Why high caliber playing is important to self-expression
There are many misconceptions with regard to high caliber playing, technical efficiency and its relevance to whatever style of music you like to play and compose. This article will help clear up some of these misconceptions by addressing the benefits of becoming a high caliber player.
Let's start with the fact that Yngwie Malmsteen, for example, is a master at his personal craft, guitar. His ability to compose and perform at an extremely high level is not only admirable, but is also essential to his accurate self-expression.
Here are some basic points every musician needs to keep in mind about high caliber playing, technical efficiency and its benefits to every style of music.
1) Being able to play at your highest level along with being technically efficient will ensure that your live performances will be more consistent and accurate to the recordings, regardless if you play cover songs or original music. This also means that your live performance will be more FUN for you and aurally appealing for the audience. Playing at your highest level will ensure less anxiety during and before the performance, allow for a more interactive live performance with the crowd and increase your confidence with your live abilities.
2) Playing at your highest level includes the need to push your physical boundaries as far as they can go. By doing this, you gain coordination, playing stamina and strength. Coordination is vital to guitar, considering that your picking hand must be right on with your fretting hand. A goal would be to count and play at the same time to ensure high quality performances, which requires dedicated practice time and high-level coordination. Another major benefit to pushing your physical boundaries is increasing your playing stamina. If you ever want to go on tour, you better believe that this is vital to your live performance. If you're not practicing daily, or pushing your limits by exercising with a metronome at high speeds and keeping track, it will be a daunting task to play and perform on tour with a strong accuracy level. Also, playing strength is essential for performing fast and smooth legato runs, along with playing bar chords and classical guitar.
3) Playing at your highest level will increase your ability to improvise. This ability can be developed with a focus on ear training, theory, scales, rhythm and phrasing. Improvising melodies and fast runs are not skills found by beginners and players with limited practice time. Even more impressive is the fact that some artists, such as Yngwie and Dream Theater, write songs and even albums full of improvised material. This ability can bring out melodies and rhythms not normally heard in the song writers head, because the virtuoso's playing speed may be much faster than their mind's ability to compose those lines instantly.
4) Pinpoint accuracy is probably the sleeper in high caliber players. The fact that these players can get 4 fingers to play at blistering speeds on a thin string is impressive. Accuracy can be achieved with countless hours of playing and developing your muscle memory. By keeping your fingers low, thumb in the proper position, playing right behind the fret and not rubbing any of your palm's skin on the neck will develop accuracy. The hardest part for left hand accuracy is that the frets change sizes as the fret board gets higher. For guitarists and violinists, mastery of this skill is vital for performing fast melodies. A side benefit with regard to live performances is that you will focus less on what your hands are doing and more on crowd interaction.
5) In my opinion, the most important reason to increase your playing and technical efficiency is so that you can express yourself without any physical limitations. Being able to compose a phrase or run that may be very difficult to play is essential to self expression. If you can not perform what you hear in your head, than you have just compromised your composition. Regardless of what style you write for, being able to play and compose at the highest level in that style is essential to being a successful musician. When I say successful, I am not only referring to being popular or respected in the industry, I am also referring to your personal success in being able to express yourself effectively and consistently.
A common misconception that goes along with working on just your playing ability and efficiency is that you will always play and write really fast solos. You must remember that just because you can play fast, does not mean you have to write fast lines or solos. Just because you can play an Yngwie Malmsteen solo does not mean you are going to write a solo just like him. You are in control of what you play and write, so the sooner you can focus on being the highest caliber player you can, the closer you will come to accurate self-expression.
Mike Walsh is an internationally renowned progressive guitar virtuoso, composer and teacher. For more information about Mike Walsh, his bands Sage and Hess, to hear samples of his playing/music, and to read more articles, visit his web sites.
His latest CD with Sage is entitled "Lightning Strikes".
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