How Did You Improve Your Feel?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Kappy, Jan 5, 2006.


  1. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Okay, so I had a lesson tonight with a local teacher named Dave Manley and after playing about 5 notes over a blues (most of them kinda' staccato, chicken picken' notes and like ultra on top of the beat), he said I really needed to work on my feel. He showed me some examples and pointed out that I was like way too tense.

    My main lesson for the week is to slow down BIG TIME, play in the pocket but laid back, to make each note as round as possible, letting it breathe and to lighten up on my picking since I tend to really dig in (all the time). Regarding phrasing, I'm supposed to really listen to what I'm saying with the instrument (duh, but I needed reminding) and to really go slowly -- even consider taking a breath between phrases. We tried some in the lesson and I could feel the difference. My tendency is to try cram in lots of notes, scales, ideas. Also, since my time was once really horrible and I had to work on it a lot, now I'm like way too on the beat and need to learn to loosen up.

    It's funny, I kinda' live my life (and run my mind) intense like that. It figures that my playing would reflect it.

    Anyway, have any of you found yourself in a similar situation? Assuming you got beyond that, what helped? Aside from listening to a lot of Grant Green, Dexter Gordon and Wes and overthinking it (like I do), I'm wondering what else might help.

    Thanks for any insights/anecdotes.

    Dave
     
  2. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,093
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2005
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Best thing I ever did to force myself to slow down and be more musical was to start singing my notes as I played them. Best thing I've ever done to improve my lead playing.
     
  3. Joe Boy

    Joe Boy Member

    Messages:
    1,617
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    So. Calif.
    Wow, great points to remember.

    One of my problems would be nerves. I tend to get wobbly with my fingers, especialy if it's a really tough solo. Getting caught behind the beat.

    If I'm "relaxed and confidant", I play a whole lot better though.
    My old teacher said basicly the same thing about, "SLOWING DOWN".

    Last week was a true test of all the above...we had a grueling set calling for spot on chording, key changes and butt buster solo's.

    Everything was perfect....I had spent the afternoon with my wife....."relaxing"...:D
     
  4. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,199
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Listen to tastefull players like Cannonball Adderly, and Miles Davis and REALLY listen to vocalists. They have to breath in order to play their instrument (sax, coronet, lungs). But they know they can't just breath anytime so they do it between phrases. I used to have the same problem until I did this. For me another thing helped a lot, I lost the pick, I did so to intentionaly slow myself down and for improved tone. Warren Haynes is a good "breather" guitar player to listen to. Also, with the amp cranked way up, play very softly with your fingertips, lightly brushing the strings in such a way you can almost talk over it, real cool for tone, timing and feel.
     
  5. JamonGrande

    JamonGrande Member

    Messages:
    1,541
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    San Diego
    +1 on the vocalist/horn player and singing the line suggestions. When I was first learning to play, a friend suggested I play along with Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major. Being a young shredder at the time, I had no idea what legato really meant. That was a great piece to learn phrasing through. I would also add violin/viola/cello players to the mix as much of the phrasing is dictated by the bow.

    Then there is also the whole "play a rhythm vamp like a mantra" thing. After playing in an old-time trio for a couple years, my sense of the beat (playing ahead, on or behind) improved immensly. This in turn made me realize how bad my timing was when soloing and how to manipulate phrasing.

    joe
     
  6. Noah

    Noah Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,295
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    Location:
    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    As a singer and guitarist, I like to sing guitar solos out loud before I even pick up a guitar sometimes. I've found that mixing some of the ideas that I came up with vocally and the more intense technical stuff works out pretty well most of the time. Try playing with a wah pedal and really "feel" the notes as you play them. It's fun as hell, sounds great, and will most likely help your feel.
     
  7. littlemoon

    littlemoon Member

    Messages:
    857
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2003
    Location:
    Corona, CA
    I find it helps to let a bar or three go by before jumping in on a solo. The pause also builds anticipation and makes what you say seem more salient.

    littlemoon
     
  8. scottl

    scottl Member

    Messages:
    17,042
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2003
    Location:
    Cherry Hill, NJ
    Congrats Dave! Dave Manley is a beast on guitar. You got one of the guys I would have recommended and one of the only guys in Philly that I look up to. Please tell him I said hi!! I have not touched base with him in ages. Maybe give him my email?

    Dave has killer feel. He is the dude to set you straight.

    My advice is to at least "hear" the phrase in your head. If not the notes, then the shape. Not everyone can hear the pitches, but it is easy to hear the shape of your line. Then you can phrase it better and make it vocal.

    Of course listening to the greats helps too!
     
