Inspiration vs. Procrastination

Hello folks,

This week’s blog post is fairly short. Most days, I wake up pretty excited to learn new things, refine what I already know, and generally improve myself and the world around me. And then, I check my emails… For me, checking emails leads to procrastination. I tumble down the clickbait rabbit hole reading article upon article about music, guitars, and politics… You know the drill. Had I woken up and set about improving myself and the world in earnest, I would’ve had a productive morning (sans email-checking).

I strongly recommend you resist the urge to procrastinate by reading music articles online. You will almost certainly learn more by spending that time practicing your instrument, writing a song, working on reading music, or refining your soldering skills. That said, if you just can’t help yourself, here are my favorite places to get educated and inspired while killing time:’s Blog – outstanding articles, updated regularly, compelling content. – kind of dry, but a great way to include a little music theory into your day.

The Hub – an educational offshoot of

DIY Musician – a sub-site of CDBaby, lots of inspiring ideas here.

Sweetwater’s Tech Tips – these folks have the answers.

Sonicbids Blog – I don’t like their service, but I like their blog.


This post was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.

How to Get Gigs

How to Get Gigs as a Musician

This post is geared towards people who haven’t gigged very much. If you play 30+ shows a year, this information will probably be review for you. If you’ve only performed a handful of times (or a handful of times each year), and the whole process of setting up a concert or gig still mystifies, baffles, or intimidates- this article was made for you.

First things first: Getting a gig is easy.  All you need to do is ask for one. It’s really that simple. Expect a lot of rejection, refine your “pitch” as you go along, be confident, nice, and persistent. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Seek out places to perform, ask your friends to host a show, or even better: organize a show yourself! This is how musicians get started.

As you probably know, there are many different kinds of live performance opportunities. Some pay, some don’t. If you’re just getting going, don’t be picky. Performing at a friend’s backyard party, farmers market, public library, restaurant, community center, nursing home, or casual free festival are great ways to gain performance experience and begin building your reputation as an artist.

If you’re looking for a regular gig (say a weekly or monthly 2-3hr slot at a bar or restaurant), try walking into the establishment when they’re slow (in between meal hours) and offer to audition for the manager on the spot. Also offer to do the first gig free- if they like you, you can arrange compensation for future performances. If they don’t like you, life goes on.

Remember to be gracious even when you get rejected, be kind to people even when they are rude to you, and always maintain a positive attitude. Business owners hire entertainers based on more than just musical ability, so being upbeat, smart, and easy to work with will help you stand out from the crowd, and get the gigs you’re after.

“Booking” is a nuanced topic and a lot of great things have already been written about it. If you’re looking for additional reading (each with varying levels of complexity and depth), I recommend these articles:

Feel free to drop by The Guitar Trader in Asheville, NC to discuss your booking ideas with our staff. Most of the shop guys here perform in town regularly, or have toured extensively in the past. We’d be happy to chat with you anytime. Come on down.

This article was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.

Photo by Olive & West Photography.

10 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Practice

“I want to get better but I don’t have time to practice.” Or: “Yeah, I wanted to get better, practiced some, but it didn’t really take so I quit.” If these sentences sound familiar, I’d like to share with you a few positive ideas to help jumpstart and maintain a healthy practice schedule:

1. Believe in yourself. This sounds cheesy, but it really is the start. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see your own progress at first. Learning takes time and a willingness to persevere after failures and rusty starts.

2. Begin with a goal, then split it into manageable tasks. Focus on little things. Trying to learn a new song? Start with the chorus. Want to learn Bach’s Violin Partita in D minor? Begin with the first measure, and take it slow. Want to get better at improvising? Ask someone for a five-minute lesson. Any goal you have should be divided into smaller tasks.

3. Find supportive friends and mentors. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to discourage you from pursuing knowledge and honing your skills. Some people view music as a silly pastime. Prove them wrong by becoming great at it.

4. Go see live music in an intimate venue regularly. Seeing musicians perform to an audience of 10 – 300 people is inspiring. Most concerts these days are much bigger, but if you know where to look, small venues are thriving and showcasing great artists all the time. Chances are good they’ll inspire you. (The Isis Music Hall, Mothlight, Bywater and Grey Eagle are my local Asheville-area favorites.)

5. Keep your instrument tuned and ready to play at all times. Simple.

6. Keep picks and a tuner in your pocket so you don’t have to search for them each time you feel like playing. Again, pretty simple.

7. Copy the sounds of other instruments. Do you play guitar? Great. Go listen to a couple trumpet players and try to copy their phrasing, their sense of melody, their riffs. You play bass? Listen close to drummers in different genres. How do they accent the beat? Copy the way they approach a song. Conversely, if you play drums, try to illustrate the melody within your percussion, or hum the melody while you play your drum part. Again, this may sound cheesy, but there’s a lot to be learned by walking a mile in another shoes.

8. Move your fingers mindfully. Make every pick stroke deliberate, every fretted note a choice. Playing music well takes rapid fire decision-making. It doesn’t magically flow, that is until you’ve spent the time practicing those little decisions involved in making every note sing.

9.Get a gig. Having a show on the calendar is an excellent (perhaps the best) motivator. There’s nothing quite like live performance to test your nerves and hone your musicianship.

10. Don’t wait to become inspired. Learning music means walking the line between inspiration and discipline. Practice even when you don’t feel like it. There is no substitute for time spent playing your instrument. Get going!

This article was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.

Are small businesses doomed?

Shopping local may be hip these days, but there’s a reason for it’s popularity. Focusing your spending on small, local businesses allows our community to support itself. At The Guitar Trader, we understand the importance of keeping it local, especially in the digital age. While many small merchants have modernized and offer online sales (have you seen our beautiful, new website?), focusing entirely on digital sales undermines the purpose and power of local businesses.

The whole situation is a Catch 22. If small businesses ignore the possibilities of online sales, they may not be able to stay in business, and thus won’t be able to support their neighbors. If small businesses go completely online, they strip themselves of their greatest advantage over national competitors: the personalized, face-to-face understanding of their market and customers’ needs. Not only that, but physical stores serve as community hubs in which people can meet, say hello, and genuinely network.

Are small businesses doomed? Hardly. Across Asheville and beyond, local businesses are refining their efforts and encouraging our community to shop local. Businesses are also investing in online retail, but with balance in mind. The Guitar Trader may have stepped into the modern age by building a new website, but we’ll always be a quirky community hub, staffed by experts, at your service.

Want to learn more about shopping local? Check out Asheville Grown. Got something to say about this article? Post your comment below. Thanks!

This article was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.