Just Play: To Get the Job Done Right, Play from the Heart

Why "Just Play?" Because it pretty much sums up my attitude toward performing.

Too many people get caught up in tweaking their gear, getting bogged down in theory or doing what amounts to hours of non-musical calisthenics in order to perfect some inhuman guitar or bass technique.

I’m not saying there's anything wrong with any of those, to a certain point and within reason, and God knows I've been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. But the longer I'm in this line of work, the more I realize that if music is about connecting, then all it takes is just a heartfelt group of notes, no matter how simple, to get the job done.

I remember reading an article by a respected session bassist who was invited to speak and perform at an event where many of the world's top players and up-and-comers were gathering.

One by one, all these bass shredders would take the stage and do their thing …

… not unlike THIS guy:

… each one topping the guy who went on before him. This session bassist was terrified and hadn't really prepared anything, and now all eyes were upon him.

So he pulled out his specialty, his calling card, the thing that had gotten him hired all these years: He dialed in a nice, fat tone on the amp and just started grooving. All the right notes, nothing extraneous, nothing gratuitous, solid time, slinky feel, his voice singing through the instrument. After all the acrobatics, it was just what the audience needed.

When I was a freelance transcriber back in the 1940s when we still did things by pencil and paper, I'd drop by the Guitar World office to drop off my work. Jimmy Brown (senior music editor at Guitar World — and my fearless boss) had received a promo CD from a fusion label pushing the latest offering by a bass-guitar-drums supergroup. Each player was (and still is) a legend and a monster on his respective instrument.

After listening to a few tracks as we shot the shit, I began to feel a little inadequate as a musician. Finally, just as I was half-seriously considering hanging it up — I mean, how am I ever going to top THAT? — my predecessor, Askold Buk, a guitarist who doesn't have to prove himself to anyone, said, "It's good, but where's the joy?"

Just fucking PLAY.

Guitar World music editor Matt Scharfglass has performed around the country and internationally, playing virtually all types of music with a wide range of artists, including R&B with Ashford & Simpson, old-school swing with the Blue Saracens and gospel with Richard Hartley & Soul Resurrection. Matt appears on the original-cast recording of Evil Dead: The Musical and the Broadway Cares album Home for the Holidays. He has also worked in countless theater pits and plays guitar up in the organ booth to crowds of 18,000 at New York Rangers home games at Madison Square Garden. An accomplished guitar and bass transcriber, Matt has had more than 600 of his transcriptions appear in Guitar World magazine and in books by Warner Brothers, Music Sales and Hal Leonard. He has also authored more than a dozen bass and guitar instructional books, including the You Can Do It...Play Bass! and …Play Guitar! series. He is the bassist and one of the main songwriters for his rock band, The Border Cops.

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