Don’t Be Afraid to Colour Outside of Your Own Lines

Credit to Darren Michael Boyd for the title. It’s his excellent quote

This is our fifth final episode of our interview with Darren Michael Boyd. In this episode we talk about the influence of the late great Eddie Van Halen on modern rock music. We also expound on the greatness of the band Van Halen and how each of its members contributed in their own unique ways. We also get into a bit of a discussion of the band Extreme and their two main members, Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone. We talk about the importance of good singing and how it helps you develop as a guitar player and can add to your desirability as a musician.

The pathetic state of royalties in the digital age is another subject we expound on. Darren explains how important it is for young musicians to not get too focused on downloads and to expand their horizons into other avenues of music production. We talk about the fast pace of change in technology, both recording technology and music delivery technology. Darren gets quite philosophical and wonders if all the technology that is foisted upon is really worth it and is it all that necessary or good for us.

This led to one of my favourite topics of discussion, Darren’s reptiles. Darren is not only an outstanding guitarist, he is also a renowned herpetologist and loves to share his passion for animals, especially reptiles. He has a touring reptile roadshow where he demonstrates and educates people (mostly children) at various special events, on reptiles, their habitats, and their habits. I can immediately tell it is a special part of Darren’s life as his face lights up as he discusses his reptiles. It is a very rewarding experience for him to share his knowledge and love of the animal world. He also describes to us his experiences living in Florida, where he studied zoology. Although his touring schedule can be very hectic and tiring, his love for teaching and the joy it brings him helps overcome some of the hardships he encounters with his touring schedule.

This also describes his relationship with his music. The love for playing helps overcome the setbacks and difficulties of being a traveling musician. He gets very candid and tells us that at one point, not so long ago, he became quite frustrated with music and almost hinted that he considered giving up his musical ambitions. He then admits that it was his own fault for having such a negative attitude towards it and once he decided to dedicate himself to his cause, his love for music returned. It’s an important lesson for all of us. Don’t let the negative aspects of your life cloud your judgement and don’t allow them to steal your joy.

I ask Darren, “what is your advice for young players…roughly around 12 to 14 years old.”

He answers, “love playing and don’t worry about being as good as somebody else. Spend time with the instrument. Learn it; practice it; and (become proficient). Becoming better makes it more fun.”

That is excellent advice, which is applicable to any guitar player at any age. I firmly believe in this concept, so much so that I’ve recently begun taking lessons again. My attitude towards taking music lessons is that nobody is ever too good to learn more about the guitar and there is always something new to learn that will elevate your guitar playing. Even the famous, top ranked golfer, Rory McIlroy has a swing coach.

Darren also advises young guitarists to learn to sing and to learn other instruments, especially the drums as it will improve your timing. I believe that singing makes you a better musician (instrumentalist) and being an instrumental musician makes you a better singer. Darren’s theory is that learning other instruments helps you better appreciate what other musicians go through when accompanying you. It’s a very valid point. He also very correctly goes on to say that being a good singer will improve your chances at getting more gigs, more so than if you only play the guitar, even it’s only to provide backing vocals.

He then advises guitar players of all ages to learn some music theory. He admits that he is “not that big on music theory” but is always looking for that one extra piece of the puzzle to move his guitar playing to a higher level. Over the past few years, I have made it a point to learn as much theory as I can absorb, in the time I have available to learn it. If you are a regular reader of my blog and a regular viewer of my YouTube channel, you know that is something I try to teach as well. Darren scoffs at those who say that learning too much theory will hamper their creativity. We both agree that the more theory you know, the more – not less – creative you become. Knowing the rules allows you to know which rules to break or bend.

Darren then treats us to more of his excellent guitar playing. He features his “spooky surf” music. It’s a unique combination of staccato picking, heavy reverb, and lots of short notes, with very few rests. He also features quite a bit of hybrid picking that he attributes to Billy Idol’s excellent guitarist, Steve Stevens. He learned hybrid picking when trying to learn how to play Billy Idol’s classic hit, Rebel Yell. Hybrid picking involves holding the pick between your thumb and index finger, as you would normally do, and adding finger picking with the remaining fingers of your strumming hand. Many guitar players use this technique to play songs such as Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

Darren talks about his resourcefulness as a guitar player as he recalls the time when trying to record one his surf style songs, Melting Beneath the Moon, from his latest CD, Last Seen in Canada. Having trouble playing the root note and the underlying melody, he decided to re-tune his open E sixth string three steps higher to G, “taking the root out of the equation.” It’s a unique approach that liberated him to focus on the remaining five stings. This sort of resourcefulness is something he learned from the Canadian guitarist, Phil X, who is now the official lead guitarist for Bon Jovi. Replacing Richie Sambora shows how great of guitar player and singer he is.

It was a true joy for me to interview Darren Michael Boyd. He is a tremendous guitar talent who demonstrates great creativity and impeccable timing. He is witty and intelligent, and very approachable, warm, and welcoming. He has such an interesting mix of interests and is very eager to share his knowledge and passion for guitar and animals, especially reptiles.

For links to the previous parts of this interview, please see below.

One response to “Don’t Be Afraid to Colour Outside of Your Own Lines”

  1. It’s been a long work week, so I enjoyed watching this final part over morning coffee..
    I appreciated Darren’s sincerity and candidness throughout all 5 parts of your interviews with him. You are right Frank, Darren is an all round good dude with zero pretense. At 5:40 , great insight on the reality of trying to make a living on being a musician in this digital world..For those musicians that have the luxury of added expenses, factor in lawyers, publicists, roadies, managers, the price of gas, and it’s still a tough go!..I agree! on this: Regardless if people are watching or not, ,you really have to enjoy playing for the love of the instrument and for that reward and rush of crossing those little milestones of improvement which Darren touched on, That, and learning other instruments was great insight and advice!

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