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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Pointing In

Foremost among the things eleven + years of blogging has taught me is how important it is to use my own shortcomings whenever trying to point out how misguided we as humans can sometimes be. It's possible this pointing in vs. pointing out - as difficult as it can be, especially for an egotist like me - is one of the reasons comics often get their biggest laughs using themselves as the butt of their jokes.

I've aspired to be a good improviser on guitar for a long time. But only quite recently did I begin to understand why that aspiration has continually eluded me. And that understanding came to me as I prepared to write a blog post, one that could have easily ended up in the "pointing out" camp if I hadn't stepped back. 

My aspiration to be a good improviser on guitar has been thwarted because of one simple fact: I have not spent enough time studying, de-constructing, and then assiduously copying the great solos of world-class improvisers. Thousands of hours spent practicing the instrument and additional studying of many other aspects of the guitar have helped make me a better overall player. But not devoting the needed time to learn great solos - guitar or otherwise - has left me with average improvisational abilities. Painful lesson? You bet. But arriving at it honestly beats using examples of the aspiring songwriters or memoirists I've met to make the same point. Pointing out their shortcomings is lazy. Better to state the obvious: Unless an aspiring artist from any field is working from recognized models while honing their craft, that artist is bound to come up short, just as I have as an improviser.        

Acclaimed novelist Ernest Gaines was once asked the best way to become a writer. His elegant answer: "Read, read, then read some more".  There is no shortcut, magic bullet, or other way. Take it from me, the one pointing in: Study, deconstruct, copy. Then be patient and await your emerging voice.  


  1. True and well said, Pat. Anything worth doing requires hard work and practice.

    1. Anonymous; Thanks for the comment and affirmation.

  2. Good afternoon, Pat. I almost feel unworthy of commenting on a post regarding guitar playing. Especially since, when asked if I play, my standard response is 'yes, but I suck'. I have often found myself looking for that shortcut or magic bullet to, obviously, no avail. But I am trying, and I believe that is an important first, or any, step in the process. The more I try, the better I feel I will get, and as long as I continue to enjoy it, then it's worth it. Hard work and practice, as with most things and as stated by 'anonymous' above, is necessary to succeed in anything. Being able to be a good improviser on guitar is still a long way off. But, I'll continue trying.
    Be well,

    1. Bob; When we next have a chance to talk, remind me to relate to you a classic "magic bullet" tale connected to a friend and his questions for the great guitarist Robben Ford when this friend and I attended a workshop fearturing Ford.