Jamey Faulkner

Cool Space

Single take, no editing. Unmastered.

Building Style ⇔ Experiential Exploration

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.

Experiential

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.

Stairs

We can get to the bottom of the stairs by falling down them, for sure. “I made it!”

Yet, can we recreate the fall exactly?

When we train at something, falling down the stairs is one way we can go about the process. We can ‘take swings’ at it. We can just keep trying, making the same and new mistakes over and over. We can train an entangled web of mistakes.

Conversely, we can take ample time, give ourselves plenty of space, and plan and execute each step. We make it to the bottom of the steps, effortlessly, and we could go back up and do it again.

That’s good training.

“I made it!”

Beef Stew

I taught lessons in Florida a while back. Within 20 minutes of changing an online profile to that area, my phone rang. It was Jim.

Jim was knowledgeable about integral lines of thought. My profile mentioned this. At the time, I was using a version of the model. We agreed to meet and to work together on our guitar skills.

We became fast friends through common intellectual pursuits, humor, and the guitar.

Dig » Beef Stew

Primary Practices

Guitar practice is built on doing things. Just as important as doing is the way we do things. The how matters.

Learning to play is a cluster of processes rather than a fixed sequence of linear events. We may think we are being linear, but the zig-zagging nature of learning winds and dips and crests rather than one thing absolutely leading to the next.

Now there are general sequences to learning. We have to be able to sit or stand before we can even hold a guitar. We need basic technical know-how to set strings in motion. Yet, once these things are in place, we piece together our practice from a variety of sources and ideas.

Let’s say that we are building a chain. And, we acquire links from a plethora of sources. We collect and apply information and ideas. We piece together a strong chain. When doing that, I believe that no matter which order the components were presented, everyone will piece the chain together in a different order; their own order. And, this is as it should be.

Dig » Primary Practices