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.

To Bebop or not to Bebop? That is the question…

Inspired by http://www.opus28.co.uk/bebopperp.pdf

While surfing the internet this morning, I stumbled upon this piece and I remembered how and why I fell in love with Bebop.

Bebop is so much more than just a small movement from the 40’s, with a meagre following of die-hard supporters. According to the article above, it is “pretty much the “grammar” of modern jazz, and bebop “licks” are not so much clichés as essential elements of speech within the jazz language”.

I got hooked into Bebop from the moment I heard it in my favourite Coffee Shop. It was Charlie Parker I believe…

The first 30 seconds or so of the track started off and to a practical jazz virgin sounded pretty generic, jazz standard. Then… the bomb dropped! The next 3 minutes would change the course of my taste in music (yet again).

I remember sitting there mesmerised by the skill of the players, the way that they seemingly conjured up this melody from a collection of random notes. With ever member of the band saying their piece, with their own style and rhythm, in their own musical accent. As I have mentioned before, I love when I can feel the energy of the band, playing off each other, competing to try to out-do each other. It was as if I was sitting in the room with them, listening in on a jam session. I felt like I could almost reach out and touch them.

My favourite tracks from Jazz, to this day, still have the feel and the ambience of the Bebop movement.

Although it sometimes sounds random, or un-arranged, there are logical rules to this genre which were experimental and complex for the day. These were real musicians, who truly pushed the boundaries of what was possible with music.

Many of the musicians that came up through the “Bebop era”, like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and Sonny Stitt,  took the Bebop blueprints and evolved them into a myriad of different types of Jazz. The free-form style of Miles Davis, was a logical evolutionary step from the equally rebellious Beboppers all those years before.

Whether you like it or not, I believe, it was the Bebop generation that made Jazz as we know it.

For those of you who are new readers of my blog, don’t miss the Hank Jones Interview from last month, or take a glance at more Jazz articles

 

A few Jazz quotes…..

Coutesy of Allaboutjazz

I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.

— Miles Davis

Art is self expression. If you are expressing someone else’s personality, that is not art.

— Bennie Wallace

Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread–without it, it’s flat.

— Carmen McRae

In the midst of creating, a person is raised to another level of consciousness that doesn’t have that much to do with everyday thinking. It’s as if you could imagine life before there were words.

— Charlie Haden