Sunday, January 27, 2013

The End Creates The Means

As we travel our paths thru life as musicians it is important to keep the North Star and various stellar constellations  in our vision to guide us along the way.  As we navigate this constantly changing musical landscape, it is too easy for us guitarists to get lost along the way - sidetracked into valuing the "means" more than the "ends".

Obviously, we need to take some time to reflect on what the "ends" are.  What is it we are trying to accomplish as musicians?

Some examples of the "ends" that great musicians have in their vision would be....


What message is it that you are carrying?  We all have one - but perhaps you have never given yourself time to meditate on what your message is.  What is it that you carry?  Hope?  Love?  Peace?  Faith?  Change?  Comfort?  Escape?  Truth?

If our focus is merely on creating sounds void of a message, chances are the music we create will ultimately be thrown in the heap of shallow and forgotten tunes - regardless of how momentarily impressive it may be at the outset.

If our thoughts are only on TRANSMITTING and we neglect to consider the RECEIVING ears of the listeners, we may be only adding to the noise that fills this planet rather than creating MUSIC that really impacts those who have ears to hear.

Even if your music is instrumental - with no lyrics - you are conveying a message to your listeners.  What we value inside of us comes out through our playing.  It is inevitable that the people we are is being revealed and transmitted via the music we make.

All great musicians have a message to deliver.    Weaving this message, this value, this belief into music is what ultimately impacts the circle of listeners which are tuned into your sound.  What is the message you carry?  You have one, whether you know it or not.  Taking time to identify what it is you carry will be a great navigational tool which will keep you from wandering in the wilderness for 40 years trying to reach a promised land that is mere days away. 

Having a solid grounding in knowing what you carry will ultimately guide you thru everything else.


Let's face it.  This world is a tough place to live.  We get bombarded with bad news 24x7.  If we live long enough we experience loss, disappointment, or heartbreak on a personal level.  No one is immune - and this world never takes a break in trying to make life hard.

But then there is music.  That place of incredible escape from life's challenges.  An oasis in the desert.  A meeting place with fellow pilgrims to identify with one another on common ground, find some encouragement and hope - tears and laughter - and at the very least enjoy a moment of escape from the pressures and pitfalls of life.

This may mean playing a concert to thousands, spreading your music around the world thru various media, or sitting in a humble home, porch, or street corner, just playing to bring this light to yourself and perhaps a very small group of listeners.

The size of the audience does not matter.  What does matter is what are you doing with that guitar in your hands.


There are many many "means" that can and should be used to achieve the "ends" discussed above.  A few of them would be...

Musical Chops:  How good can you get around on your instrument?  Can you play well?  Can your hands play what you are hearing in your heart?

Musical Gear:  How good is your guitar?  Your amps, pedals, etc?  Do you have the tools needed to create the sounds you hear inside your head?

Musical Academics:  Do you know music theory?  Do you know the music business?  Do you know the technology used to create music?  Do you have an extensive repertoire?

Musical Connections:  Who are your fellow musicians?  Who can help you create live sound and recordings?  Who can help you get our there and play?

These are all well and good.  However, if your focus is only on the "means" you may find yourself years from now perplexed as to how you could have walked so very far, and yet never reached a destination.


For you see, you can have a great abundance of all the "means" and yet never really create a valuable musical experience.  If all you have are great chops, great gear, great head knowledge, and great connections, then you may be  perplexed as to why it seems the your musical path is sterile and void of meaningful experiences.

Why is it that some minstrels out there who have greatly impacted the world seem to have done so with minimal chops, humble gear, academic ignorance, and seemingly accidental exposure to the folks who can make things happen?

What sets them apart from the thousands of musicians who are diligently practicing and honing their craft?

It is the "ends" that they carry in the core of their being which ultimately helps to navigate a path to relevance in this world.

Having the "end" fixed firmly in your heart will be a compass to help you decide which fork in the road to take, what supplies you need for the journey, and who to travel with.

If all you have are "means," it is unlikely you will find the "end."  But if you are traveling towards the "end" you were created to reach, you will find the selection of the "means" coming naturally to you.

Where is your map leading you?

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  1. Wow. I stumbled onto your blog and my mind is swirling. In a good way. Thank you.

  2. great advice to young musicians as well as older ones like me! great article!