Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Musical Immersion And Developing Your Own Style

I think of music as a language.

The longer a time you spend 'speaking' it, the better and more fluent you'll sound.

If you're trying to play in a particular genre, it is imperative that you spend a great amount of time listening to it. Then break it down and transcribe choice phrases -- or even whole solos if you're so inclined.

Transcribing choice phrases of not more than one or two bars each gives us more flexibility as they allow themselves to be used in various contexts, and in various keys. Some people dismiss this as a cut-and-paste approach, but many of those same folks are still bogged down by all kinds of pedagogy, with no end in sight.

I sometimes also get asked the million dollar question -- "How do I develop my own style?"

And my answer is usually pretty simple. Jam along with your favourite recordings.

This is a good way to get exposed to a style or a particular genre. You don't have to play exactly what's on the record, but aim to play something of your own that's of equal quality as to what you're hearing on the recording.

Use every ounce of your musical knowledge -- key centers, modes, scale substitutions, licks --everything.

Aim to copy the phrasing, feel and intonation of a particular player. Listen to the nuances and really home in on them, replicating them on your instrument. All without copying the actual notes, which I feel defeats the purpose of this exercise, which is to develop a style as far your phrases and note choices.

Pretty soon your own stylistic traits will emerge.

It is musical immersion in its truest sense -- and just short of playing and hanging out with the master musicians.

Bear in mind that these developments do not happen overnight. It is a very gradual process that is slower than watching grass grow. But given enough time, the rewards will manifest.

And then I'll steal your licks.

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