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Why Not Globalize the Guitar?
By Alex Jasperse - 09/01/2007 - 02:01 PM EDT

Music is in a particularly amazing period of transformation and growth. It has become transportable, expansive and predominantly virtual. As a result, it is opening the doorways to a global village of sonic possibilities. And with any period of transformation, it’s inevitably being met with both celebration and hesitation.

Over the past five years, the global music community has literally shrunk from medium to small. Anyone can be in the know, and everyone has access to all forms of music – if they’re willing to put in some effort. It’s been propelled by the advent of websites like myspace, where for the first time, musicians had the ability and freedom to talk to, work with, and search out other musicians across the globe.

As a guitarist, I grew up thinking that in order to be considered a ‘guitarist’, it would require me to join a band, record a CD and play live shows. But as I began to learn that the music business had the habit of colouring music with a different flavour than initially intended, I realized that the number of alternative options for me to express my creativity were only limited to: (a) my imagination; and, (b) my willingness to learn. Granted, I knew that exploring alternative options were not the way to making any money, however, I decided that I needed to try something completely different to make myself happy.

So while my music friends were off trying to earn their (imaginary) badges of musical honor, I began to explore the options I had in front of me. Now, not to sound like an ad for myspace – because it does have its fair share of problems and general lack thereof of …cough, cough… intelligence – I found that it soon became one of the most important learning tools I had access to.
Just like trying to find the right bandmates, it took some time before I came across other musicians who were also interested in working with me. And within several months, I had the opportunity to work with musicians from Mexico, Great Britain, Egypt and Sweden on a number of projects that ranged from completely abstract guitar drones, to trip-hop, and to progressive metal. It was incredible: I was working across both language and geographical barriers; I was trading completely different creative ideas, which was completely redefining my understanding and appreciation of music.

So here’s my $0.02 for this month:

1. Use a music website – either a promotional one such as myspace, or a forum you like – to find other musicians who might be interested in working with you. Sites like: myspace (duh), garageband, purevolume, amiestreet, etc., are some good starting points.

2. Ask anyone you may be interested in working with. (Ok. That doesn’t mean you should be expecting an answer from Steve Vai. And don’t limit yourself to only asking one or two people – why? Well it’s inevitable that you’ll run across some people may seem  interested at first… and then they’ll pull out. Now, keep in mind that there are 6.6 billion people in this world – so if you look hard enough, you’ll find someone, guaranteed).

3. Discuss and bounce ideas off one another via email. Ask questions such as: what stylistic genre would you be interested in working in? What artists do you listen to? What would you like to explore?

4. Decide who will lay down the first part (i.e. the most important bit of this collaboration). This is usually the hardest step, and because rock-paper-scissors doesn’t work so well over the internet, if you made first contact with your fellow musician, it may be a good idea for you to begin.

5. Sending a .wav file, for example, can be a bit of a pain, considering that it was never meant to be a small file. There’s a number of ways to send your .wav file, though, and I’d strongly suggest using a file transfer site just to make things easier. (I actually had one musician offer to mail me a CD with his part… try and avoid this if you can, for simplicity’s sake).

6. Trade the track back and forth until you are both happy with it. Whether or not you want to master it is up to you, and then you can both decide what the next step is. Perhaps you’ll work on another track, create an album, or search out for other artists who would want to join in - who knows? There are many possibilities… but the initiative to explore them is in your hands. 

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