A couple of weeks ago one of my favourite YouTubers released a video titled, Musical Things I Wish I Worked Out Sooner and it got me thinking, which Musical Things do I wish I worked out sooner. So this week I decided I would share some of my own musical mistakes and things that I wish I had worked out sooner, I also advise that you go and watch the original video that inspired this blog post by Steve San-Ontaria on his YouTube Channel samuraiguitarist. So without further ado, I give you the Musical things I Wish I Worked out Sooner.
You don’t need to know a lot to be a Jazz Improviser
I used to think that be a jazz improviser, you needed to be the king of playing arpeggios over chord changes, to always be using altered scales and diminished licks, to be constantly looking to add substitutions over the changes and I could not have been more wrong. Sure a lot of great Jazz improvisers use these techniques to help spice up their solos but honestly all you need to start improvising over any forms music including in jazz are a couple of scales: The Major and Minor Pentatonic. These are at often at the centre of a lot of Jazz Improvisations. The real kings and queens of jazz improvisation may spice up their solos with a lot of the techniques I talked about but many will often use basic pentatonic scales to inform a wide breadth of their playing. I wish I started trying to get the hang of improvising using these scales sooner whilst I tried to master the other techniques on the side, in fact I would have mastered the more advanced techniques sooner if had just simply started with the basics.
Speed is not everything
I used to believe that to be a great player, you needed to be a speed demon and though speed can certainly add an extra dimension to your playing, it is only one of many possible dimensions and you certainly do not need to play fast to be a great musician. Think of all the greats that play slow and are still regarded as greats, think of your David Gilmore’s, Eric Clapton’s, Miles Davis’s and Ludovico Einaudi’s; these are all players who emphasise note choice and rhythmic phrasing over note speed which, whether you play slow or fast, is the most important aspect of your playing.
Gear will not make you a better player
It is something we hear all the time and yet it took me a long time to take this to heart and maybe this is not that surprising when we have a variety of companies trying to capture our attention claiming that they alone can make us sound the way we want to. Now I am not one to say that gear is totally unimportant; Gear can really help you get the tone you aspire to create, in can be the final piece of the jigsaw in your sound, but it is far from the most important aspect of your music. The most important aspect of your music is your playing itself and no piece of gear will fix that, only practice can. I wish I understood this sooner, fawned less over gear and started putting the hours in the shed that I needed to.
Regular practice is more important that mammoth practice sessions
I used to rarely practice and when I did I would put in these long mammoth sessions where I would play for hours. Though I am not going to say that these sessions were totally fruitless as they certainly did lead to me improving they did not result in me making the progress that I wanted to make. Due to the way our brains work we benefit much more from regular practice than we do from irregular long practice sessions. I wish I had developed a regular practice routine sooner because if I had I would be a much better player than I am now. However regular practice is only one side of the equation what I also wish I had worked out sooner was the art of…
Too often as a young player I would find that my practice routines were sporadic, unplanned and would vary massively from session to session. Once again this approach to my practice sessions meant that my progress was slow and in some areas I lacked any progress at all. Though effective practice is a whole area of playing that requires quite a bit more than a few sentences to explain (comment below if you would like a blog post on effective practice) essentially you need to make sure that you work out specific areas of your playing that you would like to work on and break them down into small manageable chunks and make sure you focus on these chunks every single practice session until you master it. If I had worked this out sooner I would have saved myself a lot of time and developed at a much faster rate.
You need to play slow to play fast, no slower, no slower, NO SLOWER!
As soon as I knew I wanted to play fast I went through the typical mistake of playing way too fast before discovering that a) using a metronome is essential and b) that playing very slowly is essential. So I started using these tools, what it took me way too long to realise was just how slow you needed to play. The point of slowing down your playing is to enable your conscious brain to isolate the individual movements that you need to make with a given technique and master them effectively. This means slowing yourself down to a pace where you can achieve this, often as slow as 40-60bpm, sometimes even slower. It may seem extreme but by doing so you will master speed quicker and better than you would using any other approach.
Chords are important
With my early playing days being very focused on Hard Rock and Metal I came to think that power chords were all I really needed and that all these chords with the weird array of numbers attached to them were not important and boy was I wrong. What I failed to realise was that even though these chords seemed to rarely turn up in rock and metal, they in fact were turning up all the time, whether in full or reduced forms, in clean chord based sections or in their arpeggiated form; these chords were there, they were just hidden. Understanding these chords and their sound is just as important to rock and metal as it is to Jazz and R&B. Now if I wanted to be nothing more than a punk rocker then maybe I would have been right, but I wanted to be a proficient guitar player and to be that you need to understand chords.
So those are some of the musical things that I had wished that I had worked out much sooner, what about you guys out there? What are the musical things you wish you had worked out sooner and if you are not a musician what things in general do you wish you had worked out sooner? I am sure it will make for some funny comments. So let me know below.
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