Q&A #19: Mark Diamond


Mark Diamond shares his journey as a bassist, how he navigated learning the craft mostly as a self-taught musician, amusing anecdotes when people attempt to guess the name of the instrument he’s playing, and his 4000 Facebook “friends”.


Leigh Lim: Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your Facebook page, you have a painting of a bass player. Is it a portrait of you?

Mark Diamond: Hi Leigh! Yes, it is a portrait of me! I was performing with my group Big Swing Trio at a now defunct club in Denver called Sambuca when a woman walked in with a giant blank canvas and said she was going see how the music inspired her and paint something while we played. This painting was the result! Her name is Michelle Torrez and she is amazing!


LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing? (i.e. first you did your scales, chords, then songs…etc etc)

MD: Well, I started playing piano when I was very young. Along the way starting in 4th grade, I added clarinet, drums in 6th grade, and bagpipes in 9th grade, only for that year. I pretty much considered myself a drummer until I was 20, when I first brought an upright bass home for the first time. It was my cousin Howard’s bass that he didn’t play anymore,, thank you, Howard!

As to scales, etc, I had much experience with the basics and theory of music from the years playing all of those other instruments. However, when I started playing the bass, I really began to play by ear, just learning tons of tunes and styles of music. Three months after bringing this bass home, I started gigging and have never stopped. I’m now in my 41st year as a full time musician! Indeed, I practiced scales and rudiments early on, and still do sometimes.

My practicing now consists more of constantly learning new material, which takes me on many different musical journeys and challenges.



LL: Readers may be familiar with someone else who has the same last name, your son Dean (link to Dean’s Q&A)! (Do you think it was your affinity to the drums that made Dean interested in it? Or was it just because you had your old kit in storage…and he asked if he could use it?)

MD: I did not have my old kit in storage, as I traded my drum set for a bass pickup decades ago, (not the best deal) in NJ before I moved out to CO. When Dean expressed interest in wanting to play the drums, we got him a set, used, of his own. I’m sure my love of music, and him seeing what I do everyday sparked his interest in creating music, no matter what his vehicle for his expression would be; whether drums, guitar, or any other instrument.


LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

MD: To be honest, I have piles of books that I have used over the years, but I wouldn’t say that I refer to them regularly, but they’re there when I need them.



LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played bass before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

MD: Each person’s journey is unique. My journey has worked, is working for me. I feel that people can learn theory from a million books on their own time, so when I teach, it is more of a hands on approach.

The upright bass has some extra challenges in the beginning, like building up calluses, gaining strength and endurance, playing in tune, as there are no markings for notes on this instrument. I teach beginners approaches to scales, and use blues bass lines as exercises. I have students bring in songs they want to learn and help them find their way to playing them.

I am a self taught musician, for better or worse. Some folks certainly want to go the school route which is great. Majoring in music was not my path and I’m not sure it needs to be for everyone. But always learning and hard work is always the path, no matter how you get there.


LL: Do you use products to protect the skin on your fingers? (For example Shakerleg uses tape on his fingers. Some volleyball players use a similar kind of tape on their fingers for grip/protection when tossing the ball)

MD: For bass playing, I am against using tape. You’ve got to develop your calluses, go through that painful but rewarding process. You can’t get a nice, natural sound on the bass with taped fingers. Skin on string is the only way to go. Taping is weak! :>)



LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

MD: For sure! I take on some projects that seem utterly baffling at the start! I may ask myself, how will I ever be able to play this? That’s when I have to dig even deeper. I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator, but sometimes I know I’d better get to this if I want to be ready to perform this music.


LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a bassist?

MD: To be a musician, you need to be very self driven, self motivated. No one can do this for you. There is certainly discipline involved. Many months and years of being alone in a room playing the same things over and over again…..very slowly and then gradually faster and faster.

That said, time is also a big factor. It just takes time to build up chops and a song repertoire, especially in the jazz world. Most jazz players have literally hundreds of tunes in their heads that they can play at any moment. You better be able to if you want to hang with the major cats! That just takes time.

Having the opportunity to play all these tunes on a regular enough basis to let them start to sink in is very important too. I was lucky to have that early on in my career. Of course, there are some very young players who can do all this in a comparatively short period of time, but that’s not true for most folks.



LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice? (What did you do to keep going?)

MD: Sure, most of the time! What keeps me going, for example, is knowing that I have to learn all these new tunes by a certain date, so I better get on it! Then there are other times where I just feel inspired to explore and try new things. Practicing can be boring or exciting, but always necessary.


LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

MD: Being a self taught bassist, again, for better or worse, I really have carved out my own path to playing, and to the business end of being a musician. I did take a few lessons very early on with a great bassist in New Jersey, Don Messina. He certainly helped to show me some technique, but also turned me onto some great music like Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lester Young, Bird, (Charlie Parker), and some others which changed my life forever!

I also learned in the beginning that you have to play through the pain! If you have a giant blister on your finger(s), the best thing to do is to keep on playing. It can hurt like hell, but so what!



LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

MD: There is an amazing bass player whom I have never met, but I tracked him down by phone one time. He does this really cool thing where he plays his bass as a percussion instrument while playing the notes simultaneously, way cool. I asked him how he does it and he wouldn’t tell me. That’s okay, I get it.

If there is ever anything I can share with someone about how I do something, I’m happy to do it. I think most of the good players feel this way. Most of the musicians I work with are very collaborative. If they aren’t, it’s often because they have a precise vision of what they want, and that’s fine by me. I will strive to give them what they want.

