Author: Christopher Lazare
It’s not hard to find an eight year old musical prodigy who can play incredibly technical pieces on the instrument you have played for years.
We can all get down on ourselves as well when we struggle to play the things a music teacher has asked us to learn.
Are these competitions something you want to be involved in? Will they discourage you so much that your instrument will end up in the closet or gathering dust in the corner of the room?
We all have purpose & all of our lives have meaning. Sometimes we get lost seeking approval or stuck behind a teacher and forget how meaningful each of our lives are.
B.B. King, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan & Neil Young never let their lack of technical ability hamper them. In 1993 Leonard Cohen won a Juno award for best male vocalist. Sometimes we are defined more by what we don’t do than by what we do. There’s a lot to be said for style.
As a guitar player, I spent years learning riffs. We all do. There comes a time though when we need to put these riffs behind us & to start being ourselves and expressing ourselves genuinely. If not, we are no different than a parrot.
Where do these riffs come from? If everyone just plays cover songs or repeats riffs, who then will write the songs for us to cover? Who will come up with the riffs for us to lazily fall into?
Sure, it’s rewarding when we impress our friends by playing a Stevie Ray Vaughan riff, but Stevie Ray had authenticity in what he did. How far do we take this parrot like approach? Do we buy the hat, jacket and boots too? Do we start talking with a yanky drawl?
We each have authenticity. It is our own. We are who we are. Live there!!! Live in that space!!! Be yourself and be confident about it. There is no other ‘you’.
Share your individuality. Put your music teacher behind you. Behind you as a support structure, supporting who you are. Supporting your individuality.
Yes, learn those popular riffs. Explore where they came from.
As a teenager, I figured out the guitar solo for Hotel California. There were so many lessons in that one solo. There’s many other guitar solos full of lessons. Explore them. Transcribe them. Then, throw them away.
Mark Knopfler is the guitar player for Dire Straits. When we hear a few notes, we know it’s him. We can hear him so clearly. His style and originality shines through anything he does. We can hear who he is. Humanity wants to hear who you are too.
Stuart Copeland was the dummer for the police. His style is undeniable. We can hear him. If a drummer starts playing like Stuart, all of the other drummers will call him out on it. His style is obvious. John Bonham from Led Zeppelin is the same. Undeniable style and approach to his life’s work.
B.B. King might be the best example. His music theory was limited, but he is respected by almost all of the worlds guitar players as an original. We can all play like him if we want to, but what for? I am not B.B. King. Neither are you. If B.B. chose to play like someone who came before him, in a parrot like fashion, the world would not have his life’s work to enjoy.
Also, I seriously doubt that B.B. King spent any time worrying about 8 year old prodigies and I don’t think he got caught up being defeated or defeating himself because he couldn’t figure out what his music teacher was trying to teach him.
One of my favourite guitar players is John Scofield. I jokingly say he is the drunken kung-fu master of guitar. His technical ability is through the roof, but sometimes he sounds like a kid who has only been playing guitar for a few days. He is playful with his instrument. Sometimes he tries to imitate a trombone solo or a trumpet. His technical ability and years of study have given him a freedom we could all envy, but why envy? That’s a waste of time. Listen, enjoy and be influenced by his work.
Whenever someone tells John Scofield there is some new guitar player who sounds just like him, he laughs. It never does. A parrot may be able to repeat the last thing you said, but the parrot has no idea of where the idea came from, why it came about, or the life sacrifices made along the way before it was said.
When it’s time, put your teacher behind you.
INFLUENCE. Be influenced. Let the music and technique of others flow through you. In one ear & out the other. No need to latch on to anything or try to convince yourself it is your own.
ABSORB. Learn as much as you can. Then put it aside & share your interpretation of music with the world.
There’s a brilliant Miles Davis quote “Learn it, Forget it, then act as if you never learnt it.”
You have purpose. Your life has meaning. What you do is important to the rest of us. Please don’t let us down. Be yourself and be confident in it. We can’t wait to hear what you do.