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The Campy Forum

Be polite and respectful. Don't sell stuff. No envy, no fear, no meanness.
Cyclical backlash against people that have spent time perfecting their craft
  • The popularity of guitar fluctuates in modern music. It seems like we are in another phase of people slamming guitarists that have developed advanced technical ability on their instrument. I was watching a video recently of Joe Bonamassa during which he states that the hipsters hate his music. The frustration he expresses is consistent with my own personal experience. I'm often perplexed as I listen to a great deal of music and enjoy a wide variety of styles. Being a guitarist can be quite frustrating! Thoughts anyone?
  • I'm not sure how to define a "hipster" in this context but here I go...

    Certainly some soundtrack music and commercial music has dumbed down in recent years- but If I could be considered someone of the ilk "guitarists that have developed advanced technical ability on their instrument" I have never experienced this prejudice what-so-ever and I'm grateful how young folks (hipsters?) interpret my music.

    I marvel at how great young guitarists play and write -Julian Lage is an incredible artist - not to mention the dozens of young guitarists I've met from New College, Berkley and the young guitarists who post their playing on this forum. The young guitarists I meet here in Williamsburg Brooklyn, supposedly the hipster capitol of the world, all love great music and I benefit by getting oodles of inspiration from them. And more then ever they seem to enjoy good guitar playing in the context of great music.

    I don't know exactly what Joe Bonamassa was talking about and I consider him ultra-successful in terms of a huge following - but with all due respect, I'm not a big fan of "Alpha-Blues" ... Maybe that makes me a "hipster"? ha!

    Thanks for posting Professor - I always enjoy your posts.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response! I guess I enjoy ""Alpha-Blues". Isn't Roy Buchanan in that camp? First time I've heard the term. I also enjoy Julian Lage, Bill Frissell, and of course your music. I was trying out a new guitar at the music store and a small crowd gathered many of them younger kids so I must be doing something right. There was a time locally when there were a ton of venues to play and eager audiences. Maybe it's just a regional thing. New York is one of the most exciting places I've ever been the energy was inspiring; great food, music, and people.
  • "Alpha-blues"... that's a good description, Jim. I enjoy Bonamassa, BUT... yes... I totally get the "alpha-blues" reference. He's not doing anything original (I don't mean self-written music; he does write)- I mean it doesn't SOUND like anything new... some of his older music had a more "original" sound than his current "tribute to english blues stuff" does.

    -please understand, this isn't a criticism; I like him. Just describing what I hear.-

    I know the interview Professortwang is referencing; basically, Joe has a hard time on online guitar forums. "Regular" people love him, as evidenced by his sold-out concert tours, recent grammy nomination, and excellent record sales (in blues, anyway). I've never really figure out why he gets so much flak from the online guitar community. "Too many notes" is a common complaint. Tell that to Johnny Smith! LOL But really, there IS alot of dislike for him on online guitar forums. Maybe "hipsters" listen to Jack White and John Mayer, LOL.

    Now, as for the "too many notes" complaint... Kenny Wayne Shepard "plays as many notes" as JB does, but he gets less flak for it. HIS flak is "sounds like SRV", which he used to, but doesn't really anymore. I think we are in an age where people just like to criticize, because it makes them feel better about themselves. It's a shame.

    Now, as to the original question about "lack of guitar", while I agree it's happening- the 2 biggest guitarists in widestream music are probably Jack White and John Mayer (I'm a fan of neither, but as a friend once told me, "you can't like everybody" LOL). While guitar seems to be taking quite a backseat in today's "radio" music, thanks to things like itunes, Pandora, spotify, youtube, Sirius/XM, etc... it's also EASIER for artists to get themselves heard- and even sell units- without having to be on mainstream radio. I see it as a good/bad thing; less guitar in popular music, but easier for us to get heard. Back in my youth, without a recording contract, you could forget EVER getting your music heard... even bands who made their own CDs still only did it as a stepping stone to a recording contract, not as a means of actual income to live on. Times have changed!

    Who needs a record company when you can record an album on your computer, put a video up on facebook and youtube, and sell it on itunes? Not saying you'll get rich- but an avenue is there; something that never existed before.

    Anyway, don't want to get to far afield... I enjoy JB and KWS, heck I even enjoy Yngwie Malmsteen once in awhile (don't hate LOL)... while YJM also "plays too many notes", I at least hear underlying melodies in much of his playing, unlike alot of the other "shredders." The tagline above for this forum is great: "No envy, no fear, no meanness." There's alot of that on online guitar forums, everyone strutting their "intellectual superiority" lol, but really- just dig what you dig; who cares what anyone else thinks... someday I'll likely "outgrow" Bonamassa, and "grow into" Byrd... right now, I can't "do" Byrd, I'm not there yet. I'm at Johnny Smith right now. LOL

    Also FWIW- re: Bonamassa: his last 2 projects were tributes to old AMERICAN blues, and I find them more interesting and musical than his recent efforts. "Muddy Wolf" (tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf) and "Live at the Greek"-which was actually his "3 Kings" tour (tribute to BB, Freddie, Albert King).
  • Pat Buchanan is NOT "alpha blues". Clapton would be alpha blues (if I understand Jim's description)- BUT...he's one of the originals. Pat could certainly PLAY alpha-blues, but he always made it his own. THAT, imo, is what is missing from much of Joe's music.