On the business end of things however, I may not be so forthcoming. It takes a lot of time and energy and persistence to build working relationships with club owners and managers, agents, and folks who run festivals, etc, and I may not want to just give someone a name and number when it may have taken me a year to build this relationship.  


LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a bassist?

MD: The first misconception is that so often people ask me how long have I been playing the cello? Also, people ask me more often than you would think what this instrument is called. I always ask them for their best guess. The worst answer ever was when a woman guessed the oboe. I told her she needed to get out more often!

Folks think the bassist is just a time keeper. Everyone in the band better be a time keeper. That the bass is easy. I’m sure there are many misconceptions, but I don’t always get to hear them.



LL: Haha! The oboe! So, for those who need a bit of guidance regarding the difference between the bass and the cello, how would you put it? (Also…do you have a preference on calling it an ‘upright bass’? Apparently there are some who dislike using the term ‘double bass’.)

MD: The bass and the cello are in the same family, so I get it when folks make that guess. The cello is much smaller than the bass and it’s range is higher. I love the sound of a cello. It can go quite low, but not as low as the bass, and then it goes much higher, closer to viola and violin range. It is also tuned in fifths, like the violin and viola.

The bass is tuned in fourths, like a guitar. As to what to call the bass, I’m sure it is the instrument with the most names. Just add the word bass after each name…here we go: upright, double, string, acoustic, stand up, contra, dog house, bass fiddle, and bull fiddle (don’t add bass to this one). I’ve never heard of anyone disliking the term double bass.


LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs? (gigs close by, or when you are out on the road?)

MD: I kind of gauge my day gearing up for gig time so that I have my peak energy for those hours. I wouldn’t say I have a certain process, there’s lots to do before I leave for the gig, taking care of business by communicating with folks about upcoming gigs, dealing with organizing music and band members for upcoming performances, home stuff, yard work, whatever.

Food and changing into my “gigging vine” are the final preparations. On the road, depending upon where I am, I like to sight see, explore local foods, or have rehearsals if necessary.





LL: How would you describe your style of playing?

MD: I am a high energy, aggressive player, but I like to play slow and sweet too. I usually go through a wide range of emotions during any performance, so it all comes out along the way.


LL: Favourite time of the day to play? (either recording/gigs/writing)

MD: I’m not a morning person by any means, so I don’t like playing early in the day, although some performances do call for that. Otherwise, I’m happy to be playing anytime. A two hour gig is too short, and sometimes a four hour gig can be a drain, so let’s say the best hours for me would be 9pm – midnight.

I don’t like to record on days that I have other gigs, so for recording sessions, it’s nice to have the whole day to settle in, relax by not worrying about the time, and get the job done.


LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

MD: Some days I don’t like to warm up or practice before a gig because I know the gig will be so demanding I want to have everything to put into it. Other days, I may run some scales and patterns, warm up slowly and get faster to be ready.



LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished?

MD: I must have a mental checklist.  I don’t have a written checklist because at this point in my career, I know if I’m prepared, or not, for anything that I have to accomplish.  If I’m not prepared, I get prepared in time.

If by “each work” you are referring to writing, I really don’t write. I collaborate with writers and help arrange.  I’ve never been much of a writer, and there are so many great writers out there, I am just happy to learn and play their music


LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

MD: I have three basses. One is a Meisel that I bought brand new in 1978 at an import warehouse in Union NJ. It is a laminated, or plywood bass and is pretty good. I’ve done a million gigs and made many recordings using this bass.

In 2002 I bought a Juzek, a carved bass, each side of the bass is one solid piece of wood, and I love it! I also have an Eminence bass which is a portable, upright bass. I mostly use it for destination gigs when I need to fly. Since 9/11, TSA has made flying with a bass much more challenging, and this bass is just like checking a bag. The finger board/neck of the bass separates from the body and the two pieces go into a flight case that is the same size as if you were traveling with a set of golf clubs. No more hassles trying to talk my bass onto a flight that has already taken me somewhere.

Flying out of DIA was never an issue. It was always on the return flight that the trouble began. I got tired of that conversation! I have one German bow and one French bow. I prefer the German.

Over the years I have explored many different strings, but I keep coming bank to Dr. Thomastik Spirocores, until a few months ago when I tried Pirastro, The Jazzer. I am liking them very much!

I own four bass amps…one Hartke 15 Kickback, one SWR Workingman’s 12, and two Mark Bass 12″ combos. I am a huge fan of the Mark Bass amp and it’s the only one I will use. I try to get them provided when I travel. Sometimes that works out. That’s really about it. I’m mostly an LTD, a low tech dude. I just want to reproduce the natural sound of the upright bass as loudly as necessary.



LL: Fretted or Fretless? (Or both — when the environment calls for it)

MD: I only play the upright bass, which is naturally fretless.


LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of pickup that you like?

MD: Over the years I have tried, and still do, many different pickups. I actually have four different pickups on my bass presently. I lean towards one of them more than the others, The Full Circle by Fishman. I also have a David Gage Lifeline, a String Charger, and an Open Source.


LL: Is it possible to have more than four different pickups? (Also interested to hear where is each pick-up located — and how you switch from one to the other. Are there separate plugs for each pickup?)

MD: I suppose it’s possible, but 4 is probably over doing it already! Yes, each pickup has it’s own jack.

I generally start with one of the pickups and if I’m not happy with the sound, I’ll try the others. Lately the Fishman Full Circle is my go to, and I stay with it. It takes time to learn how to get the right sound out of each one, how to set your amp settings, how any given room reacts to your sound. It’s a process.

