Finding Inspiration in Unrelated Niches

Finding Inspiration in Unrelated Niches

Most of us begin by imitating our heroes.

Some of my early heroes as a guitarist were Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Nuno Bettencourt, and I learned a great deal from each.

But there always seems to come a point when drawing from the same wells of inspiration doesn’t yield new results anymore.

You can go and find new heroes, of course, which is what most us do. But these new heroes often end up being extensions of well-traveled paths. So, there’s a limit to how much more we can learn from them.

Legendary British jazz fusion and progressive rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth was known as the most technically adept guitarist to ever live (he passed just four years ago in 2017).

The irony? He hated guitar. He always sought to imitate the saxophone.

I’m not sure whether his secret was that he took inspiration from an unusual source, that he worked hard at is craft, or ultimately, both. I think we can agree, though, that all these factors were important.

Here’s another example that makes the point:

You can hear bits of Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, West Montgomery, and others in virtuoso guitarist Eric Johnson’s playing.

What is fascinating about his playing, though, is that his style was also influenced by the piano. Which is why you rarely see him just strumming chords, as many rhythm guitarists are known to do.

This might seem restrictive to some, but it’s clear to see how it would fundamentally shift how you think about your instrument.

These are key lessons as applied to developing your creative projects and businesses too.

It’s fine to take inspiration from your peers and competitors. It might even be prudent, given that imitating another’s brand can sometimes give you instant trust and recognition.

But let’s be real here. As author Todd Henry often says, “cover bands don’t change the world – you’ve got to find your unique voice.”

There’s a great deal of inspiration that can be found in completely unrelated industries, niches, practices, and disciplines too.

My main niche is music, but I’ve started taking inspiration from:

  • Japanese variety shows
  • Political and geopolitical podcasts
  • Online drum lesson memberships (this one obviously has a closer connection)
  • Internet marketing and online business sites
  • Conspiracy theorists

Now, if we want our projects and businesses to be successful, we can never ignore who we’re talking to or the language they’re using to describe their problems. That’s the main way we’re going to ensure our mission is sustainable.

But there may be opportunities to create better products and services by taking inspiration from unrelated niches.

The key is to approach all that you consume with open loops. When you do, you’ll find answers to questions in unexpected places.

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Phil Keaggy Electric Guitar Style Review

Phil Keaggy Electric Guitar Style ReviewPhil Keaggy may not be a household name, but he is known as a guitar virtuoso in the Christian circles, and has also been recognized as an accomplished acoustic fingerstyle guitarist by popular guitar magazines.

Nine-finger Keaggy is probably known more for his acoustic style, in fact. He may not be as widely known for his electric style, but this instructional DVD proves that he’s got some impressive chops worth studying.

Keaggy’s Tone & Versatility

His guitar tone is smooth and breathtaking throughout the short one-hour video (similar to Allan Holdsworth’s guitar tone, now that I think of it). At fist I was struck by his fluid whammy bar techniques, skillfully dipping in and out of target notes. His smooth legato style seems to complement this aspect of his masterful playing, and this in itself is impressive enough.

But then we are introduced to the diversity and variety in his playing style, ranging from 70s Funk Rock to 60s Rock ‘N Roll. In my humble opinion, the ability to transition from one particular style to another is the mark of a seasoned and experienced musician. Keaggy’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” is simply mind-blowing, and the examples that follow are equally mind-boggling.

Process, Gear & Influences

I always like it when musicians talk about their gear and influences, and throughout the DVD Keaggy does not disappoint. He talks candidly about the guitarists that not only influenced him but “blew him away”, and all of the secrets to his guitar tone, including guitars, pickups, rack mount gear, and amplifiers. Frankly I wouldn’t have minded if he had spent more time on this.

The Booklet

The accompanying booklet contains transcriptions for most of the examples, but unfortunately does not include the performance sections, where Keaggy performs entire pieces. However, it’s not hard to see why they didn’t include these sections, as there are underlying complexities to Keaggy’s playing that would be very difficult to notate.

Final Thoughts

All in all, this isn’t really your standard instructional DVD. Keaggy takes more of a demonstrational approach, so the video does not follow the standard format (example 1, play this, example 2, try this, etc.). For all intents and purposes, I believe this was for the better. I rather enjoy watching Keaggy play, and I always come away inspired. I always learn something, but for the most part I don’t attempt to follow the examples note for note. If your intention is to learn all of the solos verbatim, more power to you.