The Quote Jar: Twenty Four

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Justin during his Q&A.


“It was something that we don’t see very much of today. We used to get together in each others home, believe it or not.” – Benny Golson (via Bob Rosenbaum)

“We both started playing piano at age six or seven…and we played for a long time. That’s where I learned most of my theory. We had an old Russian teacher who was a very fine concert pianist; in fact, our parents wanted us to be concert pianists.” – Eddie Van Halen


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Q&A #25: Justin Schroder

Justin shares his journey as a guitarist, a reason why unprepared drummers make him crazy, and his affection for his family.



Leigh Lim: Hi Justin, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! How would you describe your target audience?

Justin Schroder: I like this idea and you have chosen a great name for your blog. It’s important that we have real discussion regarding how players become good musicians.

I would say my audience is elusive. I have no idea who they are, what they want, nor what use I am to them. That reads poorly, but I just don’t know anything about my audience because there is so little commentary or conversation.



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

JS: How did I get to where I am as a player? Well, twenty years’ effort, frankly. If I may digress for a moment, there is a saying in the auto racing community, “There’s no replacement for displacement”. ‘Displacement’ is the size of an engine and all engines can be made to create more power than its original output, but bigger engines always have more potential for power. I use this example because no matter how many shortcuts, lessons, tips, tricks, etc. a person uses, one can only be as good as their CUMULATIVE PRACTICE TIME allows.


So, on to the specifics: I started playing songs. I didn’t learn exercises, scales, chords, etc; I learned songs. I still love learning songs. I also create songs. Sometimes I create songs from a musical concept, (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.), other times I create songs by manipulating bits of other songs that I like to play/hear. I teach people a finger exercise to gain finger independence because I struggled with that as a beginner and it puts everyone a few steps ahead of me as I was at the beginner level. Same idea when I teach chords, chord groups, and barre chords; it’s just a way to bring people to a playing level in fewer years than I took to reach the same skill levels. Students that play for hours/day like I did are ALWAYS better than I within the same number of weeks, months, and years in my early days of playing. ALWAYS, but time spent playing is #1.




LL: You mentioned you create songs from a musical concept (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.). Can you give two examples?


JS: Here is the link to the video of me discussing and playing Parking Lot Birds and Cream Soda:


Parking Lot Birds is a song for the little birds one sees in parking lots hopping about and picking at little bits of things on the ground. PLB started with the melody and I took a year or so to decide which chords I liked best. I essentially stole the A section chords from Benny Golson’s Killer Joe and from the Bridge of various I’ve Got Rhythm tunes, I developed the B section of PLB.


Cream Soda is a tune that started with chords from which I created a melody. I found myself drinking a lot of IBC Cream Soda at the time, and figured it would be a great title for a Smooth Jazz sort of a tune. I like most of my tunes which start with chords a little more than those which start with a melody, but I think Parking Lot Birds is my strongest Melody First tunes.


LL: What would your advice be to someone who has only a limited amount of time (Maybe 1-2 hours a day) to plan their learning and practice?


JS: If someone has limited time (Don’t we all?), I would suggest spending 90% of it playing. Too many people, myself included, spend too much time thinking or looking for efficiency or short-cuts; the truth comes with playing.




LL: How about getting the next generation to practice? Isn’t it all about starting as early as possible? (NPR has an article)

JS: Getting the next generation to practice is just like the old generations; if they want to play, they will. I still  get new students who outpace students who have been with me for a while just they spend more hours with their instrument.

My favorite concept: Be aware of the difference between a guitar OWNER and a guitar PLAYER.


People start playing music or anything else when they start. Age is only relevant because as we age, we often become more aware of our preferences and have developed better work habits. I find adults will advance with less effort because children waste more time and effort avoiding work than would be spent DOING the work in the first place.


I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 18 and I was teaching by age 23. I played many hours each day because I wanted to play. If my fingers hurt from playing, I moved to listening. I kept music playing while I slept. The funny part about that is when I suggest to students with the worst sense of time to sleep with the metronome on; the idea is for their brains to develop a sense of tempo.

This is a great article. The end of it is the real meat-and-potatoes of practice; getting good results regarding improved skill, higher self-worth, and organizational skill development.


LL: Sounded like you wanted to share a funny reaction to students with the worst sense of timing to sleep with the metronome on.


JS: No, that’s all there was the example of sleeping with the metronome clicking. I’m sure there are some funny stories, but I don’t think parents have told me about them.

One thing I’ve done in sessions with students who either A. Refuse to honor the time being clicked by the metronome, or B. Are so preoccupied with what their fingers are doing that they can’t ‘hear’ the metronome, is that I will plug the metronome into an amplifier and make it so loud they have no choice but to play ‘with’ it. To be clear, this is not so much an abuse tactic as it is a method in making the metronome as loud as a drummer.

People ALWAYS play in time with a drummer. This is what makes me crazy when a drummer is less than prepared for whatever we are playing; I can’t pull them back into place



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?

JS: Start with thinking about where you want to be as a player by considering your favorite artists. There is usually something that someone else has done which inspires us to start playing.

Then discover where you are failing to have that ability and practice that until you are great. Remember there is no substitute for time on your instrument playing music. Just don’t forget that if you can’t play the music you want, you have some work to do and it should be in the form of an exercise using the actual music. If there is a two-measure section of a solo or rhythm part that you can’t play, then you should be playing it 5,000 times in a row as if it is an exercise, because it is and you will reach your goal directly.




LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

JS: Learn piano. Seriously. Guitar is by and for crazy people. Piano is logically laid for the eyes and hands. If someone wants to be a songwriter, the keyboard is more intuitive so one will achieve better results in less time by using it.