The Fishman is built into one of the adjusters on the bridge. The Lifeline is also on the bridge held on by the pressure of the same adjuster, between the adjuster and the wood of the bride. The Open Source is like a piece of tape that is held in place between the low end foot of the bridge and the body, the top of the bass. The String Charger is attached by a bracket secured with velcro under the fingerboard and sits right at the bottom of the finger board. It is a magnetic pickup, (as opposed to a transducer like the others), which you find on an electric bass guitar, so when I need high volume with no feedback, I use this pickup in conjunction with one of the others. It’s a pretty amazing sound, if I say so myself!




LL: What’s your default gear set-up?

MD: I don’t use any effects. I just want to amplify the sound of the acoustic bass. I use a Mark Bass Amp, which I just love!!!


LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

MD: My friend James Connell of Sol Vista Violins, who is my “bass guy” whenever I need anything taken care of is developing a new tail piece which will house a pre-amp, tone and volume controls and inputs for two of my pickups so I can blend their sounds.  He has a patent pending. I am very excited to try this when it’s ready.


LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

MD: I’ve gone through many different items over the years. I keep some of it and sell or give away some of it. Creating your sound is always a work in progress and new equipment is developed and comes out.



LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

MD: My strings, for example cost about $280 per set, but sometimes I buy two sets at a time when they’re on sale. I go at least a year between string changes.


LL: Gear Maintenance and Storage?

MD: I have a shed at the top of my driveway under a car port where I store all my gear. The bass gets to come in the house! As to maintenance, if something needs repair, I do it right away. I don’t like when things don’t work as they should, or more to the point, as they need to.



LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

MD: With my IPad and or phone nearby, I may send myself a note to remember a song that needs to be learned or worked on, a vocal harmony, etc. I can also make notes right on a chart in my IPad. On a straight ahead jazz gig, I know many, many tunes in my head…..not all of them, but a whole bunch!


LL: Are you mindful of ergonomics when you play? “(Are there specific things you’ve done over the years to make sure that you are taking care of your posture and not putting unnecessary stress on your body? Do you use a strap when you play?)

MD: No strap for me, as I stand next to my bass when I play. I feel that there is an acquired skill to the art of strength through relaxation when playing. I try to stay loose, but I dig in deep when I play. I re-position myself often throughout any gig so no one area is being used too much for too long.

Of course, my hands and fingers and arms and shoulders are always in action.


LL: What’s next for your playing?

MD: I am always learning new songs and material. I am currently trying to work on the art of less is more, which is always a challenge, trying to leave more space, play less notes, and yet say more. I am proud of my musical diversity and being able to step into almost any situation, whether rehearsed or a one off with strangers, and doing a good job.

I’m almost never happy with where I’m at, which can be a good thing, to keep me working and striving to be better and as good as I can be. I may never get there!



LL: Do you think you’ll be doing any videos with just you in it? (Maybe jamming along with a looped chord progression or you doing a studio recording? Aside from the one you did with Purple Squirrel?)

MD: The Purple Squirrel video is actually a live performance captured. I don’t play alone, so a video of just me is not likely. Sometimes in the studio someone films us, but I don’t usually see or have access to those. It is for the person hiring me to play on their project who uses that for their own purposes.

I wouldn’t mind having some of those videos to see and share, but I don’t have them now.


LL: Are you open to teaching anyone to play bass?

MD: I’ll give my best shot teaching to anyone who wants to take lessons from me. One requirement is that they have to already have an upright bass, as lessons without one would be useless because they wouldn’t be able to practice what we’ve gone over.

You’d be surprised how many folks ask me if I teach, but don’t have a bass, at least yet. I don’t want to just take someone’s money!



LL: Aside from: ‘What instrument are you playing?’ — are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

MD: ‘How long have you been playing?’ I’m in my 41st year as a bassist. ‘Is this your real job?’ It sure is! ‘What do you really do for a living?’ You’re seeing it. ‘Do you play any other instruments?’ I have in my life but not anymore, except some drums once in a while.

‘How do you know where the notes are?’ It’s a secret! ‘Does it hurt to play the upright bass?’ Only when you don’t play for a little while. ‘Do you love what you do?’ Absolutely!

‘What kind of car do you drive?’ Presently a 2003 Honda CRV. The bass has been in many vehicles over the years including a ’68’ Beetle. It wasn’t fun, but it worked!

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

MD: I am not presently mentoring anyone, that I know of. Over the years though, people have thanked me for bits of advice or info that I’ve shared with them at some point in time, whether about playing, or how to approach getting a gig, or sharing info on how I get my sound.

I am lucky to surround myself with world class musicians who are also nice people. I try my best to always be at the top of my game to be ready to play in any situation that comes my way, with whomever it might be. Every phone call is a potential new adventure.

One of the only things I don’t do is play in a symphony orchestra. I love that music, but it’s not what I am striving for musically. I have, however, twice in my life, played in a jazz quartet with symphony orchestra. It was exhilarating to play in that setting!



LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

MD: Wow, that’s an interesting question. I guess there’s the saying, choose your battles. I try to do that.

If it’s a situation where I may not be in the same setting for a long time, or ever again, I won’t do or say anything and just do my job and be done with it. In situations that are ongoing, some for decades, I will certainly speak up when necessary for the betterment of the project. I try to do it off the bandstand because that’s not the place to try and fix things.

Unfortunately, there are some folks out there that just speak up openly rather than wait for a moment in private to give some feedback —- it’s very uncomfortable.

I do vent though. Unfortunately, my poor wife gets the brunt of my venting!  Thank you, Karen!  


LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about? (could be music or something not related to it! Specific thing / or things that you could end up going on and on about…if given a chance! Could also be either a topic which would get you talking endlessly — or something that has captured your interest recently. I’d also be interested to hear about a topic you’re hoping to get a chance to discuss more.)

