In this post I would like to introduce a book by Philip Toshio Sudo. This is a book based on zen philosophy, published in 1997. Even though, it is called Zen Guitar, all musicians and students (both amateurs and advanced) can find it beneficial. As in the introduction he writes: “Welcome to Zen Guitar Dojo. Please leave the door open. …I have established this dojo for anyone who wants to make music. It makes no difference to me whether you’re a musician. you are welcome here if you’re of the spirit to make a sound.”
While there are many books out there about music theory and how to play an instrument, this book discusses the ways to play the music truly from the heart, with true emotions and with spirituality. “I believe that learning to play the guitar is inseparable from learning to harmonize body, mind, and spirit. To truly play from your soul, you must have all aspects of yourself working together as one.”
I personally believe that mastery (if it can ever be achieved), is much more than being able to play really fast or through very difficult passages, or having the highest skills – not all the musicians really mean what they play. The road toward mastery is not such a short way. In this book, Philip discusses that learning to play an instrument and playing the instrument is not just a physical activity. Then, he suggests some solutions to balance body, mind and soul – for that matter. In the mean time, it is really important to see the bigger picture when practicing an instrument – that makes one of the differences between being a guitarist (pianist, etc.) and a musician. “In Zen Guitar, the acquisition of technique for its own sake is not the path toward the musicianship.”
Also, he introduces and explains very interesting concepts e.g. the “white belt to black belt and black belt to white belt”.
This book, starts from the beginner’s mind and picking the instrument, and talks about practicing, technique, feeling, mistakes, perfection, discipline, taste, self-doubt, speed (etc.) – to attending to details, sound painting, tone, recording, virtuosity and mastery.
This book is different. I would suggest it to everyone, it is a must read…
“Pick up you guitar, tune, then play”, “Play what you hear and hear what you play”.