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Why you should never give up practicing

At some point in their lives every musician decides that they want to be the best in the world at what they do. Sometimes it’s just a passing thing, and then the real world gets in the way. Then again others spend years slaving away trying to get everything they do just spot on. For a select few of us, we get the right guidance or we work out exactly how to get where we want to be and stick to that path no matter what, and those are the ones that we spend way too much time watching on youtube either envying or just plain hating.

But the thing is that we all really know that it’s not how impressive you are when you sit down in a music shop and just start jamming away. Al Di Meola could have torn Kurt Cobain a new musical a******e if the two had ever met, and a quick listen to Bob Dylan’s Christmas album will be all the proof you need that you don’t have to be Freddie Mercury to become one of the most revered artists of all time.

So why waste your whole life hunched over your instrument? You can play a few chords, you’ve got a few mates together, they can play, you can come out with stuff that sounds good to you and if you’re lucky other people will like it too. Maybe you do like your metal, but the chances are there’s stuff you love just as much that isn’t as technically challenging. And on the off chance that the only songs you want to play are Steve Vai covers, then good luck finding a band to play them with.

When I was in my early teens I was pretty much the stereotypical epitome of a shredder guitarist. I spent all my free time away from school hunched over the thing, barely going outside and instead dreaming of becoming the next Paul Gilbert, and for a while I was doing pretty darn good. My teachers always spoke well of me, I could impress all my friends and as soon as I was done with my A-Levels it looked like I was destined for music school. That was until the winter before my 18th birthday when I broke my wrist. I couldn’t play guitar for six months, and as soon as I was out of the cast playing the way that I used to do was just too painful (the break in my hand means I still can’t pick properly). So that was about the point at which I came round to the idea that getting technically better was pointless. I’d still watch out for every mistake that anyone dared to make at any gig I saw. But with the exception of occasionally picking up the guitar and strumming out a few chords, I basically gave up playing for around two years.

Until I moved in with one of my current bandmates who played guitar too, and I decided that I didn’t want people to say he was the only guitar player in the house. And after a few months of each finger on my left hand feeling like a pork scratching glued onto my palm, and a bit longer getting used to my right hand not working the way it once did I got back on the path towards my dream. Not long afterwards I was invited to (or suggested that I should) come and jam with my current band, and just over a year and a half (and a couple of singers) later here we are. We’re playing gigs regularly, have an LP recording on the horizon and generally we’re just having a great time doing it.

Are we exactly where we want to be right now? No. But I do at least think we’re heading in the right direction, and it’s all down to the fact that we’ve practiced together week in and week out. And if you’re still thinking that you’d rather just play a few chords over a standard 4/4 beat that’s fine, so long as you’re doing it well. But at the end of the day though, if you strive for something more, and you’re willing to put the work in, you WILL get there. As my old guitar teacher used to say when I first started playing “Practice, practice and practice until your fingers bleed, then practice some more. Because it’ll do you good for the future… which is coming soon”.

Bill Hughes of THE HERO COMPLEX

The Hero Complex can be found playing Metal on Metal at Drybar on 13th July, and on facebook at www.facebook.com/theherocomplexmusic and on bandcamp at theherocomplex.bandcamp.com

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