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Guitar Player magazine Mar 2017 "Who Will Save Guitar"
  • Anybody read this issue? The Guitar Player Mar 2017 issue was a great read and "Who Will Save Guitar" by Michael Molenda was stand out.

    Sometimes I just zip through an issue and glance at photos of hairy tatooed dudes who have their guitars at knee level - but the March issue had some great stuff... Retro articles from the past and thought provoking new commentary.

    Opinions on the article "Who Will Save Guitar"?

  • Bwahahaha! I just spit my coffee all over my monitor laughing at the hairy tattood dudes comment. Thanks for the heads up. I used to subscribe to Guitar Player but stopped when the content became less and less interesting to me. I'll definitely check this issue out.
  • Hi Jim,
    As a guitar teacher, I read the article with interest. It has been my experience that in this age of instant gratification, inspiring and motivating students is extremely challenging. My biggest competition is not other teachers, but with kids especially, IPads and video games. I constantly have to balance teaching the fundamentals with dumbed down exercises that really don't accomplish much. If the parents aren't on board and enforce practice, it can take a year to achieve what should take a couple months. Most adults are just as challenging. During the first lesson I emphasize how difficult it is to learn to play and encourage them to be patient with themselves and try to enjoy the process. Most are excited initially, but when they realize how much work is involved, quickly find every excuse under the sun to explain why they didn't have half an hour to practice every day. I don't subscribe to the notion in the article that just making noise and calling that music or even "art" is legitimate. I'm old school and maybe not that open minded; I insist my students learn standard notation, some theory and develop a repertoire or find another teacher who just takes their money for another tabbed out lick of the week.
    The points made in the article, in my opinion, are but a symptom of an underlying expectation to get something for nothing...without working for it.
    My cynicism may make you wonder why I bother; I continue to teach and advocate the instrument for that 30% or so of my students who work hard and progress from complete novices to finding the great joy of playing reasonably well. I'm more than willing to endure the quitters and slackers for that reward. I'm looking forward to seeing you in Chicago!
    Best wishes,
    Mark Avery
  • Hi Mark - I really enjoyed your incredible post.

    My thoughts on your post and the excellent article “Who Will Save Guitar?" …

    Lately, I've been out of the loop (I'm not bragging, but most my students in NYC are excellent & serious). That said, I've been teaching for 35 years and I see some obvious trends. I saw a lack of a drive in many of my students. I remember being insanely driven about achieving a riff or a phrase - for me, it was like life or death. Sure, I became a guitarist- but when I was growing up *all* the kids I knew were really committed - there was NOTHING else to do in 1975! I noticed my millennial students have a “contentment" that bars obsessive achievement. And they don’t seem to exhibit the bliss of learning CMA7 …. It’s more like “oh yeah, I got it - Next?”. Maybe because information is too easily available?

    Could pornography be a good analogy? I’ll never forget as a 11 year old boy finding a discarded Playboy magazine in the playground - it was like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls! I was a 11 year-old boy hadn’t seen a naked woman and had no idea what one looked like… Now, young kids can view every sexual act and sexual deviation. I can’t imagine having access to that stuff as a young kid. That has to change you... Look, I’m no prude, but music information was treated with an equal astonishment and importance - because it was a rare gift not to be taken for granted. I love that Paul McCartney story when he tells of taking a bus across town to learn B7. The computer/internet as a competitive distraction that is too tempting with TOO MUCH information that is dumbly saturating is problematic - not only for my students, but for me as well!

    It’s tough to tear myself away from the internet and I’m always preoccupied with email...or YouTube…or Instagram…or Twitter… this Forum! And watching a two hour Pat Metheny clinic on YouTube is NOT trying to figure out a lick from an LP for 2 days. Young guitarists have oodles of information but they lack the investment and struggle that internalizes music in ones soul - that creates a singular voice, that translates into the truth.

