Friday, December 02, 2005

What no-talent musicians hear when they play

I am a bad guitarist. No, wait, hold on, I USED to be a bad guitarist, like 5 years ago. Now I'm just a terrible terrible guitarist. I can play other stuff too, like pretty average keyboards, somewhat good drums and I've got a voice that is the aural equivalent of a finger in the eye. But as to playing the guitar, I suck in style.

So the other day I retrieved my old guitar that had been stashed away in the closet for a while, and in a fit of nostalgia, took it out and attempted to recreate the no-talent musicianship I knew I possessed. But a reality-check awaited me. Not only could I not figure out which chord is which, I couldn't even remember which fucking fret, when plucked would be the "C" note. And it was then that I realized that musical talent isn't like riding a bike. Once you lose it, you lose it. And also, you can't fall off a musical instrument. Unless, of course, you are playing the drums. Although, the stool you are sitting on technically, isn't a part of the drum set. Or is it? But, anyways, I digress.

Yesterday, I was watching a film about Def Leppard, the hard rock band of the 80s and 90s. Incidentally, the band that first turned me on to metal. And during a break, there was a promotional VH1 commercial which showed a no-talent guitarist just like me, trying to play Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". The guy was barely able to crawl up the stairway and was hitting every step on the way. He was quite awful. And it was at that moment that I realized, Christ, is that what bad musicians sound like to other people? Is that what I sound like when I play the guitar? No way, man, I sound much better than this. But do I really? Because in theory his technique pretty much mirrored mine. The main principle of that technique being to pluck every note randomly till you find the correct one, then pluck that note, move on to the next one and repeat this sequence of operations.

And then, I realized something very interesting. When you are trying to play a song on your guitar, or anything else, when you hit a bad note, correct it and continue playing, you, the musician, do not actually "hear" the bad note you just played. 'Cause what you hear at that point is the song which is playing in your head, which you are trying to recreate on your guitar. You see what I'm saying? As far as you are concerned, the bad note you just played never happened. So you continue on with your song, safe in the belief that your musical output is of outstanding quality. And when you are done with your abysmal musical performance, you sit there flushed with the success of your recital and wait for audience adulation, which, in most cases, fails to materialize.

Till now, I used to attribute this lack of applause to audience jealousy. No one likes to see someone do well at something they themselves are bad at, right? But now I know, that's not the case. The reason we, bad musicians, fail to get our due is because there is no due to be gotten. We just sound terrible. And we should realize that and move on.

1 comment:

Ravages/CC said...

Get in touch with Phoebe. She might appreciate it. :)