Listen to Yourself.


If it’s one thing I’ve learned from time, and playing guitar it’s be nice to you. By that I mean don’t constantly beat yourself up over your abilities. The much told phrase “I’m my own worst critic” is one of the most truthful statements mankind has probably ever made. Because each one of us resonates in the universe just a little differently than our friends means we all see things a little differently, we hear things that others may not hear. This is especially manifested in music. But it applies to everything else as well.  

There are people who can play guitar a lot faster than I can. I look at them and the first thing that used to pop up into my mind was, “hey I’ve been doing this longer than they have and they are better than I am.” Faster maybe, not better. If you mention the band Dire Straits, most folks know who Mark Knopfler is. He is the main driving force in the band, and their only guitarist. Most of Marks Music down through the years is very melodic and beautiful. He’s become a famous musician because he writes his music from his heart and he hears it from his heart. Mark can play fast as well but he chooses to make his music as melodic and pretty as he can. He strives to do this, and it has taken him as far as or perhaps further than some of the guys shredding guitar these days.  

I also read Guitar Player Magazine. A wonderful publication too I might add. But I am constantly reminded by this publication of how many really great guitar players there are in the world. It’s staggering actually. This can be intimidating if you let it. We shouldn’t let it. You take a really great guitarist and put him next to another unknown guitar player chances are the great one will like how the other one plays because the other plays and executes his music differently. I don’t know of many guitar players whose head is installed so far up their asses that can’t learn a new lick or two. Most players such as Jeff Beck are really down to earth people. Jeff has this young lady named Tal Wilkinson (hope I got her last name right) play with him from time to time. She’s just a youngster and she is really good. It’s so heartening to see this sort of thing. It just amplifies her drive on the instrument; she’s a bass player by the way.   

L and I have had so many conversations about playing. Laraine is relatively new to the bass. She has this tremendous capacity and drive to learn music. I can see it in her. After doing this for almost 40 years, (yeah can you believe that?) I can see the player inside her. It would be criminal if she were to quit playing. I can see this because of the way she holds her instruments, she’s not afraid of them. Some people hold onto a guitar like it’s a dead cat or something. Not L, and just thru that illuminates the musical spirit within her. It shines thru to other musicians. If I were to ask her band mates if they saw this in her ALL of them would say yes!   So the trick to this is to keep it going, keep the spirit bright. This applies to all of us not just musicians. We are all destined to do something. God doesn’t put us here for the hell of it. I was blessed with two parents both of whom were gifted musically. I got a double barrel of music shot at me a long time ago. I am thankful that both of my parents were insightful enough to encourage the music within me. What a gift to give your child. We never had much money. So I never wound up with lots of fancy clothes, toys, cars but what I did come away with was such an appreciation for music and with an attitude all I had to do was work at it. I think sometimes this spirit is killed by selfish “me first” parents. They unknowingly kill this spirit in their children and that my friends is selfish and a crime. 

So I have developed a way that keeps me playing year after year. This can apply to anything else we as humans want to do too. Several years ago during my “hippie times” as most of us our age remember, was the year we heard of “transcendental meditation.” Ravi Shankar’s sitar droning in the background, strange looking folks sitting cross legged with eyes closed thinking about God knows what.  Meditation takes many forms. First of all I consider it a discipline. To some of us discipline has a negative connotation. It sounds like something unpleasant and forceful. Actually it isn’t. A discipline to me is something that takes study, and time and thought. If this isn’t like meditation then I’ll throw in with ya.  Practicing and playing a musical instrument is a discipline, and it’s also meditation too. If guitar were an easy instrument to play then everyone would be playing it. How nice that it isn’t!  It can be daunting too. It can be discouraging at times, but only if we let it get us down.  It is challenging to say the very least. So I decided that when I was starting to get something that resembled intelligent sounds out of a guitar that I needed to continue with it. So  I developed what I call “fooling myself.”  It takes a few different forms. The first one I figured out by accident one day. I was playing and got frustrated. I didn’t like how I sounded and couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I wasn’t having fun. So I put it down. I never picked the guitar back up for a month after that. When I did I was scared that I would not even be able to play it again. But I did, and I liked what I was playing. It was almost like it was brand new and so I also decided that I would not get to the point that almost washed me out on it before.  I decided to put it down way before I got tired of playing it. So the very next day I couldn’t wait to pick it back up! Sounds simple huh? Well judging where that burn out point is takes some time. It takes listening to yourself. It takes introspection. But somehow I managed to find it. I still do it to this day. I must admit that my endurance on the instrument now is not measured in half hours as I can play for hours and still have a smile on my face. I should be able to because of the length of time playing.

   The next part of the story is in the equipment you are using. Here again I refer back to my conversation with Laraine yesterday. She was distressed over her amp’s behavior, and even more so from the amp tech that told her “there’s nothing wrong with your amp.” I understand her distress.  The whole thing here is if your guitar or amp isn’t doing what you want with it then it does not matter if the president of Gibson Guitars tells you there’s nothing wrong with your guitar or amp , that’s bullshit. If it isn’t getting YOU musically from point A to point B then there is something wrong with it and it’s time to replace it. I wish I had all of the guitars, amplifiers I’ve been thru in the last 38+ years I’ve been playing I could open a guitar store.  Until you find the ideal amp and guitar most insightful musicians will “play all the notes out of an amp.”  I have done this with several amps. My current amp is a Marshall MF 350. It’s one I’ll stick with because it continues to amaze me every time I play it. Same thing with my 8 string.  L will find a new amp, something I’m committed to help her with. This will keep her playing and make her practice sessions fun and something she will look forward to. It’s my job as a friend and fellow musician to see her aspire to her highest attainable point in her musical life. Hey if buying a new amp is what it takes to make her musical life continue it a cheap price to pay for such a rewarding accomplishment. New instruments are ways of “fooling yourself” like new amps are too. I have “fooled myself” for years in music. I’m my own fool here if you want to look at it like that.  Hell I’ll be the court jester for music. It makes my soul alive.  

Anything you love to do is good for the soul. It doesn’t’ have to be music. All the gear head guys I love are like this. It amounts to a constant refinement of the art. Most musicians, mechanics, hot rod builders are in a constant state of flux. We are striving for perfection. We won’t ever reach it but get “PDC” (pretty damn close. 🙂 )   There’s only one entity that’s perfect, God. He knows how much I’ve asked of Him to help me with my music.  It’s okay to ask this of Him too, I think He likes this. 

We don’t’ have to be a musician for any of this to work. If you are a housewife, which I think is probably one of the most difficult things to be, you also can apply this sort of stuff I think. What I’m saying here really is to love yourself for who you really are. You are special in the universe. You are star dust as we all are. You are the constituents of a thousand super novas, which make you special for sure. You have a unique celestial signature that only you have. Listen to yourself and your heart. You are beautiful in your own special way. Everyone is. Be happy with how you see things and if you think you need work in some area then approach it with a smile and don’t worry about it. It will work out. If it takes some “fooling yourself” kind of logic to do it then so be it. There are always people who can do things we can’t. These same people see you the same way, they see someone that can do things they can’t. So really it’s in balance.  This is the way I handle things from one day to the next. No one’s told me I’m all wet, maybe I am but so far it’s working for me and the Dog. Actually I learn a lot from my Dog. He’s smarter than I am in more than a few ways. I think animals are human’s mentors, we just haven’t figured out how to listen to them yet. 


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