How to Clean Your Guitar

Learn how to clean your guitar, and you’ll be able to keep it shiny and looking like new. These tips will help you get rid of the dirt, streaks, and …

How to Clean Your Guitar

Hobby #8: Active Listening

This is a common sense hobby – you probably don’t need someone like me to suggest it. But I bet for most of you it’s been months or even years since you’ve done it… so indulge while I nudge you a little bit.

Dedicate Time to Focus on Active Listening

Minimize distractions: let the dog out, put the kids down for nap, and silence your phone.

Grab a note book and pen so you can take notes. Scribble what do you like about the instrumentation, any lyrics that stand out, and any emotions you feel.

Consider headphones: this will help you hear the depth and spacing of the instruments better. Any headphones will do, but noise cancelling over ear will help block out the world and let you get lost in the soundscape.

Get comfortable: Dim the lights, light a candle, and pour some wine.

Listen to your favorite tune, or try out something you’ve never heard before. (See the playlist below for suggestions if you’re looking for something new).

Check out this playlist if you’re looking for something new to listen to.

Set a reasonable volume: heavy metal should me loud, classical music should be loud enough to hear dynamics, or whatever is appropriate for the tune you’re enjoying.

When the song is over, review your notes in silence- add any final impressions you have. If you feel compelled, listen again.

Move on to another tune. Then when you are done with the session take a moment to reflect. Did you learn anything new about your artist, album, song, genre etc? Can you draw any new conclusions?

Is there something that you’d like to share? Publish on social media or share with friends or consider starting a song club.

The most important thing is that you make the time, because if you don’t, life will get in the way and you’ll miss out. Get listening!

Academy enables gifted Ukrainian musicians to continue their dreams

More than 40 gifted young musicians from Ukraine are continuing their education through the Phoenix Music Academy in Dortmund, Germany. By Alexander …

Academy enables gifted Ukrainian musicians to continue their dreams

Hobby #4: Create a Fake Band – HUH???

I hadn’t planned this post, but I woke up early this morning and this was on YouTube. It’s already the last day of August, summer is falling. That marks this time sensitive so here we go…

Pat Finnerty does a comedy video series called “What Makes this Song Stink.” It’s tremendously clever satire of YouTube videos loosely following the format of Rick Beato’s music appreciation series called “What Makes This Song Great.” You should check them both out. Seriously, they’re some of my favorite channels.

Pat recently made a video poking fun at the MGK song Emo Girl. In his video he analyzes the song and forms a fake band and records a song in the same style.

The name of the fake band is August is Falling and their first fake song is called Mad This Summer. Long story short, through a strange series of event which he describes in the video below, August is Falling accidentally became a real band and now the members are inching closer to that elusive hot tub money.

Like Pinocchio, this fake band wants nothing more than to be a real band, but they need subscribers. So check them out below and subscribe. Then go back and watch all of Pat’s videos. I recommend watching them in order because his material is rife with call backs to previous jokes.

It’s ok, click away, enjoy Pat and Rick’s videos, then come back and leave me a comment if you enjoyed it.

Maybe you’ll feel inspired an you’ll want to start your own fake band. If so, you may want to write parody songs like Pat Finnerty does. If so, you may want to check out my post on writing parodies for some more inspiration.


PPAC Challenge: BJ’s Bar Fredonia, NY

The Always Write blog challenges users to post art found in public places. Here is my submittal for the PPAC Challenge #61.

BJ’s bar has been a staple for bands passing through western New York State for nearly a century. It’s dark and moody and there are so many trinkets to catch your attention.

Be sure to stop in and have a beer if you’re in town and certainly be sure to mention if it is your birthday.

A painting of a skull under the bar at BJ’s Fredonia, NY.

Hobby #16: Kill Your Radio Club

In 2014, I was bored with the music on my iPhone and I was still resistant to letting internet algorithms make recommendations to me. I’m less resistant to the algorithms now, but no less disappointed by them now than I was then. 

