The Challenge

I haven’t played guitar consistently in a decade. And I have the attention span of a flea on a double espresso. This is not a good combination.

Still, my old band mate Trey Adams has goaded me out of “retirement” to start playing and recording again. I need to get the few chops I had back. Thanks to my semi-new guitar Cbabi Blue, I’m motivated again.

Trouble is, the thought of spending my precious spare time playing scales and running through modes bores the hell out of me. Don’t get me wrong: I understand the importance of fundamentals. But I need a little something extra to keep things interesting.

I’m hoping this book from Jesse Gress (whom I first heard playing alongside bassist Tony Levin) helps me get reacquainted with the basics.

From there, a good look into jazz chords seemed like a good idea.

Luckily, both of these books have been on my shelf for years.

Just to keep things moving (and for a little sound variety), I’ll also play the Epiphone ES-339 I call Little Troublemaker. The two guitars make for an interesting pair.

A sure-fire sign I love a piece of music is when I say, “I want to play in this band.” While I realize that will never happen, I thought maybe I could do the next best thing.

During my first foray into playing guitar, I all but refused to learn other people’s songs. My rationale was that I had a ton of song ideas, and learning the songs of others might interfere with that process. That thought process was, in retrospect, highly pretentious at best. At most, it was just flat-out stupid. Although I did learn a couple of King Crimson songs I thought we could add to our set, that was it for learning the music of others.

While Trey and I will being playing together again, I still have no desire to be part of a band “full-time.” That is to say, I won’t allow it to consume me the way it did the first time. Still, it would be nice to have something to put under my fingertips whenever I picked up my guitar. So why not learn a few songs, just to see where it took me?

For inspiration, I turned to my CD collection. It didn’t take long to find music that excited me, and I wanted to learn to play.

In typical fashion (for me), I haven’t aimed for anything obvious. Most of what I want to learn has never gotten near the radio. In fact, a great deal of it is jazz fusion, which will be a challenge at the easiest. But that’s perfect for my attention span. Harder music makes me focus. And once I learn the themes, there is room for a little personal improvisation.

I’ve aimed to create four “sets” worth of music, each lasting 45 minutes to an hour. There should be more than enough here to keep me busy.

I don’t know if there are any bands out there jamming this material. And I don’t care. The whole point is to get and keep me playing my guitar, which will prepare me musically for whatever happens next.

I keep thinking of a conversation I had with my friend Erik Oldman, who plays guitar for Sons of Ra. I said I thought it would be a lot of fun to play in a fusion band specializing in 70s era Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever tunes. He cackled with joy. “That would be so great!” he said excitedly. “We would have the time of our lives, playing for about four people.”

We had a good laugh because it was funny. And because it’s true.

What the hell! I’m learning these songs anyway.


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  1. Kudos for jumping back into music and best of luck!

    I used to play bass guitar in a band for a few years, but it’s been more than 25 years. I sold all of my gear a long time ago. Sometimes I still get the itch, especially when I see other bands play live.

    While I feel one should never say ‘no,’ it would take a huge commitment to try to get back into the game – something I don’t feel my current circumstances would allow.

    But I’m not ready to give up entirely. The other day, I met a guy who like me initially played bass in his early 20s, then stopped for 20 years or so because of family and other commitments, and resumed playing 4-5 years ago.

    It appears he really got into it the second time and now seems to enjoy it more than ever!

    Liked by 1 person

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