Find your own voice

July 17, 2013

I often find that I compare myself to other solo guitarists.

It’s a bad habit to get into.

I have listened to so many fine players over the years, such as Tommy Emmanuel, Earl Klugh, Richard Smith, Adam Rafferty and Pete Huttlinger. These guys are heavyweights in the solo guitar world, and are highly regarded by many.
Trouble is, I ‘think’ I should play as good as these guys if I’m a ‘solo’ guitarist . I should be able to do it all, right? There’s that word – ‘should’.

When I practice, and make mistakes, I often berate myself and think thoughts such as ‘so-and-so wouldn’t do that’ … but in fact, they HAVE. And many, many times over. I started to slowly realise something : was I aiming too high, with the time available to me to practice these solo guitar classics? Maybe I was choosing the wrong material? Yes, I was. You see, in black and white terms, I just don’t have the time necessary to play some of the arrangements I was tackling in my woodshed!

I saw a segment on ABC few years back about Tommy Emmanuel, who said that he was asked to play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, all dressed up in a tuxedo, and play some classical guitar favourites. He said no to the gig, as he believed he wouldn’t be doing any justice to the music, or offering anything new. Although he ‘could’ play the material if required, it just wasn’t him. I took a lot from that article, as it makes a strong point about finding your own style, and developing it.  Another point he made was that he said that he’d love to play some of Ian Moss’s guitar solos, but he can’t, because he’s not Ian Moss! The penny started to drop for me.

My Solo Guitar Style

When I began to get more solo wedding & event gigs more regularly, I rediscovered my passion for playing solo instrumental guitar. I felt like I’d finally found my own style, after being in countless bands in Adelaide for so many years.I was never 100% musically satisfied playing in bands, and towards the end I was quite bored with the ‘3 chord tunes’ I played over and over. These days I actually enjoy playing & practicing more melodic music. Playing songs that I like, and getting paid for it, is something that I’m grateful for. Sure, it’s background music I guess, but I’m finding that there’s gigs out there for me. I just don’t worry these days if I’m playing ‘Satin Doll’ and ‘Just The Way You Are’ instead of ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  Another point is to remember that if I’m playing at wedding/cafes etc, I choose music that is ‘middle ground’, and the audience will know the melodies. I have recently taken most of the ‘guitar-y’ classics out of my sets, as the average patron just doesn’t know the songs, and hence I save myself a lot of wasted practice time and frustration. I still have in my sets a good mix of jazz, blues, pop and a little latin, and it’s more than enough to keep me practicing. The songs I choose now though are ones that are easier to maintain, e.g. I don’t stress too much if there’s an upcoming gig and I have to play that song.

So, to all you budding solo guitarists out there, sure, learn Classical Gas, Windy and Warm etc but don’t let it get you down if you aren’t cutting it as good as the big boys. Take some time to find other music you also like, perhaps arrangements that don’t take 3 months to learn , and that are within your reach for now.

There’s an audience out there for you, I guarantee it.



One Response to “Find your own voice”

  1. […] Find your own voice. […]

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