Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The evolution of (guitar) technique
I really wanted to get better at guitar. Like getting better at chess, it was one of the major frustrations of my life. Towards this end, I used to practice everyday, and in fact had bought tons of method books that will "teach" me to shred like Stevie Ray Vaugnh. But lo and behold, after finishing the latest and greatest method book, I still feel the same. Still feel as if I was this crummy guitar player, who should stop fooling around already and take up the trombone.

Well anyway since re-starting my guitar playing "career", I actually tried to think about why I was the player I am. No sense getting back to the same routines I did before. That approach didnt work then, why would it work now?

But what to work at? This one took me longer to figure out. But as all good things, the answer came at last.

Before I would practice the exercises from my books, but after I play a piece without mistake, I would go on to the next one. This is the *wrong* approach. This is the first major ephiphany I had. And man, realizing this is like delivering the scholars mate. I figured that the development of finger dexterity cannot be acquired through such shallow practice. It needs to be burned into muscle memory until it becomes second-nature. So I started lingering over, and practicing and practicing, the same exercises over and over again. It bored me to tears, but started noticing that my fingers are getting more and more dextrous and solid.

Now I am concentrating on arpeggios only. I figure I may have to buy a practice book to introduce more practice materials. But i will only move on to the next chapter, only if I am able to master the previous one. This is really the only way to master a technique. A really slow process but I reckon it is better to really master a few techniques than be half decent in a lot.

The second one I figured out was that I was lacking *aural* skills. I can play complicated pieces if I have tablatures, but cannot figure songs by ear. I used to think that this was not important as I would just memorize the pieces I like. However, I started accompanying singers, and surprise2x, I would forget a part of the song - the result of which is the entire performance will be busted as I cannot figure out how to re-enter the music. And since not all songs have tablatures, or even sheet music - my musical development was severely hampered.

So no this really doesnt work either. To be a better guitarist, means you really have to be a better musician. To understand the music so to speak. And most importantly to be able to feel the music, and HEAR the music. I will not be able to become the greatest virtousi this planet has ever known if I can't distinguish between Do and Re can I?

So I started trying to figure out songs by ear, and closing my eyes at some point in practice. Just to hear the song. Just to hear the music I was playing. This really is very enjoyable. To be able to figure things out for yourself gives me great satisfaction. AND - I started noticing that once you understand the rhythm of a song - playing it becomes much easier. Sometimes, I dont even know if what I'm pressing is correct - but it sounds right, and it feels right so - hey what does it matter what the tab says anymore...

To make the long story short - I determined that there was two components to guitar mastery. One was proficiency in technique the other proficiency in musical ability. In simple guitar terms, proficiency of the fingers AND proficiency of the ears.

WHAT??? thats my big secret? It took me 8 years to figure that?

Yeah well, sheessh!!!
posted by Nezha at 2:56 AM | Permalink | 7 comments