Saturday, 24 March 2012

On Music

One of the things I find with writing is that I’m often as likely to have read things on the theory of writing music and song craft as I am on writing. That’s simply because I’ve been playing music far longer than I’ve been writing, and I did my phase of wanting people to tell me how to do it on the guitar, not on the page. There are loads of lessons from that I might go into later, but here are a few general ones. Apply them to your writing however you wish:

1. The importance of the hard to measure aspects. With the guitar, speed is measurable. You can say that you can play an exercise at x beats per minute, and if it’s faster than last week, it feels like progress. Yet focussing too much on that can lead to a loss of focus on the quality of each note, with things like phrasing, timing and tone taking a back seat.
2. Voice is key. There are guitarists who are identifiable almost instantly, whether you love them or loath them. From Eddie Van Halen to BB King to Michael Schenker, they all sound like themselves and no one else. The way to get a voice is to think about the things you like, not the things you think you ought to.
3. The sound in your head takes precedence. Otherwise known as ‘if it sounds right, it is right’. I spent so long learning scale shapes, and they’re useful, but not as useful as scale sounds, or the ear training to transfer what I hear in my brain onto the fret board.
4. No one can tell you the next note. All the theory in the world is great, but none of it tells you, here and now, which note to play next. And it never will. That’s down to you.

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