By Team HC |
Here's proof that your guitar does more than gently weep for you...
by Michael Leonard
I went a-searchin’– for quotes, wisdom, truths and quips about what guitar playing is all about! And here’s some fun ones that I found.
Inevitably, pretty much all these quotes are from books, video, magazine interviews, various websites etc so their 100% accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Yep, it’s a shame but true – I haven’t actually questioned both Andres Segovia and Waylon Jennings. (Jimmy Page and John Lee Hooker, on the other hand...)
Also, these quotes are, in turn, erudite, off-the-cuff, dismissive, deep-thinking, downright silly and often completely contradictory. Who ever said all guitar players thought the same, anyway? Some are from players you’ll love and listen to. Others from people you ignore or have never even heard of. So what? To paraphrase what Jimmy Page says later on, everyone’s got something to say and everyone’s got something valid to say.
Ignore them all over again if you wish... but we trust you’ll find at least some of these nuggets of wisdom inspirational. Here we go...
1. This instrument we call guitar...
“To me a guitar is kind of like a woman. You don’t know why you like ’em, but you do.” — Waylon Jennings
“First guitars tend to be like first loves: ill-chosen, unsuitable, short-lived and unforgettable.” — Author and player Tim Brookes in his book, Guitar: An American Life
“I don’t understand why some people will only accept a guitar if it has an instantly recognizable guitar sound. Finding ways to use the same guitar people have been using for 50 years to make sounds that no one has heard before is truly what gets me off.” — Jeff Beck
“You couldn't not like someone who liked the guitar.” — Novelist Stephen King, in The Stand
“Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar. Except, possibly two.” — Frederic Chopin
“The guitar is the easiest instrument to play and the hardest to play well.” — Andres Segovia
“The guitar has a kind of grit and excitement possessed by nothing else.” — Brian May
“The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice.” — Andres Segovia
“We didn’t have any instruments, so I had to use my guitar.” — Maybelle Carter
“The history of music is mortal, but the idiocy of the guitar is eternal.” — Novelist Milan Kundera
“If ever there’s an obscene noise to be made on an instrument, it’s going to come out of a guitar…Let’s be realistic about this, the guitar can be the single most blasphemous device on the face of the earth. That’s why I like it... The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar: now that’s my idea of good time.” — Frank Zappa, in The Guitar Hand Book
Chet Atkins was in a Nashville studio warming up for a session. A studio technician came into the studio and stood watching open-mouthed until Chet finished. “Gee, Mr Atkins, that guitar sure sounds fabulous!” Chet placed the guitar on its stand, smiled at the tech and said, “Well, son, how does it sound now?” — Oft repeated music industry anecdote
2. Learning and practice
“I dedicated all the time I had to it. The 10 hour workout [Vai’s famous teaching column] was just what I put in the magazine at the time, but for me it was every waking moment.” — Steve Vai
“A lot of people think that if they learn to read music they are gonna lose their feel or their groove or something. It’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” — Frank Gambale
“If you play music for no other reason than actually just because you love it, the skills just kinda creep up on you.” — Nuno Bettencourt
“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” — B.B. King
“Forget about every other lesson in the book. You have to be able to tap your foot or else none of what you doing you are not gonna have any control of your symptom.” — Al Di Meola
“I just play, just you know, If I just sit down with the guitar and just do whatever for, you know, a half an hour or an hour whatever. That’s pretty much, that should do it for me.” — Slash
3. “Ommm!” The philosophy of music and the guitar
“Where words fail, music speaks.” — Author Hans Christian Andersen
“You can’t think and play. If you think about what you’re playing the playing becomes stilted. You have to just focus on the music I feel, concentrate on the music, focus on what you’re playing and let the playing come out. Once you start thinking about doing this or doing that, it’s not good.” — Joe Pass
“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.” — Louis Armstrong
“I played the guitar for ten years before I realised it wasn’t a weapon.” — Pete Townshend
“Most people are prisoners, thinking only about the future or living in the past. They are not in the present, and the present is where everything begins.” — Carlos Santana
“Music shouldn't be just a tune, it should be a touch.” — Amit Kalantri, magician and self-professed “mentalist”
“Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life.” — Keith Richards
“Listening is the key to everything good in music.” — Pat Metheny
“For me, the ultimate form of expression is blues, where jazz appeals to me on an intellectual level.” — Scott Henderson
“When I look for what I’m going to listen to I go backwards. I’m always going the other way you see. Most people are trying to figure out ‘how do I get in the fast lane going that way?’. I’m going in the other direction. I wanna find the oldest thing to do.” — Eric Clapton
“If you make the same mistake three times, that becomes ‘your arrangement.’” — Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen
“There is two kinds of music, the good and bad. I play the good kind.” — Louis Armstrong
“Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war — for killing people. We received ours for entertaining other people. I’d say we deserve ours more.” — John Lennon
