I am writing you from Cologne Germany and I just arrived from Bangkok last night. Long trip.
Traveling to Bangkok to play with Tommy Emmanuel and the other GREAT players there was an experience I will not forget. The fine players on the bill were Boonchob, Masa Sumide, Joe Robinson, and Michael Fix. Each one had a unique ray of guitar genius and I am very appreciative to have ben there for it all.
On a personal level, certain weak areas of mine as a player became apparent to me. I like the idea of sharing them with you on this blog, because it’s easy to think that pro concert players simply “have it together” musically and psychologically all the time. Maybe by showing you my fragile side, you’ll feel okay about yours. We’re all human.
Michael Fix and I were having a coffee and he summed it up by saying “wow, here I am with all you other world class players, I almost feel as if eventually people will figure out that I am a fraud”. Crazy, huh? Well that’s exactly how I felt too. We had a good laugh and realized we probably were not alone.
I figured I’d share my new musical goals with you and invite you into my growing process. Please watch my growth and if it gets too big, have a doctor remove it. That’s a joke.
Until now many of my arrangements have been very much like classical guitar transcriptions in concept. Like “well if I map out the bassline and melody to Stevie Wonder, play it funkily, I’ll just slap the two together and have a cool arrangement”.
This is valid, but it is a completely different approach from seeing what the guitar does naturally and beautifully. Composers like Fernando Sor right on up through Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel allow the beauty of the guitar, the open strings, and the natural physics to play out….like a deep comfortable exhale of breath.
A balance between the approaches is what I need next. Better yet, a commitment to beauty and tone is where I am heading. Knowing you’ll play an E Triad and thinking about going to the next triad is very different from playing the triad and ALLOWING ONESELF to feel, experience and vibrate with the triad.
It’s a cycle of playing and listening, then playing, then listening, etc – but having one’s radar up for a “feel good” vibration, a vibration of “love”. Sometimes just a deep listening to one’s own playing can stir this. And, a sense of real honesty with oneself…which is something I struggle with sometimes. I hang with certain ideas to see if they will work rather than discard things immediately, but maybe I need to toss things sooner!
There is nowhere to hide when you have an acoustic guitar blasting through a PA. Tommy, as always, had everything covered so beautifully my skin tingled and energy shot up my spine hearing his beautiful stuff.
I know that he has spent more time than me in that place of listening, making sure it feels good and making sure the music lines up with his intuition. That’s way deeper than “knowing” how to play your arrangement. It’s the difference between a monologue and a dialogue.
Here I go back to the drawing board, evolving. This morning I woke up at 4:30 and decided to just play pretty and have my radar and intuition up. No funk, no fast stuff, just beauty and glow and tone. Playing simple stuff, improvising and listening. Very different from practicing a piece – but more like practicing a “place”.
The plan? Let me stay there and see what happens. Let me go there every day and practice that vibration and allow new things to happen on their own.
Thank you for listening to me, and my music and tolerating my growth! No not the one on my back, the musical growth 🙂
I am not a finished product and never will be. Let’s see where music goes next.
Until next time…with much love….Adam
Thanks, Adam. As I’m sure many of your readers do also, I truly appreciate that you share your experiences and growth(s) through your blog. It’s so nice and comforting to read someone articulate so well so many of the same feelings, frustrations, and, at times, confusions, as well as the hopeless joys that I feel towards music and music making. Please, keep it up.
A Fan and Fellow Musical Fraud – Danny
Another Fraud checking in…but I take my fraudity to a new level. Sure, I can do some kinda cool arrangements (just as you said Adam, “Hmm, here’s the bassline, now where can I find an inversion of the chord so I can physically fret the melody and the bassnote at the same time…now, what can I stick in the mids to fill this baby out but keep it true to original”) – and I work it out half on computer half with guitar in hand so even further detached from “feeling” – but the new level of fraudity comes from the fact I never even took a music theory for beginners class; I know so little about quadrads and septatonics I’m almost music illiterate!
A music teacher nailed it perfectly a while back: “…so basically you’re a really good guitar player but you have no idea what you’re doing.”
FRAUD! ; )
But, who knows. Yesterday I was passionate about arranging classic rock and pop for solo instrumental fingerstyle. Today I’m passionate about getting a good sound out to the people who are listening to me. Tomorrow perhaps I’ll become passionate about unravelling the secrects of how music works. I know that whichever way I go, I’ll enjoy myself.
It’s always a pleasure reading your blogs Adam, thanks!
HI FROM FRANCE
It s the first time i m ready to talk to you through your blog.
For the fraud part i ve been playing guitar as a pro for more than 20 years now and sometimes still feels like , i don’t know what s gonna happen, some days are very interesting
discovering new things and the next nothing happens still feel like fighting with the guitar.
As i start reading lines in your blog, i just start to be less and less hard touched with that fact and simply let go.
It strange how life can connect things finding you blog
truly makes me feel i m not the only guy that would like
but cant always get it !!!
so for that thanks
be cool with my english
Mark D. says
Your words are filled with wisdom and I really appreciate your openness. Since we are all getting real here, I’ll share a bit too.
Throughout my life I had always looked to my guitar to relax and express myself. More often than not I would be very tense and carrying a lot of ’emotional strain’ when I grabbed the guitar. Obviously this affected my playing in negative ways and even suffered a hand injury while practicing some challenging music.
Consequently, I had to change my playing if I was ever to progress. What I have found is after I get all the mechanics out of the way, what’s left is a mind game. I play best if I am relaxed and trust in myself. If I believe I can play like Tommy (or Adam!) I’m a lot closer to the goal and moving in the right direction.
I had an amazing time hanging out with you (and everyone else) in Bangkok that weekend and I came back to NYC very inspired. Have a great time out there and look me up when you get back home!