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Blog - Jason Didner Music

Sammy Ash: May his Memory Be a Blessing 

In Loving Memory of Sammy Ash - C.O.O. of Sam Ash Music

I never got to meet Sammy Ash, but I sure do have lifelong musical ties to the music store chain named for his grandfather. Sammy was the chain's Chief Operating Officer until he passed away at age 65 from skin cancer on 09.16.2023. 

I've developed friendly relationships with many members of the Springfield, NJ store on Route 22. There's George, the general manager, who is also a member of local funk/rock band KQ and the Sound Trip (more about this band later, I hope…). Then there's Reggie in pro audio, Michael, Jeff and Dave in guitars, and Rob in instrument repair. And Joe who calls me when a harder-to-get item has come in. These folks have been vital influences on the evolution of my sound as an artist. And it's Sammy's vision for the Sam Ash chain's modern presence that brought us together. 

This store has not only connected me to instruments, gear and supplies, but also to a beloved bandmate. Lou DiMartino ("Mr. Lou") was working in the store when he observed a flyer I posted on the bulletin board seeking a bassist for the Jungle Gym Jam. He called, and came over to audition. He was great! He also confessed that to cut down the competition he took the flyer off the board. I was flattered that he wanted that much to be in our band. We would share in Lou's talents along with his longtime band Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan. Our projects co-existed rather well because our band for kids & families played by day and Joe played mostly evenings. =

Tragically, Lou's life came to a sudden end due to an asthma attack after only 3 months with us. But he brought so much kindness and love for music into our lives for the short time we had together. He taught us the phrase LLU, which stands for “Lou Loves You” which he placed at the bottom of all his emails to us. And he connected us to the Light of Day community, in which he was a passionate participant. 

My ties to Sam Ash stores go back before I ever picked up a guitar. In fact, my grandparents surprised me with my first-ever electric guitar as a Bar Mitzvah gift I never expected. Where did they buy it? Sam Ash in NYC! I still have that guitar and just picked it up to play recently. 

As I was nearing high school graduation I participated in a sight-singing competition, in which I was given sheet music for the first time and called upon to interpret the melody with my voice. I won the competition and enough money for a gadget that would transform my music-making: a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. Where did I go? Sam Ash of Paramus! 

These days I work in Mountainside, NJ, about a 5-minute drive to Sam Ash of Springfield. Most of my musical gear comes from this store. I've also traded in gear to this store as my musical needs have changed over time. 

Here's a fun fact about Sammy: he gave the iconic Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal its name. And I recently purchased one without having known that. 


Challenging White Guy Privilege in Rock Music 

Rock-n-roll is supposed to be rebellious. It's supposed to upset the powerful and scramble the default settings. 

Rock band Living Colour, from their official Facebook pageYet I often find myself gravitating back to establishment defaults in my selection of music in the car and to accompany my morning runs. And those defaults in my case largely consist of the generally accepted white guys as the icons of rock. The concerts I've attended in arenas and theaters have been overwhelmingly put on by white guys, with an overwhelmingly white audience. 

When I get intentional about it I seek out music beyond the defaults, and I'm richly rewarded. My fondness for Living Colour goes back to my college days when they lit up MTV and then rocked my school gym. dUg Pinnick's soulful voice in the band King's X does things to me no other voice does in rock music. I sit in awe of H.E.R.'s songwriting/multi-instrumental gifts. Yet it sometimes takes that push, my thinking “I haven't listened to a Black or female artist in a few days. Let's work out that muscle today.” 

Jann Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone Magazine and founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, recently inserted his foot in his mouth on the subject in an interview with the New York Times.  When asked about a list of only white men as “masters” he answered that the most accomplished Black and female artists didn't “articulate” well enough for his purposes. He jammed his foot so deeply in there that he managed to get himself dismissed from the board of directors of the Rock Hall that he had founded. My diverse, artsy hometown's Montclair Literary Festival also rightly canceled an event with Jann as a result of his deeply un-rock-n-roll statement. 

