Evolution of a musician

August 21, 2008 10:31 AM

Everybody starts from scratch and grows into musicianhood. I'm wondering if folks would be interested in putting together something like short personal histories of how they got from not-a-musician to where they are now.

I've been thinking about this partly because of chococat's great Evolution of a Song thread; I spent yesterday going through a bunch of my old recordings and thinking about then vs. now and the weird winding path I've taken as I've learned one thing and another about song-writing, recording, performance, arrangement, etc.

I think that at some point (maybe sooner, maybe later) I'm going to try to put together a sort of Personal History of Musical Josh based on a timeline recordings, but it strikes me that I'd be really interested in seeing how other people have come down the path, and I think it'd be awesome to see some examples of that both in terms of storytelling and in terms of annotated recordings-over-time. Your first demo; recollection of how you started doing music; the band stuff you've been through; what you see as different between you Now and you Then and how you crossed that gap.

Folks just sharing in this thread would be awesome in itself, so go crazy, but if anybody is interested in trying to create a little more of a concrete artifact, it might be neat (and make for a great loosely-collaboritive meta-Music project) to try and collect those things together. Any ideas or brainstorming welcome here; it's a pretty rough idea in my mind at this point.
posted by cortex (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

My Old Songs project was something like this, except that it was, to a small extent, a way of revisiting my own biography through the songs I've written in the past 10 years.

The question of going from a non-musician to being a muscian, or composer, or anything at all, for that matter, is a really interesting one to me. I started taking guitar lessons when I was eight, but did not write my own first song until I was eighteen. I had studied classical guitar, and, in my teens, dropped out of lessons and started teaching myself, first by memorizing chord shapes, then by learned rhythm guitar. I worked for a while at summer camps as a songleader, and continued to educate myself on basic music theory. I played with chord substitution a lot, and, after a while, the song you started with, when you have swapped out enough chords, starts sounding like something else altogether. I suppose this started to give me the idea that I might be able to come up with my own melodies.

Eventually I started fingerpicking. I taught myself Blackbird, by the Beatles, and I actually thought to myself, well, if I can play this, maybe it's time I started writing some songs.

But I always found myself a little hamstrung by the guitar. I had played it for so long, my hands just naturally moved into the same places on the fretboard, and everything I wrote had a certain sameness to it. In my early 20s I bought a ukulele, and, while it plays very much like a guitar, it doesn't sound precisely like a guitar, and guitar techniques on it sound quite a lot different. Because the uke only has four strings, it was a lot easier for me just to throw my fingers down and see what sounds came out, and then try to think of a song around that. The uke had an old-timey sound, and I wanted to write old-timey music -- I was listening to a lot of sweet jazz from the 20s and 30s. It was a lot easier to just explore those sounds with the uke than I think it would have been with a guitar.

I've been in a sort of country, country-blues, and British Isleas folk music mood lately, and so that's what a lot of my songs have been rooted in, although I don't bother to be rigorous about it. I just goof around until I start hearing sounds I want to hear. I've thrown out music theory, at least consciously; most of my songs wind up moving around the music wheel in fairly ordinary ways, but not because I'm thinking, oh, I just played a tonic chord, it's time to move toward the subdominant, etc. Instead, it's because I played something I liked, and then fished around for a soung that came after it that I liked. I think my melodies have gotten a lot more interesting as a result, although I went through a phase when my songwriting became truly baroque, back when I was immersed in music theory, and I have tried to pull back from that as much as possible, and try to write simply and clearly.

Usually, when you hear something on MuFi, you're hearing the first recording of it, made seconds after I finished writing the thing, often the first time I have sung it completely through. I own a condescer mic and have a pretty good recording setup on my computer, but, for whatever reason, I prefer to sing directly into my digital camera on video mode, and then strip the sound off the MOV file and convert it into an MP3. There's a spontaneity and lack of fuss to that approach that I really like, and, what the hell, the recording is already going to be rough and faltering.

