Dedicated to Women Guitarists and Bassists

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? 

For our two-part series “Tones of the Unknown” in partnership with Reverb, the online music gear marketplace, Livvy of Mamalarky was sent a box of mystery effects pedals to explore. We have to admit, she got some real winners. Don’t worry, we’re only a little jealous. Here’s a deeper look at what she got in her mystery box.

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Despite having symbols instead of words to describe its control parameters, the Caroline Guitar Co. Météore is an easy-to-dial-in lo-fi spring reverb pedal. As Livvy says, the Météore “has a lot to say,” and can do everything from “gorgeous, understated, beautiful,” tones to complete havoc at the press of a footswitch—conveniently named havoc. 

The “sun” and “mountain” settings Livvy describes are the bright and dark voicings of the effect, and the “space invader” is the attack control, which controls the amount of gain going into the preamp—the lo-fi heart of the pedal. The controls, especially the preamp, interact heavily with each other. For example, if you set the attack (that’s the preamp we talked about earlier) and the regen (the decay, or how long the reverb lasts) high enough, the pedal can enter self-oscillation without having to engage the havoc switch. 

Even though Livvy already has a spring reverb in her amplifier, this pedal isn’t a redundancy. What really sets the Météore apart from a simple digital spring reverb emulator is its ability to impart gritty lo-fi character without overwhelming your sound (until you want it to). If you’re looking for a reverb pedal that can balance on the edge of clean reverb tones and descend into a whirlwind of feedback—and back again—the Météore can do that and more.

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Named after the Greek word for motion, the “gnarly” Dreadbox KINEMATIC is a VCA-based compressor and envelope filter in one. And those eagle-eyed viewers might notice that it has three patch points, making it equally usable for Eurorack users and guitarists alike. 

Livvy shows off both modes in her demo: the Comp Color mode (that’s the compressor) and the Envelope filter, which you move between via a toggle on the face of the pedal. 

In the Comp Color mode, the pedal acts as—you guessed it—a VCA-based compressor with an extreme compression ratio. VCA stands for voltage-controlled amplifier, which is an analog compressor. Essentially, it’s an amplifier (in this sense, an amplifier is anything that amplifies audio signal) that alters its gain in proportional to a control voltage or modulator signal. 

Knowing exactly how it works is probably less important than knowing that VCA-based compressors have extremely fast attack (that’s the intensity with which a note is plucked or strummed) and release (that’s the decay or how the note stops) parameters. Attack Magazine describes VCA compressors as “fast and punchy on rhythmic material” with the ability to “smooth out peaks without squashing everything in sight.”

The Dreadbox KINEMATIC also serves as a frequency booster and has up to 18 dB of boost potential. In other words, it gets LOUD. 

The Envelope Filter mode is a 12dB low pass filter with an auto-wah. It has a slow envelope curve and it is weird, funky, and a ton of fun. Oh, and did we mention that it has an overdrive circuit and can also effectively function as a distortion pedal? The KINEMATIC has a lot going for it and is a real workhorse on a pedalboard.

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“I have a feeling this one is going to be strange in a very good way.” Paradox Effects makes some astounding pedals, and the Obsidiana Octave Layering Engine is toward the top of the list. As the name implies, it’s an octave pedal and its polyphonic nature ensures that it responds equally well to single notes and chords alike. Polyphonic means it can translate multiple notes at a time, unlike monophonic octave pedals which only allows one note to be played and sent and octave up or down at a time. 

As you can hear from Livvy’s demo, the Obsidiana does more than simple octaves up and down. Firstly, it has two modes for filtering options: one pole low pass mode and two pole resonant low pass mode. The one pole low pass filter mode is a more traditional fixed low-pass filter—the filter knob is brighter to the right, darker to the left. For the two pole resonant low-pass filter mode, you get more resonant synthesizer-esque tones as you sweep the filter control.

But its most unique feature is the branching octave trails that build syncopated rhythms or layers of octaves and pitches. As Livvy says, “That’s kind of what my brain sounds like when I’m trying to fall asleep.”

At the top of the controls, you have octave up, octave down, a direct control for the wet/dry blend and filter as well as regen (controls feedback of the octave trails) and lag (varies by mode). Like the KINEMATIC, the Obsidiana is the type of pedal you can take a deep dive into.

Thanks to Reverb for sending out that Mystery Box and Livvy for showcasing those incredible pedals! If you’re looking to pick up any gear from Reverb, please be sure to use our affiliate links—it’s a great way to support She Shreds doing things you already do.

Leo season is about magnetism, connection, and the individual expression of selfhood that empowers your bold heart. Seek out what brings you joy. There may be a lot of voices and opinions about how to spend this time, but in the end there’s only you: your voice, your opinion, and your heart’s content.

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ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

1 aries

I cultivate a chosen family who I trust to guide my process. 

The last year has been too difficult to choose anything but the small happinesses you’re able to secure. Celebrate reconnection with loved ones on the Full Moon on July 23rd, and use that energy to set plans in motion at the New Moon on August 8th. What about those connections support your full expression? Be intentional with your love. Cultivate a strong circle of people you trust to guide your process—then let that full self flourish into what’s to come.

Audio Challenge: Take stock of your gear. What’s no longer serving your sound? What’s slowing you down? What needs to be updated in order to further your process? Reach out to a trusted gear head for suggestions.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

2 taurus

I notice the opportunities that present themselves and act on them wisely.

You’ve been cultivating the seeds of projects that are now ready to manifest. This is the time to bring them to fruition, to release a new song, to work on your social media game, and to generally take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves during this auspicious time. You can count on the connections and contracts you create to hold firm, especially after August 19th when Uranus goes retrograde. No more surprises here—just personal growth. Own it.

Audio Challenge: Post a new song, announce your new musical endeavor, create visual art to accompany whatever it is you have to share with the world this month. 

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

3 gem

I have the power and agency to create change in my life in order to invite new energy. 

The time has come to invite open horizons that expand your vision. It’s ok to feel frustrated by the continuing confinement and repetition, and it may be time to do something about it. The Full Moon on July 23rd will inspire you to travel—if not geographically, then mentally at the very least. It’s time to make plans for the future, and the best time to do that will be the New Moon on August 8th. Open the release valve and let some of that frustration go. You have the capacity to invite change now. 

Audio Challenge: Feeling stuck in your musical routine? We dare you to explore genres you’ve never attempted before.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

4 cancer

There is nothing more important than my own belief in my power. 

You’re the arbiter of your own power, and the ultimate decider of your fate. The Full Moon on July 23rd will bring forward something that is ready to be released during this period; a belief or narrative about your self-worth is ready to be let go. You don’t need to hold yourself back anymore, and with the New Moon on August 8th you can make a commitment to yourself only: be true. 

Audio Challenge: What outdated belief or narrative about your music needs to be released? Rewrite it through song.

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

5 leo

I pay special attention to the connections in my life that shape my energetic expression, carefully choosing who I want to become by choosing who I connect with. 

You give a lot of power to those who you bring into your chosen circle. The Full Moons on July 23rd and August 22nd, which open and close your season, both center your personal and professional partnerships. If there is an adjustment to be made in your relationships in order to cultivate more freedom of expression, now is the time to do it. 

Audio Challenge: Is there a relationship in your life that is inhibiting your musical voice? Use this month to center those who encourage and celebrate your expression. 

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

6 virgo

In order to express my energy with intention, I must develop clarity of purpose. 

You were not brought here to serve the purposes of others. The Full Moon on July 23rd will highlight any challenges that need to be addressed in your daily routine and the impact on your health. This will be the time to take in information so you can make some course corrections come the New Moon on August 8th. The key will be to reorient your practice so it is better aligned with your purpose. Take some time to reach clarity on this issue, so you can direct your energy with intention moving forward. 

Audio Challenge: Focus on your musical purpose. Spend time alone, use guided meditation, reflect on your routine, and listen to your inner light.

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

7 libra

I break free of self-imposed restrictions in order to ground my power.

You cannot continue to make compromises with your own vision in order to please others. The Full Moon on June 23rd will bring forward new visions of creative projects that you can dedicate your energy to, but only if you make the conscious decision to choose your own path above those ascribed by others. It’s time to choose whose voice you’ll listen to: your own, or those of people you think you need approval from.

Audio Challenge: Isolate your own voice from the static noise that surrounds you. Separate yourself from the expectations of industry and peers—give full attention to your own vision.

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

8 scorp

I am not required to repeat the patterns and behaviors of my past. 

The same agency you can exercise in defining your chosen family grants you the ability to choose what expectations you respond to and what you will leave behind. The Full Moon on July 23rd may bring an unconscious expectation to the surface, which a family member may expect you to fulfill. You will have until the New Moon on August 8th to decide how you will respond. Choose to show up with the same powerful commitment that you expect from others, or not at all.

Audio Challenge: Reflect on the musical expectations others attribute to you and determine if they are reasonable—or rather, if you are willing and able to commit to them. 

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

9 sag

I trust my heart to lead me, and my mind to make changes as needed.

The best laid plans need to account for change. The inevitable re-hashing of your vision for the future is not a reflection of your lack of clarity, but rather an accurate response to the changing landscape of our time. Pay attention to the information presented by the Full Moon on July 23rd and make the necessary changes in order to account for the shift by the New Moon on August 8th. This is a time of expansion, not retraction—trust your heart to lead you, and trust your mind to make changes accordingly. 

Audio Challenge: In what ways has your musical vision shifted compared to this time last year? Are there more changes to be made? Are you still holding your most true vision at the center?

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

10 cap

My value is not defined by the outcome of my endeavors, but by the strength of my commitment to myself in the process.

Exaltation and loss come hand in hand to remind you that the peaks and valleys of your life are expressions held in universal balance. Take note of the memories you gravitate towards on the Full Moon of July 23rd—these are moments of challenge to your self-worth that are ready to be released. The New Moon on August 8th will give you the opportunity to redefine how you measure your success—not only by the achievements you’re able to grasp, but by the courage with which you face the past.

Audio Challenge: What detrimental visions of success are you still holding onto? Redefine what success means to you—be sure it aligns with your self-worth, and move forward with courage.

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

11 aqua

I can only give as much of my energy as I am able to replenish on my own. 

The Full Moon lands in Aquarius twice this month, and with it the desire to focus on your own projects and energy over what others expect of you in return. But even as the focal point turns to you and your power, the New Moon on August 8th will ask you to renew your commitments to those relationships that give you the strength to move forward. Take the powerful emotional drives of this month with the recognition that they are a reflection of the balance in reciprocity between you and those you love.

Audio Challenge: Take a look at your monthly calendar and notice if there’s an imbalance between time spent on your own projects and time spent on others. Try your best to create harmony between the two.

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

12 pisces

I have the agency to act from my source of power once I choose to listen to it without fear or doubt. 

The power of your intuition is only fully uncovered once you learn the difference between fear and insight. With two Full Moons landing in your 12th house of the subconscious this month, be wary of the many voices of fear that may inhabit your dreams and wandering reveries. Dedicate this time to clearing out doubt instead. The New Moon on August 8th asks you to commit to a new energetic practice: make this month about clearing out house. 

Audio Challenge: Keep a running list of fears as they arise. Write them in a notebook or on your phone’s memo app. For each one, write out a courageous counterpart. 

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This Cancer season, Jupiter and Neptune go retrograde as we step into a summer that plunges us back into “how things were before”— or is it “how things will be moving forward?” 

There are big decisions to be made, and those you love most will be affected by your choices. Take care and take your time as you choose how to step out now that the coast is somewhat clear. There’s no use in moving forward if you’re not making space for those you hold dear. It’s our connections to each other that keep us going through challenging times, and this Cancer season asks us to reconnect and invest in the people that bring us together.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

1 aries web

I trust my decision to move forward in honor of lineage. 

