Let's talk musicianship
Music is something I never talk about around here. It's actually something I don't talk about in real life either. This leads to a lot of mystery, and many people either have no idea what kind of music I listen to, don't know whether or not I even care about music, let alone if I play any instruments. Recently my friend Aaron (aboboisdaman) over at 1UP.com wrote a blog about bass players he likes, as well as songs he likes to play on bass guitar, and it inspired me to put together a blog series about my own musicianship, and music that inspired the style I developed.
Not to get too mushy (unless you want to get mushy with me? I'm always down for mutual mush you know), but I feel much more comfortable here with you guys and I would honestly enjoy telling my friends and followers the story.
This blog series should be around 4 blogs worth, and I'm going to break them up and shorten each one so that it doesn't eat away too much time out of your lives. I'll release one every few days, give people time to respond, and before long, things will be back to normal, meaning I'll go dark and begin planning the next great thing. Now, onto the story. Here are some facts.
The truth is I love music, and I've been playing electric guitar since I was 15 or so. Many kids pick up a guitar and learn to play, so why is my story any different you ask? Well, I never aspired to be a rock star, I never cared about impressing girls, I never wanted to play for anybody but myself, and I learn it all by ear without any training or sheet music.
If you've been to highschool or college you'll know that scenes like this are a regular occurance in dining halls or courtyards. I despise this kind of attitude, and I realized early-on that I'm this guy's antithesis
The scene above is how the majority of guitar player stories go. Most of the kids I went to school with picked up a guitar, learned how to play Stairway to Heaven (or some other over-played junk), and entrenched themselves in a group of girls to try and serenade them. These kinds of guys end up being the stereotypical art-school, hipster poet, guitar toting, d-bags that will write a sweet song for any pretty girl willing to listen. Sometimes the end goal for these kids is sex, sometimes it's popularity, attention, money, or all of the above. Kids like this grow up to be wannabe gunslinger, playboy, guitar playing d-bags like Joe Perry or something.
In my school, playing guitar was a hot thing to do and every other boy had their parents buy them one so they could start masterminding their way into girl's panties. We had a guitar club that met after school and one day I showed up there for a minute just to see what it was all about. I walked in and saw a bunch of boys sitting on desks, making shitty noise with their poorly tuned guitars, while a group of girls sat in chairs and gossiped about which one was the cutest. I wasn't even there for 2 minutes before I said, "Screw you guys, I'm going home."
You never know what destiny you could stumble into when you visit a garage sale
The first time I ever played a guitar was because my cousin Adrian bought two guitars at a yardsale, for $3 a piece lol (talk about a deal). They were old and low quality beginner's Squire Stratocasters, but they were a Godsend at the time. There was a white one and a black one. I took the white one, Adrian took the black one, and we just sat around trying to learn songs we heard on the radio. At the time, the System of A Down song "Aerials" was the most popular thing on the radio. Once we learned how power chords worked, we learned the whole song basically. Well, in a couple minutes I learned it lol (Adrian quit after that first day of playing). Luckily, Aerials is a perfect beginner song to learn, it's easy and simple. It's like the "Smoke on The Water" of my generation. That was the beginning of my learning by ear skills, and I've been doing it ever since, and with much more difficult songs.
It wasn't long before that old white Squire Stratocaster started breaking down on me though. In the short time I owned that guitar I learned to play a lot of stuff. I really latched onto guitar playing passionately. It made me happy, and I knew I had to get a replacement. One Christmas, my Dad bought me a replacement for that broken Squire.
A Dean EVO XM. This was my baby for years until I finally broke it. This stock picture is the same model and color as mine too so there's no difference other than all the stickers I had on the back of mine. I put a big "PEACE" sticker on the back of her one day, then later I defaced the peace sticker and scratched the word "WAR" into it. Teen angst is priceless
Dad bought me this Dean EVO XM and I was all over it the second it arrived. I took it out of its box, hooked it all up, and pounded chords on it the entire day. I actually ended up falling asleep with it on the other side of my bed. I'm lucky I didn't push it off the bed in my sleep, or roll over on it and break something. It's only a $100 guitar and it doesn't sound great, but the intangible and internal benefits I gained from it were priceless.
