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Posts Tagged ‘playing’

No One’s Interested In Science

I was watching this video (http://goo.gl/C5FCOF) of a blues demonstration that the great Charlie Hunter was giving, and in the video he said some VERY wise words that really struck a chord with me – excuse the pun. He said, “No one’s interested in science. You save the science for the practice shed and bring the magic to the stage.”

While I’m no virtuoso on guitar, I’ve developed my own chops over the course of 40+ years of playing, and one thing that I never wanted to do was sound mechanical when I was performing. I practice every day – and most of it is just noodling over backing tracks – and that’s where I discover licks and/or work out scales that I can internalize, and incorporate once it’s time to perform. But once I’m performing, I’m not thinking things like, “Oh this mode would go great with this particular progression,” or if playing a rhythm groove, I’m not thinking about the tricks I or little fills I want to throw in.

Speaking of which, one thing that I do pretty religiously when learning a new song – especially for my solo acoustic gigs is to record the rhythm riff using an electric guitar plugged straight into my computer (I use a StealthPlug). This has helped train me to instinctively know how I should be approaching the song because there’s no hiding behind effects or the natural resonance of my acoustic. I figure if I can sound half-decent with a totally flat sound, I’ll sound great when I’m doing it for real.

Below is an example of what I spoke about above. Here, I’m working out the chorus part of “As” by Stevie Wonder. It’s just my trusty Slash L Katie May plugged right into my Macbook and played alongside a looping drum track.

That track is absolutely sloppy! But I recorded that shortly after I learned the song. What I got from that though were ideas on what I could do in that part of the song, and mind you, while I didn’t record my voice, I was also singing over it while I was playing. Later takes were much smoother, and I used a lot more palm-muting to get less pop on my downbeats. I do the same thing with lead breaks (sorry didn’t have any of those clips on this particular machine). In both cases, by the time I get to performing, I’ve built up enough ideas to just let things flow.

Now granted, there are times when I’m absolutely stumped when I get to a lead break. But I’m not afraid to say, “Minor pentatonic, here we come!” 🙂 But most of the time, even if I get stumped, I’ll end up feeling my way through it, and it usually doesn’t sound half bad. That comes from practice. So Charlie Hunter is right on: The magic truly is in the moment, and you gotta leave the science in the woodshed, and bring nothing but the magic to the stage.

And speaking of magic, so many of the big time illusions you see from prominent magicians of the day like Criss Angel and David Blaine are deeply rooted in science. It’s the ultimate expression of that science that makes things “magical.”

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