Last month you may have had to make some decisions about the direction you want to take with your vocation as the world starts to open back up, and those choices start to pay off as we enter Cancer season. The Full Moon on June 24th highlights your career, bringing with it an unexpected opportunity for professional growth or a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to move forward. Center your need for a stable home and supportive network of loved ones with the New Moon on July 9th if the decision before you feels difficult to make—ask yourself how you can best honor those who have helped you along the way.

Audio Challenge: Practice asking for help from your support systems this month when things feel too difficult to do alone: advice on reentry into live music, help picking out new gear, tips on tone. Be sure to reciprocate—center mutual support in your relationships.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

2 taurus web

I renew my faith in the strength of my connections. 

On the Full Moon of June 24th, an adventurous leap of faith may bring with it some much needed connection as you refresh both future and past relationships. Venus enters the magnificent sign of Leo soon after this lunar transit on June 27th, re-opening spaces and places that you may have once believed were gone. The seeds that you plant today with friends and loved ones will blossom into opportunities come fall. For now, focus on your vision and renew trust in your ability to manifest at the New Moon on July 9th. You can only achieve what you believe is possible. 

Audio Challenge: In what ways have you been honoring your musical visions? In what ways have you been holding yourself back? Before you jump back into anything, let this reopening of opportunities and space guide your vision back into focus.

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

3 gemini web

I renew my opportunities by settling my debts. 

It’s time to settle your debts as the Full Moon in Capricorn shines on your eighth house of shared resources on June 24th. You’ll have a helper in Venus after June 27th, when the planet of grace and charm enters your third house of communications. Honesty is the best currency, as is courage to face mistakes. Whether this means you’re going to be squaring out your finances or making amends with the past is your call, but be sure to clear your karma by the New Moon on July 9th. Having done your penance, the New Moon brings you the opportunity to regrow your support systems in a new, more vitalizing way: there’s nothing like the feeling of renewal to inspire some big steps forward.

Audio Challenge: Use this time to access your gear and music budget—and if you don’t have one, write out what seems reasonable at the moment, or what you’d like to manifest. Be honest with yourself about what is do-able, and what you’re working toward.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

4 cancer web

I receive the care and support that I freely offer to those I love.

‘Tis the season to take care of your loved ones, dear birthday Cancers and lovely Cancer risings. The Full Moon that kicks off your season on June 24th rests firmly in your seventh house of partnership, highlighting the importance of keeping your loved ones close and trusted ones even closer. This could be a time when you renegotiate a relationship or invest more deeply in one that is ready for the next step. Lovely Venus, entering your second house of fortune on June 27th, ensures that whatever connections you build now will strengthen your resolve and help you push forward. Make sure you take the New Moon on July 9th as a personal opportunity to initiate a new chapter—after reconciling commitments to others, it’s time to make sure you’re taken care of as well.

Audio Challenge: It’s time to celebrate, Cancer—both yourself and those you care for. Use this month to connect with those who have supported you and your music by making thoughtful plans to express gratitude and foster closeness. 

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

5 leo web

My actions feel more aligned when I know what I am aligning them with. 

Restlessness may manifest as a need to make changes in your daily routine now, as your season is fast approaching and you want to make sure to look and feel your best for the celebrations that are sure to come. The Full Moon on June 24th lands in your sixth house of health, so the focus may lie squarely on the physical aspects of self that are more easily appraised than the deeper issues that lie beneath the surface. There is much internal work to be addressed if you’re up for the challenge. The New Moon on July 9th will illuminate the emotional motivations behind some of your less than resonant patterns of behavior; there may be loss of direction, confusion, or indecision. The task at hand is to define what it is you value: the why behind the practice, the inspiration behind the drive.

Audio Challenge: What are the emotional motivations behind the practice, behind the drive? What is it that you value in your musical practice? Take stock of what pushes you forward, what you value, and what changes need to be made in your routine to honor both. 

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

6 virgo web

I expect nothing from myself except rest in order to ignite the creative spirit within.

All work and no play make for a detrimental imbalance to self and others, dear Virgo. What can start as a mild frustration at the onset of Cancer season can turn into full blown agitation by the Full Moon in Capricorn on June 24th, which highlights your fifth house of creativity and joy. Ease has been missing in your world as you’ve been striving to reach a new pinnacle, and now is the time to address this loss and course correct. Invest in making some breathing room in your schedule to do absolutely nothing at all: no penciling self-care time, no scheduling self-reflection. By the New Moon on July 9th you should have a clear vision of how you want to structure your time moving forward that is better aligned with the creative inspiration that initiated you down this road in the first place. 

Audio Challenge: Let your creative mind lead you this month. Carve out time to refill your cup by not scheduling anything at all—a whole day, a few hours to let your musical creativity show you the way. 

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

7 libra web

I can only reach as high as my root structure allows—investing in grounding is an investment in my personal growth.

It’s time to make sure your home and support system are in order. You can only strive as high as your ground, and with the Full Moon in your fourth house on June 24th it’s quite clear that this is the time for you to focus on matters close to home. Venus, your ruling planet, moves into Leo on June 27th and will bring ample opportunity to reconnect with friends and chosen family, but only if you’re feeling rooted and supported first. Otherwise the energy of re-opening may quickly become overwhelming, a flurry of changes too quick to keep track of. It’s better to take this time with ease, as the New Moon on July 9th promises far more inspiring opportunities for elevation in your career path, provided you’ve done the work to receive them.

Audio Challenge: What makes you feel grounded at home? What about in your support systems? Use this time to give your music space a makeover, and spend time with yourself to uncover what keeps you rooted so that you can flourish in weeks to come. 

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

8 scorp web

Small tasks will be rewarded with big steps later—make sure to wrap things up now so I can move forward with clarity. 

There may be a lot on your plate as we push into Cancer season, with the Full Moon on June 24th hitting a spotlight on your third house of communication and daily routine. But the emails to answer, responsibilities to fulfill, and plans to figure out will all be worth it come July, when opportunities for travel begin to unfold. If you can take care of the minutiae at the end of June, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful New Moon on July 9th that offers the opportunity to set a new plan in motion. Think of it as wrapping up the loose ends of an old chapter so you can step into something new. It’s better to take care of it now than have it show up at an inopportune time later.

Audio Challenge: Use this time to create specific and separate to-do lists for everything on your musical plate right now and get it done: gear maintenance, show offers, things that will help you re-enter the world of live music, etc.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

9 sag web

I let go of my expectations in order to invite deeper intimacy.

Your ruling planet Jupiter goes retrograde right at the beginning of Cancer season, which may feel like the wild ride that was the reopening journey is starting to cool down now. The dust is settling, loved ones are finding new places to call home, and your relationships may need to transform as the new configuration of your personal constellations are revealed for 2021. The Full Moon on June 24th is the time to adjust to new circumstances, give what support you can offer, and let those you love find a place that suits them best. Cancer season is about letting go of the way you used to relate in order to invite new relationships based on deeper intimacy. Invest your energy in connections that support your drive on July 9th with the New Moon in Cancer: you will receive the quality of relationship that you are able to offer. 

Audio Challenge: Evaluate how you give and receive support—is there any imbalance on either side? Make sure the supportive energy you give others is returned, and vice versa.  

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

10 cap web

I acknowledge my relationship needs so that I may create clearer connections with others. 

Relationships require a fine balance between your own desires and those of others—and nothing will require your patience more than finding balance this Cancer season. On June 24th, the Full Moon in your first house will shine on the relationships in your life where you may be feeling less appreciation and celebration than you desire. That’s because Full Moons usually bring out the underlying factors that we haven’t vocalized but are nonetheless influencing your behaviors underneath the surface. It’s time to integrate these feelings so you can invest in your beloved connections with a renewed sense of trust and optimism. Do so by the New Moon on July 9th, when your seventh house of partnerships is emphasized, and you’ll be in an optimal spot to renew your vows or intimate a new romance. 

Audio Challenge: Do some stream of consciousness writing this month—don’t take your pen off the page and don’t stop writing for three full minutes. See what comes up, if there’s any feelings that rise to the surface that need addressing… and maybe you’ll even get some lyrics out of it.  

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

11 aqua web

My daily practice is inspired by clear purpose: I take the time to listen to what truly motivates me now.

Others may be celebrating the return of socializing and reconnecting, but if you’re feeling a bit more reserved, know that you are right on track with this Cancer seasons’ lunation. The Full Moon on June 24th shines on your 12th house of subconscious motivations and hidden desires, and this is usually a time when rest and reflection are called for in order to listen closely to what comes to light. The information you gather about the purpose you seek will help inspire a shift in your energy by the New Moon on July 9th, which offers you the chance to set a new wheel in motion. The clearer you are about what truly matters, the better you’ll be able to orient your daily patterns. 

Audio Challenge: It’s time to listen closely to yourself. Use this month to gather more information about your musical purpose, values, and goals without making any big moves—not yet. Take what you hear seriously, repeat it to yourself daily, and see how your energy shifts.

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

12 pisces web

I can take on more responsibilities while still remaining true to myself and my purpose. 

With new responsibilities comes a new expression of self, and nothing will become more apparent this Cancer season than how your added duties impact your relationship to others. Whether a new job is taking up more of your time, or a leadership role asks you to take on a different expression of power, changing connections through changed expectations is the key point of the Full Moon on June 24th. Whatever information comes up for you will be for your benefit, as you’ll have the rest of the month to figure out how you want to move with these changes. May I make a suggestion? Remember what inspired you to take on this role in the first place, and center that. The New Moon on July 9th is in your fifth house of creativity and unique expression—remember that you don’t have to do things their way just to fulfill your duties.

Audio Challenge: Check in with how you express yourself musically. The world is different now, and so are you—try and change your writing (lyrics, tone, melody patterns) to express the most authentic version of you in this moment. 

Last year, Brooklyn-based singer and rapper KAMAUU released “MANGO,” his latest single promoting healthy relationship dynamics and eschewing selfishness in service of full potential and growth for one another. Adeline, our Issue 16 featured artist, accompanies KAMAUU with her impeccably groovy bass lines and divine vocals that hit heights us mere mortals could only dream of reaching.

“The way [the bass] felt on my fingers, the way it felt on stage, even the way it felt with my voice. The contrast between playing the low notes and singing the high notes was something I fell in love with.” 

In partnership with KAMAUU and Cultural Fusion Agency, we bring you the opportunity to write your own bass cover or remix of “MANGO” for a chance to win a KAMAUU & Adeline signed bass kit. 

Channel your inner Adeline and read how to enter below!

HOW TO ENTER

  1. Read full contest rules below
  2. Post your cover or remix of “MANGO” by KAMAUU and Adeline on IG or TikTok using the hashtag #SheShredsXKAMAUU and tag @culturefusionagency @sheshreds_media + @kamauuworld + @adeline between June 4 – June 16, 2021 
  3. Upload your submission to link to your IG or TikTok bio

CONTEST RULES

Eligibility: She Shreds Competition with KAMAUU is open to all 50 States and the District of Columbia. 

Contest Period: Entries can be submitted beginning June 4th, 2021 through 11:59 PM EST on June 16th, 2021.

Judging Criteria: Voting will be open from June 11th – 13th on She Shreds platform to pick the winner of the competition. 

Prizes: The winner(s) will receive a KAMAUU signed bass kit from Guitar Center

Winner Selection and Notification: Winner(s) will be notified by email on approximately June 18, 2021. 

Acknowledgments: By uploading a submission, you agree to give Culture Fusion Agency and She Shreds a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive license for incidental use of your submission in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, only for historical, promotional, or marketing purposes.

View sheet music & tabs below:

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Taurus season opens up with a Full Moon in Scorpio that will dig up the past and ask you to reconcile memory with future direction. This lunation comes at an opportune time, as the beginning of Taurus season also marks the beginning of our integration with a new pandemic normal. Some decisions must be made about how you want to move forward in this society we are (re)building: How do you grieve what has been lost while finding hope for the future? Whom can you call on for support and inspiration? 

