Ear & Eye Thing: Joe Pass on Guitar

April 13, 2009

Last month I hit a dry spell in terms of inspiration, making it hard to write, read for prolonged periods, or do just about anything productive. I was feeling stuck in the same dissertation I’ve been wrestling with for almost three years straight, while listening to the same albums, looking at the same kind of magazines, shopping at the same food stores, watching the same mediocre TV and movies, and so on.

Briefly put, I was in a good old funk.

In order to knock myself free, I tried picking up my guitar that has patiently stood in the corner gathering dust since September when I sent it there as punishment for distracting me from my research notes. I plugged in and warmed up with a few scales and tried to feel my way around some chords, not without difficulty. After a couple of days, the rust was falling off my fingers, but I kept mindlessly falling back into the same riffs–mid-1980s college radio hits and early 1990s punk and grunge.


Clearly, I was going to need some help to get out of my rut. So I rented Joe Pass’s Solo Jazz Guitar instructional DVD, figuring that, if nothing else, I’d pick up some new approaches to practice.

Here’s one of the more accessible sections of the video:

Oh god, I was over my head almost immediately. I did (just barely) manage to pick up a few tricks and random habits of musical thinking. But mainly I marveled at Joe’s joy. And his bizarre mannerisms, consistent tangents, and a complete unwillingness to look at the camera for more than a few seconds.

I don’t know that Joe’ll change the way I play guitar, but he sure can buoy a man’s spirits.

Evaluation: Thumbs-up.


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