Sick and Tired…So I WRite

Im sick. I mean I’m feeling sick. Im sick, and I’m tired, and I’m sick of being tired so I write. These words weigh. My emotions begin to weigh when I don’t express them.

Mind over matter they say.

The following is me free writing…expressing myself freely about whats on my mind and in turn, hopefully you find some inspiration.

Im gonna talk to you about how I came across guitar music.

Neoclassical Guitar

The first time I heard George Bellas it was in the afternoon. I remember the day vividly. I remember it vividly because it made an impact on me.

I came out of my parents house about 3 or 4 years ago, or something like that. It was a sunny day I remember. The sun was beating down as it always does here in Miami, Florida.

So I crossed the street and I got into my car and put on a CD that I had ordered. The CD was “The Dawn of Time.”

The first song I ever heard was the 1st track on the “The Dawn of Time” album.

“Cyclone.”

Cool name.

Needless to say, “Cyclone,” took me to a place I had never been before.

But it took me to some place I wasn’t comfortable with. I had never heard anything even remotely close to what I was hearing. I was always into grunge when I first got into the music scene in the 90s singing my ass off mostly to Pearl Jam’s second album “Vs.”

Fast forward many years…

The melody that comes blaring out of the stereo instantly blew me away. The melody repeats and has amazingly executed vibrato. Its what gives the melody its quality along with the note choices of course. See George Bellas uses rich harmonic structure but I knew nothing of the sort.

I hate to admit, but I had trouble hearing what was actually going on. There was so much going on that my yet unexpanded musical mind could not grasp its magic.

It was intensely and beautifully odd.

Lets rewind a bit here before I get to the rest of my point.

My first ever guitar teacher was a guy by the name of Tom Hess. You might know him. He’s all over the internet.

Its hard for me to have a relationship with a teacher who you don’t see though, at least for me.

So little by little the student/teacher relationship ended but not before I was introduced to the world of lead guitar and instrumental albums.

Before Tom Hess I never had a guitar teacher. I taught myself to play rhythm guitar and put chords together. I wrote lyrics, sang and played with my band.

I tried this guy out at a local conservatory next to Fullsail University where I went to College for all the wrong reasons. Anyway, the teacher showed me some scales but I had no idea of what he was talking about. It wasn’t until I found Tom online that my skills really began to take off.

Through his forum I learned of players and virtuosos I had never heard of before. This world of instrumental metal hit me like a ton of bricks.

I didn’t know it existed (seriously I didn’t) until past 2010 or 2011 when I began my first lesson. I didn’t take a 2nd lesson til a year later.

 

Neoclassical Virtuosity

So I learned about Rhapsody of Fire and Dream Theater and most of all this guy by the name of Yngwie Malmsteen. I kept hearing and reading that he was the best neoclassical guitar player out there but that he was very arrogant.

Here I am in my early 30s and I had never ever heard or known about instrumental guitar playing. The 80s shred scene had never been introduced to me…as sad as that may seem to me. Yea I had heard the hits but not the total shred scene (Shrapnel Records type stuff).

It was sad because how does a guy who likes guitar not know about the great guitar players of that time. Sure I heard Whitesnake and bands like that through Hair Metal bands like Poison but I was never intrigued by guitar solos so much as vocals and guitar riffs back then.

This all changed for me later on but it still took me a couple of years.

Thats how narrow I was with my musical choices. If I found something I liked or loved, everything else went out the window and I would shut my mind up to the rest of the world.

Its now 6:38 am and I haven’t slept. Ive been driving Uber to make ends meet and just had to get this off my chest after reading an inspiring post by a fellow blogger whom I admire.

He puts it all on the line and puts everything out there for you to see. No holds barred.

 

Back to the story at hand

When I came back for that 2nd lesson and the other 30 or so lessons I took, I started to believe in my ability that I could write some instrumental songs.

Tom Hess was inspiring to say the least. His lessons came chock full of advice, motivation and kick ass instruction.

But he’s not the point of this post. What happened after that fateful day of hearing “Cyclone” through my car speakers changed my life.

Exactly 2 years later after seeing some video of a guy by the name of George Bellas, through Tom’s lessons, I decided to throw that CD in again.

This time, everything was different. My ear had become more acclimated to new sounds, lead guitar and instrumental music. Neoclassical metal was now unleashed up on my virgin ears pretty much for the first time.

This time though, I fell in love. Like a 5 year old kid falls in love with his new Nintendo Switch and is obsessed about it day in day out, I listened, listened some more and then when I had enough, I would turn it off only to realize I wanted even more still.

 

Fear

See, I later figured out that the reason I didn’t finish listening to the “Dawn of Time” was because I was scared. It scared me away. It immediately sent a jolt of fear through my body. I couldn’t believe, when I heard Mr. Bellas for the first time, that someone could possess that amount of skill.

I thought…”I’m doomed.” I might as well stick to my rhythm guitar and keep writing songs with lyrics and forget about lead guitar.

