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Why So Serious? Rediscovering the Fun of Music

If it''s not fun, then what''s the point?

This month, I’m going to take a break from the Gear Addiction Recovery topic and talk about something serious. Actually, the idea of not being too serious is the topic. Maybe we need to have a little fun with music—like we did before we knew too much. Let me share a few examples to get this rolling.

My good friend, Brody Dolyniuk, is the singer for a show called The Music of Queen. It’s by the same company that put together the very successful The Music of Led Zeppelin show that has been combining classic rock with orchestras since 1995. The band consists of a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and vocalist playing with the local symphony from whichever city they happen to be playing that night. The result is a show that appeals to both classical and rock fans.

So anyway, The Music of Queen was in town the other night and I got a chance to hang with Brody the day before the show and catch up. He’s a funny guy and it comes across in just about everything he does…and it’s infectious. He’s incredibly talented, but that never stops him from telling a joke or slipping into a character right in the middle of a conversation.

When the show came, I really had no idea what to expect. The orchestra and band started playing a familiar Queen song, and just before the vocal part was supposed to begin, out walks Brody. Total ham. Sure, he’s nailing the parts, but more than that, he’s entertaining. Immediately, you could feel the audience loosen up and begin taking part in the show. Everyone was having fun. Throughout the show, he continued to sing what everyone came to hear—but with that extra measure of fun that turned the music from a show into an event. The humor made the show and turned the Dodge Theater (which was pretty much full) into everyone’s living room. Fun.

Then there’s Winter NAMM 2010. I’ve been going to this show for 20 years, and it amazes me how serious some people take themselves. I’m not talking about the manufacturers. I’m talking about the guys that come to the show dressed like they’re getting ready to hit the stage at the Roxy, circa 1988: Hair teased to the ceiling with Aqua Net. Spandex and/or leather. Requisite shades (this is LA, I guess). And a seriousness that cannot be calculated by any modern computer. I mean, really—is this what it’s all about? Twenty years ago, it was the norm (though still ridiculous), but this is 2010. And yet the same folks keep coming back with that same attitude. Is there really any fun in that? Then you turn around and see ridiculously good players like Dweezil Zappa, Steve Morse, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani, and they’ve all got these big smiles on their faces while they talk to their fans and look around the show at all the great new toys that are being made just for us guitarists. Again, fun.

What I’m trying to drive home here is that, while we might not be Brody, Satriani, or even one of the guys with the Aqua Net, we might be somebody that takes things too seriously. And where’s the fun in that?

Let’s try a test to see:
1. Do you pull out your guitar and get that silly grin on your face because you just enjoy playing so much, or does it concern you that you don’t have the coolest guitar on the block?
2. Do you worry that at the next Baked Potato jam you might not pick the coolest scale mode to solo in?
3. Does it bother you that your tone doesn’t sound like Eric Johnson’s?
4. Do you wonder what the guys on your favorite gear forum would think of you if you didn’t worry about what type of cable you were using?
5. Do you measure your pickup height with a micrometer?
6. Does it matter to you that your pick is worn a bit and doesn’t have the same response as a fresh one?
7. Does it bother you that playing the opening riff to “Cat Scratch Fever” is really a lot of fun?
8. Don’t you want to play “Stairway to Heaven” or “Smoke on the Water” when you hit GC?
9. Do you feel inferior because you own a 1x12 combo and not a full stack?
10. Do you want to wear spandex pants and a hot pink leopard print vest but are afraid to admit it?

Loosen up! We got into this because we wanted to have fun. Are you having fun? I have my own brand of fun, and yours is probably different than mine. If you really enjoy measuring your pickup height with high-tech devices to get that perfect tone, then by all means do so—but be honest with yourself. Life is short and the difference between having a good time and pretending to have a good time is pretty serious stuff. In the end, you’ll grow faster and have a much better time getting there if you’ve got a smile on your face from giving yourself a break.

That’s all folks. Oh, yeah, before I go, maybe you could share a little bit about the ways you take yourself too seriously and what you could change to make it more fun. Mine is #8, and I think it’s time to head over to Guitar Center right now. Ritchie Blackmore, stand back!

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