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Thread: Mental blockage

  1. #1
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    Mental blockage

    So I've got two basic problems:
    1. Whenever I sit down to make some music, I'll start fiddling around with some licks and progressions and such. At the time, because I'm really into it, it sounds good. I'll listen to it a day later, and all of a sudden it loses its fizz..is this perhaps just because I'd played it so many times the day before that it just doesn't sound interesting to me anymore? No clue.
    2. I'm heavily into "jam band" type of music..creativity on the spot. I'll be listening to something like that and just be either humming or singing some sort of improv to it, and I'll be thinking "Hey, this sounds pretty good". However, when I get to my guitar, I just start playing the same licks over and over, regardless of how badly I wish to play what's in my head.

    Anybody have these same problems, or some words of advice?
    (Also, any advice on spicing up my solos would be appreciated as well)

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Yes I think we all do. Just have to have a lot of licks under our belt so when we reach into our lick bag we don't pull the same ones out every time.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams
    So I've got two basic problems:
    1. Whenever I sit down to make some music, I'll start fiddling around with some licks and progressions and such. At the time, because I'm really into it, it sounds good. I'll listen to it a day later, and all of a sudden it loses its fizz..is this perhaps just because I'd played it so many times the day before that it just doesn't sound interesting to me anymore? No clue.
    2. I'm heavily into "jam band" type of music..creativity on the spot. I'll be listening to something like that and just be either humming or singing some sort of improv to it, and I'll be thinking "Hey, this sounds pretty good". However, when I get to my guitar, I just start playing the same licks over and over, regardless of how badly I wish to play what's in my head.

    Anybody have these same problems, or some words of advice?
    (Also, any advice on spicing up my solos would be appreciated as well)
    I think that you're suffering a common problem, especially among guitarists. Number one is that (correct me if I got this one wrong) the connection between your ears and hands is not really working. This is easily remedied with some brutal ear training. To me, best thing to develop ears is to transcribe real music, which also helps with the second problem. Second problem that I think guitarists have, especially when soloing, which is thinking too much "licks" and not music.

    What I recommend you to do is take some songs, for example, from some jam band and transcribe the solos, note for note and also write out the chords under the solos because they are über important when you start to improvise over those tunes. When you start analyzing the licks, try to look how those phrases respond to the harmony underneath them. And when you take those licks/phrases (which are real musical ideas) you should try to morph them to match any kind of musical situation. Practice them with different rhythms, in different keys, try them over different chords etc. Start to make music with those musical ideas! When you start to think those licks as music and learn to know how they sound in music, your playing starts to really sound more musical as opposed to randomly throwing licks one after another.

    Sorry 'bout the confusing text, I should be sleeping right now. Just ask if my ideas seemed little out there

  4. #4
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aresius
    I think that you're suffering a common problem, especially among guitarists. Number one is that (correct me if I got this one wrong) the connection between your ears and hands is not really working. This is easily remedied with some brutal ear training. To me, best thing to develop ears is to transcribe real music, which also helps with the second problem. Second problem that I think guitarists have, especially when soloing, which is thinking too much "licks" and not music.

    What I recommend you to do is take some songs, for example, from some jam band and transcribe the solos, note for note and also write out the chords under the solos because they are über important when you start to improvise over those tunes. When you start analyzing the licks, try to look how those phrases respond to the harmony underneath them. And when you take those licks/phrases (which are real musical ideas) you should try to morph them to match any kind of musical situation. Practice them with different rhythms, in different keys, try them over different chords etc. Start to make music with those musical ideas! When you start to think those licks as music and learn to know how they sound in music, your playing starts to really sound more musical as opposed to randomly throwing licks one after another.

    Sorry 'bout the confusing text, I should be sleeping right now. Just ask if my ideas seemed little out there
    Wow. If thats you being confusing I'm impressed. Totally spot on advice if you ask me.

    If you take this advice you will finds the effects almost magical. The way I prepare for a gig nowadays is to transcribe. If I transcribe for 30 mins it transforms my playing for the rest of the day. You can also feel the effects long-term as your musicianship steadily improves.

