Guitar Philosophy Archives – Guitar Principles

Category Archives for "Guitar Philosophy"

Mar 29

The Fundamentals of Fun

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

We “play” the guitar…and you can’t play if you don’t know how to have fun!The subject of Fun is one of the most serious topics we can discuss. One of the greatest achievements of my lifetime has been the maintenance of the capacity for fun from early childhood. Another has been coming to an understanding of what Fun is. And so, Fun is the cornerstone of my life, and the foundation of everything I do.

I know that I am sometimes perceived as a serious person, talking about Principles and other not-so-fun topics, but when you know what Fun is, then you will see why even serious, or thought inducing, weighty matters can be Fun.I want to talk about this subject because it is vital to making progress as a guitarist.

In fact, you cannot MAKE any progress as a guitarist, unless you know how to have Fun. We “play” the guitar. You cannot “play” if you don’t know how to have fun. It’s true that “practice” sometimes seems like “work”, but you will see that work is not the opposite of play, or the opposite of fun. Work can, and should, be Fun.Now, Fun is a funny thing. For some people, going out dancing and drinking all night is fun. For others, that would be torture, but sitting quietly and reading a book on philosophy is Fun. For some people, jamming on the electric guitar for hours is fun, for others, sitting with a metronome for an hour of disciplined practice is Fun (and yes, the same person may find each of these things to be Fun at different times). For some people, having to solve difficult problems requiring great thought is Fun, and for another, it is nothing but a headache. So, what is going on here?What Is Fun?​

