R.E.M. guitarist and co-founder Peter Buck recently recalled some “embarrassing” moments from his early days as a professional musician, and urged young guitarists to write songs as a means of getting better at the instrument.
Peter Buck did not shy away from revealing an embarrassing moment. Asked to detail it in a recent interview with Guitar World, Peter Buck jokingly says: “They’re all embarrassing!”
Buck is now considered among the founding fathers of alternative/indie rock, Buck underwent his share of hardships to attain that title. Buck recalls how he often had to take care of his instruments himself, and he’ll tell you there’s no way to make changing a string mid-show with no tuner not look awkward. Asked to recall some of the more embarrassing moments of his career, he said:
“You have to work so hard to get up there, and you really have to gear yourself up. Then, if something takes you out of it, it’s usually equipment failures.
“We [R.E.M.] toured for four years without a guitar tech; I didn’t even have extra guitars, so if I broke a string, I had to sit there and change it in front of however many people were there. We didn’t have tuners, either, so you’re humming away to try and figure out what the note is. I also didn’t have clippers – so it was just a pain. My amps were breaking up all the time and I couldn’t fix an amp to save my life.”
By that point, Buck must’ve grown accustomed to less-than-perfect on-stage moments, given that his first-ever gig wasn’t exactly a massive success either:
“It was horrible. The only thing I can remember about it is playing the Batman theme, and I’m not even sure we played the third chord. I think we just played the A and the D.”
Of course, being a good guitarist mitigates any awkward moments that might have come up due to technical reasons, and Buck argues that the best way of getting good is to keep writing music:
“Write songs, because that’s the best way to get better. Listen to great music and try to write songs that are of that quality because you’re coming into melodies and chord changes and rhythmic ideas. Otherwise, just practice. I used to spend years playing four hours a night and though I may not be that great a guitar player, the things I can do, I can do really well.”