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  #1  
Old 06-03-2018, 07:04 AM
Rocky Dijohn Rocky Dijohn is offline
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Default How to Play with Expression/Feeling

Can this even be taught? I taped myself years ago attempting to play some celtic O'Carolan arrangements by El McMeen and I quit playing in disgust at how mechanical and rote I sounded. I am coming off a long layoff and wondering how to get to a better level. I have never worked with a metronome either so advice on that is welcome.
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Old 06-03-2018, 07:19 AM
Moocheng Moocheng is offline
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this is a tough one to help out on....

it might be something that transcends note to note analysis and gets more into the whole feel of the piece. In otherwords closing your mind to every distraction or outside thought other than the music itself.

Its interesting how sometimes some of the nicest most musical playing happens when " I really don't care" and have made absolutely no attempt to "get it right"

the human mind is a complicated thing
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Old 06-03-2018, 07:21 AM
rmoretti49 rmoretti49 is offline
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I think the song has to be pretty much technically mastered, to the point where you don't have to think about it. Only then can you allow yourself to make the small, on-the-fly alterations that are responses to what you are feeling internally.

Maybe this is obvious.
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Old 06-03-2018, 07:31 AM
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guitargabor guitargabor is offline
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First and foremost, the song should be one that you really enjoy.Personal arrangements also help one to make it adapt to your own style of playing.
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Old 06-03-2018, 07:33 AM
Big Band Guitar Big Band Guitar is offline
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This is going to sound a little weird.

Become one with your instrument.

Don't just play your instrument, make love to it or with it..

Learn the song to the point where you don't have to think about it. Block out all other distractions.

Most of all DYNAMICS, loud where it feels like it should be loud and soft where it feels like it should be soft.

Avoid tempo changes unless they are within a measure or two and come back to where they should be.

As always start slow.
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Old 06-03-2018, 08:15 AM
westman westman is offline
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timely Rocky, just talking bout this this morning with a younger relative re - musicality.
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Old 06-03-2018, 08:35 AM
Wyllys Wyllys is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitargabor View Post
First and foremost, the song should be one that you really enjoy. Personal arrangements also help one to make it adapt to your own style of playing.
This...a thousand times!

You can start with someone elses ideas, but you have to make it yours in some fashion. You're trying to express your own self.
There are simple things you can do to "break the mold" like playing it ultra slow or rubato, trying some syncopation or rhythm variations, transposing to a different key/tuning, capo it high...you name it. Even quoting other tunes or reiterating phrases to see what doors open for you.

You can also "triangulate" the tune by listening to as many different versions as possible. Isn't that what YouTube and Spotify are for?
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Last edited by Wyllys; 06-03-2018 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 06-03-2018, 08:53 AM
Neil K Walk Neil K Walk is offline
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Omg fellow guitarist in our church praise band is a retired nuclear engineer who worked for a firm with a DoD contract so procedure was hard wired into his cerebellum. For the past ten years I’ve struggled to get him to “feel” the music but if anything he’s made me a better player by making me explain what I’m doing when I screw him up when he’s watching my hands and trying to nail down my “strumming pattern.”

I tell him simply that because we have no drummer or bass player I have to carry the bass line and add the percussion. I’ve tried explaining “strong” and “weak” beats and concepts like dynamics and syncopation but that’s a bit abstract. To try and illustrate I tell him when learning a song listen to the drums and bass in order to get a feel for tempo and how hard to hit the strings. I also explained to him that hitting the strings a little harder on the first and to a lesser extent on the third beats sort of compared to the bass and snare beats if we had a drummer. Also I tell him that strumming just the higher strings in the remaining spaces (8th notes mostly) would serve as sort of a percussive analogy to the cymbals or a tambourine.

Hopefully those analogies shed a little light on the concept of dynamics for you as well.
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Old 06-03-2018, 09:22 AM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Another thing you may wish to try is moving: move your body as you play the music. Engaging with a piece in a physical sense will bring out the musicality of the lines. It's weird, but it works. My orchestra conductor is constantly telling our wind players to do this (they have a lot of soli so it's particularly important for them). Or watch a violinist play a concerto and look at what they do.

For expressive physicality, I particularly like Frank Huang, the NYPhil's concertmaster:





Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Band Guitar View Post
Avoid tempo changes unless they are within a measure or two and come back to where they should be.
Disciplined tempo is essential, but subtle retards at the end of phrases for a measure or two will allow you to add your own interpretation to a piece and enhance the feeling behind it. If you always play at tempo, you will sound like a robot. The key is to have such a command of tempo that you can stretch out or speed up moments at will. Intentional, controlled will.

