I thought for the final instalment of the column, it might be fun to talk about some of the ways guitar has enhanced my life. I’m sure you have these stories too and we’d love to hear them on Mixdown’s social media pages. Consider this one a springboard for sharing your own experiences; that’s the spirit this is meant to be taken in, so I hope it doesn’t read like one big humblebrag.
Guitar Brings Us Together
My earliest experiences with the guitar were mainly thanks to my Auntie Barbi. After a neighbour gave me a couple of dodgy old guitars, Barbi wrote out some chord charts for me, taught me how to tune the guitar, and would restring it and make sure I had plenty of picks to lose. To this day she’s a great musician who can get a tune out of any instrument and she taught me that music, like most things in life, is always best when it’s shared.
Guitar Teaches You A Lot About Yourself
When I was about 15, I was trying to figure out the solo section from Joe Satriani’s ‘Crushing Day.’ I was getting frustrated and making a lot of angry noises, when my Dad walked in. He asked me what was wrong. I said I couldn’t get this Satriani solo down. Dad stopped and thought. “How many fingers does this Satriani guy have?” he asked. “Eight fingers, two thumbs.” “And how many do you have?” “Eight fingers, two thumbs.” “Right, well you’re both starting with the same raw materials. So if he can do it, you can do it.” Putting it in such clear terms was a big eye-opener for me and it wasn’t long before I’d figured out that damn solo, note for note. Years later I got the opportunity to jam with Satch on stage, and I thought a lot about those words of advice. Often our biggest obstacle is our attitude.
Guitar Can Take You Anywhere
I grew up in Wodonga, and I couldn’t possibly imagine writing for music magazines or playing guitar for a living. It just seemed so unattainable. I never thought it could happen. But I wanted it to. I daydreamed of one day writing for Guitar World magazine. I daydreamed of one day going to the NAMM Show. I used to have recurring dreams about jamming on stage with Steve Vai. Now I’ve written for Guitar World, I’ve been to seven NAMM shows and I’ve jammed onstage with Steve Vai (Yeah, I did that too. Crazy).
And I’ma shy, generally quiet guy who has in the past struggled with social phobia and depression. I’m not a pushy dude who barged his way into these experiences, but ever since that fateful Satriani discussion with my dad, I’ve always believed in the power of ‘well, why not? Y’know, ‘why not me? Why not try that?’ It plays into the thing about attitude. I don’t for a minute think I’m anywhere near as good as Steve Vai. But when I had the opportunity to jam with him, my attitude was “this isn’t a big deal. I’ve played with Steve Vai hundreds of times, it’s just that usually he’s been on CD. This is the most natural thing in the world.” Then I let myself freak out about it in the car afterwards because it’s in no way natural to stand on stage with Steve Vai and play guitar.
Music Is The Best
Is there anything better than connecting musically with a group of friends – onstage, in the lounge room, in the garage, or in the studio? Or connecting with an audience? Another of my really profound experiences, was when I was playing at an open blues jam when I went to uni in Canberra. After playing a set of upbeat Chicago-via-Texas blues, a man and woman came up to me and said there was an energy in my playing that made everyone want to dance. That really meant a lot to me, because ultimately I fell in love with music, not as a guitar player, but as someone who always felt moved by music. I love the technical side of guitar and I love pushing my abilities, enjoying that sense of accomplishment. But ultimately the most important thing is not impressing the guitarists around you, but taking what you’ve learned and using it to make music that can make someone’s day better, whether they’re musically literate or not. That’s something you can do whether you’ve just learned your rst chords or if you’ve been playing for decades.
Thanks for reading and happy shredding.