  9. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

    Messages:
    6,771
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    I'm not the quality of player that usually gives advice in this section, however, feel is pretty much all I got, and has kept me going as a gigging player for the most part.

    For me the envelope of the sound, for what I want to hear is really well represented by three players. The most approachable would be the two Alberts. The mighty Mr. Albert King and my personal favorite, Albert Collins. Their envelopes are different but both make my hair stand on end. So what I've done and should do more, is hunker with the discs, and see if I can evoke some of that feel.

    The third player who really makes the hair stand up on my arms is of course Jimi Hendrix. The "Band of Gypsies" disc is pretty much at the apex of high gain guitar mastery to my ears. This record is easily the one piece of music which I have listened to the most.

    My playing doesn't come up to anywhere near the standard of these gents. But I've spent a lot of time listening to them and mimicing some of the sound and it seems to have worked a little bit.

    If you are are up for it, Alan Holdsworth, especially his earlier more approachable work, is another apex of what's possible. I'm not worthy to opine on what he does, but his "feel" is astonishing. So perhaps some heavy shedding on his stuff, focusing on the envelope, could work for a player. YMMV, best of luck to you.

    FWIW, your act of commitment, doing a lesson, and picturing yourself as a better player is a major breakthrough in-and-of-itself, and will pay off!
     
  10. bailnout

    bailnout Member

    Messages:
    741
    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2005
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    Wow, I never thought of that in those terms but you are exactly right. That kind of falls into the compression/transparency in amps debate. I think people who like the more transparent tube amps do so because it magnifies the feel of the amp giving you more to feel with your technique. Well put.

    +1 also for listening to horn players. That really helps the phrasing a lot.

    Also, in slowing down, you need to have good vibrato. A great workout technique for vibrato is work with a metronome. Pick out a nice juicy note and vibrato it in time with the click. Just like with single note runs that you can work on with a metronome, you can choose quarter notes, eighths, eighth note triplets and so forth. Pick a target pitch to vibe back and forth to, like a 1/2 step or even more, and make sure you are accurately hitting that pitch each time you bend to it. Even if it's a shallow vibrato like a 1/4 step, know what that pitch is and own it. Make sure your pitch change from zero to whatever is your target is smooth and in time.

    That will force you to slow down and be more "vocal" in your phrasing. This is especially fun to do if you are cranked like PlexiBreath says to do. You start to easily get singing feedback and can really feel the guitar resonating in your hands and against your body. Great for you...bad for the neighbors!:D

    Man I love this stuff!!!
     
  11. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

    Messages:
    13,749
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    It's a huge question and there all sorts of answers, physical, emotional and spiritual. Physically, one of the most beneficial things for me was practicing with a metranome at slow speeds. It stopped me from rushing and emphasized working with the beat rather than just trying to develop speed.
     
  12. rh

    rh Robo Sapien Noise Maker Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    6,402
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Location:
    New York, USA
    Started digging John Scofield. I suggest the very accessible Bump as a graduate course in feel.

    Three Sisters
    from that CD just oozes feel.
     
  13. Dajbro

    Dajbro Member

    Messages:
    2,118
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Several things have done a lot to help my playing in this area. Back when I was in college, I got a tape of a lesson that someone who had gone to my college previously had taken from Pat Metheny. (I've seen/heard this lesson posted in various places on the internet as well) The thing that Pat stressed most of all was that the student needed to work on his time. It was astonishing to hear the difference between the two of them playing Blue Bossa together with a metronome. Pat sounded great, the student, not so much. Pat suggested sitting down with a metronome at a comfortable speed and playing a single note in quarter notes along with it. First, trying to play exactly on the beat, with the goal trying to get the metronome click to disappear because you are so in synch with it. Next, do the same thing and work on playing on the front edge of the beat, and then do the same thing playing on the back edge of the beat. I did this pretty religiously everyday, 5 or 10 minutes a day, for several months. I really helped open my awareness of how a pocket could sit and my relationship with the pocket. Probably one of the best things I ever did for my playing. The more you have internalized time, rather than needing a drummers, metronome, CD, etc. to play along with, the better off you will be.

    Transcribing and playing along with players who have a time feel that you aspire to is also an important thing to do. I did it with The Meters, James Brown's bands, Coltrane, Scofield, Bob Marley, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, and so on. Try to match their phrasing and inflections as closely as possible. It really helps to try and sing (or in my case, vocalize, to call it singing would be very generous) their playing and match up with it. Don't worry so much about the notes you are singing. Again, just try to internalize the rhythm, phrasing, etc.

