce stress and be more efficient in the studio? Then fallow these four steps and you will be on your way to recording bliss. Here we go!

Step one:

Determine and write down the key and tempo of the song or songs you will be working on beforehand and you will get things started off on the right foot.

Image 1 SOURCE: http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/musicandnightlife/butch-vig-on-producing-foo-fighters-next-album-new-garbage-material-smart-studios-documentary-b99336-273794151.html

Step two:

Confirm the song structure  and write it down to eliminate any potential confusion. Going over parts because of miscommunication can frustrate the artist and suck up valuable energy and time.

Image 2 SOURCE:www.performing-musician.com

Step three:

Write down which microphones you will be using on each instrument and attach a number to it so that you can keep your channel strip organized. If you make any mic selection changes you can modify your notes

Image 3 SOURCE:www.obpmusic.co.uk

Step four:

Write down your plan for the day. You will want your drummer to show up first so that they will have time to set up their drums and you can position the mics. Setting up the drum mikes in just the right positions takes up a chunk of time so the less band members you have waiting for you to mic the drums the better, after that arrange for the rest of the musicians to show up. One everyone is there you want to record a rough draft or “scratch track” with a metronome which will pass as a template to play along to while recording the actual tracks you plan to keep. This prevents unintentional speeding up or slowing down or the missing of musical cues the musicians rely on in order to know when to change parts.

Do you have any questions or other helpful tips to add? I would love to hear them.

Should music be free?

 Does giving away music for the sake of publicity help or hurt an artist?

guitar case with cashPhoto curtesy of Roughguides.com

This question has been on the minds of artists since online radio stations like Pandora and Spotify became the preferred way for listeners to consume music, especially since listeners can hear the artist’s music without paying a dime. I have made several observations on this argument over the past 17 years that I have been a professional musician. One, I noticed that my most of my older musician friends (musicians who have been in the game since the 90’s) seemed to overwhelmingly frown upon giving away music for free. Some sources such as Music Think Tank support this position by stating for example, “unless you already possess quite a large fan-base along with the subsequent reach, giving your music away will be the last you hear from most of these new fans.”

On the other hand, a number of my younger musician friends (millennial 20 somethings) have no problem with sharing music for free. Many music bloggers, share the general consensus among this camp that, “since people can generally find music online for free, then why bother putting a price tag on it?”

I understood why my old-school friend protested giving away their music, because they had become accustomed  to being paid for it. But why were my younger collaborators so eager to give away their hard work for free? What’s in it for them?



Some artists call “industry abuse of musicians”

The exploitation of artists and their work is nothing new. However in the early to mid 2000’s the music industry experienced a historical business model shift. In the previous model musicians made a living off of record sales and supplemented their income with merch sales, royalties and touring. In the new model take away the record sales and all musicians have to live off of is their supplemental income streams in hopes to sell a few downloaded singles. That business model shift created the impression that music should be free, which sounds cool to the consumer but what about the artist who used to make a living creating that music? Why should everybody else get paid for their work but not musicians? Major corporations have jumped on the bandwagon and claimed “budget restrictions” as an excuse to not pay artists for their contributions, calling it an “opportunity for exposure”. Instead of paying a band for performing, some music venues charge bands to play giving them “the opportunity to sell their merchandise”. To read more about this side of the argument check out the article entitled Pay Everyone But The Musician by Andre Calilhanna.

For more information on the history and the foreseeable future of the music industry check out this short video:


Some artists say “Just give it away”

blackwomanlisteningtopodcast_zps7d408fc5photo coutesy of Shine

The vast majority of musicians nowadays agree that it’s ok to give away music, in fact nobody will know you exist if you don’t give away music. The majority of post found on this subject leaned towards giving away music as a necessity to establish a fan base. In the article The Value Of Giving Away Your Music For Free, Farah Joan Fard brings up the very valid points that giving your music away for free can help you “taste test your audiences ears”, give music bloggers access to your music via their audience, and points out that “free isn’t forever”. Online you will get a lot more published articles supporting this new stance on free music and its value to publicity and exposure.


Giving away “some” music is ok

I have noticed that if you research this subject on the internet what you will find is a lot of blogs and articles that favor towards giving music away for exposure’s sake, however most of the responses towards these articles object to giving away music. My conclusion at this point is that times have changed and it is necessary sometimes and in certain situations, to give away music  for free. However, artists should be very selective and strategic as to when giving away free music is actually in the best interest of their careers.  For example you might be a new, undiscovered artist in need of exposure. In this case it would make sense to give away some music for free to create a demand for your work. On the other hand you might be an established artist and you have a major corporation requesting the use of your music without paying a dime. In This case it would not make sense to give away music for free.


