Why Did I Ever Bother to Learn to Play Things Like This?

Marc Morfei

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Nothing you learn is a waste. It's all valuable. But mastering a skill is only 1/2 if the job. The other half is learning how to deploy that skill. OP has the chops - that's the first half. But regrets not spending more time on songwriting - that's the second half. The Dylan reference is perfect. In some ways, the opposite of "chops". But the songs resonate with people. Can you - any of us - find a way to deploy our chops judiciously in the service of songs? That's the magic. Think of someone like Richard Thompson. World-class chops, but the songs come first. Great, great songs. He can play a million notes a minute. But the bones of his songs are dead-simple. He has one guitar solo that is only a single note, repeated. Mike Campbell is another guy. Never shows off. Finds places where brilliant embellishments add to the song.
 

Marc Morfei

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If we look at shreddy artists who were selling out arenas even at the peak of this stuff (ahem, Van Halen), we see bands that not only had virtuoso musicianship, but great catchy and easily accessible songs, and engaging frontmen/singers.
Yup, 100%. Only guitar players care about the guitar playing. The audience just takes in the songs as a whole. One of Van Halen's biggest hits was Jump, which barely even had any guitar, just an organ riff that an 8-year old could play.
 

blowtorch

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your remark about developing a singing voice is on-target.
singers, good ones, are the actual assets in bands, generally speaking.
everyone else simply supports them.

and, they don't even have to be that good, if they are eye candy (or otherwise entertaining) to a wide demographic
(this is not a sexist comment, as it works that way for men and women both)


this is often a bitter pill for the instrumentalist, but it is the truth


having said all that, it's important to follow your own individual vision of your passion, regardless of trends
 

hnryclay

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not sure about Bob Dylan tunes being simple, I listened to Blood On The Tracks for the first time ever a couple months ago, and was floored. Technique isn't everything, I think arrangement is as important if not more so. I've been really keying into that aspect recently and revisiting stuff from 50 years ago on up, and just marveling at what I've been noticing.

But I get what you're saying about technique and virtuosity not being widely appreciated. But look at it this way, now that you have that aspect, you can start learning composition and arrangement with the same dedication it took you to get where you are.

It's never over, unless you quit. It's a life long pursuit. At least the longevity is way higher than athletics and hazardous industrial stuff like oilfield work. All jokes about the 27 Club aside.
Bob always has had an excellent band, since turning towards electric instruments. Seen him live several times, there is a lot of talent behind him.

Also there are probably more virtuoso guitar players right now then anytime in the last 20 years or so, you just have to seek them out. Music is more diverse now with self publishing. I personally think the band Snarky Puppy has some pretty good players at every instrument although they are more jazz styled there is a lot of talent there and they sell well.
 

2HBStrat

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I spent years learning how to play really intricate things on guitar. Now no one wants to see or hear playing of this style. I could've put that time and energy into things like song writing and working on my singing voice. Just pissed that people don't care for this style of music that I worked really hard on for a very long time. Play a simple Dylan tune and people go nuts.


Learning makes you a better, more rounded, player.
 

fender4life

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Thats because people have ALWAYS wanted to hear great songwriting. Thats everything, the rest is only there to support it. Thats what music is about to non musicians and many musicians. Even paul gilbert has come to that and now plays a lot more simple stuff and saves the shred for certain moments. Only musicians want to hear shredding and progressive instrumental stuff. I've always known that and always loved and gravitated to great songs myself. So i never bothered with virtuoso style. it's a specialized thing and if you love it, do it for yourself and be happy with that. But people wanna be moved by music and great songs and tasty composition are what do that. There are tons of songs that involve zero virtuosity that move me like few things can. I can't be moved bt the other stuff even tho i'm a guitar player. I find it interesting to watch but it does nothing for me emotionally. And most non musicians care even less about it. The power in music isn't in screaming distorted fast guitars, it's in well written pieces that move you in a number of ways. It can make you cry, make you feel like ur n top of the higest mountain looking down ate the world, depress you, make u happy to the point of dancing. If you want people to take notice write and or play great songs that are catchy and evoke emotion. Thats what 99% of humanity wants from music. Thats why to this day the beatles with their crude equipment and lack of virtuosity are considered by most of the world to be the greatest musical entity in pop music to this day.
 

micpoc

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I spent years learning how to play really intricate things on guitar. Now no one wants to see or hear playing of this style. I could've put that time and energy into things like song writing and working on my singing voice. Just pissed that people don't care for this style of music that I worked really hard on for a very long time. Play a simple Dylan tune and people go nuts.



