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Why Dave Grohl lacks the “ambition” to be a better guitarist

Why Dave Grohl doesn’t have the “ambition” to improve as a guitarist

(Credits: Far Out / Raph Pour-Hashemi)


It’s hard to say that Dave Grohl isn’t a talented musician. The Foo Fighters frontman spent his formative years making his name as one of the most aggressive and beloved drummers of the grunge era. With Nirvana, Grohl occasionally got the opportunity to add a harmony vocal or take over a bass line here and there, but by and large, he was content with letting Kurt Cobain take the creative lead. When Cobain died, Grohl did what most drummers fear to do: step out into the spotlight.

That meant that Grohl had to become a frontman and a guitar player, two things that he had never done in a professional capacity. There was no doubt that Grohl had proved the doubters wrong with 1995’s Foo Fighters, on which he played every instrument apart from a single guitar line provided by Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli. But in the years since, has Grohl ever wanted to take the time to make himself an accomplished technical guitar player?

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t have that sort of ambition,” Grohl admitted to Acoustic Guitar Magazine in 2006. “I take it one day at a time. I challenge myself with little things, new rhythms and new patterns and new chords. Having never studied theory, when I discover something, the satisfaction is amplified because I think, ‘I don’t know what that is, but, damn, it’s cool!’ The natural process of discovering is enough reward in itself.”

“I don’t consider myself an accomplished musician,” he added. “Every day, I’m humbled by music, and there’s this greater understanding that I’ll be chasing for my entire career. I don’t necessarily want to be the best; I just want to understand music more. It’s like being in love with someone – you continue to fall in love, over and over again, with the right person.”

Grohl did eventually begin to expand his scope, taking on new genres and additional challenges as they presented themselves. During this particular interview, the Foo Fighters were performing on an acoustic tour of theatres around North America. It was new territory for Grohl, who had largely stuck to driving hard rock across his career. He even took the opportunity to begin learning a new instrument.

“I just got a piano, and now I’m teaching myself how to play that, it’s a whole new revelation for me,” he said. “I feel like I just broke ground for a diamond mine! I think about it all day long – when I’m on my motorcycle, when I’m falling asleep at night. And it’s only because that challenge and the satisfaction of musical expression will never grow old.”

“As a guitarist, I think that I’ve progressed over the last 20 years – I sure hope so. But, more than becoming Yngwie Malmsteen, it’s about finding those new places in myself to tap into music,” Grohl explained. “It’s an endless search. I was writing something on the piano the other day and thinking, ‘If an accomplished pianist sat down in front of me, I wonder what they would think of my playing. It’s very basic, but I think it’s beautiful.’ And then I realised that’s all you need. I don’t need to be Liberace; I just need to be able to express myself. I feel the same way about guitar.”

Check out ‘Skin and Bones’ down below.

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