Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speed vs Melody - a rant

It takes a good deal of skill to create something that is both fast AND melodic. But the catch is, if you always stay with what your idea of "melodic" is, then you can become very one-dimensional. Speed has an emotional content... it says something - if done right that is. Problem is, It often is not "done right". As witnessed on YouTube or in many bars across the globe. I think this is the crux of it.

How you execute melody really depends on the point of the skill curve you are on... If you can play fast passages as well as slow ones - yet remain melodic - then to me, this is the best-case scenario. Players who own this are likely what lured you to play fast in the first place.

If your skill isn't quite there yet to execute fast, then when the "tape" is rolling, it may be the best choice to keep it simple. As you improve, your version of what is "simple" also moves along in lock-step. All of a sudden you can execute more technical parts, yet remain musical. So playing within your abilities is the key.

The Genesis of the 'simple' mindset
I think a LARGE part with what is (in my opinion) "wrong" with a lot of bands these days, is they grew up listening to grunge. Their bag of tricks is SO small that they really have no idea how to expand on a theme, or create a decent solo. So they just plod along with cowboy chords, lots of distortion and syrupy, predictable melodies. They don't know what to do... and they don't know why they don't.

For those unfamiliar with the term; "grunge" was a brand of stripped down rock, born in Seattle in the 90's. Pioneered by bands like Nirvana. Great music no doubt... I take no issue with the music itself. But the mind set of a grunge player was one of 'anti-skill'. They didn't want to be seen as technical. They were down and dirty, garage bands and proud! Young players of that time were so sick of the over-playing and shred heavy soloing that much of metal and hard rock had become. So grunge was anti...

Which is fine for the players who created it! They had their stuff together. But for the kids learning to play at the time, these were their role models.

The great early masters grew up learning classical and with that skill set created jazz. Players who created the classic rock of the 60's-70's grew up learning from these players ... They knew their stuff. The next era learned from these slightly less skilled guys ... and knew a little bit less..... Like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy - degrading in quality and getting further removed from true musical skill with each step.

Shred Anonymous
The truth of it is, the VAST majority of us are not honest with ourselves. Not honest AT ALL. We don't produce ourselves well. without ego, as a listener would. You really need to understand WHY you are shredding. If it is deep down a need to impress people, then maybe you should hold off. I suspect far more of us than are willing to admit shred because we want to be thought of as a top-notch player. It comes from a place of ego. THIS undermines ALL the hard work we are doing. If you always play the best part for the SONG... not for YOU, but for the SONG, then you can't go wrong.

Simple Anonymous
 But none of this in my opinion means you shouldn't try to be the best you can be. The flip side is a LOT of players simply aren't willing to do the work it takes to master speed. So they call themselves "feel players". Then go around mocking more technically skilled players with words like "widdly, widdly" or tags like "self indulgent". It can be a BS cop out too.

So what does all this mean?
If you like simple melodies because you like simple melodies - GREAT! Play simple.
But - if you like simple melodies, because you maybe lack the skill to play more complex ones... then perhaps you should get to work.

All this relies on you being truly, deeply, heart-breakingly honest with yourself.

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