Friday, January 25, 2008

A slight edge can cut

Happy Friday.

I should open up a Rock 'n Roll restaurant that's named "TJIF" (Thank Jimi It's Friday.)

Competition. This is a theme I keep yelling about (and I bet I'm yelling louder than you!)

It seems like when we're on the bottom rung of any discipline, we have no competition. We know we're nothing, we look to the upper echelons with an inspirational awe, and we buckle down and work. We can learn a lot in this mindset.

Interestingly enough, as soon as we're on the second rung of this endless ladder, competition enters with a force.

I was at the gym the other day. (Turns out this weightlifting is going to teach me a lot about music.) Anyways, a guy walked in who was skinnier than I was. My eyes almost bugged out of my head! In the three weeks I've been a member, I've been the smallest, weakest, most pathetic ape in that apehouse. All of the other guys are so strong, you just tune 'em out, and go about benching fuzzy slippers, or something heavy like that.

But there was skinny dude. "Ah ha!" I said. "Look at that fool - he's not lifting that bar correctly."

Wow. I realized how stupid my inner dialogue sounded. Here I was, and I don't even know how to do a dozen things correctly on that floor. But since I was now on the second rung, that slight edge was cutting me. And instead of concentrating on my workout, I started comparing. And the gym is the wrong place to do that.

So is the guitar. Why is it that we're so fiercely competitive when it comes to the instrument? Our quest to rule gets pretty nasty sometimes. And what's the point, anyway? I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The guitar, treated in this manner, is a useless, overpriced, fancy noisemaker.

This slight edge, being every so slightly stronger, faster, or more knowledgeable, is deadly.

I've read about it in stories - Two friends are alone in the world, in dire poverty, and without hope. Suddenly, one friend receives unexpected slightly good fortune, and instead of sharing it's joys, uses it to set himself above his friend.

Perhaps it's two normal people, muddling along in their day. One friend does well in the stock market, and buys his way out of his current class situation. Leaving, of course, the other party to be looked down upon.

I've also heard this happens in social issues around the world.

The twisted logic to this is: If there's someone to look down upon, then I must be climbing up!

You can see how dangerous, and unhealthy, this logic is. It just feels bad, too!

I propose an idea: Don't compare to other people. But if you really must, compare yourself to your past skills. If you can play better than you did a year ago, super. If you can play better than you did a week ago, superb. Imagine the guitarist from last week as a separate person, and you can pit your current skills against them.

Hopefully, you'll win every time.

But why play to win? How about...Play for playing's sake?

1 comment:

PrzeSzkoda said...

Actually, playing the guitar (or any other instrument, especially your voice) is quite a bit like working out - it's both physical AND mental, and actually the similarities are really striking.

Anyhow, I wouldn't underestimate skinny guys. :) I'm quite beefy meself, am (I believe ;) ) pretty strong and actually look that, but the gym's taught me that looks are deceitful. Quite a lot of older people, skinnier and looking less muscular than I, are much, much stronger - heck, the caretaker of the gym is almost 50, not-quite-healthy looking and has got an awful limp, but this one time I saw him bench-press 130 KG ten times in a row without breaking a sweat, just like that.

One more thing, something closely related to the world of guitar - some long-timers at the gym might not be able to take-on that much weight in certain exercises, but once they get to the areas they've been spending quite a bit of time on, they get stunning. Say, there's this one guy attending my usual gym that used to do some sorta' kick-based martial art, taek-won-do or somesuch. So, his upper body isn't that strong (I can do better :P even though I've been at the gym for a relatively short time). But, when he starts doing the real hard work, training his legs... you get the picture.

Same with guitar playing - I wouldn't underestimate, for instance, a player who can't really find his/her footing when asked to shred away - 'cause they could as well mop the floor with you once you got to, say, JAZZ away.

But, it's still best to practice in all directions, just like - again! - at the gym. Another example based on my gym dudes - a guy really beefed up and dangerous looking waist-up. But, waist down... (not that, you pervs!) his legs are so skinny, one gets to wonder how the hell's he dragging that upper body of his. And 'ts true, he can barely pull any weight when doing leg exercises.

Enough of my ranting, cheers!
Przemyslaw 'Pastor' Szkodzinski