The fact is that anything can be Fun for some person or the other. However, the particular things that we find to be Fun say everything about who we are as people, and what our level of personal development is. However, there is one common denominator that is always present when a person says “this is fun”. That common denominator is “creative enjoyment”. Fun is creative enjoyment. Einstein working out the theory of relativity, or Michael Jordan shooting a basket; both are having Fun. Both are “creatively enjoying”. As long as this quality is present, anything can be fun. Without this quality, nothing is fun.What is “creative enjoyment”? Well, “creative” is almost self-explanatory. It is basically bringing something new into the world. It could be a dinner, an idea, a blanket, a building, whatever. Whatever is being created, it involves bringing something “out” of yourself, and giving it some kind of form on the outside.The universal human urge to be creative stems from the one characteristic that always accompanies a creative act: a pleasurable energy sensation in the inner being. The person who knows how to have Fun is the person who knows how to be good to themselves, how to give themselves pleasure, how to make themselves happy. Enjoying JoyAnd enjoyment? That is a very interesting word. “En-Joy”. According to the dictionary, “en” means “to put into”. Now, this is a very key understanding. People usually think that things are enjoyable in and of themselves, as if “joy” positively radiates from various things, and we merely have to bask in the “joy” that shines out of them like sunlight. A new car, a million dollars: wow, what happiness, what joy! And yet, we often read of millionaires with lots of money and fleets of cars, who kill themselves after falling deeply into despair and misery for one reason or another. So, obviously, there is no “joy” emanating out of any of these exalted “things”.When we en-joy something, it is because of what we are putting INTO it, not what we are getting OUT of it. “It” has nothing to give us, until we give “it”, us! What we put into it is the Joy that is already inside of us! Well, obviously, you must already HAVE this Joy inside of you before you can put it into something. That Joy is the native Joy of simply being alive, simply existing, along with everything else. We would all do well to check up on our personal “Joy Quotient”. If it is low, or missing entirely, we should find out where it went. We won’t find it gone to anywhere outside of us, only buried, perhaps smothered, deep within.Someone who has nothing they enjoy, simply is empty inside. The reasons why this happens would require other essays, but understand that an artist MUST have an inner fullness that is brought out, and combined with “the world” in a creative way, and VOILA, art appears. Music is written and played and sung, because someone has the capacity for “creative enjoyment”, for FUN.As we go from child to adult, the particular things we find to be Fun will change, and be added to. However, the intensity of that Fun, and the ability to have it, should never diminish. Unfortunately, it almost always does. There is no sadder sight to my eyes than the disconsolate child, moping and moaning “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. This poor child is already old, the spark has left, the inner fullness has turned to emptiness, and that emptiness is projected outward, so that the world, full of so much beauty and amazement, looks empty.No, the opposite of Fun is not work, it is boredom, which is “apathy for existence”.Turn Work Into FunIt can truly be said that the passage from childhood to adulthood, when properly traversed, is characterized by the ability to transform Fun into Work. The only difference between Fun and Work is that Fun is the creative enjoyment of an activity which has no goal other than the activity itself, and Work is activity that has a predetermined goal (Intention). That is why Work can be Fun, because Work is simply Fun with an added dimension. Work, like Fun, can be a form of creative enjoyment; it simply has a goal also. This is the difference between practicing and playing. Practicing is Work (Fun + Intention, or the goal to learn and improve), Playing is just plain Fun (we play because we want to play, it feels good). Fun has no structure imposed upon it from outside, Work has an imposed structure, that is why it is more “adult”.The properly developed adult should feel both a need for Fun and a need for Work. For myself, I am switching between the two all the time. Even sitting practicing, I may do some technical exercise for 15 minutes, with intense focus and concentration, and then, I will feel the great urge to just PLAY something and have Fun. Which I do. Sometimes, I just feel the need to play for half an hour. Sometimes, I feel the need to Work for an hour. One feeds into, and leads into, the other.Two Types Of StudentsThere are two types of students: one needs to learn how to have fun at Work, and the other needs to learn how to have fun at play. The first is more common. Many of us have never learned true Work. For me, my first taste of “work” was homework, a most distasteful intrusion upon my personal time and energy. I merely resented this demand to focus my inner resources upon something to which I had no connection, and no desire for connection.Fortunately, when I discovered the guitar, everything took care of itself, work and play became one thing, and both were infused with a spirit of enjoyment and fun. You can fake your homework ( I usually did!). You can’t fake your guitar practice, and you sure can’t fake your guitar playing!I will occasionally get the type of student who is happy to practice exercises with the metronome all day, focusing on those fingers for hours all day, every day. However, they never pick up the guitar to just play and have Fun! How sad, how tragic! That is not how we get to be guitar players or musicians. Musicians specialize in having Fun. We are Fun Masters. I have to tell these people “ I am ordering you, as part of your practice, to just pick up the guitar, play it, and have Fun! Remember, have Fun, that’s an order!”Other students only want to “play and have fun”. However, without some amount of work, without some amount of energy dedicatd to a goal of developing and improving our abilities, we soon find that playing the guitar is not much fun. It really isn’t fun to play the guitar badly and never get any better. Don’t Wait For FunOften, beginners on guitar delay having Fun, putting it off until some time in the distant future when they deserve it. This is not good. Fun, and music making should come into the picture as soon as possible. Anyone just learning to play should have two goals in mind: one, making sure the technical foundation being laid is correct, and strong so that continuous growth is possible, and two, making some MUSIC as soon as possible, something, anything that that turns you on, that gets your emotional juices flowing, whether it is Bach or Rock.Yes, anything worth doing should be worth having Fun while doing it. The United States Marines live by a Principle, their motto, “Semper Fi”, which means “always faithful”. Here at GuitarPrinciples, we also live by a Principle that covers Business, Work, Life and Gutiar: Semper Fun! 

What did you think? I’d love to know your thoughts on this article, please leave a comment.

Dec 21

Mystery, Beauty and Grace

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

In my study of great musicians, I have noticed that the very greatest are also very spiritual. Bach, Beethoven, Barrios, Santana -  anyone of whom I have ever heard or read, and believe to be a divinely inspired musician, has a very strong spiritual sense.

