Here is a favorite of mine from when I was younger. Here is the order of solos on Bela Fleck's driving bluegrass roadhouse, "Whitewater."
Bela Fleck -- Melody of the tune
Sam Bush -- Mando solo highly based on the melody
Tony Rice -- What the heck?!?
Bela Fleck -- re-establishes the melody with a couple twists
Jerry Douglas -- a very melody-based solo, gets a little looser towards the end
Stuart Duncan -- creates a new melody on the fiddle in the A section, before playing a syncopated series of double stops over the B section
Bela Fleck -- finishes with the melody, then Sam, Jerry, and Stuart join in doubling the B section.
Here's my question: Why does Tony's solo work?
Tony's solo is bluesy, driving and rhythmic. There is no melody of the song in it at all. He does use a couple techniques though, starting with long bluesy single-note runs at the front end of the solo, and later juxtaposing that with series of syncopated double and triple stops. He starts low, then goes higher. It has a quiet intensity to it. Mostly though, its expertly-placed blues licks.
My feeling, is that Tony's solo works because its the opposite of Bela and Sam's. Bela establishes a clear melody, Sam backs it up, and by the time Tony plays, the listener is ready for something a little different. Then Bela comes back in, and reclaims the melody of the song. I wonder if Tony had stuck closer to the melody, would Bela have instinctively stepped farther out on his second solo? To those who say Tony never sticks to the melody, listen to his Church Street Blues album. There, he plays solo, and has to play the melody, because he's the only one there to do it.
It feels like YouTube has been around forever, but really, we've only been obsessed with this technology for a little over 10 years. Before YouTube, I had never seen someone slap a guitar like Andy McKee, and had definitely never seen any Gypsy Jazz guitarists. I fell in love with this video of Joscho Stephan playing "Bossa Dorado."
The way my mind works, I knew I could never learn this note for note. However, I watched it so much, and also learned a couple gypsy jazz licks from one of his instructional videos. Then I did what I knew I could do: put those licks in a bluegrass song! This version of "El Cumbanchero" has some of the licks I took from Joscho's video.
Incidently, this was performed at Kaufman Kamp in 2012. If you're learning an acoustic instrument, it is a great time! Click here for more details.
February 5, 2018
I don't do any looping effects in my own playing. I've tried it, and found it to be something that I don't enjoy. Translate: it was hard, and I wasn't very good at it!
Here is Phil Keaggy, absolutely tearing up the guitar, and proving why he's been considered among the finest guitarists on the planet for 40 years. Wow!
Link: Phil Keaggy, "Salvation Army Band"
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE?I heard a famous musician say, "Your style is based on your limitations." Others might say it's based on your influences. I believe every musician has something different to offer, and can express him or herself uniquely on their instrument. Here's some ideas on what you might add to your style:
I found that I love chords, love syncopation, love dynamics, variation, and clever things. These are the things I wanted to be able to play, and somehow, over the years, maybe I developed a way of playing that is somewhat unique. My favorite players have changed over the years: Tony Rice, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Grier, Wes Montgomery when I was young. Later, I came to appreciate ragtime guitarists, flamenco players, and Jazz pianists.
Play, and keep playing! You'll keep getting better all the time if you keep playing music.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."
January 29, 2018
Ok, so all I'm interested in in this video is what Jason Isbell says in the first minute. I think many times we guitar teachers are afraid to tell people the truth about this. Learning to play an instrument takes time. Not just years or some mythical number of hours--just quality time with your instrument, playing, learning, and having fun. We can sell books, videos, memberships, and instruments, but we can't sell that! And, that's how most of us got past hurdles on our own instrument.
This is a tough one to answer, because it's different for every person at every age, ability, and stage of playing. Let's shoot for the middle: and say an intermediate guitarist, playing and learning tunes and willing to practice exercises, scales, arpeggios, techniques, etc to make himself or herself a better guitarist.
The most professional thing you can play is the melody. Now, don't get me wrong. I love, and I mean love experimenting with a song, turning it inside out, putting in blues licks, jazz progressions, and everything else but the kitchen sink, I hope that there will always be a time and place for that. But the longer I play (I'm almost 40--maybe that has something to do with it), the more I'm drawn to playing the melody of the song.
It's the thing that really makes that song unique. It's the part everybody can recognize instantly. I feel that if you establish the melody early in the song, you can start to vary it, and the audience can hang with you. If they can't tell what the song is, you've already lost them.
So what do I mean the melody is the "most professional" thing to play? Aren't professionals the best players, and the ones who can do the most? Yes, but often they choose to play a melody in a cool way. One of my favorite guitar kickoffs is Tim Austin playing the Lonesome River Band's "Listen to the Word of God." It's crosspicked, syncopated, and cool, and based on the melody of the song. Check it out!