Aside from playing into well-worn racist and sexist tropes, Jann also missed a glorious opportunity to upset the apple cart in a much more useful way - the way rock-n-roll is supposed to do. Had he answered that the industry holds built-in advantages for white men to run the table in rock culture, which arose from Black musical traditions, and that even Jann, a powerful industry tastemaker himself, is not immune to those defaults, that could have been thought-provoking. 

Living Colour issued an official statement critical of Jann's gaffe and the larger problems beneath it.

A  Nuanced Conversation

Bruce Springsteen, one of Jann's “masters” from his book, and one of my strongest musical influences, held a nuanced conversation with former president Barack Obama in their “Renegades: Born in the USA" podcast in their episode on Race in the United States. They discussed the intersection of race and music as part of a larger discussion of race issues. Together they explored what it meant that the E Street Band was integrated and that a white guy was the frontman, a composition mirrored in my own band. They also held a meaningful conversation on American music in the same series. 

My Big Takeaway

Jann's revealing blunder revealed something about me as well - that I've consumed the same pop culture that advantages white men. MTV, which I consumed voraciously as a pre-teen, stuck to a diet of only White artists until CBS Records challenged their default. I would learn much later that the record label pushed MTV on the matter, withholding videos by Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel until MTV agreed to play Michael Jackson's ingenious videos. 

So for me to experience the broader, richer spectrum of rock (and related genre) artists, I need to go beyond the obvious defaults - my “go-to's” like Bruce, The Killers, Van Halen and The Foo Fighters. I cherish these artists and yet I can hold space in my playlists for more of the music of H.E.R., The Black Pumas, Alabama Shakes, Miss Jill Scott, the entire Clemons family and so many other artists who speak to me. 

One great resource to check out is the Black Rock Coalition, a group Living Colour strongly advocates for. Its Artists A-Z section is a goldmine of legendary artists and those who may not yet have crossed your radar. 

Some will dismiss my claim of white guy privilege or get angry at it. But let's get this straight. This is not about guilt or self-loathing. Not even a little. It's about getting mindful and expanding what we listen to beyond the defaults provided by the establishment. Now that's rock-n-roll. 

Watch: Our Band Debut at Millburn Rocktoberfest 2023 

Last week, on September 9, 2023 my band Jason Didner and the Drive played its first live set in its current incarnation. Heavy rain and thunderstorms scattered festivalgoers in the hours leading up to the show, but a die-hard core of music fans stuck around, and the rain ended just as we were setting up. 

Jason Didner and the Drive perform at Millburn NJ Rocktoberfest 2023. Amelia Chan, Leah Fox and Jason Didner are in this photo.

Here's a phone camera video from Nicole Gray that captures band and audience alike, on our performance of the funk blues tune “Quit While You're Ahead:” 

And here's stationary footage of the whole set provided by Martin Fox. 

 Our set that day consisted of: 

  1. Salt and Sand
  2. Asking for a Friend
  3. Quit While You're Ahead
  4. Two Places at Once
  5. You Can't Get There from Here in Jersey 

My Thoughts on the Performance

I was delighted with Ameila and Leah's performance, especially as our debut show in a festival setting where you face the challenges of having to set up very quickly with no soundcheck. For Leah this meant playing on an unfamiliar drum kit. 

Check out the amazing tightness of “Quit While You're Ahead!” This sure doesn't sound like a first time playing it live. 

For my own part, I came away with some lessons learned for my own performance: even when in a rush to set up, check the volumes of both my rhythm and lead guitar tones! When my first guitar solo of the day came up on “Asking for a Friend” I switched to the overdrive channel, stomped on by booster and… blew my own head off with outrageously high volume! I managed to adapt using my guitar's volume knob, which also changes the tonal characteristic of what I played. 

I also learned to look down at the set list occasionally. I accidentally skipped over intended song #5: “It's About Time,” straight to our closer, “You Can't Get There from Here in Jersey.” It would have been great to share that important message and create that moment with the audience… but there's also something to be said for the addage “Always leave them wanting more…” 

Rocktoberfest is an annual festival that benefits the Millburn Education Foundation. We look forward to returning next year. 

