Rerun: Guitar Face Makes Music Even More Confounding

Editor's Note:  We are interspersing some of the previous 150 or so blog entries with current material.  Here is a "rerun" of Guitar Face from May 2011.

As the realization of a “CD Release Party” or playing the album live registered, another level of frustration was added to my musical endeavors.  Thanks to the miracle of video and a bunch of still pictures, I learned that my guitar-playing demeanor – that is “guitar face” -- sucked!  Not only did I have to work on how to stand up, “guitar face” came into play.

“Guitar face” apparently gets ugly as age deepens the lines around the mouth and skin sags.  Concentration turns into a frown or a solid bite down on the lower lip.  The lines running down from the mouth make it look like it belongs on a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Pouts look the same – just plain ugly.  Grimaces are ugly too.  What I thought was a “confident cool” wasn’t.  My “guitar face” was anything but cool.

This was something else to work on.  Playing music was becoming more than notes, riffs, sensing a count, feeling a beat, making fingers work, hearing a tune in my head, and remembering what comes next.  “How do I look” had to be part of the equation. 

Of course, the starting point is a relatively simple question:  How do I want to appear?  The possibilities are endless.  Angry?  No.  Like I’m “turning Japanese”?  No.  Focused on the fretboard to the exclusion of all else?  No.  Nonchalant?  No.  Like some irregular old man desperately in need of Metamucil?  No.  Fixated on my shoes?  No.

Yikes!  I should practice demeanor too.  How long could I play before I was biting my lower lip, with a down-turned mouth, and deep lines running down past my chin?  Two bars?  Half of a song?  Until I hit a clinker?  Could I smile through a whole song?  When would a smile morph into some kind of moronic grin?  Was I gritting my teeth or smiling?

If playing music is fun, I should look like I’m having fun.  But is having fun cool?  In fact as I watched drummers, my observation was that often the veins in their neck stand out.  Was that part of advanced drum training?  I wondered if drum face was more prevalent than guitar face.  Drummers looked like they were trying to pass a kidney stone while guitar players seldom seemed to go to that extreme.

My problem was not drum face, however.  Rather, I needed to work on my guitar face.  Maybe I should select a model – an example of cool – somebody whose countenance could be copied.

But countenance apparently does not depend upon what is being played.  Billy Zoom is my all time favorite grinner/smiler, but X’s music was far from merry or uplifting.  “She had to leave . . . Los Angeles . . . because she started to hate every . . . [well you know the rest]”

We have guitar heroes who play with their mouths open.  Dave Wronski and Steve Vai are examples.  And they play great!

Those who bite their lower lips like Carlos Santana.  And they play great!

Those who are contemplative.  Look at Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton.  And they play great!

Those who have attitude.  Link Wray comes to mind.  And he played great!

Choosing a model is difficult because they all play great and I really don’t.  But, in the end, smiles look good on old guys.  Doesn’t Hank Marvin appear to be having fun when he is smiling?  Does Billy Zoom look like he’s 62?

I not only had to think about what I was playing, but I also had to think how I might look when I am playing.  This added more confusion about something that should be natural.  I wondered, “Have I ever thought about smiling or my countenance while writing, drawing, reading, or concentrating on something else?” 

Of course not.  That’s why this music stuff is so confounding.

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