I believe that  Spirituality, or the forms it takes when encased in Religion, is rather simple in its essence. I  believe it is the expression of three things, a Sense of Mystery, a Sense of Beauty, and a Sense of Grace.  If you have these three things then you are a truly spiritual person, if you lack these, you can pray all day, but your words will be hollow to elevated ears.  

 I think it is essential for everyone on the artistic path to know about these things, because although you can be a person in this world without these things, you cannot be an artist in this world without them. These three things are waiting inside all of us. If you can locate them, touch them, and hold onto them throughout your life, then what you bring out into the world will be real art, and real religion.

A Sense of Mystery

The most primary spiritual quality is a sense of mystery. To be able to contemplate the unfathomable vastness of the universe, and feel it enter into your very cells, filling mind and body with excitement and awe, is the mother of true reverence, and true religion. It has been said “ a fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom”. In those days “fear of God” was how the perception of Mystery was described. It simply meant a proper understanding of your place in relation to the vastness of creation.

This sense of mystery is the wellspring of all human creativity, and so it is essential for the artist. Every artist feels that their creative work “emerges” from some mysterious source within, and it is their job simply to connect with that source, and, like a mother, be the vehicle for its birth into the human world. There is nothing worthwhile that has been produced without having begun from that intensely emotional feeling and foundation, so peculiarly human. All great music proceeds from there.

The greatest minds, intrigued by the curiosity that the sense of Mystery inspires, are constantly probing into themselves and into the world, seeking to deepen their understanding. At the end of the day, it is with a childish laugh that they dissolve back into Mystery, resigning themselves, like the great Issac Newton, to the realization that they are merely “children playing on the shore with pebbles, while the great ocean of the Universe rolls on.”

The eminent scientist Sir James Jeans, in his classic exposition of the philosophical implications of 20th century theoretical physics “Physics & Philosophy”, concludes:
”To sum up, physics tries to discover the pattern of events which controls the phenomena we observe. But we can never know what this pattern means or how it originates; and even if some superior intelligence were to tell us, we should find the explanation unintelligible. Our studies can never put us into contact with reality, and its true meaning and nature must be for ever hidden from us.”

I agree. Our immersion in mystery is built into the system, guaranteed!

A Sense of Beauty

After the knee and the head are unbowed from the overpowering experience of contemplation of the mystery of existence, we are left with a feeling of separateness, limitation, and dependence. We realize our seeming insignificance in the universe, we are a separate little dot in infinity. But now we are positioned to discover the most amazing and wonderful birthright of a human being. We can now look out to the world around us, and find ourselves in it.

Beauty is the silent language of the universe, through which it communicates its nature to the beings it creates. The language of Beauty imparts to us the knowledge of our oneness with nature, other people, indeed, all of existence.

To feel beauty is to feel a oneness with what is outside you, because on a deep level, you are feeling yourself within that other. Whatever brings you to this state of union, you will find to be beautiful.

There are common altars at which we gather to converse with reality in the silent language of Beauty, such as Music and all of the arts, all the forms of human contact, and especially Nature. From whence comes the power of Nature to inspire us with such transcendent feelings of awe and beauty as we contemplate the mountains, oceans, or stars? It is the very recognition of our own nature in Nature.

The rocks of our skeleton, the flora of our intestines, the water of our blood, and our inmost soul, recognizes itself in the world without. Just as the earth has birthed all the rocks, oceans, and trees and animals, so has it birthed us.

In our confrontation with Mystery, we realize the limitation of our nature to ever fully comprehend the ultimate reality. Having accepted that, we simply claim this part of our human birthright and enjoy direct communication of that unfathomable reality, which is the experience of Beauty.

The life of the artist is an immersion at one of the altars of beauty, and working to gain proficiency interpreting and speaking the language of Beauty. The job of the artist is the communication of ultimate Mystery, spoken in the language of Beauty.

A Sense of Grace

Mystery has revealed to us a sense of that which is greater than us. Beauty has responded by bringing that which is a part back to its Source, creating union, and Love, the desire and the fulfillment of that desire, to “be with”. Now, there directly arises, as a consequence of this positioning of the soul, the sense of Grace.