LL: Is that why guitarists usually find it difficult to transition to piano? (and pianists usually have no problem…and if they do…they can easily figure out a work around?)

JS: Well, I don’t play piano, but I’ve tried a couple things on piano and I can certainly confirm that my problem with piano is trying to play one rhythm with the left hand and another with the right.

For guitarists, we need to have good timing with our left (or whichever hand is fretting), but it doesn’t exactly play rhythm. In a nutshell, the fretting hand arranges itself for the sound and the picking/plucking hand initiates the rhythmic quality of the music being played.

Eddie Van Halen is a primary exception because he played proper piano as a child before learning guitar.



LL: In one of your videos (Creative Soloing), you do a whole lesson (about an hour) — can you give a rundown of what you covered? And was it easy to get your students to agree to be videoed?

JS: The basic outline of the program is that we learn the five scale shapes, the five pentatonic shapes, the seven 7th harmony arpeggios in each of the five positions (many of which repeat), and we don’t move from the first of any shape until everyone in the class is competent to a certain level. Basically, it’s a 32-week course with so much playing that everyone’s skill jumps by leaps and bounds.


It’s really intense and it isn’t easy finding students who can dedicate the time to take it, but those who do grow tremendously as players/musicians and are very thankful to themselves for being dedicated to the process.



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

JS: Ah, the goods, the tools of the trade. Well, I have a Breedlove AC200/SM that I love to hate. We fight all the time. I have been playing it almost exclusively for the last several months almost with a battle mentality. I have recently started using 11 gauge strings, D’Addario EJ26. I had been using the originally intended set which were D’Addario EJ16, but I just couldn’t get what I wanted from them. It just sounded like there was a blanket over the instrument. I have played other guitars with 12s and they feel the same, so that eliminated ‘specific instrument’ from the equation.

(I have since returned to the D’Addario EJ16 strings and also using either Fender Medium or Jim Dunlop Big Stubby 1.0 picks for a brighter tone. This seems to be the best arrangement. At least until I change my mind again. Musicians: We’re a nutty lot.)

Funny enough, I will be using D’Addario EPN115 strings soon on my electrics. I have been using Ernie Ball Power Slinkys and D’Addario EXL115 for a while and just purchased a batch of the pure nickel strings to try. I think I will like them for their more mellow tone. I use a Bugera V22 that has a bright tone and I think a mellow set of strings will take some of the harshness away without making the sound dull. Just a hunch.

(Another update since first being asked, I sold the Bugera V22 because I wanted a smaller, lighter amp for greater portability. I now use a Fender Blues Junior with an Eminence Cannabis Rex replacement speaker. Yes, it’s made of Hemp, and yes, it sounds fantastic and is a solid 10+ pounds lighter. The D’Addario EPN115, Pure Nickel strings, are also here to stay. For now-ish.)

I also have a HiWatt Bulldog 10 from the 1990s. Great mellow clean tone from that and a nice RAWK sound on the distortion setting. Unfortunately, ten watts is not enough for any gig and the distortion setting is not foot-switchable. It’s very nice to carry though.

In the last couple years I have crossed the river regarding the use of pedals. I have been using a Electro-Harmonix LBP-1 in my effects loop to boost my solos when playing tunes that require some crunch for the rhythm sections. Using a booster in the effects loop allows me to make the tone remain exactly the same except louder. Plus, using a booster in the effects loop gives it a very wide range; it takes very little boost after the preamp section to make the volume increase a great deal. Putting a booster in the front end of an amp acts like a gain booster more than a volume booster.

I also have a DigiTechJamManlooper. Great for practicing, solo gigs, testing drummers’ listening skills, etc. I also use a HardWire SC-2 Valve Distortion pedal. I tried a Boss Super Overdrive and really liked its tone, but it isn’t touch sensitive like the HardWire series.

(Additional updates regarding effects: I have also acquired the Digitech Trio Plus which is a fantastic evolution of the looper to include the creation of bass and drum parts which are ‘Trainable’, and also a Tech21 Hot Rod Plexi pedal which emulates a Marshall Plexi sound and is a noticeably different sound than the Hardwire SC-2 Valve Distortion. I use each for different needs because both sound great, just different. The best function of the Tech21 HRP is that it has two stages of gain which gives me the opportunity to have a dirty rhythm sound and a slight boost in saturation for solos. The Hardwire SC-2 has similar functions, but the switch isn’t foot-operable. If only…)

My first guitar was a Peavey Predator from the early 90s. One of the ‘Crafted in USA’ models. I still have it and it sounds fantastic, but it needs a refret because, well, I played it a lot and now the frets are too low.

My favorite guitar is a Korean-Made Epiphone Dot from the late 90s. I sent it to Dan Erlewine for a refret, installation of Gibson ’57 Classics, TonePros bridge and placement modification, and a retrofit Buzz Feiten nut and tuning compensation. Plays and sounds like a dream to me. I have owned many Korean-Made Dots and this one is my favorite. Plus, it is a rare Tobacco Burst which had a small run for Dots and was mostly used on Sheratons.

My most recent acquisition, which was last year (2013) I think, is an Epiphone Les Paul Plus Top, or some such. The color is Trans Amber, which my wife says looks like baby poop, but I like it. The electronics are dull like most stock Epiphones, but I’m sure it will come to life when I upgrade the pickups. I’m also considering upgrading the pots and wiring with a rewiring pack from Stewart-MacDonald. I’m hoping to get it to function like my Dot which is wired so the volume and tone pots are independent.

