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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Theres more to guitar than rock...

I’m a musician. Music has been a big part of my life since my parents sat me down, 7 or 8 years old, in front of our Sony stack system, put Thriller on the deck and taped a massive set of cans to my ears. That, I think when I look back, is when music became more than something to listen to, but something that I wanted to be a part of.
To this day I still rummage through my parents record collection (or rather, when my dad lets me near it). My Dads love for rock, with the LP’s you’d expect from someone who found music through Radio Caroline (“If I liked the single, I just brought the album”) and the like back in the day. Led Zep (and their various solo guises), Deep Purple, ELO, ELP, the odd curve ball like Sledgehammer and hundreds more.

This element of rock in my life in no doubt played a part in why I wanted to learn to play guitar, and I’m sure its what inspired me to start playing.

But, I started playing guitar….10 years ago now. Im a very different player from the rock/metal/post-hardcore guitarist I started out as. And I think I’ve worked out why. My mum.

As explained, one half of my parental unit is a rock man. I still throw him new rock records for his van when I get them, in some attempt to pay thanks for his doing the same thing. Mama Crook, however, is a disco girl. She still likes rock, but you look through her side of the boxes of records, it’s a different story. ABBA, Discotecs & The Sexolets, Wild Cherry, Bee Gees and the like. The stack of disco/funk/soul-esque CD compilations that accompany us on car journeys is testament to that. Jamiroquai is another one that gets a lot of plays in the living room.

The last few years I’ve started to get involved in learning jazz and funk style guitar. Initially, it was unintentional. A 4 year or so blues binge following a 4 year rock/metal starter course makes your playing get a little…mechanical at times. Guitarists will know all about the joys of being trapped in the pentatonic scale. All those years of listening to my mums CD’s and records was starting to take effect. Wild Cherry licks were happening without my realising. Chord stabs were moving away from standard power chords with more interesting 7th, 9th and other odd inversions I was messing around with. My rhythm playing was evolving massively.

Its amazing how you can be influenced without realizing. All these records I heard as a kid and beyond were starting to wiggle their way into my style without my knowledge.

I still play in a rock/metal/prog band, so this change in my playing style was pretty obvious.
Mostly, modern rock and metal needs to be pretty precise, specially with the more tech-heavy genres. Your playing can become very tight and targeted with rock, which is great, its where that attack and pace comes from. Only problem there is that, especially in my opinion with young players, it can stunt exploration a little. Working in a guitar shop is a pretty good example of this. I’ve come across more kids that can shred like the best of them, technically sound and can play me 5 modes of a harmonic minor, but can’t play a 12 bar blues. I shit you not. I’ve taught more of them the all hallowed I, IV, V pattern than I can remember. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could play some of the licks and patterns these guys do, its an area of my guitar playing im constantly trying to improve, but jeez…it’s a 12 bar. Which brings me to my point below, and the one after that.

But when you listen to stuff like Wild Cherry, Jamiroquai and funky people, the guitar playing is a lot…wider. Its not messy, and it still has that precision for the right timed lick and string rake, but it gives you a lot more freedom to go off the beat a little, shake up the rhythm with some triplets or a more interesting strum pattern.

So, what im trying to say, in a long and round about way is:
1.     Raid your parents record collections. You are guaranteed to find some gems that will change how you feel about genres. Things were a lot simpler back then.

2.     Listen to as many styles as you can, as often as you can. Now, obviously, if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it, its simple. But(!), you might not, like me, enjoy all of Dillinger Escape Plans music, but love Protest The Hero. Same band, different name. I shit ye nae. I know it too, but for some reason I cant get on with it. So I guess im trying to say, for every band you don’t like, there are probably 2 others doing more or less the same thing that you will like. Ears and brains are weird man.

3.     Don’t be afraid to be influenced. I naturally play with a bit of a loose rhythmic style, injected with moments of technical accuracy when needed. I used to suppress it, playing a very standard rock style, but I found that my natural style of playing brings something unique when the lead/other guitarist is on it with his playing.

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