Sunday, April 26, 2009

Concert Survival Guide!

Getting Ready to Go On Stage at the NJ Folk Festival! Warm weather & sunny skies contributed to a massive turnout. Headstock Tuner and Woodstock Guitar Strap by Planet Waves. Denim jacket and Special Edition D-18 guitar in sustainable cherry wood both by C.F. Martin & Co. and made in the U.S.A.

PHOTO: NJ Folk Festival performers Magda Miczak, (harmonica) and Ray Rettger, (banjo), stay late to jam after the show with two event attendees.

Well, there's no denying it. Our concert season began this weekend at the 35th New Jersey Folk Festival! Record crowds were in attendance as the sunshine filled temperatures soared into the 90's. When playing the summer concerts and festivals, you'll need to observe a few rules of the road so you'll last the distance. First off, you'll need to make sure to stay hydrated. Caffeine filled sodas, coffee and tea beverages are actually diuretics meaning they help rid your body of fluids. So drinking them instead of pure water will actually dehydrate you even more. You'll also need to choose your clothing carefully. Pick outfits that not only show up well on stage but allow proper ventilation to your skin. Most of us sweat even a little when we perform but large dark perspiration stains on your shirt (or pants!), look really scary on stage. Remember the saying, "Never let 'em see you sweat"?

Staying Cool On Stage

What I have found are a few essentials that help me endure the harsh conditions of outdoor concerts and jams. Here I am after playing a set in 90 degree, sunny weather. The cowboy hat isn't a prop. It is by Dorfman-Pacific and offers serious sun protection so my face doesn't get burned. It is made of airy straw with lots of meshing in the crown so my hair isn't soaking wet from being steamed. My blouse is by ExOfficio, and is called the Next-To-Nothing Zeph'r for good reason. It completely allowed my skin to feel every passing breeze while I was performing. I might have been a bit misty but it surely didn't show. More than that, I was entirely comfortable through out the whole festival. This blouse is wrinkle resistant so it's perfect for throwing in my gigbag or overnight case. Every bit as road-worthy as my guitar! In fact all of ExOfficio's pieces pack extremely well. This shirt is lightweight, super quick drying and even has a secret zippered security pocket. 3/4 length sleeves stay out of the way of my guitar strings. What more could you ask for?

Festival Players Warming Up
Life on the road can disrupt your usual practice schedule and routine.
Increase your studio time now and you will be able to make the transition with ease. The best thing to do is to arrive early as you see my Bluegrass friends doing here, and warm up. I used Planet Waves' new Headstock Tuner this year. Very accurate and compact enough to leave on the guitar while playing. While you are tuning your instruments you will also tune your voice so you don't lose it in the middle of a performance. I often take along a saline nasal mister because it quickly hydrates the upper nasal passages and back of the throat. This clears your head and gives your voice extra clarity and resonance. Arriving early also allows your set list to come together with decisions on what key you'll be playing in being made before you go on stage. This is the time to hydrate yourself with plenty of water which is especially true if it is hot and dry. Take a quick restroom stop before you hit the boards and knock 'em dead! If you don't get enough water before going on, well, you may be the one getting knocked dead.

Jamming After the Concert

Ideally, you'll want to have plenty of juice left at the end of your concert to get together with a few people after the show to talk and play. This is how you grow as a musician and performer. I can't emphasize this enough. If you are so wiped after a weekend of travel, rehearsals and performing that you miss the "real party" afterwards, its time to rethink your diet and exercise program. Great tours don't just happen. You have to condition yourself for them. Your training table should consist of lots of complex carbohydrates, whole grains and nuts, lean meats and LOTS of pure water. Try to walk or ride your bike for shorter errands now that the weather is getting warmer. This will all add up to increased stamina on the road and you can be the last man or woman standing when all is said and done. Here I am still picking until late after most performers had left. People must have liked the sound of my Martin D-18 because it kept getting borrowed! I really wasn't tired and enjoyed meeting a lot of new musician friends and fans after the show. That's what it's all about, right?

PODCAST ALERT! You can check out many of the items mentioned in the article in the banner ad section to your left. Didn't get a chance to attend this festival? Listen to a LIVE Podcast from the 35th Annual New Jersey Folk Festival at
: Dr. M's Radio Show,

IN THE MIX: We'll be road testing the Audio-Technica 3000 Series Wireless Microphone System this season! It comes with the acclaimed ATM710 condenser mic and is available with its own case so it is perfect for going on tour. See you out there!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Martin's FREE Guitar Clinic!

Photo: Robbie's Music City owner, John, Martin Guitar Luthier, Dave Evans and Dr. M enjoying the Martin Guitar Clinic

Dave Evans putting Martin Acoustic SP medium strings, (Phosphor Bronze) on my D-18 made of sustainable cherry wood. According to Evans, Brazilian rosewood ceased being used as a standard wood to make guitars in 1969.

This was the first Martin Guitar Clinic Robbie's Music Center of Hackettstown has hosted. Based on the long line of jovial customers who turned up despite the driving rain, I would say it was a huge success. Customers with any make of 6 or 12 string guitar received a free set and installation of their choice of light or medium gauge Martin SP Strings. Action adjustments were also done absolutely free of charge.

