Tuning Up: A Call to Literate Guitar Dweebs
This isn’t a request for your resume. It’s a plea to build one.
For the last few years PG has been fortunate to have some of the best, most knowledgeable guitar-playing writers and editors on the planet. If you’ve been a fan of quality guitar journalism for the last two or three decades, you know it’s a big deal to have names like Andy Ellis and Joe Gore (both PG Senior Editors) grace our pages and pixels. These guys—as well as the rest of our editorial staff, and regular contributors like Ted Drozdowski, Tzvi Gluckin, Emile Menasché, and Joe Bosso—eat, drink, and breathe music.
By the time you read this, we will have bid a bittersweet farewell (of sorts) to our pal Joe Gore. He’ll still be enlightening us with Recording Guitarist and gear-review insights, but he’s embarking on more playing and recording adventures and won’t have time to continue in the same capacity as the last couple of years. We wish him the best and look forward to more quirky observations, provocative shoves, and twisted riffs here in PG.
One of the most bitter parts of this farewell is being reminded (again) of guitar journalism’s perplexing reality. There’s no shortage of 6-string freaks who eat, drink, and breathe guitar nerdery. You’re everywhere—and smarter and more diverse than ever. But there’s something confounding going on. How can there be so many die-hard guitar junkies, yet so few who consider plotting a path to a career of talking, reading, and writing about it?
Ambitious guitarists and bassists aren’t in short supply, but the ones seeking a related career that doesn’t fall under the “Rock Star 2015–present” heading on a resume seem strangely fixated on a path that’s just as unrealistic and precarious. Like becoming a YouTube or social-media sensation.
Don’t get me wrong—YouTube, Twitter, etc., are fantastic tools that PG and other businesses would be fools to ignore. But any degree of fame a guitarist might achieve there is both incredibly fleeting and virtually devoid of a predictable revenue stream. If you’re doing that stuff for fun, that’s cool. More power to you. But if you think it’s a solid career path, you might as well switch goals to something more realistic, like lining your 37-room mansion’s den walls with platinum records.
Again, not ragging on this stuff. For some, maybe it’ll bring in enough money to supplement other endeavors and help you get by. But otherwise, aiming to achieve fame as a video and social-media guitar guy is setting your sights low. In my opinion, it’s also a bit shallow, shortsighted, and—in the grand scheme of things—deceptively easy. You can trail off mid-sentence, have horrible grammar, and use not-so-sound metaphors and logic, but as long as you’ve got decent recording fidelity, impressive dexterity and genre command, and a casual vibe, people will watch. Same basic idea goes for social-media parameters. But A) who’s going to pay you a living wage for that? And B) what are you gonna do when notoriously fickle crowds find a new fetish?
Why not put as much discipline into a guitar-dweeb career path as you already put into your woodshedding, songwriting, and recording? Why not opt for something with potential for more stability? Why not get serious and get the know-how it takes to be a real-deal guitar-media guru? Video and social savvy are important, but if you want to be in this for the long haul you need more serious chops.
Read. Read some more. Read voraciously. Learn to love words on a screen and page—learn to see the written word as music. Study the rules of grammar, syntax, punctuation, etc. They are the scales and chords of this “music.” Practice your word tunes religiously and become as deft at editing them as you try to be with your guitar-based ones.
I won’t sugarcoat it: This isn’t a get-rich field. And like any job (including bona fide rock star) it has its pains in the ass and occasional drudgery. But hell, what’s not to dig about getting to meet and interview great musicians, writing about gear you dig (or don’t), and being inundated with new music that enriches your life in ways unquantifiable to a true music addict?
I mean, unless you have your masochistic heart set on eventually surrendering to an exciting career on the barista circuit or with a huge, soulless corporation….