FaceTheAbstractFace: www.myspace.com/thewithunit, originally uploaded by JosSGSweet_Joshua Sweetman.
JUST LIKE SOME PLOT FROM THE SATURDAY afternoon sci-fi movies I loved as a kid, many worlds have converged lately, and those colliding spheres have once again started me questioning who we are and where we're going. Ricocheting across my brain are the MySpace reviews I've been writing, the vintage GP material I'm compiling for the upcoming The Guitar Player Book, the staff's strategies for thrilling and educational Web content, some conceptual discussions on guitar culture with Carlos Santana, and all the elements that make up each issue of this magazine. I can't escape that everything in the here-and-now and the past is pointing to the future of guitar music, and I wonder if we're doing a good enough job to make that future a great one.
Let's look at our artistic choices. Legions of unsigned nobodies with MySpace pages exhibit absolutely frightening chops. Sadly, many of these technically gifted players seem more interested in impressing themselves and a small posse of likewise gifted burners than developing compositions that celebrate music. To me, musicality is what separates Satriani, Vai, and other successful instrumentalists from technicians who can blaze through scales and classical motifs, but can't seem to muster their impressive talents to captivate a listener. Speed alone can be simultaneously unmusical and anonymous. Les Patti used to admonish speedsters by saying, "That's nice, kid, but can your mom tell who you are when she hears your song on the radio?" It would be fabulous if more players sweat the details to conjure an exhilarating blend of speed, composition, and personality. Maybe then, much wider audiences would embrace guitar instrumentals.
It's the same with tone. Whether you're playing blues, jazz, or rock, there are sonic touchstones to which so many guitarists chain themselves, and cloning sounds is hardly the way to advance the art form or excite new fans. While honoring heroes is an extremely admirable endeavor, if more players blended their favorite tones with a few dashes of their own aural delights, a wondrous new palette of guitar sounds might result. We should, at least, consider whether the world really needs a few thousand more damned-accurate SRV tones reverberating across its airspace.
Today's guitarists also could be much more fearless. It's ironic that musicians are supposed to embrace creativity, but many of us do so as long as stretching our creative muscles doesn't involve actually changing what we already do. Even our gear choices can be firmly set in the 6-string Stone Age. There are amazing technological tools available, but, as a group, we are often slow to adapt to new methodologies. I think a few manufacturers may even feel as if they are being "punished" for innovating, as the unique and different products they develop can take significant time to catch on within the player community.
Like it or not, we are setting the foundation for the next generation of guitarists, and how we evolve guitarcraft might come down to an equation of creativity + commitment + tools + intention = innovation. Admittedly, it's very hard to go where no one has gone before. But the journey is certainly more rewarding than clutching tightly to the past, like a toddler afraid to let go of his mommy's skirt. I think it's high time we showed tomorrow's whippersnappers how we roll.
"Noize: from the editor." Guitar Player June 2007: 9. Popular Magazines. Web. 6 Jan. 2010.
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