When I think about my beginnings as a player and how I struggled to understand the picking patterns that constantly swirled around in my head, I recall how fortunate I was to have a 12 and 6-string guitar in my collection. In those early years, there was much trial and error to my composing and by engaging in the challenge of writing for and playing with 6 and 12 strings, I gave myself a head start on the techniques needed for conquering both instruments. A thoughtless pattern here, a harmonic there, a couple of bass notes chucked in for the heck of it, and something always came out of the cooker, particularly as I randomly searched for the hidden personality of my 12-string guitar.  


On occasion there is a genuine advantage to thinking in such an unschooled fashion: blindly avoiding predictability and allowing experiments with a slide and harmonics. Later, when the whole mess is analyzed, there is the beauty of discovering an unintended mixed meter throughout a composition – that special something from the world of the unorthodox.

When I wrote the 8-minute “Echoing Wilderness” while attending the University of Alabama in the late ’70’s, it turned out this approach wasn’t such a bad idea. Leo Kottke, one my guitar heroes of that era, recorded the 3-minute end segment of my tune and renamed it “Echoing Gilewitz”.

Some thirty years after my first 12-string, I have had many excellent 12-string guitars, including a very fine Tacoma, a signature Breedlove, and a beautiful maple Washburn. “Echoing Wilderness” was originally written on my Guild F-212 Cutaway and this old beauty has been played so much that the finish has worn off the neck.

Originally posted 2010-03-13 14:45:08.