MD: I try not to talk endlessly…..who wants to hear that?! Being like I said, a low tech dude, I don’t geek out on gear or anything like that. I’ll talk about my grandson for a while, if someone wants to listen!

I like sharing war stories of the road in the right setting. I always say, the worst times make the best stories!



LL: Are you a big listener of music? (Does your music library reflect the music you play? Or does everything you listen to eventually make its way to your playing? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

MD: I do listen to a lot of music, a lot of different music. I’m sure all of the music I listen to seeps into my playing. It is not a planned thing, more of an osmosis situation.

I’d say my music library reflects the music I play and then some. Picking particular artists is always so hard. I can’t ever answer, what’s your favorite, anything, song, artist, food, etc. The mood, the location, the situation all play a role in what might be a favorite thing at the moment. I know that’s not what you asked, but there I was.

Musically, my influences are so vast. I grew up on rock and roll and music from Puerto Rico on my local am station, and George Gershwin, and then the history of jazz!

Who do I absolutely dig? Man, it’s so hard to go there. I’ll just start naming everybody from Bird to The Beatles. Okay, slow down…..I love a song called River Man by Nick Drake. I love vibraphonist Joe Locke, how he plays and arranges tunes. I still love Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Young…..all of them together and separately. Christian McBride is so amazing as is Rene Marie! Okay, now I’m just gonna start naming everybody and it’s sooooo many people!

I like reading people’s autobiographies, when I get a chance to sit around and read, which isn’t as often as I would like. I love all the arts that you mentioned. One of my brothers is a singer, actor, dancer who started as a classical ballet dancer in The Stuttgart Ballet in Germany in the mid 70’s….I love that too!



LL: What are you reading at the moment?

MD: I kind of answered this in the last question. I read all kinds of things in magazines or online. Could be music related, or about someone’s struggle or accomplishment in their lives…..I also love the Ted Talks!


LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

MD: My motivation is often derived by a deadline! Motivation to me is having to get something done by a certain time, and wanting to do my best at it.

Inspiration to me is striving to achieve a level of something that I heard or witnessed and was awed by, and I want to get closer to that level. Maybe it’s the same thing.



LL: What makes you smile? (Could be something that gave you a really good belly laugh: a joke, anecdote, a scene from a video/film — if you can share one of the ones that come to mind the most, that’ll be great)

MD: Man, so much makes me smile and laugh, I’m glad to say.

Here’s a true story a friend of mine shared from one of his gigs a while back. He was playing solo piano in Buffalo, NY during a blizzard. There were only a few folks there, but he played and did his job, and nobody seemed to care at all. Towards the end of the night, all of a sudden at the end of a tune he heard this clapping and got a bit excited, as no one had responded all night long. He looked out in the room to see who it was, and there was a guy a few tables back who had just had his burger served and was slapping the bottom of his ketchup bottle to get it out. Ah, the life of a musician!


LL: What’s your view about social media? (Were you reluctant to get into it the first place, or were you happy to experiment and play around with specific social media sites)

MD: A friend of mine and I had a $10 bet that neither of us would ever get a cell phone! He lost the bet by getting one before. I soon thereafter got my first one. My kids got so tired of me asking them over and over how to send or check email. Well, I’m better than that now.

I mostly use social media as a tool to promote my performances. Sure, I’ve reconnected with friends from childhood and get to post and see other’s pictures of travels and family. It is a bit addicting if you’re not careful. Time can fly by when you get caught in the one thing leads to another….this story to that story, or videos of who knows what.

I have over 4000 Facebook “friends” some of whom I actually know in person! I do love that you can see photos and videos of gigs and life experiences in a handy manner.



LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MD: Well, YouTube has the history of the recorded world on it, so that’s a pretty good one. I use it if I need to find and learn a song for a gig. There’s usually a version to check out.

Also, to be able to see footage of some of the greats that have been long gone, that’s really something!


LL: What would you do when you need cheering up? (a particular website, listen to an album….?)

MD: I’m usually pretty cheery, but if I need cheering up I will talk to my wife, or maybe listen to some music, or just be silent and think.



LL: Are you interested in technology? (Details of your Desktop/Laptop/Tablet?)

MD: It’s not that I’m interested in technology or not, I don’t keep up with it until it affects my life, I guess. The specs of my Desktop/Laptop/Tablet ….who knows!



LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

MD: No! I am a procrastinator, but then again, when I want something done, I need to do it now! I think it’s a Scorpio thing. I’ve sure been quick to answer all of these questions right away! When I do have an idea, I suppose I do actually try to get the wheels turning quickly.


LL: For someone watching you play for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MD: If you mean someone watching me play “live” for the first time, folks tell me how animated I am, like a Muppet!

I want people to feel the joy and emotion of the music, listening to it, playing it, the sense of team work within a band. If you mean watching a video of me, well, the same goes. I think I’ve inspired others to work hard at their music and find like minded folks to play with and then bring it to the masses.



LL: What makes your soul sing? (could be things that energises you)

MD: The love I have for my family! When my family is good, so is everything else. Next would be when I get to travel, especially getting paid to travel and play music. That’s always a great combination!

Here is a soul singing moment to share:

It was the day of 9/11. I had been booked months in advance for a big, international corporate gathering. The tragedy of the day had occurred. First thing to find out is if the event is still going to happen. The band was to make some good money on this gig, and we really wanted it to happen, but there were so many other considerations to deal with.

