Holy cow! I had no idea there were so many secrets out there, and so many players eager to divulge them!
In other words: The Secret Room project is off to a roaring start, with hundreds of cool submissions, and I’m working overtime to get them posted.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts about the process so far, and invite your input in comments. (I’ve closed comments in the Secret Room announcement post, because too many people were posting secrets there, rather than using the submission form.)
For better or worse, I’m manually screening, editing, and tagging all submissions, rather than automating the process by letting folks post directly to the Secret Room. I have mixed feelings about this decision (see previous comments about “working overtime”), but I want to explain why I’ve gone that route, and why I’ve password-protected the site, even though it means it may take a couple of days for secrets to get posted.
My sincere hope is that the Secret Room develops into an genuinely meaningful resource for guitarists. The giveaways and contests are fun, but they’re just a sideshow. I want the site to be free of spam and time-wasting posts, so that users of all levels can drop in and get right to the good stuff. Here are a few examples of what I consider to be fine, helpful secrets, taken from the site:
Follow Your Breath
By Blake Mills
Allow yourself to play only while you exhale – this automatically organizes your phrases into the breathing category of a vocalist or horn player!
Blake Mills is an LA-based solo artist and session player. He’s currently touring with Lucinda Williams.
Balance Your High Gain
By Alex Skolnick
Rock amps these days have a channel that offers a ‘high gain’ or ‘lead’ channel. But most commonly its still not enough for a professional sound – one powerful enough for crunchy rhythms and saturated enough for leads. The other option is a distortion box which turns a clean signal into dirty…however, that’s usually not enough gain either. And of course, a cranked distortion box through a cranked ‘lead channel’ will be too much saturation. The solution? Use the lead channel, but blend the gain of the amp with the gain of your favorite distortion stomp box with a good balance. In other words, don’t crank the gain of the ‘lead channel’ all the way, and don’t crank the gain of the stomp box all the way. Start with them both on low and give or take until you have a good blend. The right gain balance between stomp box and amp can lead to a great tone.
Alex Skolnick leads a double life as the leader of a jazz group, the Alex Skolnick Trio, and as the lead guitarist for the long-running metal band Testament.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be a super-experienced pro like Blake or Alex to contribute — I really want this site to be n00b-friendly! But I quote them to show how much thought and care they put into their posts. And why I’m probably not going to post “secrets” like these actual submissions:
Use good quality picks. Breadbag fasteners don’t hack it anymore, if you’re really looking for good tone.
Don’t ever settle on a piece of equipment! Find what is right for you. You only live once!
how many notes in an octave? 7, 8 or 12 ? answer 8 !
Get the picture? Wouldn’t you rather visit a site with more stuff the Blake and Alex examples and less like these? Yes, I want to include tips that will be meaningful for absolute beginners, but not stuff that’s more “common sense” than “cool secret.”
Anyway, I’ve been sending passwords to anyone whose secrets seem sincere and well intentioned, but I haven’t automatically posted everything I receive. It’s a balancing act, one I’m still figuring out.
FYI, here are a few secrets that have been submitted many times already. They’re good all good ones, but these particular points probably don’t need to be restated for now:
• Practicing makes you better.
• Changing pick types changes your sound.
• Practice to a metronome.
• Don’t play with too much gain.
• It’s a good idea to adjust your pickup height properly.
• Different pickups sound different.
• My ___ guitar into my ____ amp via my ____ pedal is the ultimate tone in the universe.
I’m not saying those things aren’t true — but I’m going to ask you to dig a little deeper! And if you’re a beginner who hasn’t played long enough to acquire lots of good secrets, ask a more advanced player you know. Who knows what you’ll learn! Plus, sometimes, as a beginner, you may be in touch with something that more experienced players no longer think about. Here’s a fine secret from Danny, a beginning player:
Most people don’t think of playing guitar as a physical endeavor, but it is, at least in part. Nothing physical can ever be done well with too much tension in the body — just ask any athlete. An easy cue for this is your forehead. Smooth it out. It sounds weird, but trust me.That crease between your eyes, that almost-scowl when you’re concentrating hard — those are sure signs of tension in the body. That tension will slow you down and make you play like a robot. I may be new to guitar, but the mind-body connection is my bread and butter.
Your thoughts are welcome!