View Full Version : The questions to keep in mind...

03-26-2003, 04:13 PM
I wanted to post something I have been thinking about for a few days now, and I figured it might be easier to post it at the forum for us to discuss, rather than writing a whole "rant"-article about it.

Well, I was discussing this with a friend on the weekend. He is teaching, and has some quite advanced students. And a while ago, he did an experiment with them... he had them improvise over a certain chord progression. He didnīt give them any directions, just said "Play whatever you feel like".
So they played some really advanced stuff... you know the drill:
over chord x, we play arpeggio y, then we substitute that arp and next time the chord comes around blah blah, then we throw in some passing tones, and when that and that chord comes in, we quickly use the lydian dominant scale.
Now, after each student was done, my friend asked them:
- How do you feel about what you just played ?
- What were you trying to say ? WHat were you trying to EXPRESS, and did you achieve that ?
- Does it make sense ? As in, does it make sense as a statement, not necessarily sense in a theory-context ?

And the reactions usually were: surprised looks.

Those questions make so much sense. Cuz sometimes, when I really work on some theory-concept, and try it out, and really analyze the chords to death to figure out what to play over them, I sit down and wonder... "Well, great, I played all the "right" notes ( if ya know what I mean ), but what does it sound like, and what does it SAY ?"

I remember, during my time at the GIT, there were some classes where we really had to focus, analyze the chords and find out what to play over them. The goal was to use certain concepts, like substitution, or certain scales that would change the sound of the chord a bit.

Now, when I sat down that night to jam to a backing track or with a friend, I found myself not using a lot of that stuff. I used some of it ( it had become part of my musical vocabulary ), but much of the stuff just didnīt fit to what I was trying to express...
does this make sense ?

Another example would be "Atlanta Dawn". Itīs too bad I donīt have an MP3 of the first version around. The whole tune was completely overloaded with solos. No theme, no concept. Just soloing all the way through... fast stuff, odd stuff, exotic stuff.
And then, I listened back to it with Andy and he was like "Man, you definitely overplayed... I think. Or is this really what you meant to say ?"
And he was right. The next day, I sat down with slightly different preferences, and recorded another lead guitar. And I found that I really cut back on the weird stuff, and instead went for more melodic stuff etc.
And when I listened back to that I was like "Yes, I can live with that. This is what I was trying to say, even though it might not be as impressive or fast as the previous version"

And I think thatīs one of the problems... sometimes, you tend to overplay because you have all this information, and a) you have to decide what of that to use and b) you might feel the need to show what you can do, which might lead to "overplaying"

The more I think about those questions I posted above, the more they make sense. And see, none of that is meant to be against fast playing, sophisticated theory concepts or anything.
Itīs just that sometimes we should ask "Is this what I was trying to say ? How do I feel about it ? Does it say ANYTHING or is it just something thatīd get me good grades in a theory-class"

Some players play extremely sophisticated stuff, and they play it with conviction. And it sounds right, as if they really mean it. Others play these amazing arps, a different one over each chord, and it just sounds like he / she sat down with a piece of paper in advance to construct a solo... "OK, Ebmin11, I can play those arps, and that scale, then I merge to... etc."

So, when you improvise and jam next time, ask yourself those questions, once in advance, once after playing. See whether all the stuff you have been practising actually has become a valid part of your vocabular, or whether it sounds like "OK, he has been practising it this afternoon".
Hope this makes sense. What do you think ?

03-26-2003, 05:32 PM
This leads me to something that I always notice with a lot of players, and even went through that phase myself.

This is, that a lot of guitar players, feel that they HAVE TO learn this, play this, do this, etc, etc,. Along the way, they forget what they WANT TO play, learn, etc.

These are very different things. I used to think that I HAD to learn certain things, and be able to play a certain way. However after some years, I realized that what I really enjoyed playing, and what I was mostly practicing in my guitar, were for the most part different. I was very much into practicing a lot very technique oriented material, but I rarely played it, and my favourite players that I always listened to (Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Adrian Legg, David Guilmour, Ritchie Blackmore) are not very technical players.

Also, it's hard for certain players not to overplay. I mean, you work so hard at being able to get to that level, and obviously you want to "share" it with others.

03-26-2003, 05:34 PM
Is it just me, or your bass player (at least in the picture on your website) looks a lot like Paul Gilbert?