    Here's a good example: I could play 3 clips for my wife: Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, and Jim Campilongo. My WIFE (who is not a musician; she IS a very good LISTENER tho... I call her an "eductaed listener" lol)... she could identify Eric and Jim, due to their original signatures. Joe would just sound like "another guitar player" to her.
  • The world is a giant mirror. Do these guitar players represent the unlived lives of our inner world? Something we choose to reject as part of ourselves only to manifest in the physical world as something that does not fit our model of the musical world?

    Sometimes we really have to give credit to the nervous system (the spine , brain , psychology , soul ), choosing to wire it in a certain way.

    Just as a personal trainer would train a marathon runner for ultra high repetitions instead of very difficult moves in low reps ie Bruce Lee's finger push up. It is what it is.
  • Let me take a stab at what I think people mean by Alpha Blues. Sometimes when you go to concerts you feel as if somebody's been Yelling at you at the top of their lungs through a bullhorn. The other extreme is elevator or lounge music. What is missing in many performances is a variety of rhythmic feels, changes in timbre, and dynamics. When I think of any great album Or performance it has all of these characteristics. These characteristics can be found in a variety of different genres.

    To use a food anology: imagine going to your favorite restaurant. The only thing on the menu that day is chocolate cake. It's the most delicious thing you've ever eaten. Once you've eaten your first piece your waiter brings out another. It ceases to be something you enjoy or that is reinforcing to use behavioral terminology.The effect is called satiation. There's a point when the exact same stimulus ceases to be reinforcing. Maybe this is why some people grow to dislike particular artists.
  • Professor and Co. - I'm glad you like Joe Bonamassa and I didn't mean to be snarky when I used the expression "Alpha Blues" - I especially don’t want to instigate a thread that is critical of others -musicians that work very hard at their craft.

    But “Alpha Blues” is an expression I use sometimes describing players who play with a certain type of tone and approach - and mostly, I personally don't care for that approach.

    Good point about Roy Buchanan - but I don't think right Buchanan's first two albums are Alpha-Blues and they still remain my favorites. I hear Roy telling a personal personal story -most Alpha-Blues solos tell me "I'm Bad-Ass!" or something like that...

    All that said - I'm just another guy with an opinion and I completely respect all opinions here-especially on this thread!
  • I think Joe is being a little snarky/ tongue in cheek when he said that. I went to college in boston and lived in Allston which was hipster central and it was awesome. It seemed like everyone was into everything in terms of music.

    The generation that came up with ipods/youtube/spotify/napster etc. had anything they want at their fingertips. You meet a friend who says to check out so and so and you are a few clicks away from exploring it with no cash out of pocket.

    I have found that the younger "hipster" generation is pretty eclectic. You can rarely meet a younger musician and get a straight answer when you ask them what type of music they like to play. It is usually a mash of everything because they have had SOOOO much stuff at their fingertips.

    Joe Bonamassa is pretty polarizing in my groups of guitar nerds. When I was in high school I got to see BB King and it was something I was looking forward to for MONTHS. Kenny Wayne and Joe B. opened for them. I had not heard of either of them prior to and honestly... never explored their music afterword. It was.... a little too much guitar for me...

    I cant believe I said that! All i think about is guitars...

    By the end of the night BB was king of the show. It seems like Joe B. appeals to ppl who will do anything for more SRV albums.

    I will never play on that level or have that degree of success so my critique is in a vaccuum.

    The best description I have heard for music of that style was from Johnny A. who said its like a super sweet candy. At first it is the tastiest thing ever and you cannot get enough of it, but after a few minutes it gets to be a little too much and you spit it out.
  • The last comment about sweet candy is exactly what I was referring to with my restaurant analogy.I also saw the show that Kenny Wayne Shepherd and B.B. king played together. With B.B. I felt like I had just had a conversation with the most intriguing human being on the planet. What a unique gift he had to connect to the audience.

    We all struggle to stay relevant as we get older. Jim I appreciate your comments and certainly did not take offense. I understand what you're saying. For me it is about the different elements I talked about and other things that are difficult to quantify. I'm struggling a bit at the moment to decide what direction to head. I really enjoy hearing everyone's perpspective.

    I've never been in a room full of musicians where there is consensus about music! The artists I love are often reviled by others.
  • Driving around finishing up last-minute Christmas shopping, this thread reminded me I hadn't listened to Frisell in awhile, so I put "Solos" on in the car.

