I read a really interesting blog post by Michael Milton ‘I’m No Guitar Hero and I’m Okay with That (Now)’, and boy, did it resonate with me. Having devoted a fair proportion of my formative years trying to master a fourth chord to add to my previous portfolio of three, I found that a family and a career didn’t leave much time to develop my musical talents. The guitar was sadly relegated to the back of a wardrobe. But then…. as the children reached the age of independence, and I made a career shift, the opportunity arose to pick up the guitar again. With this resounding bout of enthusiasm, I signed up for lessons with a local jazz guitar teacher – I was going to become a fingerpicking jazz guitarist! The teacher’s name was Les and he was well into his seventies and well established; he had a history of being a journeyman guitarist in the London area and would regale me with stories of some of the famous guitarists he knew and had played with. I didn’t really believe too much of this until, on one occasion I happened to have a brief and very humble word with Martin Taylor after a gig he played at a London club, and found out that Les had indeed been a well known mover and shaker in those jazzy parts of London. Martin’s told me that in his early days, Les used to get gigs for him. Now I’m a believer.
Anyway, and this is where the blog resonates with me, I went along to lesson no.1 with an assumption that Les would listen to me play something, figure out the scale of the task ahead, and then we would work out a programme of lessons. Wrong! I was told I needed to buy a specific book, and we would work our way through it. Hmmm… not happy, but at least it didn’t require him listening to me mess up any of the things I had been trying to do by myself. So, I kept going to the lessons, and practicing a load of stuff that wasn’t of my particular taste until the day came that it dawned on me that I didn’t want to just follow a conventional pattern of sitting in front of a music stand reading and playing someone else’s music. Les and I parted on good terms, and despite my negative view about the approach to teaching, I figured I had achieved two things – one was a growing level of discipline and confidence with the guitar (a bit like moving out of the shallow end when you’re learning to swim) and two, I now knew what I wanted to do. So, I’m not a jazz guitarist, but I do play finger style, and I’m writing my own music. It may be rubbish, but it’s my rubbish, and I’m happy with that.
Along the way I had messed around with some Windows-based ‘Home Studio’ software, but really struggled to come to terms with the jargon, and the functionality. Then I switched to a Mac and discovered Garageband. So now I’m a virtual band – all the other ‘virtual’ guys help by providing a reasonably sounding backing to what I play. Interestingly, I’ve had to adapt the way I play in an attempt to making the recordings sound less of a mess. I don’t have a very consistent process for composing and recording, and what I’ve done so far would probably making a recording engineer scream. I have a lot to learn. I use a Yamaha AES620 guitar, and an Apogee Jam interface for recording. I also have a copy of Logic Express, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I also own a Yamaha FG441S acoustic and an Evolution MK425C keyboard. I’ve not recorded with acoustic, but the keyboard has been useful for making some strange background noises. In addition to the Mac, actually a MacBook Pro, I have an iPad, and I’m constantly intrigued by the number of articles I’ve read about the extent the iPad can be used in music creation. I keep meaning to investigate this further. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away with Garageband – see the My Music page for examples of the damage I’m doing.