The word “grace” is from the Latin “gratias”, which means “good will”. There naturally arises in us now an overwhelming feeling that the universe, the Source of creation, has good will toward us. “It” is bestowing blessings, all blessings in fact, upon us. This becomes a powerful emotional experience, this ever present feeling of being the recipient of good will, of being loved. It seems to be not just a feeling, but a recognition. All religions contain this concept of Divine Grace. It is essential.

As the sense of Mystery imparts the feeling of awe, and the sense of Beauty imparts a feeling of love, so the sense of Grace imparts a feeling of gratitude. This is the distinguishing difference between someone who professes to be religious, and an atheist. The atheist has no one to thank.

The sense of gratitude is the purest human attribute. A person who is constantly and firmly founded in the sense of grace in response to everything life delivers, can never be corrupted, but will be and remain pure.

For an artist, this sense of gratitude becomes the reason, and the fuel, for creative work. The desire to use what one is given by grace is the form our gratitude takes. For each of us, in whatever way we sense the good will of the universe, in that way will we direct our good will outward, and that offering is our creative gift to the world.

All of this shows why it is true that many people who think they are atheists are not, and many who think they are religious are not. If you have within yourself the sense of Mystery, Beauty, and Grace, you are a religious person. It will be evident to anyone who knows how to look. If you do not, it is equally so.

All that I have ever achieved as an artist has come from my sense of Mystery and Beauty, and all I do for guitar players always has, and always will, proceed from my sense of Grace, my gratitude for what has been given to me.

GuitarPrinciples wishes you a Blessed and a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Jul 24

The Inner Master

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

Of all the things you can do to make sure you are enabling yourself to achieve your guitar playing dreams, finding the Inner Master is the greatest. All great players have found the Inner Master. The Inner Master wants us to be a good guitar player, and enrich the world with our music. 

How do we find the Inner Master? Actually, we don’t. The Inner Master finds us. The Inner Master finds us when we are ready to be found, when we are ready to listen. The Inner Master is like the “still small voice”, it can’t be heard when other voices are talking, or screaming, inside of us.

We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are busy hearing voices of worry and self doubt about how “good” we are on guitar, or if we can ever be “good”. We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are hearing voices of pride about what a great guitar player we are!. Worry and pride are noises that scare the Inner Master away.

We will hear the Inner Master when everything is quiet enough for the Inner Master to hear US when we play, or practice; that is, to hear our music. When our Inner Master can hear us play, He, or She, will instruct us, guide us, to our next step of development, to the next awareness we need in order to move beyond where we are. Our Inner Master should be the one we play for when we play. The Inner Master hears when we truly listen.

How To Be A Master

Mastery on the guitar is not the attainment of a state of perfection, it is the attainment of a position of inner power, and power is the ability to create change. We arrive at that position through the practice of essential attitudes. These attitudes allow us to see what is important, and what is true. They allow us to be Masters, right from the beginning of playing. What is a “Master”.

A Master is one in whom there is no obstacle from the outside to the inside, or from the inside to the outside. What does this mean?

I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I get frustrated. I start to doubt whether I have what it takes to be a good player. The very emotional power of this frustration absorbs me, and prevents me from paying attention to the mistake I made, examining it, and figuring out a better way to go about things. I have allowed an obstacle from the outside (the mistake) to the inside (my emotional experience),

I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I immediately become interested. I ask “Why did I miss that note? What did the finger do that it led to that mistake? What should it do? Let me play this a hundred times slowly, and pay great attention to my fingers, and the rest of the body those fingers are connected to”.

Now I am a master, I have not allowed an obstacle from the outside to the inside to take shape and have power.

I sit down to practice. I notice that I am feeling negative about my guitar playing and myself as a guitar player. Old tapes, old failures are playing in my head. I ignore them, I do not allow them to claim the attention I should be paying to my practice. I am too smart to think that I am even smart enough to judge my true potential. I have not allowed an obstacle on the inside to emerge outwardly and steal my power. I am a master.

