Friday, February 24, 2012

A Players Mind: From Shred to music. How to stop the wanking

Here's the thing... shredding can become a preset... just something you do. You need to understand, or at least be observant to, what you are thinking while you are playing.

Try this
Put on a backing track and do your thing. But take special notice of what you are thinking. Ego plays such a HUGE role in how we play. The "problem" is, most of us strive to be known as a great player... I mean who doesn't want that right? This fuels the need to "be impressive". Problem is, when you TRY (at really anything) the forced attempt is usually pushing you farther from your goal of "impressive". You shouldn't be 'trying' AT ALL! You should be listening and reacting. Play one phrase... Then play the next BECAUSE of the first phrase. It should be a narrative of some kind. Call, respond, call, respond. Leave some holes between - just like when you speak.

Bottom line
You need to ask yourself some really hard questions about your motives and be brutally honest. I suspect most of you you won't like the truth. I didn't. Some excellent books for helping put that mental interference aside are "Effortless Mastery" (Kenny Werner) & "The Music Lesson" (Victor Wooten). Get em, read em, apply em.

Truth is
95% of the people who listen to music, or see live shows have NO IDEA what is 'impressive'. Hell, most of them can't play a simple C Chord! They just know what sounds good. Humans can sense melody and are drawn to it. MOST run-of-the-mill shredders habitually run up and down scale forms. I mean really... is that interesting? I guess some of the technique is momentarily dazzling, but by the end of the first song you have heard all they got.

I believe that the bigger the interval, the bigger the melodic content. By this principle, the above shredder is moving in mostly minor 2nds or 2nds.... the LEAST melodic of intervals. Can you really expect huge melodic impact with a strategy like this?

What the??
Shredding is GREAT! Love it - when done well. You really need to listen to HOW your favourite shredders use their speed. WHEN exactly do they burn? WHAT does that make you (the listener) feel? Usually it is for an impact - tension... or a transition to a new part of the neck or a new idea. Few of the 'known players' just mindlessly blast scales. There is a musical purpose to it. It just makes sense, feels like it belongs.

Speed is another tool in your box. Sure a wrench is pretty darn handy to have... but there are times when a hammer would be much better for the job! (I love this analogy and use it often so forgive me) Don't just work with the wrench. Develop your other tools equally. Then try to build things with them, actual ideas with purpose. Not just finger movements that you are good at.

Spend the necessary time with some personal introspection. Then begin anew. Set up some loops and record yourself playing over it. Take notes of which phrases worked then ask yourself: WHY YOU FEEL THEY WORKED. Very important. Develop STRONG opinions and try to learn to listen as a listener would. Would you want to hear yourself if you were just the listener? Learn what works, then begin to give back.

Giving back
Playing isn't ALL about you, its about making connections with the audience. On a deeper level than "wow he has fast fingers". Give them a chance to join you once in a while on the adventure. Get them invested by giving them something they can follow. Maybe tap their foot to. "Sing" them a melody. Remember, most of them have no idea what is "hard".

They aren't as impressed as you think they are. Most of them are just confused. That's why they are talking to their friends instead of watching.