So what does make a good guitar player? Depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? And maybe there needs to be an understanding before we get too far into it, that the question wasn’t ‘what makes good music?’ Occassionally those two questions can meet, but not always.
If you really want to find out how good the music is then maybe it’s not a good idea to ask a guitar player. Does that make sense at all? Here’s why. A lot of guitar players have a tendency to analyze the technical side of music; they’ll often stand in the front row and watch the the guitarist’s fingers and comment on the compexity of the music. This is all very well if we are trying to sort out how good the player is at finger gymnastics, understanding chord substitutions, harmony or the knowledge of scales etc.
I highly recommend that if you want to find out how good the music is, ask somebody that has ‘a good ear’ but does not play a musical instrument, otherwise the judgement might be a little too colored by the persons musical education.
I remember when I was talking to the guitar great Ike Isaacs about a certain guitar player that is rated at the top of his field. His comment was a turning point for me as a musician. Here’s an overview of what he said, ‘He’s brilliant, the best but the problem is he plays everything he knows in the one song’. Now as a young musician that wanted to be as good as the top guys, I had to rethink everything and decide what was important for me, and in the end, the only conclusion that I could come to was that the final result when playing music, is it needs to sound good (to a non musician this statement may possibly seem obvious but a lot of musicians miss this point), and ‘cleverness’ needs to be avoided. Good music obviously means something to each individual but in the end it has to listened to without the intellect getting in the way. When we get our ‘head’ out of the way and drop our musical bias and listen without judgement, it’s easier to enjoy the music more.
It took me a long time to like Bluegrass guitar. it wasn’t til I heard players like Tony Rice playing with David Grisman, Russ Barenberg, Norman Blake and Doc Watson that the ‘penny dropped’ about how good it was. And then when I tried playing it, it made a lot of sense on how brilliant it is for not only in developing a better ear but for my musicality. What I found was that while working through the Bluegrass tunes I could develop a fluency in my playing that was much more enjoyable than playing hours of scales that were monotonous and non-musical. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t play scales but they need to be kept in their place. An over emphasis on scales can make a guitar player sound like they are a brilliant scale player, get it?
So what does make a good guitar player? …..to be continued on the 17th Sept…..