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5 Greatest Quotes For Becoming A Better Guitar Musician

Apr 30, 2008
1) "Don't Just Copy The Licks, Use The Concept." -Roger Mckinley

Again, Roger-Roger would carry a lick, say a Pat Martino phrase, and upon memorising it, amplify it, play them from all possible diatonic step, in whatever position, change the modes, etc. Do you like the way Albert Collins holds and sustains the fifth and accompanies it with a cascading flurry of descending notes? Try learning it, practising it, then re-write it from the flatted third, or the fourth or seventh. This is a good practice. Begin in a position you've never actually played in before, or in the major pentatonic, or applying open strings or associate it to the one starting on the fifth up an octave. Incidentally, Roger also schooled me to "..connect, connect, connect"

2) "Master All The Tempos"-Phineas Newborn, Jr. This piece of advice from the distinguished jazz pianist always stuck with me. I believe this is genuinely a central to dominating music. Let's say my intention is to master playing at rapid tempos. I work for 3 weeks on a tune at 152mm. I'm starting to get it. One night I go to a nightspot and discover some players playing a fast jam. Wow! What tempo is that? I haven't got my metronome with me but the melodic phrase and tempo I can't get out of my head. I get home and discover that the tune is somewhere in the neighborhood of 176mm to 184mm. Well, that's a whole new glob of wax! It calls for a completely new approach. I ain't gonna be able to pull off all those ingenious sixteenth note runs, (maybe a couple of them..) let's see, it's back to the drawing board. And so, I get down to get the hang off that tempo, and the peculiar expressive style of phrasing it would require to sound genuinely good.- Or, I have gotten pretty adept at a "quick" slow blues at 63mm. But I hear somebody just kill at a super slow 40mm. It's a completely new world! I've got my work cut out for me. This tip truly keeps one expanding and developing, and out of those same old ruts! Master time and you can rule the world!

3) "Free Your Right Hand"

I didn't make this one up, I just never heard it said. It's like a well-kept mystery that I had to discover the challenging way. I'm astounded when, as a instructor, a new student will tell me that his previous teacher had told him to always anchor his right hand. On a superficial level this creates a safe way to find the proper strings easily. I force the student to play with the right hand free and begin alternating the pick direction cooccurring with the down or upbeat. This is commonly met with opposition and creates confusion. I even had a student after one lesson go to a gig and as he tried this advice out on the stage, he wound up cussing me and of course went back to anchoring his right hand after the first set. I personally enjoy this method because you begin to genuinely use the guitar percussively, as a drummer would play the drums. The term "attack" gains a whole new meaning. As one masters the free right hand, one compensates for string noise by muffling unpicked strings with the left hand, or just by learning to be deadly precise. Combined or alternating lead and rhythm, can be brought up to a completely raw art form, not to mention while sustaining a note, one can reach for a beer, cigarette, or hand signal the girl in the 3rd row. (All habits I have given up, by the way.) Pete Townsend at one time said "Don't allow your technique get in the way of your stage show." How else to do those "windmills", simply with a free right hand?

4) "Emotion, First" -my acting coach, Joe Palese

When I was studying acting, many of us would arrive at the beginners mistake of memorising our lines first then tacking on the emotion after the fact. This makes for bad acting! We were adjusted and trained to try the much more dangerous (and messy!) approach of creating genuine and honest emotion in the context of the character reference and the scene we were playing, and then learn the lines in an wholesome fashion, always connecting to the emotion. This made for acting that was genuinely motivating. It is the equivalent for playing guitar and improvisation. How many times have we practiced a lick again and again, pull it off flawlessly at a gig or public setting, and have the feel that folks are not that impressed? Or, do the reverse- you are watching someone else, and although you are impressed, something is lacking and you're not sure what? This goes perfectly with the "Free Your Right Hand" tip. This is where we go first, or at any rate in the process, arrive at a priority. This is where we develop feel, color, audio, nuance, individual articulation like characters, speed that really backpacks a wallop, melody, domination of phrasing that comes in the circumstance of emotional communication. This also involves intimacy, and true self-expression, exposing ones self. Giving all that one has, as contrary to the ego trip or impressing others. This is the stock in trade of the true artist. Clapton, Wes Montgomery, Duane Allman, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis come to mind.

5) "If You Want To Be a Better Musician, Become a Better Person."-John Coltrane

O.K., so what does that mean? Perhaps it entails tell the truth, be real and authentic. Be happy..contribute to other people and the worldbe faithful yourself, be genuine to your ideals and valuesbe caring, be loving. Be a leader and learn to communicate effectively. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be a teacher. Do things as they should be done. Do all of the work. Do what you said you would. Be gracious. Make and nurture human relationships. Forgive. Make the world a better place. It really is a good deal easier than being a dork. It gives you power.
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