On slowing down

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Scott Auld, May 21, 2008.

  1. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    The fast picking thread reminded me of something I wanted to talk to you guys about. Slowing down.

    For about the past three months I have been making conscious effort to slow down my playing.

    I am not talking about slowing down the tempo of our songs, but about playing slower leads, letting individual notes ring out longer than I would have in the past, etc.

    At first it was HARD... really hard. I would keep on finding myself slipping back into those same old solo scales & patterns that I've been playing for years, which I do like, but are faster. I kept saying to myself, "slow it down, mister."

    Now I am really enjoying this technique more and more. If you can call it a technique. I'll play a line in a melody, and then hold out the last note longer than I would have in the past, instead of jumping into the next phrase right away. Or I'll let some notes in the middle of a phrase own more space / value in a measure, forcing me to think of a new way to address the phrase that would have followed in the next measure.

    Am I making any sense?

    It has been in some ways like putting training wheels back on your bike after you already know how to ride well. What does that do for you? It forces you to explore new ways of riding (playing) and new ways of taking corners (playing).

    I am sure this is not for everybody, but I would encourage some of you, especially any of you who are in improv-oriented bands (where you have the freedom to drift from the expected melody lines and shred phrases), or any of you who find yourselves playing the same solo over and over on many songs, to force yourself to slow down. Pick fewer notes. Hold notes out longer.

    It has been a cool awakening for me. :) Thanks for listening.

    SA
     
  2. giggedy

    giggedy Member

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    I have constant freedom to drift from expected melody lines, and I do this all the time.
     
  3. elgalad

    elgalad Senior Member

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    I'm digging it. Something I've been working on recently as well. It's such a trap to keep peddling the same tired licks just for safety of knowing they'll work. Got to keep things interesting by changing it up and exploring some new territory.

    The first time I tried to slow down and just play what I was hearing in my head I think I just stood there staring at the fretboard for the entire solo without actually playing anything. I felt a bit useless, but I'm getting better, and it's actually sounding more musical now, if I do say so myself ;)

    Keep at it, it's good stuff.
     
  4. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    That would be the ultimate slow solo, right? :D:D:D


    Cool.
     
  5. elgalad

    elgalad Senior Member

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    Let's just say I played exactly what I was hearing in my head at the time:jo
     
  6. OOG

    OOG Member

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    it's really hard to hear the space between the notes
    when there isn't any
     
  7. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

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    I've found that you have to play the space,
    by feeling the beats you aren't playing ...

    This way you play with beats other then the downbeat
    which includes starting and finishing on up beats ...

    IN other words,
    you just don't insert bent notes or whatever,
    here and there without feeling the beat of the empty spaces ...

    IMHO ... this is key to keeping things really musical!!
     
  8. Birddog

    Birddog Member

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    I hear you.

    A few months back, I saw a YouTube video of Clapton and Knopfler doing "I Shot the Sheriff". With two amazing guitarists, what struck me most was the solo at the end. Knopfler started out with only a note or two per measure and the suspense he built was tremendous. Since my cover band of COURSE does that song, I tried emulating that cadence and man, what a difference. It made the faster runs seem special. It truly put some contrast and depth into the solo.

    Now I find myself slowing down on other songs too, not playing more sparsely, but playing more thoughtfully. Sometimes it's for a buildup to faster stuff, but often just to give the notes some breathing room.

    Playing fast is great but it's like genetically engineering maneating dinosaurs on remote islands: Just because you can do it, doesn't always mean you should do it.
     
  9. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    IMHO 75% of guitarists' impulse to play fast is about achieving technical mastery of the guitar, or to show others that you have technical mastery of the guitar. Only about 15% of the time is the goal of playing fast to actually serve the music.

    What I like about slowing down:
    1) I can let my mind run the show instead of my fingers. This leads to a lot of goodies such as thematic development, solid resolutions, playing the changes, interesting rythmic articulation, call and response. When I am trying to play fast, my fingers take over and I don't get a chance to use these elements. Some guys can, I can't.