    In fact I've found it so effective that I actually forget to improvise!! Thats all I did for years: mindlessly improvise. Of course this needs to be done by all good musicians as well, but most guitarists don't generally have a problem with this.
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    Yes yes yes, thank you for the replies and advice. I'm slowly learning written notation, so transcribing takes a bit of time but it's relatively managable. I do sometimes hit moments when I'm playing where I really start to feel the music, and can play whats in my head. I think sometimes I just start thinking about what I"m playing too much, as opposed to just letting the music come out. Thanks again for the advice though!

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    for me what's gets me is when something is in my head and i'm not on the guitar, then i get to the guitar and i'm in the wrong key, i play one note and it ruins my train of thought because of the way that note sounds in the key i'm in then i'll go off on some tangent and forget what my original thought was.


    as for jamming something you find is great and then later it seems less good. yes, i think when it's fresh it sounds better to me. after having played it a while it sounds less good.

    funnily enough i find that even has to dso with fingering.

    somehow i find fresh new fingerings of chords and stuff, i think even by virtue of their fretboard pattern alone add some kind of appeal, that once you're used to it it goes away.

    but usually when this happens if you listen to a recording, you'll like it again later on after you haven't heard it for a while.

    another thing though, is that sometimes when you're in a good groove on some song, you're putting some kind of jam into it some kind of vibe, that you forget without realizing it.

    you go back the next day and you've sort of wandered, playign the same notes but on a different rhythm slightly. sometimes you can lose the vibe of what made it magic even though you remember the chord sequence or whatever.

    so what i did a while back was to get myself an mp3 player that can record sound.

    the quality sucks but who cares. it records sound.

    I take it everywhere i go where i might play an instrument.

    that way, if something strikes me, i can immediately record it and never forget it.

    and i still get screwed sometimes a little, because while playing ofr a while you sometimes go on some groove and then play more and lose it, and then by the time you realize you should have recorded it you kind of lost the train of thought you had had before.

    ideally i could have a record buffer that's always on and then erases automatically after a while unless i choose to save a section. and this i hope to get setup in my home at some point.

    but i have since i've started recording noticed that i think i remember some stuff, and then find it less cool than before and then listen to the recording and realize i'm missing something.

    sometimes too you build something up in your mind and then you play it and it's just that une you've heard a bunch of times already.

    and as for putting down what's in your mind, i agree with above posts, transcribing is a good way to go.

    to me this is the only purpose of music theory. i find people tend to think it more the thing that will give you the ideas, to tell you what you can play when, what to play at what point. like directions.

    but to me, the only purpose of music theory is to allow you to put your thoughts into sound via instrument.

    but the thoughts you have you can only have for yourself.

  7. #7
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams
    Yes yes yes, thank you for the replies and advice. I'm slowly learning written notation, so transcribing takes a bit of time but it's relatively managable. I do sometimes hit moments when I'm playing where I really start to feel the music, and can play whats in my head. I think sometimes I just start thinking about what I"m playing too much, as opposed to just letting the music come out. Thanks again for the advice though!
    Cool,
    I think transcription might be too strong a word. You don't have to write it down in standard notation. You don't even have to write it down at all! As long as you learn it by ear and can then play it thats the important thing.

    Many amazingly accomplished musicians were not great at writing standard notation. Wes Montgomery comes to mind. Of course these guys had amazing ears and could pick up stuff by ear very well. That should be your main goal I think.

    Of course standard notation is a useful thing to learn, but I wouldn't let it get in the way of what I see as the more important task: learning songs by ear.
    Last edited by bluesking; 08-28-2009 at 09:20 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    Cool,
    I think transcription might be too strong a word. You don't have to write it down in standard notation. You don't even have to write it down at all! As long as you learn it by ear and can then play it thats the important thing.

    Many amazingly accomplished musicians were not great at writing standard notation. Wes Montgomery comes to mind. Of course these guys had amazing ears and could pick up stuff by ear very well. That should be your main goal I think.

    Of course standard notation is a useful thing to learn, but I wouldn't let it get in the way of what I see as the more important task: learning songs by ear.
    The main thing in transcription, to me, is to really learn the language and vocabulary of music straight from the main source. It's just studying of music taken to high levels. That's the way those people who have learned by ear have learned to understand music, though they may not know the common used theoretic names of those musical things. Major chord is always a major chord and sounds like a major chord, even if I started started to call it Joe.