I think that is all I have for guitars and amps. Picks are another story. I had used Fender 351 Medium Celluloid picks for a very long time. Then, I had a trio that played uptempo Blues and Jazz tunes with a set of Surf music like Dick Dale, The Ventures, and so forth. For some of the faster tunes, I noticed I was having trouble at higher tempi, then through some experiments I discovered that the pick was not returning to its ‘playable’ position soon enough to actually strike the string as my hand passed it. So, I tried heavier picks made of different materials. What I am using now are: Big Stubby 1.0 picks for acoustic playing and Fender 351 Heavy Celluloid for electric playing. The lexan of the Big Stubbys has a brighter tone and the Celluloid has a mellower tone (remember, the Bugera is bright).

Oh, and the same fingers as always. Much of our tone comes from the fingers, but everything else affects it too.



LL: How did you end up saying yes to a Breedlove guitar?


JS: It was the right shape, sound, and price for what I needed in an acoustic instrument. The Concert body style works best for my playing. It makes the single notes more defined whether these notes are melody or bass.


LL: So this love/hate thing you have with your Breedlove AC200/SM?

JS: I think the love/hate relationship is more about acoustic vs. electric than this specific instrument. I did recently change to an 11 set of strings on the Breedlove and I am feeling much better about everything. Now I have about ten sets too many of 12 gauge strings. Need any?


(…and have since returned to 12-gauge strings as mentioned above. Now I have two leftover sets of D’Addario EJ26, 11-Gauge strings which need a new home.)



LL: Have you used the HiWatt Bulldog 10 in any of your videos?

JS: Yes. I made a series of videos by playing some fun Rock tunes/solos/etc. and I’m pretty sure I used the HiWatt for most of them. Here is Judas Priest’s Livin’ After Midnight on which I used the HiWatt.

I think it’s a great sounding amp, especially for a solid state amp. I primarily use tube amps. The HiWatt is just 10 watts and, while plenty loud at full volume in a small room, it just doesn’t have enough volume for playing with a drummer in a larger room. I may experiment with it one day just to hear it in an A/B arrangement with my larger amp.


LL: Did you have to do any set-ups or adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

JS: I setup my guitars once when I acquire them. Sometimes they will need a minor adjustment every couple years, but I don’t break out the feeler gauges when the humidity or temperature changes ten points. The process I use is time-consuming and more intuitive than scientific. If the job gets into nut or fret work, I hire someone else for the job.


LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide? (tablet, bits of paper,mental notes..)

JS: For Rock, Country, other Pop type gigs, I try to play by memory so I can move around and make a show. I play musical theatre and read the book because: A. I need to be spot-on and predictable, and B. I’m not part of the show. I have been part of the show once though. I went wireless during a dance routine in one show and crossed the stage during an improvised solo. That was cool.

For Jazz or Holiday gigs I use lots of charts or charts with improvisation ideas because nobody is paying that much attention since we are usually just ‘Mood Music’. I take the opportunity to be an ‘Artist’ during these gigs by working on my ‘Improvisational Voice’ and play some of my own creations. I can usually predict/remember my screw-ups.

It’s very important to know one’s self as an artist and player. I need to work more on the ‘Artist Me’ by doing more concerts instead of atmosphere music gigs.



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

JS: I subscribe to the Barney Kessel school of warm-ups: “Stay hot.”. I warm up on mid-tempo tunes. I use exercises for mechanical problems. It took many years for me to realize I should have balance in this regard. I usually only discover playing problems during an improvisational concept that I try on a gig and fail because I never thought to try it before.

Exercises are for building a skill that one does not have; it is not a way to become a better musician, it is a way to become better at instrumental execution. (How do I play this musical idea on my instrument?)


LL: Description of your playing style? (i.e. you like keeping it simple, no riff-busyness/crazy solos, go-to picking style..etc)

JS: The music dictates my playing style. To me, there is no rhythm, lead, left-hand, right-hand, etc., there is only ‘What must I be able to do to play the music?’ and ‘Can I do it?’. Sometimes I can’t ‘do it’, and that informs my next practice session..

Most recently, a couple years ago, I was rehearsing with a Hard Rock band and I couldn’t play some of the solos at the final tempo. These were a Judas Priest and some Guns ‘N’ Roses tunes; a couple others too, I’m sure. Anyway, I had to spend about six months really working on these solos to be able to play them at tempo. I essentially went from sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm. I’m not talking about an exercise at 160bpm, this was the music, what I really wanted to play.



LL: What was your practice routine structured like during those six months (to be able to go from soloing at sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm)

JS: I used the same process I teach: Learn the music at a slow tempo (50% or less), then move the tempo up ten points and play through. Keep raising the tempo until mistakes begin, then return to the last perfectly played tempo. Stay at that tempo for one week, then start raising the tempo again until mistakes begin and repeat the process. I did this until I could comfortably play the music at 10 bpm higher than the final tempo required. It takes a long time, but it’s worth it.


LL: What’s next for your playing?

JS: Taming the acoustic, becoming more of an ‘Artist’ regarding my voice in arrangements, improvisation, song choice, etc.. I will discover my weaknesses sooner by learning new music.

I’m also pursuing more concert opportunities instead of ‘Club Dates’, (Which are gigs at venues ‘needing’ atmosphere music for 3-4 hours.). I’m sure I’ll still do some weddings and other special events, but concerts are where I believe I will grow the most as an artist with message.



LL: Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JS: Not really since I don’t have any upcoming gigs, but I do have a voice and guitar duo that is on hiatus (the vocalist is having a baby in June 2014) and a guitar and sax duo. The guitar/sax duo is just two weeks in the making, so we are still finding a start to our voice and choosing tunes. The real work begins when we have the music chosen and we need to find ourselves inside of it.