Well, everyone was in town, there was no flying anywhere, food was ready, venue secured, etc. They decided to go forward and hold the event. There were people from like 40 countries at this gathering. It was less of the party it was supposed to be and more of a somber affair with only one topic being discussed.

After a couple of hours, a few people stood right in front of the band to actually listen. Within a few moments others joined them and before we know it, a large group was virtually circled around us. People from all over the world. Different skin colors, different garb, cultures, and for about five minutes, everyone stood shoulder to shoulder and let the music wash over them, letting them forget for just a few minutes the horrible event that had happened just a few hours earlier.

I don’t think I had ever witnessed the power of music as much as in that moment. That was some soul singing!



LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list?)

MD: I make it a point at each performance to approach people in the audience and let them know how much it means that they are there, supporting me, the venue, live music in general. I like the personal touch! Of course if I receive an email or a letter form someone who I may have connected with on a musical level, I’ll thank them for thanking me!


LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

MD: I’ve been fortunate to have many tribes throughout my life. From childhood, I always had a group of friends, some of who I am still in touch with today, meaning fifty years of friendship, and counting.

I have band mates of more than 30 years who are also great friends. I have my amazing wife and children and our growing “tribe”! My wife always challenges me to be the best person I can be, ever evolving, hopefully in a positive manner. The people I perform with are always helping to keep me, and I, them, at our highest level of performance and musicianship.

Surely some people come and go through these tribes, but everyone leaves their mark on each other along the way!



LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

MD: I have played in Europe a couple of times as a side man, and would really love to bring one of my own groups over sometime. As to a specific artist, I’m not sure, but I’ve had the opportunity so many times to play with some of the greats, and I hope that continues along the way.

I’d also like to play more concerts, festivals, and high end corporate events and be on more recordings. I do all of those things now, but I’d like to do more of that than playing in bars and restaurants, not that there’s anything wrong with that. That’s where we hone our skills and keep our chops up, so we’re ready when the bigger things come along!



LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

MD: Most of my lessons run overtime just because we are deep into something and I want to complete the discussion at hand. Some of my associates and I donate time to playing music at homeless shelters, as those folks don’t get to go to places to hear live music because they usually get throw out. We also do special lower rates for some fund raising events.

I am always happy to talk shop with my peers, especially with up and coming younger musicians and try to share any tidbits of wisdom I may have discovered in my own journey.





* Mark Diamond is a bassist based out of Broomfield, CO, and is a staunch supporter and creator of live music. He looks forward to seeing and chatting with you at any of his performances (and doesn’t mind if you ask about his grandson!). You can check out his personal site or his Facebook page for gig information.


Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-May 2015) between Mark and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)


  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Mark that has not been covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Mark the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know! (Please?)
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Eighteen) that would be a companion piece to Mark’s Q&A.
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Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀


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Q&A #8: Dean Wuksta



“Dean shares his drumming journey, being on YouTube, and his approach to mastering.”

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

DW: I started on ice cream containers and bamboo sticks. I’d sit in front of the TV and watch the morning music shows and play along. Got a drum kit for xmas which was snare, kick, one cymbal (no hi hat) and began playing real drums at age 8. Six months later got my first gig playing at my school dance, and a family friend gave me a hi hat. I’m left handed, but my friend told me to play right handed so it will be easier in my career if I need to play other kits, which it definitely was.

I played to vinyl records for many years and just tried to copy what I heard, no lessons. I began lessons to read drum music at 15, and also learnt about rudiments, mainly the double stroke and the standard paradiddle. I used ‘Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer’ and ‘Syncopation’ by Ted Reed.

I also had some books by Frank Corniola and several others, mainly concentrated on funk styles, lots of left hand ghosting patterns. I also went to live clinics, watched videos, hung out and watched other drummers all the time. I have always spent most of my practise time playing to music, and use it as a metronome while I go thru stuff i wanna work on, like fill combinations, rudiment applications etc. And even more so lately, I love to get lost on youtube and watch other drummers, its an incredible resource…taught me loads since 2006.

Seeing Buddy Rich on TV as a child blew my mind, I didn’t know it was even possible to play like that, and he’s the reason why I investigated rudiments, particularly the double stroke roll.

Then while still at school, I heard of Vinnie Colaiuta through some Frank Zappa recordings, Steve Gadd, Toto’s drummer Jeff Porcaro (particularly the stuff he did with Bozz Scaggs and Steely Dan). Later it was Dave Weckl, Manu Katche, Virgil Donati (which inspired me to play double kick in the late 80s, but I have since lost interest).

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

DW: I’m ‘heel up’ on kick and hats, but sometimes my heel is also down on hats, depending on what style I’m playing, I often go heel down on jazz type stuff, or lighter funky stuff, but I’m not really conscious of it, I just find myself doing it naturally.


LL: Drumming Shoes?

DW: When i was a kid (like 12-16) I would do gigs at weddings and have to wear a suit and good shoes, I tended to slip my shoes off during sets. My dad (who drove me to every gig) said it looked unprofessional, so I got used to leaving them on. Now, I always wear shoes, thin rubber soles are my preferred shoe, but I will play in whatever…it’s very easy to get used to, and you def get more power wearing shoes.


LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

DW: My generic set up is a basic 4 or 5 piece kit, 2 crashes, one ride. less to set up, the better. I’m using a Pearl Session series maple 10, 12, 14, 20, 14” by 7” Evetts blackwood snare.