Lyrically, well, I just try to tell stories. My stuff is rarely autobiographical, but is generally informed by whatever I'm thinking about when I write them. I think about England, I write a song about London; I think about moving back to Los Angeles, I write about a man and a girl driving to California. I borrow heavily from folk traditions of songwriting, and so my lyric writing tends to borrow themes and tropes from that, but more than anything I try to tell a complete (albeit brief) tale, the same way I would when sitting down to write a short story or poem.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2008

My parents wanted to join the choir and take piano lessons when I was young, but I didn't really get on board till I played with a tiny Casio keyboard. I wanted to play Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. That was their way to get me to take piano lessons, and that was my way to start playing rock music.

I was lucky enough to have a piano teacher during high school who was very, very liberal with our lessons. When I told her I wanted to experiment with writing songs, we shifted the entire focus of our piano lessons to writing. She also planted the idea that I ought to get classical training instead of just following the standard rock 'n' roll dream. I ended up majoring in music in college because of it.

I also have to confess it's the pilot episode of 3-2-1 Contact that got me interested in the recording process. Must have been 10 or so. I can thank the Children's Television Workshop for all the cash I've blown on gear in the last few years.

A lot of the stuff I post to MeFi Music was written over the course of the last 20 years but not recorded till now, what with home recording becoming a lot more sophisticated. I have one old cassette demo and a binder full of manuscripts. So charting an evolution is a bit harder. I can, however, try to date the songs I posted here:

1987, rev. 2006: Untold Demons The revision is so drastic, I really ought to consider this a new song. The original was never recorded and exists only as a manuscript.
1987: Silver Sting
1989, rev. 2006: Dusk Same as "Untold Demons", the original song -- which had a different title and different lyrics -- was never recorded but differs significantly from the manuscript.
1991: String Quartet No. 1
1991: Take It Apart
1993: No Exit
1995: Palomino
1995: Hear the Wind Sing
1997: Three Prayers in Irish Gaelic
1999: enigmatics II
1999: enigmatics IV
1999: Speechless
2001: Revulsion
2001, 2005: Dismissal
2001, 2005: Restraint
2003: Our Best Wasn't Enough
2005: Imprint
2005: A Simple Song
2005: Here
2006: NaSoPiAlMo No. 6
2007: What I Deserve
2007: Kousoku
2007: Kiite wa Ikenai, Itte wa Ikenai
posted by NemesisVex at 12:12 PM on August 21, 2008

I've basically been a visual artist my whole life. I liked the music classes in middle school, where we (some of us, anyway) learned to play basic acoustic guitar. This was in my native Norway. I was pretty shy about singing, but my music teacher noticed I was good at singing harmonies -- although I think that at the time he was likely being very kind. I got an electric guitar for money that I saved up. I had wanted a sleek black Stratocaster style guitar, but then, in a last minute incomprehensibly weird taste switch-up, I went for a pink one with painted flowers on it. It basically looked like pink barf, at least in retrospect. I thought I was being bold and edgy and rock and roll.

Anyway, I liked playing guitar because I wasn't really aiming to be great at it. I wanted to be a great visual artist, while music was just a hobby. So there was no pressure, and thus I found myself really enjoying it as a diversion. In addition to playing guitar, I messed around quite a bit with tracker software on the Commodore Amiga.

In music class, our final project was to pair up with someone and write a melody for an already written text of our choice, and then perform it in a room in front of our teacher. I matched up with this guy who I hear later became a jazz musician. We wrote a really good melody to the "Stopping By Woods" poem by Frost. I still play the song now and then, and I intend to record a version of it eventually. Look out for it on MeFi Music in, like, 6 months.

My guitar playing didn't really progress much, and for a few years I hardly ever touched a guitar. When I reached college age I moved from Norway to Baltimore to attend a good art school. I bought myself a black Fender Squier to keep me company, and started playing a bit again when I had time. Four years later I moved to New York and it was really then, or a couple of years after, that I got going writing songs.