Commemorating 9/11 in Song 

Since my teen years I've reached for music to help me through tough moments, and to process the most difficult of feelings. 

In late September of 2001 I had my first business meeting back in New York City after the terrible attack on the World Trade Center a few weeks prior. Walking from the bus terminal to the United Nations building I saw countless “MISSING” flyers, printed on home inkjet printers, the ink smudging slightly from light rainfall, adding to the feeling that the whole city was weeping, mourning those lost. On that walk I wrote this song in my head. When I got home, I worked out a guitar part for it. 

Today, 22 years later, I gave this acoustic performance for the camera at Union County, NJ's 9/11 memorial site in Echo Lake Park in Mountainside. Lyrics are superimposed over the performance. I hope you find this comforting, like you have a kindred spirit who feels the way you do. Go ahead and press play.  

The official recording first appeared on my 2003 album “American Road.” 


New Lyric Video - "This Heart Was Built to Last"  

I'm pleased to share with you this new lyric video: “This Heart Was Built to Last.” It's an upbeat rock anthem with a touch of the blues. 

The song's hook proclaims: 

"This heart was built to last
From the joy and pain in my past" 

Blogger C Lee Reed commented, “This song reminds me of driving up the coast in a convertible with the radio blaring. Gave me an absolute End Of Summer Good Time feeling. Loved it!” 

📺 If you enjoy this tune, please comment on the video and subscribe to my channel on YouTube. 

💿 The song is also the lead track on my latest album “Side Effects,” available right on my site for download. 

📧 For more of my music as it comes out, as well as live show and streaming dates, sign up to my mailing list and I'll immediately send you an exclusive recording of a brand new song. 

Rock on! 


New Fee Ideas for Ticketmaster 

I'm glad the Biden administration is taking action on “junk fees” tacked on to services we buy, like airfare and concert tickets. Perhaps this will let Ticketmaster focus on charging fees that might encourage improvements to the experience for more concert goers, like: 

  • Standing up when everyone else is sitting down fee. Calculated to be higher if you're toward the front row of a section. 
  • Big Head fee. See also, sitting-behind-someone with a big head discount.
  • Repeatedly climbing past other concertgoers to get beer fee. Goes into effect after first trip to concession. 
  • Clapping on the 1's and 3's fee. Is there a musician in the house? 
  • Drowning out the Lead Singer fee. That's great that you know every word to every song. But wait for the singer to point the mic at the audience and say “Everyone” (like when their voice is shot) before you go full volume. Your neighbors will thank you. And you'll save some money. 
  • Bopping other concertgoers with your stuff fee. Yes, you're operating in severely confined space. But your neighbor in front of you doesn't need your coat repeatedly grazing their head. 
  • Free Bird request fee - in effect at any concert but a Skynard concert. 

That's my bit of observational humor about the concert going experience. What fees would you add to this list? Comment below. 


Six Virtues of Making Mistakes while Practicing Music 

Jason Didner has a good laugh after a mistake recording drums on his multitrack music projects. Practicing an instrument inherently means making mistakes - playing wrong notes, losing concentration, losing your place in the song or exercise. Now's a good time to look at our relationship with the errors we all make along the way. Let's tune in to the benefits we get from our miscues that happen in practice. 

1. This Mistake Wouldn't have Happened if I Weren't Practicing 

When you choose to sit passively on your couch watching TV or scrolling through social media, you're not exposing yourself to the risk of playing wrong notes. So, when you're actually practicing and missing the mark on a phrase, you can give yourself plenty of credit for choosing (and sticking with) an activity that brings some discomfort alongside its many rewards. 

2. This Mistake Happened in Practice, Not Onstage

Every mistake you make during practice reduces the likelihood of your making that same mistake onstage, especially if you concentrate on developing your ability to play that passage that's giving you trouble. Try repeatedly playing that part at a very slow tempo with a metronome, gradually increasing the tempo when you're playing it without much trouble. 

