You Can’t Learn Originality

By Mark Sandman

I’ve been playing guitar for almost forty years!  When I had been playing guitar for all of one year, I thought I was a boulder among rocks.  I could play Barr chords, do a little Travis picking, even play a little lead guitar.  Forty years later I feel there is more to be learned now than I did back then.  The more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.

But, learning to play an instrument, singing, songwriting, and performing isn’t just about learning more, it’s also about getting more in touch with yourself.

As an infant we learn to speak a few words and, as time goes on, the way we communicate; that is the combination of the words we chose to express ourselves, how we enunciate, our facial expressions and physical jesters become as unique and distinctive as our DNA.

In my early years of playing guitar, I went through various stages of trying to play just like every great guitar slinger, from Bert Jansch to B.B. King and Eric Clapton.

And then, one day, listening to something I had just recorded on my trusty, long-deceased cassette recorder, I realized that I had developed a style of my own.

It wasn’t something I did consciously.  It wasn’t about technique or how much I had learned about my instrument.  Perhaps more importantly, it was about that which makes me unique finding its way into my music.

The moral of this posting is that there is more to being a musician or songwriter than can be learned from a book, instructor, or trying to imitate your favorite performer.  Sometimes you need to get out of your own way and think less and feel more.

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