Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - chip@chipmcdonald.com: 2021

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lead Guitar Tips from.. The Tech Lead?

 Hello, The Guitar Teacher here.

 

(...that's a contextually funny in joke, trust me)

 I believe there is some kinesthetic overlap between typing and guitar playing.  

 When you touch type you're using sublimated muscle memory to press something that represents an alphanumeric character. You don't think about the act of pressing the key, the key representing an alphanumeric character, the character being part of a "word", the word being something you have to consciously spell before your type it out, the word part of a sentence, sentence structure, paragraphs, composition.   

 You touch type (hopefully) from a stream of consciousness, controlling your thinking between the immediate future - your buffer memory, and a more "distant future" of your compositional sense, how what you're typing relates to your overall intent.  

  In my opinion, guitar playing should be this way.  You shouldn't be thinking "I need to put my finger "there" to make the note "D" sound".  "D is part of the D diatonic scale, which is part of a D major triad consisting of D, F# and A, and that's a subset of diatonic harmony," etc. etc. etc..  It should be a reflex if you really want to "speak" when improvising.  You don't speak to other people the way you would write a book, would you?  




In my opinion.  Most people appear to be deciding to consciously do high order math in order to justify their note choices.  That is what I would call an "approach" to process, but different from what I choose to do.  Instinctual choice I think is the point of improvising.  Constructing "sentences" and "paragraphs" from extemporaneous thought, versus pre-planning.  

 Back to typing:

  In the 90s I had my typing speed up over 100 words per minute.  Sometimes I could get it up to a 1:1 or faster speed at an "average speaking voice" tempo, but it's nowhere near that now.  The guy in this video - an ex-Google, ex-Facebook programmer, types at 170 wps - which is very fast, "guitar hero" speed.  I would attribute that to an alpha actinin-3 gene polymorphism (as I've referenced in prior posts), but it mostly down to some simple tips he references within his video.   

 Some of which applies to playing guitar.  Ergonomic positioning, keyboard switches, pitch.  The most important tip being: "don't go faster than you can type perfectly".  I've harped on that before; speed is easy if you're willing to practice something at an optimal tempo perfectly.  You can't do that and not get faster.  Speed is easy. It's very straightforward.

 But watch Techlead's video.  He has a very "technical guitar" approach to typing, that can be motivational I think to practicing guitar (choosing the proper gear, mechanical approach, competitive mindset, etc.), and his videos are "entertaining by an extremely dry wit" as well.

 



 


 




Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Mutagenic Influence of Streaming Services on Art Perception

  I use streaming services a lot.

 In guitar lessons I'm constantly referencing music on Spotify for students.  Inevitably I have to look up a song, and most times the following thing happens:

 Spotify chooses to pull up the LIVE version of a song.  Or an alternate version.

 If I tell a student "listen to this song this week" again - most of the time it's not the definitive version, but a live version, a remix, or an alternate take.  Something about their algorithm (and it seems YouTube music is similar, I don't know about Apple Music) makes it pick the least common choice.

 As I'm writing this I'm listening to the tracks on a "deluxe edition" of In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin, 7 tracks that are rough mixes - not the original versions found on the record that was originally released.

 



 They have parts that are slightly different or parts that are louder/softer.  It occurred to me a moment ago that for young people that are maybe checking out Led Zepplin for the first time, they're not hearing the optimal, "official" version presented to me when I was a child.  They're hearing a strange version.  They may not even listen to the "real "versions of these songs, much less the album experience in order.

 Curiously, a side effect of this "deluxe edition", or live bias is that it affects the classic bands more than others because they're the ones that have these extra tracks presented to the listener.  Which, don't get me wrong, I love - I'm listening to an alternate mix of my favorite Zeppelin song "Carouselambra" right now - BUT, I remember the first time I heard this album all the way through and thinking about how this song sat in the middle of a record with a lot of songs I didn't care for. Meaning, it told me "these guys have musical influences I don't care for, this percentage maybe", and also that there is a certain breadth and depth to an artist's muse.  

 I fully understood as a pre-teen musicians made music from influences, and the process is not a level, flat plane.  I'm not saying people should have to listen to what they don't want to, I'm just saying this is an aspect that is gone: you don't really know what Led Zeppelin is about just because you listened to "Stairway to Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love".  And even though you may not like the whole catalog (I don't - and I'd suggest I'm a huge Zeppelin fan) you understand what their CONTEXT is about.


CONTEXT is something that has been thrown away in modern communication.  It's deemed not necessary, inconsequential.  Slows you down, not needed.  Which is fallacious idiocy.

  So, there was a period when Napster took over and IPods were the defacto way people listened to music, and people at that time that considered themselves "fans of music" went to the trouble of seeking out these alternate mixes, or strange music, or niche music.  It wasn't super easy, they had to go online, search on Napster, wait.. maybe one day something would be there and not the next.  BUT - the most common, "accepted" versions for the most part (with some notable exceptions) would rise to the top.

 Not the live version of a Jimi Hendrix song from some oddball show, or an alternate mix.  I believe this is the fault of corporate influence putting newer releases ahead of the queue, thinking it will make sales of physical media happen.  A kid that thinks he likes Led Zeppelin searches for a Zeppelin song and takes the one at the top, and it's a crazy live version, or a mix without the vocal: "I don't like this" maybe he thinks, goes to something else.

 What a horrible experience.  The music industry has been upended so many different ways.  Napster/MP3 technology started it, but at least the people that should be music fans got a proper exposure to the right examples of what they were looking for, for the most part.   Chaos theory is all about initial conditions affecting an outcome; the initial conditions for being a music fan in the 21st century has been damped, if not completely wrecked.  


 


 

 



Monday, January 18, 2021

The Best Joe Walsh Guitar Clinic Isn't Actually a Clinic


 I stumbled upon this video a few weeks ago.  It's not a literal guitar clinic, but Joe speaking at Joint Base Lewis–McChord in Tacoma, Washington.   

 He's not addressing guitar players per se.  Initially, he's just talking about his father's military experience, and his efforts at helping vets.  But then he starts talking about guitar parts in his songs:
 




 The thing is, he details almost exactly things I go into in guitar lessons when the topic of "Joe Walsh" comes up, OR when the techniques he references comes up.  The use of the right hand percussively, pendulum strumming - and the notion that some of his licks "drives guitar players nuts".   
 
 It's interesting to know he knows what his trademark licks are, and that he understands why they're clever/brilliant.  And an interesting insight into an artist who superficially may seem on passing to be a bit of an addled persona, but in reality is very thoughtful and together.  

 There is also the element of what I think of as the "70's pop objective sensibility" on display here.  These licks are the result of a mentality that is gone now.  He wasn't thinking about how to play faster, how to play better, but how to play something interesting.  

 Which is a beautiful concept in the 21st century: something that is interesting, without requiring a simple extremism gimmick of "faster", "lower", "more brutal", "slower", "more complex", "choppier", etc..