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 One

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 Nigel during his Q&A.


“I never really stopped and smelled the roses” – Phil Collins


“The only players on the record were myself, Rob Ellis, and Mick Harvey, and between the three of us we can pretty much play any instrument you can think of.” – PJ Harvey


“That’s one of the reasons why I don’t have my own band; I really enjoy playing all these different styles of music.” – Dennis Chambers




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What are some of your favourite quotes?



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The Quote Jar: Eighteen

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 Mark during his Q&A.


“I can’t try and triangulate and think, ‘I’m not that interested in hearing this, but I know an audience might be’…” – Joe Boyd (Nick Drake’s Producer)


“Things that don’t pertain immediately to music, but [things that] I think are really important and essential to creating art and being human. Ultimately, that’s what being a musician is supposed to reflect.” – Joe Locke


“Legacy is something you talk about when you are finished, and I’m not finished.” – Stephen Stills




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What are some of your favourite quotes?



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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.)


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