The Melbourne Guitar Show will be live at Caulfield Racecourse over the weekend of August 8&9 and as Australian Music Association's (AMA) organiser, Rob Walker suggests, 'the show is about celebrating the world's most popular instrument.' With over 50 exhibitors and major suppliers of guitars in Australia including GibsonAMI, Innovative Music, Maton Guitars and Cole Clark Guitars it is a great time to get inspired about playing music.
For guitar enthusiasts, displays of all sorts of guitars, ukuleles and string instruments will be lined up and there is something there to suit everybody from the pro to the beginner. Rob advises, 'dozens of local retailers are working with the suppliers, local makers, local craftsmen, plus there will be a big selection of vintage items from a couple of exhibitors.' It is a broad range with hundreds of brands involved, and something the AMA members are now used to organising, 'it will be about the fifth show and it is up to our industry to support the event.'
When asked why the guitar is so popular, he offers, 'I think the guitar is almost the quintessential self-accompaniment isn't it? It's such a good instrument for groups, such a great instrument to please yourself and play. You've got percussion and you've got melody in the one instrument.' A guitar teacher himself, he explains that for right-handed people, 'the right hand is creating the strumming patterns, the rhythm and percussion, the left hand is making the musical chords and everything.' He laughs and adds, 'people say they sing in the shower, I am sure lots of people sit by themselves and whittle away, just enjoying themselves playing and singing.'
The love of guitar also lies in its portability. 'It is such a ready-made party machine!' His favourite pastime is going down to the beach in the summertime with friends, 'the guitars and songbooks always come out, everyone just sits around playing and singing songs, it is great fun. You can put it in the back of the car, not like the piano'!
For those who always yearned to rock out the guitar, there's hope if you already play or learnt another instrument. Having a basic understanding of music and its structure is helpful, especially if you've played a brass instrument or piano knowing how to coordinate your fingers is a crucial head start. With guitar technique, 'some people will get it quicker than others. The guitar is something so worth persisting with. I always say to people, there is a hump y'know and once you get over the hump through practising, there is no other way to do it it becomes really enjoyable.' This enables you to change the chords, dig deeper into songbooks and try different chords. He says there isn't any real template for people who are transitioning instruments, but, a great satisfaction in persisting 'because you can now play an instrument. You've done the hard work you've done the repetitive stuff and you've learnt how to change chords.'
It's never too late either. A friend of Rob's even took up guitar playing in his 50s. 'He tried it in his 30s and he gave it away.' After deciding to start again, he is now, 'sitting around entertaining his family.' Rob suggests it is just like doing stretching exercises every day, 'a month down the track your body is feeling better but you haven't really noticed it. The same goes for guitar once you are over the hump and are playing songs it is worthwhile'.
Even though the guitar is a traditional instrument and electronic music is on the rise, Rob is a firm believer in emotion coming out in the creative process of making music. 'Regardless of what instrument the music is being made on, I think it is really great when modern, contemporary musicians play with the classics and vice versa.' He says it's a great thing to play the guitar and other musical instruments; 'there are so many different types and ways to make music. And some of the pathways are probably a bit more difficult than others. Symphony orchestra members and people like that have learnt music right through school formally, but other people don't get that opportunity to learn the traditional and orchestral instruments.' Learning music offers people grounding, 'it's still very important for kids to play music. It gives them such a well-rounded education'.
While the Guitar Show is Melbourne centric for now and open to individuals, families and businesses, there is scope for it to move across Australia, 'it would have to be scaled accordingly. The two most obvious markets are the two biggest ones and for national suppliers and manufacturers they'd like to interest as many people as they can. When I worked for Allen's Music in the mid-2000s, we did a Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide guitar shows (Perth was 2000).' With the event aiming to be a big success, it can then be run every year, not the decade-long hiatus of recent years.
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