This post is a personal post. Something I’ve been mulling over for a few days, and now I think I’m at a point to talk about it, and share, and would love to read if you can relate with me.
While prepping finger-food for Super Bowl Sunday, I thought it would be fun dig up my old cassette tapes from the 90s. Of course, I also had to dig up an old tape player as well. Climbing and tunneling through boxes in our storage room, way back in the corner, I saw the dusty tape racks loaded with cassette gold. All of my post-punk/punk tapes from the late 80s to early 90s. It was like saying hello to an old friend. Hearing the clank as the tapes went into their slots on the rack transported me back in time to when having physical ‘media’ meant something. It’s a weird feeling and trying to explain that to my kids – no dice. It was fun reacquainting myself with album titles and bands I haven’t even thought about in years. And it was cool to see some of the bands I’m still interested in today, but of course I have those albums as digital MP3 files on a server now.Â A little different.
Stacked up next to the racks of tapes, I noticed a box, and that box was full of loose cassettes. Lots of mixed tapes, some 4 track recordings (from those great little Fostex / Tascam type recorders) and 4 track stereo masters, and lots of random labeled stuff. Things just got interesting.
Back in the early 90s around 1991 and 1992, I was getting pretty serious with guitar. Serious meaning, I pretty much played guitar every day, learning new songs, trying to figure out parts, etc. My good friend played bass and we would play for hours and talk about forming a band some day. Where I lived in Montana at the time, that was a hard to make a reality. We didn’t know any drummers, and the music we listened too – and wanted to play wasn’t ‘typical’ in the early 90s there, so we just kept playing.
We would work out covering some of our favorite post-punk/goth/grunge bands, but eventually we started writing our own songs. It was fun, because we were both growing and trying to figure out stuff, and when things ‘worked’ it was a very satisfying feeling. On some of those tapes, were some of the jams and ideas. Covers and originals captured live in the ‘shop’ where we could actual turn up our gear. It was surprising, and I am so thankful, that we recorded a few of these. A moment of time captured from our youth.
That was 24 years ago. I’ve never stopped playing guitar since those days. I’ve joined many bands, played in various projects, and jammed and collaborated with a lot of musicians in that span of time. In my mind, the growth as a guitarist, has been HUGE since those early days. Almost laughable. But listening to those recordings, I noticed something. I feel like I’m still the same exact guitar player as back then. Which is interesting. I figured i wouldn’t even be able to recognize my ‘style’. I didn’t know I had a ‘style’, but I started hearing some of the nuances of my picking patterns, strumming patterns, decisions on leads and scales.. and those are very similar to what/how I play today. Sure, my tone is better. My control is better. I would say I’m cleaner and more dextrous than those days, but the core of the guitar player back then.. is still me today.
So that freaked me out. Is that good? Is that bad? Should I be a radically different player today compared to those early days? I some ways I feel I should be, but then again, I look at myself on a personal level. I still feel like I’m still the same person as back then. I still like similar music, I like art, I still play guitar, etc. Sure, I might be more responsible today, I have more wisdom and experience. So.. maybe it’s okay.
I would love to read if you can relate. Comment below.
7 years ago
I'd say that most of us are pretty similar in this same way. I just think about how many guitar players I can "recognize" even if they are just the studio player for somebody else.
The core of what we sound like is probably reflective of how we, as people, don't really change that much. I would say that seeing zero growth either way is most likely not an excellent thing.
As a guitar player I favor finger independence exercises for warmups to help dexterity. They also seem to (melodically) influence people in a way that scales don't because they are physical not melodic exercises (I also feel too much theory eliminates original sounds in 2016).
I also think positive change happens from approaching material that appears to be too difficult for you to play, no matter your playing level. I notice lots of guitar players who reach big plateaus in their playing (myself included). You should always push yourself in this regard because there is a trickle down that happens to your style. Maybe you won't master the harder piece, but because you tried, other pieces that used to feel hard will fall under your fingers, and you can set new benchmarks.
I definitely hear my core when I listen to old recordings, but I usually also cringe a bit. i think a little cringing is important. Btw, what were the finger foods?Reply
7 years ago
Funny, sounds like my story. I got a box full of old tapes of myself and a good friend of mine too. With the age of 14 I started to recording almost anything. But I noticed something different . Back then I played a lot more acoustic guitar. Better them today.Reply
7 years ago
That is very interesting. I began playing when I was about 12 or 13. I'm 61 now. I never recorded myself or any group I was playing with, ever. I even took about a 15 or 20 year hiatus from guitar playing while my wife and I were bringing up our 3 kids, About 15 years ago, my ex-boss showed me a Fender Telecaster and a Crate amp and said, "take it home and if you like it, I'll sell it to you." I tried to play all of the stuff I had learned years before on my acoustic and found I had lost a few steps. It took a long time to get back into the grove, but I play on a weekly basis now. I have to admit, I think I am the same guitar player I was back in the day, but just as you said, a little cleaner and more knowledgeable. I'm just beginning to try recording my playing and it has opened my eyes and ears again. I have to admit, the internet makes sooooo much of a difference! If I had access to the material back then, I never would have stopped playing.Reply
7 years ago
I can't really say I'm the same player as when I started back in the early 1980's, but I can relate. I've got some core competencies ( good with arpeggios, decent chording, can keep a beat) and stuff I never bothered with- picking tricks, hammer ons and complex meters. I've got some things I will never truly master, but I still keep on trying- mostly composing really good lead licks- The result is that I know I'm not a bad guitar player, but I'll never be the kind of player that anyone notices as "good", either- I'm like Malcolm Young- the bands I have been in value me, but most folks see me as the "other one". I'm comfortable with that.Reply