There is a really great book out there for guitar players, musicians, and anyone else looking to improve on what they do by approaching things in an interesting way. Its called “Zen Guitar” by Phillip Toshio Sudo. It covers guitar playing with philosophical lessons along with the process of becoming a better musician. If you have never explored the philosophy of constantly improving in anything you do, I highly suggest it. Its got lots of neat lessons and chapters about things musicians should know like patience, jamming, collaborating, ego, and carriage among other things.
Carriage is important. There is a Miles Davis quote at the beginning of the lesson and it goes like this:
“You can tell whether a person plays or not by the way he carries the instrument, whether it means something to him or not. Then the way they talk and act. If they act too hip, you know they cant play ****”
Thanks for clearing that up Miles! On that note, there is this guy I see every week walking to his car in a parking lot. Whenever I see him he obviously just got finished playing his guitar and the way he carries it is just a crime. He carelessly slings the instrument across his back, the body of the guitar in the air with the fragile neck resting on his shoulder as if he were a cartoon hobo carrying a handkerchief bag on a stick. I watch as he walks to his vehicle, nonchalantly stuff it into his car and drive away.
If it was my business I would get out of my car and ask him to hold it correctly, because thats one of my pet peeves. He would look at me crazy, and if I used Miles Davis to cite as a supporter of my theory that I have held since I first laid eyes upon an instrument, he would look at me blankly. “Miles Who?” he would think. He would answer me with uninterested eyes because good music is so readily available to the world, but people want it spoon fed to them.
My instruments are like my songs. They all have names and stories behind them. All of them. My current favorite to play is a beautiful black semi hollow body that reminds me of my heroes from the fifties. It was given to me from my wife as a wedding gift and whenever I hold it, I give it as much respect as I do any member of my band because she (my guitars are all shes) will help me write a song that will make people mad, sad, happy, or just want to dance.
Its always been like that with me when I stop and think about it. Every time I sit at a new piano, I stop to admire the craftsmanship of the piano, the way the legs are carved and the sound it makes when I begin to press down the pedals. Every time I hold a strange guitar, I admire the curves and delicate wood that comes together to make such great sounds, and when I pick up a strange new instrument I have never seen (not uncommon for a Tom Waits fan) I take the time to size it up before I experiment with what I need it to do for me.
It may sound kooky, I suppose, to people who think of music as nothing more than background noise in a car or a movie. I dont expect many people to understand. I am sure there are many of you who have rituals and habits you execute before you begin a task that you love to do.
All I ask is that if you are that guy I see in a parking lot every week, please get a case, hold it by the handle, and treat that guitar as your best friend, because right now, youre its only one.
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