03-26-2003, 05:56 PM
LOL... he gets that a lot. I recently got an email by a guy who was confused by my site... he said something like "I checked out your site, and on the front-page, there are three pics... on the left, thereīs Paul Gilbert, in the middle thereīs Vivian Campbell, on the right thereīs Alex Van Halen" LOL
Well, if people donīt like the CD, maybe we can make up a tribute band which plays songs by Dio, Whitesnake, Racer X and Van Halen... or participate in some lookalike-contest... :)

03-26-2003, 06:03 PM
Back to the original topic... you have a point there.
I had the same thing going on... learning bunches of stuff without knowing what for, without applying some of it to my playing.
I still have a big pile of paper from the GIT that I have hardly touched yet. Thatīs cool, cuz I have lots of stuff to look into for the next years, so I guess Iīll always have something to work on.

But youīre right, sometimes one gets confused. You read somewhere that "you HAVE to know this and that", you learn it, probably donīt really understand it, or never try to apply it to your playing.
I really think that stuff you work on has to be USED, APPLIED to your playing before it actually is "digested".
Example ? Tapping. I know, itīs more of a technique than a theory concept, but bear with me...
In the beginning, when I tried to use tapping, it was always "Solo- Solo- BIG TAPPING BREAK, sounding like I was playing with no conviction, and appearing to be out of context - Solo etc."
I then started to add tapping to my normal playing, trying to use it as naturally as I use other techniques.
You know, if you just learned something else and try really hard to use it without having "digested" it yet, thereīs this certain point where you kinda stop the flow of your mprovisation. You try to put in the new stuff, and it really shows... it doesnīt sound as natural as the other stuff youīre using usually.
And so, I used tapping a lot, trying different approaches, until tapped notes became a natural thing in my improvisations. The technique is "integrated", if you wanna call it that.
And I think that is necessary to do that to new stuff, otherwise itīll just sound like practising, not like a musical statement.


03-26-2003, 06:47 PM
Mechanical playing or breathing your soul and mind into your music - it's all about this choice. At some point one has to face it - decide whether to invest some extra efforts and jump to a higher energetic level - the point where creation starts.
I think that algorithmic, random, solely technical approach is no-detour initial stage of musical formation one has to get over.
I remember myself trying to read my first book. I knew the alphabet, knew how to make up words and I took Tolstoy off the shelf just at random and began reading. Oh man - that was so exiting to murmur the words, turn pages... I did about 50 pages at once! That took me whole night to get done with them - I was so proud and couldn't remember a word out of what I'd read. There was no thinking over the reading, nor did the plot make sense to me but these things didn't matter too much for me - I could read! ;)

Ultra mega best regards,

03-26-2003, 07:16 PM
I used to practice the whole 8 finger tapping thing for a while, but then, because I studied flamenco guitar for a a few years, I could not tap due to having long nails on my right hand. At first, I had a hard time not being able to do tapping when playing electric, because I thought I should. However, I realized that I enjoy palying fingerstyle accoustic more than I do tapping, so it was an easy choice to make. The only tapping I can still do, is either the traditional type, or the extended arpeggio tapping thing.

03-26-2003, 07:28 PM
Yeah, the tapping-thing was just an example.
But your story regarding tapping is the perfect example for the "Itīs your choice"-thingy.
You donīt need to be able to tap to be a good player ( same goes for some other techniques and theory-stuff ), and if you donīt feel comfortable with it, or you just donīt like it or need it to get your point across, then donīt tap... thatīs just my opinion, though

03-26-2003, 07:36 PM
I have tried to tap with long nails, using multiple right hand fingers, and it's close to impossible to be precise, and to not hit unwanted strings also. You have to angle your hand in a way that the fleshh of your fingertips hit the string, without letting the nail touch it, and it just doesn't happen.

03-26-2003, 08:06 PM

Ask yourself: AM I SOLOING ?

If the answer is YES ask: IS THIS THE SOLO SECTION ?

even if it "IS" the solo section do you want to write or improvise the solo before the tune is even written ?
Damn it...IT'S ME !:D

"I DO" WANT TO SOLO from the very first note all the way through to the ending ;)

:confused: guess it's just the "SHRED MONKEY" in me

o_O look...it's Yngwie -> :eek:

03-26-2003, 11:33 PM
to me it seems that the best way to create great melodies is to sing over the progression.

things you sing, come naturally to you and really reflect what youīre feeling. furthermore it helps to get away from that guitartypical lickshowdown.

and believe me when Iīm saying, that all guitarplayed melodies that really made me cry, are singable.

one example for this:

"sometimes I feel like screaming" Deep Purple ( Steve Morse )

B A Stone
03-27-2003, 02:36 AM
I understand playing certain arps/scales over certain chords. And it has it's place.

But sometimes you just need to "work it". Take one note(or fret) and get all you can out of it.

IMHO, dynamics make a great solo. Whether it be tension and release based on the chords or a simple articulation of one or two notes.

A simple thing like a single note crescendo can draw the listener's ear in to the music.