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

DW: I have a good selection of Zildjians, Paistes, and Sabians. My normal set up is Sabian 17” thin Crash, Sabian 16” thin crash, and 20” Rude ride, or 20”Paiste Big Beat as a ride and Zildjian 14” new beat hats. I use Vic Firth 5A wooden tip sticks, I have a Pearl World Series 14” chrome snare, Mapex maple piccolo 13” snare and the Evetts 14” X 7”


Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta


LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

DW: Not really, I find it a bit laughable when drummers are so particular about their set-up, I spent so many years playing other peoples kits on stages, and sometimes i barely got a chance to adjust anything, there was no time.

I’m def much happier with my own kit, but I will play whatever, preferably with some time to adjust heights etc to my liking. I’m sure drummers in famous bands get fairly spoiled and have everything within a millimetre of perfection, but no, I’ve never experienced that kinda luxury.

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

DW: No, I will take notes to practise if it’s a particularly hard arrangement, but I generally prefer to commit it to memory.

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

DW: I’ve never really done it, I like what Buddy Rich says, he reckons his warm up routine was to take his hands out of his pockets, I concur.


LL: In your videos, you seem to be light-handed — as opposed to other drummers who seem to really lay it into the kit and cymbals. Would you describe your playing style as ‘drumming with a light touch’?

DW: I do use a lot of force with my wrist but at a low level, but I also play differently depending on the gig, but I do prefer a lighter touch.


Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: On your CD Baby page, there is a note that you played all the instruments yourself. Can you touch on your journey with the different instruments you play, and routines to ensure you don’t get ‘rusty’ in any of the instruments?

DW: In high school there was no drum teacher, and no drums, so I learnt guitar. I had already been playing drums semi pro for years, so I thought another instrument would good to learn.

Over the years I’ve taught myself bass and keyboards, but I don’t consider myself anything but a drummer, I know enough on those other instruments to write songs and communicate ideas…so it’s come in handy having a basic understanding of every instrument.

LL: How did you build up your bass and keyboard playing? (Were you going for being able to play a particular song?

DW: With bass guitar, I kinda got thrown in the deep end because of a school production. We had 2 drummers for the school production in year 9, I had always played drums so I decided to give bass a go, the student that had taken on the bass had problems learning the songs.

Being a drummer I already had a sense of what the bass guitar does in terms of following the kick drum, and I had already learnt guitar and could read music, so I didn’t find it that difficult. Once I learnt a few songs I began to really enjoy it, so kept practising.

I do not consider myself a great bass player, but I can figure out most songs and copy them by ear. With keyboards, I also never had any lessons, I have an understanding of basic music theory so I can work out where to put my fingers to make basic chords, but only well enough to add simple parts to my original songs.


Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: YouTube has a very interesting approach to copyright — how do you find it? I ask because I came across one of your videos (Custard Pie) and noticed that the audio has been muted. Was it a case of not having the words: “Led Zeppelin cover” in the video title? Because you’re other video (linear 16th triplet) had the ‘guide track’ details in the ‘about’ section of the video, and the audio of that wasn’t blocked.

DW: Yes, that was annoying, and not the first time that has happened. I generally take a chance and hope for the best. If it becomes blocked, that’s okay, I’m not really that bothered, just a small waste of my time.

I have posted covers of loads of songs, but I don’t monetize them, just my original music. I’ve been a youtube partner for a few years.

LL: What monetising options are you going with (with YouTube)? The information page mentions there are three options. Can you comment on your experience with being a YouTube partner?

I applied to be a partner and got accepted a few years ago. I do not know what the deal is, I just monetize the videos that contain just my music or drumming, and youtube places ads on them. They used to send me a cheque from google but now it is deposited directly.

LL: Before putting your original music up on YouTube and CD Baby, what things did you do first?

DW: No, I never really put any research into where to place my songs on the net, like YouTube etc. I realize the chances of people using my songs without permission is quite high, as has happened in the past. Or people write to me and ask for permission.

But as far as making money these days on the net, it is very difficult, even for big stars, so much music is being downloaded for free. This is the reason why bands tour so much now, the income from recording sales is not what it was.

LL: Is there a specific reason you decided to go with CD Baby rather than itunes to carry your music?

DW: Not really, I use iTunes and CD baby, I think CD baby offers a better deal, and it seems to be popular with indie type artists. I have my music on other sites also.

LL: Did you have to jump through a few hoops to get your music on iTunes?

DW: I actually uploaded a track to CD baby (I think) and it automatically appeared on iTunes. I don’t know how that happened, maybe I accidentally ticked a box or sumthing when I was uploading, I have not ever specifically uploaded to iTunes.

LL: What’s the average amount of takes per video?

DW: That varies, sometimes it’s done by the first take after I practise it. But then sometimes it will take 5 or 6. Not usually because of major mistakes, but usually because it just sucked a little. I don’t think I have ever uploaded a perfect video to YouTube, I tend to play better when the camera isn’t rolling…I dont mind recording the audio, but the filming thing puts me off.

I’m not an extroverted person, quite the opposite. The fastest I could do a video, 5 mins for recording (if I got the first take) then mixing it on the movie software takes about 30 mins…so yeh, about 40 mins from start to finish.

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

DW: I use Pro Tools 7.4 software with a 002 Digidesign rack recording at 24bit/44.1 using about 10 mics on the kit. I have a sony HD camera which I set to highest resolution. I import video and pre-mixed audio into Magix movie software, bounce down to quicktime for upload.

My studio PC is very old, single core PC, 4 Gigs of ram with XP. My video editing is done on my Aspire laptop, windows 7.

LL: Have you previously used another recording/mixing software?

DW: Yes, I had a Fostex 4 track recorder, then I got an Akai DPS12i which was a 12 channel all in one digital recorder. Then I moved into Pro Tools.

