Guitar Lesson Expert|Why isn't that kid in a band

For all the years that I have taught guitar, I have shared the same message, urged the same approach, and begged students to consider the same mindset, and that is one of balance. Bring together all the elements of music in your playing. Be the conduit for the totality of the song you are playing. And beyond any limitations of words that can be spoken, I have found that this little anecdotal story communicates that idea better than I ever did.

For a good portion of my teaching career, I also owned and operated a large musical instrument store. It was principally a guitar store, but it had so much more than that. I knew that high quality instruments and the best amplification was an almost unreachable fantasy for many of the regular kids that came in and hung out at the store, so I was generously willing for them to come into the store and try different guitars and amps to stoke the fires of their musical dreams.

I had built a sound proofed amplifier room with Marshall, Fender, Randall, Ampeg and other great amps there for the trying, and there were Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, and more guitars to complete that sacred bond of guitar with amp in pursuit of the perfect tone. As long as there wasn’t a customer at any given moment needing to try out an amp or guitar in the room, I allowed the young guys who hung out at my store to cut their teeth, as it were, on the many combinations of sounds.

There was one young man in particular; he couldn’t have been more than 15, who continually caught my ear. He played the most amazing solos, full of fire and energy, and ripe with flawless guitar technique. He would play for hours and never seemed to exhaust his ideas. He was the best young guitarist I had ever heard as a soloist. His imagination was fertile and he seemed to be able to handle diverse progressions with ease. I was impressed.

One day I got to talking with a bunch of the other kids who were hanging out in my store about the mystery kid who seemed to play so well, and it leaked out that he was not in a band. “Why isn’t that kid in a band,” I asked incredulously. Did he not own any equipment? Wouldn’t his parents allow him to play in a band, or to play rock music? The answer totally surprised me.

Oh he had tried out for plenty of bands, but no one wanted him in their band. Every band audition he had attempted had met with failure. You see, he had been so intent on being the best guitar slinger around, playing searing, mesmerizing solos, that he had never spent any time at all learning how to comp, or play chords and rhythm figures behind a singer. There was no question that he was a great soloist, but 75% or so of every song was the vocal part, and the singer in every single band HATED the fact that this kid played solo lines over the top of their singing while they were pouring their heart out on a song. This kid had turned himself into a musical black sheep.

Hearing this story really took me by surprise. I felt so badly for the kid. I could see that he had so much passion for the instrument and for this music that he loved, but that his approach to music had closed the door on him finding a band to play in. I hoped deep inside myself that soon he would discover the power of the concept I had been preaching all these years to my students: BALANCE.

He had so much technique when it came to soloing, I had no doubt that he could adapt it to the rhythm side of playing the guitar. I had no idea whether he would accept any guidance from me. After all, he was a young guitar gun with tons of chops, and I was just a forty year old guitar store owner who as far as he was concerned might not even be able to play. This kid definitely needed an attitude adjustment, but the ball was totally in his court.

I never got that chance to have that talk with this kid, but it was my prayer that somewhere along the way he figured it out, and that some band somewhere is so much better all because of his playing.

Meet David Randle

has written 12 posts in this blog.

David is a lifelong guitarist and songwriter, with a highly developed knack for producing and arranging. He spends a great deal of time mentoring and coaching aspiring music artists and songwriters to rise to the pinnacle of their abilities. Music definitely is a language we all can understand. Connect with David on Google+.

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