We’ll spend the first two weeks of Taurus season integrating emotional information in order to emerge with a strong foundation into the brilliance of the summer season, ready for the changes that 2021 brings.

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ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

1 aries

I acknowledge the spaciousness in my life as an opportunity to call in what I desire.

Yes, there have been a lot of losses in the last year. People will never be replaced, but their memories may serve as inspiration for what comes next. Certain paths may never be retread, but if you allow yourself to be guided in a new direction you may find more vibrant fields up ahead. Let the Full Moon on April 26th be the closure you need on certain open wounds that may never be healedmore but are now feeling easier to hold. This is the time when you reconnect with family and roots in order to guide you forward. Invite loving communication by allowing your process to be witnessed by those you love and trust. By the New Moon on May 11th, you’ll be able to reassess your strengths and find the drive to rebuild—perhaps with a little help from your friends.

Audio Challenge: Organize a song-share that (safely) meets regularly. Ask only your most trusted friends and loved ones to join. Use constructive input, loving communication, accountability, and the witnessing of process to guide each other toward creative abundance.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

2 taurus

I honor my desire for intimacy by first affirming my need for it. 

Happy Birthday, Taurus. With Mars moving into your house of communication and short trips on April 23rd, you’re offered the opportunity to travel or reconnect with some friends in order to revitalize. The Full Moon that comes right after on April 26th shines light on the health of your most intimate connection—are you adequately supported and celebrated during this time? You’ll want to feel the vitality of a strong and vibrant connection, so now is the time to invest in intimacy where you find it lacking. Last year dissolved old ideas and stagnant modus operandi; this year is about identifying the resulting space that has been made in your life and choosing to move forward with intention. Define yours by the New Moon on May 11th.

Audio Challenge: What fears have you been running from? What parts of your musical world do you hide from your most intimate connections, and why? If you had more support, would these fears and secrets be easier to hold? Consider opening up to the person closest to you, and let them both support and celebrate you fully.

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

3 gem

I actively invite a new direction, acknowledging the end of my previous path. 

You’re right—something’s got to change. The beginning of Taurus season brings your daily routine, or lack of it, into sharp awareness as the Full Moon in Scorpio and Mars in Cancer stir parts of your life that have lain dormant for a year. Shaking off the dust from a deep slumber, your ambition and agency awaken to a new light: the opportunity that lies at the end of this season, as yours is about to begin. The way you were running your life before isn’t up to par with the needs of 2021. Don’t try going back; look forward. As Venus and Mars enter Gemini in the first week of May, you’ll start feeling an influx of energy and drive, the promise of hope. Sit with it and let the New Moon on May 11th guide you towards the training and skills you need to take on the path that you know lies ahead. Nothing says trust like investing in your vision. 

Audio Challenge: Consider what parts of your music practice need updating. Maybe it’s learning a new skill, technique, or piece of gear, or maybe it’s honing in on a new dedicated routine or ritual—invest in your vision by revising how you move forward.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

4 cancer

I advocate for my needs in order to model respect for my energy.

The world is going to start opening up more rapidly now, and with it your opportunity to strike out and make changes also blossoms. The Full Moon on April 26th highlights your house of creativity and unique expression: this will be a month when inspiration may strike, and you find yourself working on something entirely new. It may be that the events of the last year inspire new work, or it may also be that reconnecting with friends and loved ones, especially at the New Moon on May 11th, inspires collaboration. Whatever the seed is behind this new work, the energy to bring it to fruition is also with you as Mars moves into your first house on April 23rd, blessing you with optimism and drive for all of Taurus season. Use it to your advantage. 

Audio Challenge: With inspiration comes the need for more creative energy. Use this month to explore what refills your creative source, what keeps you moving, and how you can preserve and regenerate your energy.

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

5 leo

I build the strong foundations I need in order to support my ambitions. 

The Full Moon on April 26th will bring to light the places where your footing feels less than sure, in order to inspire you to address the anxieties and doubts in question. Push past the inner critic and empower the optimist inside. The New Moon on May 11th offers the chance to do just that, giving you the opportunity to elevate vision on sound footing and stable ground. If you create the setting, inspiration will come. Reconnect with collaborators and visionaries as Venus and Mercury enter your house of community vision on May 3rd and 8th: it is through reconnecting with loved ones that you’ll realize the vitality of your creative power.

Audio Challenge: Give close care to your creative environment and collaborators this month. Redesign your space to ignite inspiration, check in with your doubts and anxieties, and reach out to those who help calm your inner critic.

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

6 virgo

I center the power of human connection in my work, and recognize the inspiration I receive from those I love.

A long-term project is wrapping up this month, giving you the opportunity to invite a new endeavor. Look to the finalization of a current project that’s taken some time and energy to unfold by the Full Moon on April 26th. With Mars moving into your house of friendship and connections just a few days before, this may free up some time for reconnecting with friends and enjoying community. The inspiration for your next steps may come from a loved one or friend and inspire you to make some moves—literally or figuratively. The New Moon on May 11th is the time to set your travel plans in motion and make the necessary appointments for future movement: you’ll either be working on expanding your mind through more classes and training, or through a much-needed change in scenery. Don’t hesitate. 

Audio Challenge: Lay your task-driven mind to rest for a moment and indulge in community-influenced inspiration. Reach out to your people, and let those connections motivate your next steps forward.

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

7 libra

I respect the resources I hold by using them with intention. 

It’s time to get your budget and expenses in order. Sure, the lockdown has made internet comfort spending a general pastime, but as we anticipate the world opening back up you’ll want to curb the number of resources going out and start focusing on what you need coming in. There’s no better time to do that than after the Full Moon on April 26th, which will bring to light some of the ways that your spending may be overreaching your income. You have a helping hand with Mars in your 10th house of vocation and career this month, so you could strive to gain some more avenues of resource this month through upgrades at work or intimating a new creative line. By the Full Moon on May 11th, you’ll have the opportunity to secure some additional support from a loved one or collaborator: just make sure the contract is clear, and that the risk is worth the reward.

Audio Challenge: Consider your musical finances this month. Is there more money going out than coming in? Are you saving up to record or buy new gear? Write out your current budget and expenses, make a list of your financial resources and options, and be very clear about your needs and vision.

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

8 scorp

I actively pursue a different vantage point in order to gain clarity on my current situation. 

It’s time to hit the refresh button on this life and renew these daily patterns. The best way to move with the changes is to take the energy from the Full Moon on April 26th and set some plans for travel or expansion. If you time it right, this much needed reset will also invite new energy into your romantic connections—whether the relationship is lacking spirit, drive, or just lacking period. Getting out of town may have you meeting just the right person at the opportune time or taking a class together with a loved one may be just the inspiration you two need to renew the love line. Either way, take a small chance and let it pay off big, especially by the New Moon on May 11th when you can set some intentions for how you want to move forward given this shift in opportunity.

Audio Challenge: Book a trip focused on writing and playing music, visit a new-to-you record or gear shop, go see live outdoor music that expands your musical tastes—hit the refresh button through new experiences this month.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

9 sag

I have the capacity to face what once felt too difficult to hold as I give myself the space to process and move forward. 

You can’t hide those difficult feelings and ever-present doubts forever, Sag. The Full Moon on April 26th will make sure you realize that the voices of memories kept under wraps in your subconscious are just as compelling as ever, and are now ripe for the processing. The Full Moon on May 11th may inspire you to tackle this internal problem with external drive: exercise, a change in diet, more time spent outside. But talking it out with trusted ones will also prove helpful, especially after Venus and Mercury enter your seventh house in the first week of May. This is your time to move through the emotional challenges instead of sweeping them aside: emotional energy cannot be destroyed, just recycled and repackaged into light.

Audio Challenge: Think about all the ways you can use your emotional challenges to your creative advantage. Write the soundtrack to your inner turmoil, connect with others who have experienced similar emotional struggle—or those who will listen with care. Sit with your feelings, and see what light they may bring.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

10 cap

I honor the new role I’m taking on by making sure I have the spaciousness to meet my responsibilities. 

You’re viewing yourself differently now that you’ve arrived at a level of accomplishment that you’re comfortable with, and so too are your views on friendship changing. The Full Moon on April 26th will bring to light certain connections that no longer feel resonant with who you know yourself to be, and this month you’ll have the opportunity to address those concerns as well as invite new connections. Mars is entering your seventh house of partnership, indicating that a romantic connection may have strong potential for a serious match. But even as your social connections are shifting, it’s you who should be taking center stage in your thoughts. Pay attention to who inspires you, supports your vision, and energizes you to reach further— that’s where you want to invest your time. Make it so by the New Moon on May 11th.

Audio Challenge: Connections are everything to you this month, so use this time to invest in those who invest in you. Be clear with yourself: what do you need, what do you offer, and what do you refuse in your friendships and connections?

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

11 aqua

I actively invite the creative impulse that I need in order to recharge my steps forward.

With the Full Moon on April 26th in your 10th house, dissatisfaction with your current role is all but guaranteed. Focus on the life you intend to build instead of the one you’re not happy with. It can certainly be true that big changes need to happen in order to have more space for your creative expression, and you’ll definitely find the time when Venus and Mercury move into your fifth house the first week of May. Let the joy that you find in having more space to freely create inspire the intention you set at the New Moon on May 11th, focusing on a clear vision of the life you want to create moving forward.

Audio Challenge: Use your dissatisfaction to your advantage—you know what makes you unhappy; use that information to build your future. Make a list of changes to make, things that bring you joy, and what you’d like to manifest.

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

12 pisces 2

I trust the path I have set before me, and communicate my intention clearly with others. 

The Full Moon on April 26th will bring some much needed clarity on the purpose behind your drive in the coming year. There are a new set of values that may get refined in this time, especially in light of the changing circumstances around you. The world is starting to open up, which means you’ve got to figure out how you want to join it. Use the insight to build better communication lines with loved ones, friends, and creative collaborators—especially on the New Moon on May 11th. With both Venus and Mercury in your house of home, you may be having some conversations with a partner about your future plans together or reconnecting with family that you haven’t seen in too long. Know what it is that you value in this time of change, and center it unequivocally. You can only call in what you’re willing to put in the work for.

Audio Challenge: Check in with your values, as they may have shifted in 2021. In what ways have you changed over the past year, and how have those changes reshaped your beliefs in yourself and your music? Share what you discover with a loved one.

Last night, the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center. With no live audience, the evening was presented to a limited number of performers and nominees, which in no way hindered energy levels—instead, the 2021 Grammy’s offered an intimate and cathartic experience, with powerful performances and sweeping wins by women in music. 

Beyoncé made history with nine nominations and, after receiving the 28th Grammy win of her career, she is now the most decorated woman in Grammy history (and her daughter, 9-year-old Blue Ivy Carter, who won Best Music Video alongside her mother for Brown Skin Girl,” became the second youngest act to win a Grammy in the show’s 63-year history). Meanwhile, Taylor Swift won her third Album of the Year for folklore, and Megan Thee Stallion, who won three honors, also made history as the first woman rapper to win Best Rap Song for “Savage.”

The top four awards all went to women—Billish Eilish for Record of the Year (“everything i wanted”), Taylor Swift for Album of the Year (folklore), H.E.R. for Song of the Year (“I Can’t Breathe”), Megan Thee Stallion for Best New Artist—and although this is nothing new, it is the first time four separate and solo women musicians won the top honors. Out of the 83 Grammy categories, 37 wins were by women (full list below) and 14 went to women guitarists and/or bassists, including our Issue 20 cover artist H.E.R. who took home two awards for Song of the Year and Best R&B song for her feature alongside bassist Meshell Ndegeocello on Robert Glasper’s “Better Than I Imagined,” and our Issue 11 cover artist Brittany Howard won Best Rock Song for “Stay High.” 

“I feel like there’s been a lot of female empowerment and lots of women winning awards tonight,” Dua Lipa, who won Best Pop Vocal Album for Future Nostalgia, said backstage. “And so it’s been absolutely amazing to just be alongside all that, to feel that energy.”