3. This Mistake is Training Me to Recover in Real Time

Eddie Van Halen called it “falling down the stairs and landing on your feet.” He also shared advice from his musician father who taught him if you make a mistake onstage, play it that way again with a smile. The audience will think your miscue was deliberate. 

My piano teacher in college taught me that recovering from a mistake is the real skill; not the expectation of never making mistakes. 

If you can get confident enough in what you're playing, you can move right on from a stumble with your heart and mind still emotionally connected to what you're playing now, rather than dwelling on a mistake from moments ago. 

Once you're past the point of trying to learn a piece and you're now rehearsing the performance of it, see how readily you can get back in the flow of what you're playing even when you've hit a clunker. Then you'll be much more resilient onstage. 

4. My Mistake May be Telling Me to Simplify

If your mistakes are consistently happening during a complicated passage of a song leading up to a live performance or group recording session, this is valuable information that you're pursing something too difficult musically for the moment you're preparing for. If you're vocally straining at high notes, this may be a cue to lower the song's key. If you're working on an elaborate drum fill or ultra shredding guitar part and you're struggling with a challenging passage, see how you can simplify it for your upcoming gig. Then after the show you can gradually increase the difficulty level - at a slow tempo - with a metronome. 

5. My Bandmate's Mistake can Help Us Clear Up a Musical Misunderstanding in Practice

If you're practicing in a group, do you notice a consistent pattern of wrong notes from a bandmate? Is it the same mistake in the same spot in the 1st and 2nd verse? This is a good opportunity to pause the song, go to that trouble spot and loop through it as a band to bring clarity to the whole group's understanding of the song. 

Be kind and constructive when pointing out the error. Looping through a short passage surrounding the error should make it clear to all that you're interested in having everyone play the right part, not in belittling your bandmate.  

6. My Mistake is an Ideal Object for Compassion

As a user of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app, I've gotten lots of personal development out of compassion practice - where we wish health and happiness for ourselves, those close to us and ultimately all beings. This practice grows the parts of our brains that strive to make life better for ourselves and those around us. 

In that regard, approaching practice with a compassionate mindset can really add to the joy of practicing music. When we treat mistakes - our own or a bandmate's - with compassion, we better accept the inevitability of  errors along the way toward developing a compelling musical act. 

We've examined here the ways in which mistakes serve as markers of the effort you're making, valuable information about the need to simplify, an occasion for compassion toward yourself and others, and a situation to develop resilience to recover onstage. Talk to me in the comments below about your relationship with your musical practice and the mistakes that come with it. 


Getting Gear is Great...But Practicing Matters More 

Singer/songwriter Jason Didner with his electric guitarHaving just downsized my amp and upgraded my guitar effects rig, I sure am enjoying the new vocabulary of tones I can produce with my axe. I'm aware of how much further down this rabbit hole I could go… shopping for more and more effects pedals, reading endless reviews and getting into online debates about which amp or pedal is better. 

But my latest purchases revealed something else – the importance of spending time on practicing, expanding the vocabulary of what you play, not just what effects you can add to what you play. I could have all the latest and greatest gear, but if I'm stumped at the moment my solo comes up in a song, what good is all that “stuff?” 

How to Practice

I've had many teachers along the way - on piano, guitar, voice , alto sax and trumpet. I've also had long stretches of being self-taught. But it's only recently that I've really developed a solid idea of how to practice my instruments. Here are some keys to how I make my practice time count: 

Slow the Whole Thing Down! 

How many times have you sped through the parts of a song that you know well and slowed down when the going gets tough? Then you go back and do the familiar parts fast again — because blazing through the easier parts feels so good! 

You can smooth out those trouble spots and make the whole song more consistent by playing the whole song slowly. Use a metronome on a slow tempo to hold you back from rushing the easier parts and give you time to motorically plan for those trickier passages. 

You can gradually increase the tempo as you get the tougher parts under your fingers. 

