Just the other day in the studio, long standing musical problems resolved themselves as if by magic.
I am hoping that you can use this idea for yourself when you find yourself up against the wall, with “unsolvable” problems on the guitar, music and life. 🙂
The Recording Studio is a Mirror
The most clear, productive, painful and cutting guitar teacher is “the recording studio.” It is a mirror. What you play is what you get – the good, the bad and the ugly!
You learn what sounds good, and why. And, the music’s weak spots become obvious to you as well.
Virtually all of todays recordings are “perfect.” Fixing mistakes is easy; we can re-record or use software to clean things up.
The biggest challenge for me though, is what to do the “feel” is off. Sometimes I perceive this long after the recording session is over.
What makes music touch the heart and sound soulful? Certainly more than technical “perfection” is needed to touch listener’s hearts.
I was “almost done recording” – 13 CD tracks were recorded & edited. I set up a playlist in iTunes so I could listen while on tour and see how it felt as a listener.
(It’s good to listen back several weeks after you record. When you listen back on the same day, you remember how you “felt while recording”, instead of hearing how it really sounds to a new listener with fresh ears.)
The Truth & Weak Spots Emerged Over Time
The solo arrangements of “Yesterday” and “In My Life” by the Beatles were technically correct, but the feel was missing.
There was no love, no magic, no spark and no “joyful essence” of the Beatles.
Technically perfect but spiritually off, like a student recital.
The inner critic started in with:
- I should be better!
- What must I do to make it better?
- I want to have a great version of this recorded!
- I want people to love my recording!
- I really did my best!
(Can we get some ‘pity party’ music as a soundtrack for this?)
Stepping back, I noticed how all of these feelings have the ever insistent egoic “I”. That’s the little “me” that wants to be special, be a victim, and be separate.
After seeing the ego loving the drama, I shifted to “how about the MUSIC being #1?”
The Mind Cannot Figure it Out
The guitar fingerings are practically the same each time, so the only place left to look was an intimate place within.
In order to descend into the heart and a zone deeper than thinking, here is what I did…
1) Handed it over to the Subconscious
No more trying to “figure it out.” I set the guitar down and played blues piano for 48 hours.
This way I’d be deep in music, but give the problem at hand a rest.
I abandoned the tight grip on “I have to do this, it has to be that.”
2) Focused on The Music Itself
I went back and listened to the original versions so I could “become” the music rather than
“play” the music.
Once you play an arrangement for a while, it’s easy to lose the original intent, so a refresher on tempo, lyrics, vocal inflection, and song essence is a good idea.
3) Meditated 30 minutes in the morning
Often I find myself away from “inner home.” Computers, smartphones and everyday life us all outward in 9000 directions.
Musical intimacy can only come when one rests “at home” in the heart.
4) Detached from Immidiate Results
I went back to the studio with as “let’s see what the music does today” attitude – not “I hope I can play this well today.”
If I did a recording for the garbage can, that was ok. I was willing to let it suck,
and stay in this intimate zone for as long as it took to get a decent version (weeks, months.)
The AHA Moments Came – by Themselves!
I could have never “figured these out” with the mind. These revelations came all by themselves.
- A little trill (F# G F#) in “Yesterday” made my soul light up. Somehow I left this out before. (vulerability)
- The tempo of “Yesterday” should faster than I thought. (attention to the music)
- A fat bass sound in “Yesterday” helped bring the groove across. (masculine/feminine yin/yang balance)
- Singing “Yesterday” with the lyrics, and reflecting on the story Paul sings. (heart)
- Singing the snappy feel of “I remember” in the first phrase “In My Life”. (essence)
- Listening to the melody of “In My Life” as I played helped naturally reduce the counter melody volume. (paying attention to what is)
- Singing the beat at tempo with a heavy groove set things up properly (boo boom bap!)
These shifts produced almost imperceptible changes, but when you do an A/B listening test of which versions sound better, the new takes win, hands down.
- From observing, listening and surrender came these “gifts” as “AHA” moments.
- Every revelation was devoid of the ever insistent little “I”.
- Abandon the ego, and music blooms once again like blossoms in Springtime.
Have You Ever Had AHA Moments Like This?
Please let me & the readers know about it in the comment box below!