For performances, Haim rocked out with “The Steps” from their 2020 album Women in Music PT. III, which was nominated for Album of the Year; Taylor Swift performed “cardigan,” “august,” and “willow” from 2021’s evermore and 2020’s folklore; Billie Eilish performed “everything i wanted”; Dua Lipa performed “Levitating” and “Don’t Start Now”; Brittany Howard performed “You’ll Never Walk Alonewith Coldplay’s Chris Martin during the In Memoriam segment; Mickey Guyton, who made history as the first Black woman nominated as a solo country artist, performed “Black Like Me”; Miranda Lambert performed “Bluebird” from Wildcard; Megan Thee Stallion performed “Body,” “Savage,” and with Cardi B, “WAP”; Doja Cat sang her two-time Grammy nominated “Say So”; Poppy performed “EAT”; and Lido Pimiento performed “Eso Que Tu Haces” from the Grammy-nominated Miss Colombia.

Full List of 2021 Grammy Awards Won by Women

Record of the Year: Everything I Wanted – Billie Eilish

Album of the Year: Folklore – Taylor Swift 

Song of the Year: “I Can’t Breathe” – H.E.R. 

Best New Artist: Megan Thee Stallion

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Rain On Me: – Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande

Best Pop Vocal Album: Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa

Best Dance Recording: “10%” – Kaytranada Featuring Kali Uchis

Best Rock Performance: “Shameika” – Fiona Apple

Best Rock Song: “Stay High” – Brittany Howard 

Best Alternative Music Album: “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” – Fiona Apple 

Best R&B Performance: “Black Parade” – Beyoncé

Best Traditional R&B Performance:  “Anything for You” – Ledisi

Best R&B Song: “Better Than I Imagined” – Robert Glasper featuring H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello 

Best Rap Performance: “Savage” – Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé

Best Rap Song: “Savage” Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé

Best Country Song: “Crowded Table” – The Highwomen 

Best Country Album: Wildcard – Miranda Lambert 

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Data Lords – Maria Schneider Orchestra

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: “There Was Jesus” – Zach Williams & Dolly Parton 

Best Roots Gospel Album: Celebrating Fisk! – Fisk Jubilee Singers

Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Un Canto por México, Vol. 1 – Natalia Lafourcade 

Best Americana Album: World on the Ground – Sarah Jarosz

Best Folk Album: All the Good Times – Gillian Welch & David Rawlings 

Best Children’s Album: All the Ladies – Joanie Leeds 

Best Spoken Word Album: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth – Rachel Maddow

Best Comedy Album: Black Mitzvah – Tiffany Haddish

Best Musical Theater Album: Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir

Best Song Written For Visual Media: “No Time to Die” – Billie Eilish

Best Instrumental Composition: “Sputnik” – Maria Schneider

Best Historical Album: It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers – Lee Lodyga & Cheryl Pawelski

Best Choral Performance: “Danielpour: The Passion of Yeshuah” – JoAnn Falletta, conductor; James K. Bass & Adam Luebke, chorus masters

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: “Contemporary Voices” – Pacifica Quartet

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album: Smyth: The Prison – Sarah Brailey & Dashon Burton; James Blachly, conductor

Best Classical Compendium: Thomas, M.T.: From the Diary of Anne Frank and Meditations on Rilke – Isabel Leonard; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; Jack Vad, producer

Best Music Video: “Brown Skin Girl” – Beyoncé, Blue Ivy & WizKid

Best Music Film: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice – Linda Ronstadt

Inspired by the support and influence of her older cousin, Andrea Genevieve has always felt a specific connection to heavy music.

“It’s just something that you feel. There’s just an excitement for those of us who are into it, you know? When you hear that, when you hear a good riff and you’re just like, “Oh, yeah. That’s good,” (laughs). For me, it’s what it comes down to.”

Based in Oakland, California, Genevieve now juggles being the guitarist of Heavy Rock band Psychic Hit and founder of Music Marketing platform Hesher Hustle—a combination that invites a conversation of health and healing to a genre historically known for its aggressive sounds and sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll mentality. 

For Ep. 2 of In Development, presented by She Shreds and Marshall, we sat down with Genevieve to discuss the new age of Heavy Rock and get her recipe into her essential Heavy Rock ‘n’ Roll tone. Stay in touch with Psychic Hit and a new album coming out mid 2021.

andrea sq color

Who: Andrea Genevieve 

Location: Oakland, CA 

Project: Psychic Hit, Hesher Hustle 

Genres: Heavy Rock, Heavy Rock n Roll, NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal)

1. Inspiration: A YouTube Video Playlist

2. Fender Stratocaster Player Series

I generally use Fender strats. I played a [Gibson] Les Paul for years, then I switched back to a strat because a Stratocaster was the first electric guitar that I ever had and just like comfort wise, I really love the way that strats feel.

Strat 1 v4

3. Pickups: Seymour Duncan Hot Rails

I wanted to have their [Fender Stratocaster] single coil pickup, but more like a humbucker feel to my guitar. So I did a lot of research, a lot of experimenting with pickups and [the Hot Rails] were the pickups that I really, really liked ’cause they give me that sort of punchy, like in your face rock tone that I really, really like.

I usually play through the bridge. I like the aggressiveness of the Hot Rails but on certain songs when I need to pull it back a little, I’ll use my mid or neck position. Having that tonal variety with the Hot, Vintage, and Cool Rails respectively is ideal for what I do.

pickups v3

4. Pedals: Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive, Catalinbread Naga Viper, MXR Phase 90, MXR Micro Flanger, TC Electronics Hall of Fame II.

As far as my pedal set up: I primarily use overdrives, a treble booster for my solos and then different things to kind of color it. Certain songs I’ll use a phaser. I always have a little bit of reverb obviously at the end and, yeah, just different things like a flanger and a chorus pedal for just different colors on songs. but usually I’m primarily just using an overdrive and then a treble booster for my solos. 

Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive (essentially a Tube Screamer clone), Catalinbread Naga Viper (treble booster for solos). For color, I’ll sometimes use my MXR Phase 90 or MXR Micro Flanger. For reverb, I use TC Electronics Hall of Fame II.

pedals v1

If I’m using the amp settings, I’ll really crank up the gain pretty high. If I’m using my overdrive, I leave it set to mid and then use my overdrive and tweak it. As far as the EQing, I usually have my bass setting a little bit right of the dial of mid, and mid is usually right at mid. Treble’s usually a little bit right as well. I’m somebody who really likes a very straightforward setup on my amp.  I like more classic kinds of amps in that way that don’t have too many options. I feel like for me, I get better tone out of having less variables, less dials to have to mess around with. 

amp v3

“In Development” is a new series highlighting contemporary voices revolutionizing vintage genres. Shout out to @marshallamps_uk for partnering with us this season.

The year of chaos comes to an end with a strong Full Moon in Cancer on December 29th, lighting the way into the New Year and reminding us that even though much has been lost in the storm, we have strengthened what matters most: our deepest connections. 


As we move into the dawn of 2021, Mars changes suit and pursues the realization of our collective visions with the determination of Taurus, ensuring we have the power to see ourselves through this next chapter and fulfill all the promises of light after a long storm. Look to the New Moon in Capricorn on January 12th as the time to commit to a new course of action based on the lessons learned from 2020 vision. We will build from what we have learned, not bury it behind us.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

1 aries

And now we begin the slow climb up the mountain side, pushing our respective rocks against the pull of gravity that kept us close to the ground all year. Do you remember what it felt like to pull yourself up past the brim of the horizon, knowing there was a beautiful scene in store? The last of 2020 will feel like that moment between sleeping and waking, when we’re not quite sure if we should take those first steps up or lay in bed a little longer. You can wait past the square Mars, your ruling planet, makes to Pluto on December 23rd—this will be a test of character rather than an opportunity to elevate. The Full Moon on December 29th is a reminder to center chosen family and loved ones, your biggest lesson of this year. As we move into 2021 your energy will return, now inspired by the visions you entrusted to a new year. Mars enters Taurus on January 6th, and you’ll know that this chapter is truly behind us. By the New Moon in Capricorn on January 12th, you’ll know what energetic principle you want to dedicate your creative practice to, and you’ll have the strength to believe in it once again.

Audio Challenge: What has 2020 vision opened your eyes to? How do you want to enter 2021? Don’t wait until the New Year officially arrives—use this time to begin thinking about how you want your musical practice to look this upcoming year.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

2 taurus

The biggest shifts happen from within, when a misunderstanding held deep in the heart has finally shifted, causing a cascade of changes in your life like dominos finally giving way to a clearer path forward. This year has brought up a lot of strife, but the biggest challenge for you has been facing some of the beliefs you thought would hold you through any struggle. The Full Moon in Cancer on December 29th reminds you of the work you are here to do: clear ancestral stories in order to move forward with renewed light. As Mars moves into your first house on January 6th, you are energized with the renewed determination to create your own narrative out of this chaos, forging a path through this time that is entirely your own. It’s time to let those you trust show you how to step away from what you have known into what is truly yours. Sometimes the hardest comforts to give up are our own ideas about order, but by letting them go we can see what truly is. By the New Moon on January 12th, make a commitment to widening the scope of your vantage point—ask for the veil to be lifted. You are ready.

Audio Challenge: What beliefs about your music no longer serve you? How can you rewrite your own narrative so that it speaks honestly to the person you are right here, right now? Remember: it’s in moments of disorder when we can truly access who we are and what we need.

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

3 gem

As 2020 ends, you leave behind all fears about your ability to find sure footing in this world. If the chaos has taught you anything, it’s that you can survive even the worst of storms and still find a soft, sweet place inside your heart to keep the light going until the sky breaks. The Full Moon on December 29th will bring a reminder that you can generate any resources you need—a parting gift from the goddess of chaos, as you leave her reign and enter 2021, with everything you need to get started. By January 6th, when Mars moves into your 12th house of spirit, you’re ready to channel the tones that speak to the deepest desires of your center. Move from this place with integrity, allow your trust to guide you through. Mercury, your ruler, will enter an expansive place in your chart now, allowing you to see the path that was meant for you when the others were blocked. Take it, and with the New Moon that rises on January 12th, make a commitment to trusting this voice that arose in the night—the one that speaks your heart true.

Audio Challenge: Think of your musical tone as an extension of your voice. How do you want your tone to change in 2021? What do you want it to say for you? What resources, what gear do you need to achieve this?  Commit to the tone that feels most authentic to only you.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

4 cancer

There is a great big stone inside your chest, right next to your heart, weighing down any moment of brilliant joy with a reminder of all that has been lost in this realm. Grief is a powerful motivator for personal transformation—it’s almost like being carried away on an iceberg, headed towards an unknown land, having no more say on it than trust that this current will bring you to a place of rest. The Full Moon on December 29th is in your sign, which means you’ll be able to reflect on all that has passed and all you’ve moved through during this short-long time. One year may have passed on the Gregorian calendar, but 10 years have been lived through in your heart—honor it. As Mars moves into the 11th house of community and connection on January 6th, you’ll find comfort and hope in the arms of those you choose to move into the light with. It will be time to make peace with loss—always with you, but not always standing in your path. It’s time you take your own steps forward now. By the New Moon in Capricorn on January 12th, you’ll know the power that lies in making connections that help pull you through difficult times and put the pieces back together. But remember it is you who chooses to bring them in; it is your heart who called in those who would help you through.

Audio Challenge: Hold a final vigil for all things musical you’ve lost this year (bands, tours, opportunities, etc.) and let it all go, for good. Light candles, make a list, and release. Make space for 2021 goals and what you need to do right now to manifest them.

