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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

John Oliver has defined my experience with the guitar.

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by burntfrijoles, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Friend of Leo's

    Feb 12, 2010
    I was listening to Fresh Air on NPR and the guest was John Oliver. Apparently his mother (and possibly father) was a fine musician and he played the viola early in his life.
    He spoke of why he eventually gave it up and his story describes my limitations with the guitar.
    It sounded like he had some technical facility with the instrument but, as he described it, the better he got the more his limitations became evident. He could play the notes but he could not express himself well enough to hear the musical pieces as he wished to hear them. It sounded like he couldn't improvise or be creative with his playing.
    That's pretty much the way I feel frequently. I can learn the notes and the phrasing for many songs and sometimes I can play some tunes well enough to be enjoyable. Far more often I find that I can't make the notes come out the way I want to hear it. It could be minor deficiencies in phrasing or it could be my own physical limitations of my hands or just the raw emotion.
    It's why I sometimes put away the guitar and lose motivation.
    The only way to break out of that is to play something that is fun and enjoyable or to accept the challenge of learning something new, even with the aforementioned limitations.
    I think hearing Oliver speak it made me realize that I have to just play for the enjoyment it gives and accept my limitations, knowing that I just don't have enough talent in my hands and the musicality in my senses. "A man's got to know his limitations."
    drf64, thegeezer, imwjl and 2 others like this.

  2. Cheap Trills

    Cheap Trills Tele-Meister

    May 11, 2016
    Brooklyn, NY
    One thought, and im certainly no expert, but maybe just record yourself constantly and listen to your own playing until you find what's unique or beautiful about it. Then build on that, add those beautiful idiosycrosies on your playing to what your ear wants to sound like... or, i guess, using your ear to get the most out of your "limitations". Like, imagine if Albert King was an Eric Johnson superfan fan, his ear was trained to EJ and he measured his own playing against that, if it was his expectation. He'd always be lacking. But he found his way to play and make his style work. (Actually, that may be a true story if you switch out EJ for BB. Or even BB wishing he was a slide player lead to his vibrato.)

    I feel lucky to have grown up in the generation before youtube because I feel like theres so much less of that uniqueness and personal style since the self style exploration isnt necessary and the players we heap praise on seem to just be the best at sounding like "the standards".
    Tommy Biggs and Fiesta Red like this.

  3. tintag27

    tintag27 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jan 18, 2010
    Macclesfield, UK
    A man who accepts his limitations will play within them. Will that make you feel any better - or more frustrated...
    The true artist is never satisfied... never accepting that he cannot do any better. That's tough as well.
    I don't accept my limitations - I just ignore them!
    Fiesta Red and stxrus like this.

  4. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    I never try to sound like the recordings. I will always play a song to my own rhythm. I willl learn a signature lick if the song needs that already gone by eagles like that G pent run at the beginning.... But the rest is me playing it my way...... That way you are always playing your song.... And it allows you to OWN it. IMHO that is the only way I can perform...if you can own it the audience will appreciate it....I also stay close enough to the song to make it easily recognizable.... Not like Fergie did to the national anthem lol.
    Fiesta Red and nojazzhere like this.

  5. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Tele-Afflicted

    May 5, 2015
    I don't know where I heard this story from, but I still recall it. A man loved music his whole life married a concert violinist. When they go to shows he hears beautiful music all night, she hears only the mistakes.

    I wouldn't concentrate so much on the potential vs. limitations thing. Have fun and embrace the suck. That's advice that I need to follow sometimes too.
    kuvash, Georox and Fiesta Red like this.

  6. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    It's not how well you play but how much feeling you put in when you play...

    Kieth Richards. ( Paraphrased)
    Doghouse_Riley likes this.

  7. warrent

    warrent Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Sep 15, 2009
    I think we all get stuck in a rut sometimes, and then negative feelings tend to takeover.
    Might I suggest taking some guitar lessons. It might help you find a quick resolution to what you want to get out of your playing.
    I was surprised at first by Paul Simon still taking lessons but I think its that helpful second opinion that really helps your motivation to keep playing.

  8. imwjl

    imwjl Poster Extraordinaire

    No matter how much feeling I put into it there's still no kidding myself. I love it but I'm not a naturally talented musician.
    Tommy Biggs likes this.

  9. Sollipsist

    Sollipsist Tele-Meister

    Aug 25, 2016
    That was supposed to be the point of rock and roll, and later, punk. Just make music, whether you're good at it or not :)

    There's pros and cons to that argument..
    Tommy Biggs and Tone Eee like this.

  10. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    Not to be contrary, 'cause I agree with most of what you say.....but I usually TRY to sound like the recordings. I rarely succeed, because of my limitations and all, but that's still my first objective. I relish the challenge of learning something new and different, and not falling into the trap of using old, comfortable phrases that may "fit" in the song, but that's being lazy. That's just my personal way of trying to "grow" and "improve".
    ce24 likes this.

