Friday, July 31, 2009

Advice to guitarists from Richard Thompson

The Q&A from Squid Ink favourite Richard Thompson's website has appeared on this blog before. Since Squid Ink only wants you to improve, we share him sharing his advice on how to play a guitar solo.

Richard: I am a guitar player who wonders how you keep your solos so fresh and new? I seem to hear myself playing the same runs in some shape or form despite efforts to break new ground — I have been playing awhile, am considered by peers to be not too shabby, but can't get free of my entrenched soloing habits. I particularly admire your complete freedom from the pentatonic cage and unique timing and phrasing. Any thoughts about how one can work on expanding and improving note selection and phrasing without woodenly forcing “new notes” into solos? Thanks

Charlie Parker never repeated himself, but everybody else does, to some extent. I comfort myself with the thought that those clichés are really “signature licks”. But we all must try to expand the envelope, so here's some thoughts:

It's all about scales, so practice weird ones — minor 7 flat 5, 13th scales, 11th scales, whole tone scales. Try double octave scales.

Change the emphasis when you play a scale — push the off beats, put the notes into groups of 3 or 5 or 7 or 10.

Put your guitar into a bizarre tuning, and then play a familiar fingering. Write down any interesting sequences, and try to play them in regular tuning.

Try to sing a solo instead of playing it. Try to sing along with a solo as you play it.

It's all about the heart, so at some point, if you've done your homework, empty your mind of everything, and let your heart, not your brain, play a solo. Your fingers will know where to go.

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Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

This guy asked me the same question and I said pretty much the same thing as Thommo. I feel sorry for people trapped in their pentatonic cage.

3/8/09 07:44  
Blogger Dan said...

I have crunched the numbers through my phraseology recognition matrix and the chances that UT is the anonymous questioner bugging thommo are 72.6 per cent.

I have not even made it close enough to the bars of the pentatonic cage to desperately rattle my tin mug along them, let alone to wonder what is on the other side.

"minor 7 flat 5, 13th scales, 11th scales" this sounds a bit like the whole "music" sde of being in a band and that -- for some of us -- is the wholly confusing bit.

3/8/09 10:05  
Blogger Paddy said...

Such a simple idea but I had not thought of making a simple exercise out of the positions on the neck for playing a C scale.

Time for me to pull out the guitar and get practising. My guitar playing has been utter pants for years now.

3/8/09 10:48  
Blogger Dan said...

is the pentatonic cage the maximum security wing of the guitar gulag?

3/8/09 10:50  
Blogger Dan said...

BTW, 3 down in today's cryptic = "The duet I'm involved in causes boredom."

which is a nice music related clue deserving of a mention on this blog.

3/8/09 16:20  
Blogger Paddy said...

It is not only the clue that seems blog-related. Nice spot there, Dan.

3/8/09 16:43  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

Alright...being famously crap at both chess and cryptic crosswords (both these trouble me as they are generally signifiers of being a smart dude...and otherwise I think I am ok...) it that 'The duet I'm' is the clue and it is somewhere in the words 'causes boredom'?

3/8/09 20:40  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

A text message from Paddy has reversed my understanding and I now see quite clearly that I am the hero of this lovely.

4/8/09 11:37  

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