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Michael Casswell Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 11: Developing Your Ideas

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 23 **

Hi Everyone. In this Pro Concepts guitar lesson I want to again explore an issue that many guitar players seem to sideline in their eagerness to build guitar technique and chops. We are looking at building on ideas. If for instance you are given a chord sequence and asked to add something to it, most players will start improvising some kind of guitar solo, which does have its place, but most times there will be a vocal involved, and soloing whilst a vocal is happening is generally not acceptable.    

There is a whole world of guitar playing that lives in between the rhythm guitar, and the lead guitar. Try not to think in terms of 'Lead' guitar and 'Rhythm' guitar. Thinking like this limits your possibilities. Think more in terms of guitar parts, or texture, to give your recorded tracks a depth to the finished result. One music genre that really illustrates this approach is the 'New Country' movement that has been coming out of Nashville for the past 20 years. You will hear some of the tastiest playing, tones and textures from this genre. Whether you like the artist or the song isn't the question. It's more about what is going on guitar wise to make such a polished depth of sound from what is essentially a guitar driven style of music. I would advise you training your ear to break down the formula as you listen to it, if you listen to it! If you don't, you are missing out on a gold mine of information that will end up making you a much better player than you are now.

Rock players like Dann Huff and Steve Farris (Mr Mister) got out of the dwindling L.A.                     session AOR scene of the '90s and relocated to Nashville to hook up with the huge and lucrative Country music scene, where you will find and hear some of the best players on the planet. Some keep a low profile and don't want the limelight with solo albums and YouTube product demos and others are forced into the spotlight just by the amount of albums they have played on and the sheer brilliance of what they do. If you haven't heard the Nashville guitar genius Brent Mason yet, you are missing out on one of my favourites and one of the greatest players there is!

I like to think that I can always bring something to the table in a musical situation. Especially in the studio. Often I have been given simple chord charts and asked to do something with them. In fact I have been given complex chord charts and asked to do something cool. It's never really been a problem because I have always been fascinated by the sound that a guitar can make, and I get much more excited by that elusive simple guitar part that makes the whole tune, rather than the ultra fast shred lick. I think my fascination for the 'in between rhythm and lead' possibilities and the many studio sessions I have done over the years have obviously helped my approach and way of thinking when composing the right part or throwing out options. Anything in this game that shows musicality or flare can only be a good thing.

It's not an easy thing to teach, but our example today is a little two measure chord sequence consisting of A, Bm, D and the possibilities that come to me as we are being filmed.

I only bring up the Nashville thing because last summer I had session recreating some Brad Paisley tracks (I think for a Karaoke company) and this reminded me to the fact that this style of song was layer deep in all sorts of guitars, each performing a certain function, and I also wondered whether the arrangements came from the guitar player, the producer or from Brad Paisley. Probably a combination. Being self-contained in this aspect will make your own recordings better and give a great impression when working for a paying artist or band.

In conclusion, if you are a player that just copies other people's solos, or sits at home trying to play faster and faster because to you, speed is cool, or you only listen and absorb one style of music, then you are seriously limiting your possibilities of playing beyond your bedroom. Technique is essential obviously, but technique without musicality, taste and creative application is just technique.  I hope this makes sense to some of you out there and I hope that seeing me exploring a couple of ideas sets you off  thinking about how you can make the best of the information you have in your own playing.


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