M-m-m-my Corona

Corona is Latin (and Spanish) for crown. Ohana is Hawaiian for family (thanks Lilo & Stitch!). Rshi is Sanskrit for sage. And doch is German for any number of emphatic phrases! This being said, it’s a wonder we’re ever able to communicate anything with anyone. Translation is one of the finest tools we’re blessed with as thinking beings. It’s a tool of secrecy. A necessary brain for that which we do not understand. A shoulder to cry on. A headache to reckon with at the end of any challenging day. A box of playing cards. A jenga stack on its last weight-bearing leg.

Translation, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Which kinda brings me to my point. That is, if translation is the key to serving the larger pan-continental masses, why not encourage the use of such an invaluable tool by implementing its problem-solving (thus somewhat unifying) capacities to stimulate openness of being? It’s what we, as singer-songwriters, do on a daily basis. We sing songs that translate and communicate with people on a multiplicity of levels. And we can all be singer-songwriters, we can all participate in the translation game at some point.

You might think that singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen already. But because of advances in technology, the world is an even bigger stage for everyone now. So please, write that song down, leap onto that couch / stage, and do the singing yourself. Take all the materials you want to translate, then you make it your own. In a lot of ways, what people do and say has meaning to themselves that could quite be completely unrelated to the message and meaning it has for you. And that’s okay. We’re all okay. Just make the translation. Ingesting it can either take place or not take place. Write it down and sing it out.

It’s about breaking out of your comfort zone, as much as it is about reaching deep within you. 🙂

The Best Acoustic Guitar Under $500 — The Most Value For The Money

When they first came to me, most of my students asked “what acoustic guitar should I get?” Would-be students still ask that, so I thought of making this guide where I can refer them to.


Below, I discuss the important things to consider when buying a guitar. As you shop around, you’ll see that there’s a lot to choose from and it’s time consuming to consider them all. So if you want a quick suggestion, I recommend the best acoustic guitar under 500 US dollars. Value for the money is important for beginners, and below $500 is where it’s at.

If that price still sound too much, take note that top of the line acoustic guitars actually cost thousands. Thankfully, competition in the 500 bucks range is forcing major brands to lower prices without sacrificing quality. These days, stumbling upon a great acoustic guitar with a reasonable price is not at all impossible.

Things to Look for in Acoustic Guitars Below $500

Whether you’re searching for your first instrument or for an upgrade, the critical factors you should look at are the same. Unfortunately, stores are packed with acoustic guitars that are priced above their real worth. But fret not — with persistence and thorough research, you’ll stumble upon a guitar that’s like a diamond in the rough.

That’s not to say that you’ll have to dig very deep just to get to that shining shimmering axe. In the $300 to $500 range, there’s a lot of options with admirable craftsmanship, so don’t make do with anything less. Actually, getting a guitar made of nice tonewoods is really possible. In addition, you might even get a nut and saddle made of bone and a bridge and fretboard made of Indian rosewood (plus much more).

Found a great axe around the lower end of the price range, but it has one or two minor flaws? Don’t scratch it off your options list just yet. For example, a nice sounding guitar that requires bridge replacement is actually still a great deal. You shouldn’t ignore options that can gain significant performance improvements by just doing minor adjustments. Veteran guitarists do it most of the time. If you’re a complete novice though, it’s better to buy an acoustic guitar that works well right off the bat.

Now you might ask, “how about used, top of the line models that are sold within the same cost bracket? Unless you really know what you’re looking for, I generally advice against going that route. For novices to practice with, and for artists to perform with, a brand new acoustic guitar is ideal. The risk with used axes is that you’ll never know when it will suddenly break down. You can’t afford that to happen when you least want it to.

Picking “The One”

Still can’t make up your mind about which acoustic guitar to finally buy? I personally recommend the Seagull S6 Original (shown in the video above) or the Taylor GS Mini. Either of them can be considered as the top acoustic guitar for under $500. And for the money, beginners can’t go wrong with any of the two. 🙂

The Power of Two

I’ve been listening to “Fishtails,” a song by the Indigo Girls from their upcoming album “One Lost Day.” When I hear the song, I can’t help but reminisce how I found their music and how it affected my life, both musically and personally.

It all started when I was in 8th grade. At the time, a new educational TV network called “Channel 1” was introduced into every classroom at my middle school. During Earth Week, Channel 1 showcased bands with songs that spoke about resource conservation and whose activism included earth-friendly activities. If I remember it right, it was Tuesday of such week when I first caught a glimpse of the Indigo Girls on our classroom TV screen. They were shown in the talking box for only a few minutes, and they were promoting a song off their album “Nomads, Indians, Saints.” The song was “Hammer and a Nail,” and it’s exposure was just long enough for me to be intrigued by their sound. But it was my BFF Marie who actually looked them up for more information. She – a sonic guru well ahead of her time in our tiny town – bought their self-titled album and let me borrowed it for my own appreciation. And there it all began.

indigo girls

My fandom for the Indigo Girls began to morph to an obsession – the kind that is needed by a teenage girl wrestling with the charged socio-political climate of a tiny Texas town. I loved their songs so much that it’s as if I heard them with fresh ears every single time I listen. I also attended “Live at the Uptown Lounge” as if it was an extra-curricular activity that I really had to be a part of. Shortly after the start of my freshman year in high school, a friend told me that they were gay, and I was both taken aback and secretly relieved by the news. Little did I knew that the discovery would hit close to home as I began my own coming out process in the next few years.

It felt that my situation was easier because I knew two people — whose music I could relate to — shared something similar with my own life. I never expected that in a world that could make you feel so alone, all you need is the power of two to get by. 🙂

About Me, Myself and I

If I remember it right, my first ever guitar was below the price of two budget meals and had Disney characters on its top. My second axe had bonafide steel strings, but still, the weird finish and a fake knob on its Stratocaster wannabe body hindered my head banging potential. My first “real” guitar didn’t came until I was around eleven. That’s when my folks realized that my Amy Grant obsession indeed deserved an acoustic guitar as an upcoming birthday surprise. That’s when my music journey finally progressed one note at a time.

Wannabe rockstar

Wannabe rockstar

After finishing high school, I went to northern Germany to further my studies. During my stay in Oldenburg, I began to seriously experiment with fingerstyle guitar and its beautiful complexities. When I got back to the US, I started playing in Southwest university and community venues. While a college student at Penn State, I became a regular performer at university events and nearby bars and coffeehouses. After completing my philosophy degree around 2001, I started to concentrate much more of my energy on my music.

Around May 2002, I went to Provincetown, Massachusetts and performed on the streets and in local clubs and bars. My experience in Provincetown have been so awesome that I kept coming back in the next three summers. I had a blast getting steady gigs during those summers, which included a mix of show hosting and as a headlining performer. Soon thereafter, I was finally considered as a feature acoustic folk-rock musician on Lower Cape Cod. I then moved to Richmond, Virginia to pursue a life immersed in Americana music, with a healthy dose of some folk-rock flavor.

I still play anywhere from coffee shops and clubs, to colleges and community centers. But in addition, I now also teach music on the side, particularly acoustic guitar playing.