Be a Looper! 

When learning to play a tougher passage, take a small chunk of that and play it repeatedly, as if you were a looper pedal. When you combine this with the metronome and slow tempo, you will train your hands (and/or feet, voice, etc.) to do what you want them to do. 

Start with repeating a very short passage - even just a run of 2, 3 or 4 notes. You're building muscle memory here. 

Loop through two short passages separately, then put them together when you can play them in time at the selected tempo (even if it's really slow). 

Keep it Interesting! 

There are lots of psychological and physiological benefits to practicing an instrument. This is something I certainly did not notice when I was a kid resisting my teachers' urging me to spend more time practicing (aside from the panicked 30 minutes before a lesson). When you're engaged in musical practice, you're not ruminating over your troubles; you're concentrating on creating art. 

If you can get “in the zone” practicing scales, that's great. I've gotten there that way. But you probably wouldn't want all your entire practices to consist of only scales. You need enough variety to keep things interesting for you. 

You can divide your practice into scales, learning and practicing cover songs, and creating your own riffs and licks. And when you do create your own music in practice, use the voice memo recorder app in your phone to capture what you came up with so you can remember it and develop it further. 

The more sophisticated the parts are that you come up with or that you're learning, the more the principles apply where you slow it down, use a metronome and loop short passages until you can play them proficiently. 

Improvise at Your Level…and a Little Above It

Even if you're a beginner, you can start to improvise on your instrument. When I was in the Summer Performance Program (for high school students) at Berklee College of Music in Boston, we had a brilliant teacher who limited us to three notes: C, D, and E. We improvised vocally on the corresponding syllables, do, re and mi. We had a great time and learned a lot about the myriad possibilities contained in just three notes! Improvising within tight limits cuts through the paralysis of too many choices and gives you focus and direction to get started. 

So, try the three-note improvisation first. Keep it locked in to the beat; I suggest using a metronome. Fewer notes lets you emphasize the rhythmic aspect more. 

Record your improvisations; you may find licks that can be further developed. 

Gradually expand your limitations. Add a 4th note. Then a 5th. 

Practice Emotional Expressiveness

Your instrument contains many possibilities to express emotion. On a piano you can play aggressive slides and vary your touch on the keys from whisper soft to uproariously loud. On a guitar you can bend notes, add vibrato, use a whammy bar (or whammy pedal) or use a wah-wah pedal. 

Learning to play the correct notes is great. But do not forego the time it takes to make your playing more expressive. Practice bending notes, varying your touch and adding those nuances that express genuine emotion. This is the thing that will make an audience care about what you're doing on that stage or on a record. It will also make your own experience of practicing and playing more cathartic.  

About All that Fancy Gear… 

Now that you're taking the time to enhance your ability to play, if you have the budget and the time to shop for gear that further improves your sound, go for it! 

Talk to me in the comments below about your practice time, what it does for you emotionally and how it translates to the studio and stage for you. 

My Guitar Gear Gets an Update 

Changes to my musical gear are often inspired by changing gig circumstances, including my mode of transportation. Over the past week this has again been the case. 

Recently I got the opportunity to assemble a band to perform at Millburn Rocktoberfest on September 9. I got inspired with having a live band perform songs that I've only been able to perform solo acoustic or record all the band parts one at a time. I also had to face the reality that my musical gear would need to shrink to fit my downsized vehicle and my bandmates' small cars. 

See, my other band, the Jungle Gym Jam, played the majority of its gigs when I had a minivan and could haul everything we needed to a gig. In the pre-COVID era there were plenty of gigs - about 50 per year - certainly enough for the big vehicle to be worth it. 

Then came the pandemic and with it, only virtual gigs. Then came Vladimir Putin's Russian invasion of Ukraine. It became immediately apparent to me that continuing to burn large amounts of gas, mostly to commute alone to/from work, would continue to fund autocrats and waste my money, I decided to go for a plug-in hybrid car, the Prius Prime. 

