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You can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
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Ben Higgins
29 years old
Born Feb-26-1985
Guitar (surprise!), Karate, cars (American and European), reading, weightlifting (sometimes), horses.
Joined: 11-March 10
Profile Views: 27.848*
Last Seen: Today, 10:06 AM
Local Time: Jan 31 2015, 02:40 PM
12.816 posts (7 per day)
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Ben Higgins

GMC Instructor

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30 Jan 2015
If you're a social media user (especially Facebook) then the chances are high that you often see people sharing links about things such as wonder cures, super foods, false flag events and loads of other 'news' that you 'need to know' !

What got me thinking about this is where it concerns blogs or articles that talk about health and how you can avoid certain modern things, like brushing your teeth, for example, and replace it with eating some weird substance. You know the kind of thing. How civilization had coped for centuries without modern medical luxuries and how it didn't do them any harm etc... forgetting the fact that nobody lived long anyway.

There's obviously a huge undercurrent of feeling that says that anything proffered by established institutions is either untrue, harmful and there just to keep us enslaved. Mainstream news is all lies and all those conspiracy blogs full of unconfirmed, unsubstantiated fear mongering are the 'real deal'. That's a simplified gist of it all. I'm not saying that doesn't occur because it certainly does... but just because something is well known and established, doesn't automatically make it sinister either.

There could be many natural remedies that work well and have less side effects than medication but that doesn't mean medication doesn't work and should be forsaken. There are many mainstream news stories that are BS but that doesn't mean all conspiracy theories and unreported stories are true, either.

The truth has to be somewhere in the middle, surely.

If people are pushing suggestions, especially about health issues, that are downright wrong, then it's exceptionally irresponsible isn't it ? A lot of people, in open mindedness or desperation, may follow this advice and make their lives worse as a result.

Where am I going with this, you ask ? Nowhere in particular, I reply ! Only here... how do you filter the good advice from the bad, the informative from the misleading ? There's so much info and new 'discoveries' out there, how does one know who to trust ?

The laconic and philosophical answer would be 'You trust yourself' but another clue is usually the URL of the website in particular. If it's some obscure site called SecretTruthOfAlienWorldLeaders.com then it's possible, just possible, that it may not be quite 100% trustworthy. Just saying.

With all that in mind, have you ever followed advice or tried something you read about and it turned out badly ? I'm not saying you took diet advice from SecretTruthOfAlienWorldLeaders.com or anything........ it could be something normal that wasted your time etc

I'm aware of the irony of being on a guitar forum where we freely give advice all the time !! I would say that, mostly, it's not advice that would endanger you in any way. If it does, then you're probably doing something wrong with your guitar. tongue.gif
24 Jan 2015
You see it on Youtube videos all the time. If that video features anybody displaying technical proficiency, chances are you'll get the typical comments about 'not playing with feeling' or 'no soul'.

Sometimes, those opinions may be true. Sometimes it is just a load of meaningless noodling. But if it is, the answer to that is who cares ? Does this need to affect you ? For every mindless noodler there's a Gilmour you can go and listen to so just don't worry about it. It all balances itself out.

But what about when the 'no feeling' accusations are not justified ? This will come down again to personal interpretation but let's look at it..

When most people are saying 'no feeling, no soul' type things, do they really know what they're saying ? Are they saying that only slow guitar playing contains feeling ? If so, what is that feeling exactly ? Is it sadness ? Love ? Anger ? What is it ? Most people can't tell you. Do slow, Dave Gilmour style string bends with a touch of vibrato denote what feeling is ? Is it that or nothing ? If we do anything other than that type of playing are we automatically NOT playing with feeling ?

Let's be honest, when most people talk about 'feeling' or 'soul' they're talking about playing slowly. I know some of you here will have other examples but let's not mess around here, that's what these people mean because (let's look at the evidence) they only bring this old cliche out on the videos featuring people who are.... wait for it, playing technical or fast stuff. I'm not saying some of these examples dispute that accusation but they also don't automatically deserve it either.

So, in many people's logic, slow = feeling and fast and / or technical = no feeling.

Well, I don't know about you but I can think of many times in life where chaotic, busy, intense, difficult, dangerous times come with completely charged emotions. Do you disagree ? Just because something happens quickly it doesn't mean that it didn't contain emotional content.