    What I'm also trying to say that learning songs (or music, if you will) serves a greater task than just the fun of learning your favorite tunes. You can combine the fun with studying! At the same time, you learn the building blocks of that type of music, the things that make that music sound like the way it sounds! That way, you can start to use those building blocks, when you really know what they are, to make your own music. The main point in this babbling is that transcribing (or learning by ear) is really practicing all the necessary things to make music. After all, playing an instrument is all about making music. Yes, you can also practice your instrumental technique, just by taking those spots in the music that you can't play yet and practicing them. I guess that everyone wants to learn to play music?

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    I actually have the opposite situation. When I record myself I might think it is so-so. But after I let it sit awhile and then come back and give it a listen I like it more. My music takes on a life of it's own and some times it takes me awhile to acclimate what I am hearing with what was intended.

    So let me get this straight. You guys are saying that actually sitting down and learning a song and then penning it down is more beneficial than simply learning a song by ear but not writing it down? What is it about the extra step of writing it down that adds value?

  10. #10
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daystar
    So let me get this straight. You guys are saying that actually sitting down and learning a song and then penning it down is more beneficial than simply learning a song by ear but not writing it down? What is it about the extra step of writing it down that adds value?
    Thats exactly the opposite of what I'm trying to say. I don't think writing it down makes any real difference to the topic being discussed.

    Of course being able to write it down has some value. Its just not particularly important in addressing the OP's issue. If you can write it down, that is a good skill to have but I don't think its as good a skill as having a good ear though!
    Last edited by bluesking; 08-28-2009 at 10:37 AM.
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    for me, personally, i don't think writing it down is necessary at all, but, like aresius says, i do find it important to name what you are learning. ear stuff out, name it, figure out what key you're in, and then use that as a reference to compare the song you've learned.


    this will allow you to compare songs more easily, once you put them all the same pattern or key, they kind of become the same song in a way. you can compare them.

    also just like everything having named it can help you think about it.

    you can imagine a major chord, and know it only by sound, and recognize it by sound, and so you'd only be able to communicate it by sound when you're holding an instrument that can play a major chord.

    but if you call it major chord you can talk about it to people. also, you can write it down.

    also by doing this with all the chords you come accross will help you name them and associate the name with the sound of the chord more quickly than if you have not named them.

    so imo, ear stuff out, to me standard notation is superfluous except for being able to write music down, essentially having the ability to make music without holding an instrument, or iow your pencil and paper becomes a silent instrument. standard notation is also good for doing the same exercise as transcribing except when the music gets too fast and complex to really be able to transcribe well, which on guitar is not that bad, because there are only ever 6 strings on the thing, but on something like piano, it's more helpful.

    ear it out and name what you've eared out including the key it's in. that's it.

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    Heh, yes..I thought you meant literally transcribing it on a staff. I have a fairly good ear as it is, but I could definately train it some more. What I was thinking originally was that by transcribing on a staff, you'd see where the notes go, high and low, etc etc and would help give a better understanding of how the song/solo/piece goes in general. Thanks again for the posts.

  13. #13
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams
    Heh, yes..I thought you meant literally transcribing it on a staff. I have a fairly good ear as it is, but I could definately train it some more. What I was thinking originally was that by transcribing on a staff, you'd see where the notes go, high and low, etc etc and would help give a better understanding of how the song/solo/piece goes in general. Thanks again for the posts.
    Although you can relate notes to the staff, as you identify, its not the only way of understanding music theory. All a staff does is to relate any notes written on it to a major scale (with appropriate alterations caused by accidentals). You can visualise a major scale pattern on the fretboard and view any notes outside of it as accidentals in exactly the same fashion without having to write anything on a staff.

    If you need to write things on a staff to see how sounds relate to your instrument you don't understand your instrument well enough (When I say "you" I don't actually mean you, jwilliams.)

    Standard notation seems, to me, to be irrelevant here. Its like suggesting that, in order to become a better public speaker, someone should improve their spelling. Well, perhaps it might have some positive effects but it really isn't a priority.
    Last edited by bluesking; 08-28-2009 at 05:43 PM.
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