We’re not all guitar players or songwriters. However, there’s a lot to be learned from them.

The film It Might Get Loud, a “guitar-player round table” featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, appeals to three passions of mine:

  • creativity and the creative process
  • music
  • movie production (particularly documentary)

These interests might not be shared by everyone and the three egos in the movie are a bit much to take at times (particularly early in the movie before the egos relax), so let me share some notes I scrawled down after watching the movie and you can decide if it’s still worth watching.

While all three musicians strive for the perfect coming-together of music, energy, passion and sound, their primary concern is the process. They study other musical genres and musicians to find hints of inspiration. They’re curious first, not critical. They ask questions of what they hear, see and think then find ways to incorporate the answers into their own expression. For Jimmy Page it was being one of the first guitar players to change conventional thought on the role of the guitar in music. The Edge has found innovative ways of merging minimalist playing with technology and sound processing to change the texture of the guitar and make it build the music into something more than it can be. Jack White is like a soldier on a mission to prominently bring the deepest reaches of roots music into a new form of energetic blues/punk. He’s a purist of the highest order and that paints a picture of him as being on the offensive. He dismisses advances in technology suggesting they polish out the purity of music (my words, not his).

While it is the instrument (or tool) on which they are most proficient, it is nonetheless merely a channel by which they can best communicate their ideas. Each of their guitars has certain qualities that allow them to express different ideas or the same ideas in a different way. Each guitar opens up different possibilities for them as musicians. What makes Jimmy, The Edge and Jack so good is they make the time to experiment and discover the nuances of each guitar and expression. These guys don’t just pick up a different guitar and treat it as though it’s identical to the rest. Each guitar has its own voice and allows the musicians to discover new voices and ideas of their own.

As someone who loves music and has dabbled in my own musical projects, I really enjoyed the explanations and demonstrations of how they each pull together their ideas into a song. It was a small part of the movie probably because it can get quite technical.

The thread that brings them together is the recognition that their work will never be done. Accepting they’re role as students on a creative journey has made Jimmy, The Edge and Jack worthy of celebrity. They don’t take their status for granted even if it can (er, does) inflate their egos. They will keep playing guitar until their bodies won’t let them.

By the way, the movie did a lot to humanize The Edge. He may not be the world’s best guitar player, but he’s philosophical and extremely committed to the creative, musical and technical aspects of his craft. If the opportunity ever presented itself, I’d interview him in a heartbeat.

Photo: U2’s The Edge: Wembley Stadium, August 14, 2009 uploaded to Flickr by [AJ].