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Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Ja­son Sid­well con­sid­ers the use of dy­nam­ics to help the gui­tarist be heard but not be too loud; be con­fi­dent but not be too ‘look at me’.

Watch­ing Ge­orge Ben­son on the sec­ond Sky Arts se­ries of Guitar Star, he re­called a com­ment made by his early men­tor, the or­gan­ist Jack McDuff. Jack thought he was too ‘mousey’, too quiet for him to as­sess his pupil’s mu­si­cal qual­ity. Turn­ing up his amp’s vol­ume made Ge­orge’s play­ing count, im­prov­ing not only his con­vic­tion but also how the other mu­si­cians could in­ter­act with him on stage. A win-win sce­nario. Vol­ume and dy­nam­ics isn’t a hugely dis­cussed topic in GT as we’re usu­ally fo­cused on tech­nique, the­ory, etc. But vol­ume is an is­sue that af­fects you, your band mem­bers and your au­di­ence. Too quiet and no one re­ally clocks what you’re do­ing (if you’re not adding to a band’s sound, sooner or later you’ll be dis­missed). Like­wise, too loud a vol­ume and you will ap­pear ei­ther too ‘look at me’ driven, or just naive to the re­quire­ments of the set­ting (again, on your way, son!). So that’s stage dy­nam­ics but what about in the mu­sic room? I’ve spo­ken to nu­mer­ous gui­tarists who like to prac­tise with­out an amp to check their clar­ity and con­vic­tion. If picked notes, ham­mer-ons and string bends are ar­tic­u­lated crisply then an amp will fur­ther aug­ment your ex­cel­lence. Of course, now you will need to keep un­wanted string noise in check with rel­e­vant damp­ing tech­niques – es­pe­cially with over­drive. As you work through GT, con­sider adding dy­namic as­pects to ev­ery­thing you tackle; play a piece loud, and qui­etly, amp’d, and un­plugged. Go slower, faster; pick less, pick more; play straight 16ths or swung 8ths. Dig deep and get more dy­nam­ics out of the is­sue – and your play­ing!

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