A Smaller, but Still Very Effective Amp

My previous guitar amp, a Blackstar HT-120, took up the entire hatch of the smaller car, though it offered an absolutely glorious guitar tone that I loved. With the new gig coming up, I decided to make my move and trade in the big Blackstar amp for a much smaller (but still loud and clear) Orange Super Crush 100 combo (pictured below). This transaction took place at Sam Ash in Springfield, NJ. 

This amp only takes up half of my hatch, making much-needed room for my accessories and the merchandise I sell at my shows. The clean channel offers great clarity and definition. The dirty channel can provide anything from a classic rock overdrive to full-blown metal distortion. I auditioned the amp by playing the original songs I'm preparing with the band for Rocktoberfest, and was plenty pleased with the sounds I got out of it. 

The Incredible Shrinking Bass Amp

Just as I parted with a larger guitar amp whose tone I loved in favor of a smaller one with a pleasing sound, I needed to make a similar move with the bass rig. Amelia, our bassist, lives in the city and borrows a small car when she comes out to NJ. She was never able to fit my Hartke HD 150 in the car, so I'd put it in the minivan and we'd have what we need. Lately we all have small cars; none of us could fit it if we're carrying anything else, so I downsized that as well. 

The new bass amp is significantly smaller, shockingly light weight and throws plenty of bass sound. It's the Fender Rumble 100. One night I played my bass through it with my looper pedal. Once the loop played back I hopped over to my guitar and jammed along with my bass part still playing through that amp. I was delighted with how the two amps sounded together. 

Pedal, Pedal, Pedal!

The previous Blackstar amp had 3 channels - one clean and two dirty. I could have an overdriven rhythm guitar sound and another slightly louder lead guitar sound. I had to work out a similar solution for the new amp, which features one dirty channel, not two. Jeff at Sam Ash suggested a signal boost pedal I could stomp on to quickly raise my volume from dirty rhythm guitar level to lead guitar level when I have a solo to play. 

The need for another pedal called my attention to an issue with my old setup. I'd place my amp footswitch and my tuner pedal on the floor and they'd sort of drift around over the course of a rehearsal or performance. The addition of another pedal led me to think of a more stable solution - a pedal board. 

I chose the Pedal Train Classic Jr., a moderately-sized, slanted aluminum pedal board, which comes in a carrying case. 

As long as I was making the move to a pedal board, I added a Roland Super Chorus CH-1 pedal, which adds terrific richness to a clean guitar tone. I love how my “Salt and Sand” guitar accompaniment comes out with the pedal on. 

I tried playing with my Vox wah-wah pedal on the board, but quickly found it physically awkward to work that pedal while it's on an upward slant. It reminded me of when I played on a stage built on a hill where I was flexing my calves for the entire show! So when I use the wah, it will be on the floor to the right of the pedal board. Bonus: that leaves more room on the board for other pedals anyway! And I'm much more comfortable working the wah with it flat on the floor. 

Jeff wisely suggested mounting my wireless receiver to the pedal board, which will make my gig setups quicker and easier. 

The Orange amp footswitch is mounted to the board for quick changes between the clean and dirty channel. I placed it next to the booster pedal so I can quickly stomp both pedals when switching from clean to lead. 

On the pedal's upper-right corner you'll see my tuner pedal, the TC Electronics PolyTune 2. This pedal can allow for quick silent tune-ups one string at a time but you can also sound all the strings at once and have the pedal indicate to you which strings are in tune and which are not. I could use a bit of practice with this mode, but I can see that as a convenient way to quickly check tuning between songs. What I like best about this pedal is its very bright display which is most helpful when performing outdoors in strong daylight. 

More Power To You 

The addition of more pedals brought about the need to consider powering those pedals. When I was taking just the tuner (and sometimes the wah) to gigs, I could just put fresh batteries in the pedals and not worry about a power supply. But adding more pedals, especially the boost pedal, brought new considerations. The boost pedal does not take a battery. And individual power adapters for every pedal is not practical, especially since each has a large AC/DC converter at the plug (affectionately known as a “wall wart.” Try plugging all those individual wall warts into a multi-outlet strip! 

