Who, What, Why

Who What Why: Michael Harding

23rd July 2018

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Who are you listening to at the moment?

Lots of weird and wonderful things at the moment! Right now, I’m on a jazz high so I’m listening to a great deal of the legendary artists – Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker to name a few. I’m also listening to more contemporary acts such as Snarky Puppy, Tigran Hamasyan and Kamasi Washington. As a musician, what they’re doing – especially from a analytical perspective – is mind-blowing. Anything that I can take away from that make me sound like I know what I’m doing on the guitar is good enough for me!

At heart, I’d have to confess that I’m a metalhead. Among all the modal jazz and fusion guitar I really like to incorporate into my learning, there’s always a place for the heavy stuff – Meshuggah for instance, who have such an alien and unusual approach to the guitar that really sucks you into that style for hours on end. Not for everyone, but you have to appreciate the genius behind it.

Going a bit further into why I’m listening to jazz, I think guitarists fall into the trap of listening to only guitarists – you hear all the big names like Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai and so on and so forth. It’s easy to tell why that is of course, but the greatest guitarists of all time take their inspirations from all instruments. To me, instruments like the saxophone and piano present so many ‘non-guitar’ sounding opportunities to learn from that really adds a lot of variety into the learning experience. That being said, there are a number of guitarists I really appreciate right now, especially in the fusion genre – Guthrie Govan, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, Tom Quayle, Martin Miller and Mark Lettieri to name a few. All of them are masters at their craft which is something to aspire to in the long run.

What do you love about Brighton?

You hear lots of people say that Brighton is scenic, welcoming and has that particular vibe that makes it so attractive. Having done one year at BIMM, I can’t help but agree with that. I can’t describe for certain what the vibe of Brighton is, but anyone who studies at BIMM Brighton knows what I’m talking about (I hope!). Brighton in itself is one of those places that has something that takes your interest at every turn and every corner no matter what it is, be it from the choice of the music you can listen to or even just those small shops that sell the odd item on the shelf. Also, being a student, I love coffee. Brighton has a lot of it.

Not only is Brighton great as an environment, living in Brighton and being among other people who are living there has been a transformative experience for me. Being among other musicians with common interests sparks something within to bring out the best in yourself both as a musician and a human being, even when the going gets tough. It hasn’t been the easiest year of my life in terms of mental health, but I can say that despite the hardships, becoming a better individual wouldn’t have been possible without moving to Brighton and knowing the people I do now.

Why Guitar?

That’s a good question. I’m the only musician in my family and even extended family, which as far as I can tell isn’t a common situation for music students. Before I even go into why I chose to study at BIMM, being a musician with no influences in the family is a bit strange – where the love for playing music came from, I have no idea. It’s likely because I usually have my head in Cloud-Cuckooland and music is the only thing that sticks with you no matter how badly you zone out.

I started learning piano at a very young age (five or six years old, I think), although when I moved into private tuition, I had the stereotypically strict tutor who couldn’t really communicate with a child and tore down my confidence in playing the instrument. So, for the best part of my childhood, I shied away from being a musician. I picked up the guitar again when I was sixteen after suddenly deciding one day that I wanted to learn the guitar. So far, it’s the best decision I ever made. My tutor then really built my interest in music again and I met other students who are now my closest friends. However, at the same time I went through Sixth Form College and then into a job straight after.

Now, as a musician and most likely you the reader being a musician, you’ll probably hate being stuck in the same place for an extended period of time. College and my job were far from the most nurturing environments, especially transitioning from a teenager into an adult. I was presented with the opportunity of going to BIMM during my college years, although I hated college so much that I didn’t want to do education ever again at that point. By the time I entered my third year at work, I was at an entirely new level of burned-out; I was overtly stressed and suffering from depression. The only thing that really kept my interest throughout the entire experience was learning the guitar. So, in November of 2016, I decided on a change of scenery. I applied for BIMM and got my place in January 2017, and left work in the May. Do I regret that choice? Definitely, certainly, positively not.

So, the truth behind why I’m studying the guitar is that despite being a musician and it having the professional-level tuition that can help me become a professional musician, the guitar and music has a much deeper level to me than that. Even in the most stressful years of my life, playing the guitar was the one thing that remained a constant. Going to BIMM and learning more about musicianship was pretty much the only sane option when I couldn’t continue my life at work. I’m going to be twenty five next year, and if I could go back to my clueless eighteen year old self, I would definitely urge him to have focused on going to BIMM earlier. I hate the saying, but the guitar has become a part of me as a result of all this, and I certainly do not regret studying Guitar at BIMM.

Join us at BIMM here in Brighton and turn your passion for music into your career. Find out more here.

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Author

Sarah-Louise Burns

After studying Ba(Hons) Photography, Sarah has worked in Social Media Marketing since 2013 - she's now part of the BIMM Social Media Team, and is photographer for the Who, What, Why series.