The fact of the matter is that nobody (in any appreciable numbers) has ever cared about instrumental virtuoso guitar music, except for other guitar players. It’s always been a very limited audience.

The general public wants to be sung to. They want a verse chorus verse song they can scream along with chorus, they want to to dance and have a good time. There are always exceptions to be found, but for the most part your average human responds to instrumental guitar music about like they do the Muzak in the elevator or grocery store. Ever has it been.
The more disturbing trend—to me anyway—is that increasingly, for the last few decades, you could probably leave out "guitar" and "virtuosic". People just do not care about instrumental music anymore. Many seem to think it belongs in movies or grocery stores.

When I was in high school, I was playing some album by the Dregs and a friend thought it was the absolute worst thing he had ever heard. When I pressed to figure out why, the root of the problem seemed to be the lack of singing.

Instrumental pop music used to be commonplace, albeit a small percentage, in the charts. Now? I cannot think of a major pop music instrumental hit since Kenny G. I know charts are a whole different thing now, but at least in the past people got exposed to instrumental stuff; now they ask if it's a karaoke version of something else.

I guess most people would rather settle for crummy songwriting with vocals than brilliant instrumental music of any variety... oh well.
 

Jakedog

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The more disturbing trend—to me anyway—is that increasingly, for the last few decades, you could probably leave out "guitar" and "virtuosic". People just do not care about instrumental music anymore. Many seem to think it belongs in movies or grocery stores.

When I was in high school, I was playing some album by the Dregs and a friend thought it was the absolute worst thing he had ever heard. When I pressed to figure out why, the root of the problem seemed to be the lack of singing.

Instrumental pop music used to be commonplace, albeit a small percentage, in the charts. Now? I cannot think of a major pop music instrumental hit since Kenny G. I know charts are a whole different thing now, but at least in the past people got exposed to instrumental; now they ask if it's a karaoke version of something.
I’ve never much cared for instrumental music. There are definitely exceptions. Pieces and songs I really enjoy. But I don’t listen to them all the time, and I definitely can’t listen to a whole album’s worth. Never could.

I grew up in the heyday of instrumental shred guitar records and artists. I tried to love it. I knew I was supposed to. I just get so bored. I have nothing but respect for the skill, the chops, the discipline, and the compositional abilities. I understand what goes into it and why people love it. It’s just mostly not my thing.

I guess for me it’s the musical difference between songwriters, and composers. I’m a songwriter guy. I respect composers a great deal, but I like to be sung to.

I like to hear a human voice telling me a story. I once quit a really good band that was getting a lot of traction because the lead guy said it didn’t matter what I wrote about, because lyrics don’t matter, and are just a way to keep idiots busy between guitar solos. To me, they’re the most important part of the equation. I can listen to a totally mediocre band that has great songwriting and never get bored. I cannot listen to a full hour of instrumental music of any kind and have it keep my attention. I’ve tried everything, I just can’t do it.
 

micpoc

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I’ve never much cared for instrumental music. There are definitely exceptions. Pieces and songs I really enjoy. But I don’t listen to them all the time, and I definitely can’t listen to a whole album’s worth. Never could.

I grew up in the heyday of instrumental shred guitar records and artists. I tried to love it. I knew I was supposed to. I just get so bored. I have nothing but respect for the skill, the chops, the discipline, and the compositional abilities. I understand what goes into it and why people love it. It’s just mostly not my thing.

I guess for me it’s the musical difference between songwriters, and composers. I’m a songwriter guy. I respect composers a great deal, but I like to be sung to.

I like to hear a human voice telling me a story. I once quit a really good band that was getting a lot of traction because the lead guy said it didn’t matter what I wrote about, because lyrics don’t matter, and are just a way to keep idiots busy between guitar solos. To me, they’re the most important part of the equation. I can listen to a totally mediocre band that has great songwriting and never get bored. I cannot listen to a full hour of instrumental music of any kind and have it keep my attention. I’ve tried everything, I just can’t do it.
Hear you. Brian Eno made a good painting analogy about this with landscapes and landscapes that have people in them; the attention is immediately refocused. Most people prefer that type of focus, and probably always have. But also, instrumental music doesn't HAVE to be virtuosic (e.g., Brian Eno).
 

