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Improve Your Skills > Musicianship > Playing With Feeling

Playing With Feeling

Hi Jamie, 

I have a problem Jamie. I can play the guitar well, meaning that i can play rhythm and lead I can play fast and good technically-but my problem is that...I AM VERY POOR AT PHRASING. I mean i really stink at making melodies that have a vocals like quality.v

I am very big fan of Joe Satriani and I want to create some beautiful melodies like him. It always sounds like I am trying too hard or overplaying. I know music theory and how to solo over chords, but rarely have I stumbled upon soulful melodies. I just feel so frustrated!!! Will I turn out to be one of those obscure guitarists who wank-a-lot but don’t have soul?????

Can You PLEASE Help ME???


Hello Fahim,

Oh I see, you want to know how to be a musical genius! That’s an easy one!

I think that you are just going through a normal stage of development, comprised of some self doubt and in-experience. These are are natural and unavoidable conditions that, by definition, go with being in the early stages of development as a guitarist.

Your dissatisfaction is your best quality right now. If you were satisfied with playing mediocre leads, that would be a problem. Then, you would stay where you are. So, it is good that you are dissatisfied, and that you can tell the difference between good musical ideas and not so good. One of the biggest secrets to success in anything is to realize that, in this life, you get what you settle for. The people who achieve greatness are the people who simply will not settle for anything less.

And this is where I suggest you begin in your quest to improve the musical power of your lead playing. Be careful of what you settle for, be careful of what you allow to come out of your fingers when you play. Ask yourself-”do I play notes that I don’t really feel? Am I just moving my fingers around in various patterns without having a feeling about what I want to play”? These are very important questions. Just like many people speak without actually having anything to say, and just like to hear themselves talking or get people’s attention, many guitarists play without having anything to say.

If you are playing and you don’t have a feeling about what you are playing, then stop playing! Do not allow yourself to play things that you do not have a feeling about. Just stop playing if that is the case. Wait for the appearance of notes you have a feeling about, and begin with that, and then follow that. It could be two notes, it could be one note that makes your feeling begin to flow. Can you feel the power of one note when you play? Carlos Santana has said “it’s no good unless I cry”. Like Carlos, we must find our way to our feeling when we play-- then we will find our way to the notes.

The ability to put yourself in a state where your feelings are flowing as you play is the most important ability you can have as a player, not how fast you play scales. And for many people, it may be that doing the former is much more difficult than the latter. Any idiot who knows the basics of how to practice from a technical standpoint can sit down for a couple of hours every day, and in a few years be quite a shredder. But only a true artist can make music come out of their fingers, and only true artists care enough to keep digging deeply in the inner mine of their being to find that core of feeling which makes them who they are, and bring that out into the light for all to see and hear. Lesser players are happy enough if they can just make a good show of things, play fast and impressive and all that, and not be feeling the deep satisfaction that only comes with the expression of real feeling.

Can you feel? Obviously, you have a lot of feeling for Satriani and your other heroes. So, look to create that same feeling for yourself from your own playing. Ask for it. Say to yourself, “ I want some intense music from within myself that I love as much as I love the music of the great players”. Ask for it, don’t just sit and worry about how you don’t have it. That is called “focusing on the problem instead of the solution”. It is amazing what you get when you know how to ask for it. Make sure you are constantly learning to play the music of your heroes. Absorb the power of their music through your mind and fingers, and realize that is what they have done as well.
Also, you have to know how to do the special kind of “inner listening” that is necessary to hear the music that can come from within yourself. It is easy to miss it. One of the best ways to miss it is to have the feeling that you can’t really do it. If that feeling is present (hidden or not), then you won’t hear your music. Trust yourself and believe in yourself, and you will start to hear music you have a feeling about.

You know, it is very interesting, we are talking about feeling in music, but many people walk around with very little feeling about all the other things in life as well, other people, the sky, trees, what is going on in the world. And I am talking about the “take you outside of yourself” kinds of feeling. Everyone is good at feeling their “keep you inside yourself” kinds of feelings, their anger, self pity, resentments, and so forth. We need to practice the kinds of feelings that exalt our spirit, that bring us out of ourselves and into the greater reality around us. That is what music is, and that is what inspiration is.

So, I would recommend you ask yourself this question as well, “how deeply do I feel the awesome wonderfulness of life itself as I go through my day”? How powerfully do I let the inherent power of left move through me in every moment. Practice intensiy in all the moments of your life, and you will be much more likely to have that same intensity during the best moments of all - the moments when you are playing the guitar!

Jamie Andreas

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