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  • Writer's pictureJeff Perry Guitar

Diversity is Petroleum?

Updated: Apr 28, 2023


Diversity is to Inclusion as Petroleum is to Gasoline? Yes indeed. Petroleum is a natural resource. However, in its raw state it does not provide value to us. It's only when it is processed/refined that it becomes a product we can use. Diversity is like petroleum. It's a raw resource - people and their backgrounds and ideas - but it is only when it is "refined" that it becomes of value. This refining is another word for inclusion, diversity put to constructive use to create something of value, an innovation.

In music, to a guitarist like me, singers and horn players are diverse resources as far as how they play their instruments which is by default very different than I naturally would. The obvious difference is breath - they must pause at times to take in more air. These breaks necessitate space - the absence of sound. While one could call this a limitation, I say it is a wonderful distinct feature.


For one, singers and horn players have a restricted period of time to "say something," so they better use their breath to say it well with lots of dynamic expression and compelling note choices. Secondly, it means that space (silence) is the "extra note" of your scale. It can be "played" in a way. It can be held out the way a note can be held. It can create interest and drama depending on how long you wait for your next phrase. You can use it to create an "Attitude of Patience" that blues players are known for, as was explained to me by sax great Anton Denner.

What this "limitation" offers me is a new way to play my instrument - to emulate those that must breathe, to use space more judiciously as a tool, an additional "note." To play fewer notes but play them in more interesting and compelling ways. Certainly this doesn't mean I can't take advantage of not having to breathe. For example, I've found it to be very effective to, at the right time, repeat a riff over and over to build tension, as Pat Martino was famous for doing. It really hooks the listener in and man, you can hear a palatable wash of relief when you break out of the riff and move on! Tension and release at its finest.

By using both the natural aspects of my instrument, and adapting features of ones unlike mine (i.e. diverse), I have a lot more colors I can paint with. By "refining" diverse resources, we can convert them to fuel. Diversity, when refined, is fuel for creativity and innovation.


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