So I invested in a MXR Mini Iso-Brick power supply. This little device, smaller than a cell phone, has only one wall wart and powers up to 5 pedals. The important thing about it is that it provides isolated power to each pedal. There are other options, like running a daisy chain of power from one pedal to the next, in succession, but this solution tends to add unwanted noise to the audio signal. I've experienced the purity of the sound when the pedals are connected to the Iso-Brick Mini. 

Using Velcro (which came with the pedal board) I mount the brick under the pedal board and run power cables to those pedals that require power. 

At the time of this writing, one of the five outputs is failing to provide power (and its corresponding blue lamp does not light, confirming an issue), so I'm bringing it back to Sam Ash for an exchange; I'll keep you posted how that turns out. 

Improvements in the Works

In the above photo you'll notice some crowding issues where I only had straight ¼" cable plugs, like the one coming out of the Orange footswitch or the left side of the wah-wah pedal. I've just received replacement cables with right-angle plugs, which should go a long way toward neatening the board. 

Also, I'm considering adding an overdrive pedal, like perhaps the iconic Ibanez Tube Screamer, for the purpose of using my looper pedal, which is very useful for practicing leads over a just-recorded rhythm guitar part. I also like the looper for creating short videos. 

The problem with the looper is that when I play a lead over a rhythm part through my amp now through its dirty channel, it lacks clarity in both the lead and the rhythm. And if the amp is providing all the distortion after the looper, you can't make the looped part clean and the lead distorted. That could be achieved if you add an overdrive pedal to the signal chain before the looper. Look for updates on an overdrive pedal… 

My Go-to Electric Guitar

For the past 11 years my go-to electric guitar has been a PRS SE Custom 24. I installed Schaller locking tuners when I first got this axe. It's served me well in bandshells, at the Stone Pony, on the Coney Island boardwalk and in the home studio. I'm convinced this guitar immediately made me a better player; I'm still enjoying finding new licks with it. I'm considering upgrading the pickups, as I'm still using the stock pickups that came with it. 

Are you a gear-head? what kind of musical gear are you most excited about? Let's geek out about it in the comments below. 

Introducing Jason Didner and the Drive!  

Last time I had a band perform my original songs (other than specifically for kids) was in 2012, for a handful of benefit shows. 

From 2013 until the pandemic, my musical focus was almost entirely on “Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam” - original rock songs for kids and their grown-ups. Since COVID-19 has receded to endemic situation, I've begun receiving and honoring requests for that band to give concerts, which is always a thrill. 

But during that lockdown period I got inspired to write and record lots of songs about what was on my mind. I began giving virtual performances from home. I released three albums under the name “Jason Didner” and as the pandemic eased, I began giving solo acoustic performances out in public. 

Now I'm pleased to introduce the band that will join me in going electric: Jason Didner and the Drive. This is the same band name I used a decade ago, but with a changing, flexible lineup, as my musician friends are mostly in multiple bands with varying availability. I felt that the band name's two meanings of the word “drive” fit this project well.  There's the role that driving plays in my formation of musical ideas (many were inspired in the car) and there's that sense of “drive,” a strong intent to express myself to you through music. 

Introducing Jason Didner and the Drive, set to perform at Millburn NJ Rocktoberfest on September 9, 2023

Heading into Millburn, NJ's 2023 Rocktoberfest on September 9, our lineup is as pictured: 

  • Amelia Chan on bass and backing vocals
  • Yours truly on lead vocals and guitar
  • Leah Fox on drums

We've had a couple of rehearsals and this rhythm section is really gelling around my multitrack recorded arrangements; we're having a great time bringing this music to life. My fellow musicians are finding their own way to interpret these songs and help tell the stories they contain. 

We're playing in the Music on Main Street space at 5PM. The festival begins at noon and runs until about 10 PM. You'll find a pleasing array of food vendors, shops and nonprofit organizations to connect with.