My first songs were not guitar-based. I had come to the extreme conclusion that guitar was the easy way out and completely unoriginal. Also, drums were the backbone of all popular music, therefor to be interesting my music needed to have no drums. Ideally it should also have no rhythm. I created a bunch of pseudo-jazzy blips and blops and things recorded backwards and samples of Jay Leno's squeaks and a stripper from a PBS documentary talking about her business opportunities, and things of that nature.

Gradually I realized that my music wasn't so much interesting as it was bad. So I decided that before I go all experimental, I should learn to actually craft a normal song. I had a goal to make a song sound so normal and so good that it could be mistaken for a professional recording. In my biased opinion I reached that goal after maybe a couple of years, and then I sought to do it again. Then I wanted to make an album's worth of release-worthy material.

Fourty-ish such songs later, here I am. And I still kind of feel like I'm just making these "ordinary" songs temporarily until I return to a more experimental sound. I'm currently trying to gradually make my songs more peculiar yet still well-crafted in terms of production, etc.
posted by edlundart at 9:59 PM on August 21, 2008

Oh -- and along the way I picked up a couple more guitars, a MIDI keyboard, various thumb harps and other cheap sound makers, a microphone and FL Studio. The barfy pink guitar is long gone.
posted by edlundart at 10:02 PM on August 21, 2008

I used to carry my guitar in a gunny sack, go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track...

Buuuuut, seriously... this is a good post, cortex, and I look forward to reading what folks have to say. I've actually got bios and all that, here and there on the web, that anyone interested could go and read, but if I think of something that really sheds light somehow, in some concise way, on my own evolution as a musician, I'll post it here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:09 PM on August 21, 2008

My dad has always loved music. He has an awesome record collection, and he's played alto sax since he was in high school. He held weekly "jams" in my house when I was a kid, where he would play his guitarron as a bass and his friends came over with guitars, keyboards, drums, and other instruments. Still to this day, anytime there's any sort of gathering of people, a dinner or a ski trip or anything like that, my dad's the first one to take out a guitar or two and turn the evening into a singalong. I'm that way too, and I get it from him.

I had an interest in learning guitar since I was fairly little, and after several failed attempts to learn from my dad - with my twin sister at my side, arguing with me over who got to hold the guitar - I finally started taking regular lessons from a guy who ran band workshops that my friend had participated in. He was great, very patient and nice, and started with the uber-basics and moved on to teaching me my favorite songs. A year or so later - age 17 or so - I came across an series of instructional cassettes by Stefan Grossman - fingerpicking for beginners. It was, in short, the single greatest thing that had ever happened to me. I learned Freight Train, Oh Papa, Buck Dancer's Choice, Louis Collins, Stagolee, and many others. I'm not sure I can think of anything that's happened in my life before or since that gave me THAT much pure joy and excitement - I remember watching my fingers dance around, making beautiful music, and being stunned that the fingers were mine.

From there, I started buying CDs by Grossman and other fingerpicking wizards - John Renbourn, Duck Baker, Davey Graham, Dave Evans, Martin Simpson - and it's all I played. I then heard that Duck Baker was moving from Richmond, VA to Richmond, CA, and managed to get his phone number. I called him up one day, which was harder even than calling a girl I liked - this guy was one of my heroes and I was asking him to give me lessons. He was blunt over the phone. Not mean, just very curt. I remember him asking me, "you're not afraid of Black people, are ya?" as he was giving me directions to his house. "Um, no," I said. I remember wondering if he was being funny about his neighborhood, or if he was a racist.

The first lesson was extremely intimidating. I was nervous and sweaty-fingered and fucked up most of the tunes I tried to play for him. To make matters worse, as I played for him, he was rummaging around his little apartment, talking on the phone, and playing with his cat. Finally he came back into the room and said, "good, that's good. Let me show you something." He took my guitar and started playing one of his tunes. At that moment, it was as if Jimi Hendrix had taken my guitar - MY GUITAR! - and launched into Voodoo Child just for me. That's how it felt. The main thing he was showing me was that I wasn't using the ring finger on my right hand, which was severely limiting my fingerpicking abilities. I also was doing pull-offs the wrong way, and not using my left thumb properly.

