Tom Hess on Playing With Feeling



  • TravisWTravisW Posts: 988
    I'm not going to hack too much on the teacher guy, although what he's teaching isn't feel or emotion, it's note selection. Note selection is an extremely important tool that you can put toward playing with great feeling, but at best it's another tool. Why is all the inflection always going on the 3rd if the 3rd is inherently emotional? 3rds will imply the major or minor, although one can get a similar effect by going for the 6th.

    It's my honest opinion that guitarists (particularly hard rock/metal guitarists) often tend to concentrate on the tools as solutions to artistic problems. Great tools do not make great craftsmen. The only way that I have ever found that improved my ability to play expressively is to listen, listen, listen - avoid technical analysis, and constantly get back to the question "Does this convey what I wanted to convey as well as I can convey it?" Tools like theory knowledge can come in handy if you're looking to break something up or find a different road to tread, but the tools serve the artisan and not the other way around.
  • yngwie666yngwie666 Posts: 6,557
    [quote author=Smoking Guns link=topic=15601.msg237386#msg237386 date=1378244509]
    Look at your favorite solos and you tell me how many times that "bullshit" ends up being correct.
    Explain what is playing the "3rd" and the "5th" or give me some examples.
    If 3rd is a major third interval then this is the same as an ambulance siren, not exactly a "love tone".
  • mr_crowleymr_crowley Posts: 6,627
    [quote author=Dinosaur David B link=topic=15601.msg237362#msg237362 date=1378220437]
    I think it is the difference in say:

    "I'm feeling . . .  like playing 32nd note pentatonic run here, followed by a sweep arpeggio in aeolian."


    "over this passage, I hear this melody or idea in my head, and I'm going to play it with as much conviction as I can"

    it is the difference between driving the music, and letting the music drive you.

    I still don't really agree. Maybe those 32nd notes and arpeggio is what you need to achieve a specific feeling?

    I know I probably will get flamed for saying this here but this do, maybe not move or touch, but at least makes me feel a lot more:
    than this do:

    And Cause We've Ended as Lovers seems to be viewed as one of the most "emotional" guitar pieces ever recorded :036:

    I do stand by my opinion that whatever you play you do with emotion 'cause every note do evoke some kind of response within a human. Then it is just a matter of what kind of person you are and what you personally respond more to - what you do look for in music and that can also change.
    If you play 4th notes in 30 BPM or 64th notes in 230 BPM have nothing to do with it really.

    Whether it sounds mechanical or not is another question though. But that sound do to evoke emotions, doesn't it? On some level you can feel at least something. Maybe you feel: "this sucks and is boring as hell, it sounds like a sterile robot". Still a feeling and as valid as something that bring you to tears. Maybe not as hard to achieve nor as sophisticated but that wasn't what this was all about.

    In short: I do not believe in playing the guitar with "emotion". Becuase I think all guitar playing involves emotion.

    Just my thoughts :036:
  • OskyOsky Posts: 1,057
    I think quite often when people talk about playing with emotion or soul, they actually mean expressing one particular emotion that they happen to favour, for example blues players value sadness very highly as (to my ears) its the primary emotion in that style of music. My goal is to be able to express as many different moods and emotions when playing as possible. All emotions are equally valid, so to use your example Mr C... Cause We Ended as Lovers does not resonate with you emotionally as much as The Audience is Listening and thats perfectly valid. I think there is plenty of emotion in the later, I hear joy, youthful defiance and excitement, who's to say those emotions have less value than the sadness and mournfulness in Beck's playing? Both pieces are great IMO but they tell completely different stories and will resonate with different people and at different times in peoples lives.
  • I still don't really agree. Maybe those 32nd notes and arpeggio is what you need to achieve a specific feeling?
    Yes, but what I was trying to convey in my example was the difference in consciously thinking about your tools as you play, and just subconsciously using them as the muse takes you.  It's a tough thing to quantify.  Maybe it's kind of analogous to spending hours of CONSCIOUS practice to get your alternate picking down, and then when you're in mid flight and you go to play fast, your alternate picking is just there for you without you having to consciously think about it.
    In the midst of the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
  • Still not sure why we are bashing the guy?  Are we mad because he is sharing some top secret tips or that we think he is a douche?  His examples sounded fine to me and many players do that. Or look at the Sweet Home Alabama solo, that is a rule breaker too that gives a certain feel to the song. These tips and tricks and help a beginner for sure.
  • maybeyesmaybeyes Posts: 4,522
    I have been thinking a lot about this and I think there is a difference between floating out scalar exercises or going up and down a scale vs note choice and placement which I think it part of what Dave is getting at.  Phrasing is an important part of playing with emotion, but give a song where the solo is there to add to the song rather than just be an exercise it shredability and I can tell you which I will take.  I am going use Dave's solo on Invalid as an example as I think it is not only perfect for the song, but conveys emotion as well.  It would have been easy to insert a scalar exercise in that song and just rip up the fretboard (seen a lot of coverband guitarists play solos over songs with no concept for the fit way too many times and been guilty of this myself as well) showing off technique.  However, Dave sticks to the song (can't remember it that was one you composed or not, but I think you said you composed some of it) and the solo does convey a feeling of discontent, but at the same time a freedom that the character in the song does not feel as it seems she is trapped in a relationship she feels helpless to escape (hope I am not reading too much into it).  Dave solo comes across as emotional due to his phrasing and his vibrato.  While the solo soars, it doesn't feel like an exercise.  Similarly, Jeff Beck owns Cause due to his unique note choices. Vai on the other hand is having fun and it comes through.  32nd note, 16th notes, doesn't really matter.  The key is the phrasing and evoking an emotional response.  It is ideal it the guitarist does this without really thinkng about what they are playing.  So they know the solo well enough (if ti is composed) or have mastered their fretboard in such a way that the solo sounds good in the context and evokes a response (preferabley the response the artist it looking to elicit).  In the end all the hours practicing those scales will mean nothing in the context of an emotional solo if you just play the scale up and down.  Yes the solo will elicit a response from people, but in most cases when I talk about emotions in a solo it is the connection between the guitarist and listener to elicit an emotion of sadness, happiness, exileration, etc.  I think Hess is trying to teach how to use note placement and phrasing to elicit a response in keeping with what the guitarist wants to present. 

