Wednesday, February 20, 2013


-I find it necessary for my first post to provide a little bit of insight on me, my experiences with guitar, and my life for anyone that is curious-

My name is Justin Gillen and I am 23 years old. I grew up in Northeast Connecticut in a small town called Pomfret. I began playing guitar when I was 12, and have currently been playing for 11 years. I attended Western Connecticut State University for four years and earned a degree in Professional Writing. I originally wanted to go to WCSU for a degree in music because they seemed to have a good jazz program. I auditioned to be their jazz guitarist in 2008 with many others. I felt confident in the audition. I was able to improvise a solo, play with a bassist and a drummer, match pitch with my voice, and played a Charlie Parker solo note for note after weeks of preparation. It was going my way, that is until they asked me to sight read. I have always found issue with myself and sight reading. I could read sheet music and figure it out, but I couldn't read it like one would read a book. So because of that, they turned me down. The music teacher even told me I was a good player and said "I had the hardest part figured out already." I translated that to mean that I spent to much time learning to play the guitar and not enough time on music theory. It was the first time I auditioned for anything, and it resulted in failure. I was angry that they didn't accept me to at least teach me or give me a chance because in my opinion, its harder to find a good player than it is to find someone who can read music like a robot. They felt differently though. It was disheartening, but I pressed on and continued to practice guitar as a hobby more than a career path. The guitar and music was still in my heart and was nothing that I could feel comfortable stopping because of a bump in the road. A little adversity was no reason to give up. After a year of being undeclared in a major, my grades told me that I would do most successful in writing. That is the educational path I followed and the reason my degree is in professional writing.

I think the best way to describe my musical style is both blues and rock. I started listening to blues very seriously after about a year of playing guitar and rock guitar was always in my vocabulary because it was what I was used to listening to. I was self-taught for only one year living off tutorials and guitar tab sheets that I could find online. After that, I was fortunate enough to find a guitar teacher I liked that I could take lessons from. When I started taking lessons, I started to understand the art of soloing on the guitar. I became obsessed with players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix and guys of that style. I felt that these were the players that were the best representatives of how a powerful blues solos should feel in my opinion. Whether it be a slow, fast, minor, or major blues, these players were always able to emit an amazing amount of emotion in their song writing and guitar solos that would often times give me chills. And best of all, they could do it live. Some of Stevie Ray Vaughan's live performances in particular had a significant impact on me as a young player even though he passed in 1990, which was the same year I was born. Needless to say though, those players really set the bar for me at a young age, and forced me to work very hard to try to replicate tones, riffs, and writing styles from them. However, they were not the only bands, players, and musical influences that I found in music at the time. I drew inspiration from all kinds music when I was young.

I listen to and attempt to learn various styles of music for multiple reasons. I like to experience the phenomenon of playing something I don't understand for not only the challenge of it, but to have a better understanding over different ideas. It pays not to be closed minded and I truly believe that. I would recommend this outlook to any player, especially in an early stage of learning. The first music that I ever really listened to was more of an alternative style. I used to listen to bands like Nirvana, Metallica, Staind, Pearl Jam, Sublime, and Days of the New before I ever picked up a guitar. Bands like this were popular when I was growing up and just like everyone else, I gravitated toward listening to them. When I started to learn the instrument, I found it helped me more to learn more traditional styles of playing like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I found it helpful when it came to getting better at the actual instrument and not just learning songs that were already famous, though that is certainly a helpful way to learn the guitar and different chords. The real point being, I never got hooked on only one thing and I continued to try to learn and discover new things about music through listening to different genres and players. After a while I started to find new players and outlets for inspiration which kept me very motivated and driven to practice and refine my skills at guitar.

One of my favorite players that I found in my fifth year of playing is Tommy Emmanuel. If you haven't heard him, I highly recommend him. He is a player that can play just about any song and genre on an acoustic guitar and is just one of the most respected players around today. He significantly opened my eyes to how good a person could get at the guitar and I would have no problem saying he was the best guitarist I have ever listened to as far as capabilities and the ease that he plays instrument with. I mention him not only because of his influence in my playing, but also because he is a musician that understands the benefit of listening to multiple types of music and not getting closed minded about only one style or player. Because of this, his playing is tremendous and his musical writing is vast with all kinds of different influences from music all around the world which really widens his audience. I try every day to get on his level of playing and he is a major influence of mine.

That is about all I can think to add about my play style, influences, and experiences with guitar. there is more details and things that I learned about the instrument, but for the sake of your time, I will keep it as short as this. If there is any questions you want to ask me or anything you think I could help with, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Thanks for reading/listening.