Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF
by Jamie Andreas
The longer I teach, the more I am impressed with one unassailable
fact: most of what becoming good or great on the guitar is about
has nothing to do with "musical ability". It has everything
to do with that group of qualities loosely spoken of as "character".
When I was 16 years old, I met a friend who enabled me to put
an end to my desperate search for a classical teacher. Scott played
the classical guitar, and was taking classical guitar lessons
at a music school I had never heard of, but started going to immediately,
where I took lessons with his teacher. It was thrilling to meet
Scott, because I had never seen a person play the classical guitar
in person, only heard it on records (and from that, was trying
to teach myself: wrong move!). It was more thrilling to meet his
teacher, a trained, experienced, and fine classical player.
As time went by, I remember going over to Scott's house often
and playing guitar with him, and hanging out and practicing and
playing at his house. After awhile, it became clear that I was
surpassing Scott in my classical playing. His mother was a very
astute and intelligent person, and would always listen to me play.
I remember that she used to remark about a difference she noticed
between my relationship and approach to guitar and that of her
son Scott. She noticed that I applied myself with an intensity
that Scott never exhibited. For instance, she noticed that I would
work relentlessly on the same piece, the same passages, the same
problems, always striving to reach a higher level of perfection
with what I was playing. For whatever reason, Scott just did not
do this. (Actually, all reasons come down to one thing: I needed
to do it that way, and Scott didn't. The entire "why"
of it all would be another essay!)
Believe me, Scott had as much ability to play as I did, as much
"natural talent" for music. It took him so far, and
apparently, that was far enough for him.
I am in the business of building excellent guitar players, and
so, I must convey a certain truth to them along the way, one that
does not seem to be obvious and sufficiently appreciated by most
people. It is this: it is relatively easy to achieve about 80%
of anything. It is relatively easy to develop ourselves to about
80% of proficiency in any field we may choose. If you want to
become a computer programmer, a business person, own a restaurant,
be a carpenter, be a musician, anything, you can study it, get
experience, and become "functional". Most people that
bother to develop something useful ( and most do, being forced
as we are to "make a living") achieve this level.
But to become really good, to start to rise above, and noticeably
so, the average person doing what you do, THAT takes a whole different
kind of effort, and a whole lot more of it. Most people do not
do this in their particular field. Most people really are, when
it comes down to it, content with doing what they "must",
and keeping their standards and goals low enough to avoid too
much demand and discomfort. That is why the age old lament of
all employers is "you just can't find good help anymore".
Yes, because the #1 goal of most people is to DO as little as
possible and GET as much as possible. That is the formula for
To put it simply, it is easy to be mediocre, that is why so many
people are achieving it.
We are all climbing a mountain. In fact, we are climbing various
mountains all the time. Becoming a guitar player is a mountain,
and every piece of music you work on is its own mountain. It is
easy to work on a solo, a song, or a piece, and get it "pretty
good". You know, 80% of the notes are there, so hey, leave
me alone, what do you want, ALL the notes! Come on, I would have
to REALLY work hard on it to get that! To bring a piece of music
from 80% to 90% is an incredibly demanding process. Climbing that
mountain further and further is the essence of being an artist,
no matter what your field of endeavor is.
Yes, that is the truth. It is easy to get 80% of the way up the
mountain, any interested party can do that. Closing in on that
last 20%, well, that separates the men from the boys, as they
say. Here is the thing to understand: every step forward and upward
required to move past the common crowd will most likely require
as much as ALL the effort previously put out. The higher we climb,
the more we must exert for every inch gained, but every inch is
precious, and worth more than everything before it. The gap between
99% to 100% is, in fact, infinite.
Yes, the real polish, the real excellence, comes only to those
deeply committed to it. I don't know why, I didn't make up the
rules. However, I believe it has something to do with some natural
"filtering out" process. As if Life were saying "only
those acting from great desire, great need of the highest kind,
need apply. Only those willing to prove themselves by using every
ounce, and then more, of their strength, will achieve greatness".
This is why it is very common for me to have the kind of experience
I just had with a student who is working with my two books, The
Principles, and The Path. Jim is working on getting his first
songs together, beginning to end, strumming, changing chords and
singing, and doing it from memory. He was working on the song
"Amazing Grace", and has dutifully practiced the chord
changes according to my instructions, and was in the process of
putting it all together. I told him I wanted the song memorized,
and showed him how to go about it.
He came in the next week, and announced that he did some practice
on it, but really spent most of the time on the new blues shuffle
I had given him. Obviously, it was "spanking time",
and I reached for the paddle!
I explained to him "yes, you have achieved the ability to
play that song with a lot of hesitation and stumbling, and losing
your place. Congratulations. You have climbed part way up the
mountain, and that is good enough for you. You decided you would
do what was easy, fun, and exciting, the new blues shuffle (exciting
because it is new, left up to him, it would receive the same treatment,
left half done and never "polished"). You decided to
avoid the REAL work of bringing that song all the way to perfection,
where you can grab that guitar, and sing and play that song from
beginning to end."
Yes, Jim hung his head in shame, and admitted I was right, and
resolved to do better!
What I was doing was preventing the swerving toward mediocrity
that was already beginning to assert itself for this new student,
by giving him the attitude that leads to good and great playing.
Now, understand that this student is not intending on being a
professional, and in fact is an adult with many responsibilities,
and so gets little time to practice, sometimes only a few minutes
a day. It doesn't matter. That is no excuse for letting months
go by, and ending up with a bunch of butchered and dismembered
"pieces" of music that are just that: nothing but pieces!
Whatever level of player or student you are, you must always
demand excellence from yourself. And that does NOT mean "do
it to the best of your ability". Who knows what ability any
of us have. It means "do what must be done to achieve the
goal". And that implies you HAVE a goal, and that it is the
correct goal. Ultimately, our goal should be to be able to say
"as far as I can see, I have climbed".
Segovia, when asked how much he practiced said "as much
as I need to". He meant "I work as hard as I have to
in order to achieve my vision of what I know is possible".
The artist is constantly climbing, growing into our abilities,
constantly surprised at what our striving brings out of us. There
is always a new height coming into view, and we climb it because
it is there. As time goes by, we occasionally look down at the
view and are amazed at how high we have climbed. People below
us may look up at us in amazement at the height we have achieved.
They may applaud, and the sound of that applause can be like a
siren song to some, who may decide to stop and listen, and forget
to get up and move on.
A true artist (whether it is your first day playing or your 50th
year) will soon lose interest in that, and turn their gaze upward
once more, and begin moving once again toward their vision, to
the height that remains out of sight for others, and can only
be seen and achieved because of the height already attained.
Copyright 2003 by Jamie Andreas.
All Rights Reserved.
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Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF