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OK, OK, I admit it! I don’t listen to other acoustic guitar players (much).

Gosh! Shock – horror!

Well, that’s the reaction that I get when I have to explain why I haven’t listened to any of the playing of this or that acoustic guitar player. Their names are more often than not very familiar to me having come across them umpteen times on internet forums and other websites – but as to being familiar with their music? No, I’m afraid not. And the I feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about being thought self-centred and unsympathetic. So why not? I can explain it in few words.

Way back there was a couple of years when I was determinedly learning fingerstyle guitar when all my spare time was taken up listening to records by the then prevailing gods of fingerstyle acoustic guitar – both living and long gone; English and American; black and white. I even ruined some LP records and record player styli learning some of the tunes, note for note, bar by bar. I bought compilation records of acoustic fingerstyle guitar players and knew all their names and went to many of their gigs. I bought a whole series of guitar tutors, one by one, from some of my favourite players.

Then came a time – without my noticing it – when I stopped all of that. It was round about the time I started thinking and playing around with jazz, with more focus on the music than the players who made it. And it didn’t have to be guitar – I realised that jazz could be figured out without reference to a particular instrument. It’s principles of harmony and melody were universal.

A little later a latent empathy with classical music which was caused by my exposure to it when I was a kid was kicked off for real with my “discovery” of Mahler and rediscovery of Sibelius who I heard a lot of from my father’s record collection. So, off I went, on a program of buying CDs of all the classical music that I heard and liked – and quite a lot more out of curiosity. Tellingly, none of this involved classical guitar (which to this day I have a real distaste for).

So; is there much I could learn today by listening to other acoustic guitar players? You bet! But I would rather go exploring in other places. In the end I don’t think I’ll find my own voice in the playing of others.

What do you think? Am I wrong to pass today’s “wizards of the acoustic guitar” by?

One thought on “OK, OK, I admit it! I don’t listen to other acoustic guitar players (much).

  1. Hi Dave – interesting point – I’d say definitely not. My first love was percussive acoustic guitar playing from when i first heard Giltrap do it in the 70s – and now after years of classical, prog, metal, rock and more cover bands than I’m comfortable with, I’m right back battering the acoustic the way I started. Though playing a bunch of different styles has probably helped me find my way around the fretboard a bit better. I started writing an acoustic project a couple of years ago and wanted it all to be a celtic fingerstyle thing – but then a bit of rock crept in, a bit of this and that – then I was off all over the place and my dream of being the next Tony McManus was thwarted (actually it was thwarted the first time I tried to play any of his stuff…). There are some great players out there these days and I do love some of their techniques and styles – but with most of them you can tell there’s a lifetime of following their own path involved. And I’ll never sound like any of them even though sometimes I’d like to – I reckon I’ll only ever sound like me – and that’s probably not a bad thing – you only have to check out youtube to see how many players spend their time trying to sound like someone else (but I can’t knock that cos some of these players are amazing too). I think the moral of the story is that you’re never quite in control of what music comes out of you – so listen to what floats your boat. Cheers, Martin.

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