Whenever I was in the mood, I would pick her up and play her, usually for hours at a time. I would lock myself in my room, go through my growing collection of CDs, put on music I liked, play along with my favorite songs, and learn new ones all the time. I never once brought her to school, never played for anybody, didn't care what people thought, and I kept this hobby all to myself. I honestly never even turned the voume up very loud, because I didn't want people to hear me. It was like an artistic and intellectual oasis where I could escape the world I lived in, escape the drama, the people, everything that crushed my morale. I could zone into something I loved, and transcend that outside world and it's people that crushed me so much at times.
Playing guitar became a method of escapism, therapy, stress relief, art, creativity, brain exercise, and physical exercise. Whether I was happy, depressed, high energy, low energy, angry, or at peace, I could always count on my guitar to be a safe way to let out my positive and negative emotions. When my big sister, cousins, or friends chose to abuse drugs & alcohol, get in fights, go to jail, and destroy themselves, I chose to lock myself away and be with my guitar where I knew I was safe and free. There with my guitar I could cry, smile, be challenged, and let my imagination and skill speak for me. I'm a very softspoken person in real life, and I always let my work and actions do my talking for me.
Everybody needs to find their own ways to safely deal with their emotions and express themselves. Many people never find a way. Some use sex, drugs, alcohol, some abuse their kids or their partner, and some develop destructive addictions. My brain is my escape. I can engineer a universe in my imagination any time I please. My imagination is probably the #1 reason why I not only love playing music, but also why I love level design so much
I've been playing for maybe 8 years now, and nowadays I play more than ever, and I enjoy it more than I ever did. I learn new songs all the time, but I still play old songs that I've already jammed to a thousand times over. If it's fun, I do it, and I do it for myself alone. That old Dean EVO guitar I showed you a picture of actually broke and I retired it a couple years ago. This time though, when I got a replacement I bought it myself. I didn't have a lot of money so I wasn't able upgrade to a better guitar, I just bought another cheap one. In the guitar-making business, you literally get what you pay for. Cheap guitars give you cheap materials and tech. For example there are huge differences between low end magnetic pickups and high end ones (pickups are the devices that "pick up" the vibration of your strings and convert it to a signal which can be amplified).
Dean ML XM. The guitar I currently play. Mine is white though. Dimebag from Pantera plays this shape of guitar, but I regret buying it, this doesn't suit me at all
The Dean above is the one I currently play and own. She is all white and thus I named her Snow White. It's served its purpose but I'm not really a fan. I don't like the shape and feel of it so when I buy my next guitar it'll be round again and have that Gibson shape (hopefully my next guitar is a Gibson).
So I've told you all about my emotional connection to the instrument, and I've gone through a process of deduction to list how I don't want to play, but before I end this blog I'll explain the style I did end up developing. A lot of kids pick up guitars, quickly try to learn some fancy soloing techniques so they can impress people, and they end up becoming very sub-par musicians. You can go on Youtube anytime and find a thousand videos of people trying to show how cool they are and how fast they can do something on guitar. They are a dime a dozen and the majority of them have no sense of timing, discipline, and respect for their instrument. I don't care for showoffs, I care about respect, and as a result I never learned to sweep pick (an advanced soloing technique many guitarists use). I like to focus on playing rhythms, and keeping things on time.
I take all my aggression and passion, and focus it like a laser so that I can play really powerful, crisp, fast, and in time. We are all nerds here so I don't have to be afraid to let my colors show, please endulge me. My playing style is similar to the lightsaber combat style that the Master Jedi Mace Windu created, called Vaapad. Using Vaapad, Windu channels the dark side, and allows his style of combat to be the most vicious offensive combat style of all. It's more a state of mind than a fighting style, and requires intense mental focus, discipline, and practice to use successfully without succumbing to the dark side or descending into chaos.
Windu focused his anger and used it to defeat the Dark Lord of the Sith in lightsaber combat. I use my anger to shred a guitar. Also, the color purple is rad. These are all facts
That wraps it up for this first entry in the series. The next entries will be a bit shorter, will include a couple vids, explain some of the influences I have musically, and will ultimately wrap up this short series on musicianship. I hope you enjoyed this, and if you play any instruments or just really love music (We know from past Pixltalk discussions that we have quite a few musicians and music lovers here at Pixlbit), let me know your story in the comments section! On the other hand, if you really hated this, blame Aaron(aboboisdaman)! No, he's actually a nice guy, so go blame Canada instead.