Some of the most proficient guitarists in the world are not known to many people, because their versatility makes them ideal session guitarists or members of touring bands. If you can play the one style, but play it enormously well, then you’re one of life’s band members. But if you can play every style to a level of impressive proficiency, then a session role is something to consider. There will always be a band, in whatever genre, who need a guitarist like you.
The guitar has popped up in all kinds of music over the years. Of course it has a place in punk music, although there are many who would argue that anyone could be the guitarist in a punk band. A solo rock singer will need session musicians to play their songs when they go on tour, while the increasing number of dance acts who prefer to put on a live show rather than do a glorified DJ set means that there is a challenge for session musicians – you may well know how to play the entire back catalogue of Bryan Adams, but the skeletal guitar lines that pop up in a lot of drum ‘n’ bass music are a different kettle of fish.
The different genres that use the guitar all use it differently – some would compare the styles to different tools. A punk guitar style will be similar to using a hammer, and a rock guitarist will work more with a saw. The more intricate and fragile playing which is, strangely, familiar to both folk and dance music, is more like a paintbrush. It’s all the same instrument though – a wonderfully versatile one.
Any long-time guitarist will tell you, as you are starting out as a beginner, that the bits you have to look out for are the ones you wouldn’t predict. You’ll expect to make mistakes as you get used to the instrument, and you’ll expect to fall out with loved ones over your practising in the house. What you won’t expect are the bizarre little side-effects which befall most guitarists – but don’t much get talked about because they aren’t part of the glamorous image of guitar heroes. These are things that will genuinely surprise you. But when you think about them, they are perfectly logical.
For starters, you will be shocked at just how hard the skin on your hands, particularly your fingertips, will become. Even if you use a plectrum to pluck the strings, you will find that the fingerprints start to wear away as the thick skin comes into contact with the harsh strings on the instrument. And then there is what happens to your fingernails. There are few guitarists who have been playing for any amount of time that haven’t lost a fingernail or two. Some will certainly split, and one or two will blacken. Your best bet is to invest in some gloves for when you aren’t playing.
If you didn’t already have some sweet biceps, that’s another thing to look out for. When you are carrying a guitar around everywhere with you, and add to that an amp, then you will get a workout even if you don’t like the gym. You may not end up looking like an Olympic wrestler, but there will be a marked increase in definition in your muscles. Unless you get some roadies, of course.
There are some things at which some people find out they are gifted without having to try a great deal. Famously, athletic ability is one of those things that shows early – a child showing the ability to run faster or for longer than the others may be destined for a future athletics career. Musical ability also falls into this category. Some of us can pick up a guitar and put together a reasonable tune without having to concentrate too hard or put in too much effort. It is quite a pleasant thing to discover – the ability to make music is one that is keenly sought-after – but it doesn’t mean you are all the way there.
Remember, there is a world of difference between being able to play the guitar well and being able to create impressive music. Some people can play cover versions of famous songs perfectly, but when it comes to thinking outside the box and creating something new, it becomes a whole new kettle of fish. It is therefore not wise to rest on your laurels. While true creativity cannot be learned it can be honed, and most of us have some creative ability in us somewhere. Release that and master it, and you can be on a roll towards creating something special.
There are so many people who found out early on that they were talented, and failed to realize that this was not the green light to lucrative success they thought it was. Natural talent plus hard work can make you really gifted – but a dash of humility is required to ensure that the two meet.