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

5 leo

This whole year there has been a soft and quiet voice following your steps, directing your actions, leading you down the spiral staircase into the great unknown: the belly of your beast. Lying there in the dark hours of the night, alone, the world has come into sharp focus. There’s more to see here than what you’ve explored so far. So much more to go. And now as we step into the light of what will surely be the time for you to find those places, we have to make sure you remember that belly, the shape of the night, the dreams that held your light. The Full Moon on December 29th will ring out this year with a clear intention for what’s to come: you know what dreams you wish to serve by now. As we enter 2021, Mars ignites your house of offering, a time to step back onto the playing field and trust your craft. You’ll work on your daily practice this year, realigning actions with new intentions directed towards that energetic presence you trust. By the New Moon on January 12th, you will identify what practices need to go in order to realign. There are some habits that won’t be following you into the dawn.  

Audio Challenge: Consider how your daily practice may need adjusting. What habits no longer sustain you? What habits would you like to implement? Pay attention to what your heart tells you on December 29th, and make a game plan for your daily practice by January 12th. 

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

6 virgo

Learning to trace and retrace your path through ever-changing landscapes has given you two gifts: the strength to face changing circumstances, and the clarity to know what truly gives you grounding. It’s the second gift that will help most in the coming year, as you have the opportunity to reorient your life in order to align your actions with what you truly value. The Full Moon on December 29th closes out this year with a reminder that you are and have done enough. You cannot stop the losses from coming, and you cannot patch up others’ hearts so that they don’t face the brunt of the storm, but you’ve done everything possible to soften the blows. Now will be your time to collect the pieces of your own broken heart and take to mending. By January 6th, when Mars moves into your ninth house, you’ll be healed enough to take on a new course of study; there’s still so much left to be explored now that the doors start to swing back open and the sky has calmed down. Step out and make a commitment to trusting your creative vision by January 12th, when the New Moon shines on your fifth house of poetic expression. What better time to go for what you truly love then now, when you’ve made it through the storm?

Audio Challenge: What is it about your music that grounds you? Maybe it’s a belief, a certain sound, or an instrument. Identify the foundation of your practice and consider what’s yet to be explored. 

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

7 libra

Your worries are well warranted. Even though certain, perhaps superficial, things have changed the current situation, this does not ensure that you will find ease in your professional and creative pursuits anytime soon. It will be months before we meet with friends, and even longer before you’re able to enjoy a live show. But in this moment, you can be sure that the time to share your work is approaching. And for now, that will have to be enough. The Full Moon on December 29th brings with it a reminder of what you love about the work you’ve taken on, and how much you have yet to explore. As Mars moves into Taurus to ring in the New Year, your determination to forge ahead will grow. Make sure to take care of any relationships that affect your ability to move forward now—business partnerships and collaborators will have important parts to play in the next few months as we begin to meet again. Who you connect with now can make a real difference in how much you are able to grow. The New Moon on January 12th will focus your attention on the space you need in order to fulfill the promise of possible collaboration. Trust that you’ll be able to grow this creative vision very soon. Invest your time in making it a reality. 

Audio Challenge: Which important musical relationships have you neglected in 2020? Which ones have you invested way too much energy into without much reciprocation?  Begin nurturing the relationships you want to keep and letting go of the ones holding you back.

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

8 scorp

This year has been a real test of character for the integrity of your soul. It’s not the make and metal of your heart, but the way you speak about it to others that has been weighed against the truth inside. In every place where a small lie has helped you move through a situation with more ease, you have been asked to confront the dissonance. Is it truly worth your time to believe in anything but the fiercest truths now? As we move towards 2021, you’ll be asked to apply that same grit to the foundations on which you have built your life. Have you been cutting corners on your visions in order to make them more palatable? The Full Moon on December 29th will remind you of what you have gained by sacrifice: dedication to self, belief in your vision, and determination to see it through. As Mars moves into your seventh house on January 6th you’ll be asked to review the strength of your connections against this same harsh light. You’ve got a big project in store—you can count on big movements following the storm. Do those around you inspire you to keep building your vision? Take care of the foundations you set, and the people who help you lay down those bricks. The New Moon on January 12th will help you decide whether it feels right. 

Audio Challenge: What small lies have you been telling yourself and others about your music? Can those small lies be turned into truths? And if so, what sacrifices must you make? Spot the lies, and determine which ones you want to be truths and which ones must be released. 

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

9 sag

There are so many things that didn’t go as planned, and so many people to blame for what went wrong. But in this moment, as this chapter starts to close, do you really want to go out holding a candle of frustration for those who stood in your path? There are so many opportunities blooming in the background, if you step into your capacity to trust that those who did you wrong will face their own just karmic deserts—this moment, however, is about you getting yours. The Full Moon closes out this year on December  29th, strengthening the courage you have cultivated through trust in the power you hold. This is your moment to realize that this year of loss has pushed you to depend on your power and strength alone, and you have been found capable of pushing through. As Mars enters your sixth house of work on January 6th you have the opportunity to change the course of your daily practice, aligning with your courage instead of your fear. This isn’t the time to return to the same wheels you spun before this moment: this is the time to initiate a new offering entirely your own. By January 12th, when the New Moon in Capricorn lights up your house of resources and stability, you’ll find that you’re fully capable of funding your dreams on your own grit alone. Go for it. 

Audio Challenge: What aspects of your musical practice have you been hiding from? What scares you the most? Use this time, along with your unrelenting courage, to address your fears.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

10 cap

You’ve had to let a lot of things go this year in order to move with the time that you’ve been given. But it’s not the goals or dreams or vision boards or future plans that have cost you the most: it’s the heavy weight of doubt that used to sit around your neck, reminding you at every moment of the things not yet finished. You’ve had to toss that ugly thing into the wind—who doesn’t have a long list of what was unfinished in 2020? But this constant companion, this drive to self-critique yourself into elevation must stay here in this night. As you walk towards the new chapter, remember all that you leave behind on December 29th, when the Full Moon in Cancer centers the clarity you have developed in your heart. As you move into 2021, Mars enters your fifth house of creativity, bringing back the practice that connects your craft with the spirit of purpose you have been able to regenerate in the night. As the New Moon in Capricorn blooms on January 12th, remember what you’re really here to do: not conquer, but integrate. Not achieve, but synthesize. 

Audio Challenge: Push aside all notions of success with your music and take a moment to connect to your purpose. What does it look like? Manifest it by writing it out or drawing a representative symbol, then hang it someplace where you will see it everyday. 

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

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You’re not alone. Even if it’s felt like it for so much of the year, even if you’ve lost contact with many people you thought would always be around, even if you need to take a break from family, chosen and inherited—because you need some space to think. Even so, and more so, you’re not alone in this time, and you won’t be alone in this time for much longer. The Full Moon in Cancer on December 29th will bring with it the opportunity to cherish the quality of connection you value the most: the chance to build a vision with people who feel the same pull at the heart. As Mars moves into your fourth house on January 6th, you’ll find you have little patience left for home, this space you’ve inhabited for so long. It’s time to make some changes here in order to let in new light. Open the windows and let the cool air rush through, filling your lungs with promise. The New Moon on January 12th will bring you the answer you seek, if you’ve made the space within your home to receive it. Ask for guidance. Listen to what the heart has to offer. Trust. 

Audio Challenge: Use this time to make changes to your environment that will ignite creativity and hope. Clear out any clutter and/or unused gear, and make space for new promises and connections. 

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

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You may not have always participated in opportunities to connect with others, and it’s been painful to realize just how far they’ve dwindled in the past year. You will have opportunities to see your friends and loved ones soon, but in this moment, as the dredges of 2020 begin to fall, it’s time to reignite the passion you once had for your creative practice. Because it’s this passion that you want to share with those you love when you are able to see them again; it’s this passion that will reinscribe sorrow with light. With the last Full Moon of 2020 on December 29th, take pride in the beauty you’re able to create when you invest your energy in hope that shines a light through the darkness. Center that vision in the year to come, and meet it with the drive that is offered by Mars entering your house of communication on January 6th. It’s time to record the small blooms of beauty you see and share it with those you love. By the Full Moon in Capricorn on January 12th you’ll have the strength and support to initiate a new practice with those you trust. By holding a light through the night, you illuminate a path that others can follow. 

Audio Challenge: What are you trying to communicate through your music? And who are you trying to communicate it to? Create a clear creative vision for 2021 and a roster of loved ones to share that vision with. 

We have changes that need to be made now, and in order to do so, our bonds must be strengthened and reinforced against the incoming tide. Because of the beloved investment we have in each other’s future, we will now manifest together. Reinforce trust in yourself to carry out the tasks that must be done, starting with building compassion for yourself and others. There is no right way to be, just a right way to hold each other through this process. 

Read through your Audioscopes for Libra Season and take on an extra challenge with our audiobytes and tips.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

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Yes, this is your path—and yes, you’re the only one to lead it. There may be setbacks now, as the sun dims on the horizon and the ground before you lays unbroken: it’s up to you to cut this path through the dense foliage, alone and at night, with nothing but trust in your heart to guide you. This is both your gift to others and your curse: the power to go alone, but the fear of getting lost where no one has set foot before. Don’t rush the clearing, don’t push before you are sure you’re ready. You have time.

Audio Challenge: Use this time to consider yourself as your one and only bandleader. When working alone, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Take five minutes to make two separate lists of each while listening to the Aries audiobyte, and use them to guide your creative process.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

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If it feels like every new proclamation you set forth is met with resistance and every conversation you open is filled with mistrust, your warning bell has been sounded—it’s time to reconsider the battlefield before setting up for another fight. You may think you are defending the right of all, when actually you’re only holding a partial picture of the territory. Listen. Allow for fullness to ring true before pushing forward. This may not need to be a battle after all.

Audio Challenge: Lay down your defenses this month and take time to reflect on what you are fighting both for and against with your music. Meditate on the Taurus audiobyte, or sit by a stream or other body of water if that’s available to you, and consider what nature has to say.

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

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There are gifts hidden here behind the cave walls, a pool of clear water shining in the moonlight, the reflection of your dreams’ eye caught between waking and sleep. But you must learn to tell the difference between the images dancing on starlight in dreamtime and the fixed reality unfolding before you. Pay attention to the energy reflected in those whom you choose to share your most intimate secrets with. Where are you heading together? And for what purpose?

Audio Challenge: Put aside your musical dreams for a moment and take stock of what’s available to you right now—especially those who you trust with your most unrefined song drafts. Pick one person and collaborate on a song together, using the Gemini audiobyte as the backbone.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

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There are times when all you can do is follow the pattern set by others, those with more power, more clarity, more light. It’s easier to lean on the cadence of those you choose to follow than it is to collect the pieces of your own vision and create your own map. But if you do so now—if you take on the responsibility of setting your own pace, going your own way, following the intuitive path your heart knows and mind must follow—you will find your power and your strength. You had the right map, all along.

Audio Challenge: Set aside time for yourself to draw an actual map of your musical journey. Start by mapping out how you’ve arrived at where you are now, and then where you would like to go. Spend time listening to the Cancer audiobyte as you reflect on what you’re heart has to say.

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

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It’s time to go back now. The hiatus from the songs that keep your heart singing and the steps that keep your body in flow has lasted longer than was necessary for you to re-seed this time with vibrancy. You must take the lessons you’ve learned from this time spent in contemplation and infuse your practice with the brilliance of a heart that has learned to pick up the pieces and start over once again. This time requires a new way of communicating your  light to those who are ready to receive it, and you will find a way. Trust.

Audio Challenge: Use the Leo audiobyte as your first step back into your musical practice. Write vocals and/or additional instrumentation that reflect what you’ve learned this year and record over the audiobyte. 

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

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You’ve almost completely freed yourself of the chord that runs from the back of your mind down into the pit of the Earth, the place where all memories of failure lie. The only one continuing to feed into this is you, and although it may be an uncomfortable way to hold yourself up, it’s also the only way you’ve known. But you no longer need to remember every action gone awry, every word said out of haste, every connection severed in the night. This is a rebirth for both you and the Earth. Let it go. Bury it. You won’t be back here again.

