Harvey Reid has honed his craft over the last 40 years in countless clubs, festivals, streetcorners, cafes, schools and concert halls across the nation. He has been called a “giant of the steel strings” and “one of the true treaures of American acoustic music.” He has absorbed a vast repertoire of American contemporary and roots music and woven it into his own colorful, personal and distinctive style.
His recorded output of over 500 tracks on 27 different recordings, released between 1982 and 2012 on Woodpecker Records make a major statement, and have attracted a great deal of attention in the acoustic music world.
His sparse, unproduced recordings have been discovered by music “purists” worldwide, and showcase his unparalleled mastery of many instruments and styles of acoustic music, from hip folk to slashing slide guitar blues to bluegrass, old-time, celtic, ragtime, and even classical.
Harvey Reid also taught guitar lessons at Davis & Elkins college. What follows here is a reprint of a hand-out he gave to students on their first day of guitar class back in 1992. I came across this masterpiece by total accident while searching the internet for something else…I’m so glad I found Harvey Reid’s web site.
Guitar music is a place where the elements of rhythm, tone, emotions, harmony, melody, poetry, preparation, solitude, friendship, intellect, physical training and spirituality all meet. It involves your spirit, your body, your heart and your mind, and it is both a solitary and a social act. It not only offers the player the pleasure of making music, but it also offers to the skilled the ability to actually change other people’s thoughts and feelings. Just by doing something you love to do, you can impart profound things to others and give them something they value. Those who discover that they have this ability, who feel obliged to develop it and who use it generously, will experience a reward comprising not only the satisfaction of the act itself, but also an abstract pleasure in sharing and communicating with others through the language of music. There is an energy, a sense of purpose and a direction that it imparts to its practitioners that can give a gratifying sense of meaning in what threatens to seem like a meaningless world.
Only through a lifetime of music will you experience an understanding of all the aspects of the art, but a basic awareness and regular reminders of the existence of all these various ingredients that make up music will allow the student to progress more quickly toward a mastery of it. There is, as always, a price to pay, and there are responsibilities that come with having the power to change other’s thoughts and feelings, and not all who set out on this learning path make it all the way through.
The essential element in the study of music is a love of music and an appreciation of its sacredness. Music is not something your hands or your voice do. It is not something your mind does. At its finest it is a transcendental state that involves all parts of you, and allows you to exist on the crest of a wave, in the exact moment of the present as you perform each part of the music. It is only there, in the present that we can truly live and have control over our lives, since the past and future are inaccessible to us. When you are deeply involved in music and when you have control of it, you can experience an excitement and a sense of well-being that is impossible to duplicate. The sensation of the pleasure of music making is the primary thing a student of music must focus on. If enough time is spent in joyous music making and if the desire to share and transmit this feeling is strong and sincere, the hands will train themselves and the voice will find its true expression. One cannot hurry the processp; you must instead enjoy and cherish it as it slowly unfolds. There is an unfettered freedom in being a beginner that you may look back on fondly some day. The desire to be something other than what you are will impede your ability to grow, and the amount of pleasure that music brings is relatively constant. If you are not experiencing that pleasure and fulfillment as a student, then you must learn how to do that before you can go further. The magic that is music comes from such a place inside us. And any beginner can experience these sensations just as easily as the master. If not more easily.
© Harvey Reid (Elkins West Virginia 1992)
You can read more about Harvey Reid by [CLICKING HERE].