Masters are never finished growing, they haven’t seen everything. They are just in a position from which they COULD see anything.

Finding The Inner Master

How do we find the Inner Master, or allow ourselves to be found? I really recommend a way I believe has been successfully used over the ages: find the Outer Master first. Or, we might say, be able to recognize the Outer Master when you do see him.

Nothing can release your own Inner Master more effectively than seeing a great player play. But, you have to know how to look. You have to look with complete openness, you have to absorb it all without “mentalizing” about it. You have to “feel” the great player, you have to feel like you ARE the great player.

I have always noticed a very peculiar thing. Whenever I would watch a great player play, as time went on and I went back to my practicing, I would notice that I was doing things a little differently, I was using a finger a bit differently, or I was feeling a bit different as I played, perhaps moving, or feeling my body in a new way. I realized I had picked up something by just watching a great player play.

Somehow, I had internalized, in a non-verbal and non-conscious way, something about the way that player was approaching playing the guitar, something about the way they were related to the whole thing.

 I once watched Segovia play a chord, and then bring his hand away from the strings in such a beautiful and graceful way. I felt afterward that I had learned worlds about how to touch the strings, and how to feel in the whole body as I did so. My Inner Master had connected to his Inner Master. I found my Inner Master through attention to an Outer Master.

When I was young I went to see Julian Bream play. I felt I learned a lot about being a master as I watched him simply walk out on stage! His incredible naturalness as he sauntered around to the front of the stage, combined with those red socks, conveyed so much about how one ought to feel about sharing the intensity of one’s relationship to music and the guitar with a crowd of strangers.

But watching Julian’s face as he played said more than anything else, and conveyed more than anything else could. His absolute involvement and concentration on the music, and his surrender to it, revealed the inner experience of a Master. The emotional intensity of the music, reflected in his face as he created and communed with it, made a harmony as beautiful as any in the music itself.

My Inner Master knew he was in his Alone Place, and that was the place for a player to be when he or she plays, and it helped me enter my own Alone Place. I have gotten that same feeling watching Stevie Ray, Angus, Jimi, etc. play. If playing Rock or Blues were my highest and most urgent calling, these would be the masters I would commune with.

When you can allow the eyes of your Inner Master to see the Outer Master, communication and transference will take place, you will discover the effects later.

What Does Mastery Look Like?

When someone is practicing Mastery and allowing themselves to be guided by the Inner Master, there is great movement. That movement is continuous, it never stops. It is always moving in the direction of perfection. When someone is stuck on a "playing plateau", the problem is not the plateau. The problem is the lack of movement. 

After 50 years of practicing Mastery, my daily practice is like entering a rocket ship. The movement is powerful, the distances traveled are galactic. Each day the journey forward begins from where it ended the day before, and new insights, built upon old, come faster then I can write them down. What my Inner Master reveals to me, I reveal to my students. 

What Does Mastery Feel Like?

For 50 years I have served the Inner Master with love and devotion to music and the guitar. The countless thousands of hours of my practice feel like one long moment. Every time I touch the strings, it feels new. There is a constant feeling of satisfaction for progress made and excitement for progress to come.

All my students, when they learn and practice the secrets of correct practice, have the same feelings, and receive the same rewards.

Assume The Position of Mastery

Mastery is a position we take. We do not have to wait to take that position, it can be recognized and found within us even from the beginning. If you can keep your love of music and desire to play in it’s original purity, free from contamination of ego, free from the bondage of service to the ego and it’s needs, then you will hear the voice of your Inner Master.

The Inner Master knows the best you are capable of at any moment, and will accept no less than that. The Inner Maser will accept nothing less than the music you make when your whole being is fully immersed in the making of the music, when the notes being made are made from your complete love and honest and passionate involvement, nothing else.

