This year I decided to enter the 'Guitarmageddon' competition at Guitar Center. This is a national competition being held at all 170 Guitar Centers. Each store could have up to 30 participants. I'll do the math for you ;-) 5100 possible participants.
The theme for this year was 'King of the Blues' and although I'm not a straight Blues player I figured that I could work on that technique and be prepared by the time the competition began.
When I signed up back in February, I was given a CD with 21 blues based tracks on it. Trevor (GC guy) explained that I should pick one of the tunes to play against on competition night. And after I did that I would have 2 minutes to do whatever I wanted to showcase my blues talent.
I chose track 22 (there was a tune up track 1) which was called 'Slow Minor Blues'. I went with this track because I thought it would lend itself to nice 'blue' runs and tones. It was more melancholy than most of the others and I liked the chord changes. I was thinking of players like B.B. King when I listened to it and I figured, 'heck, if B.B. ain't got the blues, no one does!'
So I worked on that track laying out a nice 'roadmap' of build ups, single note versus double stops and other blues style items. I also chose to play clean and with only the neck pickup of my Jem. Now, I have a Strat but I didn't want to switch away from the Jem for the competition. The other thing condition that I had was that I wasn't going to re-tune my Jem for this so I would need to learn the piece by ear since I tune down a half step. Once I got used to that there was no problem since I only knew the tune in that key. I felt very comfortable with the piece when performance night came (March 28, 2006). For my two minute thing I decided to do an up tempo version of 'Red House'. I've been playing this live with Mid Life Crisis recently and people were responding very well. So I thought this would be a good choice.
My wife Michelle and my two sons Mike and Chris came with me to Guitar Center that night. I met the other players and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of use were in our late 30's or early 40's. There was one guy in his late 20's. This made me feel good in that we should really see some good performances. The order was randomly picked and you had 5 minutes to find you sound and get a sound check. When we checked in we were told that the 2 minute thing was eliminated and would only be used in case of a tie (Hmph..).
I went third which was good. I felt ready after watching a couple of other players. After my performance I felt that I nailed it pretty well and that I kept myself disciplined. I didn't go off and play real fast or anything I tried my best to stay emotional.
There were only 8 contestants that night and we had a variety of styles but most of the people chose to play with an upbeat track. I was the only one with the slow blues track.
At the end of the performances, the judges went off to decide who moved to the next round so we all patiently bopped around the store. I took my kids to the drum section and they loved banging on everything! Michelle stayed in the room where the competition was held.
Finally, we were called back and the two finalists were announced, and I was not one of them. The two guys that moved ahead were both very good and had similar styles and sounds. I congratulated them both and explained that I would like to see one of them advance all the way to LA where the finals will be held.
We packed up and headed out and when we got outside Michelle asked me if I was disappointed. The boys were both congratulatory and I felt that it was my duty to practice the old, 'As long as you go out and try your best, that's all I can ask of you.' speech. I explained that sometimes things just don't work out like you expect and that the other two guys gave the judges what they were looking for.
But inside I was disappointed, mostly in myself. I really stayed true to what I thought was blues, like I said before guys like B.B. King. The two that moved ahead were more like Stevie Ray Vaughn. I can play liek that with no problem but chose not to. The other thing is that in one section I put the guitar behind my head (Hendrix, SRV, etc.) because I do that in the band and people really go nuts for that. We were supposed to be judged on, 'originality, technique, stage presence and overall performance'. But I wonder if the judges looked at that as a stunt and took away from my score.
Well, it took me a couple of days of going over everything in my head to try to figure out what happened. After all, I did expect to reach the store finals. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I did try my best and that I just didn't give the judges what they were looking for and that's ok. I would have liked to have moved forward but just because I didn't doesn't make me any less of a player. And I was looking forward to our next gig which is tonight (April1, 2006) at Mad Mex.
I have to also confess to being a bit relieved because I may have been putting too much pressure on myself with this contest. And the day that guitar playing becomes too much like a job is the day that I hang it up.
I ain't done yet! ;-)
Thanks for listening.