Monday, June 12, 2006

Developing a personal relationship with sound

In playing the guitar we learn all sorts of things - scales, chords, cool voicings, theory, chops, tone etc. - but probably the most important aspect is our personal relationship to all these elements. A mode that sounds mysterious to one person may be bland to another; a chord that sounds hip to one may be just too "jazz" for someone else. I remember four guitarists mentioning this aspect of guitar playing - which is having your own take on things - Joe Satriani in his Berklee workshop, Steve Vai on his website, Philip Toshio Sudo in Zen Guitar and recently Bryan Baker - an amazing guitarist who just graduated from Berklee.

My personal encounters with this element have reminded me - over time - of the importance of just having your own label on things. If I find a pretty chord voicing, that's what I call it. It's my pretty Cmaj7 voicing or it's my ugly dissonant tone row. The point is not that the element - or sound - be something new, but rather be labeled by yourself to how the sound affects you on an emotional or gut response. It doesn't really relate to the music theory aspect but to the side of you before you became a fully-fledged-theory-analyst-chord-dissecting-dude.

Over time, anyone who does this - consciously or not - will have developed a personal vocabulary of sound - and hopefully be more on the way to being a musician with a personal identifiable sound. Someone with their own voice.


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