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What Is the Difference Between Just Playing Music and Feeling the Music That You’re Playing?

This past week I asked one of my best students to give me a question that he would like answered in my blog.

A) It helps me to know if there is anything we need to go over, so as to better help him, and

B) I get an opportunity to help anyone else with the same or similar issue. Not a bad pay off really.

We’ll call my student Jimmy (for anonymity).

So Jimmy wanted to know, “What is the difference between just playing the music and really feeling the music that you’re playing?

Now Jimmy is a bit of a freak! He is such a naturally gifted guitar player, with a tone and feel that is mature way beyond his years, and then last year he was given an opportunity to pick up an elective in music at his school that he could graduate in his senior year with, and possibly be accepted into a higher musical institution in the future

Jimmy was a bit nonplussed by the whole thing, because he just loves to experiment & play, but upon discussions between Jimmy, his dad, and myself, it was agreed that he would at least give it a go as it couldn’t hurt to be better informed about the concepts of music, after all he loves it so much.

Well, that’s when reality struck.

His school music teacher immediately bombarded him with all of the text books, concepts, theories and musical pieces, that he would have to catch up on, in order to graduate the entire 3 years previous that he had not been studying the education boards music course.

Every week in my class, Jimmy & I would go over the work he’d been doing or catching up on, and as we would both soon begin to realize, the teaching of music in this states school curriculum hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years or so & is not really much help to those people wanting to learn how to better express themselves through music. His teacher didn’t inspire him to be a great musician, and couldn’t care less as to whether he was getting it or enjoying it or not. Unfortunately, the musical curriculum is aimed chiefly at a constant regurgitation of concepts, sight reading, and about playing what’s on the page, but only if its from the Classical and Jazz world. Oh, and you better bow after your performances at the school recital, otherwise you will fail!!!!

Yes in 2013, Blues, Rock, improvising and any other genre of music aside from classical or jazz, are still very much frowned upon as forms of music that you wouldn’t teach your kids. What a shame considering that it has made up popular culture for more than 100 years now, with BLUES itself, being the precursor and the catalyst for Jazz and pretty much every other genre of music that we listen to & play today.

For Jimmy that is not what music is about, and so after a while he decided to forego that elective music class. For him, and a lot of people like him, including myself, music is about the expression of the soul from the inside out, not about what notes are necessarily written down on a page of manuscript that you must follow precisely or else.

For others, it can be the everything they require to satisfy themselves, and that’s great. However from an inclusive educational viewpoint, it seems rather narrow minded and elitist, that the education system seems to exclude all else but classical & jazz ( gee, that sounds a bit like religion to me), but like I said, that doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years.

Now I don’t necessarily want to put the cat among the pigeons here, I love classical music & jazz, in fact Nicolo Paganini, Mozart and Bach are my favourite classical composers, along with Miles Davis, and Alan Holdsworth in jazz or fusion, but I believe that if you love your music and the guitar, you will seek out the all of the information, concepts & theories that are applicable to you and your style.

Learning to read and write music has its purpose, and it’s something that i did for myself a lot later in my musical quest, and that is most likely why it is that I get music from a perspective within, rather than without.

In my classes there is a heavy emphasis on theory. Understanding musical notation, time, diatonic harmony, chord construction, the circle of fifths and the Modes, as well as Pitch Axis Theory are all modules that you will learn about, and knowing your fretboard is an absolute must if you want to learn how to fly around the neck. However, all of the theory you can handle or proficient sight reading skills, will NOT make you a better musician or guitarist. The creation of music, just doesn’t and will never appear on a page first, it must be conceived within!!

Try telling Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton,Stevie Ray Vaughan & Edward Van Halen (to name but a few) that their influence on music and generations of guitar players since is invalid, because they were not formally educated and can’t read or write music.

For instance did you know that Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’, was cut in one take, and that it’s really him just going nuts for the sheer fun of it. Eddie used to play it as part of his guitar solo in the early days at the clubs, and when producer Ted Templeman overheard Eddie playing it in the studio as a warm up, Ted decided that it was out of this world, and too good not to go onto Van Halen’s debut self titled album.

I especially try to create a balance in my classes by giving my students the opportunity to make as many mistakes as possible,whilst they are developing the theoretical concepts in their minds and at the same time discovering all about their inner musician, the musician that feels, and knows. And it’s understanding the inner musician in each of us that can sometimes take a while.

There! The secret is out kids, you have to make it up as you go, trust your own intuition, and make a heap of mistakes along the way!!!! Sounds like fun to me.

Now I can imagine some of you out there reading this are in shock, or going bat shit crazy right now. But its true!

