In search of the holy grail
I’ve been playing the guitar since I was a teenager. Ever since then I’ve felt the urge to freely improvise. Despite a lot of practicing and playing, I have never found a way to really express myself on the instrument. Of course I can now play a song, a chord schema or a riff and improvise some nice melodies on top of that, but that is not what I am searching for. My ultimate goal was and still is to play and improvise harmony and melody, preferably at the same time.
Where not to look
Until now I have studied and tried things in a certain way that doesn’t seem to work for me. That is, in the traditional way, as taught in many music classes. I do understand the theories they teach you over there, but personally I have never found a way to merge those concepts into my guitar playing properly. This does not mean that there is something wrong with those theories, because they’ve helped tons of other people to become better musicians. What I am saying is that they just don’t work well for me. So until recently, I had the feeling that I couldn’t improve myself anymore. Not that I had became that good, but in a way that I got stuck at a certain level. Also Youtube wasn’t of many help here, although there are tons of videos available. In most of them you’ll learn a trick or two and that’s it. They sell it like a shortcut to become a better guitar player, but it just does not work that way. If you want to become good, you need to practice. Practice a lot and in a methodical way. There are no shortcuts here. You need a decent plan or a strategy and stick to it. And that is exactly what I was missing all the time. I wanted to learn to understand the guitar. How the harmony works on my instrument. I have followed lessons from great professional guitar players, and have learned quite a lot of useful things from them. However, If someone is a great musician, this doesn’t automatically mean he or she is a great teacher too. When a teacher switches each lesson to a new topic, you might end up like me; playing chords and licks instead of playing the guitar. If you keep on switching from topic to topic, you never have time to go in depth. You’re only scratching the surface each time. Maybe, this is the spirit of the time we live in. I don’t know.
It seems, I have finally found it!
However, after a search of almost twenty years I have finally stumbled upon something that looks really promising. Something that might bring me (closer) to my ultimate goal. It has already opened new doors for me in a simple but brilliant way. It is a method called “Improvise for real” by David Reed. And I know the title might sound to you as a “one in a dozen” solution, but the opposite is true. This method is fundamentally different from others as it tries to teach you the art of focus. It teaches you to play and understand music in the most natural way you can think of. It is not about the technical stuff, but all about focusing on sound and enjoying it. It gives you a lot of good exercises that you can practice even without your instrument. (I practice every morning, while taking a shower!) To me this method is a big game-changer. Why? Because all exercises evolve around something that everybody knows already: the major scale. The main ingredient is just those 7 tones. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In the next period I will follow this method, build a new practice routine. Probably I will write about my progress. If I come up with useful exercises, which means they work for me and might work for you, I will post them here as well. In this way it becomes possible to follow back the path of my musical journey. It is always good to know were your roots are ; )