(A bit more updates: I’m currently have a guitar/flugelhorn duo, solo-guitar arrangements, and two possible guitar/voice opportunities, and a full band concept for which I can start booking concerts. Since first answering the above question, I have decided to pursue concerts as a primary goal and I want to have different levels of hire available to select venues. Some venues are a small, intimate setting, and some are larger and prefer a larger group for a more intense experience.)


LL: Pretty happy with where you are at now?

JS: HA! Never happy! However, I do consciously decide to stop ‘Improving’ so I can really internalize the recent changes to my playing. In other words, I have to make myself stop trying to be a better ‘Guitarist’ and remain in the work of becoming a better, more soul-touching ‘Musician’ with my current skill level.

Ever hear a guitarist play only scales or strumming patterns? Yes. Did it touch your soul? Probably Not. We need to work on the other bits of musicianship by ceasing the work on mechanics.



LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

JS: The funny thing about questions is that I don’t believe I hear any of them repeated. I know that may seem strange, but while my answer to the students’ questions may contain the same information, every question is different because each student has a different hole in their understanding.

As an example, the most common topic I discuss is improvisation. Most people know something in regard to improvising by the time I see them, but there is always something they don’t like about their playing, or something that has become stagnant to them. So, we discuss keys and how we make chords and melodies from the notes within. Then we learn more about how we can play them in a practical manner on guitar.

I guess the second most common topic is that of rhythmic concepts. Unfortunately, none of us manipulate rhythms as much as we should; music could be so much more interesting if we did.


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

JS: No, I’m not part of any underground faction that is hip before anyone else. I’m 42. Ha!

Most of my new discoveries are from the social media posts of others, YouTube suggestions, online programs such as Tiny Desk Concerts by NPR, and other random finds.



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

JS:Man, what a list that would be and who has the time for all that listening? Joe Satriani, Led Zep, AC/DC, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Big Bands, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Stu Hamm, John Scofield, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Roy Clark, Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Appetite for Destruction, INXS, U2, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Arlen Roth, Booker T. and the MGs, Christian McBride, James Brown, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Vince Guaraldi, Dave Holland, and many more.


LL: Do you go out of your way to discover music you haven’t heard before?

JS: Sometimes I accidentally find something on YouTube or a blog that I like or some Pop star like Lorde is in the news and I YouTube them. However, I certainly don’t go out of my way. I don’t think we need to go out of our way any more. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m 40 years old, so I remember when one had to hunt for music. Especially if you lived in the woods or the hills.


Now it’s almost like the matter of finding music is as easy as picking a blade of grass while in a park; we’re just surrounded my sources of music.



LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JS: YouTube and watch the masters at work.


LL: What’s your view about social media?

JS: Social Media is, to me, a contradiction in terms, but it is important. I think ‘Social’ is about time with or making friends and ‘Media’ is a method of distributing information. I don’t think the two are ALWAYS good together as are chocolate and peanut butter. ‘Social’ and ‘Media’ are better as a small part of two concentric circles.

I like Twitter best, but some people lump YouTube in the Social Media box and I think we know by now how I feel about YouTube. Ha!



LL:Would you be willing to share your Twitter handle? (What do you think of Twitter so far?)

JS: JustinSchroder

I’m concerned about upcoming changes to Twitter since there have been some leadership/ownership changes, but so far, they haven’t pulled a Yahoo! and done anything ridiculous.

I like Twitter better than Facebook, primarily because I only have so many characters to create posts. This has helped me learn to communicate more effectively. I find that most of the people that don’t like Twitter are people who don’t like to work on their communication. I don’t feel good about my communication, so I like to work on it.


I also go through phases of posting in Haiku form, just add an additional challenge.



LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

JS: Most websites have good designs now. Site design means little to me unless I’m trying to pay a bill or see my bank balance. Some companies have websites which drive me bonkers. How wrong can one be when designing a website? Well, pretty wrong sometimes.


LL: Name a website that you would go to when you need cheering up/inspiration?

JS: Outside. Not a website. I find my pets, children, or wife when I need good feelings.

I like bike rides, especially in the woods. My wife likes hikes, I like hiking with her, but I would never decide to go on a hike on my own. I prefer rolling friction.


LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

JS: Absolutely.


My strong skills are harmony and melody, not lyrics or singing. So, I need to have others to complete my work. Also, I’m good at developing and leading bands, and most musicians/singers are not good at the management of musical endeavors.



LL: Are you interested in technology?

JS: Nope. It’s just a means to an end and, thankfully, systems like WordPress, YouTube, SoundCloud, et al are great for technologically imbecilic people like me.


I think that is the greatest societal improvement given by computers and the internet; it allows otherwise incompetent people like me to be able to produce documents, audio, video, and other forms of gaining an audience without needing to hire someone or develop into a Jack-Of-All-Trades to be an artist.


LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future?

JS: No. Frankly, I have found that very few of my videos are being discovered or watched by people whom I believe I am trying to help. So, evidently, I’m not as helpful via video as I thought.



LL: Or are you looking to do different things?

JS: Something that a lot of people will find helpful. It’s not so much of an ego-centric ‘Hey, look how many views I have!’. It’s more a matter of ‘Hey, look how many views I have by people I can help!’.

We seem to be moving toward Live online events through FaceBook Live, Concert Window, Periscope, et al, and I am upgrading my tools to take advantage of this trend. It’s interesting how our intrinsic Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is fueling the technological and social changes we are seeing.


Perhaps FOMO has always been the foundation of technological and industrial advancement.



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

JS: That’s an impossible choice, but it would be one of my youngest daughter Claire either playing violin, singing, or riding her bike for the first time. We were too poor when my oldest daughter was little to have any video of her and now that she’s a teen we just have pictures of her being beautiful.




LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others? (Is there a particular cause that you resonate with the most?)