4. So, folks. How do you get good?
“I don’t know sh** from shinola. Maybe that’s why I’m so original!” — Ace Frehley
“Elmore James only knew one lick, but you had the feeling that he meant it.” — Frank Zappa
“I want to figure out how I can make the most important statement with the least amount of information, so I don’t run out of ideas by the time I get to my second or third chorus.” — Larry Carlton
“If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you’ll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.” — Eddie Van Halen
“Every time you pick up your guitar to play, play as if it’s the last time.” — Eric Clapton
“When the band plays fast, you play slow; when the band plays slow, you play fast.” — Miles Davis explaining soloing
“Let me explain something about guitar playing. Everyone's got their own character, and that's the thing that's amazed me about guitar playing since the day I first picked it up. Everyone's approach to what can come out of six strings is different from another person, but it’s all valid.” — Jimmy Page
“You don’t just go to the studio and say, ‘I’m going to write a hit.’ It becomes a hit when people like your compositions.” — Chuck Berry
“My best songs come from making a lot of mistakes and playing a lot of garbage.” — Eric Johnson
“A bad rendition of you is better than a good rendition of somebody else.” — Willie Dixon
“You don’t find a style… a style finds you.” — Keith Richards
“I often discover that what sounds great at home sounds hideous in public.” — Tuck Andress
5. Hey Jimi! It’s a Special Hendrix Section!
“The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.” — Jimi Hendrix
“I wish they'd had electric guitars in cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would've been straightened out.” — Jimi Hendrix
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” — Jimi Hendrix
“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you're gonna be rewarded.” — Jimi Hendrix
6. The guitar, music, life and all that stuff
“I used to work in jobs I hated because I needed the money to buy a guitar. I know what it feels like to be depressed. On the other hand, I also know what it feels like to have money, to be successful, to be independent, but I can tell you that money and success never solve your problems.” — Chris Cornell, in the 2000s
“Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off.” — Woody Guthrie
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” — Bob Brozman
“For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument.” — Jerry Garcia
“I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.” — Elvis Presley
“It took me 20 years to learn I couldn’t tune too well. And by that time I was too rich to care.” — Chet Atkins
“If you want to challenge the system, don’t go to bed with it.” — Ani DiFranco
“Bad music can make you weak.” — Ry Cooder
“Playing the guitar is like telling the truth. You never have to worry about repeating the same lie if you told the truth. You don’t have to pretend or cover up. If someone asks you again you don’t have to think about it or worry about it. It’s you.” — B.B. King. What a wise man he was.
“All the moneys right down here.” — Roger Miller in an interview, pointing to his guitar neck’s first three frets
“I told my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be a musician. They said it had to be one or the other.” — B.B. King again!
“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.” — Frank Zappa
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” — Hunter S. Thompson, journalist and writer
“If something is too hard to do, then it’s not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your shortwave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we’ll go inside and watch TV.” — Homer Simpson
And, with that nonsense, we’ll end. What’s your favorite? - HC -
Michael Leonard is a U.K. born music journalist. He has previously been Editor of The Guitar Magazine, Guitar Techniques, Guitaristand launched MusicRadar.com. He has also contributed to Q, Mojo, Rolling Stone, Guitar World, Total Guitar, the NME and was Editor of Billboard’s Complete Guitar Handbook.