Thursday, 5 February 2009

Oh, and this one goes to 11, too...

Every so often I find myself hunting through the videos on You Tube to find something in particular and, being a very helpful site, they tend to recommend me videos that they think I will enjoy based on my various searches. So I'm usually met with a menu of random Family Guy snippets, something about the latest endeavours of the SAS (don't ask) or some super-widdley guitar hero doing his best to rid the world of actual melody forever.

There seems to be a kind of worrying genre beginning to spring up, however, and that concerns the fiery young amateur axe merchant who is seeking credentials for his playing by submitting something to the site. You can usually spot it straight away - the title is a dead giveaway. Just to give you some idea, I'm talking about videos that call themselves something like '18 year old boy plays Eddie Van Halen's 'Eruption' solo' or '14 year old boy plays Yngwie Malmsteen solo'. Things like that. I must say that it always makes me grin a bit because I instantly recall Spinal Tap's excellent Nigel Tufnel saying that Jimmy Page was 24 when he wrote 'Stairway To Heaven' but he could play it when he was 12. I mean, isn't it the same thing?

The fact is that it's easy to imitate, hard to innovate and so if you've mastered a difficult guitar showpiece in your early teens then good for you - it shows that you are developing technically along the exact right lines. But please don't take it as anything more than that, OK?
I have personally met young players who have mastered some very complex guitar pieces, but it's rarely an indication of extreme talent, just dilligent - and often blinkered - hard graft to the exclusion of everything else.

To illustrate what I mean, there is a story about a young boy who went into a music shop in the north of England and asked to try a guitar. Once plugged in he proceeded to play a simply breathtaking rendition of 'Eruption'. In the shop at the time was a seasoned player who plucked himself a guitar from the wall, plugged in and said to the kid, 'Let's play a blues together!'. The boy looked up and said, 'What's a blues?'

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