Mozart didn’t play what was on the page first, he channeled the music first, having an inspirational, and most likely a weirded out moment as he played, and only then, after he started to really get amused, or moved by his own rapturous melody, would he write it down. He would of course refer to the concepts of music in order to create structured movement and harmony, but the spark of inspiration itself, is something you can’t learn, you ALLOW, in fact you FEEL it!

Ask any architect from around the world to give you the formula for enabling a building to stand up and not fall over, and they will all happily draw from the same formula. Ask them what sets one building apart from another and they’ll tell you that its the artistic sense of the individual architect.

Mozart I’m sure would be the first to tell you that it comes from inside, deep inside, and that most times we are not completely in control of what comes out. We are just like conduits for the music of the universe to find its way through us, and transcend its formless world into three dimensional time & space. Heck, if it wasn’t for Thomas Edison, we wouldn’t even be able to capture the music sonically in the first place. Nor would there be multi track recording if it weren’t for Les Paul. Hundreds of years ago various music notation systems were devised, and tablature in case you didn’t know preceded the current form of musical notation. But the notation itself was deliberately intended, whereby the music created by one could be scored for many and invariably for an orchestra to play, so as to share the music with many.

So when someone teaches you every part of all the songs & licks that you know, or you eyes are glazed over because you have watched that instructional YouTube video for too long, then ask yourself when was the last time I played or wrote something that I created. And if the answer is I never have, or it was some time ago, then you are probably like most guitar students these days, caught up in letting everybody else tell you what is right and what is wrong, and thus most likely struggling to let go and feel the music that lives inside each of us. Just regurgitating what someone else has told you is truth, and not questioning or exploring for yourself, is missing half the point of music, which is to bring joy to you first and foremost, and then to anyone else who cares to listen.

From a teachers stand point, I believe you have to balance the education of music, the technique according to the instrument, and the art itself.

There of course must be the theorized section where you do learn about structure, harmony & movement, but there must also be equal time spent on nurturing the creative faculties that great musicians always seem to possess, thus improvising and writing your own music is also a must.

Imagine if you were an artistic painter, and you copied everyone else’s work, never painting something that came from within, but only what some else has delivered previously, would you consider yourself a great artist, or merely a technician?

I have taught many students over the years that, in one magical moment, can come to a complete understanding of what playing with feeling is all about, and the effortlessness that typifies this state is evident right there in front of me & them. Everything changes in a heartbeat, their demeanour, approach, sound, and song craft all change in that moment, and they literally become the music.

No theory or notation is required, they couldn’t care less about which note goes where because what they are playing is absolutely perfect. The music courses through their veins, out of their fingers, onto the guitar and finally out for the whole world to hear their unique and beautiful expression. That’s what playing with feeling is about. Playing the music off a page, well, that is more like watching paint dry!

I believe that learning about theory and how play other peoples music is invaluable, but I also think a student should spend time be working out the music they wish to play for themselves, by ear, and as part of their lessons, having their guitar teacher give guidance where required, along with valuable help regarding certain techniques and harmonic approaches used! Unfortunately in today’s take-out world, the consumer requires an instant answer to their problems. Many teachers I know, just spoon feed their students song after song, note by note, bar by bar. Sure, the student gets to learn the song ( by rote learning), but never actually gets it to a point where in the moment they are playing the song actually feel like they own it.

It seems that teaching the guitar these days is more about competing with YouTube, or your subscription based online guitar lesson websites, where you are completely spoilt for choice in the number of guitar teachers you can have and even on the one site. All Competing for your business and definitely giving differing & conflicting viewpoints on many of the same topics.

So in summary, playing with feeling is the discovery of the emotional self, without the fear of expression. Playing notes off the page can be a little like reading a book, a boring book, or hiding behind the notes you play, therefore never having to bear your soul.

This weeks exercise, is an exercise we oldies used to do before the net and YouTube. It’s an exercise in feeling what you’re playing. Close the book, open your inner ear and begin to discover what your emotional states can bring to your playing.

Pick an emotion, a state of mind, happy, sad, angry, blue etc. Pick, pluck, bend, slide, vibrate the notes, and create the chords & a melody that best represent the chosen emotion. Mentally take notes on what Modes, chords, and textures you choose to borrow from in illustrating the emotion you feel, or are wanting to express. Then write the chords/melody down in any form you like and anything else that will help you to recall at a later point. Then use technology the way its meant to be used, & record it!

Till next time,

Peace & Love


iPod Video Downloads – Read This Before You Download iPod Video

iPod video downloads are now hot favorites among iPod users. Everyday, millions of video downloads are transferred to PCs and synced with iPods. Video iPod or iPod video is the name folks give to the new generation iPod which is equipped with video viewing capabilities. It is this technology; coupled with the vast availability of iPod video downloads that pushed up the popularity of iPod videos as the most downloaded form of media.