    The place I have heard the most commentary on emotions in music tends to blues or blues based rock, be it metal or pop, etc.  As long as there is a blues base to it (which most music I would argue today has a link to it), people, especially guitarists, talk about interjecting emotion.  Hey we are an emotional species what do you want.

    Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.

  • Thanks, man! FWIW all of my solos are composed and worked out. And in Invalid, I honestly wasn't really thinking about the lyrical content but rather the harmonic content. Invalid is poppy song with a major feel that really belies the very dark lyrics. If I was basing the solo on the lyrical mood, I would have probably wanted a minor scale approach, and that wouldn't fit the musical progression at all.  Instead, the Invalid solo starts major, then goes minor pentatonic in the middle for some balls and attitude, then it finishes back in major.  In this case, what I was feeling as a player for this particular progression, was completely unrelated to the emotions in the protagonist's lyrics.   I don't think it could have worked any other way in this case.  But if you had dark or angry lyrical content over harmonically dark, minor or moody progressions, you can do more to tie it all together. A lot of Metal is largely based on this approach.
    In the midst of the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
  • maybeyesmaybeyes Posts: 4,522
    But your approach instead of adding more melancholy lifted the song in a different direction Dave.  I personally think the song itself is made stronger because the lyrics and the solo contrast each other.  The solo itself is more upbeat than the song lyrics portend and it lifts the song above the average.  Your solo had it been minor would not necessarily have raised the song in the same way as the major scale approach did.  Adds happy to dark so to speak.  Not all guitarists get that idea.  Made me rethink approaches to solos for future projects.

    Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.

  • TravisWTravisW Posts: 988
    [quote author=Smoking Guns link=topic=15601.msg237423#msg237423 date=1378310099]
    Still not sure why we are bashing the guy?  Are we mad because he is sharing some top secret tips or that we think he is a douche?  His examples sounded fine to me and many players do that. Or look at the Sweet Home Alabama solo, that is a rule breaker too that gives a certain feel to the song. These tips and tricks and help a beginner for sure.

    I'd personally say neither, but rather that what he's teaching is fine but he isn't teaching playing with feeling - he's teaching note selection which is part of, but not all of, playing with feeling. Bending strings can be part of playing with feeling, but then again a lot of classical guitarists never bend a note and play with tons of feeling. Vibrato can be a part of playing with feeling, but it's not always necessary either. All technical knowledge can be applied to playing with feeling, but that doesn't mean that applying that technical knowledge means that you're playing with feeling.

    To put it in a different context I can extend my vocabulary, increase my knowledge of grammar, and study various uses of the written word. That does not make me capable of writing moving, evocative pieces, it just means that I can write with great technical proficiency. In order to write a great story, I need to have something to say, and be able to convey my meaning in a way that impresses itself on the reader. Music isn't so different, it's just a different set of tools and outcomes. BTW - I'm not trying to write this as though I'm some expert on playing with feeling or playing expressively, but rather that after a couple decades of horsing around with the guitar and working on a lot of different things, it has become terribly obvious that relying on technical approaches to solve artistic problems is akin to me buying a new stove to make me better at cooking.
  • To play with emotion, watch Gary Moore Live at the Montreux "Messiah Will Come Again".
  • maybeyesmaybeyes Posts: 4,522
    Well put Travis.

    Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.

  • Yeah, it's all similar analogies. The kid with the 8 box of Crayolas may draw better pictures than the kid with the 64 box of Crayolas.  We see it all the time with guitarists.  Jeff Beck, Angus Young, Leslie West, David Gilmour to name just a few.  At some point, these guys stopped worrying about the crayons they didn't have and just started drawing pictures with what they did have. 

    The point of making art is to express yourself. There's the idea that you should never stop learning, and there is some merit to that idea, but the point of art isn't the increasing acquisition of technique.  At SOME POINT, there has to be that mind shift I spoke of where the artist or player says to themselves I know enough to express myself.  One need not be a master of one's instrument to do that. Look at the old blues guys like Robert Johnson.  BB King doesn't even play chords. And he hasn't spent the last 60 years NOT playing until he learns how to alternate pick like Paul Gilbert

    Everybody here is probably a technically better player than those guys.  But they have inspired millions of people by expressing themselves with the modest level of technique that they have.
    In the midst of the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
  • SnoogansSnoogans Posts: 1,681
    Playing with feeling?  Dead easy! Up and down the pentatonic box slooowly, bending the hell outta those blue notes. Just remember to keep your eyes closed...  :up:
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