originally written 14th July 2010

I am a musician.

Did you know that?

I didn’t. Well, not always.

I thought I was a counterfeit one. A pretender. A person who could act and sound like a muso, but wasn’t really one.

Strange how the search for self has permeated something as trivial – or as important – as that.

Surely it’s simple.

Dan, meet Dave. Dave plays the guitar. He sings. He gets excited listening to other guitarists, and spends hours copying their riffs.

Dan, would you call Dave a musician?

I think Dan would be losing the plot if he said Dave wasn’t.

Of course, there are hierarchies of musicians – just as in any other field.

There are those who are just starting out. Or are always just starting out.

Then there are those who can only ever play from some kind of written music.

Then there are those who can play from chords, casually classed as ‘improvisers’. I fall into that category. Stick a chord sheet and a singer in front of me, and I’m set.

Then there are those who can wing it. They are the ones who play or sing ‘by ear’. When they play, we wonder why anyone bothered to invent music stands. This is the rarefied stratosphere to which I aspire. While I can sing by ear, I have only occasionally joined those ranks in my playing. Something holds me back – probably the fact that my ear is not reliable. Five times in ten, I will pick the wrong chord.

Then there are The Song Writers.

As you can see from my hierarchy, songwriters are considered it and a bit – by me.

And someone else would have a different pecking order. Perhaps that pop or rock musicians are just not any good. Perhaps not even jazzsters. Only the classical variety get anywhere near the top of the tree.

I digress. But not very far.

I was spun into another morass of self-doubt (yes, I love cliches!) recently by a comment from a highly accomplished muso, passed on second-hand to me, that people who need sheet music to play from aren’t real musicians.

So… back and forth I went. am I a musician?

I don’t think there is anything in my life that has been as much a part of it for the whole of it, as music has. To say the same thing clearly, music is so intertwined into my life, that to separate me and it would be impossible.

I find it interesting that I think of myself as a counterfeit musician – not the real deal. I also suspect most people who know me think of me as a real musician – I play with passion and sensitivity, and I know my music. Why the contradiction?


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