How to play a blues solo

– finding the flow with Rune Grønn

Rune Grønn

“I find I often press down too hard on a string when I play the guitar. It doesn’t sound good. I get too excited and want too much.” He bows his head over the guitar again. After four new attempts, a soft, beautiful blues tone emerges to fill the newly renovated study. His face lights up and he smiles, satisfied. He practises 15-20 minutes every day. Trying to find the flow.

With the guitar on his lap, Rune Grønn looks around. Everything has been redecorated. The whole house has been made over – with his own hands. He is a carpenter and builder, and has spent a lot of time and money on reconstructing his father’s childhood home, originally a 1920s cabin and now a small house where Rune lives. If you didn’t know, you would think everything was brand new. He speaks about the work enthusiastically, with professional pride and ambition, and a concern for the traditions of earlier generations. On our way out of the study, we notice another guitar. A double-decker model airplane and half of a miniature boat are also prominently displayed. The image of the toy boat and the model airplane, in the study of a grown man, literally hangs in the air.

Childhood memories

“My mother believed that I should find enjoyment in mowing the lawn. She would decide how often it should be mowed, and how tall the grass could get. I was put to work. It was necessary, but not particularly enjoyable. Some time ago this and other memories from my childhood appeared in my meditations. At first they were unclear and unconnected, but then they became clearer. A playful, almost childlike desire gradually arose in me.” He attributes to Acem Meditation – and long meditations in particular – the fact that he has rediscovered interests that he was not in touch with for many, many years.

“This winter I took part in a weeklong deepening retreat at Halvorsbøle retreat centre, with long meditations followed by guidance. I cleared up a lot both in regard to the way I meditated, and the content of the meditations. Childhood memories reappeared. Some of my boyishness was revived. I felt a need to be a little bit boisterous. It began as a contained bubbling and restlessness in meditation – I had not been in touch with this before. A kind of joy awoke inside me, slowly and surely, over several months. The long meditations brought something to the surface. The story behind all this is not easy to explain and not really that important, either. But when I was younger, I never got up to any mischief. No joking around. I was often very quiet. I was fascinated by building sets and toys, but did not have many. Few friends. A bit lonely. Not very sociable.

Recharged batteries

”I am quite often at Halvorsbøle. It is a beautiful place. Meditative, big and open. With good food, interesting people and good social relations. My batteries are recharged there. I get energy for work, and lots of ideas as well. For me this is quite simple: When my energy runs low, I go to one or two Acem retreats. This renews my energy supply for a while.

“This year I also took part in a summer retreat at Lundsholm in Sweden. The place is unbelievable. Practically not an automobile in sight. This summer we went swimming a lot, with water temperatures up to 26 degrees. We went for walks and bicycled, and explored interesting landscapes – forests, lakes, paths, and the Swedish countryside.

New insights

“Getting into the flow with a blues guitar involves a lot of exploration. It’s like meditation. Your sensitivity and technique need to be practised and refined over time. I am not really very musically adept, but I get a lot of enjoyment from it. Sometimes things work reasonably well. Other days they grind to a halt. Then I notice a bit of progress. A couple of blues tones that flow well. Something loosens up in meditation. A little bit more of the free mental attitude in the repetition of the meditation sound. Glimpses of new insight. Even if the progress I make is not great, it motivates me to continue. This is an on-going learning process that never ends.

“The most important thing is to be in process and movement. Almost whatever it is. Whether I will ultimately be able to complete an entire blues solo or two in my life may not matter all that much.”

Interviewed by Geir Wærnes

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