what they never told you about playing guitar

The one thing that is often bypassed but needs to be said to guitarists about playing guitar is that music is more important than the guitar itself.  This might seem like an unnecessary thing to say and could be easily overlooked but it is something that every guitarist needs to hear, the sooner the better.  Because if this is understood clearly, it will save many hours of frustration and you’ll find that a valuable balanced musician (not just guitarist) will emerge much faster.   It took me quite a few years to sort that one out, and like many guitar players, when I was younger I had the deepest passion/obssession for the instrument; unknowingly, this stood in the way of music because the emphasis was in the wrong place.  The focus was on the creative tool instead of the end result.

Every now and then I’ve watched an episode of the Idol series and I’ve always been waiting for someone to walk on and say “I just want to play beautiful music” but I hear “I want to be the idol, I know I can do it” and other non-musical statements.   Sure the end product is a packaged entertainer with music  at the core, and there have been some very talented people pass across the stage, but the message it puts out to the community is not very beneficial to young musicians as a whole.   It creates a false sense of what music is about.  The emphasis is on success and making it instead of music.  And repeat after me ‘Yes money is good, and success is fine’, but  music is art first and foremost.  Although, music could mean something different to everybody, the underlying thing at the heart of it is to turn our emotions into something that touches another person in some almost immeasurable way.

A thing to remember about music is it’s not about fashion.  This is where a lot of the problem starts with guitarists, they are more interested in fitting in, being cool and having a bit of an ego rub than doing what’s necessary to be a balanced musician.  Many of the desires when analyzed have little to do with sound and emotions and are a lot more about persona.

The greatest guitarist I ever got to study with was a man called Ike Isaacs, unknown to most people but ask any of the truly great jazz guitarists in the world and they’ll tell you how good he was.   He was by far the humblest musician I ever met and he wasn’t bogged down by trying to convert players to his style, he would show you what was possible and encourage you to create your own identity with what he’d added to your toolbox. He didn’t compete, he just did it.

Whether it’s acoustic or electronic and regardless of style there is a thread running through music that joins it all together and that thread is the need to speak out about something that’s happening inside us.

So to summarize:

  • Music is more important than the instrument itself
  • Music is more important than product
  • Music is to do with our emotions talking to others
  • Just because you’re hot, you don’t need to be a boofhead
  • Music is not about competing
  • The underlying thread of music is universal

My next blog will cover some useful GUITAR TIPS that I’ve developed over 37 years about playing the guitar

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4 Comments

Filed under acoustic, MUSIC

4 responses to “what they never told you about playing guitar

  1. Rob

    Thanks for showing me your blogs Tony.
    There is a tension between creativity and soul and being heard in the marketplace. Getting out of the proverbial woodshed and up on stage is hard for most players. As I like playing out a lot I guess I just have to make more effort to create the opportunities. Rob

  2. acousticguitarist

    Rob, you’ve mentioned a very good point ‘ out of the woodshed and onto the stage’. There are some very good strategies for this. i’m currently putting together resources that include this very thing. Maybe you’d like to let us know how you did it.

  3. eric

    Finally, someone who sees it the way I do. I have to agree with you on music being more important than the instrument. The guitar is like a paint brush, table saw or needle and thread. it is a tool or conduit that brings the music out into the world. if you don’t mind, I’d like to link to you.

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