When you are playing alone you are training the guitarist in you;
when you are playing in a team, you are training the musician in you.
I first heard of this idea from a fellow musician in my church. He himself admitted that he received this insight hearing from someone else. To this date, I still don’t know who the source was, but boy am I grateful to be able to be able to receive these words of wisdom!
When we play alone, we are focused on the instrument we’re playing. If you play with a music loop, you’ll know what I mean. You’re basically playing with a machine. A machine hardly (in fact, never!) makes a mistake (unless you’ve programmed it to be so). So one upside (benefit) of playing alone is the fact that you can dedicate fully to improving your own techniques. This is true in the scientific point of view, since you’ve created a controlled environment, where everything else is constant, except you.
By being in a controlled environment, you can hone your techniques for all you want and drill down the nitty gritty details of how you play. You can take your time to retry at any point in time for as many times as you desire. You are building up (training) the guitarist in you.
Compare this to playing in a band setting. In a band, you are in a real group, a real team. Why do I use the word ‘real’? Well, Because real people is often a time surprising. Real people makes mistakes. Real people can choose, and will choose, to interpret a music dynamically.
While you’ve agreed to play a twelve-bar blues with the progression involving I-IV-V, you can choose to improvise differently. In another case, when you play in a band, you, as a guitarist, have to learn to LISTEN. This listening is not just on the superficial level of listening to the chords. This listening, in its essence, involve the active participation of being aware of what OTHER musicians are doing (and trying to do).
This article would be doing the topic a huge injustice if I were not to encourage (and challenge, if I may) you to go ahead and fix an appointment with several other musicians for a jamming session. So come on, will you arrange a jamming session with your band?
As with various learning process, the more you play together, the more you’ll discover about each others’ styles and preferences. Often than not, being in a team-working setting will provide a whole new level of context that can elevate the musician in you.
You’ll learn to get along with each others’ difference. You’ll learn to tap on each others’ strengths. You’ll learn to accept and tolerate each others’ skill limitations (I’m not saying you do not strive to improve). You’ll spur each other to improve. You’ll gain insights and spark msucial ideas you would otherwise be unable to discover when you’re practicing alone.
The conclusion is this: there is a time to play alone and there is a time to play together. It is our own responsibility to build up the guitarist (instrumentalist) and the musician (team-player) in the one you call “me”. When you strong individually and sensitive as a team, just imagine the possibilities abounding when you do come together to CREATE!