My first guitar teacher, back in 1977, said "Good music is 50% anticipation and 50% surprise".

Also, sometimes it's the placement of silence that is more effective than the placement of the notes.

03-27-2003, 10:44 PM
B A, I definitely agree. Iīd like to add that often, I find that feel and dynamics come a lot easier when you stop thinking too much, trying to squeeze in all the stuff you have been working on...

And CaptainCarma, yeah, I dont remember WHO said it ( might have been Vai )... he said that on stage, he always sings a long to his playing ( or at least he did back when he made that statement )... no one hears your singing cuz itīs loud on stage, and it helps to create melodies...

And I LOVE the solo in "Sometimes I Feel...". Beautiful melody...

The Bash
03-28-2003, 11:44 PM
Student: What shall I play over this Am chord?
Wise One: What is it that you feel?
Student: A minor Pentatonic and A Natural Minor and…
Wise One: Whoa there Young One. I ask not what it is you could force. I ask what it is that you FEEL.
Student: ?

Student sitting beneath a clear blue sky several years past: AHH!

I use to get kinna mad cause my practicing sounded nothing like my playing. I’d love the way Steve Morse would virtually pick everything and would practice trying to do the same. Fine as and exercise, not that I could do it nearly as fast, but the idea was there. However when I actually tried to do whatever I was working on in a Actual Musical situation it wouldn’t work. Well, it worked in a sense, but said nothing and even worse I felt nothing but forced. When left to my own devices I’m gonna pick a note or two and hammer/pull a note or two. I really can’t force myself when improvising to just pick every note. In fact I really can’t force myself to play very technically when I do I feel disconnected from what I’m doing. That dosen’t mean I don’t feel something when someone else does it cause in a sense I’m feeling what there feeling. But when I do it I feel nothing and I expect no one else would feel anything either.
Anyway, what I practice and what I play is and almost night and day experience. Almost, cause everything I do practice gets in there and does inspire something only it gets all twisted up with everything else that’s in there and what comes out is something you can truly call your own.
Not necessarily your own cause cause it’s 100% truly original, but your own cause You Did It, cause it’s reflection of all your musical experiences.

All the theory, scales, books, video’s, licks, technique, amps, effects, guitars etc. in the world are great. But in the end it all comes down to having something to say.
It all comes down to the simple question of:
What is it that you feel?

03-29-2003, 01:35 PM
Great post. I used to have that problem ( including new stuff I had worked on into my "regular" playing ) until I started to end my practising-sessions with a jam, trying to use what I had learned.
I always compare that with learning a language. You can pick up a dictionary and learn bunches of complicated, multi-syllable words. But unless you really understand them and use them in context, they wonīt mean anything...
So, when I i.e. worked on "all picking throughout" licks, I used to jam for like an hour on several backing tracks, trying to use the lick, until it felt kinda natural and not like "Solo-Solo-NEW COOL LICK-solo"... yīknow, outta context...

Bongo Boy
03-31-2003, 04:59 PM
Originally posted by EricV
Hope this makes sense. What do you think ?
EricThis idea relates to an article I just finished in Guitar Player by Duke Robillard--discussing the use of chromatic transitions in arps (I hope I'm expressing this correctly). My impression was that he used ideas he heard used by horn players, and that there were very few 'rules' governing the whole thing. There might certainly be a nice theory-based explanation of why it works, but such an explanation isn't required--it sounds cool. Robillard stated in at least one place in the article that he doesn't really 'think' about when or how to place chromatics--he just listens and plays enough so that it feels right.

Am I on track with what you're trying to say?

03-31-2003, 05:15 PM
Yes, it relates well to what I am trying to say.
Like the country-blues-scale.. those are scale patterns for the guitar, pretty much like a pentatonic or blues scale where there are lots of chromatic notes filled in... all the wt-steps are "bridged" by a chromatic tone.
You can analyze solos played with that to death, but I think it sounds good. Thereīs nothing wrong with analyzing and figuring out WHY somethign sounds good, but the point it:
- The music comes first, the feel you wanna bring out.

03-31-2003, 05:52 PM
That's it man. Whatever melody you hear in your head, make your fingers play it. Who cares if it is an Am Arpeggio, or an F#dim/flat13thMAJ8tothepowerof2 arp.

03-31-2003, 07:45 PM
Lerning theory and working on it can be a very powerful tool to help you get the melodies in your head over to the fretboard. Thatīs what it should be used for.
You can still play really complex stuff, as long as you donīt approach the solo like "OK, lemme play the exact right arp over those chords", without trying to say anything or include some feel.
So I guess to sum it up, you should know what it sounds like, what you are trying to bring across, and THEN play it, using what you know and have learned.