    And despite it’s many merits, Rap surely hasn’t helped young folks become virtuoso instrumentalists. What creative choices would a young Jimi Hendrix make in 2017? I'm sure Albert King and Thumbs Carllile wouldn't exist, at least in the U.S., learning and mastering guitar UPSIDE DOWN?

    I hope I don’t sound like an old guy ranting… I love music, I have incredible students and Julian Lage and many young guitarists like him are an inspiration. I'm grateful young folks don't laugh or smirk like I did as a teenager when my Uncle played his then antiquated accordion. Kids still like guitar and guitar music...

    But the times they are a changin' and generally skill sets on guitar have become less committed. Basically, there's too many other distractions and information can be taken for granted. Maybe it's part of socities growth - having a diverse well-rounded generation that delves into hobbies halfway to inform and amuse? I honestly don't know.

    Anyway- I appreciate you taking the time to write. And yes, can't wait to play Chicago and see you Mark. Thank you.

    Have a great day- Jim
  • This is interesting... I am only a budding guitar teacher! I have found that young folks have a lot of interest in guitar and are blessed to have so much music at their disposal. They literally get to go from one end of the spectrum to the other in a click.

    I am 28, so I just missed that opportunity as a young young kid. It was not until late high school and really in college that the internet really opened up.

    The downfall I see in folks these days is spending a lot of time on one idea. I taught a kid how to play hideaway Eric Clapton Beano style. It was great, it was what one of my first teachers taught me in high school. We worked up each part and after a few weeks he had it down.

    I then wanted to spend another few weeks examining the freddie king version, SRV and maybe give some ideas for coming up with out own. It was really tough to get him to focus on it past just learning it, he really wanted to move onto other songs. Which I understand too, I was that way.

    I even noticed this problem in my own practice and am trying to remedy it. Maybe learning a chorus of a solo rather than a the whole solo but milking the chorus for all its worth and memorizing it more effectively.

    It is tough because devices are such a part of life... but I really try to focus on playing device free for serious practice time.

    I am hopeful for the future of the guitar! I read the article quickly but I think sometimes in magazine they confuse the health of the retail industry with the health of the playing industry. I think we are rapidly reaching a point where manufacturers are cranking out so many guitars that the market will not be able to absorb them.
  • They have it online: http://www.guitarplayer.com/gear/1012/who-will-save-the-guitar/61897

    My favorite observation is that you don't need to be a virtuoso to be an artist. The guitar can simply be a tool for expression. There is so much to learn, but that's the best part!

    What really helps as beginner is having friends that are also learning an instrument. One of the Dinosaur Jr. guys said "starting a band is a great way to learn an instrument."

    Ultimately, I think it's beyond "who will save guitar," every instrument is intimidating and most people that take band, or piano lessons as a kid drop out by adulthood. It is so much easier and accessible to create music with digital instruments, midi keyboards, and phones. A sampler or drum machine is an instrument that can be mastered all the same... isn't this the same idea that you don't need to be a virtuoso to be a great artist?

    Anyway guitar is arguably the most popular instrument... maybe we should be more worried about saving the oboe a true endangered species ;)
  • ".... I read the article quickly but I think sometimes in magazine they confuse the health of the retail industry with the health of the playing industry. I think we are rapidly reaching a point where manufacturers are cranking out so many guitars that the market will not be able to absorb them. ...."

    Really good point!

  • The guitar hasn't died. Rock has died. Rock is where the vast majority of guitarists came from over the last fifty years and it's probably where most guitarists still come from (or modern Country which is kind of the new Rock). But rock is now a much smaller piece of the musical pie. Hip-hop and Pop rule. Not much guitar there.

    Guitar is not going to get you the kind of attention it did back in the hey day of Rock, so obsessive kids are more likely going to turn their obsession to something else. So what came first, music evolving into less guitar-centric forms causing obsessive kids to lose interest in guitar, or other things to obsess about came along that would get them more attention and admiration than playing guitar?
  • Kids today, at this time, seem rarely to want to stand out. Social interactions have been dumbed-down into 'likes' that are thoughtlessly sought, received, tallied and forgotten in the quest to consume whatever seems desirable to consume. Watching my teenage kids on their devices is heartbreaking and I'm not sure there has ever been such a diabolical way to subvert independence and creativity. The problem is, when I try to discuss this with my kids, I even sound crazy to myself.