Don’t even get me started with the radio. The constant commercials and the lack of variety make radio in the US unlistenable 98% of the time.  Honestly, I’m not sure who listens to it anymore.

I was so frustrated that I was constantly listening to the same music I already owned, rarely discovering anything new. The only time I did was when someone I knew would say “Hey- you gotta hear this new band, you’re gonna love them!”  Truth be told, even then the stuff my closest friends recommended to me missed the mark more than it hit.  Maybe I’m just difficult to please.  Still, I found this to be the only way to find anything that suited me. 

I was determined to avoid falling into the trap that so many people fall in to during middle age:  they stop caring about new music.  I did some ruminating and eventually I landed on the idea of adapting the model of a book club to work for music.

For many of us, the term “book club” conjures a mental image of middle-aged women sitting on plush white couches drinking red wine discussing this month’s recommendation from Oprah or Reese.  The concept is simple, someone organizes a group of folks who love to read.  The group plans to meet periodically and discuss their thoughts & feelings about a particular book.  The idea is elegant in it’s simplicity. 

Photo by Helena Lopes on

At first, I considered copying the format directly.  I figured that I’d choose a new release album prior to the first meeting, tell a few friends, then we’d get together and chat about it over beers.  I quickly dismissed that idea for a few reasons. 

First off, it’s inefficient.  Everyone would only learn about one album each month.  Moreover, if the members didn’t like the album or the artist that I picked then they wasted money buying something that they didn’t like.  If my taste was different than the other members they would eventually become disinterested and quit.

I considered having a rotation schedule so that each member could assign an album for each meeting. That way I could avoid being the single gatekeeper of taste.  This improved the idea, but it was still problematic.  It would reduce the probably of people getting frustrated or bored with my musical taste, however, it still meant we’d just learn about one artist/album each meeting.  I knew there had to be a better format.

Eventually it hit me.  The answer was simple: playlists.  Each month a member would volunteer to host the next meeting.  The host or hostess would establish a theme for the next meeting.  The members would then each create a playlist based on the theme to prepare for the meeting.  Then during the meeting, members would each take a turn sharing their a few choice songs from their playlists and describe anything interesting they learned while researching the topic.  Members could then share their entire playlist with everyone for their listening pleasure after the meeting or all of the songs could be put on a single compiled super playlist.

This was the actual Facebook post announcing the first meeting of the Kill Your Radio Club.

Truth be told, the original Kill Your Radio club was short lived.  Eventually my hobbies drove me toward other interests, but I still think this concept can work for a lot of readers.  This is a simple event to host.  Here is what you need:

  • Creative ideas for topics:  Try and encourage the club to do some research in to styles and artists that they may not already know.  Remember, the goal is to find music that new to you.  In our first meeting the theme was “great protest songs.”  I was hoping to find my playlist, but I think it was stored on a computer that died years ago.  This topic was wonderful because with just a little bit of research it was easy to find protest songs from just about any genre. I compiled a new playlist (below) with some examples that we listened to that day, as well as new songs I’ve heard since. We also came up with themes of “Sell Outs” and “Songs from Artists Who are Past Their Prime.”
This is a recreation of a compiled playlist from the first Kill Your Radio Club. The theme was “Great Protest Songs.”
  • Virtual versus Real-Life Meetings: Hopefully the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but perhaps you’re in a part of the world that is still locked down.  You could easily implement this idea virtually with friends all over the world using chat rooms, discord servers, or zoom. Maybe you just have friends in other parts of the world and want to use this as an opportunity to reconnect. Regardless, a virtual club is a great way to learn about music trends around the globe. However, maybe you’re itching to get back out into the real world and see people again. You’ll have to keep reading. There are a few more factors you’ll want consider for a real life meeting below.
  • Consider the sound system you will use.  We had some challenges getting everyone’s devices to connect to the speakers.  Sure, that was before Bluetooth was a common feature on devices.  You may still run in to challenges though.  You may want to ask everyone to add their tunes to a single shared Spotify play list.  That way the songs can be easily accessed from a single device.
  • Snacks! Of course, you’re going to want your favorite treats.  Be as bold or boring as you want, it’s about the music- but everyone knows music tastes better with a full belly. If you’re really inspired, try to make the treats correspond to the theme.

