Make Time For Rock and Roll

I think nearly everyday of my life since I was about 12, the idea of playing guitar has popped in my head. Maybe not on my wedding day, or the day my kids were born, or at funerals, but most other days. Ever since being a 3, 4 year-old and hearing Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Doors, and the Beatles spun on the family hi-fi the rock and roll bug has been in me. I went right from Star Wars to Ratt and Van Halen, with maybe a little crossover between 5th and 6th grade. But once the toys were laid to rest in the boxes they came in and sat high in my bedroom closet I was all about music.

I was probably 10 when the idea of learning to play guitar started to burn in my brain. It was listening to Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits in the family sedan that ignited that desire. Between the one-two punch of “Back In The Saddle” and “Last Child” I found an urge to “do that”. Those riffs and the Les Paul tone of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford was all I needed to find my way to playing guitar. It’d be another two years before my parents would buy me a cheap acoustic guitar and I’d start taking lessons, but once I did I found my “thing”.

Playing guitar has been my “thing” for 36 years now. Through various stages and styles and tastes, it’s remained as one of my few constants since childhood. I’ve come around full circle with the guitar, too. From those early days of wanting to be a shredder to my late teens/early 20s of wanting to be a songwriter to my late 20s and early 30s of being a serious songwriter to getting over myself and finding that passion for the instrument again. I’m a little over a year away from being 50-years old and I’m finding myself watching clips of Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Satriani on Youtube and it’s as if I’m that 10-year old hearing “Last Child” in the backseat of a 1984 Honda Accord all over again.

Now, while I think about playing guitar nearly everyday, the act of actually playing is harder to get to. Between work, writing, cooking, cleaning, errands, and attempting an exercise routine the sitting down and actually plugging in tends to get pushed to the side. I even brought up my Vox AC-15 and my Epiphone Les Paul from the basement studio and set them up in a spare bedroom upstairs just so it’d be in closer proximity. I thought maybe that would prompt me to take 15-20 minutes out of my day to practice. It hasn’t, that is until yesterday.

I got home from work yesterday with a steady rain coming down outside and after about 20 minutes sitting on the couch I got my butt up and pulled out the Les Paul. It was time to get loud.

My son’s friend had left a BOSS Distortion DS-1 pedal downstairs months ago so I decided to try it through the Vox. I was actually kind of blown away. I’ve always felt that I could never find that perfect balance of jangle and distortion. The Vox is great for bright, bell-like cleans but when I’d engage my Pro-Co RAT pedal it felt like I was trying to go full-on fuzz/stoner vibe. The $62 Boss pedal seems to find that perfect balance. I can get dirty tones without feeling over-saturated. The Les Paul sounded amazing. I’m excited to try the Jazzmaster and Jaguar through that set up.

I think I played for around 45 minutes or so. It felt great; cathartic even. I always seem to forget the zen-like quality playing guitar brings me. It’s a lot like the feeling I discovered drawing and painting brings me. Pulling yourself out of your own head and letting the act of making something steer you somewhere. I also think leaving expectations of writing and recording at the spare bedroom door also helps me just enjoy playing and making some noise. I’m pretty out of practice, so going back to just some basic fundamentals of playing would be good.

Do I wish I could just shred? Well yeah, I do. But I also know that that kind of playing lacks a certain level of personality. Watching a clip of Jeff Beck playing “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from back in 2009 was awe-inspiring. He doesn’t shred, but he makes his guitar come to life. He’s a player’s player because he’s such a unique musician. He has such style and grace, yet how he gets there is so alien. Nobody plays like him, and he never got there because he was a shredder. He got there because of his intimacy with his instrument, whether it was his Les Paul or his Strat. The guitar was like another appendage. That’s not speed and shred, that’s just knowing your instrument like that back of your hand. That’s something I can work towards.

I just need to do it more often.

