Zen Rock
by Pril Stevenson

I recently dug out a book called “Zen Guitar” that I have. I wanted to lend it to someone I know who has mighty struggles with playing guitar. He’s a guy into the details (as most jewelers and goldsmiths are, and that’s what he does), but when he goes to play his guitar, the details are his death. He gets lost in them. He also gets hung up on the whole “All these people are better players than I am. How can I possibly compete?” I keep telling him he isn’t there to compete, but to play. Play, as in “Can Bob come out to play?”. He worries what people will think of him and how he plays his guitar. I don’t recall ever feeling so self-conscious of my playing that it impeded my ability to jam with other players, so I don’t even know what to tell him to get over that. People would tell me I sucked and I just shrugged and smiled, because I knew I got better all the time. Still getting better. zen-rock_sm_ukp05.jpgIf we wait until we’re the best before we seek the solace of playing with other people, some of us will never leave the bedroom with whatever instrument we play.

I gave him “Zen Guitar” and ordered him to empty out before he read it and dump all his ideas about music, because it gives you an entirely new way to look at your instrument, whether it’s the guitar or the zither. It IS as easy as “Plug in, tune up, make some noise”.

There was a quote in the book from Bruce Springsteen and I thought, “Ooh, what a great thing to write my thingie around", but I forgot to write it down before I passed the book along. So I will paraphrase it-

You get up there and sometimes it’s the most important thing in the world, but it’s only rock n roll. You have to find that balance.

This is the meat of my own problem with music. I’m schizophrenic about my attitude toward music. I can’t find the balance between the importance and the triviality of rock n roll, or the blues, or any of it.

And I just want to add a little note here for Cullen: Some really fantastic players have played the J. But some really, truly awful people have, too. The chunk of wood with some wires and bits of metal and a certain name on the headstock is NOT what is going to make or break you as a player. If you gave Jaco Pastorius a 20-year-old Cort with rusty strings and a warped neck, he still would have whipped anyone’s ass with it, smiling, and without breaking a sweat.

Well. All this stuff was connected, somehow. Discuss.

Pril knows the Lotus position but remembers it is only rock and roll.



If you gave Jaco Pastorius a 20-year-old Cort with rusty strings and a warped neck, he still would have whipped anyone’s ass with it, smiling, and without breaking a sweat.

That is, if he could control the DTs...


That is cool Pril. I am not sure if maybe your friend is a beginner or not but when you're just starting it can be easy to get intimidated by more experienced players. Takes a while to lose that I think and just do your thing. So that is cool that you are helping him out.


I picked up a guitar in high school. About a week later this kid with a 12-String walks into the open mike night at the coffeehouse where I'm working the soundboard and starts riffing off "Classical Gas" for about half an hour.

Traded the guitar for a full hide motorcycle jacket about a week later.


Point taken, Pril. While it's true that I can't help think about the great players who've played some of the great instruments, full disclosure is that I'm afraid of the premium price when I don't have premium motivation to play the instrument.

I do love the guitar. I just don't have the drive to turn myself into a better player right now.


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