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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



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November 29, 2007 | Jason's Rules

Because of the persona anonymities laden in cyberspace, we don't know who Jason is or even how well he plays, but he sure has some terrific insight into the concepts of good musicianship. We stumbled across the guitarist's blog, and had to pass on these pearls of wisdom.

The "rules" aren't necessarily in order, and some are more tongue-in-cheek than serious (see #4, #12), but they do drive home a point. Even though they are aimed at a guitarist (or a caricature of one), most are easily translated into mandodom. Our favorite is #3, and according to our prime directive, "Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

Enjoy Jason's Rules of Musicianship

1. Less is more.

2. You're never wrong not to play. Let the tune breathe. Lay out for a go-round. When you come back in, it will sound that much stronger.

3. Don't play scales. Play changes.

4. Don't cast your pearls before swine.

5. Never "noodle" between tunes on stage.

6. Most guitar players should be seen and not heard.

7. Bass players are great. Unless they think they're guitarists.

8. If you're a sideman and the singer gives you a solo in a song, lay out completely for the next verse.

9. Play the tune slightly slower than you think it should go. And keep that tempo. It's amazing how much power a slow tempo has.

10. The acme of skill is not sounding good. The acme of skill is inspiring and complementing and leading others to sound good.

11. See another player struggling? Take an hour before or after the session and give him or her a hand.

12. Guitarists: There is no money above the 5th fret.

13. It is better to have a day job and play what you love than to be a full-time musician and spend all your time playing what you hate because it pays well.

14. You are not ready to move on until you can play a passage at your chosen tempo seven times in a row with zero defects. Seven times. If you screw up on the seventh time, you have to go back to iteration 1.

15. Interior voices make the tune.

16. First-inversion chords - with the 3rd in the bass, simply rock, in the right place.

17. Learn and memorize as much J.S. Bach as you can on your instrument. You won't regret it.

18. There is nothing so dangerous to the music as a guitarist who shows up with his girlfriend. He winds up playing to impress his girlfriend rather than for the music.

19. Fiddlers - master the pulse in the bow hand. 60 percent of the music is held between your thumb and forefinger on the bow hand.

20. Straight 8th notes are almost never purely straight, in reality. Listen closely to the masters.

21. Every gig should have at least one of the following:
A.) Good money
B.) Fun
C.) Connections for the future
D.) Learning

If it doesn't have any of these, turn it down and move on, or take the night off. What might be a waste of time for you might be a fantastic gig for someone just starting out. Let him or her have it.

22. Finding a substitute is the responsibility of the player, not the band leader.

23. If you're hired as a substitute, never take the regular's gig.

24. The club doesn't let people pay their drink tabs the next day. The band shouldn't have to wait for their money either unless other arrangements are made in advance.

25. Smile and LOOK at the featured musician when you're not playing. It's what theater guys call "focus" and it's very powerful.

26. Take turns taking breaks. Work out a system, so everything goes smoothly. But vary it. Nothing's worse than a bluegrass band that always breaks in the same order.

27. Always play as if a master were listening to you. Eventually, they start to whisper to you.

Posted by Ted at November 29, 2007 10:05 AM


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