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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 9: Space, Taste & Expression

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 20 **

This guitar lesson I want to get you thinking about playing fewer notes, using more space in between the notes in your guitar solos; being tasteful and expressive in what you do actually play. Not an easy thing to do when most guitar players seem to want to prove how fast they can play, and how technical they can be! Fast and technical certainly has a place in guitar driven music, but it will very rarely be memorable. Usually the best guitar solo will be the one that people can remember, and it's the one that becomes its own song within a song. If you can come up with a musical guitar solo that speaks to people and not just guitarists, then you are definitely doing something right.

So how do you go about developing 'Space, Taste & Expression'? Well, it could take years of different musical situations (and a lot of gigs or sessions going to someone else...because you always overplay and widdle when the spotlight is yours), before you develop a maturity in your playing that becomes so in demand that people will want to pay you to do what you do best, which is play great guitar. Or, you could take the quicker route, and listen and absorb the players out there that really show how it's done.  I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of guitar music like some people do, but there are many recorded solos out there that are simply perfection when it comes to S,T&E. The ones that leap to my mind as I am writing this right now are: 'Something' by George Harrison, 'Life's Been Good' by Joe Walsh, 'Gravity' by John Mayer, 'I'll be  Over You' by Luke and Toto, 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric, 'Everything I Do I do it For You' by Bryan Adams (but with that fantastic Keith Scott solo), 'My Sweet Lord' again by George Harrison, 'Little Wing' by Hendrix, 'Rough Boy' by ZZ Top, 'Another Brick in the Wall' by Floyd, 'Cause We've Ended as Lovers' by Jeff Beck, 'I Need Your Love So Bad' and 'Albatross' by the great Peter Green.

The list could go on and on but you see my point. The solos in these songs are as memorable as the songs themselves and they all have 'S,T&E' and are all perfect in what they deliver to the listener, and trust me, you have to be an exceptional player and musician to come up with these sort of guitar moments. If you think it's easy, then I admire your confidence and would love to be able to put you to the test, because a lot of 'good players' would crash and burn when it comes to delivering solos like these!

Obviously, like all art forms, this whole subject is subjective. What I might consider to be genius, you might see as average! That is the beauty of guitar, there is no right or wrong way, but I learnt very quickly how the right phrase or combinations of notes can quickly turn into a way of actually making a living as a guitarist. Sometimes less is very much more, and too much can lose you the gig! Hitting upon the right thing to play goes back to my previous lessons on 'creative thinking'. You do have to develop technique, touch, feel, and be good with tone to make it all work, and if you want to be a versatile pro, you do have to be able to go to the other extreme and be able to make a solo exciting but still musically interesting.

This is a hard subject to illustrate, but hopefully you will get the point in my demo. I had a part sketch of what I was going to play, but a lot of it was improvised. In a studio situation I would refine it until I was totally happy, but for my purposes of showing you guys, I think it works OK.

Sometimes the simple stuff is the hardest thing to play, but if you can recognise the genius of the players and the solos that deliver 'Space, Taste & Expression' then you stand a much better chance of becoming a player that can deliver a solo we will all be humming in 20, 30, 40 years time.


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