Last edited by Erithon; 06-03-2018 at 09:27 AM.
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Old 06-03-2018, 09:26 AM
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As already said, know the piece of music well so you can use your thoughts on expression rather than on just finding the right notes. Think in musical phrases
and the goal you want to achieve for each phrase, and perhaps the piece over all.


El McMeen usually is a fairly straight forward player volume and tempo wise. He does play cleanly, accurately, does control volume on individual strings (usually
to bring out the melody line over harmony but also sometimes a particular non melody bass line). He does bring out phrases with micro tempo changes on
individual notes (not changing the meter overall).


For example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyZS...st=PL2hj-xumEw

At the end of a phrase note a slight play of note time values (overall tempo stays the same) at 0:11 and 0:49. Helps to give a feeling of closer of the particular phrase.


At 1:10 note the volume increase and shorted chord time values to give and extra punch at that point in the tune.


At 2:28 a bit of emphasis on the bass line.


For example of greater use of tempo variation for phrasing you might listen to this piece of mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC2gmf8kP4c


How much you do of what does depends on the style of music and the particular piece.
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Old 06-03-2018, 09:27 AM
Nymuso Nymuso is offline
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Vary things. Subtly. Make small adjustments as you play in tempo and volume, vary the intensity of your attack. Change the time signature for one measure to accentuate it, you see this in jazz a lot. Above all, don't attempt to be a method actor. Don't believe that you have to feel sadness to express sadness; the emotion should be in your playing not inside you.
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Old 06-03-2018, 09:59 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocky Dijohn View Post
Can this even be taught? I taped myself years ago attempting to play some celtic O'Carolan arrangements by El McMeen and I quit playing in disgust at how mechanical and rote I sounded. I am coming off a long layoff and wondering how to get to a better level. I have never worked with a metronome either so advice on that is welcome.
Metronomes are for honing your time-keeping. If you suspect your time-keeping is shaky (get ahead of the beat sometimes?) it's good to do some work with one.
Start easy: set it at a tempo where you can follow the click with no trouble, regardless of how fancy the piece is.
When you have no trouble "sitting on" the click, start to make it harder, but slowing it down, or halving it. I.e., if the bpm of your piece is 140, set the click to 70 and feel it as beats 1 and 3 or (jazz method) 2 and 4). The idea being to make your own internal clock work harder.
Slow metronome speeds are important for teaching you to relax - to feel like the music is carrying you, you're not driving it.

Playing with feeling is a whole other thing (except that really solid control of time is an essential basic). You have to (a) really love the piece, and (b) know it really well - so well you can't make a mistake. You have to be able to play it almost without thinking. It also has to be well below the peak of your technical skill - so that you could play it a lot faster with no mistakes if you wanted to. But of course you don't: you play it at the right speed, and use your spare chops (as it were) to apply the feeling.

In technical terms that amounts to applying dynamic variation creatively (where you feel it ought to come) and maybe a little vibrato here and there.
Always listen to the tone you're producing: could it be sweeter, harsher, warmer? What sound suits the tune, and its different sections? Decide on where and how you're picking the strings (and of course be aware of all the available options and their effects).
Slight variations in tempo can also be effective, if appropriate to the tune - eg slowing down at points of tension.
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:09 AM
Beakybird Beakybird is offline
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Brett Manning of Singing Success and vocal coach to the stars, has said that singing is crying on pitch. Apply that principle to guitar, add a sense of rhythm, and you got it, buddy.
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:10 AM
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I'm not a musician so this is what I do. (None of this happens overnight, btw)

Find a tune you really like and the tab/notation that matches it. Check out Homespun for their Celtic fingerstyle lessons or do a search online for something similar. Play along with the original artist/instructor and learn to mimic what they do.

Once you get as close as you can to the way the original tune is played you can start giving your own notes a life of their own, but you have to stay within the flow of the tune. Sometimes you have to alter the arrangement a bit to do what you want to do.
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Old 06-03-2018, 10:50 PM
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Try closing your eyes when you can while you play. It will help you get away from the mechanics of what your hands are doing and enables you to more easily become more aware of what you are playing and the groove you are playing. It will be like the “gain” knob in your hearing will get turned up. Also, start recording yourself again, a lot. It can help you to start understanding the nuances of what you need to add to your playing to make it sound appealing.

I can appreciate where you are coming, hope this helps.
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