    Music was a huge thing in my household. My dad was (and is, thank goodness) a jazz and American songbook devotee and my mom managed to hold onto her 60s and 70s record collection for me to study. Even though I was surrounded by all of these forces for good, which I loved and listened to, I needed to make my own noise and was empowered to do so through the guitar. It was how I identified myself and how I communicated. I was a kid who played punk rock in the 80s and 90s and despite being raised by musically astute parents, wanted nothing more than to torture others with my Peavey 130 and a Rat pedal. It feels like young people are not just complacent, but also resigned and sort of hopeless. They add their voices to a monotone chorus that creates only volume.

    American popular music; the music that was born here, blues, jazz, rock and roll, and punk rock came from outrage and struggle and was meant to protest and subvert. Like most things worth doing, playing an instrument requires work and devotion and time and perseverance. The 'steady diet of nothing' can only sustain for so long. It will take a revolutionary figure to reintroduce the idea of music and music-making as a force for change. These figures still come along, they just have a larger pool in which to swim and try to make an impact.

    The idea that may 'save the guitar' is perhaps a re-recognition of the concept of the instrument (or any instrument) as a tool of rebellion, differentiation and hope. I think that culture (including art and music) are definitely cyclical...and pop culture is at an especially low ebb now. A good thing to remember is that there are other parts of the music culture that are in full flower...maybe partly thanks to the internet. This forum is a great example...I discovered the music of Jim Campilongo. I feel safe in assuming that we are a small part of the larger picture of guitar music and devotees (or at least fans) of a guitar savior.

    Sorry for such a long post!
  • Maybe I live in an echo chamber but I give lessons to kids, play with ppl younger and older than me and it seems vibrant.

    There is too much music and it is too readily available for their to be a single "savior". I do not think the world will see another Jimi Hendrix like character to galvanize the entire community, there is just too much diversity in interests.

    I think the guitar will have to find a way into the larger picture of life in 2017, where devices are such a part of everything, and while it may seem bleak I think thats kind of exciting and cool.

    Perhaps music is going to be more the way it was in the 20's and 30's. I take lessons from a dude who started playing in the 30's and he said there were really not many "hero's" or figureheads back then and that it was more community driven. There was also much less division in genre. I think we are in an era like that again.

    I think given the fact that anyone who wants to learn to play can through their computer etc. the competition is too fierce. There are a million doctors, dentists, lawyers etc. who can play REALLY well and want to because they LOVE playing. They will be competing against those who need to play for $ and likely win that battle.

    Now it terms of nice places for folks to play in terms of coffee houses/venues etc... that is another story.

    As a side note I think in this specific forum community we are really deep in the rabbit hole and cannot expect everyone to join us. Whenever anyone complains that so and so guitar player does not get enough attention I always ask, "Who was the best bowler in the world in 2016." and usually get blank stares. Other bowlers certainly know and likely they too have a great community of respect for their figureheads. I do not think we can expect everyone to get fired up about virtuoso guitar players, its a niche market.

  • But where is someone who demands attention outside the "niche"? This is the interesting point of "Who Will Save Guitar".

    "Who was the best bowler in the world in 2016" ... I think if there was a bowler like Dennis Rodman, we'd know. Instead, bowlers are pretty much boring to watch - so we don't care.

    The success a "Jimi Hendrix" reaps from society isn't the point - the question to me is - Why isn't there a "Hendrix" emerging from somewhere? Hendrix was oozing sexuality, danger, love and theatrics in the context of high art. And boy o' boy, he could play that guitar.