What do you think?

“Let us know what you think! Do you agree with Andre Calilhanna of Echoes , or do you side with Farah Joan Fard from the Sonicbids Blog?  Tell us why you feel this way in the comment section. Do you have any family members or friends that have a strong opinion on this topic? Share this with them.”















Top 3 most influential funk albums of all time

  1. Mothership Connection by Parliament 1975:

parliament-mothership-connectionPhoto courtesy of Hunkered Down in Brooklyn

Regarded as one of the most influential funk albums ever recorded, Mothership Connection continues to be one of the top selling albums in the funk genre for over 40 years. Led by George Clinton, Parliament was comprised of Bernie Worell on Keyboards, funk bass pioneer Bootsy Collins and horn players Macio Parker and Fred Weslie (formally with James Brown) to name a few. This album was post James Brown hay day and veered away from the visceral, high energy funk that dominated the late 60’s funk sound and went for a slower danceable groove and introduced psychedelic elements and extended songs. Producers like Dr. Dre and artists like Snoop Dog were strongly influenced by this album and it’s easy to hear when you listen to albums like Doggy Style and The Chronic.

  1. Star Time by James Brown 1997:

james brow albumPhoto courtesy of  Amazon

This 51 track, 5 hour box set is the most complete representation of the life works of James Brown. Brown is widely credited for inventing the basic funk rhythm pattern which led to disco and hip-hop. There are many James Brown compilations out there but this one covers it all, from his first releases in the 1950s all the way through to his last recordings in the 1980s. This four disc box set even includes original uncut recordings and previously unreleased material. If you are searching  for the roots of funk than this is a crucial album to own.

  1. Street Songs by Rick James 1981:

rick jamesPhoto courtesy of Amazon

Released by Gordy Records, Rick James’ fifth album Street Songs is considered to be his most recognizable album. Songs on this album include “Give it to me” and “Superfreak” which still has relevance today. Rick James’ music has been sampled by numerous artists including Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, MC Hammer and Common. Songs from this album are also featured on video games such as Grand Theft Auto, Scarface and Skate.

Do you have any albums that you would like to see on this list? What are some of your favorite funk artists?

New, exclusive promotional art for The Down Deep by breakthrough artist Milinda Lawless

Psionc Research Records Employee Highlight: Milinda Lawless, Creative department

milinda mohawk pic

Psionc Research Records is proud to highlight Milinda Lawless our head of Creative Services. Milinda has recently completed two, one of a kind, handmade masterpieces to be the exclusive centerpieces for The Down Deep  ’s EP release scheduled for the first quarter of 2016. Milinda, who resides in Denver, Colorado studied design and photography at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and then moved to Olympia, Washington to study print making and ceramics and earned her art degree from Evergreen State College.


Not only is she a gifted artist, she is also the owner of Lawless Revolution Wear, selling and designing fashion forward handmade clothing and accessories as well as original art. She has appeared on the TV shows That’s Clever HGTV and Stylicious on HGTV as well as interviewed on Raw Artists where she explains her technique and talks about her artistic inspirations.


Each one of these works are a mosaic of small hand drawn pieces of fabric which were sewn together and embellished with handpicked jewelry creating a multi textured three dimensional effect. Since these works of art are designed and made by hand no two are exactly alike, making them impossible to reproduce.

We are looking forward to the contributions of this brilliant artist and are honored to have her on our staff.

Latin Solo Example

Having a passion for music takes many forms. Not only do I love to write, record and perform music but I also enjoy teaching music. Nothing makes me happier than watching a student experience that aha! moment or teaching them a shortcut that will save them years practicing  something incorrectly. So today I would like to share the approach I used to learn how to solo on the guitar, I suppose this approach would work well with any instrument. What I did was learn the basic scales and arpeggios associated with the type of music I was into. This developed the muscle memory and the callouses and the flexibility to go on to the next step which was to learn my favorite parts of my favorite solos (called ”licks”) which inevitably led to the next step  which was to learn my favorite guitar solos in their entirety ( With the help of YouTube and the internet of course).

After getting a hand full of solos under your belt  your will start to notice patterns which are used in general  for that particular style of guitar soloing which naturally find their way into your improvisations. This approach may not work for everybody but it worked really well for me mainly because it was exciting to learn my favorite songs and that always kept me moving forward and evolving as a guitarist. I found some great tips on developing speed as well as the 5 most commonly used guitar scales in rock an roll.

Here is a video demonstrating the use of scales and rock licks in a Latin music context