Guitarist Available: Into Hard Rock, Country, Polka, Easy Listening, Elevator Jazz, Gypsy, Classical, Barbershop, Big Band ..."
As an 11-year-old, I was infatuated with Def Leppard. I would even pretend to play along with the Hysteria album using one (not two) chopsticks as drumsticks to emulate Rick Allen, assigning my left foot to snare drum duties.
I played along like that and got into all the other popular hard rock bands of the time, such as Guns 'N Roses, Tesla and especially the Randy Rhoads tribute album from Ozzy -- all of 'em.
I eventually got some sticks and joined a local drum corp as a cymbal player so that I could take my cymbals home, set one of them up on a chair with a broken back and put headphones on and smash away to "tapes" (Do you remember tapes?). I would use the seat of the chair as the snare drum, and the cymbal as, well, everything else. CRASH, CRASH, CRASH! I was on my way, and it didn't matter to me what I played. I just wanted to play music.
How many people out there after reading this just said something like "Def Leppard sucks!" to themselves? My response is, "Why?" The purpose of this blog post is to get a reader who shops in one category on iTunes to learn a few licks from another category and see where it leads you and find out how it can open you up more with what you currently play.
Fast forward: Now I'm 16 and I have drums and a guitar in my arsenal. My sister buys Pornograffitti by Extreme, as she loved the song "More Than Words," only to find that outside of two acoustic songs on that "tape," there were 10 other blazing guitar tracks she didn't care for. She hands the "tape" off to me, and those blazing guitar tracks blow me away!
I spent hours every day over the next year practicing guitar, wanting to learn how to play like Nuno Bettencourt. I was as excited as I could be.
In hindsight, the thing that really stands out to me now is that I had gotten into a band that had a lot of different musical ingredients, and my appetite for different genres was growing.
Around this time, a friend came over who was a fantastic guitarist, and he had been studying a lot of country guitar. He goes, "Check this out" as he rips into a jaw-dropping Albert Lee solo. Then I asked him to do it again, and I clicked on his distortion pedal. This was a defining moment for me, and the genre walls broke down in my head. An E is an E in any genre, and it's our own tastes that stop us from expanding our palette.
If you look at every major innovation in human history, a huge catalyst in that innovation is the joining together of two practices to create a new hybrid. It's even the way that we procreate. Picture the old joke from The Blues Brothers:
"What kind of music do you usually have here?"
"Oh, we got both kinds. We got country AND western."
We can change this joke a million ways to read: "rythmn AND blues," "rock AND roll," "drum AND bass." The point is that the road to innovation starts with someone mixing two different ingredients and throwing them in an oven somewhere.
Have you ever seen Zakk Wylde or Joe Holmes chicken pick? Have you ever seen a video of Joe Pass playing an unaccompanied solo in front of a packed house?
Yesterday I was bored, so I learned the song "Saying Goodbye" from the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan to entertain myself, and then a version of "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal to play solo acoustic with because I think its a cool song. Why not, right?
My all-time favorite quote is from drummer Rodney Holmes during the 2006 Modern Drummer festival: "It's important to view all styles of music as different sides of the same object." I urge you to step outside your box and find something new in this HUGE world of music today, learn it and make it yours. Practice it until you feel it, then see where it leads you in your world of music.
Until Next Time!
David Scott Rockower is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and guitar teacher based out of the capital region of New York state. His newest original project, "The Duke Western," where he self-produces and performs all the instruments and engineers his own songs, has had success in its short life so far, having songs licensed to MTV, E! Networks, Tiptown Publishing, regional airplay and more. Projects Rockower has produced have been featured on PBS, Kia Motors, Paia Pictures and have recieved hours of airplay or web-play. He teaches around 30 guitar students per week, and performs more than 140 shows per year in different groups all over the Northeast. Check out thedukewestern.com for contact and more info!