Audio Challenge: On a sheet of paper, write a list of every musical failure that plagues you. Then, burn the sheet of paper and bury the ashes in the ground or in a houseplant. Listen to the Virgo audiobyte and rewrite your story through song.

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

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There are so many things you can’t enjoy about this beautiful season, this year, but that only brings the joys that are available to you into sharper focus. There is a small patch of grass where the sun beams through, where the wildflowers grow despite the daily shifts in weather patterns. Sit here, in this small space of Earth that is warmed by the energy of those who have sat here before you. Remember the gifts that have been passed down to you through the lineage of the sweet smell of sage. This power will get you through.

Audio Challenge: Set up a corner of your space for musical productivity, and be sure to keep it set up so that you can return to it easily. Decorate it with photographs or ephemera of your family, ancestors, and/or others who paved the way for your journey. Listen to the voices in the Libra audiobyte, and see if you can channel the voices of your own people who came before you.

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

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You can finally see above the rim of the half empty cup, into the wide expanse of shifting sands below. The Earth moves herself into a new position, making way for the reality that is already brimming on the horizon, ready to breathe through the tightness in your chest in order to allow for new growth. But in this moment, in this clarity of vision, nothing more needs to be done but to accept the reality that is to come, and to allow your heart to meet it. Your plan of action will arrive soon enough, as surely as the season changes and the day follows night. 

Audio Challenge: Use this time to rest and accept what is to come. Spend time outdoors, or somewhere with a view of the outdoors, and listen to the Scorpio audiobyte. Reflect on the seasonal changes, and begin to compose a song that aligns these changes with those in your own life.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

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Keep that candle burning bright in the window, because the light that shines through the glimmer in your eye is the only signal your kin needs to find you. The heart, sweat, and tears you’ve poured in the foundation will bring the recognition you’ve been needing to hear from those who can hold your heart’s intention and let it ring true. This is the last moment before the tide turns heavy and the winds begin to blow in a new direction. This will be the moment when your friends find you, by that same guiding light,  to navigate through the storm together.

Audio Challenge: Reach out to the musicians in your life who support you and offer you light. Arrange a time to brainstorm ways on staying connected right now—perhaps a songshare over Zoom or a mixtape exchange of songs that excite you. Keep the Sagittarius audiobyte playing lightly in the background as you brainstorm together.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

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There won’t be any decisions made now that won’t change later, and there won’t be any fixed path to lead you through the coming storm. The key here is to know that you’re well prepared for any changes afoot, and to lean into the trust in your heart so that you can adapt. Anywhere you find yourself now can be called home, as long as you carry the connection to lineage, kin—those gifts passed down from grandmother to grandmother that find a resting place in your heart to bear fruit. You won’t be alone in this time, and you won’t be forgotten as long as you remember the legacy you are carrying through.

Audio Challenge: Using the Capricorn audiobyte as the foundation, compose a piece of music that honors your lineage. Try to use an instrument or piece of gear that you’ve had trouble with in the past, but do not get frustrated with perfection—you have everything you need right now.

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

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You will never find the perfect expression of human compassion that will ensure safe passage through any situation. There are monsters only you are destined to face, well-worn patterns passed down that must now be broken in order to clear the way for a new step forward. It’s up to you to face these demons and make friends, to step into knowing instead of fearing what will come next. The torch has been passed down, the night has fallen, and it’s your turn to run this leg of the race. You’ve been chosen. You will make it through.

Audio Challenge: What are some musical monsters you’ve been facing? These might be in your head, or even gear or a technique that you’ve had trouble tackling. Pick one and address it head on—use the Aquarius audiobyte to guide you.

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

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If the bright colors of the morning have lost their hue, and the daily tasks that ensure your strength have lost their meaning, then it’s time to recollect all the energy that you’re giving to the world and bring it back to center, to source, to the altar in the middle of the room. It’s time to renew vows to spirit first—to the guides that spoke to you so clearly earlier this year, but whose voice may be lost in the swirling chaos of this moment. Set up the altar: place connection before action, compassion before knowing, legacy before success. Your values are shifting now, and you need to recollect. The sun will shine brighter once you have received its blessing.

Audio Challenge: Create an altar that puts you at the center, and listen to the Pisces audiobyte as you assemble it. This can take on many different forms—a candlelit table top of things that bring you joy, a softly lit practice space filled with inspiring images, a playlist of songs of compassion—but no matter what form it takes, be sure it caters to nothing or no one else but your own spirit.

About The Author

Celia Sagastume is a first generation transgender non-binary Guatemalan astrologer living in San Francisco, California, by way of Miami, Florida. Celia’s astrology practice is devoted to de-colonizing the mind by elevating the mythologies and archetypes that have been undermined by patriarchal domination introduced by the colonizers. They combine the artistry and creativity of their B.A. in English Literature with the analytical precision of their Masters in Human Cognition. They are the founder of Astrosagas.com, and the resident astrologer at LatinX.com & DailyAstrologyGuide.com where they produce weekly video horoscopes, Astrology 101 guides, and articles on current applications of astrology in culture & politics.

In 2017, Geoff Edgars published a requiem for the guitar in the Washington Post with “The Slow, Secret Death of the Electric Guitar.” According to the piece, electric guitar sales had dropped significantly during the previous decade, from about 1.5 million annually to just over 1 million, and the biggest names in the business were either bankrupt, in debt, or making major budget cuts. However, the following year Fender’s market research showed that the market was evolving: the new generation’s motivation had shifted, with a focus on emotional benefits, and 50 percent of all beginner and aspirational players identified as women—with 19 percent as Black and 25 percent as Latinx. This critical progression of both motive and player offered the industry a seemingly clear cut way to resurrect the guitar: by taking the demands of women—especially those of women of color—more seriously, and offering more visibility.

And yet, many music industry leaders and media outlets seem to prefer to bury the guitar alive—or wait for a catastrophic pandemic—rather than include us in the conversation.

Earlier this month, the New York Times published, “Guitars Are Back, Baby!,” which reflects on 2020’s record-breaking increase of guitar sales due to the pandemic. The piece includes quotes from some of the industry’’s leading companies, demographic statistics, the influence of the guitar hero, and a few slight nods to the role of women. However, this piece fails us in the same ways previous writing about the relevance of guitar has: the visual portrayal and influence of BIPOC women are nowhere to be found and, more often than not, images of women rely on sexualized and feminine depictions.

The inherent problem lies in who’s doing the writing (older white men), who they are writing for (certainly not us, who make up half the market), who is invited into the conversation (older men), and who is being visually represented (cis white men and women). These same regurgitated voices and images preserve an antiquated guitar industry and culture, and in turn, these pieces speak exclusively to an older, white demographic. Apparently we, a community of diverse players from many different backgrounds and ages, are not included. 

Mainstream media, as we mentioned in “Changing Tides: The Evolution of Women in Music Media,” shapes our understanding of who truly embodies and belongs in guitar and music culture. Imagine how these guitar death/rebirth pieces might read if they were written by a woman of color guitarist—the choices in language, representation, and dialogue would be drastically different, and more representative of players as a whole. 

In an attempt to fill some of the gaps left by the New York Times piece, we aim to answer the following questions: Why are mainstream publications repeatedly failing to document our experiences and stories? What parts of the guitar and its culture are we saying goodbye to? Who are we welcoming and how is that shifting our understanding of guitar culture, education, and community? 

Death to the Guitar Hero

The role of the guitar hero is almost always speculated upon in these articles. This archaic and masculine model (or overtly sexualized when women are depicted) perpetuated by these writers has long been dead in many of our communities. In general, the term refers to a guitar player’s specific individual ability to inspire through technical ability, and someone who fits this definition, yet very rarely mentioned, is H.E.R. 

With an amazing combination of inspiration variations, H.E.R. plays with a technical presentation that leans toward melodic and ear-heavy training, as discussed in our cover interview for She Shreds Issue 20. Just last week, she became the first Black woman to release a Fender Signature Guitar, and yet the mainstream is still choosing to almost exclusively showcase Taylor Swift—as if women who play guitar should exclusively stick to acoustic, singer-songwriter music.

In 2020, the mainstream media must prioritize the representation and influence of communities outside of the white cis mold in order to keep up with trends and, ultimately, to showcase the reality of the culture, which is why H.E.R.’s signature guitar is a massive milestone. There is plenty of mainstream visibility for women and women of color guitarists right now (H.E.R., St. Vincent, Willow Smith, Brittany Howard, Yola, and the increased popularity of pop stars and their all-women bands, like Beyonce and Lizzo) but when guitar is discussed at an industry level, we’re still seeing the same old faces and hearing the same dull voices. 

On the other hand, the guitar hero is no longer our sole source of inspiration. The ability to immediately connect via social media has strengthened our desire to learn and our ability to create community through guitar and music. On the ground level, we must recognize that community over individuality is of utmost importance for change—something that the mainstream and older generations seem to have a hard time grasping. To inspire outside of the mainstream understanding of guitar heros, we need to broaden our definition of what inspires us. And in order to include an intersectionality of women players, we need to look outside of ourselves to create and find inspiration through each other.

Shifting Culture and Community

The death of the 20th century guitar hero seems to be at the hands of technological advances, resulting in a shift toward community-based inspiration and learning. “Maybe the issue isn’t too few guitar heroes, but too many of them,” writes Alex Williams in the New York Times article. “As any 30-minute foray through cover-song videos on YouTube will attest, there are approximately 1,000,000,007 much-better-than-average guitarists out there, many of whom are in their teens or early 20s. A great many of them are tearing through Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen or Jimmy Page licks. And a great many of them positively shred.” But Williams overlooked two crucial changes in the culture: first, that being “a good guitar player” no longer only means playing like the aforementioned men (for many, it’s to have the ability to express feeling and communicate); and second, that there is strength in community—modern players seek inspiration through representation. 

In Fender’s 2018 market research, the company found that 72 percent of respondents picked up the guitar to learn something new and better their lives (players don’t necessarily want to become rock stars anymore), 61 percent of guitar players want to learn how to play for themselves, and 42 percent viewed guitar as part of their identity. While the 20th century beginner guitarist may have needed a hero to inspire progress and stardom, players today can learn more easily than ever through technological advances which equipt just about everyone with the right tools. But oftentimes, because of the overwhelming options and stimulation, there might be a lack of emotional, cultural, or personal connection, and the process might not be as meaningful or engaging. Watching a player show off their soloing speed is no longer as fulfilling as the right combination of chords, personality, and kindredship.

The shift toward community-based learning and inspiration is even more apparent in 2020, with stay-at-home orders and more time on our hands. While Williams credits the resurrection of the guitar to the pandemic, he fails to consider the recent trends that have greatly contributed as well—many of which are led by women and women of color. Musicians are hitting IG Live for more intimate performances, often accompanied by a minimal set up including an electric or acoustic guitar. One example has been Girls with Guitars, a weekly Instagram live performance and conversation series hosted by H.E.R. that gave viewers a glimpse into her technique, and even helped the rise of other participating guitarists including Cat Burns, who has recently become the face of TikTok UK. There’s also Pickup Music, a monthly membership artist-taught guitar education community built on showcasing the talents of a young Instagram community; In Session, a free six-day digital camp for women and nonbinary music producers of color from all levels and backgrounds; the influx of TikTok performances; Tiny Desk Home Concerts; and the many weekly IG live performances that we’ve flocked to in the absence of live music, such as Victoria Boyd of Infinity Song

“The guitar will always evolve with popular music,” says Sam Blakelock, founder of Pickup Music. “The problem is the way the guitar is often taught is stuck in the 1980s. Many online guitar courses are still dominated by old white men teaching classic rock. This doesn’t speak to young players and isn’t representative of the new community of guitarists.”

Pickup Music is just one example of how social media has changed the landscape of guitar education, by breaking out of the mold with a modern and inclusive guitar-based community with reflective teachers of all ages, genders, and race. “Bringing people together who are interested in similar styles of guitar and who are at the same stage of their learning journey is the key to reaching new levels as a player,” says Blakelock. 

