Nautical Notes

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine August 2020

I’ve been spending a lot of time around boats and pretty much zero time with my guitar and it got me thinking. Why are there so many analogies about boats anyway? Is it because we were born in a womb of water and desperately just want to dive back in? Can all of boating be compared to all of life, just like baseball? Are boating and music intertwined?

I don’t know but suddenly I find myself a boater, and sort of a dodger of music-related things so I thought I’d have some fun comparing the two. Provided below are some nauticisms, if you will.

Abandon Ship – when the song just isn’t working and people are talking louder than the band so the lead singer just ends it with a fake slit across the neck

Ahoy Mate – means great to see ya, even though you’re late, I still love ya!

All Hands On Deck – when it’s time to break down the equipment at the end of the night (but the horn players inevitably, abandon ship)

Anchors Away – everybody’s plugged in and ready to go

Batten Down The Hatches – when you’re getting ready for an explosive audience response, or crickets

Cast Off – when you have to fire somebody in the band and send them to their own egomaniac island

Close Quarters – the square footage of most venue stages for bands

Come Around – instead of turning into the wind it’s when we keep the solos going because people are dancing for the one rare time

Dead Ahead – when a Grateful Dead cover band is playing down the street and everybody’s there

Even Keeled – the rare occurrence when the music’s meshing and the drummer’s not rushing things

Gangway – when the guitar player takes control of the song

Gone Overboard – when the lead singer crashes and burns

Keep a Sharp Lookout – when everybody in the band is looking for the booking agent (this can last for months)

Land Ho! – the eruption of applause and standing ovation at the end of the night

Lost at Sea – when the bass player is in the key of G but everybody else is in A

Make Waves – when somebody in the band starts questioning everything – where the band is going, song choices, upcoming gigs or the lack thereof

Making Headway – when your musical career is going just fine but then a global pandemic hits

Pass Down the Line – when the lead singer yells something to the bass player who then yells to the drummer who then yells to the guitarist. No need to yell to the horn players, they don’t care.

No Wake Zone – when the leader of the band just tries to keep everybody in the band happy by constantly compromising their convictions

Rock the Boat – self-explanatory

Rough Seas Ahead – the dreaded third set when you’ve already played all the good songs

Run Aground – when no one in the band knows where we are in the song but we pretend like we do and consequently just make things worse

Set a Course – when the bandleader makes a set list, prints it out for everybody, it’s right in front of everyone, but we skip around and ignore it anyway

Shoot Across the Bow – when the guitar player gets going on an opening riff to a song but the drummer starts a different song

Stem the Tide – when the drummer decides he’s had enough of the disastrous song and just goes “Plop Plop” on the snare

Stem to Stern – when the whole band shows up on time, are all in tune and on the same wavelength (wait – that’s a radio term… hmm… maybe next month)

Storm Warning – that uneasy feeling every time we start a show. Will they hate us? Will they dance? Will anyone even come?

Three Sheets to the Wind – when we imbibe too much to get through the show

Wide Berth – when you have to get out of the way of the lead singer because he or she is going nuts, and three sheets to the wind

That’s all for now. The ocean is calling me.



originally published in Sound Waves Magazine July 2020

Improvisation in music is a time-honored skill reserved for the best of the best musicians. In jazz, it’s downright required to have the skill. In rock, we call it jamming. In theatre, we call it sketches. Whatever the words we use it all means we’re making stuff up as we go along, and we’re rolling with it.

During this COVID-19 global pandemic and economic disaster, businesses across all industries are improvising to make it through. Restauranteurs are serving meals in their parking lots. Manufacturers are making masks. Distilleries are making hand sanitizers. The list goes on.

Musicians, those most creative of human organisms, are really getting clever. The need to express themselves and try to send out healing and comforting vibes is at an all-time high.

Here are some rather interesting examples of ingenuity and improvisation I’ve witnessed on a musical level:

– Load a band onto an oyster barge, drop anchor, and tell other boat owners to gather ’round and drop anchor. Power up the amps, speakers and mixing board with a generator. Ocean Concert – Done

– Load a band onto the back of a flatbed truck. Same concept with the generator. Drive through neighborhood streets and crank it up. Encourage people to come outside and listen if they want. Stop the truck in front of a house if there’s interest. Band on a Float – Done.