    Though Hendrix to me is unequaled, the only examples I could think of are Prince and Nirvana. And Prince was somewhat derivative and Cobain, even while kicking serious ass, had an introverted stage presence. The new millenium has me drawing a blank.

    I don't mean to be a negative Nellie, and I don't mean to offend - but in the context of this discussion- John Mayer and Brad Paisley are boring and "safe". How I define "who will save guitar" would be someone who inspires others to know themselves better, by being unique and brave.

    Who is a guitarist who transcends honorable mention? St Vincent comes to mind... but again, she's an honorable mention. Nels Cline is an incredible inspiration too, he's the most youthful 60 year old I've ever met.

    But I can't think of anyone who is currently a young "Hendrix"... not even close.

    Again, good points by all. The last thing I want is to express is a negative viewpoint of youth - I love and cherish my younger students.

    PS- I am really enjoying this thread!

  • When I was a kid back in 1975 the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was on national TV every Saturday afternoon. It got extremely good ratings and was very popular. Earl Anthony was about as square as you could get, but a lot of people knew he was the best bowler in the world. Because bowling was very popular at the time, and lots of people watched as well as participated. Earl was a star! So there was a time in history when we did care about even boring bowlers.

    Also as guitar players we tend to think that someone like Hendrix was the center of the entertainment world back then, but I'm sure most of the music consuming public back then knew a lot more about Mick Jagger, Dylan, and the fellows in the Beatles than they did about Hendrix (even if he was a front man).

    As an aside. I'm a lefty who plays guitar righty, but naturally bowls lefty. Years ago, having not bowled in quite some time, I bowled about four games the day of a gig. That evening (at the gig) I couldn't even grip the neck of the guitar. Worst gig ever.
  • Hi Clyde-

    I'm more of a "football guy" but your point is well taken. I've only bowled half-heartedly but I remember Wide World of Sports covering bowling on Saturdays and seeing two strikes on the 10th frame then then bonus strike - very exciting!

    Next time, I'll use a different analogy!
  • Actually Jim I thought the bowling analogy was excellent. Bowling peaked in the sixties and seventies, very much like electric guitar. Back then everyone bowled; Fred, Barney, Ralph, Ed Norton, Archie Bunker. People then recognized names like Dick Weber, similar to Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page being well known. But time has changed things.

    As guitar players we took an article called "Who Will Save Guitar" pretty seriously. We all would have laughed at an article titled "Who Will Save Bowling."
  • Many moons ago, while I was in college a professor mentioned that people used to always list JFK and John Wayne as their role models...there was a consensus. But in 1990, the list of role models was very diverse...and that's because our exposure to potential role models had increased...and this was at the dawn of the internet. I can't imagine there would be any kind of consensus today. The same is true of guitar heroes...there are many of them, so many that we can't agree on one best player. And there are also many more diversions available today...the singular focus that is required for excellence is hard to come by...I am reminded of the movie "Whiplash." For me that film wasn't about drumming or music school, it was about what it takes to be great...nor pretty good. What we are seeing with the state of guitar can also be seen in other areas...but we also have a bunch of people that are pretty good at lots of things, and fewer people that are great at one thing. I change my mind daily on whether this is a problem or not.

    After thinking about this in relation to Hendrix, I did some digging...the first Hendrix album sold 5 million copies in the US...to put things in perspective, Norah Jones sold 11 in the US (26 worldwide). The last big year of guitar rock was 1991...Metallica sold 16 mil and Nirvana sold 10. Back in the 70s and 80s, Van Halen had two 10 million sellers, while ZZ Top's Eliminator sold 10 as well. What really threw me off was that Santanta sold 13 million copies of Supernatural (released in 1999). Who knew?
  • Arif Mardin told Norah - the reason her record sold so many copies is her audience didn't know how to use Napster!

  • Ha! So, instead of teaching children, maybe we should teach retirees to play guitar. Problem solved.
  • Ha! Okay, we're done here.