    The album includes spoken comments by Bill, in-between the songs.

    Bill: "I used to equate complexity with 'better music'... how could you say that Segovia is more advanced than Robert Johnson, or Jimi Hendrix, or Wes Montgomery... I don't know, for me there's no 'higher' or 'lower', it just depends on what you can bring to it or what your imagination can come up with."

    I think Bill's comments can be taken in all directions: whether it's "too many notes" or "not enough notes", whether it's I-IV-V on 4 strings or II-V-I on 6 strings, or whatever, it's all about communication. If the music SPEAKS to you, that's all that matters. And- only in THAT POINT in time. Bonamassa may "speak" to someone now, but won't 10 years from now. And that's ok. We all grow, experience, and change. Dig what you dig, until you don't dig it no more. LOL
  • "...I have found that the younger "hipster" generation is pretty eclectic. You can rarely meet a younger musician and get a straight answer when you ask them what type of music they like to play. It is usually a mash of everything because they have had SOOOO much stuff at their fingertips..."


    Should we start a thread "What is a Hipster?" ha ha... maybe not!

  • I guess I'm a "hipster" then, never would have thought that! Because it would be MUCH easier to tell someone what I DON'T listen to, than what I DO listen to, lol.

    I find alot of people say "I listen to everything", but they define "everything" as music in the last 20 or so years.... people look at me funny when I go back to the 1920's! ( Louis Armstrong )
  • Slight diversion here. I’m not familiar with Joe Bonamassa’s music, but this video was linked at a vintage hi-fi forum that I visit frequently. He has a massive collection of vintage guitars and amps, and his passion and enthusiasm come across as quite genuine. He seems like a guy who loves the history of this stuff and gets a lot of joy from search process itself (the “safari” as he calls it). His message at the end of the video I think will ring true with many of the working musicians here on Jim’s forum.

  • I think it comes down to the songs. Lets face it, in a lot of today's guitar music the songs just stink. They end up vehicles for the guitarist to be as Jim said "bad ass." The fact is no one; soccer moms, hipsters, teamsters, musicians, Presbyterians, and Klingons can resist a great song. And if a great song had a Joe Bonamassa guitar solo it would still most likely be a great song.

    Most guitarists don't develop their skills in the context of ensemble playing, unlike musicians that play other instruments. Most of their time is spent practicing alone in the bedroom. So guitarists envision music where the guitar is always front and center, cause that's the way it is in their bedroom.

    But there are definitely over the top guitar songs that critics and hipsters would give a thumbs up. Take Hendrix's Machine Gun. Twelve minutes of guitar that clearly exhibits "advanced technical capability." To me, this song is an incredible work of art. The first minute of the song completely sucks you in. By the time the incendiary solo begins, Hendrix has earned his extended wanking time. Yet, he doesn't just wank. At no time does it seem like he cares about impressing anyone. It's just pure improv, during which he restates the theme all over the neck with bends, different effects, etc. Just some of the most amazing live playing I've ever heard. And maybe not everyone would agree that it's great song, but they would still like it.

    So do you have to be Jimi Hendrix or Chet Atkins or Wes Montgomery or Jim Campilongo to write a great guitar song. It helps, but no. You just have to write better songs and be original. Until you do the hipsters and whoever have a right to criticize away.
  • I've come to this discussion a little late, but the phrase "too many notes" reference above reminded me of the scene from the movie "Amadeus" when Mozart was criticized for having "too many notes" in one of his pieces he asked his critic "Which specific ones do you suggest I remove?" LOL. This discussion IS interesting however!! Great insights.
  • I have two modes when it comes to discussions like this with ppl I take lessons from, students and fellow musicians.

    Mode 1: The more important of the two, my mindset when I meet new friends or players. As a guitarist with little to no "natural talent" and probably the worst ears of any musician around I have an innate respect for anyone who plays because I, and I think we all can, relate to the amount of work that goes into playing. In this mode of thinking anytime I see anyone play I am in awe because lord knows how many hours alone in a bedroom it took to get there.

    Mode 2: This is where it gets dangerous, where I make "artistic" or "style" choices. There is just too much music out there to pay attention or study even a fraction of it. So we have to make some cuts. I have always used Roy Buchanan as the foundation of my guitar life because he was my all time favorite when I was a 13 year old listening to music before I even started playing. This is the area when I am with ppl I trust where I can say "I think so and so sucks" and know that they understand where I am coming from. They do not actually suck but its just not stylistically in line with me. I don't want to add their ideas to my foundation. It is always a crass way of putting it but in the company of fellow players it is the language I use at times.

    I dont think ppl hate on others for too many notes or are bitter at those for perfecting their craft. It is probably just because Joey B. or whoever else is not in line with their style choices and they are expressing it, like I do sometimes, in a childish way.
  • Jim, you were a hipster long before Joe Bonamassa surfaced!

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