Yesterday I brought home a Larrivee L-35 classical guitar. It’s a 1995 and has a very sweet well-balanced voice. Jean Larrivee is known for his company’s steel string guitars, but he got his start as a classical builder, studying and building for a master of the art. There are no classicals currently being built in the Larrivee product line and haven’t been for some time from what I understand. Mine is a 1995, and is quite clean on the whole. There are two professionally repaired humidity cracks, which are actually even difficult to see. When I purchased the instrument I traded in a Takamine EAN40C with smoking low action and a nice acoustic sound, another discontinued model (actually renamed), and I’m planning to sell my Gretsch Anniversary Model to help allay the additional expense, thus thinning the herd while bringing in a better classical guitar. My purpose in doing so is a long-term shift in focus musically, one that will allow maximum growth potential and longevity as a viable performer. After over forty years as a musician I cannot conceive of not being a musician for the rest of my life, and I want to ensure that as long as I am on this planet I am evolving as a musician.
For the past twenty years or so I’ve been working as a musician in bar bands, and dance combos with the occasional foray into jazz. My educational background was primarily classical music, but I deviated from that long ago to explore other opportunities. These other experiences have had their rewards along the way and have allowed me to be an active performer over the years, but I’ve always felt that I left something of worth behind me by doing so. In many ways from a personal perspective I took the easier road where I didn’t have to spend hours working on pieces to make them sing and I could rely on the thousands of hours I’d already spent in the practice room to carry me through. Honestly I still function this way in the bands I work with. If I know how the song sounds, and the form is present in my head, doing something that works for it isn’t too difficult. It’s essentially music minus one in my head, now let’s play it on the gig. If I’m uncertain, I chart it and bring the cheat book to the gig – I read, even sight-read, very well.
Formal guitar music and performance is an entirely different animal, from equipment requirements, to performance requirements, to the actual music. It takes cumulative work, constant attention to detail and a conscious dedication to moving forward. It also takes an inherent interest in the pieces and interpretation thereof, as well as focus. There is purpose in practice and a respect for the music that is being produced, as well as conscious connection. I am seeking this connection, this focus and a sense of self-fulfillment; these are things that I have been missing in my musical practice as a popular music based performer. I have enjoyed what I’ve done over the past twenty years; I’d be lying if I said otherwise, but I haven’t had a sense of fulfillment from it. I don’t find that connection to something greater than the self, and while I might have fun I don’t feel like I have grown, or contributed to someone else’s growth, through doing it.
My shift back toward formal music has been brewing for quite some time, but I think that my perspectives about it are much healthier than they were when I was in music school. For one thing I have a much more egalitarian perspective toward different genres of music. I’m not about to stop listening to a variety of things, nor am I going to cast aspersions upon any of them. It’s not about that; it’s about what fits for me, and my journey. I’m also not in it for the competitive aspects. As a young guitarist I was, somewhat unknowingly, extremely driven by competition, or at least a sense of competition with my peers. Yes, I still want to be good, but the only better than that I want is to be a better musician than I was yesterday. This is a much healthier perspective, I think, and one that leads toward a more enlightened approach to one’s art.
So here I am on the next leg of my journey, heading into the forest with a twenty year-old new guitar. I am content, but simultaneously excited by the possibilities in front of me for the first time in quite a while. I have a lot of work to do in order for my hands to accommodate to this change, but it’s all part of the journey and I’ve got the rest of my life to get there. There is a refreshing simplicity to it as well, because it’s just me, my guitar and the music; no props, pedals, or other various implements of distraction. Now, the big question is what am I going to do today to get me closer to my goals? Sit down with my new guitar.