Letting Go

August 23, 2010

After over 35 years of playing guitar, I have made an incredible discovery: if I let go of my guitar while it is hanging on me with a strap, it doesn’t move. Isn’t that neat? Well, to me it is.

Here’s why:

Ever since I have been playing guitar, I have always grabbed the neck so tight, it would make it impossible to not only play faster, but it would also be a pain to shift positions. Thus, I would rarely ever stray from one position when I am playing a lead run. Of course there were exceptions, but they were just that: exceptions. I would wind up with a sore thumb and wrist in many cases. As much as I love to play, I didn’t make it very easy for myself to do so.

Discovering how to let go of the neck, through watching a video by David Kilminster, I found myself doing things that I previously found difficult, if not impossible, for me to play. I have found my fingers lighter and easier to manipulate. I even found moving up and down the neck to be much easier.

When I let go of the guitar, I can do hammer ons and pull-offs a lot quicker and without getting tired. My biggest surprise came when working out an Andy James lick for a song. It was a two handed lick and I found myself executing it rather fluidly.

Amazingly enough, I have never seen any one ever covered this important aspect of shredding. It’s definitely important and should be passed on. There’s probably more people out there in the same situation as I am, and holding on tightly does not mean more control.

— Posted from my iPhone… because I can

Lessons From the Dojo

August 17, 2010

It may have been four years since I have been unable to practice Karate. However, I cannot deny the principles and discipline that I learned from my years of training in the dojo. If only now, I am starting to take those principles and disciplines seriously. While I wish that I would have learned these earlier on in my life, I guess that it is better to be late than not at all. If anything, there’s a bunch of lessons that I have started to apply in various aspects in my lifeā€¦ starting with music. Why music? Because, in my mind, I could have been a more disciplined guitarist (and possibly a pianist). If anything, I’ve been somewhat disappointed with my current skills when I listen to the various aspects of my playing. I let them stagnate to the point where I feel that they slid backwards. Others may not hear it, but I certainly do, and it’s undeniable to my own ears. Hence, the need for discipline passed on for centuries of martial arts’ Senseis.
My first discipline that I am applying is by doing these licks slow and even. This is how I used to practice my katas. It helps me feel the technique and trains the muscles to move in the direction and rhythm needed. It also allows the rest of my senses to learn what I am doing. I am training myself to hear as well as feel what I am doing when practicing a lick. I’ve learned the practicing it slow is extremely important. Important to the point where I tried to speed it up and immediately noticed the mistakes. Slowing it down helps me iron out those mistakes and fix them at the root.
Another discipline I have learned was from a book, called “The Classical Man”. It reads: One Kata – Three Years. Basically, this indicates how long it takes to ingrain a kata into the body. It’s a lot more than simply memorizing it. It’s building it so that it is instinct. It’s anchoring into the body through repetition. The same goes with practicing guitar licks. Practicing it over and over, feeling and hearing it, works it into the body. Sure, one can try some shortcuts, but it wouldn’t replace the satisfaction of hearing the lick progress as you feel it in your fingers. To me, that’s part of the joy of playing guitar. Part of experiencing this joy comes from the discipline of learning it until it is a part of you.
And I know that the kind of music that I want to write, it’s going to require discipline. And, the only discipline that I can see that will work for me, is what I learned from the dojo.

Awakening a dragon

August 14, 2010

Okay, I will be the first to admit after watching a bunch of Andy James’ performances on the recently received DVD’s, whether I would be able to ever play half as good as him. After all, his technique is exact and his playing is very melodic. He is a true shredder and a fantastic guitarist. So, for me it is almost understandable why I would feel a little down watching the videos of him playing some of these licks at blistering speed. His playing is how I always wanted to sound. Funny enough, we both drew on the same influences. Only real difference was that I built up some of the technique, but I wasn’t sure where to take it, or how to apply it. Or, at the very least, I didn’t have the discipline.

That all changed this morning.

I decided to stop watching and start learning. I was determined to become the willing and eager student that I once was 20 years ago. I popped in a Quick Licks DVD in the style of one of my first original guitar heroes: Paul Gilbert. I played along with a couple of the breakdowns of some of my favourite licks and that’s when I discovered, after playing them a bunch of times, that I really can do it. I even made another discovery: I figured out how to incorporate these licks into my own playing. They really started working for me. I could hear new songs coming out from then. It was exciting.

I feel like I have awakened a sleeping dragon. Everything felt like it just came together and my guitar playing has gotten a fresh breath of life. I’m really excited and can’t wait to see just how far I can take it. If anything, I did start seeing things come together when I was learning a few Steve Vai licks, again taught my Andy. However, it really starting to take shape.

Admittedly, this is really fueling my passion. It makes me wonder how far I can take it. Who knows what kind of songs that may come out. I guess all I can say is stay tuned.

— Posted from my iPhone… because I can

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