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Posts Tagged ‘making music’

playing inspiredIn last month’s issue of Guitar Player, Steve Cropper was spotlighted. Cropper was a great session guitarist for Stax records who wrote and played with the likes Otis Redding, and was arguably one of the great guitarists responsible for establishing the 60’s era soul sound. In the interview, he was asked what advice he’d give to aspiring rhythm guitarists. His reply was both amusing and incredibly insightful (I’m paraphrasing): “Pick the prettiest girl in the front row, look right at her, and play to her.”

On the surface, that may sound a little chauvinistic, but there’s an incredible amount of truth in that. As performers is to, well, perform. No matter how we perform, it’s always an outward facing activity. And from my standpoint, there’s nothing better at inspiring me to create on the than when I’m playing for someone, and shape my playing to describe what emotions are stirred by the thought of the person for whom I’m playing.

Mind you, it’s not a sexual thing. It’s about playing against the images that crop up when you look at someone. For instance, the restaurant that I play at every week is a nice, family-oriented restaurant. During my set, parents will bring their children to where I’m playing, to show their kids the “music man.” Seeing the smiles and faces full of wonderment is really inspiring to me, especially as I’m a father myself (of eight kids!), and I almost always change the way I’m playing when kids come to see me play. I’ll even do special kids songs just for them at times, and let them strum my guitar.

The point to all this is that when you’re playing inspired, you draw your audience in. As a performer, there’s nothing worse to me than being mechanical. The music comes out dry and worse yet, seemingly contrived. And people pick up on that. But play inspired, and you take your audience on your emotional journey.

So take Steve Cropper’s advice, and find someone in your audience who’ll inspire you. I guarantee you’ll like the results!

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