For many years, my musician friends and I would have a certain debate long into the night…
“What makes a musician great?”
One question that popped up a lot was the topic of…
Technical prowess vs. creativity
For example, my drummer mate would hate Ringo Starr’s drumming (whereas I love it because it fitted The Beatles’ music perfectly).
So, let’s go back in time 20 years ago to a smoky pub with a battered old jukebox on a rainy night in England…
This is how the conversation would go…
Friend – Johnny Ramone, Pete Townshend, Cat Stevens, Kurt Cobain, and Paul Simon weren’t that great at guitar.
Me – No way, they’re all awesome guitarists for many reasons.
Friend – They ain’t a patch on Steve Vai, John Petrucci, or Joe Satriani.
Me – Who? Ha-ha. Okay, technically speaking Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani are incredible but how many of their riffs can you hum, how many songs does the average folk on the street know of theirs and who apart from us, has even heard of these guys?
Friend – Fair point, but they are incredible guitarists who can play those other guys under the table.
Me – To be honest, technically they could, but they just don’t have the songs like the Ramones, The Who, Nirvana, and Simon & Garfunkel. Those guys have amazing songs, guitar parts that are memorable, and music that will stand the test of time.
Friend – Yeah, but the ones I mentioned are pushing the boundaries of guitar playing.
Me – True, and the others are pushing the boundaries of songwriting. One thing I will agree with though is that all of these guitarists, the ones you and I both mentioned, are creative, inventive, and interesting in their own ways.
…And so, it went…
A debate about creativity vs. technical ability – definitely a debate for the ages that no doubt many guitarists across the world have had with their friends over drinks…
As well as making for a great debate, there is something else that connects all these guitarists though…
…A wonderful sense of creativity AND rhythm.
Both creativity and rhythm were factors that are present in all these guitarists’ music.
For creativity to be more effortless and musical, you really do need to have good rhythm…
…And one thing that will test your rhythm skills more than most things is being creative while still trying to be a “tight” player.
Tommy Emmanuel is a master of this on the acoustic, and Jimi Hendrix was also insanely good on the electric.
Everyone should be a little creative on guitar and just playing about with simple ideas has the potential to improve your brain health while being fun.
Keep that in mind if you get a few minutes to just jam some fun music today.
Of course, you have to get the basics tidy and tight first, and for more help with that, you might want to check out my Fingerstyle 101 book and course.
Get good at the essential techniques taught in Part 1 (which most people are sadly never taught), learn the 10 beautiful patterns in Part 2, and then get creative with these ideas in Part 3.
Have a fun day of practice.
For me, I’m still unpacking a ton of boxes, but at least I have a guitar strategically placed in most rooms to distract me!
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.