    By the way, I love Norah's first record -I think it's a masterpiece.
  • This is a very interesting thread. I came in a little late and I realize that maybe it's "done" but I wanted to come at this from a different angle.

    I've been a clinical psychologist for over 30 years and I've also played the guitar for nearly 50 years. While I totally agree that the world we live in is completely different from the one I grew up in, things are not going to change. In fact, who knows what is around the corner with a new technological trend or influence in society. Technology, the internet, computers, etc. have changed everything.

    I have four children who are teenagers and three of them are talented musicians in their own right. I have a guitar player, a drummer, and a violin player. They all took/take lessons and practiced inconsistently -- sometimes passionately like many of us did in the "old days" and sometimes sporadically or not at all. My biggest insight into the technology issue is what I see sometimes at the dinner table. Their grandparents get infuriated when kids check their phones, text, or otherwise seem disinterested in conversation. But my general observation is that kids get distracted by their phones, games, etc. whenever they are more interested in their phone contacts that what is going on in the social interactions around them. There have been times when if I were a kid at the same dinner table, I'd be on my phone rather than getting a "lecture" about how things used to be and how the "world today" is going down the tubes. I am a self-taught guitar player and frankly, I would have preferred to learn the guitar with what is available today, rather than what I had at my disposal in the 60s and 70s.

    It is a basic human tendency to direct your attention -- as long as your brain can still direct attention!! -- to the things that interest us most. For many on this forum, it is/was the guitar while growing up. Young people are not going to change; the world is only going to get more complex. The REAL challenge is to find a new way to teach music -- an approach that engages young people and grabs and HOLDS their attention. The teachers that taught/teach my kids are very talented musicians and teachers. But I have had discussions with them about ways in which I think they could recapture my child's passion and commitment to an instrument after the initial novelty wore off. They invariably seemed to have rigid ideas of what they needed to do with their students that mades sense to me -- but I'm "old school" -- yet I knew it would only drive my child further away from their instrument. And ultimately it did for two of them.

    I don't have an answer, but I think it's worth looking at revolutionizing the way instruments are taught; come up with a way that embraces and uses the technology we have. I agree that playing an instrument is a "lost" art but it is up to us to find ways to inspire. Just recently I came across a Bruce Springsteen YouTube concert video of he and his band "re-learning" an old Chuck Berry song on stage in front of 50,000+ people and then performing it flawlessly. It is a classic study in the lost art of musicianship. I showed it to my kids as an old-school "music lesson" on performance. They were all impressed. Long live the Internet!!
  • JT -

    Great post. I sure enjoyed it (and all the posts). I really thought about this too "... The REAL challenge is to find a new way to teach music -- an approach that engages young people and grabs and HOLDS their attention..."

    I remember buying a "BB King Blues" book in the 70's - I wish I had it still, to scan and post it here. It was terrible! I was a kid and I didn't know any better - I spent hours trying to make the connection between BB's mysterious, subtle lines and the dreck published in that book.

    I can only imagine how I could have improved if there was an internet and all it's offerings.

    That said, finally -when a local kind soul showed me a BB King lick, I practiced it so obsessively, it was ridiculous. 10,000 times. I was like a starving man who was thrown a hamburger and I can say, I mastered that lick. And for years, I didn't stray far from it.

    I guess what I find interesting is there might be a downside to having "everything" at ones disposal?

    Have a great day -Jim
  • This thread FAR SURPASSES the Guitar Player article. One of the best threads EVER on JC Forum!
  • "Though Hendrix to me is unequaled, the only examples I could think of are Prince and Nirvana. And Prince was somewhat derivative and Cobain, even while kicking serious ass, had an introverted stage presence. The new millenium has me drawing a blank.

    I don't mean to be a negative Nellie, and I don't mean to offend - but in the context of this discussion- John Mayer and Brad Paisley are boring and "safe". How I define "who will save guitar" would be someone who inspires others to know themselves better, by being unique and brave."