  11. stxrus

    stxrus Friend of Leo's

    May 25, 2007
    St. Croix, USVI
    I am not a "great" player BUT I do have fun playing. I also think I put a lot of feeling into my rides (solos) compared to some that are more proficient (note wise) than I am. I'm also a damn fine rhythm player
    I host an open mic/jam and there are some incredible musicians that come out. Singers, guitar players, bass players, horn players (sax, trumpet, flute), keyboard players, drummers, & harmonica players are top notch. Some are pro, some are advanced, some are moderate, & some are novice but ALL enjoy playing and making music. That, to me, is the key to music. To paraphrase something, I'd say "make a joyful noise" and enjoy
    Just my $.02 before taxes

  12. Jules78

    Jules78 Tele-Holic

    Dec 12, 2016
    Northern VA
    Learn music theory, triads and scales. You will find yourself writing your own songs, in your own way. It’s far more rewarding and educational than learning to be a robot and play someone else’s songs.

  13. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Friend of Leo's

    Feb 12, 2010
    I don't want anyone to misunderstand. I'm not really bummed about it. I've just come to accept that, although I will continue to make incremental improvements, my talents (or lack thereof) will only take me so far and that is short of what of I would like.
    The guitar gives me countless hours of enjoyment, even with the frustration of hitting road blocks.
    I've had lessons off and on over the years but, in my experience, all teachers ignore what you already know and focus too much on scales and not enough on how to apply them. I've never once had a teacher ask me to play an actual song or demonstrate any skill for the purpose of assessing my technique or skill level.
    The truth is that I am more a technician than a musician. (Big sigh)
    Tommy Biggs likes this.

  14. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    I don't think trying to be creative and play a different line is being lazy. If an artist just copied the Masters there comes a point where learning diminishes.

  15. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    I hope my approach is not just "copying the masters", but "learning" from the masters and then going beyond that. I am not making any slur or judgement to you or anyone else here, but speaking from personal experience, I've known too many guitarists who ARE lazy when it comes to learning a song. They can't or don't want to sit down and learn a song "correctly". They would rather take the "easy way out" and just do what they CAN, rather than put a little effort into it. Is someone like Eric Johnson not "creative" when he plays Jimi's version of All Along the Watchtower NOTE FOR NOTE? When I play the Light My Fire intro and organ bits on guitar, I'm not getting it note for note, (even the Doors changed things up) but it's so close that people are often impressed.( and I hope I can say that with all modesty) I might compare it to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen vs. a thug rapper.....they both have their own poetry and nuances....I just prefer the educated, skilled version. I would say the "beauty" of the language is IN the language. Again, no offense is intended, and I'm happy to listen to any GOOD version of GOOD music. :)
    ce24 likes this.

  16. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    Nojazz...I didn't take any offense at all....I know it's hard just trying to be conversant and have it all understood... This type of conversation is full of nuance that can't be communicated without inflection and body language....... All your points are valid and respected...... As I'm sure mine are too.
    nojazzhere likes this.

  17. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    Yeah, I heard that interview and Ms. Gross also mentioned how she could hear what she wanted the piano to sound like in her mind, but didn't know how to get those kinds of sounds out of the piano and so she quit that, as well.

    Let me make a suggestion. Read Thomas Hardy or something you already know will fill you with emotion, and put the reading material down and go straight to the guitar and try to use the guitar to explain what you're feeling. Recall the death of a friend or loved one, or recall lost love or think of some event that really disrupted your life, and have the amp already on and the guitar tuned and try to communicate, through the guitar, what that experience means to you.

    Your price? Some discomfort, maybe revisiting something you'd rather not think about, but IMO maybe worth it. You're looking for some soul or expression coming out in the way you play the composition or passage. Give it a number of tries - it really can be like a muscle you have to tone up and exercise.

    There are gonna be guys here at TDPRI who wrinkle their noses, but in many cases, they're subliminally expressing their inner selves in their playing already and some may not even know it. This might be argued to be an "artificial" way to get where you need to go; I don't know. But I'm suggesting you'll be rewarded to just feel what it feels like. It could unblock you. You're not necessarily "stuck" this way permanently. I'm not making any promises; I just don't see the downside of trying some different means of breaking through.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
    Harry Styron and Tommy Biggs like this.

  18. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 15, 2010
    For years I was dissatisfied and disappointed with my playing, because I knew I wasn't (1) keeping up with my peers (most of whom had 3 to 20 times more experience than me), (2) playing the cover song correctly (I mostly didn't care, but the aforementioned peers did, so...) and (3) wasn't playing up to level of the sound and/or style in my head (be it a cover of original tune).

    Then I heard a decent recording of my playing--one with enough separation of instruments that you could hear each part of the song.

    I was listening to the recoding with my drummer/best friend and said, "Who is it playing that part?"

    He looked at me like I was stupid..."Um, that's you..."

    I truly thought the other guitarist had cut my part out and overdubbed the second guitar (my part). I wasn't playing or sounding like many of the heroes I was emulating and comparing myself to, but I had a good sound, good tone, and I was playing to the there were traces of the folks who'd influenced me--Jimmie Vaughan, Muddy Waters (on the songs featuring slide guitar), Waylon Jennings, Kim Wilson and Little Walter (on my harmonica excursions), traces of Stevie Ray (tone-wise) and Steve Cropper (with those complicated-yet-simplistic rhythms)...

    All of the sudden, I wasn't disappointed in my playing. I wasn't completely satisfied--and I still strive to get better--but I no longer worry about bettering or even matching my peers.

    I just do my thing and hope they can keep up with me.
    boris bubbanov likes this.

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