Thats where I went wrong with my thinking. I corrected it, but 2 years later.

For 2 years I wasn’t able to listen to the music that would change my direction.

Today I am mesmerized just as much as I was on Day 1 when I first heard “The Dawn of Time.”

My favorite song became “Let There Be Light.”

It has this chromatic melody that’s so cool and crisp and pleasant on the ears. It’s executed in superbly clean tone. I was convinced George Bellas was sent by the Gods down to Earth to show what was possible on an electric guitar. I told him this when I started lessons with him.

See when I was back with Tom, you would read and hear about famous players, not necessarily the best players.

 

The Best

Sure, all those players like John Petrucci, Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Joe Stump, Tony McAlpine, Vinnie Moore and Jeff Loomis are virtuosos but none of them hit me like George Bellas.

George Bellas I believe, is in a realm of his own. No one can touch him on his style.

Its so well thought out that you might pop a few brain cells if you try and figure out some of the stuff he’s composed.

I mean just go back to his first album “Turn of the Millennium,” when Mike Varney signed him and he released the album when he was still under 20 years of age I believe.

I may be wrong on the age but it was around that number. If you really listen to that album, you will hear shred. Shred guitar is up and down that entire album. But heres the thing. So is melody, harmony, counterpoint, improvisation, odd meter, chromatic harmony and mind-blowing, blistering solos that sound like they come from a 10th planet.

Maybe that should be the name of his next release…;) “The 10th Planet.”

 

Anyway…

The first time I heard the entire album I was flabbergasted. I was scared that I would never be able to play in this way. And in a way, I was right. I will never, nor will anyone else ever be like George Bellas.

But I can practice my ass off and learn from him as much as I can and so I did. And still do.

George is an autodidact. I thought I could be one but after a lesson with him I’m always convinced that I’m wrong about that.

From the video samples I saw back then I was completely taken aback at the height of his level of playing. I couldn’t get my mind around it. I checked his website out a few times and deemed myself unworthy of taking lessons from such a pro.

I kept on keeping on and practicing my ass off sometimes putting up to 4 or more hours in a single day.

I would record my practice time for the week and would hit 14 or more hours on average per week.

Thats not enough for someone to get to the level of playing that you hear on his records but its something.

If you read his interviews and biography from his website you’ll read that he sometimes did 18 hours. That was just in 1 day.

 

Drive

Ponder that for a minute. He practiced 18 hours a day and I believe it was on 13 gauge strings on an acoustic guitar. He really went for it. After his dad bought him his first guitar he never looked back.

He was interested in scores and compositions from the get go. The amount of drive that I read about was phenomenal to say the least. I continuously get inspiration from reading his website, seeing what he’s up to and taking lessons from him when I can.

I practiced so much that one day I woke up and remembered what Tom Hess had said once. He said to find the best player and learn from him.

I would like to add that not only should you find the best and learn from them, you should also love their music. Im not a big fan of Toms music although it is highly impressive and inspiring. But I am a total fan of George Bellas music.

I wondered who Tom’s teacher was back then and I later came to find out that it was George Bellas.

I was afraid to go and take lessons from a teacher that was so good a player (Tom) and learn from that teacher’s teacher. It felt wrong, at first.

Then, after I woke up one day, everything made sense…

I told myself that I had to take lessons from George Bellas. I wrote it down as a goal of mine.

 

The Better Decision

Then after, I could not wait another day, I went for it and it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.

See I wasn’t learning what I truly wanted to learn before. I wanted to learn how to write melodies and solos but I wanted to learn from George so I made the switch. In the end it was the better choice for me.

Since studying with George, I have learned many things and hope to play at his level one day. Although it seems impossible, I can always shoot for my personal best.

I can beat out the player I was yesterday.

Every day I can go into the composition/practice room and bang out some melodies, chords, riffs and solos and become the best player that I can be.

 

Focus

I learned to not see other players that are virtuosic in nature, as better players than me. It doesn’t matter that they are (and they truly are light years better than me)…I simply started to focus on being a better me.

I guess I just wanted to put this out there because it feels right. It feels right to tell my story in the hopes that it helps another person like me and in a similar situation.

I have a record coming out. I busted my ass for it.

Its on its way.

For now…Im just focusing on..

the next step,

and not the mountain

before me.

I just turned in some assignments and have a lesson with George in 2 days. My productivity level (musically) is through the roof this week. I’m clear as to what I want, what I like and what I want to sound like.

 

Now and Then

The only difference now between me back then and me now is that now I possess much more skill because I kept at it.

See it doesnt matter that someone else is better than you. It matters that you focus only on bettering yourself.

Other players shouldnt even be in your head. If they are, raise the rent and kick em’ out.

Don’t be intimidated by extreme virtuosity, rather, learn from it. Email your favorite player and see if he or she will give you lessons and show you a thing or two.

It’s definitely worked out for me and I’m sure it will work out for you too.

Keep shredding, write down your practice goals, write down your musical goals. Keep your head up. One day, you’ll be at the top of  the mountain.