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Speed and Technique

While trying to teach vibrato, one of my students said: "I don't care about these things, just give me some fast licks!" There are many guitar beginners that don't care about making music. They just want to impress their friends. Technique is not only about speed and tapping, it's also about vibrato, hammer-ons and pull-offs, slides, bends, harmonics, muted notes, tremolo bar and so on.

Speed Again

In order to be able to play real fast you need a lot of practicing. There's a certain barrier that you surpass without being aware of it and, from that point on, nothing can slow you down.

Almost anything can be played fast if you practice correctly: begin slowly, then increase the speed gradually.

But there is also another little secret: the efficiency of your moves. Press the strings with your left hand with the minimum power that gets the right sound. You can even practice this technique. Let's take two simple chromatic runs:

Singing Instruments

Historians believe that Music was born out of speech and in the beginning there was singing. And indeed, singing what you play is an obligatory exercise when learning to improvise. For instance, George Benson sings and plays in perfect unison (this is also his trademark). Listen to Keith Jarrett's indistinct hum (he's not the only one, you may see in live performances players singing while improvising but the over-all sound covers their hum)! Is it a reminiscence of his improvising practice or does he want to add more phrasing to his playing?

Scales. When and Where.

Beginners should learn to play scales on simple chord sequences. Take again Band in a Box and choose at "Juke Songs Now" rock and blues styles. You'll see that blues, major and minor scales are enough. Usually, you don't even have to change the scale during the whole song.

The next step: play patterns you like in other roots. For example: you like a certain pattern in E-blues. Try to play it in Flat A, Flat B, Sharp C, Flat E, Sharp F.

Rhythm Changes

Let's say you found a lick you are fond of. In order to be able to use it in any song, you'll have to transpose the lick in several scales until you get used to it.

Another thing is to play the lick in different rhythms. Let's take a very simple lick:

Now, play it in different ways:

Of course, you may play the lick at different tempos. A metronome may help.

Professionalism vs. Art

Any normal human being can be a professional. There are a lot of schools and a lot of tutorials to learn from all over the place. Who are the professional musicians? The sidemen we see in pop bands playing for Enrique Iglesias or Gloria Esteban, the instrumentalists playing for the Chicago Philharmonic, the jazz musicians playing for Las Vegas-style crooners. A professional is taught to satisfy the demands of his/hers employer and is easy to be replaced by machines. A professional musician is taught to satisfy the demands of the record company and is easy to be replaced by computers.

Playing in a Group

One of the most important things is playing in a group, letting people know that you exist and you are a musician. You can't do this right from the very beginning, you have to acquire a certain level first. The moment you feel you can play, gather your friends that study music and convince them to play together.

The members of the group will bring their own instruments. You already invested time and energy studying and practicing so you should also invest some money to make the group sound as well as possible.

Modal Improvisation

Instead of concentrating on the chord sequence of the song, modal jazz is all about scales and modes. This gives more freedom, the accompanying instruments don't have to follow the chords, the soloist can create melodies of his own instead of arpeggiating on and on the same chord sequence.

Inside the scale , the soloist may use intervals, triads, arpeggios, penta and blues scales and patterns derived from the scale.

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