|No one needs a "quad guitar." Not even Michael Angelo Batio.|
By: David Von Bader
It would seem that everyone not bent on being a DJ these days is buying a guitar. In recent years, there have been unprecedented national advertisements for large chain music stores like Guitar Center all over radio and television, and the fact that a company like the aforementioned grew so successful that Bain Capital consumed them should say plenty about just how badly everyone wants to be a rock star.
However, most of us are not rock stars. And when it comes to the guitar, the saturation of players and the hero worship have made originality an even harder commodity to come by than ever. But simply playing the guitar should be enough to get you in the club, right? Wrong. Here are five signs that you might be missing the point and are in fact a shitty guitarist.
Do you love a specific guitarist so much that you want to actually be them? Have you acquired said player's signature guitar, amp, pedal, hat, sneakers, shitty tattoos, etc? Have you learned this person's entire library of licks? Here's the issue: You're nevergoing to be that player — you're just going to be the weird dude that appropriated another person's bit. More importantly, you're going to be chastised in perpetuity by people that have taken the time to develop their own thing, because it doesn't matter how hard you practice — you're still you. Worse yet, there are already so many people doing the nu-Hendrix/Page/Van Halen guy already, so stop it. Having influences is important, of course, but maybe just cover your tracks a little when you're forging an identity?
Are you a doctor, lawyer, or other such individual that parks a luxury automobile in a personalized parking space when you head into work? Do you obsess over the canon of Mike Bloomfield, Stevie Ray Vaughan, or Eric Clapton? Perhaps you have a vibrato that sounds like a goat trying to mount Diane Rehm as she conjures the ghost of Katherine Hepburn with a ouija board? Do you drag $10,000 Custom Shop Les Pauls or a bling-blang-blingin' Paul Reed Smith to your local waterin' hole for blues jams and then proceed to voice very serious opinions about the state of music and how you just don't "get" what the "kids" are doing these days on forums like Harmony Central? You're a weekend warrior and while that's fine and good, your sense of entitlement is giving working musicians and artists that spend their time eating Raman noodles in broken down vans for their art a serious case of the douche-chills. And for someone that listens to that much blues, you really should know better.
The '80s were a time when extreme athleticism was the standard on the guitar. Every dickhead with a pair of spandex pants and a Floyd Rose-equipped axe could outrun the next while naming the 7 modes and doing blow off of the hood of a Z28. The '90s saw the grunge movement hit the proverbial reset button, but there will always be the overly athletic player that walks all over a song. Athleticism can be fantastic in context — just look at someone like Wilco's Nels Cline — but seriously, no one but you wants to hear your screaming licks and fleeting scales fight for sonic territory with the rest of your band for an entire set. Play like you have something to say, not something to prove.
Have you been playing guitar for so long that you find yourself compelled to critique the playing of others? Do you consider anyone with a lack of technique's art entirely invalid? Maybe you went to Berklee for a few semesters and now see noise music, punk rock, or sonic experimentation of any sort as being made by people that couldn't learn how to "do it right?" You're out of line and more than likely a very boring player. Some of the most intriguing and artistically relevant music ever made was a product of poor technique, and overly developed technique can frequently provide the biggest barrier between true expression and sterility. At the very least, don't be a dick about how another person says what they have to say, because it's all valid.
The Life of the Party
Are you that dude that pulls an acoustic guitar out at parties and sings songs? Go fuck yourself. No one wants to hear you stumble over a Dave Matthews or a John Mayer song while you eyefuck girls. Leave the iPod on and grab another beer, you cretin. Also, you're probably not playing the song right: Every song on the planet was not constructed solely out of barre chords.