Thursday, 15 August 2013

How have you kept playing guitar for so long?

A good question.  Although it doesn't surprise me when beginners give up playing guitar (another topic), it does surprise me that players who play well, and have done for a long time, give up.  Does it come down to character traits - applicable to more than just playing the guitar - commitment, and persistence?  I think it is more than just that.

There are many things in life that people will do passionately and they won't enjoy it in the slightest, it will be hard work, expensive, painful, but they carry on.  Why?  The satisfaction of completing something challenging.  Doing something not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  There's your commitment and persistence right there.  But hey, those guys who did play for ten years and then stopped, they must have had the commitment and persistence to get that far, right?

Habit.  Ah but aren't we all just creatures of habit?  Once you form a habit, it's hard to break it.  If you have a habit of playing the guitar, then you basically never stop.  And yet, they still do.

Priorities.  For sure, as life progresses you travel through different phases.  Some things are very important, then they aren't so important.  Apparently it takes six weeks to form a habit.  Well, when priorities change, it only takes six weeks to un-form a habit.

I'm going to throw opportunity into the mix.  If playing the guitar is a privilege - it's rare, you don't get to play as much as you would like - for whatever reason - then playing is a tantilising treat you eagerly wait for.  Being able to play as much as you want whenever you want will increase the risk of losing the sense of satisfaction...changing your priorities...and breaking the habit.

I think all these things play a part while traversing your guitar life, but there is something else.  And look, I believe once you are a player, and you've had a taste of all this, you will always be a player.  You might go a few years without playing, but something will come up again and you'll get back into it. That something is...delight.

Yeah, delight.  In all your opportunity, priorities, satisfaction and formed habit, it is delight that rises above it all.  Just when you think you've done it all, you've climbed every mountain, overcome every obsticle, something comes along and blows your mind.  You can't believe you could have possibly missed the song, the technique, the concept, the something - something that simply delights you and you just can't get enough.  You can't stop.  Shifting from delight to delight.

If you are constantly exposing yourself to new avenues of delight, the passion will stay with you.  This is with everything in life.  Seek out delight.  And delight doesn't mean amazement or awesomeness or some huge gratification.  It can mean a hammer-on where you used to to pluck the next note.  I could mean slipping in a 7th on the last beat of the bar instead of staying in the major chord.  Just enjoying a new song that you never even thought about before.

I think I may have just gone all new age hippy on you just then, but The World seems dissatisfied with you just smelling roses.  You aren't living if it's not Bigger and Better.  Well, bugger that :)

Speaking of which, here is my current delight.  Naudo played it years ago, I heard it on the radio last week, decided to transcribe (more or less) Naudo's version, and I'm delighted.  So many "Oh wow!" things that happens in this song, can't believe I didn't tackle it when I first heard Naudo play it.  It's a window into his playing (I can see how he has re-used phrases from other works I have transcribed before) and it's just a really nice song.

Badfinger's "Without You", made famous by Harry Nilssen, and later by Mariah Carey, but let's just stick with Naudos version :)

Apologies about the recording, it was made via my smartphone. And I'm still developing the song, I haven't committed it to muscle memory, and I'm not playing on my normal guitar, and blah blah blah...JAW "warts and all" Munji strikes again, enjoy.


  1. "Oh Wow" is right! Great job all around on "Without you": transcription, playing, and choice of material. Please post a video sometime.

  2. I don't remember this song but I do like Badfinger. Def worth a listen. May try to pick it up. Glad to see your still at it with a passion.