Alex_C

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I’ve never much cared for instrumental music. There are definitely exceptions. Pieces and songs I really enjoy. But I don’t listen to them all the time, and I definitely can’t listen to a whole album’s worth. Never could.

I grew up in the heyday of instrumental shred guitar records and artists. I tried to love it. I knew I was supposed to. I just get so bored. I have nothing but respect for the skill, the chops, the discipline, and the compositional abilities. I understand what goes into it and why people love it. It’s just mostly not my thing.

I guess for me it’s the musical difference between songwriters, and composers. I’m a songwriter guy. I respect composers a great deal, but I like to be sung to.

I like to hear a human voice telling me a story. I once quit a really good band that was getting a lot of traction because the lead guy said it didn’t matter what I wrote about, because lyrics don’t matter, and are just a way to keep idiots busy between guitar solos. To me, they’re the most important part of the equation. I can listen to a totally mediocre band that has great songwriting and never get bored. I cannot listen to a full hour of instrumental music of any kind and have it keep my attention. I’ve tried everything, I just can’t do it.
I'm pretty much the opposite. I prefer instrumental music: Fusion, Prog, Jazz, even some R&B/HipHop. I like some singing, but mainly in Prog rock or Prog metal. Most songs with vocals are simple progressions in 4/4. I usually find that boring.
 

Jakedog

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I'm pretty much the opposite. I prefer instrumental music: Fusion, Prog, Jazz, even some R&B/HipHop. I like some singing, but mainly in Prog rock or Prog metal. Most songs with vocals are simple progressions in 4/4. I usually find that boring.
I guess I don’t care much about the musical vehicle. I can appreciate it if I stop and listen to it. But it doesn’t deeply interest me. If it sounds good to me, I like it. It has more to do with tones and textures and how they set a mood than it does what the progression or time signature is.

Lyrics and vocal melody interest me. If they’re not there, it’s really hard to catch my attention. If they are there, and they’re good, I can put up with just about anything from the music angle.

And melody is subjective as well. I’ll listen to a lot of hip-hop that isn’t very melodically compelling because the lyrics are absolutely on fire. I hear a lot of modern country in the juke while I’m working in bars. Melodically, a lot of it is really good. But the lyrics are so uniformly freaking terrible that I have zero interest in it.

The prog and fusion stuff, mostly loses me. I understand it. I grew up playing horn in jazz ensembles. I can count to five. And seven. And eleven. Or whatever. It blows my mind to hear it. The complexity can be crazy. I can’t imagine the dedication and discipline it takes to be that kind of musician. I’ll never be able to do it again, though. I outgrew it early. Without someone telling me a story, it just can’t keep my attention. The biggest exceptions to the prog and what I call (no disrespect intended) whacky circus music things, for me, are Rush and Zappa. I love them both, even though I don’t listen to them often. They have lyrics and stories that keep my interest, while being musically sophisticated. But it’s rare that I find stuff I dig like that.

I don’t need the music to be complicated. Or even all that interesting. I’m much more engaged by the complexities and skill with which the English language is handled within a songwriting context. I think there are exponentially fewer truly skilled songwriters than there are instrumentalists. So to me, it’s the more sophisticated and interesting art form.
 

jhundt

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you were correct in your initial analysis. Nobody want to see or hear playing of this style. That may be painful for you to hear, but it's the simple truth. You could become a god on Youtube, but nobody at the local club is gonna want to sit and listen to this all night.
 

telekaster1999

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I play for an audience of one. I do post on the bt challenges here, but honestly could care less if anyone liked or commented at all on them. It's personal satisfaction that I played something musical at all and to be in such good company as the players here.
 

guitarsophist

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Back in like 1972 or something, I was trying to be a singer songwriter. I had a bunch of songs. One night I was playing at an open mic and my buddy, who played lead and sang harmony, had to work at his shift at Sav-on drugstore. I wasn't used to playing alone, so I was nervous. An audience is usually with you or against you, especially in a small club. It doesn't have a lot to do with how good you are. It is more about whether they identify with you and feel good about it. So in between songs, I told them about my friend and what he would be adding if he were here. They could identify with being nervous about not having your backup. They ate it up and the set went very well. They guy who followed me was much more accomplished, but he pretty much failed at connecting with the audience. As I said before in this thread, you have got to please yourself, or the audience, or both. Pleasing both may involve compromises, but it is worth it. If the audience is with you, you can do no wrong. It is an amazing experience.
 




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