ses­sion shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment. T is for Taste

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more info on Mitch Dal­ton and his Stu­dio Kings go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

Two un­re­lated events oc­curred in my world this month, suf­fi­cient to di­vert me mo­men­tar­ily from my sun lounger, my in­vest­ment port­fo­lio and my Waitrose Es­sen­tials Prosecco.

The first item ar­rived in the form an email at­tach­ment con­tain­ing a YouTube clip, sent for my con­sid­er­a­tion by an old friend. It fea­tured an interview with a not en­tirely unattrac­tive young lady. It was con­ducted by a per­son who clearly shared at least one com­mon in­ter­est; their mu­tual fas­ci­na­tion with one spe­cific area of mod­ern mu­sic cul­ture. The sub­ject of this mas­ter­class re­ferred to her­self as a ‘shred­der’ and I see no rea­son to con­tra­dict her. The di­a­logue was il­lus­trated with ex­am­ples of ‘the shred­der’s art’, if I may be per­mit­ted to man­gle my oxy­morons. The ex­change of shred­ding-based in­for­ma­tion con­cluded with a duet be­tween the pro­tag­o­nists, round­ing off the en­ter­tain­ment in fit­ting style. The par­tic­i­pants chose to dis­pense with artis­tic con­ven­tion and em­ployed in­stead the dar­ing strat­egy of dis­pens­ing with rhythm, melody and the out­moded no­tion of pay­ing at­ten­tion to each other’s con­tri­bu­tion. I ap­plaud their risk-tak­ing and sense of ad­ven­ture. You may have no­ticed that I haven’t used the word ‘gui­tar’ in the pre­vi­ous de­scrip­tion. Or ‘mu­sic’. And I won’t.

The sec­ond book­end to this month’s mus­ings con­cerns a pleas­ant sum­mer bar­be­cue with another chum. Over a flavour­some repast fea­tur­ing sea bass and ap­pro­pri­ate ac­com­pa­ni­ments, the con­ver­sa­tion turned to his work on the jazz gui­tar de­gree course that he has en­rolled on as a ma­ture stu­dent. He was keen to show me the con­sid­er­able work he has put into the four mod­ules com­pris­ing the syl­labus in year two: har­mony, ar­rang­ing for small en­sem­bles, in­stru­men­tal tu­ition... and more. All un­der­taken with his cus­tom­ary zeal, in­tel­li­gence and no lit­tle ap­ti­tude. Many fold­ers and work sheets were pro­duced, all deeply im­pres­sive. Coltrane changes. Chord sub­sti­tu­tion. Modes of all shapes and sizes. All were dis­cussed with author­ity and com­pre­hen­sion. It’s been a while since I’ve dis­cussed the Ly­dian Dom­i­nant mode and what to do with it, I can as­sure you. Un­sur­pris­ingly, he’s well on his way to a First.

And I couldn’t help but con­clude that, in a per­fect world, one could fuse Ms Shred­der’s at­ti­tude and con­fi­dence with my friend’s ded­i­ca­tion to study and self-im­prove­ment and then have one hel­luva gui­tarist on your hands. You might even have a ‘mu­si­cian’ to con­tend with, per­ish the thought.

Here’s the thing. You only get out what you put in. And what’s there in the first place. Try to get out a bit. Look at a few paint­ings. Watch a few movies that don’t have ‘Nemo’, ‘Bourne’ or ‘Harry’ in the ti­tle. Live your life. Suf­fer a lit­tle – as if you have an op­tion. Es­sen­tially, be­come a sen­tient hu­man be­ing. Dis­cover what you have to say as a mu­si­cian (this may take a while). Try to say it with a sound that at­tracts, not re­pels. Just like a real voice. With a be­gin­ning, a mid­dle and an end. Us­ing, like, ‘form’, man. If it turns out you don’t have much to say, your au­di­ence will lis­ten any­way. Ap­par­ently.

And above all, avoid DVDs with ti­tles like Shred Mas­tery, Shred Like Bach and The All You Can Shred Buf­fet.

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