Musical Influences

I play the guitar. Almost every week, I can be found at Elim Baptist Church with a friendly bunch of other musicians, smiling big and doing something I absolutely enjoy.

I also love to listen to all kinds of music. I listen to film scores, bluegrass, classic rock, folk, electronic, classical, pop, blues, zydeco, gospel, jazz, and on and on and on. It’s all so interesting and fascinating to listen to, and I love the variety.

Of course, my listening tends to flow naturally into my playing. And there are also other people and things that influence what I do on my guitar. This post is about as many of those influences as I can think of.

The one that’s highest in my mind right now, simply because I’ve was listening to it all morning when I started this post, is the music of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. I’ve been noticing how my guitar style is heavily influenced by how their bluegrass turns around at the end of a musical phrase. I tend to try to give something a little closure on the end of a line if I can, and I can thank Kentucky Thunder for my inspiration in that regard.

Bluegrass and Motown are big influencers of my love of a distinct bass line. Though I’m a guitarist, I’m enraptured by the way a bass line moves an entire song along. As a result, I will sometimes try to plunk on my low E and A strings a bit for some groove.

Some people might not understand this next one, but it’s one of my favorites. For many years as I’ve played at my church, I was privileged to play with a wonderful organist. Although she has since gone to her eternal home, I still can hear her signature triumphant extras on so many joyous hymns such as To God Be the Glory. When I can make it work, I try to mimic her “dum-da dum dum dum!” on those songs. It’s not nearly as majestic coming out of my six-string, but I consider it my tribute to her.

Hurdy-gurdies. They’re not people. But the distinct drone sound of these fascinating instruments have inspired me to try to make my guitar drone in some ways. Also harps, for the glissando (I believe it’s called), which I try to imitate somewhat on certain chords such as E minor.

I also must mention my dad, who taught me how to play and got me started. A lot of my style comes from him, though I’ve tried to morph into something that goes along with his particular style so we can sort of harmonize together, if you will.

And that friendly bunch of musicians I play with every week has some influence on me. I’ve played with most of them long enough that I can somewhat predict what they’ll do. Whether it’s a flute trill at a certain point, a violin fill, or what have you, my guitar playing has nuances in it where I know that I’m thinking ahead to answer musically what I’m fairly certain my fellow church musicians will be playing next.

And there are probably all sorts of other influences on my playing, but those are enough for now. Hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into how I play the guitar.


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