JS: What I enjoy most is helping people realize how being a good musician isn’t as difficult as many other people make it out to be.

Essentially, there are a lot of people discussing music concepts in such a convoluted manner that it’s nearly impossible to understand or apply them. I really enjoy working with performing musicians who want to discover more about themselves musically. Working with a group of musicians is probably my favorite environment because we can inspire each other to do our best. It’s easier and more fun to be creative in a group setting because one idea triggers another and the creativity builds.

If I were to describe a cause which motivates me the most, that would be the success of the student. Nothing motivates me more in teaching than seeing a student surprise themselves with their playing or with a sudden moment of clarity. Most of the time the problem isn’t the student’s level of effort, but rather the music concepts being made simple, clear, and immediately applicable.


LL: How can we support your work?

JS: I teach at via video exchange, which is probably the most efficient way to teach and learn for the intermediate to advanced player.

Players should take this link to register and learn the benefits of studying with me there. Visiting my website,, will give people the opportunity to learn what I am doing as a teacher and performer. It’s also the best way to contact me regarding how I can help them. I am currently focused on performance and group education. I am available for concerts in solo, duo, small combo, and big band settings, as well as related workshops, clinics, and guest performer bookings.

Simply put, supporting my work is as simple as hiring me to help people and organizations reach their musical goals.



LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

JS: I’m amazed that I survived! 🙂

Frankly, I’ve noticed more of the effect I’ve had on students, other musicians, and just people generally since I retired from teaching daily. For various reasons, my current schedule and physical/mental condition are more conducive to effective thought and being present in my daily activities than ever before.

When I am looking for a video I made or a blog post to send to someone, I must say I’m a little surprised at how many videos and blog posts I have created. I’m sure they’re not all great, but I did them and they were evidently something I felt worthy of sharing.

I guess what is most valuable to me at present is the growing awareness and appreciation that I have a family, a job, and the ability to create and re-create Sound Art for my enjoyment to share with others.



* Justin Schroder is a guitarist based in Lynchburg. Witness him working on learning to communicate more effectively (in 140 characters or less!) via Twitter. You can pick his brain by watching him share playing nuggets on Youtube, through his entries, or by going through the really intense 32 week course.


Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May 2014 – October 2016) between Justin 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 based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)


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The Quote Jar: Twenty Three

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Matthew during his Q&A.

I’m just doing music the way I learned how to do it back in the 70’s” – Oscar Hernandez, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

“Music is something that that is really big in my life, everybody knows that, but my first love was traveling. I saw the ships disappearing whilst I was in the island of Mauritius at a very young age and that sense of wonder that is in my music came about before I even played a note of music.” – Jean-Paul Maunick, Guitarist – Incognito


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What are some of your favourite quotes?


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Q&A #21: Scott Raines


Scott talks about his journey as a guitarist, the importance of spending time with your chosen instrument, the importance of having a coach (no matter where you are) and the reason learning/practicing for him was never a chore.


Editor’s Note: Before you start reading Scott’s Q&A – play at least minute of his cover of Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’. Let those chords and notes get in your veins!


(Word of warning: after checking out Scott’s videos on YouTube and reading his Q&A, you might be struck by the desire to fly to where his next solo show is going to be)


Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through your YouTube videos I notice that you have quite a variety of artists you cover. Is this a reflection of your own listening habits?


Scott Raines: With covers, I generally play what I like (my taste has a wide range). Sometimes I’ll learn or play something special for someone just because or if it’s something I like and is requested at a gig 😉


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

SR: I was about 8 years old when my playing journey began. Growing up in Slocomb, AL, there were no local “mentors” or influences really. When I was 9, I had a really good friend (Johnny Hendrix), who was my age and knew some chords and played CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival]. Sometimes we had music books with chords, but mostly we learned by ear.

Randy Thomley moved to Slocomb with his family from Michigan.  He turned me onto great rock like Ted Nugent, Montrose, etc. Of course, as I got older and travelled, I had many influences and mentors.


2 of my best friends, my older brother and I formed a band at very young ages and were playing honkytonks at the ages of 13 & 14 (my brother was older). We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that we needed to sound like the records we were listening to. So we would put the needle on the record and learn stuff note for note. There is no better ear training than that. We didn’t have another band in town with which compare ourselves, but only to the bands/artists themselves on the records. We blew everyone away from very young ages. The older bar cats/musicians didn’t know what hit them.


I grew up in the Church of Christ (no instruments), which is known for their awesome singing and vocal arrangements. I was hearing harmonies from the womb. I have always had a natural ear for harmony because of that.



LL: What pulled you to travelling?


SR: I knew I wanted to play music from a very early age. As soon as I was old enough, I hit the road. I took a break from traveling while my daughters were very young. They are older now, so I am enjoying traveling more again.


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

SR: As a kid, my problem was keeping my fingers from bleeding from playing so much on a very cheap guitar.


Most of my challenges came later when I crossed into other genres or between playing acoustic and electric (which are really 2 different instruments technique-wise). I never had a problem with motivation. I was going to do it/learn it, period. I would just listen to and play with the music, jam with people and study until I got better. Learn stuff note for note, then use the concepts and apply them to my own playing, etc.


I get blocks and hit ceilings, as I’m sure everyone does. That’s when you go see live music, get on YouTube and watch some greats, go jam with friends or put on some old music that takes you back to what got you into music in the first place.



LL: Does that mean now you’ve learned how to pace yourself? (making sure that you don’t injure your fingers? Or did you just find a way to protect the tips of your fingers as a kid – maybe with something like Micropore Tape?)