How about when we lash out suddenly in anger ? You could be simmering about something and then something tips you over the edge in the blink of an eye. You go from contained to uncontrolled outburst faster than any guitar run.

We all know, and I mean we know this, right ? We don't need to discuss this part do we ? We know that emotions can appear and disappear incredibly quickly. You can get a spark of intense excitement, fear, love, jealousy completely out of nowhere.

So why is it that we assume busy music cannot contain emotional content in any way ?

I look at it this way... if a composer has put as much of his attention and his/herself into the piece then that piece will need exactly what it needs, when it needs it. So if a fast run appears then maybe it's coexistent with a build up of emotional tension elsewhere in the piece. Maybe it's anger. Maybe it's rapturous ecstasy. Maybe it's some sort of intense rush that really does fill the veins of the performer with a lot of feeling indeed...

Surely it's not about the arrangement of notes, but whether the performer is present in the performance. Are their fingers moving with mechanical, workmanlike ease and just doing their job like every other day or are their veins buzzing with adrenaline and they feel the super fast runs and arpeggios are exactly what they need to be feeling at that moment ?

Hell, are you telling me that somebody performing Mozart or Chopin doesn't feel the rush, the beauty, the emotion of the music ?

Whether music contains feeling or not comes down to the performer at that moment. And even if the performer plays with all the heart in the world, the music itself may still not move you. You may just not like that type of music. So 'feeling' or 'soul' is a very personal experience that we, as listeners, cannot pretend to discern with 100% accuracy. The soul of the performer is not the soul of the listener. Sometimes one or both is there. Sometimes it's not. What do we know ? All we should know is that is has nothing to do with how many notes there are and how fast it's played.
21 Jan 2015
Bit of a fancy title, innit ? Before I get into it, have a gander at this collection of amazing looking libraries from around the world. I know, it's not the most exciting invitation you've ever received but seriously, check it out. I particularly liked #31.


You probably won't get through them all (there's 137) but it just shows how civilization values learning. For us to build such beautiful structures to house books goes to show how much importance we place on it. And so we should, I say. For without learning there is no progress. As individuals, we don't need to read something or be taught something to make a discovery but unless we record it or share it, it stays only with us. The learning is not passed on. That is what is so important about books that teach us things or merely just inspire us. Inspiration is a seed that can produce great things if it is nurtured, allowed to develop and is acted upon.

Do you think that we generally, as a species, like to learn new stuff ? As in, we actively have a desire for it and seek it out ?

When we think about it, if we added up all the small segments of spare time that we have, what if we actually spent it teaching ourselves something new ? Sure, it would require us to apply ourselves to it but if it was something we were really interested in then we could manage it.

And then there's the learning we do about the things we're already doing. For us here at GMC, that collective interest is guitar related.

If you do something for long enough, you pick up experience and that can serve you in your progression and can help others. Stuff that you've learned and pass onto others is usually called wisdom. We accrue wisdom over a lifetime, in all things. But only if we're open to receiving it. There are masses of people who have lived a long life and yet sadly, seem to have been living the most superficial existence and have very little to give. Age does not necessarily equal wisdom at all. In most of these cases I would say people have a tendency to extreme black or white thinking, not being able to appreciate the subtle nuances of life.

An absolute refusal to accept the possibility of being wrong is a major obstacle to learning. Nobody really wants to be wrong but if we truly want to acquire knowledge and wisdom we have to be prepared to change our opinions and beliefs. The last one is very hard... beliefs are very ingrained in people. If you've lived many years believing that something should be done one way and then you're confronted with another possible way, it usually induces resistance. That's why most arguments, especially on the 'net, are pointless. If you cling to a belief then it doesn't matter what you say to each other, you're both going to walk away with that same belief anyway. So spare the argument.

If, however, you are prepared to question something, then you may learn something new. It may even improve your life. A lot of the habits, ideas and beliefs we cling to are just ingrained by years of doing it that way. A lot of the beliefs and opinions we hold, if we go deep down and truly examine them, are not actually ours in the first place. They're somebody else's beliefs or opinions that were transplanted onto us automatically by where we grew up, the company we kept, the things we were taught etc... the beliefs / opinions aren't necessarily negative, by the way, but there's a good chance they're not originally ours. We just adopted them. But regardless of our beliefs, if we're prepared to learn in this lifetime we might find that we learn something that is an improvement over what we originally had been thinking.