Have you ever tried to host a Kill Your Radio club or something similar?  How did you do it?  What worked and what didn’t?  Do you have a great theme for a playlist?  If so, please share your thoughts with others in the comments.

Hobby #6: A Call to Action

Four Steps to Give Ukrainian Musicians a #LilBoost #Music4Ukraine

I recently made a post called “Listen for a Cause” where I encouraged readers to do a little research into the Ukrainian music scene which has been interrupted by the Russian invasion.  Prior to that, it was disrupted by Covid like the rest of the world. 

As the war drags on, those of us who want to support our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine may be looking for new and creative ways to do so.  I’ve been encouraging people to go YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp, and other streaming services to give Ukrainian artists a boost.  Perhaps this will help provide them with steady income while it is difficult to book gigs.

Photo by Katie Godowski on

If you want to help here are some simple and fun steps, you can take right now to help.

Listen to music from Ukraine -Seek out Ukrainian artists on Spotify, YouTube, or the streaming service of your choice. If you are unfamiliar with Ukrainian music, you might not know where to start.  Below is a playlist of artists I’ve been listening to start there and when you hear something you like please listen to more songs by that artist.  I’ve also been publishing a series called Hasty Music Reviews.  Each post gives a brief description of a Ukrainian song and I compare it to Western artists.  If you like the artist I mention, then there’s a good chance you may enjoy the artist featured in the post.

This is an example of a playlist that you can use to educate yourself or others about Ukrainian music. You can use songs from this list to create your own content or feel free to share this list without creating new content.

Reflect on the music – You can listen passively if you want, but ultimately, you’re going to want to convince others to check out the great tunes you found.  That will be easier if you know exactly why you liked it.  How did the song make you feel? How is it like music you enjoy? Do you have any friends or family that you think would enjoy it too?

Spread the Word – Streaming services pay fractions of a penny per stream, so to have any significant effect we need to get lots of people listening.  Be a social media influencer and spread the word about the great music you find.  Reach out the influencers you follow and ask them to post about their favorite Ukrainian artists too.

There are many great ways you can do this.

1. Write posts on social media about the great bands you find.

2. Share playlists of your favorite songs.

3. Create your own original content like blogs, music reviews, reaction videos, lyric videos, or cover versions.

4. Create a hashtag and follow hashtags created by others like #Music4Ukraine.

5. Reach out to friends and encourage them to do the same in real life and online.

6. Ask social media influencers to join the cause.

Purchase Merch – I know times are tough for many folks around the world.  Many people trimming back their discretionary spending around the globe, but you can always consider spending money on albums, shirts, posters, or other merchandise if you are able and willing to do so.

Concluding Thoughts

I sincerely hope you’ll join me supporting the people of Ukraine. I hope you’ll reach back to me and recommend your favorite songs to me so I can check them out, and I’ll continue to do the same for you.

Photo by Markus Spiske on

We don’t have to limit ourselves to just supporting Ukrainian musicians. In this particular case we’re using music to support musicians, so it’s easy and natural. However, I’m sure with a little creativity you can adapt this model to support any social cause. I hope you’ll take the idea and run with it and let music inspire you to make the world a better place.

Observe the joy as this busker expertly handles a heckler…

In the heckler’s defense, this guy is so good that he is almost unbelievable. This five minute guitar solo never gets boring- well done!

Thanks to Shatnershairpiece for being a good sport and sharing the magic of music with this man.

Hobby #3: Reinvent the Concept of a Band – Hobbies You Should Try Instead of Starting a Band

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably already thinking about how to get more involved with making music, and perhaps starting a band is one of the options you’re considering.  Starting a band takes a lot of effort and persistence, and you’re a busy person with important obligations.  You’re not sure if staring a band is realistic at this stage of your life.

