I get a lot of emails asking questions like :
- “I play classical guitar and I find it hard to play with a thumbpick.”
- “I studied classical guitar for years and I just can’t get the groove right.”
A great classical guitar technique is a thing of beauty – and I worked on it for a long time.
However, for “African” based music, you need an entirely different “touch”. The “groove” is built into the “touch”. You can’t separate the two.
This “African” based touch applies for
- Jazz (most)
- Pop (most)
- R & B
- Rock (some)
Classical technique is devoid from the ground of any African Rhythm in terms of groove and touch.
Classical Technique – The Problem, Illustrated:
Here is the problem when trying to use the classical technique for blues, funk or any other groove-based music.
Try this experiment yourself
- Pick a song like “Superstition”, “Billie Jean” or “Hit the Road Jack.”
- Sing to yourself – right now, the main “hook” of the tune, with the original lyrics. See what that feels like.
- Next, sing the melody with the syllables “Ta”. This will make it sound the way a classical musician would play it. Like this:
“Billie Jean is not my lover” = “”Ta Ta Ta Ta, Ta Ta Ta Ta”.
- Now sing it with the syllable “La”
- Now sing the original, with the lyrics and see how it feels different.
You’ll agree I am sure that the words of the song infuse the melody with MORE groove.
Now – this is precisely the difference between “African Influenced” and “Classical” technique.
The sounds of your fingers should vary, squeak and groove like the lyrics do.
The perfect classical technique will sound like the “Ta Ta” examples. Correct for “school”, but wrong for the musical concept.
If you are a classical-based player who wants to play fingerstyle – think “out of the box.”
You will feel at first like you are doing things wrong – as if you are telling the world “I just discovered that 2+2 = 5!”
Keep in mind, perfect clarity of your notes is NOT the goal for fingerstyle.
Perfect groove is (at least for me.)
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