– Set up a band on a stage in an empty field. Have fans drive their cars and park in the field and listen to the band. Drive-In Concert – Done.

I’m sure there are more. Let’s keep it up. It’s the American way!

God Bless America and Happy Fourth!


originally published in Sound Waves Magazine April 2020

For my musician friends: I know you all have been bombarded with emails and newspaper articles on “what to do if you are an out of work musician during this global pandemic.”

It’s disconcerting, worrisome and can make you feel out of sorts, especially those whose only income is playing live music, teaching music and playing music with others.

Here are 13 Things Musicians Can do During a Global Pandemic:

  1. Stream yourself via Facebook Live from your living room. Set up a “stage” with some ambience and let her rip. Include your Venmo account for tips.
  2. If you’re in a cover band, find your old email list or send a Facebook event asking your fans for song requests your band can learn during this downtime.
  3. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to.
  4. Scour YouTube to find new tips and tricks.
  5. Order a new pedal or piece of gear from Amazon.
  6. Watch Broadway musicals via the BroadwayDirect streaming service.
  7. Write some songs.
  8. Remind your fans where and how to buy your previously released music.
  9. Read some famous musician biographies.
  10. Read novels with a musical theme.
  11. Call an old band mate or music teacher out of the blue, on the phone. Better yet, use Zoom for a video chat and social distancing band practice.
  12. Make an NPR Tiny Desk concert and submit it for consideration.
  13. Create a YouTube channel and record yourself playing one song at a time and release one a day. It will give you a reason to get out of bed.

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” – Washington Irving.


originally published in Sound Waves Magazine March 2020

We musicians can be a desperate bunch. We act like “we’re all that” but we’re really not. We desperately want to show off our stuff because there’s some inner drive within us that does not end and continually calls to us. We take gigs at questionable venues because people nicely ask. We fill in for somebody who’s sick even though we’ve probably got what they got. We spend our last dime to fix an amp because the show must go on. We play outside in sweltering hot conditions because we already committed. We troll the internet looking for open jams. We throw bands together and practice for months to play one special private show. We look up songs on our iPads and play them on the fly because an audience member begged for it. We’re not so sure we have a clue what we’re doing or why.

Or, like I (numero uno desperado) recently did, we take last minute outdoor gigs knowing it is going to be 36 degrees out with a chance of snow.


Though precautions were taken to ensure the success of putting on the most wonderful of shows, it was, in the nicest of terms, a sh*t show. Firstly, and unbeknownst to me, wearing a hat that covers your ears, in order to keep warm, blocks, well, your ears, and you can’t hear the monitor. Yelling and screaming at the sound man inevitably ensues. Secondly, wearing nice warm winter gloves when playing guitar as you can imagine, is not possible. I could have purchased fingerless gloves, but there was no time. Thus, my fingers froze. I had a little portable heater with me but even laying my hands directly on the device (as outlined in the directions is something you just absolutely shouldn’t be doing) didn’t do sh*t to warm my fingers. Here’s an experiment for you all: Put your hands into a nice, big fresh bowl of freezing ice water. Hold them there for about 10 minutes. Find a guitar pick or something similar, like a toothpick. Can you grasp it? Hold onto it? Act like you’re strumming? Does the item keep falling out of your grip? Okay, keep trying. After about 10 minutes you may be able to hold onto the thing. Great! Now, stick your hands back into the cold water for another 10 minutes. Repeat the steps above. Now, repeat the steps above for three hours. Fun isn’t it? Feel like a rock star? Thirdly, there’s the constant runny nose when out in 36-degree weather with a chance of snow. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s pretty hard to keep on singing with that stuff running down your face.


Every time I agree to these questionable things I say the same thing to myself: NEVER AGAIN. How many times have I said that to myself? About 36 million times. Including the time(s) I said yes to playing on the back of an Irish Parade float. But that’s another story…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! See ya out there!