I’m soon to embark on the exciting opportunity to play my electric guitar live with a band. Nothing out of the ordinary there you may think, but for me, this really is a turn up for the books.
…Swallowing my pride, I booked a guitar lesson this week…
Although I play my electric guitar regularly in a worship setting at church, playing in a “Praise & Worship” environment is somewhat different to playing live at the local pub.
In the UK, we’re fairly limited with regards to the choice of “Mega-Churches” our USA cousins seem to have in abundance, which ultimately requires all musicians to keep an eye on volume levels, plus to be extremely sensitive to how the church service is unfolding.
In addition, my working life is fairly chaotic, limiting my time to pursue activities (including guitar playing), so when the opportunity arises to play secular music within a secular setting, it’s a very welcome proposal.
Although I’m a huge music fan, I admit I’m not armed with an arsenal of guitar riffs (shame on me!). My usual practice regime typically involves constructing a random chord sequence then proceeding to noodle away accordingly.
The song list for the upcoming gig is fairly varied, with a mix of fast and slow classics from acts such as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, The Monkeys, Elvis, Van Morrison and many more.
Mid-way through the set list, a Rock ‘n Roll medley is being unleashed on the general public, nearly all of which require the obligatory guitar solo.
This is where I’ve come unstuck. I’ve had a rude awakening that my chord-noodling home practice regime has not prepared me for what should be a very simple task; to solo creatively over standard Rock ‘n Roll chord progressions.
During the practice sessions, when the band looks at me to take the instrumental lead break, my mind is filled with an array of fears and thoughts: “Make it good! Play fast!… Don’t play fast, because you can’t! It sounds really, really bad! You Suck!!!” etc etc.
I recognise I need help. Help with the absolute basics of playing lead guitar.
I’ve only had three or four guitar lessons in my life. I’m completely self-taught. The last time I had a lesson was 10 years ago, with the sole goal to learn some Hendrix riffs.
Swallowing my pride, I booked a guitar lesson this week with the intention to learn how to solo effectively over what I considered to be the basic foundation of all things lead guitar.
The lesson itself was great fun. Sat with my trusty SG Standard, I thoroughly enjoyed jamming and watching the tutor blaze through some amazing guitar lines, most of which would take me a lifetime to learn.
However, I left the lesson feeling encouraged. It transpires I can play more than I realised. The problem I’ve faced in the practice sessions is that my focus has been on gaining acceptance from the rest of the band members (through my guitar playing) as opposed to simply relaxing and enjoying the opportunity to play (regardless of my skill level).
The most valuable aspect I took away with me from the guitar lesson was; always be myself. I’m not Scotty Moore, Satriani or Hendrix. I’m me. So, I’m going to play, like me.
Sure, it’s essential to learn the basics and to be inspired by other guitarists. It’s equally important to continue to learn the instrument, but I’ve probably learnt more about the guitar in the past few weeks by simply “being involved” with a band.
As Benjamin Franklin famously quoted: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” I’d like to extend that by adding “…Relax, have fun and let YOUR personality shine through your guitar playing!”.
If you haven’t had a guitar lesson for a few years, I recommend attending one. You’ll probably be surprised how well you can play – and remember to keep true to your natural playing style.
Elvis. He’s a Hound Dog: