Mike Bloomfield: Message to Promising Guitarists

bloomfield_mike

Mike Bloomfield

SKF NOTEMike Bloomfield brought me hours and hours of musical joy and education — especially when I was in high school — as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag, and other musical situations.

Bloomfield’s advice to “young, promising guitarists” is a keeper. And his advice easily translates to all musicians — including drummers. This is part of an interview the 26-year old Bloomfield had with writer Don DeMichael called, Up With The Blues: Mike Bloomfield, in June 26, 1969 Down Beat.

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If he could gather together 100 young, promising guitarists, what would he tell them?

“I would tell them to try to play as simple as possible,” Bloomfield said, “to reassess their musical knowledge to see how much of their music is just mechanized licks, just something they can play with their eyes closed, just involuntary hand usage, and to assess their music on that point — and then clear all that garbage away. Think, if you’ve got a lick, where can you use it, and break it down into just notes, leading one note into another, see the logic of music, and learn the value of a note.

“These things…took me so many years to learn because I did it wrong for so many years. I just learned licks and put them together any old way I could. I finished my one licks, and then my brain would immediately come up with another lick that was there by rote in my mind. After a while, I would be able to alter the licks a little, and this is how I learned. But it’s not the right way to learn. You should be hearing the music in your head, what you want to play, a definite musical pattern. Then play it the way you’re hearing it.

“To a young guitar player, this will sound like just so much bull, because he’ll hear someone playing 500 notes and he only knows 50 notes. And he won’t even know that maybe his 50 notes are being better played and more intelligently played than this guy’s 500 notes, because 500 notes makes no sense at all.”

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