Opening A Dialogue

Issue # 402 January 2016

I began this with the intent of writing solely about the teaching experience, but, like a lot of my solos, it seems to have decided to find its own way. There’s so much to discuss! I was fortunate to have had three fine tutors in the first 8 years of my guitar development. It was an incredible growth process. Each teacher’s curriculum was different, and each brought an entirely different spectrum of awareness to this young aspiring guitarist. I am forever indebted.

Of course, many fine guitarists have developed their craft(s) on their own, without the aid of one-on-one tutelage. Sitting with a student face-to-face however, brings another dimension to the learning experience. An experienced teacher can spot a student’s weak spots, and offer advice on how to ‘up their game’ – whether it is fingering, picking, posture, chord and position alternatives… the list is virtually endless. YouTube cannot do that.

A very wise educator once told me “The best way to learn is to teach”. My students are varied in their needs, wants and approaches. Some are uber-professional; others are ‘weekend warriors’. Some only do it at home in the privacy of their little music rooms, or with their mates in a garage like the good old days. But most importantly, their aim is enjoyment and self-fulfilment. And I just love it when one asks me “Why did you play those particular notes?” or “Why did you play those chords in that inversion?” – and as often as not, I have to ask myself those ‘Whys’ – and I become clearer on just what I’m doing. Exciting.

All the same, becoming musically educated doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you develop something crucially important: a ‘voice’ on guitar. There certainly are a good number of guitarists graduating from well-thought-of, prestigious universities. There guys can sight-read at dizzying speeds, are well-versed in chord construction and improvising/soloing. Many have invested a fair sum in sets of boutique pedals and amplifiers. It is also hard to tell their playing apart. When I speak of ‘voice’, it’s about a uniqueness of sound and playing that makes you immediately identifiable – Wes Montgomery, Manitas de Plata, Ry Cooder, Duane Eddy, Jimi Hendrix come to mind. Finding that personal voice is something every serious guitarist should strive for.

Making Conversation

Just last week I found myself mentioned in a Facebook thread, and a few comments down, someone mentioned a ‘gunfight’ – as in guitar duel. I was compelled to respond: “I don’t do gunfights – I do musical conversations”. So in that spirit, I’d like to engage in some meaningful musical conversations with Guitarist readers in this column. Below are some of the questions I’ve been turning over in my mind about making music on guitar recently. What I would like from you, is your feedback, your wish-lists of what to cover in this lil’ space, and I will be happy to oblige. I will leave you now with a couple of riffs I just pulled out of the air:

  • “Let’s hear what that sounds like when you turn all the effects off.”

  • “Take it easy – you’re not getting paid by the note.”

  • “Seriously? There’s no dressing room?”

I await your replies. Perhaps can do a ‘call and response’? Bye for now, see you next month.


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