21 thoughts on “Make Time For Rock and Roll

  1. Maaaaaan YES. I always forget what joy playing guitar brings me, then I sit down and shed a bit and it all comes back. I’m approaching 30 years of playing and I’m still terrible but it hardly matters. It’s about the session and the time and the unwind.

    I’ve been on a minimalism gear thing, at the moment. I have waaaaay too much stuff. I never use most of it, so it’s just storage. I connect with my guitars but the amps and pedals not so much. And I’m still semi on that 50th birthday guitar quest, even though I say I’m not. I can’t help thinking one good guitar and one good and and I’m done. Is that nuts?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well trading up would work. When my job ends and I get my severance one thing I plan on buying is one really nice guitar. A couple candidates, but I haven’t decided what just yet.


      2. Cooool. I’m aiming for 50th birthday (2024). Either a 1974 original or maybe a custom shop from that year. Of course, that’s a ton of money and I know when I get to the finish line I’ll rather spend it on the house or the kids future or something. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If it’s THE guitar, the one that makes it so you don’t need another then I say why not? Plus, it’s your 50th. I’ll be 50 in 2023. Hey, I’ll turn 50 before my job ends…so maybe I should make that MY 50th birthday gift as well. Hmm…


      4. Yeah I know, I just think practically. With all these rising costs, several thousand dollars on a guitar seems ridiculous. It would be nice, though. If you can do it, go for it. A nice ’73 Tele for you…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Never know…I was leaning towards a Gibson SG Standard. But a ‘73 Tele would be nice. Make up for the 2000 American Tele I sold a few years back to send my oldest on a Shakespeare trip up your way.


      6. See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about! Guitar… or do something for the kids? Kids win every time. Man, an SG would be nice! Definite preference to a ’74 (or ’24) Tele for me.


      7. Yeah, parenting and having an expensive hobby is like a yearly retelling of ‘The Gift Of The Magi’. I sold a guitar so you could go on a trip, then they present me with a handmade guitar strap. lol That didn’t really happen(the guitar strap part), but you get it. Your kids are younger than mine, too. My youngest is graduating this year. I feel I’ve sold enough of the things I find great joy in for the sake of the family. It’s time for Papa to enjoy some of that mid-life crisis purchasing. lol

        This is the golden rule: if the wife says go for it, you go for it.


      8. I was actually gifted a guitar strap! I love it, it has the KMA logo on the front and their names on the back. It lives on my Epiphone ES-335 custom shop as it was also a gift. Incredible. I posted about it somewhere on KMA at the time.

        My lovely wife likely wouldn’t say much if I go for it (I doubt she’d say it outright), but there’d be a quiet understanding that we still have a mortgage lol. If I wait til the kids are gone it’ll be a 60th birthday thing, not 50th.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. It was so funny, we met a financial advisor and he asked what our retirement plans were. I said, without hesitation, “I don’t want to eat cat food.” He stopped, looked at me. “What?” I said “I’m serious. I don’t need a cottage or a boat or world travel or fancy anything. I don’t want to be poor enough to need to eat cat food.” He laughed and said we’d probably not have to worry about that. I think I made his day.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the best bits of gear I ever purchased was the boss waza headphones. They’re expensive, but holy hell do they make playing electric guitar easy. I use them all the time while watching shitty tv or sporting matches. Gotten ready 20 minutes before the wife, bam get a few licks in. I’m able to play guitar everyday now thanks to these things, no excuses. You should look into them. Cheers Rob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rob…so I looked into these Boss Waza headphones and I might snag some. Curious, do you NEED the app in order to use the headphones? Or can you use the headphones without the App? Just curious.


      1. Howdy, yeah you need the app to get started.
        And the app isn’t great, but you can have six presets loaded into the headphones and after a fair bit of mucking around, I pretty much just use my six presents.

        You can use these settings without the app, so it’s real simple once you’ve chosen your six settings. Playing along with tunes on your phone is also a great feature of these and you don’t need the app for that feature as well. Cheers Rob

        Liked by 1 person

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