Single take, no editing. Unmastered.
Style can mean a lot of things. How an artist represents her or himself – whether in image, import, lyrics, and/or musical expression, among many other things – is their style. Check out Style Lens for some of my views on style.
For learning to play guitar, we come to understand commonly accepted styles by what types of chord voicings, rhythm, melodic ideas, tone, and presentation are employed. We often build our style through known styles, yet we can explore in a manner which is somewhat free of stylistic boundaries. Even when we do this, there are still, of course, commonalities and shared tonal devices. Through this process, we can actually discover how stylistic idioms come about.
The method I use, is to learn these common stylistic devices, while maintaining a free exploratory approach simultaneously. This is my core practice [it is nearly all I do to create my musical experience and the content on I Love Guitar]. I like to call this Experiential. If we are seeking study in specific styles [Classic, Jazz, Rock, Blues, etc.], there are countless resources and institutions which provide education in all of them [will be glad to add suggested links].
The experiential track is to experiment, as individuals, in creating meaning and sound through our own experience [our sonic signature].
We honor all styles and all of our ancestors while using experimentation as our core practice.
Experimenting is at the heart of all sonic production. To create our own style over time, we experiment. There are myriad ways to go about this. Our experiences always shape our views and the meanings we create from them. Experiential style building means that everything we experience shapes our style. Our choices and actions determine our trajectory. And, the path weaves and dips and peaks and plateaus. There is very little that is linear about it, save that we are getting better; learning, expanding.
New styles will emerge. They always have. Existing styles emerged through experimentation. There are many variables to how styles develop, including cultural, mental, physical, and social.
Ideas for this type of style building…
For any given set of tones, we work the materials in our own way, in our own order, at our own speed. Even if we are learning a song or a solo, we can use the materials of that song or solo to be inventive.
For any and everything we do, we explore and invent. We make stuff up with whatever it is we are working on. The materials of music are equally available to all of us. Everyone shares the same level of access. Some folks find making stuff to be an effortless organic process, while others can struggle with it. No matter how much ease & access we may currently have this type of exploration, as we invest in it, the process can deepen & we can learn to enjoy it with enduring vitality. Over time, it can become as central to our musical life as playing other folk’s music.
At the core of this process are primary practices. These are the things we do to exhaust possibilities. To us, primary practices are modes of practice. Two basic modes frame our practice time: training and jamming. Training and jamming can ultimately blend into one unified experience, yet we can shift between them as primary approaches to our guitar practice.
Training is a mindset where we are focusing our attention on specific aspects of our playing system. Example: we play a scale. We repeat playing the scale with different points of focus, such as different facets of our fretting hand and then picking hand, our body, our thoughts, and so on. We don’t just keep playing the scale thinking about anything or everything or nothing. Rather, we shift our awareness to specific details of what it takes to play it. This way, we aren’t training mistakes and we are always improving. A metaphor: falling down the stairs gets us to the bottom for sure, yet could we recreate the fall exactly? Doing something doesn’t mean we are doing it the best way. We figure out how to walk down the steps successfully and recreate that experience accurately. When we train with awareness, we avoid training mistakes.
Jamming is a mindset where we let go and just play. We aren’t considering how are hands are working [we reserved that for training], rather, we are simply being musical. This is where our mindful training trustfully pays dividends. When jamming, each of us have a source of inspiration: the melody, rhythm, harmonic texture, our heart, our vision, thinking of others or colors or nature, and so on. We aren’t thinking “now my hands do this, then this.” In contrast, we may be thinking [singing] the melody or “how beautiful or rocking, this sound” or “I love that or her or him or it or them or so much.” There are as many feeling-tones as there are particles in the universe.
Again, training and jamming mindsets can merge into a unified experience [they become one beautiful thing]. And, in a way everything we do is training and jamming. Yet, we discretely exercise these modes to find out how vital correlations co-mingle.
Exploration is at the heart of musical production, innovation, and the development of new styles. We just keep evolving.