Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - November 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mainlining Music

 I like music. A lot.

 As a kid I used to make cassettes of a part of the same song looped over and over, just because I loved hearing it that much.

 I continued to do that as a guitar player.  Unlike drugs, there are no detrimental side effects.  Except one.

  Boredom is brain chemistry telling you "you've sucked the good out of this, time to move on".  It's part of the learning process if you can recognize it as boredom of something that was previously stimulating.  It doesn't mean it will always be boring, you'll likely return with a new mindset at a later time - but a more educated one.

 On paper if presented with the following criteria as something I'd find fascinating and visceral, I would bet against it:

 Wind chimes on intro(this alone would make me put my money elsewhere)
 Initial theme based on b5.
 Repetitive 16th note arpeggio throughout.
 Keyboard sampled string sound.
 Simple 2 bar block-chord structure.
 Additional Roland synth string sound.

 I'll leave it to the reader to discern what that was. When I first started writing this post I had been listening to it looped for over half an hour.  Just that first 1 minute 23 seconds.

 What do I gain from this? Aside from the pleasure of just listening to something I like, there are things that are not readily apparent. Mostly in the careful arrangement that has just enough subtle detail to keep it from merely being "just" the formula I outline above.  While it's essentially what I outlined, the beauty of it is in the nature of the dynamics, and the slight variations.  It could easily be banal, but it's not.  That in itself is a big trick.  The balance, the ratio of the sublime to the obvious, basic premise.

 What is really happening is a feedback reward loop is created

 I like that bit of music; I listen to it repeatedly for the above aspects.  By doing it over and over there is an almost Pavlovian response in that if I head some that might be similar to the above formula, *I want the same detail/ratio/subtlety present to get the same reward satisfaction*.  It's training to impart these aspects on what you do.  It's positive reinforcement of predilection.

I've done this all of my life, even before I played guitar.  It was easier in a sense as a kid.  Records were expensive, and you were careful with what you bought.  You really liked what you bought, and you listened to it a lot.  You didn't jump about like you can today with Google Music or Spotify.

 5th grade was "Out of the Blue" by ELO.  8th grade was _The Wall_ by Pink Floyd.  Every day.  Had it ringing through my head at school.  At different years in my life I've "mainlined" Jeff Buckley's _Grace_.  Or a John Coltrane Live in Europe bootleg.  2014 was Bach's Well Tempered Clavier played by Glen Gould (first version, book 1).

 I remember when I first started doing this.  I was 4 years old (?) when the Carpenter's "A Song for You" came out. My parents took me to Sky City department store on Wrightsboro road, they had just put up the poster for it since the week before. "A Song for You" was in rotation on the radio.  I would sit in front of my parent's stereo and listen to that 8 track over and over and over until they told me I couldn't anymore.  Later I had no problem in piano lessons at 5 playing "Close to You" by ear because I'd already listened to it a million times. 

 Cassettes were great because they allowed me to loop just the songs I wanted to hear.  Over and over.  Later just sections of a song as I learned guitar.  Then just small snippets of songs.

 I've played to loops of just a part of a guitar solo, or vocal lines. Sucking the marrow from the music.  Just recently I've probably played a section of a run from an Al DiMeola song maybe... a few hundred times, because I want to absorb the curve of his accellerando/decellerando in the run.  I don't like Latin music enough to listen to it enough to absorb that one aspect, but by doing this I get to concentrate *what I like about it*. 

 This is effectively musical gluttony.  I am guilty.  I am a product of doing this!  I think the beauty of this, and why everyone should do it - is that what I create musically is the result of *exactly what I like*. Which is going to be a specifically unique array of things relative to other people!

 In my opinion this is what being a human is about.  Being a unique creature is something not afforded to apes or dolphins.  You shouldn't squander your attention to music, after all it is you.