    This brought up a recurring thought I have been having for several years now. I agree... there has been no "Hendrix", (altho there WAS an Eddie Van Halen - totally worthy, and also SRV- imo also worthy)... however, yes... there doesn't seem to be a "this person has re-engaged guitar for a generation"....


    I we aren't talking amazing electric/lead players, and we start talking about people (kids) just learning to play guitar... I know I'll get razzed for this... I'll bet Taylor Swift has "sold" more guitars than anyone in the last 20 years. And I don't think that's a bad thing.... from that group of kids, we may very well get the next "Prince" or "Hendrix" (altho, of course, in their own way.)

    As far as "unique and brave", I can honestly say- and no, I'm not saying this just because this is the JC forum- I think Jim IS ABSOLUTELY one of the most "unique and brave" players we currently have. I know alot of people also put Nels Cline and Bill Frissell and others into that category. And I don't think any of them will "be Hendrix", but the music world has changed. IDK if we will even see another artist like that in out lifetime... not that the talent isn't there- it is- but the way people get popular, how long they stay popular, and why they are popular- ain't what it used to be. It seems the only way to be THAT kind of an enigma is to be a Lady Gaga - meaning, not a guitar player/unique musician, but more of a "character". The jazz and blues worlds DO still hold great players in high esteem, but let's not forget- Hendrix was POP. Meaning, he crossed over to pop- EVERYONE listened to Hendrix. Van Halen. SRV managed that as well. John Mayer probably would be the most reasonable example of a pop crossover, but I hear nothing exciting, unique, or brave in John's playing. (not a criticism, just a personal observation... if HE is happy doing what he's doing, that's all that matters TO HIM.)

    I never even really thought of the angle Jim wrote above- "an artist who inspires others to know themselves better" - but as for guitar, Jim, YOU were the 1st modern player to come to mind that fits that description, for me.

    Honestly, I find alot of that more in songwriters these days, not players... there's an AWFUL lot of great songwriting going on, imo.
  • "By the way, I love Norah's first record -I think it's a masterpiece."

    Absolutely, positively, completely, 100% AGREE. Sometimes the planets align.
  • Fantastic article! Thanks for posting!!!
  • A few comments: I've saved about 6 or 7 guitars from goodness knows what kind of fate, although my wife doesn't always approve...

    More seriously, I'm a little surprised that Richard Thompson's name hasn't appeared here (that I could see) in some context or other.

    And, as Jim mentioned way back in Feb, there's Julian Lage - who really is a phenomenon. I know from online discussions that he does serve as a real inspiration to many aspiring players and that's great. My completely casual observation is that I see/hear a lot more energy in the acoustic world these days where there are many truly talented players.
  • A few random thoughts...

    *Rock music has become, as it should, an established form, where it is no longer about wide cultural influence, but about exploration of the form. Jazz went throught this in the mid 20th Century, when it evolved from THE form of popular music and into something that was by and mostly for those who play it.

    *There have always been more musicians who want to play an instrument, especially guitar, to, as the Brits say, "pull me some birds." Being in a band, or being a rapper or DJ, is a great way to get laid. And I know you lads can be, shall we say, a BIT impatient about those things. So, it makes absolutely sense that most kids looking at picking up and instrument want to be up and going and onstage ASAP.

    *There will be a few folks who, after the, "I'm gonna get laid!" stage will fall in love with the instrument and drill down into the wonders of playing it and learning all about music. But most will be happy with three chords and some strange backstage.

    *And then there's what G.K. Chesterson said: "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." I'm no virtuoso, but I love nothing more than just noodling around on the sofa. And the crazy thing is that the more I do that, the better I get. I can't help it! That's the magic of music- you don't have to be super-focused on it to get better over time. Playing is its own reward.

    *FWIW, my favorite players right now are Jim, Nels, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Julian Lage, and my friend, Aram Bajakian:


    Here he is with Diana Krall: https://youtu.be/Tg9Kzqg2Txs

    Guitar is anything but in need of saving.

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