Friday, May 22, 2009

Rethinking Your "Guitar" Swing

I listened recently to some improvisation I recorded over backing tracks and came away underwhelmed. It was long on licks, short on musicality. Although licks were strung together notes only randomly arrived in the right place at the right time in relation to the rhythm track; emphasis on the 4 tone when playing blues over the IV chord, 5 tone over the V chord and so forth. Bummer!

My problem is the “more notes are better” improvisation approach and it was giving me similar results to attempting to mash the ball every time I tee off in golf. Whether lack of musicality or a bad slice, the approach needed to change. I decided to focus on note selection and simplicity versus flash; like developing a consistent golf swing for accuracy before going for distance.

Simplicity for me was recording a simple 12 bar slow blues track with I, IV, and V chords. Then, experiment with the notes out of the blues scale to emphasize over each chord. Next, I allowed one “lick” per 12 bars and worked out a simple “turnaround” for the last two bars. Finally, I recorded a solo track over the backing track so I could compare the new approach. Seems like a 150 yard drive straight down the fairway is better than a 200 yard shank that lands in a neighboring fairway!

I do this for a hobby and stress release and have no illusions of being a pro. Nonetheless, I want to improve and this exercise yielded an enormous improvement in the musicality of my improvisation. The main difference was a relationship between the improvisation and the chords I was playing over (the entire point) and it sounded better as a result even without face melting licks.

If you do not like where your your improvisation work is going maybe it is time to explore working on your guitar swing.

2 comments:

freddy said...

This post is a good reminder that good playing guitar is not all about being able to play blisteringly fast. It is more about taste.

Ideally, a guitarist can play fast when it is appropriate, but you gotta go with what you got.

VintageP said...

Well said! I guess I gained enough patience to look for balance. Still focus on scales and speed I can achieve, just not as the primary theme anymore. Lots more enjoyable and sounds better too.

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