    Lastly, having a reservoir of technique is important for me to be able to phrase with the feel that I want. I don't want to be stumbling over myself trying to get where I'm going, so it is important for me to do what I need to do to keep my technique in good shape.

    Lots of good ideas in this thread so far. Keep them coming. Oh yeah, find a great drummer and play with him or her as much as you possibly can!

    David
     
  14. 1-Take-Wonder

    1-Take-Wonder Member

    Messages:
    300
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Location:
    The ATL
    it definitely goes way beyond playing skills at the root of it. I play with a bass player who's off the charts ADHD and it shows in his playing. All over the place. oddly, its musical most of the time, but he couldnt keep a country gig for four bars of the first tune. I imagine medication is a component for some to help with feel.

    I have a student who's life is causing him lots of stress and tension. He holds on to the guitar like its a jackhammer. you can see the tension all that way from his left wrist up to his neck when he plays. predictably, his playing is harsh, forced, and doesn't flow well at all. Same deal, probably needs to settle life issues before these things will work out in his playing.

    I have the same struggles as I work through theory and reading practice that I've neglected for years. It stresses me out as I start to think how deficient I am in these areas, and my playing is pretty much shot until I calm down.

    I strikes me that the more you think about what you want to "say" and the emotion behind it (feelings=feel) the better your feel will be. Even when I'm reading (vs improvising) I try to think of it in terms of quoting a famous author I respect and agree with. Its a great mental excercise...a bit vague, but it helps me.
     
  15. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Scott, it's nice to know you know of him and would recommend him as a teacher. I kinda' stumbled onto him through http://www.themusicworkshop.org/. They've got a nice space in Manayunk (5 min from me) and the lessons are cheap. I'll definitely tell Dave you said hi and will give him your info.

    Thanks to everyone for all the great answers. I knew I'd get some good ideas here. It's pretty funny how deep a subject this is and how much I'd pretty much completely ignored it with practicing on my own. You think that if you keep your technique clean and your knowledge fresh, you've got a good grip on something, but then reality hits you in the face. ;)

    I appreciate the replies.

    Dave
     
  16. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Regarding the issue of the intense living, I like the comments johnspeck and 1-Take have made. I do realize I need to slow down big time. I think it got really bad when I started doing the corporate IT thing, which is a very interrupt-driven career. Anyway, on the contemplative drive home from the lesson it crossed my mind to take up meditation again and to chill some on the all day caffeine and sugar intake, since I'm sure those things only amplify an already overactive mind.
     
  17. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

    Messages:
    2,224
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Location:
    CA
    Most guitar players try to play too many notes. Try thinking of a rhythm instead. If you already know the blues scale, you can "hear" which direction the notes will go. Feel is about "when" they will be played.

    Say you are trying to play a Blues phrase. (2 measures) Tap your foot and count 4 beats. (1 2 3 4)
    Now divide any 1 of the 4 beats. (1& 2 3 4 ) Feel the upbeat?
    Try these... (1 2& 3 4 ) (1 2 3& 4 ) (1 2 3 4& )

    Fit the notes to the rhythm.
    Leave the 2nd measure blank, or let the last note ring for 4 beats. That leaves space at the end of the phrase.

    Next, leave beat 1 alone. (rest) (Rest 2& 3 4&) hold for 4 beats. Divide 1 or 2 beats per measure. Don't forget to breathe.

    Hope that helps.
     
  18. Thwap

    Thwap Member

    Messages:
    8,559
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2006
    Location:
    Tacoma, Wa
    I agree with the idea of singing/humming your lead theme before trying to play it, I do that alot. Another thing that I've found useful is create or use an existing backing track, and record yourself. Put down your guitar when you're through and listen.....really listen to what moves you within what you just did, and try to figure out why it did. And if your honest with yourself, you'll know if you're overplaying. And don't forget dynamics as was mentioned earlier.
     
  19. noises ten

    noises ten Member

    Messages:
    98
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Pick up a bass.... Learn to groove in the pocket on bass...

    Concur with the "BumP" record by John Scofield... Check out the bass parts and figure those out... It really made me aware of where "one" is... Also, Harry Connick Jr. "She" is a great record for some deep pocket groove stuff... Check out how the bass and guitar interact on that record to create lots of space and room for melodies..

    Hope that helps??

    d
     
  20. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

    Messages:
    199
    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2005
    Wait a minute...that's what I was gonna recommend. I mean pick your hero and not only listen but transcribe. Slow it down; start at half speed. Learn the notes but equally importantly learn the feel. Loop sections and play along until you get it.
     

Share This Page