Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mr Van Halen, your shoe's untied

Happy Halloween, folks!

Today is a very scary day. My littlest brother is getting his learner's permit. Be sure to stay off the sidewalks!

I've been noticing something very curious about the guitar world, best summed up in a joke that a great guitarist told me once.

"How many guitar players does it take to change a light bulb?"


13. One to change the bulb, and 12 to stand around and remark how they would change it so much faster, or keep their elbow in while doing so, or "this is why I never use incandescent bulbs", etc...

I'm getting the impression that a lot of guitarists would tell Eddie Van Halen if his shoe was untied.

This is a curious behavior, indeed, and I have to admit, I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else.

Here's what I think is up. (But hey, maybe I'm way off.)

Musicians, or anyone, who judge their self worth by their skills or knowledge...Are sitting in a very vulnerable corner of their minds. If one's intrinsic value is dictated by the ability to play arpeggios faster than anyone on the block, this might have been OK a few years ago.

But thanks to a little company called YouTube, a lot of big, tough metalheads were crushed by some kids who are just plain faster. So now, Marty Metalhead has to be the fastest on the internet, instead of the block. Imagine the pressure! "Enemies fill up the pages, are they real?" as Ozzy Osbourne sang in "Diary of a Madman."

My typical reaction to a threat is to destroy it.

Especially mosquitoes.

Now, when there's a guitar player who's way better than me, there's several responses I could have.

The first, and most common, is to discount the musician, say they're playing too fast (then why do all the slow guys work on speed?), have lousy tone, etc etc.

This usually feels bad, because a.) it's often untrue, and b.) we know we're making our own excuses not to go practice. Or go get a record deal ourselves.

The second response is more insidious, and just as unhealthy, as the first. Upon seeing a fabulous jazz musician shredding through "Giant Steps" in 7/4, after we close our mouths, and fully comprehend what's happening, we say "oh, well, I don't really want to be a jazz musician."
Discounting, in a passive-aggressive way.

The third is a cool reaction.

"By George! That guy is smokin'! I'm gonna ask him for some lessons, and then, darnit, I'm gonna go practice, because I see where my chops should be, and then I'm gonna go build a band, and then I'm gonna go chase a record deal, and then I'm gonna go buy a grammar book about avoiding run on sentences!"

A teacher of mine once said that once he stopped trying to be the best musician in the world, and instead concentrated on being the best musician he could be, the battle ended, and everyone became teachers instead of enemies.

So the next time you open your mouth to knock some famous musician, or even a local one, look inside first. Maybe your inner child is angry for missing it's practice routine. ;)

Rock on!


3 comments:

Joe said...

Nice post. I've been thinking along those lines for years, and it always bugs me when I hear people taking the less mature approach.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. It's like they say, "any jackass can kickdown a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one."

neo said...

Hey good article....well written. I totally agree on how the guitarists think nowadays. But if you really notice then you'll find that "all" these complainting guitarists are are all metal guitarists. None of them are rock, hard rock, blues, jazz guitarists.