You Make It Up

Nov 05, 2019
I read composer Robert Fritz's book The Path of Least Resistance when I was about 21 years old, and while various bits of it have passed in and out of my thought process since then, one thing that really stuck with me was his explanation of how creative people come up with their work. After fooling around with various possibilities – could it be this? could it be that? – Fritz crows the answer he's had in mind all along: "They make it up!" You can practically hear him cackling with the glee of sticking it to...I'm not sure who. The creative academy? Some private vision of The Man? Whoever it is, Fritz is clearly pleased as punch with this formulation, and why not? On some level, that's really all there is to it, and the rest, to quote Rabbi Hillel out of context, is commentary.

When I started working with Truefire, the format necessitated I come up with any number of extended exercises for each fingerstyle course – etudes, we called them in our loftier moments. I didn't think much about it, I just...made them up. Lately, as I've been exploring more interactive methods of teaching – live Zoom sessions, online workshops and the Fingerstyle Five membership – those compositional chickens have begun coming home to roost. I have discovered, to my astonishment (and the considerable inflation of my already insufferable vanity) that some people not only learn these exercises, they actually put them in their repertoire, pull them out and play them, in fact treat them like real music. I'm torn between conceding they might actually have a point (see "vanity," above), and descending into a William-Shatner-esque tirade about it ("You've taken something I did as a lark, as a young man, and turned it into a...a colossal waste of time!")

I do really enjoy coming up with those tunes, and work to make them as musical and effortless to play as I can. But since they're designed to show someone how to play something, it's never occurred to me that that the compositional process – how to make stuff up – might, to some people, be at least as interesting as the results. Which is odd, because over the past few years one of the common refrains around here has been some variation on: "what I really want to be able to do is pick up my guitar and play something of my own." So this Wednesday, I'll be doing an hour-long Zoom session on writing your own guitar music. If you've never written anything before but have always wanted to try, I'll show you some ideas to get you started. And if you have created guitar music of your own but found yourself running out of steam, I'll show you some ways to develop your ideas further and talk about what to do when you get stuck. The focus will be on creating blues-based fingerstyle instrumentals, and we'll look at things like choosing a key and a groove, developing a melody, creating contrasting sections for your tune, and more.

The Zoom session's free; just click below to register and I'll see you tomorrow!

Fingerstyle Blues Instrumentals: How To Make Stuff Up
Live Zoom Session
Wednesday, Nov. 6
1-2pm CST

Click To Register For The Zoom Session

More soon,