Years ago, soon after discovering Pandora radio, I created a couple dozen customized stations, using that feature I've come to love. I called one of my stations Guitar Heroes
, "seeding" it with several of my favorite players to help Pandora's algorithm search for others - hopefully some new to me - that I might enjoy. Therein lies the nub of today's (almost) sweet and (not too) sour reflection.
Most days, listening to Guitar Heroes
- walking, while at the gym, etc. - does not dissuade me from picking up the guitar later that day. Because, although the staggering technical virtuosity I hear is humbling, it's easy for me to make excuses explaining why - after a half century on the instrument - I'm still unable to approach some of what I've just listened to. A partial list of those excuses:
* Drums were my first instrument so I started playing late and also had no early guitar mentors.
* I spent the first decade + mostly accompanying my singing and couldn't afford lessons until I was thirty.
* When my singing voice gave out, forcing me to give up music as a livelihood and get a day job, practice time got compromised as life took over - that job, raising a family, mowing the lawn, etc.
On the days when those excuses work, I return diligently to the guitar, usually deriving some measure of enjoyment from what thousands of hours of practice has helped me be able to do. Alas, today has not been one of those days.
Instead, after ninety minutes of walking and Guitar Heroes
today, some unanswerable questions would not leave me alone. And I'm confident other guitar players like me - i.e. those on the bell curve with respect to their abilities - have had similar wonderings. Like - When Steve Morse listens to Joe Pass does he have even a twinge of regret about not practicing more? Does Jeff Beck's admiration of Al DiMeola's technique ever cross the line into envy when he hears a passage he thinks he might have trouble navigating? Do Tommy Bolin, Joe Bonamassa, or Robert Fripp ever wish they had more
Because here's the thing: Although I won't ever give up trying to become a better guitar player - bell curve or not - it would be a tiny bit reassuring to know these giants occasionally have their moments. What moments, you ask? Well, moments like that saxophone player depicted in the movie Bird
had, soon after he hears Charlie Parker play something super-human. Moments when, as a musician, you simply want to toss your instrument off the bridge into the raging river below.