In this tight economy, you might consider replacing your strings before replacing your guitar. New, quality strings will make a major difference in tone and even playability. Evans also replaced the strings on my Martin D-16GT. Medium SP strings were replaced with lights as I mainly use this guitar in the studio for recording and highly amplified with pickups for stage performances.

Customers also reveled in trying out some of the new & limited edition Martins on the floor that day!

One of the guitars Martin has brought back is the 01 Series. It is a very straightforward instrument but with a price point of under $900.00, it is surely going to be a hot seller. In fact the sample 01 models Evans brought to the clinic that day were all sold out. The store also ran special guitar sales up until 4 pm when the clinic was officially over.

Customer Janet Schuring pictured here owns three Martins including the Backpacker she's holding. She received new strings on all of the Martins she brought in that day.

Clinics like these are a great way to meet other guitar owners and get some insight on your instruments specific needs. Upon having her Backpacker's strings replaced, Schuring found that the instrument had been drying out in the gigbag. Removal of the strings caused a dried piece of wood to come loose. Repairs were made with a little wood glue and she purchased a humidifier for the instrument to prevent further damage. Another benefit of a Guitar Clinic is being able to try different types of strings that you would not normally use.

Generally, medium strings will allow you to drive your Dreadnought's tone for greater volume and projection. If your guitar has pickups, you may not need that much acoustic volume. Lighter strings might work better depending on your style of playing.

Hear our live Podcast from this Martin Guitar Clinic as Dave Evans discusses the differences of the woods being used in Martin guitars. Listen in at Dr. M's Radio Show:

Be sure to check our listings below under SHOWS-CONCERTS-JAMS for the next FREE Martin Guitar Clinic on April 18th! We'll also be doing another GUITAR GEAR GIVE-AWAY featuring C.F. Martin, GHS Strings & Planet Waves goodies so check back!

Friday, April 3, 2009

String Time Arrives at C.F. Martin's FREE Guitar Clinics!

PHOTO: Display of Martin Acoustic strings for Studio & Performing. Listen to some Martin Guitar strings in action right now on Dr. M's Radio Show:

My guitar teacher agrees. One of the best things you can do for your guitar's sound and playability is to change the strings frequently. In fact, for optimal performance, your strings should be changed after every 40 hours of playing. If you play a little more than an hour each day, you'll quickly rack up that much time in a month. Still in my experience, nothing makes your guitar sound brand spanking clean like a new set of strings.

Signs of the Times
The good times you've had with your guitar show up as dark patches and discolorations all along the length of the string. Your strings will also have a dull tone and not resonate well. Once they get "patchy", there's not much you can do to remedy the situation except change them. With a bit of forethought, you can extend your strings' playability.

Getting the most life out of your strings means taking a few steps to keep them clean and ringing true. Also keeping the humidity level between 40-45% in your guitar case will also be a great help. This is because over-humidification which often comes with the spring rains, will cause your strings to accelerate in oxidation. That means rust city so be sure to be extra careful when using your guitar at outdoor folk festivals and jams.
See our article here on Spring Guitar Care:
Players also should make a habit of washing their hands before picking up their instrument. Corrosive acids and salts in your sweat will transfer from your fingers onto the strings. When you are playing, pass on the salty, greasy chips and other such snacks that may be around. Salt is a true enemy to string life!

GHS makes an excellent line of electric guitar strings and guitar care accessories. To extend the life of your strings, you can use their String Cleaning Cloth. This specially treated cloth is used dry over steel guitar or bass strings to clean and restore tone.

Another product from GHS that I like to use is their Fast Fret. Like the cloth, it is a string cleaner but also benefits the fingerboard. It comes in a stick which just glides along your strings and fingerboard. Wipe off the excess with the cloth that is included and you're ready to play! These products won't damage or stain your guitar's finish and are made in the U.S.A. I keep them handy as they are easy to pack for the studio and the road. Some say it allows them to play faster along the fretboard. I'll take any help I can get but practicing is the only way I've seen to really increase my speed. Visit GHS online for all of their quality products at:

So there is a lot that you can do to keep the life in your strings and improve their sound along the way. The Martin Guitar Clinics are completely FREE and allow you to meet other musicians and see some new model guitars up close and personal as they usually allow you to play them. You can ask questions and gain some insights on your guitar. You'll also have the opportunity to try a free set of new strings and have them put on by an expert luthier all at no cost. He'll check the action and make suggestions on the best type of strings based on your instrument and playing style. You may have been playing with the wrong strings all these years. You owe it to yourself, (and your audience), to get the right strings on your guitar. Don't miss out on an opportunity like this! See the upcoming dates and locations under our CONCERTS-SHOWS-JAMS header down at the bottom of the page. You may also contact C.F. Martin directly to schedule a free factory and museum tour or for more information about their Free Guitar Clinics. C.F. Martin website:

Photo: Dr. M. & her Martin D-16GT, in solid spruce & mahogany

The Next FREE Martin Guitar Clinic is on Saturday April 11th 2009 in Hackettstown, NJ with master luthier Dave Evans. Get a set of premium Martin Strings installed FREE! See Details under SHOWS-CONCERTS-JAMS
Now that Spring is here, it's jammin' time! Don't sit at home. Come out to the Concerts, Folk Festivals and Jams coming up. (Check the listings in our banner ad section) We'll have more FREE Guitar Gear Give-Aways too!
Up Next!!! Listen in to Dr. M's Radio Show Podcast at: