Not everyone who reads this website is ready to record or release an album. I’m impressed by the number of emails I get from people who have stumbled across this site shortly after finding themselves in their first band. And not everyone plays everything as well as they’d like to be able to.
The best advice I could give is: log out of Facebook, switch off your computer, go and pick up your instrument and practice it for 8 hours or so. Do the same tomorrow. Repeat until fabulous.
But there are actually some things you can do on the internet that will help your playing – and even expand your musical horizons if you’re already pretty damn good.
Two types of musicianship
I’d argue that there are two kinds of musical competence. One is technical. Kenny G is a great technical musician. He can play a lot of notes very quickly. He can do the circular breathing thing. He understands keys, scales, transpositions, modes and relative chords. He’s a technician.
Personally, I’m not a fan of what Kenny G plays. It is entirely uninteresting to me.
The other kind is what I’d call art (lower case ‘a’). It’s about having something to say. While he may not be the greatest technical musician in the world, I’d argue that Bob Dylan has the art thing down. He has produced a fascinating body of work despite seldom if ever hitting the right notes, and having what seems to be a fairly limited palate of guitar chords to choose from.
Funnily enough, most of my favourite vocalists can’t really sing in a technical sense. But boy, do they have ideas to get out through the medium of song.
The best blend of those two things is what I’d call ‘craft’. Jimi Hendrix had craft. Had a lot to say, and an amazing amount of technical ability with which to say it.
Internet builds craft
The internet is good at both aspects of musicianship. You can learn the technical things from online video tutorial sites, and you can develop your art the best way there is – through exposure to a wide variety of musical ideas, influences and collaborators.
You can use sites like Kompoz, Ninjam, or Kalabo to share and develop works with other players. You can learn to play your instrument using Musician Tutorials, Now Play It – get songwriting tips at places like Muse’s Muse and join one of the many online forums to discuss ideas.
You can even put unfinished works up online for your audiences to critique if you feel you’re up for it.
But nothing can replace the sheer hours of just getting your hands dirty and playing the same riffs over and over again, jamming with your mates, sitting down with the books, scoring, notating, editing, adjusting LFOs, trying new tunings and fingerings, running through the scales – and going out and having experiences and disastrous relationships so that you have something interesting to write about.