music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Recess Time Redux

You would think by now that everyone has woken up to the fact that the country is in its deepest recession in seventy years, but along comes the latest Williams-Sonoma holiday catalog, landing on my doorstep this past week.

I couldn’t help but be amazed and dazed at the American Farmstead Cheese Collection; 1 pound eleven ounces of artisanal fromage priced at $79.95. That’s a bargain compared to their Stilton In A Crock where just eleven ounces will set you back $46. Their USDA Prime Rib Roast is also a steal at $299.99 for a ten pound slab. Even the candy and chocolate consistently comes in at $50 per pound. And get this, peppermint sticks…you know, the candy cane of our childhood, registers $45 for just under 16 ounces.

What’s going on here? At least one new retailer has the right idea. As I drove to my local post office this week, a sign was going up to top off a new establishment in the neighborhood. Appropriately, it read…The 89-cent Store.

December 24, 2008 | Link to this entry

Recess Time

Now that the pundits have officially declared a recession, something we’ve been in for over a year now, every major company and many smaller ones, are scurrying to catch up on long-awaited, for them, downsizing. The car companies, after dragging their sorry faces into Congress with hands out, are blaming the unions for their sad state, ignoring the plain fact that workers’ wages are but 8-10% of their expenses, ignoring the fact that their pitiful automobiles have yet to realize even the quality of their German and Japanese counterparts circa 1985 let alone these foreign giants’ current offerings, and ignoring the fact that there is very little sympathy for said CEOs who fly in private jets and award themselves multi-million dollar bonuses whilst running their companies with less vision than a three year-old behind the wheel.

“Too big to fail” has been the rallying cry and excuse of Detroit and Wall Street titans lately. They should take a long honest look at themselves and see that it is their incompetence that has brought them to this precipice. They have all failed their founders’ principles, their hard workers and the American people.

December 15, 2008 | Link to this entry


Occasionally I get an email from other guitarists who wonder what instruments and equipment I use, and ask why I don’t list all of it on my website as many others do. The truth is that I’m not a gear advocate and I don’t think it’s important. I hate to perpetuate the all-too-common belief that if you buy the same equipment, you’ll get the same sounds. While it’s important to have instruments that feel good in your hands and amps and electronics that help you realize your pre-visualized sound (or would that be pre-auralized?), contrary to popular belief, that’s not really where your sound comes from.

I’m sure that every musician has had the experience early in life of buying their favorite player’s instrument, the same make and model, along with any extras (amps, pedals, strings, reeds, mouthpieces, etc) that their favorite uses. The realization in every case is that you didn’t end up sounding anywhere near the player you were trying to emulate.

The “magic bullet theory”, in which a person constantly searches for different equipment that will ultimately make him/her a great musician, photographer, painter, etc is a common human trait. The search always ends in frustration after spending much hard-earned money. In the end, the truth is that there is no shortcut on the road to technique or experience.

So, back to my equipment. You still want to know? OK, I’ll share with you the single-most important piece I use: A Fender Heavy pick. It doesn’t slap around, instantly responsive, can use the rounded corners for a mellower sound (especially on nylon string guitar if you’re not using your nails), produces an extremely beautiful tone whether picking very softly or digging in…I could go on and on. Think about the musical food chain. Brain. Wrist. Fingers. Pick. All the sound that is you comes from this chain, more so than any other equipment/instrument you own.

Special thanks to my Wicked associate guitarist, Justin Smith for finding an extra special batch of Fender Heavys recently, in grey tortoiseshell, no less!

December 2, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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