SR: As a kid, small Band-Aids, then superglue worked well. After you have played for so long, you and your fingers get in shape and it doesn’t bother you any more. Playing regularly keeps them in shape. I often play with heavier gauge strings, which keeps them strong as well.


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

SR: I was turned onto SCALES AND MODES in the Beginning by a friend (Mike Barnes) who was/is an amazing player who trained at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now MI – Musician’s Institute]. I was already playing much of that stuff I learned by ear, but this book enlightened me on some of what and why I was playing some things (scales, etc.). I don’t think it really changed my life or anything.



LL: If you were to put together a learning plan 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?


SR: For me, playing guitar is mostly right-brained. It’s a feel thing. It’s a passion thing. My thirst for theory didn’t come until later when I wondered why I played what I played. My advice would be to explore the technical side as well as the creative. Feel what you are playing, but also explore what is going on under the hood of what you are playing and why.


Take lessons, get mentors, jam with artists much better than yourself. If you are really serious in making a living at it, go to where the music business is; L.A., Nashville or New York City.


Start writing your own stuff from day one! Learning covers is good in that you pick up technique, feel, etc., but don’t spend too much time on it. Put a band together and write your own stuff, no matter how bad is sucks. Just keep writing!


If you are seriously learning guitar (or ANY other instrument), consistently practice with a metronome. Rhythm is your job. Take it seriously! If it is your job to start or count off a song in a pro show, you’d better have a click in your ear or metronome on stage in order to start it at the correct tempo. There are too many factors that can affect your inner clock (butterflies, adrenalin, distractions, etc.).


As good as Tiger Woods is, why does he still have a coach? The best drummers in the world come to practice and to the gig with a metronome. That’s all I will say about that.


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


SR: It was never a chore for me to “practice”. My body and soul become one when I have a guitar in my hand. I can literally feel my blood pressure even out. You hear people speak of God-given talent. Maybe there is some of that, but I tend to believe it is more of a God-given passion.

If you have true passion for something, NOTHING gets in your way and “can’t” is not an option. Yes, running scales can get tedious, but by keeping your eye on an end result/goal, it is just a necessary thing. Task over time is the only way to get great at something.



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

SR: Over the years, I have learned to not waste time inventing the wheel and go straight to someone who is doing what I want to know how to do and ask them. I call it Continuing Ed. Ask them, jam with them, pay for a lesson or whatever it takes. I have played with some amazing guitarists over the years and I have to give credit to Jack Pearson, one of my current coaches/mentors.

Jack takes playing guitar to a whole new level, stepping into multiple arenas (genres, techniques) and drops jaws wherever he goes. I try to see him every few weeks when I make it to Nashville. I will pay him for a lesson, we will go to dinner and then we’ll go out on the town to see some great players.


I learned a lot by watching and playing studio sessions. Good session players, engineers and producers are incredible to watch. The way they create such masterful arrangements on the fly is just amazing. Hearing myself on tape put things in perspective. I had to practice more!


LL: Would you mind sharing some of the recent lightbulb moments you’ve had during your time with Jack?

SR: Jack and I are friends. I have never really taken formal lessons, though I would have liked to go to a music college like MI if I could have afforded it. Teaching guitar is a source of income for Jack, so I support him by paying him for lessons and subscribing to his online guitar school while I get top notch jam time and custom direction on new perspectives of the fingerboard.



LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?


SR: Get a chord book/app, learn the basic chords and go for it. I enjoy picking up instruments that I don’t play and banging around on them. This has inspired some pretty cool original ideas for me.


LL: Can you share three music theory related ideas that helped you become a better musician?

SR: The Nashville Number System (Number System is part of general music theory) has been the most useful for me. Generally, I can hear a song for the 1st time and have it mostly charted by the time it gets to the end. Great tool in studio sessions. Most of the jam sessions in my life, players are yelling numbers to each other, not chords. It is also invaluable when the singer decides to change the key of the song. The 1 is the 1 no matter what key it happens to be in.


Sight Reading staff certainly has its place.  I just never find myself in those places.

Not really music theory, but I have to mention that if you want to be a great musician, it is VERY important that you learn to listen to what else is going on. Do not stampede on top of vocals, someone else’s solo, etc. What you don’t play is MORE important that what you do play! Playing music is not everyone banging out the same chords from start to finish.

The arrangements are carefully designed for the instruments (including the voice) to work together. This may mean that you don’t play a single note until the bridge and when you do, it is only 3 notes (maybe not even chords). The same goes in jams. When someone else is singing or playing a solo, SHUT UP or at least bring your volume WAY down. It is a conversation. Let the others speak, too. All this depends on the genre as well. There are exceptions 😉


Another thing that has helped me is learning other instruments’ parts in songs. Organ voicing is very fun on guitar. Sax solos are very similar to guitar licks and lend another perspective/approach. Piano parts are a lot of fun on guitar. I have played guitar synth and would learn many parts like organ, horn lines/stabs between guitar parts, etc.


Finally, BE NICE! Just like everything else, it is all about relationships. Learn something from everyone you meet and be nice to your fellow musicians, club owners, managers, producers, etc., but especially your fans. Nobody wants to be around an ass—.



LL: Do you do your own chord experiments?


SR: Every time I pick up a guitar! I play with inversions, especially on an electric. One of the best things you can do to learn your neck is to jam with a song a thousand times and play it different every time. Play each chord in different locations of the neck every time it comes around, on 2 strings, on 3 strings, skip strings, play the chord in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, with the root on bottom, 5th on the bottom, 4th or 7th on the bottom, etc. There is no end to how many ways to play a simple song like Take It Easy. Per my answer above, learning other instruments’ parts helps with this, too.


LL: What’s your view on alternate tunings?


