This weekend I got a chance to listen to some wonderful young guitar players, but it brought me back to an issue I try to explain over and over when I teach workshops.
Many fingerstyle guitarists today are forgetting about the most important aspect of music – melody. I think this is due to a basic lack of musical study, and the lack of asking the basic question “what is music?”
Without an inquiry into what music actually is, one can get lost by simply copying whats trendy and popular on Youtube and in magazines.
Musical textures, techniques, rhythms, and special effects do not make a song – even if they sound cool, nice, hip and pleasing.
The following “guitar textures”, ornaments and effects add color, flash, and an “ooh and ahh” factor, but by themselves they are not the “basis” of a piece of music.
- Guitar Percussion
- Right hand tapping & fingering on fretboard
- left hand over the fingerboard fingerings
- Altered tunings
- Fast fingerpicking (boom chick style, bossa nova style or any other groove)
- Nice sounding “chords” with no melody
- funk grooves
- strumming joyous chords
- cool and neat open string chords & arpeggios
- partial or multiple capo usage
- delay, reverb, or looping effects
- external objects pasted to the instrument
If one starts out with a melody that one can sing away from the instrument, then special effects are welcome.
These effects add excitement to a live show for sure, but still – they are not “music” in and of themselves and ultimately music using this as its “basis” will fall flat on its face.
Even if it gets lots of youtube hits, magazine coverage and all the chicks think it’s “awesome” that means nothing unless there is a singable melody.
I have been hearing a lot of very young talented players string these textures together in trying to create a piece of music.
Always ask yourself “Can 90% of the audience sing the melody back? (Even the non musicians?)”
If you get to add your harmonics, tapping or anything else consider it a bonus for your inner guitar geek….but for everyone else, the SONG is the main event (whether it is original or a cover song).
Imagine a movie with the greatest special effects, in 3-D, stereo sound, rumbling seats, and amazing computer animation, but with no “story” or meaning.
It may make a box office splash the first week but it will be a B movie rental in a matter of weeks.
If you can’t sing the melody to something you are playing – it ain’t a song, it’s just guitar-isms.
If you like music with no melody, and totally disagree with me, that’s fine too – rock on, and enjoy.
My way is only my way – and there’s more than one way to do things. Test it all for yourself and see what works for you.
Better yet, see what your wife, girlfriend or parents enjoy hearing you play 🙂