“I’m Already Playing Too Many Notes!”

A few weeks ago I watched a video from Christie’s, the famous auction house.  It seems that Richard Gere was auctioning off a number of his guitars with the proceeds to be donated to charity.  I didn’t realize that he was a guitar player, but he is.  He also has a remarkable collection of  instruments, all of which he bought to play and use, not for their inherent collectors value.  Here’s the link. It is worth a few minutes of your time.


Along with a representative of Christie’s and G.E. Smith, an extraordinary guitarist many of us know from his days leading the Saturday Night Live band, Gere was showing some of the instruments that were to be auctioned – a remarkable assembly of great guitars.  G.E. Smith would play some licks on a number of them and offer his own comments.  After playing a couple of bars on a old Martin 000-41 with his fingers he made what I thought was a profound statement.  He said, ”I like to play with my fingers even on electric because it slows me down.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not able to play fast enough but then I’ll listen to the recording.  I’m already playing too many notes!”  This is at around 18:45 of the video.

Now, I’m not a particularly speedy player anyway, but it does seem to me that, as an accompanist, you should try quite hard not to play too many more notes than a singer would be able to sing.  As always, the accompanist supports and enhances.  As David Letterman used to say about Stupid Pet Tricks, “it’s a demonstration, not a competition.”

Author: Ron

I started playing guitar in high school bands playing songs by the Ventures, early Beatles and other British Invasion bands. With excursions into many types of musical styles and genres in the intervening years I have developed an appreciation for the unique skills of the guitar accompanist. The accompanist serves the song and serves the singer, enhancing rather than competing with the song and the performance. This blog highlights those skills and the practitioners who exemplify this important bit of artistry.

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