Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - December 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How To Waste Your Existence

I recently saw a post on a Popular Internet Forum where a guy is apparently seemingly obsessed with reproducing one of Steve Vai's recorded guitar sounds.

 The guy has gone about things pretty intently.  I have done such things, to an even more fabulously OCD extreme, but with many other Sounds I Think are Significant. 

 One difference to this guy is that he is simultaneously trying to emulate the following:

  •  Steve Vai's playing;
  •  Steve Vai's sound coming out of his amp;
  •  Steve Vai's studio/recorded sound.
  He has some very subtle timing differences with the playing aspect.  Subtle, but huge in the sense that it is what makes Vai "Vai".  Huge also in that it is an order of magnitude greater in rhythmic scale of awareness to accomplish. 

 Also huge is a subtle differentiation on timing onset for vibrato, phrasing and finger pressure tonal effects. 

 Those two things alone are something worth chasing, and then trying to discard once made habitual.  The problem is, he's diluting his effort by also trying to get the technical side of his sound going at the same time.
This is effectively what I'd classify as "Reverse Engineering Speculative Sonic Anthropology".  Something I'll save for another blog post, but suffice to say another worthy pursuit IF one prizes the audio engineering aspect enough. 

 It is impossible to perfectly replicate all of the variables.  I've tried.  I'm insane enough to do null tests if the reader knows what that means.  A complete waste of time.  Very sonically educational; but a waste of time.

 In this case I think it's a classic examining the bark on the tree instead of seeing the forest.  Which I'm a complete expert of, and have suffered greatly because of the OCD tendency towards this.  I wish I could go back in time and make myself read "this", but I can't.  Instead I can say with a Yul Brenner Retro Westworld glean, "don't do what I did".

 It's educational, but not necessarily practical.  Seldom are audio engineers jacks of all trades, they tend to specialize in their thing and that's it.  You like it or you don't.  The Lesson of YouTube isn't to suck down all of the raw data, but to see that There Are Things That Exceed Human Capacity.  Know that and don't waste time on it.  This is a lesson I have only learned in the past few years; trying to work on this principle is a chore now because of it.  When in reality it should be the easiest!

 Easiest because chances are, you automatically have a sense of taste and predilections.  You should ramp those up in the hope of having a unique hybrid, discard the rest, and not worry about it.  Very much easier said than done for me, but probably a lot easier for the reader. 

 I've had times where a student has professed a love for a certain niche in music.  My suggestion is to go OCD on that, and hope it evolves and mutates into something unique.  The value of that is immeasurable; that is what being a human is all about.  

 I've gone to the End of the Road many times and then kept going into the field until I found Another Road.  I should have just hung out there and see if anything else came down the road. That is my advice to this guy.  My advice to the guitar student reading this is to GO DOWN A ROAD.  This is something missing in today's society for various reasons.  Motivation to PURSUE something intriguing.  Not to discard the intrigue.  Maybe the most important thing in playing music!