SR: I have played with alternate tunings in other artists’ music, but haven’t really gotten into it with my own music. I enjoy drop D, open A, D & E for slide. I wouldn’t hesitate to go there if I heard something I needed to capture that couldn’t happen in standard tuning.



LL: Description of your playing style?

SR: Yeah, there are endless ways to approach playing this song (and most songs). Depending on my mood, I may play a song different every time. Sometimes I want to play very sparsely to let a song breathe and bring more weight to the voice/lyrics. Sometimes I will play a piano line/part instead of guitar, etc.


Being a hired gun, my playing will have different colors, depending on whom I’m playing with, what instrument I am playing, the setting or music style. My playing style will always complement the song or type of music I am playing.


I do a different thing with my right hand, in that I hold a pick, but still use my other fingers for picking (unless it is a full on strum). I use this technique with acoustic and electric guitar.


LL: What are some misconceptions you come across about you — as a musician?

SR: Musicians/artists come in a wide variety and unfortunately many generalized opinions of them are justified by the actions of the egotistical, undependable, entitled and generally unprofessional actions of more than a few. It is a tough business and it is an uphill battle to make a living as an artist. Too few artists know anything about the “business” of their craft. It is very important to learn that side as well.


When I was young, I played by ear and would nail the songs I had learned. I had no idea what I was playing or why, but anyone who heard me thought I was amazing. This was NOT the case! Sometimes I would land on the wrong dot 😉 Ouch!


It’s funny when you see someone who shreds some song(s) and you want to jam with them and explore with them, but in reality, they can’t as much as open jam on a 1-4-5 blues. All these great clips on YouTube are cool, kids playing Eruption, or whatever, note for note, etc., but I always wonder if they have anything else. I like to think so.



LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

SR: I’m almost always happy, but never satisfied with where I am knowledge-wise in general. I’m a student in life and am always hungry for knowledge, especially musical knowledge.

Right now, I am working on my voice a lot. After singing all of my life, I have only recently learned about chest voice, head voice & the mix. There again, I’ve done it for years, but never really knew what I was doing and why.

I am currently spending a lot of time writing for a couple of different projects.


LL: Do you think you’d be on the lookout for a vocal coach as well?

SR: I heard a lot about Brett Manning in Nashville as the guy the record companies sent their new artists to in order to dial their voices in. I ordered a couple of programs from him that really helped my technique. When I am in Nashville, I like to schedule a one on one session with them.



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

SR: D’Addario electric strings and Elixir acoustic strings. I mostly use V-Pick for electric guitar (mostly a custom Tradition) & mandolin. For acoustic, I mostly use Dunlop Tortex (1.14mm). I use heavy pics unless I am playing a strumming rhythm acoustic track in the studio where you want to hear the sound of the pick on the strings, which syncs with the drummer’s high-hat.

I have many guitars. Which I use depends on the gig or style of music I am playing. My favorite is Fender Stratocaster (I mostly play a Jeff Beck model). I like the percussiveness of a nice clean single coil. It can get very funky.

I have Strats, Teles, Larrivee, Taylors, Peavy Wolfgang, Ovation, Brian Moore, Kramer, mandolin, dobro, ukes, etc.


LL: Do you go for D’Addario strings for your electric because they have extra flex in them? (for bends…and other nutty electric stuff. I have the impression that Elixir is great primarily for their longevity. Are those part of the choices for you?)

SR: I don’t break D’Addario strings like I do other brands and they sound and react really well. Elixir strings are for the lively sound and yes, for longevity.



LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

SR: Different gear for different genre/gigs. I use different amps for electric; Rivera, Fender or Marshall usually. If backline is provided, I usually get Fender, Marshall or Blackstar, depending. I’m pretty much ready for anything in my pedalboard.

If we fly to a gig, there is backline provided, so I will only bring a guitar or 2.


LL: Did you have to do any set-ups adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?


SR: I’ve never had a guitar come straight from factory perfectly set up for me. The setup depends on what I’m going to do with it.


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


SR: With experience, you learn what you like. If I’m playing slide, of course, I don’t want the strings lying on the neck. Unless I am playing really hard rock, I like my strings up a bit so I can get percussive without splatting out.


Acoustics have a better tone when the strings are not right on the neck. Heavier strings help, too. I use .013 Elixirs on most of my steel string acoustics.



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

SR: If I’m doing a cover solo gig where people make requests, I have my iPad to pull up lyrics from the Internet so I can play songs on the fly. Plus, I can pull up songs to see what key they are in so I can get as close as possible. I play many songs on a gig that I have never played before. The ones I like, I’ll fine-tune later and keep.


If playing a show/concert with one of my regular bands, no. We follow set lists for those.


If I am hired for a show or session, I will have charts, probably on an iPad.


And of course there is always this mental note: Don’t screw up, because if you do, it will show up on YouTube and you’ll have to live with it the rest of your life!


No, seriously, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. EVER! Everyone makes them.


LL: Would any clips from solo gigs end up on your YouTube channel in the near future?

SR: Other people upload most of the videos I see on YouTube, so I imagine they are out there. I know the APB videos pop up all the time from videographers and people in the crowd. I like it. I can critique myself.



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

SR: Before a show, I warm up with scales on guitar. Some voice warm up. Then I’ll sing and play a bunch of songs with my acoustic to get all warmed up. Ideally, I like an hour to warm up.

For practice at home, it depends on my mood.


LL: Have you always been mindful of ergonomics when you play?

SR: All that just comes naturally. For guitar or voice, you should be very relaxed. That being said, I don’t like to sing sitting down. Even on solo acoustic gigs, I stand up for a better voice. Economy of motion is very important when playing any instrument.


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?