I took lessons once a week for a couple years. He would forget to show up about once every four lessons and compensated me with a free CD of his each time. I have them all now. I never got comfortable around him, never could call him "Duck" to his face, never completely got over my star-struckedness. But it was some of the most fun I've ever had. I was particularly drawn to his Celtic arrangements, for some reason, and it's mostly those that I learned. Airs, jigs, hornpipes, slip jigs, reels, marches, planxties, and set dances. He mixed in some jazz, bluegrass, and gospel tunes as well.

He was a weird guy. He doesn't listen to any sort of pop music; he doesn't think anyone has done anything creative with a guitar since Hendrix. He never sings, and doesn't listen to music with lyrics. He's also the greatest guitar played I've ever seen with my own eyes.

I used to record music on my little boombox, borrowing my sister's if I wanted to record two tracks. The early songs I wrote are fairly embarrassing now - titles like "A place where most would drown" and "the cold and tired ocean." I never played them to anyone except my girlfriend. Then in college I started using N-Track, which was a revelation: I could use several tracks at once. Then later I found garageband, and after much experimentation, that's where I am now. I've never performed much aside from appearances at the Freight and Salvage, often with my good friend wemayfreeze. We'd sing our own tunes, likes Naked Baker and Perfect Time to take a Crap in the Sink," and our Shaggy Medley and acoustic Ladi Dadi (Slick Rick, not Snoop).

That's pretty much my story. I feel like I actually haven't really improved in the last 7 years or so, which is frustrating. It's probably time to learn a new instrument. But I still have guitars strewn about the house, and I still feel empty if I don't pick one up at least once a day for a few minutes of pickin'.
posted by ORthey at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

I hesitate to post anything in this thread because I have a great respect for the musicians who have posted and the ones who might post. To me, music is like sex. Everybody does it, some better than others. From an intellectual perspective, I've been fascinated by the idea that music informs. It probably seems obvious and simplistic, but I have a feeling that it is much deeper than I imagine, and please forgive me for being trite, but more than I can imagine. I'm not speaking of lyrics (which to me is poetry set to music), but the music itself. I'm not being very clear. I wish I could do better.

Personally, I mimic what I like. I've listened to a lot of classical music and use those ideas in what I write. I'm attracted to anything strange, because it is a new way of representing old ideas, or because it represents new ideas, which is extremely rare.

I was forced to take piano lessons at a young age and hated it. My teacher struck my hands with a pencil (just like in the movies) when I went bad. The piano is perhaps the best instrument with which to learn music because of the multiple voices. It has been extremely beneficial to me in my appreciation of music and my ability to read music, though I can't play well.

During my teen years, I picked up a guitar and taught myself the popular songs. Again, if you know the piano, you can learn anything. It helped me to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff. Then I learn to play blues on a harmonica which opened up a whole new area for me. Being able to bend notes and grab those tones we don't normally hear opened up a new way of thinking for me.

I'm not skilled at playing any instrument, unfortunately. But I consider myself lucky that I can hear music in my head, either music I've heard (seriously, almost like listening to an actual performance; I don't fear being marooned on an island), or music that is "created" in my head. I don't think of writing music as my own, but rather in discovering (uncovering?) something that already exists, more like just passing along information.

This is a great idea, cortex. I'm not the most accomplished musician here, but I thought I'd add my comments seeing as how you asked. Thanks!
posted by sluglicker at 10:55 PM on August 23, 2008

I'm not the most accomplished musician here, but I thought I'd add my comments seeing as how you asked.

No, that's awesome, sluglicker. There's no invisible "you must be this tall" sign out front this thread or anything.

These have all been great, really. Keep it coming, folks.
posted by cortex at 7:02 AM on August 24, 2008

I have to thank my mother. One day when I was 8 yrs old she turned up at school and took me out of class. We walked up the hall into a music room where I met my first music teacher. There were no violins, so he gave me a viola. The next 5 years or so I spent learning from him - both at school and then privately.