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

DW: I have a template set up in pro tools. My go to settings are eq on everything, compression on kick and snare (I might use a slow attack and release on bottom snare mic, adds an interesting fatness) I sub the whole kit to an auxiliary channel, more eq and compression.

I don’t eq heavily, and often it’s more destructive than additive, trying to control low mid frequencies and spill without using gates. I believe the kit should sound pretty decent without any eq or effects, otherwise, I look at tuning and mic placement. I also add a little reverb, which I like the Waves Renaissance Reverb.

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: Can you walk me through your mastering process?

DW: Once again, I believe to master properly you really need to out source. But when I make ‘fake’ masters, I use waves eq, L2 limiter, and Izotope. I mainly use destructive eq, pulling out the low mids, I use the exciter in Izotope and a little of the maximizer, and then I add the L2.

I go for an RMS level of around –10, I feel trying to compete with commercial loudness levels is dangerous, but my mixes aren’t too far off. I still retain dynamics, and most of what I do is usually streamed on the net, so no need to try and push loudness.

LL: Would you say you spend more time editing or mastering a track?

DW: I spend a lot of time mixing and editing my music, a song may take me half a day, but for YouTube, I spend very little usually. Often it’s just a pre-mixed playalong song that I might drum to and ake a video, and my drum template is set up, so there is very little to do. If I’m mastering my music, I will spend days and keep doing listening tests…but for YouTube, I just chuck an L2 Limiter on the master fader, mastering done!

I have done multiple camera videos and spent a lot of time editing, but my movie software isn’t very reliable, freezes up all the time, wont play etc…so I keep everything very simple. I may look at changing the way I do things in the near future because I do enjoy film editing, just don’t have the gear to do it reliably.


LL: Also, I’d like to link to one of your videos. Which one would you say is either your favorite, or the one you’d regularly send if you were asked for a video?

DW: ‘practising linear 16th triplet phrasing‘ — my favs change regularly, but this is the one I have featured on my channel at the moment.


LL: Thanks for your time Dean, to close our Q&A session, are there any particular people who you’d like to reach out to you?

DW: Yeh sure, I have done cover suggestions before, and I have also done collaborations in the past too. I welcome questions or even just chatting about drums in general.

I also have some subscribers who send me videos for advice, and i have also made specific videos explaining fills etc that have remained private, just for the benefit of the one particular subscriber.




Dean Wuksta is a drummer based in Rockingham. You can find his videos here and some of his collaborations here. and can reach him through the form below


Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

 Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-August 2014) between Dean and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)


  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Dean that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to put up your message with the option of getting Dean to answer).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Seven) that would be a companion piece to Dean’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?


** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #5: Jim Bryan


“Jim shares his journey as a bassist, why he prefers headphones as monitors when recording, and how using Pandora led him to Blake Shelton.”


Leigh Lim: Hi Jim! Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards different artists. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?

Jim Bryan: I mainly do covers of songs I enjoy, sometimes more popular songs to get some extra views! I do take requests and have done a bunch of them in the past. I’m currently working on covers of Train, Cutting Crew, and a few others.

LL: What were the last two requests you’ve gotten?

JB: The first was New Found Glory – Constant Static which was done recently… and The Airborne Toxic Event – Timeless that someone requested so they could learn how to play from my video.

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

JB: I started playing about 5 years ago. The very first thing I started doing was looking for tabs online of my favorite songs, from there I looked up how to position my hands properly and read various books/online lessons for beginners.

I eventually got into music theory and scales but I still have much to learn in that regard. Practice, practice, practice!


LL: Just five years playing? Amazing progress! Are you surprised as well as to how far you’ve come after 5 years?

JB: Not really surprised, I put a lot of time and effort into practicing and learning the instrument.


LL: Has the time you spent practicing during the last five years changed?

JB: I never had a set amount of time to practice, I would always just pick it up and play, sometimes would get really into it and learn more than one song at a time and just play for hours and hours.


LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

JB: My warm up is usually just running up and down the fret board a few times for about 5 mins. After that I’m usually ready to go.

LL: Was there something specific that you wanted to learn that you struggled with?

JB: I struggled with learning the song Rio by Duran Duran. It’s a really difficult song and has you moving around nonstop for the whole duration. What I did was go really slow at first to learn the different riffs of the song.

I usually break a song into different halves and learn them one at a time. Such as an into, pre-chorus, chorus and outro. After playing it over and over I eventually got the speed and dexterity to play the song and I then did a cover.


LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JB: I would recommend to get a music teacher if they have no musical experience. Learning to play on your own is really hard and it would be nice to have someone that knows a lot to help out from the start. Everyone is different, so it might come easier to some people than others.


 LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

JB: I mostly use the brand DR for my bass strings, they are currently my favorite since they have a nice sound and tend to last longer than other strings I have tried. I have a bunch of old picks my dad used to play with but I really just use my fingers to play.

I have an Ibanez sr600, Squier vintage modified 70’s jazz, dean edge 09 (my first bass), yamaha rbx a2. I use a Sansamp bass driver DI as my main pedal going through a Behringer BXL450 amp.


LL: What’s the story behind each bass purchase?

JB: The first bass I bought (Dean Edge) was a beginner practice bass, it was cheap but I just wanted something to start learning. After that one of my friends said he was getting rid of a bass (Squire Jazz Bass) and if I wanted it for a good deal. So, I said heck yeah I’ll take it!

He then later on sold me his other 2 basses (Ibanez sr600 and a Yamaha) since he wanted to focus more on electric guitar playing.



LL: What are the tell-tale signs you watch out for to remind you that it is time to change strings?

JB: The strings will start sounding dull and the sound won’t be as bright, a good rule of thumb is to change them for bass every few months or so.