Part 1 of this series presented five reasons why you shouldn’t start a band.  Part 2 described some situations when you might want to start a band and ignore the advice in part 1.  This edition will reconcile the earlier two positions by providing suggestions about what you could try instead of starting a band while still enjoying some of the rewarding benefits of being in a band.

The suggestions below are intended to inspire you to find creative ways to help you achieve your musical goals. For instance, if you really love to write music, you can do that without having a band.  Alternatively, if your path to happiness involves live performance, there are more ways than ever to perform that may not involve the cost or effort that it takes to start a band.

Understand Your Goals and What Makes You Happy

In an earlier series, I encouraged readers to do a series of self-reflection exercises to gain a better understanding of what makes them happy when they are making music.  Some musicians love the attention from fans, while others get a thrill from being on stage.  Other folks need to express themselves through creation of original music, while others are happier playing covers.  That post provided a series of thought experiments that readers could do to try and figure out what aspect of music specifically makes them happy and which they can do without.  That series explores these considerations and more.  I encourage you to read check it out before you check out the suggestions below.

Things to Try Instead of Starting a Band

  • Start Something Like a Band but Change the Rules to Better Fit Your Lifestyle – Every Thursday I get together with a group of friends.  We get dinner, pick up a case of beer, then we head to our rehearsal space.  We have a running “setlist” of songs we’d like to learn, and we tinker through them.  Sometimes they sound terrible, sometimes they sound ok.  The ones that sound ok, remain on the set list for next week.  Eventually we have a couple dozen songs that we can play through top to bottom, and they sound recognizable.  They’re not what I would consider “gig ready” but that doesn’t matter because we never really play gigs.  That’s not our goal.  We play because it’s fun and we don’t care if anyone likes us.  We get the comradery and fun of being in a band without any of the pressure. 
  • Perform Online – The internet has many great ways for artist to perform for audience online.  Some of them can even be done live.  For instance, YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and others have options to live stream a concert that you stage in your living room for people all over the world. allows you to broadcast to a single random person – sure you don’t know who is going to be on the other end of the line, but nonetheless, it’s a unique chance to perform.  Who knows, maybe you’ll make an new fan.[BG1]  This could be a really great option for people who live in remote locations and who can’t book real world gigs locally.  If you’re unfamiliar with Omegle check the video below by guitarist “the Dooo for” inspiration.  A word of warning, Omegle can get a wild so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Write and Record Songs with People in Other is free recording software that allows you to easily record your songs, and it allows others to record overdubs with people over a standard internet connection.  This is wonderful way to promote collaboration with artists all over the world.  You can use this option to find interesting instrumentalists that may not have available in your area.  It’s easy to use, especially if you have previous recording experience, but new users should not be deterred, you can easily find tutorials on a variety of topics on YouTube.  Of course, this isn’t going to replace the feeling you get from playing live for an audience, but perhaps that’s not what you crave.  If your main goal is to vibe with talented artists and make a great single, this might be the path for you.
  • Create New Content: Perhaps you used to play in a band years ago and you have some old recordings laying around that no one hears anymore.  You could use those great old tunes to make music videos and upload them to YouTube.  Think of how much fun it would be to reconnect with old bandmates by reviving some of that old material (cringeworthy as it may be).  Alternatively, you could create new music and start from scratch. 

I have a former bandmate who makes a video Christmas Card every year with his kids.  It’s always such a treat to see the kids grow, and watch their musical skills develop over time.  Best of all, I get to see my buddy enjoying the music he loves with his family. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out Jacob Collier- he’s a tremendous musical talent and he’s got a large catalog of music that he’s done independently.  Of course, if you’re new to video Jacob’s work may be too hill a climb to start with- you might want to check out the Lyric Videos that are all over YouTube, then build on that.


Don’t let  society define your approach to forming a band, especially if you’re doing it as a hobby.  You can make your band any way that you want it to be and you can focus on just one aspect the musical experience if you want.  If you don’t want to or can’t play gigs, focus on something else.   Be creative in your search for a creative outlet and you may find that you enjoy playing more than you ever did.