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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. If 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.