Back in 1990, I read an interview in a magazine with Frank Gambale. Where his playing isn’t always to my taste, I find some of the things I’ve heard him play to be absolutely stunning, and I admire what he has done for the guitar, producing a lot of informative videos and books. Where the approach to the guitar that he discussed in the interview was very good, making a lot of logical sense, Gambale introduced the idea that there was an ‘end’ to the study of the guitar. This was something I struggled to grasp at the time, and while I’ve recently been working on the latest revision of the Contemporary Guitar Performance Workshop course and handbook (for which this blog was set up), I was drawn to the exploration of this “end of study” concept once more.
Since 1990 I’ve explored many ideas with the guitar which have all led me to believe that the concept of an “end” to the study of the guitar is actually quite ridiculous. I kept the magazine article because where I found the interview with Gambale to be interesting and informative; I also found it to be quite dictatorial and limited. It made me think a lot about the topics which he had discussed and it’s not often that magazine interviews and articles hold my attention or make me think as much as this one did.
The implication that Gambale himself had “completed” his study of the guitar in accordance with his own system was not something I felt at all comfortable with, and nearly 20 years later it seems that my initial problems with grasping the conceptual “end” of the study of the guitar were not without merit. This is because while I’ve been revising and updating my own book over the last 10 years, the notes that I’ve taken and ideas that I’ve jotted down have been reflective of a permanent state of evolution that my work has been in. I’ve always been looking for better ways in which I could explain or present ideas and concepts to the point where this has been a seemingly endless task. For a long time, I’ve thought that the point at which the very top players have reached the full technical potential of a musical instrument is the point at which that instrument would enter its next phase of evolution. Where the resources for learning how to play the guitar will naturally always be behind the cutting edge of guitar playing there will always be room to adapt, develop, and evolve the approach to learning the instrument. The ‘end’ is not a reachable goal, it is an ideological target which nobody will ever hit although on this (rare) occasion, the priority isn’t hitting the target, the priority here is about the quality of the journey towards it, and what we may actually find on our way there.