Musical Discipline for the Guitarist
By Tennyson Williams, Author of The Essential Guide To Guitar Virtuosity
One of my favorite topics that I am most passionate about is the universal connection between music. At first, most can’t distinguish it, but if you go in search of musical knowing – you will soon be able to hear all the similarities.
It truly cracks me up just how limited in thinking some musicians can be. Though I tend to play a lot of heavy metal guitar, my favorite style of music is actually Bossa Nova, which at first doesn’t sound anything like heavy metal. Yet they both have two things in common. One, they are both very rhythmic, and two, they are both very melodic in structure.
By devouring every style of music imaginable, you reach a point where you can not only appreciate other styles of music, but you can also pin-point the similarities.
Why is this important?
Its important, because no matter what kind of a guitarist you claim to be, at the end of the day you’re in search of originality. Isn’t that one of our main goals as a species?
One of the gateways to this kind of originality in music is musical phrasing, and if you truly wish to become endlessly diverse in your own phrasing, then you would be wise to listen to as much music as possible.
When it comes to any form of heavy metal music, I sense a strong connection between Latin music and metal. I also hear this connection in other styles of music that contain a lot of rhythm, like the movements native to Africa or even Romania.
If this is true, then it should come as no surprise that their is a very experimental and underground guitarist by the name of Cynthia Witthoft, who is Romanian and brings these same sounds to her virtuoso style.
So how do we get their?
Yes, that is always the big question. How do we become musically tolerant? Well the answer is really a no-brainer. Becoming a sponge for music means to become extremely disciplined.
There are two big mistakes that most guitarists and musicians make, that reverse the progress of musical understanding.
One of the worst things that you could ever do is to claim ownership of a style. When I say ownership, I mean making the statement that you are a blues guitarist, classical guitarist, punk guitarist, etc.
This is not necessary. You may be naturally attracted to a specific genre of music, but that is likely to change, as we are creatures of habit, and that habit is mental evolution. Those who fight this kind of progress tend to be the kinds of people who start wars, as they lack the real fire that lies in the human heart.
The other big mistake is the one that comes about upon first hearing an unfamiliar style of music. Guitarists will naturally say “I don’t like it”, and then never explore it again. Believe me, when something new comes in to your life – there is a reason for it.
The first time that I ever heard any authentic Jazz music, was when I first heard the album Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, and that bothered me. I didn’t get it at first and so I also didn’t particularly like it when I first heard it. Still yet, I didn’t give up on listening to it. After a short while, I was able to fully understand what was going on in the music, by the process of familiarity, but that familiarity could have only come about by me making the effort.
It was one of the best things that I ever did, because I was soon listening to all sorts of Jazz music. This led me to Bossa Nova. It also beckoned me to listen to Rocka Billy, because Rocka Billy can also sport a lot of the same chords and chord structures that are used in Jazz music.
When I started listening to Rocka Billy, I fell in love with it and decided that I wanted to start a Rocka Billy band. I stuck with it for two years, and eventually decided that it wasn’t for me, but when I went back to virtuoso metal, I had a whole arsenal of sophisticated techniques that frequent the Rocka Billy scene. I also came back with an amazing collection of rhythmic ideas from studying Bossa Nova.
The once unseen gift that I now recognize was the gift of creativity.
If you want to do something truly amazing for your playing, then stick with your love of a genre of music, but pick a second and obscure style to also study along with it.
Keep changing that style out for a new one. Learn to become a man or woman of all seasons, and fill your library with all sorts of music.
There is ignorance in all styles of music. I have encountered plenty of Jazz musicians who refuse to listen to anything but Jazz music. I find this to be very sad, because they are not giving enough oxygen to their creativity.
You won’t be surprised to know that many guitar virtuosos play in a genre of preference, but you may be surprised to know that these same virtuosos listen to and play everything.
Guitarists will turn around and ask “how do these guys come up with this stuff?”, wishing that they too could be this creative, and yet the answer is right in front of them. The secret? music is music.
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