One thing I’ve heard about a lot of guitarists is that they don’t “tun” their instruments. There are thousands of bands on the planet that have one or two guys who will tune up one or two instruments—a bass guitar, an organ, and a mandolin, as well as a ukelele! I was not one of those guys.
I tune the guitar with a hand-held tuner, a simple finger tip. I didn’t “tun” it, because at that point it wasn’t a “real” guitar; it was a toy. The first tune I ever played was a 12-bar blues on a cheap little electric. In one go, I could hold the tuner with one hand and hit my fretboard with the other. I’d have to repeat the lick a few times, the string going down a few notches to get that perfect pitch that made the guitar play in tune. The guitar was just sitting there, and I had to go back and repeat that lick again. It took hours to practice it. As for tuning my ukulele—I don’t know why it took so long. I could tune an ukelele very quickly with a little practice. The strings are not that important, anyway.
Why do you believe there is so much “practice” going on with “practicing” a guitar?
In the old days, most of the stuff I did was just practice. I would sit down with my instrument, and play with it for a couple hours straight. I would then practice until I mastered it, like a pianist. Today, you can only play on one instrument at a time. That’s kind of a double-edged sword, though. The best guitar players have to have multiple instruments, even if they have only two or three.
How long before a guitarist is too much like a singer?
I think there will come a day when I’ll be “dead serious” about the guitar. I’ll be “serious” about something that’s so important to me, and it’ll have to be more important than what I do on stage.
When do you stop practicing?
I don’t think it will stop until I realize that I don’t care. Practice is just part of my life. I’ll probably do it forever!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
That’s an obvious one, but I have no opinion.