LL: Do you have a Maintenance and Storage routine for your bass guitars?

JB: I keep 3 of my basses on a guitar stand, when I’m ready to play I grab one and start jamming. I do wipe them down often and I use Tone Finger Ease spray to keep the strings sounding bright. When changing strings, I really wipe the fret board and make sure it’s clean.


LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

JB: My friend recommended I try DR strings and have been using them since. It did take me a while to find out what guitars I like, since there are so many different kinds/brands out there.


LL: In what instances would you use each of your guitars?

JB: I like to use the squire for slapping since I have the strings higher just for that reason, and I use my Ibanez for most other things since I put the strings really low.

LL: Did you do the set-up for all your basses?

JB: I did eventually change the bridge height/truss rod adjustments etc. That wasn’t until I’d been playing for a few years though.


LL: Did you change the bridge height/truss rod (adjustments etc.) because the bass felt different to play?

JB: I messed with those adjustments mainly because of sound and making it easier to play. Making the strings higher lets me drop the tuning of the bass really low without having the strings sound muddy and out of tune since I don’t have a 5 string bass.

Having the strings really low is easy to play since its less stress on the fingers to press down, so I have different basses set at different string heights etc


LL: What would your advice be for a bassist confused about the array of choices?

JB: It will take a while to find strings you like, so try as many as you can, and the ones you like stick with them! I would say buy a beginner bass package that comes with a bass and an amp, straps, picks everything you need to get started. After a while of playing you can then upgrade and shop around to see what’s best for your style of playing.


LL: Description of your playing style?

JB: I tend to keep it simple with a few fills here and there. I prefer playing with the fingers on my right hand since I feel I have more control over the sounds that I can make with the bass. I do use a pick sometimes but I’m not very good at it.


LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JB: I’m not working on anything specific at the moment, and am happy with where I’m at. There’s always room to improve and as long as I play everyday, I’m always getting better.


LL: Have you specifically worked on something because of a suggestion from someone watching your videos?

JB: Yes, I have people leave suggestions on songs to cover or sometimes an easier way to play a part in a song.


LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

JB: I use a Sansamp bass driver DI plugged into a Behringer BXL450 amp that connects to the back of the soundcard of my computer.


LL: If you didn’t have a DI what would you be using?

JB: I’d be using a Digitech brand pedal that I keep in the closet just in case.


LL: I noticed that your earlier videos (like this) had the bass with a similar volume level to the music. Your Later ones have the bass playing a more prominent part, in your more recent videos — music seems to be 60% less volume than the bass. Was there a specific reason you decided to have that approach to audio?


JB: Back then I was using different programs and audio settings etc. I think that people watching a bass cover video would want the bass louder so they can learn how to play by hearing and seeing what I’m doing. If the music is too loud they might not be able to hear what I’m playing.


LL: Was there a specific reason you wanted to use headphones for monitoring (In your videos)?

JB: Since I use headphones for PC gaming its easy since they are right there to pickup, and also so my neighbors don’t hear me rumbling at 3 am.

LL: Do you have multiple headphones?

JB: I actually just bought new headphones and I am switching to them for recording/gaming also. They are Steelseries Siberia V2 USB.


LL: For gaming, are you partial to specific headphones?

JB: I usually use Plantronics or Steelseries


LL: Have any of your headsets/headphones ‘die’ on you?


JB: I break headphones A LOT, I just bought a new headset because my older ones broke haha


LL: Do they break the same way?

JB: Not all of them break the same way, it depends how they are made and the quality of the headset itself. It’s usually the wires that get yanked out or one the ear pieces loses sound. They usually last 6 months to a year. Sometimes longer if I’m really careful :p


LL: Yanked out!? Are you also guilty of walking away from your computer and forgetting that you are wearing a headset?

JB: Yeah i do that all the time, also if I step on the cord while Im standing up the headphones get thrown off my head

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

JB: Incubus, Silverstein, Blake Shelton, Black Label Society, and many others


LL: Blake Shelton!? Interesting! So different from Incubus, Silverstein, and Black Label Society. Is it because Blake did Footloose?

JB: I just heard a song of his on Pandora that I really liked, I think it was Sure Be Cool If You Did, after hearing that one I went on Spotify and listened to a bunch of his hits that I now like.


LL: Was the song a suggestion from Pandora?

JB: Yes it was from Pandora


LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?

JB: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album by Oasis I listen to that A LOT at work.


LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

JB: Reddit, Youtube

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JB: I’m very interested in technology. It’s what has helped me get my bass playing on the internet for others to see and enjoy.


LL: Your YouTube Channel Banner looks great — is it one of your creations?

JB: I had one of my friends whose a graphic designer help me out with that one. I gave him the idea and I thought what he came up with looked awesome.


LL: Would you be open to ask your friend if he would be open to credit?

JB: Sure, his portfolio is at http://simplybiscuit.com/


LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JB: Velvet Revolver – Slither. It was a fun song to learn for sure.


LL: Have you collaborated with other artists?

JB: Yes, and I have actually done that a few times. I met a few people and we made a few songs together over the internet just recording our own parts and mixing them with audio software.


LL: Still open to do collaborations in the future?

JB: I’d collaborate with anybody, it’s such a fun experience!




* Jim Bryan is a bass player based in Wilmington, Delaware. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. Jim welcomes messages containing collaboration ideas, bass cover requests, the name of a cool song you’d like to send his way, and other gamers wanting to connect (his Steam username is Dramacyde5 and his Facebook page is here).


Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Jim and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.


Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)



  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Jim that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Jim to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂


Interested in reading more?