Monday, July 7, 2008

What a weekend

I had a long weekend of playing guitar - 4 services between 2 churches and 10 songs to learn (all in keys I'd never played them in and a few songs I had never heard). It was super fun playing at both churches and I learned a lot. Here's what I'm left pondering:

1) The first church had horns (trumpet, trombone and sax) playing with us. I think someone told me that but I totally forgot. Needless to say, horns and lead guitar play basically the same parts and since they had arranged music and written it out, I was the one who had to make room. There was an acoustic and piano playing too, so I found my place in playing rhythm stuff half way up the neck and doing some arpeggiated stuff.

2) The second church had a tiny team, just drums, bass, me, and the leader on acoustic. Bass sang BVG so it was just the four of us. This church tends to rock out and usually has smaller teams but there's almost always keys and I notice when they're gone. It leaves that hole between the acoustic and the higher electric parts. The sustaining chords and vibrato of a B3 patch really fill in, so I made it a point to not leave that gap open. I played with more delay than usual to fill in the pad sound and played chords in a couple places I wouldn't have normally. We played "everything" by Tim Hughes and it was the song I was most worried about sounding empty. I put my DL4 on quarter-note lo res delays and my memory lane (analog) on eighth-notes in series so everything I played delayed on quarters but then those delays delayed on eighths as well. I played a simple eighth-note line and it ended up sounding huge. At one point I got to max the repeats on the DL4 and make a cool oscillation behind a quiet part of the song... I love doing that! I talked to my musically inclined housemate later and he said the music didn't have that usual "empty" spot with the keys missing. Mission accomplished!

3) I had to tackle some musical insecurities. I have this weird perfectionism with playing in front of people. Even if I just have friends over, I don't like playing (performing) anything I haven't practiced. I think this stems from my concert band days where mistakes were only ok when sight reading, the next rehearsal you were expected to have learned it right and by concert time it should be basically memorized and you should be concentrating on the nuances of dynamics and feel, not playing the right notes. When I play electric now, I basically have my parts memorized so I can concentrate on other things. During run-through (first and last time we'd play it before the first service) of "how great is our God" the worship leader says, "Mike, solo." Ok. I know how to solo, I know my scales, I've improves solos with my cover band that were several minutes long, but for some reason my musical perfectionism/insecurities piped up here. The solo was 16 bars - two times through the chorus - which is actually really long for that song. I think soloing in blues at a bar is different than soloing in the middle of a worship song, especially for how long this one was. I felt pressure to not just fill the time with notes but actually take the solo somewhere musically. I really, REALLY, wished I had known about it before right then so I could have come up with something good. I talked to the worship leader before the service and asked if I could cut it in half because I felt it would be easier to come up with something for 8 bars and I explained how I have my weird perfectionism. She basically said no. Haha. She and the bassist said they knew I could do it well and I just needed to do it. I hate trusting my creativity. It's never not come through for me, but it seems like voodoo and I wish I had more control of it. As the solo was approaching I made it a point to stay relaxed or I knew I'd screw it up. I had no plan until about 2 bars before when it hit me to play with the theme from the opening lead line - the one that's behind the first verse and chorus. We were in G so I did some variations on that theme down on the 3rd-7th frets for 8 bars, then slid up to the Em form on the 12th fret and built from there for 8 bars. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. In retrospect if I had spent time coming up with something at home I probably would have landed on the same thing. I need to just trust my creativity in the moment.

4) I think I need to start taking lessons again. I took guitar lessons when I was a kid for a couple years but since then I've learned on my own or from playing with friends and people who are better than me. A lot of my learning has been from necessity, as in I need to learn something for a song I'm playing. That's all fine and dandy but I know there's a lot to guitar that I haven't begun to explore. I think there's a mentality to lessons that they're just for beginners. When I was in concert bands from 5th grade to half way through college I took lessons the entire time. School required them but I also took private lessons most of that time and there was never a time when I was "too good" for lessons, even when I was quite accomplished. I'm not sure why I'm not currently taking guitar lessons. Probably because my parents aren't paying for them!! I think it's time to start again.

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