    2) Listeners appreciate slow phrases that they can process in real time.

    3) Just as loud is meaningless without quiet, fast is meaningless without slow. The blistering effect of fast passages is heightened when it contrasts with slower passages.

    There is a time and place to play fast. We practice speed so we can be ready for these moments. But most of the time, the most tasteful choice doesn't involve 32nd notes.
     
  10. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    Oooh ... haiku!


    :eek:

    I like that :) Next I can work on getting my heart to take over for my mind :D



    Thx for all the cool discussion :drink
     
  11. ivers

    ivers Member

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    What does serving the music mean? Music obviously serves humans, gives us joy, stirs our emotions. We're no slaves to this thing, it's our tool, and we can do whatever we want with it.

    It's all about hearing/processing quicker.

    Many listeners do, but individual listeners appreciate a bunch of highly different stuff.

    Meaningless to whom? Obviously some people derive meaning from it.

    The bourgoise notion of 'tastefullness' is what artists have struggled against for hundreds of years, so screw that.
     
  12. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    I've pretty much stopped using picks and one reason is that I find myself getting closer to playing melodically without the extra speed. I'm also starting to really put the time into playing slide, because again, it makes me slow down and pay attention to where I am since I don't have the luxury of muscle memory to do my solos for me. My phrasing still sorta sucks, but it's beginning to come together.

    We spend so much $$ on achieving The Tone, getting notes to bloom, to hear the subtle shades of hair and so on, but so often we don't let the notes sing. Kinda funny, actually.
     
  13. 57tele

    57tele Member

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    Posted this over on the kimock list, too. Here are Bob Brozman's thoughts, some of which relate to this thread:

    http://www.bobbrozman.com/tip_rhythm.html

     
  14. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    Sometimes those bent notes that ring out are the ones that give the biggest chills, not the fast passages.

    I wonder why the long notes have that emotional effect? Maybe its wired in our brains to respond that way because it sounds like a cry? Or is it just that its harder to process a flurry of sounds? It would be neat to see brain scans of someone listening to long slow notes versus fast passages and whether there is a different process happening at that level.

    (sorry, I'm a scientist)
     
  15. ivers

    ivers Member

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    Indeed, too little rhythm training, too much scale practice, but also too little good technical training, that also includes the technical aspects of rhythm playing.

    You need too reach a certain technical level to even be able to hang with samba rhythm playing, so no either-or here.

    Listen to the brazilian players, with fast singlenote skills up the ying yang, and at the same time rhythm playing that I personally find incredibly more interesting than... well, most music really
     
  16. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    John Lee Hooker once said to a young hot shot guitarist - "You play pretty good, now play half as many notes & you'll sound twice as good. Cut that in half again and you will be close to where you should be."
    (not an exact quote but that is the gist of it).
    Questions for self: Am I playing music, or showing off? Am I listening & responding to the other players/singers, or just throwing everything I know into each line out of habit?
     
  17. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    I am still thinking about this...

    In contrast to the emotion of slow notes, you just cant play slowly on tunes like Uncle Pen or Rocky Top... speed there is part of the emotional basis of the songs. But maybe that's not what Scott was talking about.
     
  18. guildchild

    guildchild Member

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    i think it's mostly that humans are primarily used to hearing melodies from a human voice (on a fundamental level). it's rare that vocalists can sing a really fast run and not get pitchy. if they can pull it off, it's juxtaposed against primarily longer (more melodic???) notes.

    this is a great thread/subject. i've been working on this too. one thing that has helped me is trying to incorporate some melody that people know into a solo. the head from 'my favorite things' is really great cause you can throw it in a major or minor section easily....it's just 3 (R, 5, 9)notes and people think you're a musical genious. oh, if they only knew how contrived i was!
     
  19. OOG

    OOG Member

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    where we all want to go
    some of us just don't know it yet;)
     
  20. SvenHock

    SvenHock Member

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    I've been doing this myself, trying to reel myself in and stay away from (for the most part) playing the faster stuff. Has made things pretty interesting. I have actually been listening instead of playing. Make sense?
     

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