Monday, February 4, 2008


"Live your life like a very hot fire - leave nothing but white ashes."

(Some cool Indian guru dude.)

Intensity - a focusing. Giving your all. Burning the house down completely.

I'm pleased to report the Guitar Club was a success! The DVD shown was that of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at Austin City Limits. And that's where the intensity theme comes from.

Song after song, a blistering, howling guitar tone roaring from the amps, I half thought the projector screen was going to be indelibly etched with that legend's image. Stevie really gave his all in that show. Twenty years later, it still leaps to life and amazes.

Comparing living, or playing guitar, with fire, I see some striking similarities. A low, cool flame burns sooty, and incomplete. Meandering through it's fuel, it can't decide if it should be burning this or that. Acetylene, an industrial gas, behaves in this manner. It's sloppy, dim, and throws off whopping amounts of soot. Mustering up it's energies and focusing, however (combining with Oxygen, to be precise), that sooty flame becomes an intense blue-white jet that melts and cuts metal.

Interestingly, whenever I'm in a club or bar to play my music, I see a contrast in intensity between the customers and the athletes on TV. Obviously, they're both there for different reasons, but the soot in the bar chokes me. When it's my turn onstage, I try to burn the stage down completely.

And this can apply to practicing, too. Often, my practice sessions are burned very incompletely. I emerge, not much better, my inner musician looking like a chimney sweep. When I do focus and burn, however, it's great! Sure, it takes a lot of mental energy, but there's only white ash left. And that's cool....I mean hot!

So how do you jam? Note that intensity doesn't have anything to do with speed. A small welding flame can cut steel, and a raging bonfire will barely cook a marshmallow. It's how much you mean it. And if you're practicing anyway, why not fully mean it?

Focus. Cut steel. And burn the stage down!

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