“Critics talk about art; artists talk about turpentine.” Pablo Picasso is usually cited as the author of this aphorism, though it’s also been attributed to Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others. No matter who said it first, just substitute microphones or airplane overhead bins for turpentine, and you’ll see where I’m heading.

Thesis One: Most musicians spend precious little time musing on the big picture. They’re too engrossed in the quotidian demands of making a living, tuning their instruments, learning chord changes, getting through customs, and scrounging up something to eat.

Thesis Two: Most writers of non-fiction are critics at heart, meaning we’re driven to arouse the interest of other people in the things that interest us, and we do so by means of a convincing rationale and a compelling context. A great storyline is a bonus; mere facts do not suffice.

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ interview with members of the recent American Acoustic tour got me going on this train of thought. It made me realize why it’s so much fun to do the kind of journalism we do. Because we get to hang out with our musical heroes or sit around the office playing cool new guitars? No. Because we get to write for people who are just as interested in this stuff as we are: you, our readers. You are the specialists we’re dying to connect with—not in the stuffy academic sense, but in the hands-on, I-really-care-about-this sense. We don’t need to convince you of anything; we have the luxury of exploring things with you.

And for much the same reasons, the people we write about are willing to talk to us candidly about both the art and the turpentine, knowing their words are being heard by their peers and their acolytes.

So dig into this issue and let some of today’s most knowledgeable and articulate guitarists show you how to record yourself and sound like yourself, what you can learn from Delta blues original Charley Patton, where to find today’s amazing boutique flatpicks, how to master the basics of Travis picking… and in the process, help you understand why these are such useful things to know.

Let me know what you think.

David A. Lusterman, Editor

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