Guitarist Series: The Zen of Guitar

When I think about how I'd spend my days if I was in a position where money was not a necessity (which I guess I do more than I'd like to admit), sometimes I think of becoming a drifting blues man, playing guitar and creating a stir, only to vanish again and move onto the next city. Other times I think I might be content just recording my own music and seeing what other people think of it. Other times still, I just think I'd continue what I'm doing now, and round out my collection of rock and roll albums and collection of guitars with a few thousand more of each... And then spend the rest of my days playing guitars, because that seems like the most tranquil life I could lead.

Now, maybe I have an unhealthy relationship with my guitars; some days I do spend more time with them than with other people, but I think it's more because I find playing guitar to be far more than just a good time... it's almost a meditative experience.

In other pieces in this guitarist series, I've expounded upon some possibilities as to why us guitarists are so drawn to this instrument and why we continue to play it for years on end. I'm not sure which reason is true for me, probably a combination of them all, but there is something else present when I sit down and play too... It calms me down, relaxes me and, for a little bit, allows me to push aside all the random ridiculous thoughts that have coalesced in my brain during the events of the day, like some form of meditation... but with a cranked amplifier.

There is just something about picking up the instrument, plugging in, turning the amp to 10, and letting rip with some electric rock riff, soulful outpouring of blues, or ultra progressive excursion into free form jazz (also called making random screeching feedback sounds), that is relaxing to me. I find just playing the instrument very relaxing. Sometimes I'll find myself sitting with my guitar plugged in and just playing a single note repeatedly, listening to all the nuances in that note and all the different ways it can be played. That type of concentration and experience is very meditative and can really make you reflect. I've always found listening to music therapeutic, in fact that's one of the reasons I became so engrossed with it, and have spent far too many nights just relaxing with my headphones on, but actually playing music is different. To be involved and to actually be able to take the music where I want it to go, instead of where the song goes is far more expressive and relaxing than just listening. When you listen to music, you have to find the right song for your mood, and on more than one occasion I just could not find a song/band/album that fit my current mood. When you can create it yourself, you don't need to look... just play it. This kind of creativity means that I don't have to think about anything, I can just let it progress and see where it goes naturally in a format I like, namely guitar music. I find this very relaxing, tranquil and peaceful, even when I'm playing the hardest metal riffs.

Perhaps it says something about my sanity that I find tranquility through the thrill of playing screeching guitar at volume levels far beyond what might be safe, but I think it relates directly to one of the ideas I put forth about why I play guitar: expression. If one of the things I get by playing guitar is a way to express my emotions though a medium easier than words... then the tranquility of these moments makes sense. I can release all of those pent up feelings, emotions etc through music in sort of a primal scream type of therapy and that release of emotion is a very tranquil and relaxing experience in the end.

I doubt that all guitarists have as much of a connection to playing the guitar as I do... or at least don't think about it as much, but I think it's very easy to see a sort of tranquility aspect to being a guitarist. This idea of it playing the guitar as almost a meditative experience is very intriguing to me and seems like a pretty good fit for how I feel about my own playing.

Think about it next time you play your guitar and see if maybe you'll also find a sense of tranquility and peace in your playing. Plus, now not only can you use expression and finding yourself to defend your guitar addiction, you can also claim its therapeutic and in the long run you're really saving money on therapy by buying that $3000 Gibson.

Keep playing and having fun... All of this deep philosophy about guitar is interesting and can make us think, but in the end it's really about each person and if you're having fun playing... than that is all that matters.


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