Simplicity

Simplicity, along with eliminating clutter, is a theme that will be reoccurring throughout these blogs.

It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the incredible amount of information that is easily accessible in today’s society. Any song, concert, album, book, etc. is available to us with only a click of the mouse. You want to learn from Danny Gatton? Well, go to youtube and watch his lesson videos. This is incredible, and when I was younger, I would’ve given anything to have had access to the information (for free!) that is available to us today. But, this vast amount of material can lead to feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and panic. We think that we have to know ALL of this in order to be a real musician.

Remember, Danny Gatton didn’t have the internet and youtube. He learned by picking his favorite things off of records, from other people, or any other means he had available, and playing it over and over until it became internalized. Instead of learning a billion licks, he started with one, played it until he was satisfied with it, and then mutated it, made it fit in many different contexts, and turned it into something that became his. This one lick spawned many different ideas. And then he did it again with another musical idea. Over time, he amassed a repertoire of musical ideas that was representative of him, and he knew how to use them masterfully.

Robben Ford, in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEUgd5DTw0c) expresses this beautifully. He basically says learn a few things that you really love, and once you internalize them, start applying them. That is an important concept- application. Don’t learn a lick, chord, or idea and leave it at that. Learn how to use it in as many different applications as possible. Learn a blues lick, and then see how you can put it in a jazz or country tune. Take it apart; rearrange it, thereby making it your own. Each lick has an infinite amount of possibilities if you deconstruct it and reconstruct it. Combine it with other licks. If you learn a cool jazz chord, see how you can put it in a blues or rock tune. Again, Danny Gatton was a master of this. He never had categories for his music; any style of lick could be used in any other style of music. That’s what made him sound like himself. Stevie Ray Vaughn was another player who was great at making his repertoire of ideas fit in any situation.

Every great musician, from Charlie Parker to Jimi Hendrix, had their handful of musical ideas that they had mastered and could apply to whatever context they found themselves playing in. And if they are a true master, this never gets boring to listen to. Think of Albert King, who had that much copied “Albert King” lick- I never get tired of hearing him play it. To me, that represents Albert. Charlie Parker is similar, although his handful of musical tools is more sophisticated, with repeated listening you start to hear his “repeated” ideas, and it never gets old.

It is worth mentioning that these licks/ideas/concepts that you decide to learn and internalize should be stuff that you really like. Don’t choose things that you think you should know or that you think will impress people- choose things that really speak to you. That will be the most direct path towards self-expression.

Do not feel as though you need to compensate for your own, most likely, misperceived lack of ability by accumulating more info. This is a common mistake guitarist make when they are unhappy with their playing- “I’m not good enough- I need to learn more stuff!” Information, i.e. licks, scales, chords, songs, does not translate to comprehension, or in this case, internalization. Or even music. Accumulation of this sort leads to mental clutter and confusion. If you have already accumulated a large amount of material, it might be time to do some housecleaning. Think about the things you play and sort through them, asking which ones you really identify with, and which ones that may be just taking up space. Get rid of those cluttering ideas- they are always available later if you change your mind. Devote your energies to the important ones. Really master them, change them, deconstruct them, add notes, take away notes, play them in a different context. The possibilities are endless. Also, just find the enjoyment in playing things you love.

An important thing to remember is that you have your whole life ahead of you to learn guitar. There is no need to be in a hurry; the only thing being in a hurry does is take the fun away from whatever you are doing. More than anything, music is supposed to be fun.

Introduction- about skotsguitarblog

Please bear with me as I ascend the steep learning curve (for me) regarding this newly discovered (for me) world of blogging.

The purpose of this blog is to provide not only for myself an outlet to speak about some of my favorite things- guitars, music, and anything else that comes to mind, but to share some helpful advice to those who are facing some of the same difficulties I have faced or am facing, with the intent of steering you around those obstacles if possible. Or maybe to provide some cheerleading as you scale those mountains. What I am not going to do is show you a bunch of exercises, teach you how “so-and-so” plays “such-and-such” song, or tell you to practice so many hours a day. Instead, I will give some insight that I have acquired, tell stories of my own successes and failures, and introduce you to some unique activities that will bring out elements in your playing that might have lain dormant for some time. Some of these topics will be over the heads of some, and under the heads of others. If they are seemingly over your head, read through them carefully, and move on. They may come of importance much later on, and by reading through them a seed will be planted in your mind that will continue to grow without any assistance from you. That being said, rereading later on might be all that is needed to cause those seeds to jump to life like a mushroom after a late summer rain (I realize that mushrooms reproduce by way of spores, not seeds, but the metaphor still applies). For those topics that fall under the heads of some people, don’t write them off! Many of the most profound things I have learned in my musical journey have been incredibly simple concepts that made me feel as if I was the only musician in the world who didn’t already understand it. Many times, reviewing basic ideas bring out a new perspective.

The ultimate goal of mine is to help you connect with music. By connecting, I mean to find your unique musical voice, and help music become a source of happiness, pride- an outlet of expression. You can see people who have that connection- they have that excitement and enthusiasm for music, they somehow play all the right stuff when needed, they possess an unshakeable confidence, and when they mess up, they bounce back unflinchingly. The music coming from their instrument sounds the way that they look, speak, and think. My favorite example of this is Dexter Gordon in the movie “’Round Midnight”- if you haven’t seen it, I would recommend it. The tone of his sax, the phrasing, and his melodies are a mirror image of the person. When he walks, it looks like his music. His speaking, his facial expressions, all resemble the music that comes out of him.

Not everyone has this connection. Some people really struggle with music, and what should be a source of great joy, ends up being a crippling activity that ruins their sense of self.

One last thing: there are no absolutes here. All of these stories, concepts, lessons, musings, are merely my gathered ideas, either that I have learned myself, or more likely, that I was taught by someone else (often times without their knowing it). These may be opinions, approaches, perspectives, perceptions, or just beliefs, but I do not expect you to agree with everything I say, or have it all relate to everyone that reads these. You might relate to 99%, or maybe 25% of a lesson, or 0%. That’s fine. Your job is to take what I say and make it your own. If you learn from 40% of one of my blogs, it is up to you to fill in the other 60%. Rearrange it to make it your own. Music should be a do-it-yourself pursuit, with help along the way when you need it. Be open to help. And, be open to fun.