I was at a gig a while back in a really intimate venue where a musician (one of the most famous players of his instrument in the world but I'll not name him as he's an old mate of my dad's!) said of one of my musical heroes (who he used to play with in a well known band) "Never trust a guitarist that can't write music".
I passed it off at the time as the gig was great, but I thought about it after for a lot. Why do you need to be able to write music to be a great guitarist?
Do you need to be able to write music to be a guitarist??
I know loads of guitarists - we probably all do, there are loads of us out there! It's got to be the instrument that most people take to. Portable, cheap, easy to get a chord out of, and you can accompany yourself on it quite quickly given a bit of practice.
Most of the guitarists I know don't progress any further than learning the chords they need to know to be the star of the summer BBQ and that is a great reason to pick one up in my book.
You don't need to be able to write music to do this!*
Then there are those of us that play for other people's enjoyment - dare I say it, for money! If someone's hired you to play a line on their precious track, rhythm, lead or some arpeggiated fills for example or you're playing a gig and someone points at you cos it's time for a guitar solo, it really is different. I never really thought about it as composition but, unless you play in a blues band that always plays in the same key and all your solos are the same, or a variation on a theme, you're going to be making a tune up - very often, as you go!
You will be writing music!
I never stop discovering brilliant guitarists and I never will and a lot of my guitar heroes I know most people reading this won't have heard of; Neil Taylor, Tony Peluso, Lasse Wellander, James Burton and Vince Gill for example. Click on their names to hear some brilliant composition! You will have heard their playing unless you haven't listened to any popular music for a few decades!
Listen to these guys' playing and you'll realise that they are all great music writers adding a true melody of their own to a song. I do have better known guitar influences but I love the guys in the back room chosen for their one great talent that drive things forward - same with a lot of the great session players.
So, do I trust a guitarist who can't write music?
Course I don't, these guys are not worthy!
Alright, seriously, only joking. But I do get what was said.
If it's your job to play for someone else, you need to take time to think about where you're going to go with whatever you're going to play. I love nothing more than writing solos and am really proud of some of my work. I wrote a solo a few years back for a version of The Wind Beneath my Wings that got some really great acclaim from some professional musicians. The effort really is worth it.
Having said that, apparently Neil Taylor will drop amazing guitar solos from his fingers on the hoof - oh well, that said, you know I'll always do a great job for you.
Til next time
*of course it helps of you can!