I Don't Think Jesus Would Have Been a Lead Guitarist

Most heavy metal songs "feature at least one guitar solo", which is "a primary means through which the heavy metal performer expresses virtuosity".

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In some ways, Jimi Hendrix was a little like Jesus. He grew up poor, and lived poor nearly his whole life. He was worshipped as a god by many. In some ways his personality was humble, and in other ways it was arrogant and powerful. He knew how to get the attention of an audience. His death was a direct result of the way he chose to live, and the message that he thought of as his mission to spread throughout the world. And he didn't last four years between famous and dead.

That's about where the similiarity ends. Despite what it might seem like considering the massive fame he "enjoyed" after his death, Hendrix remains dead.

"I Don't Think Jesus Would Have Played Lead Guitar"

I read that sentence in a book that I bought last year (2018), not long after I started studying at Bible college.

I was 14 when I started playing guitar. I knew almost nothing about it when I started. Like really almost nothing. I took lessons for a few-several months in what turned out to be classical guitar. After that I was self-taught. Over the next few years (my mid-late teenage years), I became completely and totally obsessed with guitar.

The first guitar book I owned, which I picked out from a shelf at a local music shop, was called "Lead Guitar" (by Harvey Vinson). At the time I didn't even know what "lead guitar" was. But I knew I very badly wanted to learn to play it. The book had some interesting tips, including that aspiring guitarists should include "playing stoned" (i.e. high on marijuana) as part of their training.

It's hard to say which was a stronger motivation for me to learn guitar as a teenager — a genuine love of music, or the desire for other people to like and approve of me. I grew up as basically a science nerd with an interest in nature, and I thought that playing guitar (and especially lead guitar, once I figured out what it was) would make me cool.

The most recent guitar I bought, a couple of years ago, is a 'Madcat' Telecaster similar to what Prince played. Success and fame as a musician were my main goals when I started to learn guitar.

The most recent guitar I bought, a couple of years ago, is a "Madcat" Telecaster similar to what Prince played. Success and fame as a musician were my main goals when I started to learn guitar. Later, I realised these were hollow goals — yet the influence of the world on my motivations had affected me very deeply.

Both of these motivations led me to an obsession to learn to play really well. Which was, at the time, the most important thing of all in my life.

By my early twenties, I decided that basically the entire experience of learning to play guitar, and also the things I ended up doing as a result of my interest in the music scene (like getting drunk almost every day), had been a huge minus. I pretty much gave up guitar completely for ten years. I did some office work, then a uni degree (in Physics), and then more office work, with computers.

When I started playing church guitar, in a way, it was like a time warp back to my earlier life. A lot of the thoughts, feelings, and motivations that I had in my first (teenage) years of guitar were still there. Those thoughts and feelings had gone into me very deeply, over many thousands of hours of repetition, and near-total obsession, in an almost-religious-like fashion. So when I picked up a guitar again, that was what came back into my mind and my heart.

When I think about that time now, the thing that stands out the most is how much desire I had for worldly "success", acclaim, approval of other people, and all those kinds of things. And also to get the music as technically correct, and technically impressive, as it could possibly be.

When I was practicing, playing, and thinking about church guitar, my thoughts and feelings were usually quite far removed from an attitude of prayer and actual worship of God.

A New Approach

For a while after realising this, and starting Bible college, I really wished I could give up playing church guitar altogether. That was around the time I read that sentence in the book about how Jesus wouldn't have played lead guitar. (I'll find that book and list it here eventually, it's in my storage unit right now). I kept playing music at church, as an act of service to my Lord and to the other people at church. But inside I was secretly wishing I could change to a different church, where no-one knew that I could play guitar, so no-one would ask me to.

Somewhere while in that mind state, I had an idea — an idea of what the complete opposite of the way I'd approached playing music might look like. The idea was quite simple, and seemingly so obvious. It was just to focus on God, and Jesus, and not on myself, or the technical aspects of the music, like how "well" I played, or the many other worldly things I'd learned when I first learned to play music. But just to play Christian music and make it about Christ. And think of all the different ideas that I could think of in order to do that to the fullest.

Which is how this website came into existence. And also how I ended up deciding to go back to putting things on YouTube again.

Jimi Hendrix

Widely regarded as the greatest rock guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix lived in poverty and slum accommodation most of his life. His first recording failed to chart. Born in 1942, he was still struggling to earn a living wage from music in May 1966. He became famous in 1967, and died in 1970.

Next page: Re-Learning Guitar as a Method of Prayer.

Cover image by Hannu Lindroos / Lehtikuva.