Then, as you and your Inner Master listen and enjoy together, with gratitude for the sounds being released from the strings and commitment to your own continuing quest for excellence, the Inner Master speaks to you, the Inner Master guides you, and you learn.

place to play guitar
Apr 09

The Alone Place – The Best Place To Play Guitar!

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

I am sitting in the forest right now, having the exquisite pleasure of listening to music that is in many ways more divine than the music I make. It’s Thursday, somewhere late in the afternoon. I’m not sure exactly what time it is, and I don’t really want to know. I don’t want to experience time right now. I am in my favorite place to play guitar, and I want to experience only movement and change, and the stillness that lies beneath them both.

I am listening to the beautiful songs of some of my favorite birds, and new ones are coming to join in as time goes by. They are all so different, some are like liquid whistling, some are like sighing breathing, some are just kind of chirpy. Some are actually funny, but they are all incredibly enjoyable, incredibly delightful.

I love listening to these musicians of nature, because they sing for the best reason there is; because they must. They are pure, and I come here to soak in their purity. It wasn’t long before I had to unzip my guitar from my new “go to the woods to practice bag”, and offer some sounds from the human world to my bird friends. I must say that even though I felt absolutely inspired as I played, I doubted my bird friends really enjoyed my music as much as I enjoyed theirs. I thought to myself “I doubt they are having a spiritual experience, but I hope at least they find these strange sounds coming from this strange box at least as interesting as I find their sounds.”

And, I pretended they did.

I thank God and everybody else that I get to spend every day doing what I love the best, doing what I would be doing if I died and went to heaven, which I often feel I have. But it wasn’t always so, and no matter how demanding life became, I never forgot to go back to the place I am in right now. I call it my “alone place”.

Your Alone Place: The Best Place To Play Guitar

Everyone has an alone place. It’s where you really are, all the time, whether you know it or not. Usually, we can’t feel this place, because we are too distracted by the world, which has us convinced that IT is reality.

When you are in your alone place, there is no other voice in your head except your own true voice. It is always a voice of love and encouragement, it is always telling you what you need to hear. If you hear other voices, voices you have acquired over the years, voices that say hurtful things to you, then you are not in your alone place. You have become trapped in someone else’s “outland”. You have become trapped in someone else’s prison.

If you hear hurtful voices criticizing and demeaning you when you practice and things are not going well, telling you that you don’t measure up, and worse, never will, realize that this is someone else’s voice. You have accepted it and made it your own, but it is not yours really. It is not the voice you followed when you first picked up the guitar. Find that voice again, and purify yourself.

When you are in your alone place, you play for the same reason the birds sing. And it is pure, un-self-conscious joy. The birds really don’t care what I or the other birds think about their singing, their music. They are simply in their bliss, being their nature.

Make sure you go to your alone place, especially, and if at no other time, when you play the guitar. Because you play the guitar, or want to, you have a special entrance pass. When you are in your alone place, you will be playing for no other reason than to play, the same as those birds up in the trees. You will not be practicing or playing because you want to be somebody or something. If that is your motivation, you will be nothing and nobody.

Rather, when you are in your alone place, you will be practicing and playing because you want to practice and play, because you want to be the instrument that plays the instrument that makes the beautiful sounds. 

Of course, you will at the same time be somebody and something, but that takes care of itself. “Who” you are may be mildly interesting and enjoyable, but it can’t compare to “what” you are when you are playing the guitar and making music.

The Alone Place is always open and admission is free. Right now, I got here by going into the forest, one of the best and most powerful ways. But sometimes I go there by going into a room, closing the door, lighting some candles, and playing. When I play for other people, my goal is to be entirely alone, so that, through the music, I can meet everyone else in their alone place.

If you stay in your alone place, you will be pure, and your relationship to what you are doing will be pure, and because it is pure, it will grow. If you can be in your alone place when you practice and play, you will connect with your own power and inspiration, and what you need you will find.

Jamie Andreas