Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to Be Sure You Really Know That Song

One of my earliest performing "gigs" was as an altar boy when Catholic services were still conducted in Latin. The altar boys found we could recite our lines by following a fraction of a second behind everyone else rather than invest the long minutes of study required to learn each phrase. This worked great except for the unlucky kid called upon to do a “solo” rendition. I feel just like this when using backing tracks in my practice routine and then being called upon to do my own rendition without support of the backing track.

I am a big booster of using backing tracks in practice sessions. They are a great learning tool and fun to boot. I have found though that just because I can play my part cleanly against a backing track does not automatically mean I can do it on my own without following the cues provided by the other members of the virtual band. My solution is simple; sit down and play the entire song without accompaniment other than a metronome.

Many will read this and think "this is an advancing age issue for him, of course I have a repertoire I know front to back." Try it anyway, you may be surprised. My main issue is I do not keep track of how many verses, where the bridge is, and when the solo comes up. So, I jot down the structure of the song as a visual aid and then do the test. The best way to know if you have any challenges though is just do the test. Record yourself and play it back for some critical listening if you want to put more rigor into the exercise.

Whatever your performing gig, you want to build a repertoire of songs you can play front to back. Go ahead and test your readiness before you are the unlucky kid called upon to do a “solo” rendition of your repertoire.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do Not Eat Into Your Guitar Hobby Principal

This is how it goes; you get going on your exercise program, things are going good. So good that you start taking it easy and enjoying your newfound vigor without continuing to invest in exercise; sort of like living off the principal instead of the interest. You start to decay gradually without really noticing until someone invites you to do a 10K charity run. I had this experience last weekend with my guitar playing.

You know how it goes; busy at work, busy at home, things will work out fine if I am not playing as much. I was not continuing to maintain the guitar investment I had made over the past couple years and was living off the principal instead of the interest. I fooled myself for some time until I attended the groom's dinner for my nephew’s wedding. After the festivities, the father of the bride comes over; “hey, I’m getting the guitars out and heard that you play.” My 10K run was here.

You guessed it, I sucked. Here I had built up a good repertoire of songs on which I could play through all the parts with the intent of being a good soloist or accompanist whatever the situation required and had started jamming with guys from work. "Had started" was past tense and I quickly realized I remembered about 60% of each one and am not advanced enough to fake it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself in spite of the sucking part. Just would of enjoyed it more had I kept investing instead of eating away at the principal.

This was a good guitar lesson learned and I am into my steady routine after getting back in town. Of course, it only takes a couple minutes to realize how fun this hobby is. Luckily there was no permanent damage as the father was still willing to walk his daughter down the aisle the next day.