The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment. T is for Taste
Two unrelated events occurred in my world this month, sufficient to divert me momentarily from my sun lounger, my investment portfolio and my Waitrose Essentials Prosecco.
The first item arrived in the form an email attachment containing a YouTube clip, sent for my consideration by an old friend. It featured an interview with a not entirely unattractive young lady. It was conducted by a person who clearly shared at least one common interest; their mutual fascination with one specific area of modern music culture. The subject of this masterclass referred to herself as a ‘shredder’ and I see no reason to contradict her. The dialogue was illustrated with examples of ‘the shredder’s art’, if I may be permitted to mangle my oxymorons. The exchange of shredding-based information concluded with a duet between the protagonists, rounding off the entertainment in fitting style. The participants chose to dispense with artistic convention and employed instead the daring strategy of dispensing with rhythm, melody and the outmoded notion of paying attention to each other’s contribution. I applaud their risk-taking and sense of adventure. You may have noticed that I haven’t used the word ‘guitar’ in the previous description. Or ‘music’. And I won’t.
The second bookend to this month’s musings concerns a pleasant summer barbecue with another chum. Over a flavoursome repast featuring sea bass and appropriate accompaniments, the conversation turned to his work on the jazz guitar degree course that he has enrolled on as a mature student. He was keen to show me the considerable work he has put into the four modules comprising the syllabus in year two: harmony, arranging for small ensembles, instrumental tuition... and more. All undertaken with his customary zeal, intelligence and no little aptitude. Many folders and work sheets were produced, all deeply impressive. Coltrane changes. Chord substitution. Modes of all shapes and sizes. All were discussed with authority and comprehension. It’s been a while since I’ve discussed the Lydian Dominant mode and what to do with it, I can assure you. Unsurprisingly, he’s well on his way to a First.
And I couldn’t help but conclude that, in a perfect world, one could fuse Ms Shredder’s attitude and confidence with my friend’s dedication to study and self-improvement and then have one helluva guitarist on your hands. You might even have a ‘musician’ to contend with, perish the thought.
Here’s the thing. You only get out what you put in. And what’s there in the first place. Try to get out a bit. Look at a few paintings. Watch a few movies that don’t have ‘Nemo’, ‘Bourne’ or ‘Harry’ in the title. Live your life. Suffer a little – as if you have an option. Essentially, become a sentient human being. Discover what you have to say as a musician (this may take a while). Try to say it with a sound that attracts, not repels. Just like a real voice. With a beginning, a middle and an end. Using, like, ‘form’, man. If it turns out you don’t have much to say, your audience will listen anyway. Apparently.
And above all, avoid DVDs with titles like Shred Mastery, Shred Like Bach and The All You Can Shred Buffet.