SR: Since I have regretted almost everything I have sold, I pretty much hang on to my gear. I love going through old boxes and finding cool pedals I forgot about.



LL: Do you buy consumables in bulk?

SR: We have string and pick endorsements. When I buy, I always buy in bulk. Saves $.


LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

SR: 50% humidity. Most of them are hanging in my music room, ready to pull down and play when the mood hits.


LL: Would you have a humidity monitor in the room?

SR: I have a temperature/humidity monitor in the room. I use humidifiers to keep the level at 50%.


Editor’s Note: Scott tells me that this picture he shares on his Facebook page belongs Jake Peavy (a dear friend of Scott’s and current baseball pitcher with SF Giants). Scott clarifies that his (with 50% humidity) is similar, but smaller.



LL: With your videos, what process do you go through?

SR: The ones I have done, I just start the machine and start playing. The first ones I put up (after being urged by so many people to do so), I turned the recorder on and played about 20 songs straight through. I uploaded it, split them into separate songs, trimmed the beginning and end and uploaded them. What you see/hear is what you get. No editing. Plus I like everything dry. Just guitar and voice. If it doesn’t sound good, I have nothing to blame but me. Practice will fix it. Not reverb 😉

That reminds me of one of my favorite comments on one of my initial 20 videos. Some guy said something like, “Dude, you are awesome! You are good enough to go out and get paying gigs so you can buy a new shirt!”.

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos?

SR: I always have stuff I would like to record and upload. It’s just the challenge of time. I hope to get better at it.



LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

SR: No, I just post what I want to when I have time. The idea of setting it up is a bit daunting. I need to do it more so I get more comfy with the process.


LL: What would you like to learn about next? Has your approach to learning changed in the last 5 years?

SR: I have grown more in the last 10 years than my previous years combined. I have craving for knowledge and for the betterment of me.


LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

SR: On my life path, I try to learn as well as teach, serve or inspire any place I can. As humans, we have a duty to do these things.



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

SR: I am rarely annoyed or offended. I have learned that it is really easy to shake things off and move on. Life shouldn’t be that serious. We fail, we learn from our failures and hopefully next time, we’ll remember the lesson we learned. #fallforward


LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

SR: Technology, business & investing (especially real estate).


LL: Are there artists that you would hope more people should listen to?

SR Music is a very personal thing. Some types of music or particular songs, solos, etc. touch everyone differently. Find something that moves you and get lost in it.



LL: What are you reading at the moment?

SR: Right now, I’m reading “How To Use the GoPro Hero 4”, by Jordan Hetric. For building a strong life foundation and attitude, I recommend books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), The No Complaining Rule, Energy Bus, Training Camp (Anything Jon Gordon). I like business news, I follow the stock markets as time allows, I like commercial real estate and retail stats and trends.


LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

SR: Every day! I mostly Google to find information. If I want to dig deeper, I look for a book.


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

SR: I stay motivated because I’m always feeding myself spiritually, mentally and physically. I play guitar, read positive books, I avoid negative input as best I can (sometimes this requires staying off of social media…or ALL media), do yoga, bike, run, swim, workout, crossfit, etc.



LL: What makes you smile?

SR: After a couple of days on the road with the Artimus Pyle Band, my face hurts from laughing. Great guys that love to have fun!


LL: I’ve been checking out your Facebook page photos and couldn’t help but be amused! Is enjoying life (including not being afraid to look silly for the camera) what you aim for each day?

SR: Every day, I want to lift others up, learn something, better myself and HAVE FUN!  EVERY day.  And I am a HUGE t-shirt fan 😉


LL: What’s your view about social media?

SR: It’s a great tool and a curse. I jumped right in, however with all the political and social rants that has taken over; it takes a lot of weeding out and unsubscribing. I mostly just post and try not to browse much.



LL: Do you currently post at forums?

SR: I never got into forums much.


LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

SR: No. I’m all about content.


LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

SR: Grab my guitar or go for a run.



LL: What do you enjoy most when collaborating with other artists?

SR: I love that music in an international language. It has been the catalyst for dear friendships across the globe. We may not speak the same language, but we can speak musically endlessly.


LL: Are you interested in technology?

SR: After drinking the Apple Kook-Aid, I am mostly Mac now. I love my MacBook Pro. I could not function without Dropbox and Evernote. My home recording software is Presonus Studio One Pro. And I love building out Excel files for real estate investment and cash flow analysis.


LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

SR: Probably will change things up as needed. 



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

SR: I enjoy looking at videos that pop up on YouTube after a run of shows. I like getting the crowd’s perspective.


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

SR: I’m a note taker. I have to get my ideas down and “whiteboard” them so I don’t forget or lose the vibe I had when it hit me. I can add to, edit or trash it later if it doesn’t do anything for me.


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

SR: I hope to inspire.



LL: What makes your soul sing?

SR: Playing in front of thousands of people and directing/connecting them in unison (hand claps, applause, singing), flying down a mountain on a single track bike, jumping out of a plane, overcoming my limited mindset and pushing through a ceiling…any ceiling.


LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

SR: Messaging on social media is probably the quickest. I don’t think YouTube has messaging notification outside of email. If it does, let me know.


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

SR: I am open to all opportunities. I would love to jam with someone in every country on earth.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

SR: Our Church is very hands-on in the community and around the world. I don’t know an organization that does more in the world than ROTARY. I am an active Rotarian and the mission trips I have been involved with have fulfilled my soul.



* Scott Raines is a guitarist based out of Asheville, and is a walking jukebox (ask him how many tunes he can whip out!). He looks forward to realising his dream of jamming in every country in the world — and is open for an invite to visit a country he has not been to, and jam. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his Facebook page.







Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014 – July 2015) between Scott 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.)


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