The Facts

Fender’s recent revival, as stated in the New York Time article, is accounted for by the following: in 2020, nearly 20 percent of beginner guitarists were under 24, 70 percent were under 45, and 45 percent identified as women.

“We’ve broken so many records,” Andy Mooney, chief executive of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, told the New York Times. “It will be the biggest year of sales volume in Fender history, record days of double-digit growth, e-commerce sales and beginner gear sales. I never would have thought we would be where we are today if you asked me back in March.”

This information, combined with Fender’s 2018 research that showed 19 percent of beginner’s identified as Black and 25 percent as Latinx (and what we can only imagine has increased since, with role models like H.E.R. and Willow breaking further into the mainstream) should act as a glaring indicator as to who the mainstream media should be passing the mic to. Any mainstream publication that addresses the death/rebirth of the guitar and fails to include the voices of women and younger generations is damaging not only to those voices, but to the sustainability of the industry at large. If mainstream media shapes the general population’s understanding of guitar and music culture, and mainstream media is not accurately representing that culture, then perhaps the guitar’s demise has just as much to do with the media’s negligence as it does with consumers. 

Grasping onto a culture that simply doesn’t hold a future for the music industry anymore is detrimental on many levels. And as a result, if the question remains, “Is the guitar dying?” then the answer is yes: let the guitar, as the media has forced us to perceive it, fissile out. It’s time to let those who are being left out of the narrative—the major contributors to the guitar’s resurrection, thus lining the pockets of these major music companies—to lead the conversation,  and to be recognized and uplifted for the imperative role they play in saving the industry.

In the first three Rolling Stone covers of 2020, more musicians were women of color (Lizzo, SZA, Megan Thee Stallion, Normani) than all of its covers combined from 2010 to 2015 (Rihanna, Whitney Houston, and Nicki Minaj). 

This shift in representation hasn’t been swift so much as sudden: a whiplash undoing of mainstream publications presenting scattered gendered exceptionalism, packaged and sold under a slobbery male gaze as music journalism. Plenty of people have been calling it out (or mutely unsubscribing) for decades, but to little avail. However, over the last few years, a combination of capitalist survivalism and good old-fashioned public shame has jolted greasier-than-glossy magazines into accepting that short-term impulse buys for sexy covers can’t remedy the consequential reputation rot.

Plus, it wasn’t like the wrung-out “sex sells” strategy, with all its thin assumptions of who’s doing the buying and what they want, had actually been working. Over the course of a decade, Rolling Stone newsstand buys had slunk from 139k per issue in 2007 to 28k in 2017, surviving more on a few bouts of impressive political journalism than much else. In 2018, the new owner of Rolling Stone’s parent company announced that their goal for the publication was to be relevant to millennial consumers—a hell of an endeavor for a magazine that has been recycling Bob Dylan and The Beatles since its inaugural issue. Guitar World similarly changed its tune in 2016 when it announced an end to the annual bikini gear guide.

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The corporate notion of appealing specifically to younger generations emerged in 1954, when Billboard announced that jukebox operators had been increasingly stocking R&B records to meet the demand of white teenagers who weren’t interested in the orchestral “popular music” that dealers had been pedaling in segregated shops. Fast forward more than 70 years and the business goal of remaining relevant to young buyers is increasingly intertwined with an expectation of respect for the web of identities musicians hold. While it’s unwise, if not difficult, to espouse an eagle-eye understanding of a phenomenon while living through it, it can feel at times like things are changing for the better.

However, change can be an elusive, slippery thing when touted imprecisely. Who are we including when we talk about how women are recognized, celebrated, or ignored? Who fits within that gendered category, and who do we consider entitled to recognition? Which voices count as “the media?” When we compare “right now” to “back then,” with which moment do we begin and how does our linear conception of time encompass the waxing and waning nature of progress?

This article is about how mainstream music publications have portrayed musicians who live outside of the cis male mold, because widespread visibility can have a powerful impact on our understanding of what is possible. As Oprah put it in a documentary about the Ed Sullivan Show’s impact: “You don’t understand what it’s like to be in a world where nobody looks like you. When I first saw Diana Ross looking glamorous and beautiful, it represented possibility and hope. It was life changing.” Achieving visibility and respect that fully reflects the contributions of a person or group to our culture is part of a systemic cycle of awareness, acceptance, and appreciation. Maddeningly, these cycles wax and wane without regard to the unity of our intersecting identities, which is why so few of the musicians discussed in this article are openly trans or nonbinary. To discuss how certain musicians have been talked about over the course of history is to be limited to those names that were uttered loudest to begin with. It is paramount, then, to distinguish between an analysis of what was and an analysis of what we have found. This is the latter.

And it started with Mamie Smith.

Early Blues Women and the Black Consumer, 1920s

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“A studio headshot portrait of American blues singer Mamie Smith,” photograph, circa, 1923, Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images
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Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, April, 25th 1921

Rock created the music publications we read today, R&B created rock, blues created R&B, and Mamie Smith made the blues a national sensation. In the summer of 1920, a small label called Okeh Records recorded Smith singing a rendition of Perry Bradford’s “Crazy Blues.” The record was an overnight sensation among Black working-class consumers, catalyzing a series of reactions by the record industry that would change popular culture forever. As Angela Davis pointed out in her book, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Smith’s success simultaneously led record companies to finally consider the tastes of Black consumers (while pigeonholing them into segregated buyer categories) and producing the music of Black women musicians. As blindly rooted in profit as these corporate labels’ reactions were, the ultimate impact was that rock ‘n’ roll and some of our biggest music icons’ signature sounds originated in Black communities—often Black women musicians, specifically. Because of Mamie Smith’s success, the country’s biggest record labels rushed to sign Black women musicians such as Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, and Bessie Smith (no relation to Mamie Smith), who a teenaged Billie Holiday listened to before moving to Harlem and singing in the nightclub where Benny Goodman discovered her. The rest is history—or as Frank Sinatra put it in a 1958 interview with Ebony, “Lady Day [Billie Holiday] is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.” Little could he know that, as was finally acknowledged in 2000 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Holiday’s genealogy of sound extends to today.

At a time when white women’s orchestral pop music still held up marriage and heteronormative domesticity, these early blues recordings were the first instances of women singing to a national audience about independence, fluid sexuality, domestic violence, and working class struggle—phenomena that have often been mistakenly treated as inceptive when they later re-emerged in everything from the sexual revolution colliding with second-wave feminism to Madonna to the #MeToo movement.

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Not only were the messages of early blues women revolutionary, but their popularity being based on the music they produced rather than their appearances was new too. Before records became an affordable way to listen to music, women’s musical successes and their ensuing coverage in the mainstream were tied to their visual performances on vaudeville stages.
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The Influence of Tharpe and Thornton, 1930 – 1950s 

The Second World War came and went, and temporary openings for women in factories (such as Gibson’s Kalamazoo Gals) as well as the mainstream music business along with it. When the war ended, government propaganda of women’s equality did too, leading to a spike in pop music as a vessel for messages of feminine domesticity. When the war ended in 1945—seven years after she packed an audience at New York’s Carnegie Hall—Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day” made history as the first gospel song to cross over into popular appeal, while Doris Day’s “Sentimental Journey” topped the charts, marking the beginning of Day’s career as an “armed forces sweetheart.”

Sure, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was so popular that she played to a massive stadium 14 years before The Beatles’ Shea Stadium concert (popularly cited as the first such performance), but Variety’s white male writers couldn’t resist framing their kudos as being about a person “of considerable heft” whose music was “even for sophisticates.” The same drivel applied to Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, whose 1953 charts-topper “Hound Dog” rocked the musical landscape at #1 for seven straight weeks while she was subjected to vile physical comparisons and blatant respectability politics. Elvis may have idolized Tharpe, but he played right into the hands of industry executives looking to put a white man’s face on Tharpe’s and Thornton’s sound. Worse than Presley’s co-opted success was the white-washing of rock ‘n’ roll history it triggered. The British Invasion, as rock critic Kandia Crazy Horse would later point out, finished what Elvis had started. By 1970, Tharpe was described by one publication as “so rhythmically exciting that when she accompanies herself on guitar she might be a blacked-up Elvis in drag.”

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Sister Rosetta Tharpe
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Afro-American, July 14, 1951

Emergence of the Modern Rock Critic, 1960s

Considering how the 1960s birthed second-wave feminism, it’s impressive how dude-centric the emergence of modern rock journalism was. In fact, if there’s a moment from which you can directly trace the peak crudeness of mainstream music magazines, the mid-1960s might be your best bet. While the 1980s took the objectification of women to appalling heights, it was the 1960s emergence of the modern rock critic as well as gonzo journalism—which prided itself on making dumpster fires of professional ethics—and the left’s rejection of sexual mores that provided a rebranding opportunity for deeply entrenched misogyny in the music industry.

Even Rolling Stone had its exceptions, though, as any vessel of exceptionalism must. A few months before the magazine published its first issue in 1967, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” hit #1 on Billboard’s charts. Taking a break from its worship of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, the second issue of Rolling Stone dedicated a full page to the Queen of Soul. “Let her do her things, after all, she’s the one with the talent,” the piece advised Franklin’s new producer before launching into a song-by-song analysis of Aretha Arrives (1967, Atlantic Records). The next year, the young music outlet published an eerie echo of Billboard’s 1923 acknowledgment of Bessie Smith’s triumphs: “In this day when groups and infrequent solo male artists dominate the music, the public interest and the charts, Aretha Franklin’s incredible commercial success is extraordinarily noteworthy.” Whether it was in Rolling Stone or The New York Times, Franklin got credit—and even though she made history when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the mainstream media’s serious treatment of her talent was revolutionary 20 years prior too.

However, journalists still found ways to gender their coverage of Franklin, erase the women who came before her, or both. In 1968, The New York Times published one of their earliest articles about Franklin: “Establishing an identity through asserting the basic female emotions does not sound like a very original or interesting development for a pop singer—yet it is, in fact, almost without precedent in Miss Franklin’s tradition,” claimed white male writer Albert Goldman. “The old-timers like Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey (or Mahalia Jackson today) were massive matriarchs,” Goldman lazily stereotyped before turning to the woman-as-victim cliche of “the Billie Holidays or Dinah Washingtons [who] loved, suffered and learned resignation before they opened their mouths… Aretha’s woman may suffer, but her soul is whole and untrammeled by depression or abuse.”

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New York Times, May 30, 1971
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Aretha Franklin, 1967 Rolling Stone

Gonzo Journalism and the Male Gaze, 1970s

In hindsight, the 1969 Woodstock and Harlem Cultural festivals served as a perfect transition into the 1970s. Joan Baez and Janis Joplin were notable exceptions to Woodstock’s celebration of men in music, while Nina Simone and Mahalia Jackson headlined the 300,000-strong Harlem Cultural Festival weeks prior. Choice exceptionalism prevailed in both the festival circuit and mainstream media coverage, but it was also an era of milestones: the Filipino-American rock trio Fanny made waves on the Billboard charts, inspiring The Runaways, fronted by Joan Jett; Sylvia Robinson recorded her chart-topping “Sylvia” before founding Sugar Hill Records and bringing hip hop into the mainstream with her production of the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”; and Suzi Quatro became the first woman to reach rock star status for her bass playing. Not surprisingly, the media’s response was mixed.

