I like the internet. I bet you do, too. It has revolutionized nearly every aspect of my life. It has exposed me to things I’d never see otherwise—for better or worse. But its world of boogers shredding on a Peavey and precocious three-year-olds playing way ahead of their years is doing serious damage to the guitar solo. The usual comment: “AMAZING!!!”
Call me a misanthrope, but the internet is kind of like every airport and mall in America: a microcosm of all that is wrong with our our culture–especially when it comes to guitar solos. You see, the advent of the World Wide Web hath spawned a narcissistic online culture of puny guitar-solo peddlers. Their riffs are replete with the energy of a Halo 3 session yet void of the raw emotion in something like Hendrix’s “May This Be Love”—a psychedelic, intoxicating modern-rock frenzy forged by ancient American blues and gospel.
Just Google “AMAZING guitar solo.” You’re not going to get Lonnie Johnson “stompin’ at the penny,” and you definitely won’t get something as technically pedestrian and perfect as Neil Young’s one-note solo on “Cinnamon Girl.”
Instead, you get a video circa 2006 from user “blacklotus07,” a pudgy, baby-faced Brazilian named Fernando. Check him out if you’re into that shit. Look, I have nothing personal against guitar-picking adolescents or youth obesity or Fernando. I’m just painting a picture. You’ll appreciate my wisdom one day when it’s just you, alone on the porch, broken-hearted or love-inspired and in need of a good soundtrack for the summer heat.
Music is not a sport and neither are guitar solos. If I want speed, I’ll watch Usain Bolt. If I want speed and power, I’ll watch Manny Pacquiao. If I want team speed and power, I’ll watch SEC Football. If I want team speed and power at the penultimate level of strategy and athleticism, I’ll watch the Super Bowl. But I won’t watch some pimple-faced 15-year-old whizzing through pentatonic scales on YouTube. That shit is NOT amazing. Why? Because the heart cannot be amazed. It feels.
Music’s true impact cannot be measured by views or analytics. It is one of the most pure ways of communicating with other humans. Just because the guitar is accessible, sexy and mobile does not mean you should bastardize it to the level of a Craigslist hooker ad.
Comparing today and yesteryear, Bob Dylan once said: “These musicians not only knew what to play, but what not to play. Musicians these days play too much and clutter up the sound. Just because you can play one hundred notes a minute does not mean you should play more than two or three. Quality has nothing to do with technique. It has got to come from the soul—and not just be something you learned.”
At the end of the day, I reckon it is all about being a part of something real and meaningful. Go find AMAZING. Ask your Grandpa about AMAZING. Dig for AMAZING. Create AMAZING. Listen for AMAZING. Then share it on YouTube.