Thursday, 9 April 2009

The corrupting power of rock'n'roll?!

I’ve been helping people to learn guitar for the better part of ten years. If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked to play that riff from Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana’s generation-defining greatest hit – then I’d be able to bail out investors fallen on hard times since Mr Madoff made off with their money! Like a Ponzi scheme, it’s not a song I view as big or clever; although, as with the best blags, you have to marvel that they’ve got away with it for so long and impressed so many sane people along the way.

Tonight I was meeting with a student to play guitar. Over the past few months we’ve established that his taste lies in latin and jazz – not genres I'm particularly strong in. I like to pigeon-hole myself as a devotee of melodic pop-rock, partly because it’s so desperately uncool but also because that really is the music I enjoy. However, I don’t believe teaching should be used for musical indoctrination so I’m not going to teach what I like, rather help people to play and express themselves musically in a way that they enjoy.

For months we’ve played acoustic guitars together. This was the first time I’d handed him an electric guitar. Suddenly he’s playing barre chords and asking if I can dirty the sound up a bit. I can tell he can hear something in his head and is struggling to find the right notes. Then I can tell what he’s striving for. Some people will lecture long about the corrupting power of rock’n’roll. Perhaps it was the introduction a Stratocaster look-a-like that lead my latin-loving student into bashing out grunge music’s theme song but, rightly or wrongly, he went home with a smile on his face.

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