Guitarist’s block… Is that a thing?

I have thought to myself on more than one occasion that my frustration as a Guitarist must be similar to what a writer would call writers block.

The hours that I have spent so frustrated with not seeing improvements in my skill, or speed,  that for days or even weeks, I’d just have no interest in playing. Then maybe I pick it up for a couple of moments, lose interest at playing the same old, same old and put the guitar back down again.

I think most musicians hate doing endless repetitive scales or arpeggios and yearn to be able to improvise like Miles Davis or Grant Green. Those same musicians most likely know the importance of these exercises in the grander scheme that is Music. It would be like writing your first book with a vocabulary of a five year old.

Conversely, i have heard from many guitarist friends of mine that the drive to play better and faster becomes almost an obsession. I myself have periods when I am not satisfied until I go through my drills and make no mistakes. And if I make a mistake, I just start over again.

I constantly think that I should be farther along in my development than I am, that maybe I should play in a Jazz band or push myself more. But, I just have to remind myself that I have many years of learning ahead of me, and when I am ready, I will do these things.

I also get constantly frustrated with what I call ‘Frankensteins Hand Syndrome’, where it sometimes feels like one (or both) of my hands feel like they have loose wiring between them and my brain. My brain seems to be very capable of learning fretboard patterns and chord shapes, but I sometimes feel let down by my fingerwork.

When guitarists block kicks in, it is tough to keep to a daily practice schedule. Everything becomes a chore, scales become lines on a blackboard, fingers feel sluggish, your brain just can’t be bothered. You know that if you don’t play for a while, it is going to be a pain in the butt to get back to where you are.

Luckily, the remedy for guitarists block is to get inspiration from something or someone in the form of a mentor. Inspiration can come in any form.

In the past, my mentors have included Django Reinhart, Buddy Guy, Grant Green, Thelonious Monk and most recently Paul Mehling of the Hot Club of San Francisco.

So, in the event that you find yourself in the grip of this horrible affliction, I would recommend copious amounts of trawling for inspiration. I found Youtube very effective, but live performances are best.


krappslasttape's Blog

ImageI started to take Clarinet lessons a few years ago, and so it seemed a logical (?) step to now try Jazz Improvisation. It seemed to make sense to stretch my ability a little further and improvisation appeared to offer lots of creative possibilities for me. I hasten to add that this was just one of the new endeavours that I had decided to embark upon now that I had left full-time employment. The flexibility of being self-employed presented me with the opportunity to do a variety of things that heretofore were difficult to fit into that limited time available outside work. I had a romantic notion that improvisation would be a free-flowing, relaxed, laissez-faire sort of playing. That’s how it looked whenever I saw Jazz musicians apparently just going with the flow and making it up as they went along.


I got a big shock. Four weeks of…

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major and minor

music & preschool

while rehearsing for our Christmas program, i found that class time allowed for more than just learning and running through the christmas songs. so each class receives a mini-music theory lesson.

once we completed our rhythm unit, it was time to take things in another direction. i fondly recall the piano lesson in which i, age 9, learned to distinguish between basic major and minor chords. i was quite proud of my musical prowess and blissfully unaware that i was learning basic building blocks of modes.

translating that lesson to my 10 classes of preschoolers wasn’t an enormous leap. after all, they have the ability to differentiate between happy and sad, excited or mopey…music is much the same way.

these mini-lessons last about 10 minutes at most, and are very productive, especially since the little ones have the attention span of one level on Angry Birds. three weeks of major…

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makeson browne


Most musicians starting out in jazz will find their first audience in their peers. There’s a certain comfort in sharing one’s ideas and struggles (in performance) with musicians, as they more than often share similarities in their growth and general evolution.
History has shown that musicians have always been an audience to great artists and composers who inspire and move them. From Stravinsky to Duke Ellington and from Led Zepllin to Nirvana etc. Musicians are audiences whether they listen to albums, check out scores or go out and watch a live performance. A problem arises when musicians becomes one’s primary/target audiences.



The idea of having musicians as a primary audience has raised a few questions/thoughts about the purpose of the music that I play, personally. I found that my audiences has consisted of musicians for a long time and I’m questioning this much lately.

As soon as a…

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Nina Simone – Sinnerman (1965)


YouTube – AmazoniTunes – Discogs

Nina Simone 1971

I have already featured the funkier side of Nina Simone in this blog, but now for her exemplar jazz gospel rendition of ‘Sinnerman’. Nina Simone recorded her definitive 10-minute-plus version of ‘Sinnerman’ for her 1965 long player Pastel Blues. Simone learnt the lyrics of this song during her childhood and would use her interpretation as an end to her celebrated performances of the early 1960s. Have a great weekend.

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More Jazz Quotes!

“It doesn’t matter all that much. It’s just that when you’re playing, Stephane, you’ve got both Chaput and me backing you, but when I’m soloing I’ve only got one guitar behind me!” – Django Reinhardt

“I’m beginning to understand myself. But it would have been great to be able to understand myself when I was 20 rather than when I was 82.” – Dave Brubeck

“I don’t like rap music at all. I don’t think it’s music. It’s just a beat and rapping.” – Nina Simone

“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” – Charlie Parker

“Some people try to get very philosophical and cerebral about what they’re trying to say with jazz. You don’t need any prologues, you just play.” – Oscar Peterson

“Wrong is right.” – Thelonious Monk

“When I first came to New York everybody on the scene would treat me like I could play, but I couldn’t.” -Wynton Marsalis

“Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, man, jazz is jazz.” – Louis Armstrong

Quotes courtesy of

Monday, 11/19/12

music clip of the day

Albert Collins (1932-1993), “Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home,” live, Austin, Tx., 1988

How strange to think that Albert, a sweet, warm, gentle guy I had the good fortune to work with in the ’70s while at Alligator Records, has been gone nearly 20 years.



musical thoughts

There’s one cat I’m still trying to get across to people. He is really good, one of the best guitarists in the world.

Jimi Hendrix (1968)

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