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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 1 - Part 9: The Feel Factor

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 9 **

Hi everyone. I've called this lesson's subject 'Feel Factor' because injecting some feel into your guitar playing is our topic. First of all, I have to admit, that teaching how to play guitar with feel is not the easiest of subjects to get across. How on earth do you teach this elusive subject? What is 'feel' anyway? The interesting thing is, you certainly know when someone doesn't have it. It's not something we can specifically identify, it's just there, or it's not. The annoying thing is, you cannot even guarantee it will come knocking on your door, after years of practice or even after a lifetime of playing! It's that vague!

Now, by me stepping up and saying this Pro Concepts column is about feel, definitely isn't me saying 'I've got feel, look at me'!! You are welcome to shoot me down in flames and be as judgemental as you like. I can only go by my own self-image, and what I have heard other people, who I respect in the industry, say about my playing. I guess I must be doing something right somewhere, because I get paid to play guitar, and I would like to think that one of the factors that has enabled this rarest of situations is my "feel".

So, having said teaching feel isn't easy, what I can do is take some simple musical ideas and show you what I might do to inject some life and feel to the proceedings. To make this a little more authentic, I plan to do it unprepared in front of the cameras, so you can follow my thought process and hear how I might choose to express a couple of simple chord sequences, and if we have time, maybe even a little riff (note to readers of a nervous disposition - we provided a safety net! - Ed)

Up until now, I have been showing how I might add musicality to lead lines, demonstrating different approaches with cool sounding techniques. Which is all good and great, but when you consider that as a professional player, you are only doing your big spotlight solos maybe ten percent of the time, then we quickly need to think about other aspects of real guitar playing that matters. Mostly, you will be creating rhythm, as part of a unit, backing the vocals, and playing to what is best for the song or musical piece. And if you can't do that with feel, people soon smell blood. It is great to be a well respected lead guitarist, but if you can't groove, or comp, or match your lead playing with your rhythm playing, then you wouldn't get my respect, or the employment from any interested parties that might need a cool guitar player. I see it again and again - the permanent quest for speed when soloing, but the complete lack of feel, groove, tone and musicality (huge round of applause, here for Mr Casswell, if you please - Ed).

Ideally, you need to cover both camps. You need to be able to pull a tasty solo out of the bag (again and again), and be able be just as tasty with your chord work and rhythm. I think I was lucky at a young age in that I became aware of this word 'feel' that used to be said by much older players than myself at the time. Plus I was jamming and playing with older players, which must have helped. So I was aware as a very young player, what feel might be and who I could listen to absorb it  - and this was before the internet or instructional DVDs or interactive magazines.

So what players would you consider have feel, and who might not. This is where a conversation can go round in circles, because there is no right or wrong answer. I would like to throw a few names out there that are renowned for their feel. Jimi Hendrix, Larry Carlton, Jeff Beck, Robben Ford, Steve Lukather, Michael Landau, Scott Henderson, John Mayer, Peter Green, Joe Walsh, Dave Gilmour, Brian May, Nile Rogers - to name a few. All these players can keep my interest because they have fantastic rhythm chops, they are inventive and musical and always play with great feel. What these players do, is much harder to get a handle on than what someone like Ingwie Malmsteen does. Ingwie is without doubt one of the worlds most technically gifted guitarists, but technical is not always what it's about.

As I said, you need balance in your playing, and if you can back it up with buckets of 'feel', then there will be no stopping you!


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