Updated: Oct 16
I can thank my dad and old Kinks live cassettes for being the catalysts of my quest to dominate the world with high-octane leads and earth-shattering power chords. Who knows where I would’ve ended up if it weren’t for my dad playing those tapes in his old Ford pickup way back in the early 2000’s? Hearing those absolutely searing lead guitar tones hooked me, instantly. All I wanted to do was become a rock guitar player from that point on. I had already been eyeing my dream guitar at the local music shop, Tune Town, back home in Wells, ME.
“A metallic ocean blue LTD H-50. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.”
You can imagine how crushed I was when I walked into the store one day, and it had vanished. My world had crumbled. What was I supposed to do now? There were plenty of cool guitars in the shop, but that one was special, there was just something about it. Then on my eighth birthday, to my absolute shock, the guitar appeared before me. It was a gift bestowed upon me by the rock gods (and my dad), and it was my job to learn its ways. From that point on, that guitar became the focus of my life.
My first show with my metallic ocean blue LTD H-50
I spent hour after hour just messing around, getting my hands used to the feel of that silky smooth maple neck, the rosewood fretboard under my fingers, and the light-gauge strings that probably felt like razor blades to my then severely unseasoned hands. I would play along to CD’s without even knowing where to put my hands, but it at least got me used to moving around on the instrument. I didn’t care how hard it was, that was never a barrier for me.
“It was always about getting to the point where I could simply make cool sounds, no matter how long it took. It was a puzzle, and I had to solve it. “
The ultimate battle that I would find out later, could not be won, at least in its entirety. But that concept of never truly mastering the instrument kept me wanting more. There was always something new to discover, an endless journey. Little by little, I got more and more familiar with the inner workings of the instrument, and eventually got to the point where I could make sounds without making peoples’ ears bleed.
I was just about good enough to start playing music with other people, with my cousin, Gary, being my number one guy on the drums. He is three years younger than me, and could barely reach the kick pedals at the time, but had the same desire to conquer the world with vicious rim shots and blistering double bass runs. We were inseparable during those years, and we jammed pretty much every chance we got, blasting out the neighbors with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple tunes. Pushing each other and getting better and better every session, we started to become a force to be reckoned with (at least in the neighborhood). Throughout middle and high school, there was no holding back, and I was invested even more than I was when I had initially begun my quest. I eventually realized that jamming with Gary for all that time, in addition to my own personal practice sessions and love for music, had led me to the desire to take the whole thing one step further.
Being in a “real” band had become my end game.
Outside of Gary and myself, there wasn’t much of a talent pool to pull from in our tiny town. The only way that I would be able to make my super unrealistic goals come to fruition was to simply get out of town. I had been practicing more than ever while in high school, and I had made the decision to attempt to get into Berklee College of Music. I felt that this was my best shot at linking up with other people who also wanted to be in a pro-level band, and I wanted to develop my skills as a musician as much as I possibly could.
"Get into the best music college in the country? It seemed nearly impossible, as I had very little formal training, just enough to get by, but I was incredibly determined and had to give it a shot. "
I practiced day and night preparing for my audition, and as the day got closer and closer, I could feel the impending doom starting to envelop me. Self-doubt was at an all-time high during those days. The day eventually came, and I had my prepared piece nearly perfect. It was a song by Paul Gilbert containing extremely demanding technical passages. When I sat down in that Berklee ensemble room to present what I had been working towards for years, everything seemed to fall apart from the first note. I had it perfect before, what was happening? Nothing was going to plan, the nerves were simply too much for my system to handle.
I was tense, playing notes with no finesse whatsoever, stumbling over lines, seemingly nonexistent rhythm. It was a disaster. My world was over, I just knew it. A million thoughts rushed through my mind after I left the audition room. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not cut out for this,” “I was crazy for even considering coming here.” I was completely demoralized. There was no way that I was going to get in, zero chance, I personally wouldn’t have let myself in if I were a judge on that panel. My spirits were crushed.
Months go by, and I begin considering alternatives for college since I know I’m not getting into my dream school. It was a stupid plan anyways. An untrained musician going to jazz school? Yeah right. March eventually comes around, and a letter from the school arrives. I already know what it says, but I have to open it and see anyway. My heart was about to explode, it was probably the highest my heart rate has ever been. I open the letter, and I can’t believe my eyes. By some miracle, they had actually accepted me.
How did this happen? They must’ve sent
the letter to the wrong guy. I still am not entirely sure. Maybe I played better than I thought I did, maybe the judges saw my disappointment in myself as I left the room and realized how much it all mattered to me, or maybe I was just incredibly lucky. Either way, I was in heaven, and I made a deal with myself that I had to ramp my efforts up to 11, no fooling around anymore. I was just given the golden ticket, and had to make the most of it. It was just the beginning before. All the pieces of the puzzle were aligning, and I couldn’t take this otherworldly opportunity for granted.
To sum up this story, I went through Berklee and took in as much as I possibly could. I was sort of that weird dude who wanted a slice of every pie. I was studying jazz, rock, blues, fusion, etc. I didn’t want to limit myself at all, I needed to know everything. My time at the school linked me up with some really awesome people, and planted the seeds of what has become the band that I play full-time with now, the Long-Island, NY based band Absurd Condition.
Tim's Band Absurd Condition, a prominent band based in New York that has been steadily gaining popularity in the NY area ever since the band entered the live music scene.
So all in all, I completed that goal that the little kid from Wells, ME set out to achieve all those years ago. I’m now playing in a band that I love with the best guys, simple as that. The new goal, collectively, has simply become to take it as far as we can, to push the boundaries of our music and take the band to new heights. Just like when I started out, it never ends, there is always something new to overcome. I guess all in all, it’s just another new beginning. The morals of the story, if there are any, are that if you love something, be the best that you can be at it, go after the “impossible” plan even if it seems completely unattainable, and never forget the little kid within yourself. Prove that kid right and stick to your guns, it’ll probably lead you to some pretty awesome places.
About the Author:
Tim Barnard, Berklee College of Music, Class of 2020. Tim began playing piano at the age of 6 then started playing guitar at eight, when he also started playing in his first band. At Berklee, Tim was fortunate enough to study and play with the greatest musicians on the planet, including: Scott Tarulli, Tim Miller, Colin Sapp, Jon Finn, Don Lappin and many more. During college, he explored a wide diversity of music genres and ensembles, ranging from jazz, rock, blues, fusion, Latin, etc. After graduating from Berklee, Tim continues performing through the entire East Coast with his band Absurd Condition, A New York-based metal band.
How Music Changes Tim’s Life?
“Music changed my life simply by giving me a creative outlet. It allows me to take an idea, whatever it may be, and develop it until it comes to fruition. This type of creative freedom lets me express myself in a seemingly infinite number of ways, and is not something that everyone has at their disposal. Without this outlet, I would not have the pallet needed in order to get the ideas floating around in my head out into the real world. If I never got into playing the guitar, I literally would not have any way of expressing myself at the level that I do now. It is for this reason that guitar, and music as whole, are very important to me and have definitely changed my life. “