For example, one of you might be able to come to me and tell me that much of what I wrote in this post was total rubbish. First of all, I'd hope that you'd put it more politely than that ("Ben, I do believe that some of what you wrote is questionable, old chap" - us English are experts at making sentences more flowery and less direct) ) but after the inital feeling of sheer annoyance and hatred I would feel towards you (joke), I would have to look at the possibility of that or I'm being close minded. I owe it to myself not to get in the way of learning why it might be wrong. If I refuse to believe I might be wrong I'm denying myself the possbibility of gaining knowledge. I could go away from the situation a corrected but wiser man or I could just ignore it and stay ignorant. There's always the possibility that someone diasgress with you, tells you why, but you still know that you're right. That happens too. Just because someone disagress with you it doesn't mean they're correct either. It's about being open to both possiblities before you decide.

So, from a list of majestic libraries to arguments and open mindedness. Please feel free to weigh in with your two cents and we'll all secretly ignore each other's opinions !! Or will we ?

17 Jan 2015
Some of you may remember I did a track a while ago with a buddy I met on FB, Jan-Vincent Velazco, an excellent drummer based in London. We've done another track, totally different this time. The previous one was all busy, full of loads of widdly runs. This time the track was mid tempo and driving. I thought that it would work better to have lead melodies that were simple and contained longer, drawn out notes. This would contrast well with Vincent's energetic drum fills. See what you think smile.gif

16 Jan 2015
We see this kind of question all the time. Some variation on "How long will it take me to play like you ?"

The tempting but flippant answer one could give to such a question is usually: "As long as it takes."

But such questions are understandable and a necessary part of learning. I'm sure we've all been there sometime. But the difference is between those who are merely curious how long it may take and are willing to work on it regardless, and those who want a guarantee. Now, as you probably know already, I don't like it when people want guarantees. If you want a guarantee, buy an electrical appliance. I never had a guarantee when I picked up this instrument and I'm pretty sure you didn't either. Of course I looked ahead and wondered if one day I'd be able to play certain things but until then, I just kept going, day in, day out. The key is to just bury yourself in the NOW and don't concern yourself with how long it MIGHT take, because it is only a guess. What took one person years may take another person months.

Sometimes things take years, not because the physical effort demanded it, but sometimes because of the mistakes that needed to be made to arrive at that point. We might try something and keep doing it that way for a year or more and then find out a better way of doing it. That may carry us forward a few more years and then we make another discovery. Sometimes you just have to be ready for a new discovery. As the saying goes: When the student is ready, a teacher will appear."

There's one aspect of the "How long until I can do...." question that I personally find irritating. I just stumbled upon this article where a young artist, Pavel Sokov, gives a few of his pointers about success. Sokov worded it very well here and it wasn't until I read it that I realised that he'd put into words something that I've felt but couldn't say:

“Being upset that your first oil paintings aren’t turning out is almost rude in a way, because it is saying that you don’t think you need to put in the work to get your teacher’s results.”


Basically he's saying that you don't have the right to be angry that you can't play like XYZ yet, because you damn well haven't been doing it long enough. Obviously this is something that occurs with (relatively) new players and / or people that have only just started trying a new thing.

Essentially, being good at something takes work. I get asked guitar related questions all the time in various places and I know I tell people certain things that they don't necessarily want to hear. In that moment, when I sense their frustration, I want to say "But this is what I had to do ! This is what it takes !" If they want me to sugar coat the truth I can do that. If they want me to listen to their excuses I can do that too but it won't help them. In fact, I'll be doing them a disservice by letting them lie to themselves.

I've been playing for almost 20 years but that doesn't mean that it would take 20 years to pick like me, or perform vibrato like me or learn to compose solos like me. I did a whole lot of other stuff and I also had massive periods where I didn't make any progress. There's peaks and troughs and very long plateaus. Oh, the plateaus. But that's not a quick and easy answer to write every time somebody asks the question and, let's be honest, it still doesn't quite get right down to the heart of the matter. So, I guess we really are better off just saying this;

"As long as it takes." cool.gif
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Todd Simpson
Welcome! :) Great to have ya!
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Ben Higgins
Thank you man !! :-)
5 Jun 2010 - 15:24
Welcome to GMC!!!!!!! I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to cool lessons! :)
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