In a 1974 article published in the influential and permanently-dated music magazine Creem, writer Robert “Robot” Hull seemed stuck between masturbating through his own words and acknowledging Suzi Quatro’s talent: “Suzi Quatro is a real cutie, rootie tootie, not sweet hog honey like Linda Ronstadt but a tight roller derby queen with juice and enuf krassiness to rank her right up there with the Sweet and Slade,” he drooled. Fittingly, Hull would go on to become a major rock critic and eventual producer of CD series’ like “Sounds of the ’70s.” Rolling Stone’s own coverage of Quatro later that same year was mild in comparison, but still ensured that any recognition came through a lens of male gaze, with the bassist propped onto the empty pedestal of “glittering sex queen” in one line and taken down in the next as “a short, trim woman from Detroit who moved to England after nine unsuccessful years in the American music business.” The New York Times couldn’t resist following the fad, with white male critic John Rockwell choosing to focus his coverage on his opinion that “Quatro dresses in leather jumpsuits and tries to project an image simultaneously aggressive, indifferent and raunchilly sexy.” The newspaper’s coverage of Fanny was equally stupid. “Going to see an all-girl rock group, one has to bring a mixture of condescension and paranoia,” wrote Mike Jahn, admitting the band was good before launching into time-tested cliches: implying they couldn’t move their amps, praising them for not being “Joni Mitchell-type cute,” and making sure the reader knew that this rock group wasn’t just a “pop choir.” Even with androgyny sweeping the mainstream musical landscape (with an apparent absence of acknowledgment of aesthetic contributions by non-cis musicians like Jayne County) this uninspired combination of visibility and ignorance continued into the 1980s.

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The Rise of Independent Publications and Women Critics, 1980s – Now

“Annie Lennox began her life as a man two years ago,” reads the intro of choice for Rolling Stone’s 1983 cover story of Eurythmics’ newfound fame. In an act of truly gymnastic erasure, the piece recited Lennox’s explanation for her switch to an androgynous style as an anti-harassment strategy before concluding that “sexual speculation” at her recent concert “suddenly seemed irrelevant in the presence of such triumphant talent.” Nevermind the implication that abuse is reserved for those who are inadequate or that the musical ingenuity of other powerhouses from the era like Whitney Houston didn’t stave off the collective gnashing of teeth by arena crowds or magazines alike (Rolling Stone would wait until 1993 to publish a proper feature of Houston, promoting its unremarkable interview with a bright red splash of “Whitney Houston Gets Nasty” across its cover and another “Whitney Houston Gets Down and Dirty” for its headline).

As hip hop exploded and rock and pop kept morphing into a mind-numbing multiplicity of genres, music journalism was slow to evolve. The New York Times covered the beloved Grammy-award winning Selena for the first and only time before her death in its 1994 stereotype-laden coverage of a Mexican Independence Day party in New York City, while Rolling Stone didn’t even manage to mention her until late into 1995. Both publications treated TLC the same, ignoring the group except to insult them, even as they broke international records with CrazySexyCool (1994, LaFace and Arista Records) and shook the world with their famous call-out of the greed of the music industry in a 1996 Grammys press conference.

In the same way that TLC fought back against their management, the 1990s also ushered in a new generation of independent music publications founded and run by women who were sick of the mainstream press. Carla DeSantis Black founded Rockrgrl in 1995, publishing interviews and articles about bands like Sleater-Kinney and Tegan and Sara long before bigger publications took notice. Even before then, beginning in 1985, Lori Twersky published the zine Bitch: The Women’s Rock Mag with a Bite, a title that would live on in the separate pop culture magazine Bitch, founded by Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis in 1996.

All three of those influential publications were founded in California, so it’s fitting that San Francisco became a hub for women music journalists in the 1990s before their migration to the East Coast’s biggest publications. Evelyn McDonnell became SF Weekly’s music editor in 1992 and moved on to take the same job at the Village Voice in 1996, but not before overseeing an intern named Sia Michel. Before becoming today’s deputy culture editor at The New York Times, Michel was the first woman editor-in-chief of Spin, where Caryn Ganz climbed the music journalism ladder, eventually becoming deputy editor at Rolling Stone and then pop music critic at The New York Times. Ganz has joined other rock critics like the inimitable Jessica Hopper (who, true story, penned her first piece of music journalism because of lousy coverage of Babes in Toyland) in using her influence to sing the praises of acts ranging from Haim to Lizzo to Chastity Belt. And when Rolling Stone started 2020 out on the right note, it was women—Brittany Spanos followed by Emma Carmichael—whose writing dominated the centerfold features.

Our understanding of time may be linear, but cultural trajectories rarely are. The volume and tone of the mainstream media’s recognition of our communities has been a similarly fickle thing. To take their words and hold them up to the light isn’t an act of independence so much as accountability. We’ve always been here, taking music to new places, and we always will be. Or, as Mamie Smith sang in the song that started it all, “There’s a change in the ocean / Change in the deep blue sea… I’ll tell you folks, there ain’t no change in me.”

Virgo Season is the time of harvest. Even in 2020, seeds have been planted: reflection, patience, flexibility, and interconnection. We know now that our world is connected not only through fiberglass wires and photons, but through lived experiences and shared air. We are in this moment together, and we will only get out of this moment together.

Read through your Audioscopes for Cancer Season and take on an extra challenge with our audio tips.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

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This pain in your side won’t let up simply because it’s time to move forward. You’re going to have to learn to move with this loss; pull your heavy heart out of the ground and replant it into the open cavity in your chest, where the wind has whistled through and cleared away the embers. This path won’t get any easier, but you’ll get better at holding yourself through it. You were made in order to live through these moments of chaos—it’s in these fires that your truth rings true. Now is the time to listen to the chords that string through your belly, pushing you up to standing, pushing forward and true.

Audio Challenge: Use your recent loss or challenge as inspiration. Write a song about it, sing it loud—acknowledging pain is the first step to healing.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

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No one can tell you the way forward now. All the details are skewed in the shadow of the Full Moon announcing that now is the time where all things must change. You can take a few things along with you for the journey, the reminders of what home feels like so you can secure it again. But there will be no visiting the same pastures come next year—the crops will not grow in these changing winds. It’s time to make peace with what you know in your heart is true: you must leave this old place behind in order to find what rings true.

Audio Challenge: What chords and techniques do you rely on? Are they serving your growth, or stunting it? Consider writing a song on a new instrument—something new, unfamiliar—and see what comes to the surface.

GEMINI May 21 – June 20

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Does securing a safe place to rest require a sacrifice? The price for comfort and stability needs to be balanced with the desires you know will not be put to rest, in this timeline or the next. The myth of cohesive global structure has been shattered by the blast of 2020 vision, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still holding on to the broken shards that are embedded so deep in your heart. Who’s to say finding home is uncalled for, or that there must be a time to lay down the dreamtime vision for a small fire, a warm bed, and a meal in the morning? Just this heart.

Audio Challenge: Evaluate the space in which you play your instrument or work on music. Are you comfortable there? Does it activate you? Is there anything that is no longer working for you? Create an environment that moves you.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)

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You can capture the ray of photons shining through the newly opened door if you can muster up the courage to declare yourself ready for the challenge. Where once there were broken promises and a potent dream left askew on the floor, now there is a ray of light beckoning you through. But in order to take this next step down the path you thought was closed but has been newly offered, you must make sure you’re ready for the trials ahead. What you have asked for is no easy task, no light walk through the woods. There are dangers on all sides now, which you must trust you have the capacity to meet. Will you take it?

Audio Challenge: What new musical paths have you been avoiding? What new challenges have you been putting off? Pick one and begin to explore it.

 LEO (July 23 – August 22)

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This is not the time to take yourself to task. It may be true that there have been blunders made in the past, and it may also be true that certain structures are built on changing sands instead of set in stone. But the time at hand is not made for putting nose to grindstone, working through the frustrations of the day with heavy hands and focused heart. The reigns need to loosen a bit on the chariot that carries your vision from this field to the next. It’s enough that you’ve been here this far, and that you see what more there is to come. Take a shower. Wash off the dirt and ashes from the long night. There will be opportunity for flight tomorrow.

Audio Challenge: Be easy on yourself this month. Instead of forcing yourself to write the record, EP, or song, take time to explore other ways of enjoying music: listen to your favorite record, polish your guitar, look into a new genre to explore, read the autobiography of a musician you admire—nurture your musical soul.

VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)

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There may be unidentified whispers in the backroom, the hint of a secret not yet exposed but ready to hit the surface, a betrayal lurking around the corner. This doesn’t mean anything is actually shifting, except your own perception of it. Watch out for phantom enemies keeping you up at night and ghostly patterns of long distant past. You are celebrating another year—not in strife and competition, but in recognition of how far you have come. When your blood starts to boil over misheard words and crossed wires, slow down. Take a breath. You’re simply being reminded of what you’re already letting go.

Audio Challenge: Make three columns on a piece of paper, and write out the following lists: all you’ve accomplished in the last year, all that you’d like to accomplish by this time next year, and all you must let go off to reach your goals.

LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)

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Yes, it may feel like time to open the doors to new energetic connections and let the air flow through your sails, pushing you across the sea to a new destination. Unfortunately, the weather is not here to accommodate your plans, and the destination may be no farther than the ends of this abandoned hall. There must be another way to find new inspiration in this house full of plans that lay unfulfilled, littering the floor with your unmet desire. Think back to a song you heard wafting through the garden before this chapter started—you’ve already met someone who can end this dreary wait for a change in seasons.

Audio Challenge: Put aside your current goals for a moment and revisit what inspired you to play music in the first place. 

SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)

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You’ve been sowing the seeds that are needed for change in silence, knowing that by the end of the harvest you’ll find yourself in a different place. That time is here now, and so it’s time to carry through on the promises you made to yourself at the year’s onset. It doesn’t matter what fireballs may fly across the night sky now, what challenges still lay ahead. You must accept the time that you have been given for shifting, allowing the energy to carry you through to the next round. 

Audio Challenge: Make a list of the plans you had set for yourself in 2020. Write out a list of alternative ways to accomplish them if this year has put a wrench in your journey.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)

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Yes, starting out in that new direction will be wise in this moment, as any opportunity to reach out and bring back some of that glow into your heart is immeasurably valuable. There are many ways to lose your way down the hidden valleys and plateaus of this time you have here to explore, but the one most difficult to come back from is losing the connection between your heart and your offering. Don’t let this be a time where you take an easy path in order to guarantee a future you know will not manifest. Take space. Allow the vibratory frequency of your unique vision to sing your heart open once again.

Audio Challenge: Think back to what made you gravitate toward music in the first place. Try to bring more of that into your life—both within music and your day-to-day.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)

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It’s time to collect yourself now. The decisions have been made, the calls are done, and all there is to do is sit with the path you have put yourself on and see it all the way through. There are wide open fields of potential to contemplate, and many pieces of the puzzle that have fallen into place to create an unexpected picture that is, nonetheless, complete. You may need to quiet down the background noise and the endless sticky notes in order to find it. But it’s there—that feeling that you may just be finding home.

Audio Challenge: Lean into this moment, despite whether it was what you expected or not—the unexpected is often what brings you closer to the truth. 

AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 18)

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There is something burning in the back of your chest that’s been held back so long it’s about to smolder through your ribs and burn through. If you don’t reach in there and pull out the fire bit by bit, truth by truth, word by word, then you’ll undoubtedly find yourself in a pit before the month is through. There may have been a time when bottling it up worked, a tried and true strategy for those who pay mind to what needs to be said (or not said) at any given appointed time. But 2020 will not give you that free license to play silent when you can feel the scream form in your throat. Say it. Before it takes you.

Audio Challenge: Set your truth free—whether through song, the written word, or plainly saying it outloud. Speak your truth.

PISCES (February 19 – March 20)

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There is a single horse driving this race between you and your feelings of personal safety on this secluded beach at the midnight hour, when the dawn promises new challenges and this night isn’t long enough to resolve the ones that have already spun out: trust. Can you trust the direction this path is going? Or are you looking back over your shoulder, wondering where the lights have gone? It’s time to put the soles of your feet firmly on the ground and remember what gave you the strength to begin this journey in the first place—it wasn’t fear and it wasn’t doubt. It was trust.

Audio Challenge: What does trust mean to you? Do you trust those within your musical circle? And more importantly—do you trust yourself, and the path you’ve paved?

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