Converge’s Kurt Ballou: Self-Taught Musicians Have a Unique Advantage

A man and his guitar. Photo courtesy Kurt Ballou.
A man and his guitar. Photo courtesy Kurt Ballou.

With the advent of  free music online education (like, ahem, creativeLIVE’s audio courses), it is now possible to teach yourself how to proficiently play any instrument, as well as mix and master an entire album. Converge is one persuasive example of what’s possible. The four members of this ever-evolving metalcore band masterfully play their own instruments, but — somewhat surprisingly — lead guitarist Kurt Ballou never had any formal training.

“I never had guitar lessons,” Kurt revealed during an interview with Punk News. “My dad played a little bit of guitar, he never really taught me anything, but he did give me a chord book. I had played saxophone and piano prior to it, so I sort of transferred my musical knowledge over to guitar. We’re all just students of the artists we like who we spent listening to while we were younger and attempting to mimic what we heard on these records.”

Kurt says that being self-taught has made him a more observant musician, whereas musicians who take extensive lessons tend to be more technical. “Lessons seem to focus more on the dexterity of playing, whereas people who are self-taught have to use their ears more to decipher what they’re hearing,” he continued. “I think you become a more observant player that way and you also start to learn how an ensemble interacts with each other.”

Although Kurt says formal guitar training could have accelerated Converge’s musical growth, the band’s ad-hoc education lent them their signature sound. “In the end I think it was a blessing though because we were so stubborn, idealistic, or lazy, the fact that we learned to play on our own so slowly it caused us all to develop our own style,” he said.

Source: Punk News

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Mehera Bonner is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.