When Mistakes Make Memories

On November 19, 2013, in Advice, News, by Magnolia Guitar

Army Sgt. Keith Clark was assigned to sound taps on the bugle at the funeral of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 25, 1963. He was the best of the best and worked well under pressure. He had, in fact, performed taps flawlessly for President Kennedy just two weeks before and was most likely to be called upon for the funeral.

The funeral was the conclusion of days of television coverage. Sgt. Clark had been waiting in the cold for his moment. When all was silent, he began.

Just six notes in he missed a note. Upon reflection, many people felt it sounded like a sob and it’s stark realism of the moment reflected the emotions of an entire country. But to Clark, it was mistake.

America, however, was sympathetic. “Anybody is bound to make a tiny mistake in front of millions upon millions of people,” wrote 9-year-old Ohio boy named Eddie Hunter to the Army Sargeant.

Upon Clark’s passing in 2002, one of his daughters commented that had he nailed taps that day, he might have been utterly forgotten to history.

It’s often these “mistakes” that make the lasting memories. They remind us we’re human. They unite us together in a shared moment that can never be recreated.

Singer-songwriter René Moffatt, whom I got this original story from, said “In music we always say that the heart you put into your performance overrides any technical proficiency. The ‘missed note’ on taps makes an already emotional song even more so.”

It’s for this reason that I don’t even try to strive for perfection, whatever that means. I don’t hope for perfection from my students. All we can hope for–dream for–is a sincere performance that will touch people in an emotional way. And when that’s your goal, of course you’re going to work hard to achieve it. But you’re also going to make a ‘tiny mistake’ now and again in front of a million people or just one person. And you’ll feel good about it not because it’s perfect, but because it’s real.

Read more in Michael E. Ruane’s Washington Post article here.

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Wounded Warrior Band – “Wide River to Cross”

On November 10, 2013, in News, Videos, by Magnolia Guitar

Roger Waters and musical members of Wounded Warriors perform “Wide River To Cross” (Levon Helm) at the Stand Up For Heroes 2012 benefit concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City featuring Marine Cpl. Tim Donley.

As seen on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood this Veteran’s Day Weekend, Roger Waters is also no stranger to military loss, his father having died in Italy during World War II when Roger was just five months old.

The Wounded Warrior Band is part of MusiCorps which helps wounded warriors play music and recover their lives.

Stand Up For Heroes benefits the Bob Woodruff Foundation which supports injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Columbus Day Weekend

On October 10, 2013, in News, by Magnolia Guitar

Hey y’all… Magnolia Guitar will be closed for Columbus Day Weekend Oct 11-14. Be safe, have fun, play music and I’ll see you next week!


Rock It Forward!

On September 15, 2013, in News, by Magnolia Guitar

As you may know, a fundamental part of Magnolia Guitar has always been helping our local community through the power of music. Together through my SIX for SIX program you’ve helped give hundreds of young people the opportunity to love performing music simply by taking lessons yourselves. We were able to achieve this through our good friends at Guitars Not Guns.

On September 14, 2013, Guitars Not Guns of the National Capital Area (GNGNCA) announced that it will discontinue their affiliation with the national Guitars Not Guns organization (GNG) and will change its name to Music For Life.

This change will allow Music For Life the flexibility to broaden the scope of what they teach to continue to grow and serve the needs of the youth of the Washington DC metropolitan area.

While I have supported GNGNCA for years — and will continue to do so — I will be taking this opportunity to redesign Magnolia Guitar’s own charitable program to expand our reach to other music-based organizations that also need our help.

The new program is called ROCK IT FORWARD! and will replace SIX for SIX. In the spirit of the movie Pay It Forward, when students take guitar lessons at Magnolia Guitar, a portion of your lesson fee is set aside to contribute to local music-based youth organizations like Music for Life, Girls Rock! DC and others.

Thank you for entrusting Magnolia Guitar with your music education and making community service a priority at the same time. Let’s ROCK IT FORWARD together!


Today in Music History: Aug 12, 1877

On August 12, 2013, in News, Today in Music History, by Magnolia Guitar

edison2On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison completed the first working model of the phonograph and made the world’s first sound recording… or did he?

Edison received patents for many inventions (1,093 patents issued to him in all) for the phonograph, incandescent light bulb, motion picture recordings, and more. While detractors may argue that inventors such as Nikola Tesla should actually be given credit for some of these inventions, Edison was greatly responsible for publicizing and popularizing the new-fangled gadgets.

Edison likely finished his model for the phonograph a little later in 1877. Edison’s first phonograph cylinder recorded him reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (which led the way for Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughn’s interpretations).

Edison had created the world’s first audio recording… that was able to be played back immediately.

In 1860 Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville invented the phonautograph. He used the device to record the vibrations of sound waves. De Martinville aimed to create an audio equivalent of photography. He recorded performances of actors and singers. However, he did not have a device that could play back the recordings. Prior to this, musicians had been recording subtle variations in tone and playing style using oscillograms, graphs of time versus sound wave amplitude.