Then at the age of 13, my mother again turned up at my school. She took me out of class, put me in the car (my viola was in the back seat) and drove me to a different school. When we got there I had to do an audition, which went well, and I was invited to start music classes at that school in the new school year. That part of my education substantially developed my musical sensibilities and exposed to me a wide variety of musical experiences.

The last step was down to me really - I decided to teach myself guitar. Which has been the most satisfying part of my musical life.

But basically, it's all down to my mother.
posted by awfurby at 10:43 PM on August 24, 2008

I'm late to the party, but I'll add in my story, because it's been a long, oddly well-documented ride. I hope you find it amusing.

My family sat me in front of my grandma's piano as a toddler to keep me occupied, because my terrible twos were TRULY terrible. The random annoyance-banging became musical intervals and simple phrases, and my uncle fondly recalls the first time I noted aloud that "those notes rhyme!" Dad had a portable keyboard with a note-record function, and I played with that too.

Eventually, I figured out how to string together a bunch of phrases ("tricks") that sounded good in series, and I developed a small repertoire of songs to play for my family, in various modes and keys. My terrible twos became my terrible threes, fours, eights, and I spent a LOT of time in front of that damned piano, but never got lessons. I DID get a Nintendo, though, and decided that someday I would write music for games like my favorites: Ninja Turtles and Contra.

With flowcharts and heartfelt essays, I convinced my family to buy me a computer with a Sound Blaster, and a fancier portable arranger keyboard. I read a bunch of books about MIDI, studied the MIDI files that came with various computer games and various cheap "10,000 PC Wallpapers and Sound Themes" CD-ROMs, and eventually got a modem.

From the moment I first connected to the Internet, my progress accelerated tenfold, having discovered a whole world of composers, mod trackers, online music communities, and more information than I could ever hope to absorb. Coincidentally, my scholastic performance also went into a nosedive; I struggled with bipolar disorder, and obstinately refused to take anyone else's advice until I'd learned things the hard way.

I became grievously truant, skipping high school to go the public library and read about classical and jazz theory, which taught me math and physics and history all at once. Dead-set on becoming a professional composer, but unable to muster the discipline to finish high school, much less earn a formal education, I dropped out and committed to self-study even if it meant living in pretty laughably awful conditions while I made my first connections. I "failed at life" 3 or 4 times, and my parents' door was open to me each time. Bless their souls.

I wrote hundreds (now thousands) of songs, improving each time, but constantly feeling inadequate, learning new chords, instrumental methods, genres, technologies. Once I started collecting various pieces of gear and learning how to play guitar, it became necessary to learn how to mix and engineer my own work. That's an area in which I'm still just breaking the surface (by which I mean: I still suck), and I expect it to be a lifelong challenge. Composition definitely is.

I type this today from my studio at a large video game company, having eventually developed the discipline and people-skills to work my way up, and having been lucky enough to meet some great people. My idiotic teenage arrogance is splashed all over hobbyist forums and websites, and I ate cold Chef Boyardee for almost a decade. But I did what I set out to do (including music for Ninja Turtles AND Contra games), and continue studying and improving in my own home, with a wife and a puppy and very good friends. Might even go to college sometime, learn how to conduct and study jazz at a higher level. I dream of being a bandleader some day.

The problem is, I ..still eat cold Chef Boyardee. It's so wrong, but feels so right.
posted by jake at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2008

That is an awesome story, jake, and you have my envy for managing to realize the childhood "I will work in video games!" dream.

"those notes rhyme!"

Ha! That's one of the best things I've heard all week, and it's a weirdly great distillation of the idea of harmony as an analogy to other creative territory.

a fancier portable arranger keyboard

PSR-500 represent! That was my first keyboard—I saved up over a middle-school summer of "baby-sitting" a couple of neighbor kids who were a few years younger than me and went to Costco with four hundred bucks in hard-earned cash.

