As of late when I practice the guitar, I feel like a total retard. Maybe that’s a good sign.
Yesterday I worked on a simple song for an hour (Copa Cabana), trying to put the finger picking rhythm in the pocket and still stay loose. The day before I had been working on playing just the melody to “Autumn Leaves.”
(20 years ago I started every gig with the song “Autumn Leaves.” You’d think I already know the song.)
Spending hours on such simple stuff? Why?
I had a brain full of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” from my guitar and music teachers.
I was taught
- proper hand position
- staying loose with my technique
- playing cleanly
- playing fast and fluidly
However…I can recall my teachers then bearing down on me musically, stressing depth of groove, tone, counterpoint and overall listening.
It was a mystery…as a student I had been doing it all technically right, yet a “veil” was shutting me out from higher realities.
Now it’s backwards…am I struggling with technical basics…I have thrown away most of what they taught me. Playing music is now fueled with a different intention than it once was.
My “basics” – my right hand technique, left hand technique, concept of sound, repertoire choices and the feeling of “groundedness in the groove” are now being fueled by musical instinct and experience vs “imagination” or imitation.
The “why” I’m playing music has changed. And it’s morphing my technique.
“Technically” correct is not “spiritually” correct. And, “spiritually” correct can appear “technically” incorrect. Very Bizarro.
“Autumn Leaves” is suddenly challenging, much less “easy” than before and is requiring more of me digging into my guts to find the music. On the flip side, it sounds like the song should sound really, more than ever before.
Reflecting on all this, I am hearing my teacher Mike Longo say “chops is your concept, not velocity. Fast is just fast. Listen to Monk – that’s concept – that’s real chops.”