Despite these “recordings,” for sound to be actually produced from a recording, the world would have to wait until 1877 (on or about August 12) for Edison, and another year until Edison’s Speaking Phonograph Company allowed people to begin bringing phonographs into their own homes.

To learn more, see






Today in Music History: Aug 11, 1999

On August 11, 2013, in News, Today in Music History, by Magnolia Guitar
KISS Hollywood Walk of Fame

KISS Hollywood Walk of Fame

Without yesterday’s feature, the first patent for the electric guitar, the rock band KISS would never have received their star on the Hollywood walk of fame on August 11, 1999.

Coincidentally, 26 years earlier on the same day in 1973, Bill Aucoin had become their manager. Aucoin used his previous experience in television to help make KISS into the band with an amazingly enduring look and theatricality everyone knew in the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond.

And, of course, without KISS we would never have the pleasure of MINI-KISS!

For more information, see




Today in Music History: Aug 10, 1937

On August 10, 2013, in News, Today in Music History, by Magnolia Guitar
From Rickenbacker International Corporation

From Rickenbacker International Corporation

Although the names Leo Fender and Les Paul are often heralded as the fathers of the electric guitar, the first ever electric guitar patent (patent #2,089.71) was awarded to the Electro String Corporation. (Coincidentally, Aug 10, 1909 is also Leo Fender’s birthday!)

G.D. Beauchamp invented the “Rickenbacker Electric Flying Pan” in the lap steel style as Hawaiian music was popular at the time.

The Rickenbacker International Corporation soon created several other styles of electric guitar, including the Bakelite Model B. Jazz, blues, and country music (and eventually rock and roll, of course!) would never be the same.

To learn more, check out






Happy Independence Day!

On June 28, 2013, in News, by Magnolia Guitar

Have a happy and safe July 4th!

Magnolia Guitar will be closed from June 29 to July 5, 2013.


You Should Practice Tuning

On June 10, 2013, in Lessons, by Magnolia Guitar

Tuning the 12-String (cc) Photo by Marcus Holland-Moritz

Learning to tune your guitar is one of the first things you learn and it’s fairly straight forward. So much so that few students put much thought into it.

I have EVERY student tune at the beginning of every lesson, no matter what their skill level, because in my opinion you can never practice tuning your guitar too much.

Tuning the guitar should be quick, confident and instinctual. You should know more than one way to tune, in case of an emergency. But more importantly, you don’t want to be the person that takes 5 minutes to tune, while everyone else is waiting.

How quickly and confidently you tune your guitar, is one of the first signs you give of what’s about to come next.

Here’s some of my advice on tuning:

1.) Tune your guitar every time you sit down to play.  You’re a big boy/girl. It’s not that much of an inconvenience.

2.) Make it a habit to tune UP to pitch.  If the note is sharp, tune down below your target note and then tune back up to it to keep from introducing any slack in the string.

3.) Buy a reliable tuner that measures vibrations (like the Snark).  They’re so affordable, I keep one in every case so I’m never without one. That’s planning ahead!

4.) Use a phone or tablet tuner app as a backup since it relies on the mic and needs a quiet environment for it’s accuracy. Check out the insTuner app, which is my current favorite.

5.) If you’re an advanced player, practice talking to your ‘audience’ at the same time as you tune or change to different tunings. This is harder than it sounds and will help you avoid awkward silences between songs.

6.) You can NEVER practice tuning the guitar too much.

Don’t fall into the trap where you think practicing tuning is beneath you. It’s a skill just like any other and you will get better at it the more you practice it. The better you are at it, the quicker and more reliable your tuning will be and the more confident your playing will be… because you’ll be in tune!


On Songwriting

On May 21, 2013, in News, by Magnolia Guitar

My friend, Oklahoma singer-songwriter Mike Ryan, recently covered my original song “The Longing” at the May 2013 Musicians Workshop AND even began performing it during his regular gigs. It’s such an honor!

Here’s an early version of me performing the song hosted on SoundCould. If Mike records his version, I’ll post that since his is terrific!

Mike P. Ryan - American Tales (2013)

Mike P. Ryan – American Tales (2013)

I met Mike earlier this year when he started coming to The Musicians Workshop to test out his new songs. Back then, he was in the process of recording his debut album ‘American Tales’ which has since been released.

When he started a workshop of his own for original songwriters, I jumped at the chance to finally take a serious go at writing. ‘The Longing’ was a half-baked work in progress that I was finally motivated to finish for the first meeting.

While I think I’m getting better as a vocalist, I’ve never considered myself a singer’s singer. Although I still believe ANYONE can (and should) sing if they want to. It’s just good fun and with practice, you can get pretty good. But by putting effort into my songwriting, I’m really hoping to publish my songs and get someone else to sing them. Maybe Mike will be the first, who knows? All I can do is keep writing and hope for the best!

Please visit www.mikepryanmusic.com and LIKE him on Facebook http://facebook.com/Mike-P-Ryan to find out more about his music and where he’s playing! If you see him, buy his CD. And if he plays my song, TIP HIM BIG! 😉


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