I spent hours and hours with that thing. I arranged, among other things, an earnest recreation of Tiffany's version of I Think We're Alone Now.

I could probably do a passable job of recreating demo track 3 from memory.
posted by cortex at 10:08 AM on August 28, 2008

HAHA!!! Ugh, memories of sixth and seventh grade school talent shows, "Great Balls of Fire" and "You Can Call Me Al" respectively, which I painstakingly sequenced on that goddamn keyboard, my reward each year a hellacious beatdown after school, and "balls" jokes for months. Can't say I didn't have it coming. Jesus.

And, wouldn't you know, I bought mine at Costco too!

We should do a PSR-500 demo song remix EP -- Song 1 influenced my style more than probably anything besides Michael Jackson albums. FOUR da. da. da... THREE. da. dada.. TWO da. da. da... ONE. (snare snare kick kick SNARE)
posted by jake at 11:12 AM on August 28, 2008

I'd like to give a big shout out to Maria Juana for being a profound influence on my continuing evolution as a musician. Peace, baby, I'll be seeing you again soon!
posted by not_on_display at 6:18 AM on September 9, 2008

Yeah, n_o_d, I knew ol' Maria, too. Thing is, she was always telling me I was a genius, and, well, she often lied.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:17 AM on September 9, 2008

Man, my Maria is never telling me I'm a genius! She just turns the neon sign on and serves great coffee (substitute).

Also crucial in my evolution as a musician is: don't listen to any one type of music. In the same way writers should read a lot of different stuff and styles to broaden their palates, I try to ingest whatever I can check out of the library, ripping the CD's to my drive and downloading a shuffled playlist to wherever I'm listening.
posted by not_on_display at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2008

I mostly hang out with guys named Glen and Longneck.
posted by cortex at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2008

They tend to tell me, "hey, look. It's a take. Next track."
posted by cortex at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2008

I've got an "album" for which Jim Beam ought to get half of the writing credit, but anymore, I just get clumsy. Had a really sublime meeting with Maria recently, too, but while the spirit was more than willing, the fingers were entirely unwilling to fing, and the attention, unable to span.

I do agree with n_o_d about listening to a variety of styles, though. I see myself as a musical mimic, more than anything else, and it always makes me really happy to discover a nuance of a genre that I hadn't noticed before, so that I can appropriate it.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2008

This is starting to feel like justification for a new thread: "Chemicals And You".
posted by cortex at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2008

cortex: This is starting to feel like justification for a new thread: "Chemicals And You".

Nawwww dude, let's just play the alphabet game instead. Wait... what were we talking about? Oh yeah, right...

I do want to add that while Maria Juana el Chirrido de las Aves helps music playing to be more fun than a chore, she definitely can be a diversionary black hole. Many a band practice that started out with a plan has been derailed by Maria. Many "cool jams" have been forgotten (but such is the nature of jams).

But as for the evolution of me as a musician, she definitely opened my fuckin' ears up, got me out of many a rut, and didn't make me feel like shit the next morning. Much more so than her bastard brother, Al C. O'Haul.
posted by not_on_display at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2008

Wow I'm an idiot, for a sec there I thought you all actually knew some chick named Maria Juana.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2008

I didn't really start evolving as a musician until maybe six or seven years ago. I took a few lessons from my aunt in grade school, and a couple friends and I had a crappy punk band when I was 19, but I really treated the guitar just like I did when I played with my Grandma's as a child-- more stringing interesting noises together than making music.

As I got older I decided it was embarrassing to tell people I played the thing without being able to play an actual song for them, so I started learning some old punk songs by playing along to the record. I had a bunch of chord progressions from years of fooling around, so I picked up some multi-track software to see if I could figure out how to play melodies over them. This is the first song I ever did like that, and these two are also from that time.

In May 2008 I got a call from my friend Paul saying his old band Red On Strike was getting back together and needed another guitar, but he didn't have time to do it. So I said what the hell- I haven't been in a band in years, how hard could it be to play 2nd guitar? I called the bass player Steve and the first thing he said to me is "You play lead, right? Cuz Cameron doesn't really play leads. And it would be cool if you have some songs, because Paul wrote most of them before and we don't really want to do that stuff..."