There are many online music and video stores to download videos for your iPod. The most famous is definitely iTunes. You get to download movies, TV shows and music at a standard charge per download. If you have missed an episode of your favorite TV show on national television, just go there and download that particular episode at $1.99. It is that convenient as the iPod video downloads are available the very next day it is screened. You also do not have to worry about having to buy the whole season.

If you are looking for free iPod video downloads that are legal, you can try some of the following sites. They are mainly collection of entertaining videos uploaded by people like you and me or aspiring film producers and public domain videos. Sometimes you will be amused by the kind of iPod video downloads that exist on this planet.

OVGuide: guide to online movies.

Watch Free Movies Online: If you are a fan of classic movies, you would love the free video downloads.

Singingfish: This is a video search engine that archives many movies, movie clips and videos. Check out the hot favorites section.

SearchforVideo: Another video search engine where you will be able to find tons of iPod video downloads. You will also find a range of video clips under different categories like news, movies, music, celebrities, health, TV channels, etc.

The Open Video Project: This is site with a huge collection of digital video for sharing.

Vmix: One interesting and wacky site where you will find tons of entertaining and funny videos submitted by amateurs and professionals alike.

No matter where you download, there is something you need to know. Most video files are not exactly iPod video files but rather AVI, RM, DivX, WMV, ASF and VOB video files. In these instances you would need to convert them into MPEG 4 or H.264 video format in order for your iPod to play them. There are many converters in the market, some paid while others free. Type in “free iPod video converters” in the search engines and you should be able to find a few good free video to iPod converters.

Read more about iPod video downloads and which are the most popular sites video lovers are using to download high quality video for their iPod at prices even school-going teens can afford.

The content of this article is provided for the purpose of education and illustration only and is in no way associated with Apple, iTune, or any company or subsidiary of Apple. This article may be freely reprinted or distributed in its entirety in any ezine, newsletter, blog or website. The author’s name, bio and website links must remain intact and be included with every reproduction.

Educational Computing For The Humanities

True, the effective use of computer systems to entertainment applications has taken the computer from the high, dignified as well as ethereal regions of the halls of information to the much less cerebral haunts of video game arcades and teen bedrooms across the world; nevertheless, the computer is considered by most as a tool that, when put to serious use, will serve mathematics as well as science best, not the humanities.

This kind of outlook is somewhat elitist, as if serving these far more abstract regions were in some way of greater value to humankind then service to the humanities, the non-technical expression of the rest of mankind’s nature. In reality, academic computing has proven to be an outstanding tool in service to the academic study of the human heart, mind, as well as creative imagination conveyed through the arts and literature of people. The laptop or computer is here to stay in the verdant fields of the humanities.

Just how, you may well ask, can a computer system help me during my study of art, sculpture, architecture as expression, literary works, music? How could a machine which boasts its cpu, its mathematical as well as logic unit, its fast executions of rational and mathematical computer operating instructions, how can a really cold as well as objective tool quite possibly assist me, under the facet of academic computing, to appreciate the Hebrew comments of Lord Byron, the ‘One’ of Walt Whitman, the sublimity of Fra Angelico or the obsession of Wagner? Will it inform me where the loving strains of Beethoven emerge in one of his symphonies? Would it inform me when I should be experiencing the ecstasy in a Vivaldi? Sure, we may use it’s mathematical capability to derive a ‘golden mean’ or determine the special requirements for balance as well as proportion for a particular painting, but isn’t this pretty weak stuff when seeking the knowledge of the human spirit?

Let’s not ask the computer to perform greater than it had been meant to do. By scholastic computing, as we stated in this article, we mean the use of portable computers in the solution of educational issues. The humanities, no matter what its expression, whether painting, sculpture, music, or literary works, is primarily based in a material stream, in light, sound, in written expression, in signs and symbols. It is exactly this, signs as well as symbols, sounds as well as pictures, which the computer could deliver to the student of humanities. Humanities tries to express, and for that reason, to educate. The computer is a preeminent data device, giving not just text message, but photos, audio, music, movies, each of the sensations but those of touch as well as smell. It isn’t a completely satisfactory platform for all the arts. Sculptures define space, and, unless you are obtaining a virtual three-D image, you are unable to experience a sculpture in its immediate impact on the sense when dangling there in your three-dimensional vision. Alright, yet if that is all, that’s still not too bad.

Scholastic computing as well as the humanities have become forever married in our universities and colleges. A humanist, a professional photographer, artist, musician, would flourish to learn exactly how to use computers to understand the lovely as well as pleasing, the serious as well as the humorous, the soul as well as spirit of man. It’s a requirement in the present academic setting.