Saturday, May 28, 2005

Share the Music!

One of the most important concepts for any aspiring guitarist to learn is too “Share the Music”.

There are many cool perks that come along the title of Musician, or in our case the label of Guitarist. Sure, many a stone-washed long hair in the local cover band has downed a few free pitchers of beer while talking the hot waitress into a steamy late night rendezvous back at his bachelor pad, but that’s not the perk I’m talking about (Well, at least not while my wife is reading this). The perk that I’m talking about is the wealth of free information that is available to you from other musicians. From the moment that you picked up the guitar and played your first C chord, you became a life member in one of the oldest, yet most dysfunctional family’s on Earth, The Musicians.

(Cue Brady Bunch Theme)

Thousands of years, and countless generations of musicians have preceded you down the musical evolutionary scale, and the collective experience gained from this journey is invaluable. Inside each individual player is a library of amazing knowledge combined with their own unique perspective, and it’s available to you, right now, for the sharing.

Sitting down and playing with another musician is probably one of the most efficient ways to learn your instrument, even if they aren’t as experienced as you. What? Huh? Seriously, there have been many times during the course of a lesson, or jam session with a friend, that I have picked up on something that I haven’t thought of before, or even seen an idea in a whole new light. Remember this young Jedi, there is always a lesson to be learned, even from a student or less skilled player.

O.K., now you noticed that I said “Share the Music”, and not “Steal the Music”. Even though our musical family is as dysfunctional as any family could possibly be, we still have a code that we live by. Think of it as your family responsibilities. Just as big brothers teach their little brothers to tie their shoes correctly, or how to hold a baseball bat, you have the responsibility, or duty, to Share your knowledge with those around you. Trust me when I tell you that it is an honor more than a duty. Just as you share your sound with the rest of the band, you should share your abilities with other guitarists around you. The whole idea of music is to share your sound, in a positive way, and contribute to the sound of the whole.

Let me now give you an example of what I’m NOT talking about. Everybody has seen these guys; two guys, standing in the back of the audience at the local bar. They have their arms crossed in front of their chest and are staring blankly at the band, every so often they lean over to comment to each other on how they could do it better, or how this sucked, or how the band sucks. They exist in the crowd like a big black hole of negative energy, confident that they are the superior musicians in the room, and it’s only a matter of time until the great mystical record label fairy will be drawn to their obvious talent and sign them on the spot to a lifelong record contract. They stare at the fingers of the guitarist on stage, trying to grab any little trick or scale that they can figure out and add it to their secret little black book of guitar knowledge.

These poor guys are the ones who will never share their knowledge with anybody. Truly, they have no idea what it’s all about. They consider the collective skills that they have learned as a golden goose that should never be shown to anybody else, in the fear that they might give the other guitarist an advantage over them, thus loosing their self imposed rank, and with it their imaginary status in our family. You know what? These are the guys who placed the ad in your local newspaper looking for a new guitarist saying “Must have look and attitude”. If you ever see that ad, run!

(In my best Yoda voice) Remember, there is always another who has more knowledge and skills than you. It is the wise guitarist who understands that there is always more to learn, and shares what they have learned with those around them. There is knowledge in the sharing.

All right! I think you have point. I’ll climb off my soap box now.

Today’s homework! Go share the music! Show your buddy a different way to play an E7 chord, or how to tie the strings on his new guitar. Sit in with a group of blue grass players out in the parking lot of your local festival and you will really learn something about sharing. Applaud the skills of those around you, and never be too proud to ask for advice or an explanation. And the next time your at your local music store, and that same young kid is sitting there in the corner, with a guitar that he can’t afford, struggling through a choppy version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, instead of laughing as you walk away, walk on over, pat him on the back, and tell him “Man, that’s starting to really come along, good job.” We are all on the same musical journey and we could all use a little help.

The gifts that you share today will echo through the generations of musicians that have yet still to come. You’re a member of our family now, and I’m counting on you to do your part.

Now go get me a beer, it’s your turn to mow the lawn.