So I dove in headfirst, and it was a great chance to grow. I came in to the first practice with a bunch of song parts that nobody really knew what to do with, and two songs complete with lyrics that we locked down that day. One of those songs, Makin' Steps, ended up on the MeFi Comp. (I hear there might be a few still available.) We were a pretty straight ahead punk band on the songs I was writing like You Are The One and Regrets, but able to mix things up a bit with a song like Cameron's Bleeding Hands.

It was probably our best song and the song that became the downfall of that lineup, because it caused us to add Cam's girlfriend as a second vocalist. It felt right when they did that song together, and it worked really well when Yvonne called her up on stage at our first show. The problem is it never really worked on any other song, none of us knew how to fit her in, and she didn't have the background to write backup parts for herself. She ended up just singing along with the lead vocal, and that can get really muddy. In the end they both decided to leave the band.

Our drummer had also quit about the same time, so I got a friend to sit in with us on a "temporary" basis (it's been a year and a half, he ain't going nowhere) and we found another guitar player who was really talented to join up. Steve had always told me that my songs didn't have enough of a hook, so I tried to focus on that with songs like Same Thing and Three In The Morning. But our new guitarist didn't really like working on stuff that was already written, saying he'd rather just jam things out. Or maybe I was too dismissive of his input; I have a tendency to want people to learn the whole song before we start making changes. We only wrote two new songs during the year he was with us, but we tried to rework a lot of the old material to slow it down and make it better fit his vision of what the band could be. In the end it just didn't work out, and he also decided to move on.

By that time all of us were frustrated, and pretty much ready to call it quits. So I suggested that we start off with a clean slate-- just the four of us with a new name, playing none of the old songs. It's really re-energized us to work on new material, and we're all comfortable enough with each other that it's a lot of fun. It's a great opportunity for me to grow as a guitarist, but a lot of pressure as well because it can be a lot harder to sound full with only one guitar. Right now the practice tapes are a little rough, but I'll post some new tunes in the future.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2008

I've always said that it just has to be an obsession... something that defines you to the point where if you aren't gigging/writing/recording (whatever your fetish happens to be - mine is definitely performance) ... you're depressed and crabby. If I go a week without a gig, I'm pretty hard to live with.

I don't know if it's just that most musicians are so crap at intimacy that they can only express themselves musically (thus, they can only be happy when playing)... but it certainly seems like that.

Everything else, like point A to point B stuff, is kind of semantics.

It really pisses me off when people start dissing notation and traditional music education techniques, though. Knowledge is power. More knowledge is more power. Every time I open my guitar case/sit at the piano/drums/etc... I learn something. When that ceases to be the case, I'll, um. Yeah.

Anyway, if it isn't something that wakes you up in the middle of the night sometimes, then I don't think you 'have the bug'.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:55 AM on November 18, 2008

Shit. I didn't answer that properly.

I got my mom's cheapshit old nylon guitar out of the cupboard when I was 10 or so. It had stickers on the neck so you could see how to finger a D Major Chord... and some book that showed a couple of others.

I played that guitar until people complained. Then, I got a cheap Peavey guitar and amp combo. After that, I started playing pretty much all hours. I was a misfit, and a pretty unpopular kid with a difficult family situation, and it very quickly began to define me. 25 years later, that is still very much the case.

I started taking proper lessons pretty quickly, and ended up teaching lessons myself shortly after that (in high school in the afternoons - the band director was a nice guy). I did a guitar performance degree at the local music school. I taught and played as much as possible, and still do.

I have a day job mainly because I have a family to support, but that's really the only difference between me as a guitarist at 40 and me as a guitarist at 20.

All I can say is, read, study, take as many lessons from as many different GOOD teachers as possible. Don't be a snob. Learn it all.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:02 AM on November 18, 2008

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