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Playing like a wimp


Eric Iverson

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First of all, quoting from Dan L. on the Keyboard forum, from a thread on "the craziest thing ever said to you on a gig":

 

Many years ago we were playing a sorta rough bar on a Thursday. These 2 biker guys come in and set up chairs right on the dance floor in front of us. They had smuggled in their own bottles of booze and were tanked. They would hide the bottles under their shirts and drink out of them- like no one noticed that. Back then we played a lot of CCR, Stones, etc, but we also did the "Peanuts" theme. We're playing this, our one guitar player (who won the Galax bluegrass competition one year) played with a lot of finesse. He's doing a nice solo, one of the guys gets 2" away from his face, and says "You play like a pussy". The other guy had gone back and was sitting next to the drummer making faces at him. We had this huge guy who was our friend and was sort of a roving bouncer at various bars, he never saw what was going on. Finally our sound man, who was a little skinny guy, goes up and tells them to sit down and let us play. We thought all hell was going to break loose, but they actually sat down! To this day, whenever I see that guitar player, I tell him he plays like a pussy, just for old times sake.

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It got me thinking: I've never been a banger, and finesse is important to me: not totally to the exclusion of everything else. And yes indeed, there are times when the music calls for a strong attack. Like a girl once told me, "I like it hot and heavy."

 

People used to tell me "your left hand is great, but your right hand doesn't deliver the message." I haven't heard that in a few years, but it did make an impression.

 

Like most of us, I enjoy hearing guys with fine technique, and even endeavor to do it myself when appropriate, but I want to have a strong attack.. not wimpy... yet still not the "Neanderthal bang."

 

What has worked for me is finally learning to practice things slow and sure with a metronome.. hardly an epiphany for the music community...

 

But I'm interested in you guys' thoughts on the subject!

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I guess you take wisdom wher you can find it, but I'd be a little suspicious of a drunken biker's opinion. Call me a snob if you will, but that's just how I roll...

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Eric Iverson:

It got me thinking: I've never been a banger, and And yes indeed, there are times when the music calls for a strong attack. Like a girl once told me, "I like it hot and heavy."

Well, yes. It depends on what the band is doing and what the audiences expects. I think a lot of the "hot and heavy" thing is up to the rhythm section to provide.

 

If it's been left to the guitarist to put a little muscle in the sound, then there's something seriously wrong somewhere.

 

And yes, it's amazing what a little pounding can do for the sound when it's a bad night and the chips are down.

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There seems to be some sort of a stigma in at least musician circles (not necessarily bikers') that cats who pick every note play more "aggressively" while the legato cats are "smooth" or are "cheating"

 

To counter this point, if one listens to Lee Ritenour; it will be seen that he plays with alot more finesse and hardly any agression at all and he picks every note.

 

Then listen to Eddie Van Halen who plays mostly legato and tell me that he is not an aggressive player

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Eric

They all have there place, well I hope they do as I am a bit of a banger and wish I could learn more subtly and finesse, but it fits some things and not others, as I say horses for courses.

Both good but finesse is real style

Love life, some twists and turns are more painful than others, but love life.....

 

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That's about as simple as you can put it!

 

Listen to a fine classical pianist, for example. You'll hear a whole range of volume levels, from pianissimo to fortissimo, and some passages are staccato and some are legato.

 

I don't see why we as guitarists can't do the same, even on electric! (Even it's a maxi-decibel situations, you can pick a little softer hear and there, can't you? HENDRIX DID!)

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I play almost everything fingerstyle so can theoretically go from wimpy and delicate to aggressive easily and in a variety of ways. I still don't feel like I have the control on an electric that I do on an acoustic steel string or classical guitar.

 

My picking hand is a bunch better than my fretting hand though.....

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Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

Originally posted by ellwood:

I let my amps be agressive, I don't attack the strings with a vengence at all.

But you do alter your attack to change tone/control dynamics.
Sure but it's not real noticable to the audience ..I mean I don't do windmills..Pete said if he caught me doing it one more time he was gonna stomp my butt!! :D:eek:
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Originally posted by ellwood:

Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

Originally posted by ellwood:

I let my amps be agressive, I don't attack the strings with a vengence at all.

But you do alter your attack to change tone/control dynamics.
Sure but it's not real noticable to the audience ..I mean I don't do windmills..Pete said if he caught me doing it one more time he was gonna stomp my butt!! :D:eek:
Same with me, I let the amp do all the work, thats why we have 120 watt amps! I dont pick aggressive at all, I think playing aggressive is OK if you are pounding chords, but when I attack the strings aggresively when doing a solo or something its like a hit or miss thing for me, unless I mute the strings, but that still gets some percusive sounds to the picking which I can't stand.

 

Probably why I havent broken a string since I started playing a long time ago, and that was because I didn't know how to tune it and I overtuned the high E string :thu:

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Originally posted by ellwood:

Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

Originally posted by ellwood:

I let my amps be agressive, I don't attack the strings with a vengence at all.

But you do alter your attack to change tone/control dynamics.
Sure but it's not real noticable to the audience ..I mean I don't do windmills..Pete said if he caught me doing it one more time he was gonna stomp my butt!! :D:eek:
I always wondered how hard Pete actually hit the strings when he windmilled, until he impaled himself on the whammy bar!

 

It's not (imo) how your technique looks to the audience, but rather how it sounds. Playing fingerstyle, really digging into the strings won't look much, if any, different than a normal attack. I sometimes use a classical technique called Bartok Pizzicato that involves using your nail to lift the string and let it snap back down. It gives a hard edged percussive sound that is cool in some lines. It doesn't look aggressive though.

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playing electric is never going to give the dynamic range of an acoustic instrument, that`s the bargain one makes by plugging in. Playing too lightly doesn`t allow the pickups to do their job and the guitar will sound thin. I used to play like that, now I use more bite but I have no interest in banging on it, give me a volume control any day.

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'There seems to be some sort of a stigma in at least musician circles (not necessarily bikers') that cats who pick every note play more "aggressively" while the legato cats are "smooth" or are "cheating" '

 

I see this pretty often too. It's encouraged to pound the strings hard, which I agree with, but it's not often encouraged to play softly. Well, there are times when things should be played softly. Contrast, that's what should be strived to create. On a side note, I've found that Mark Knopfler on 'Six Blade Knife' uses dynamics to GREAT effect :D

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Originally posted by Starcaster:

'There seems to be some sort of a stigma in at least musician circles (not necessarily bikers') that cats who pick every note play more "aggressively" while the legato cats are "smooth" or are "cheating" '

 

I see this pretty often too. It's encouraged to pound the strings hard, which I agree with, but it's not often encouraged to play softly. Well, there are times when things should be played softly. Contrast, that's what should be strived to create. On a side note, I've found that Mark Knopfler on 'Six Blade Knife' uses dynamics to GREAT effect :D

STAR..Ok just so I understand..WHO encourages players to pound the strings? Certainly not instructors, don't you think players make up their own minds on how they will play, I sure don't let an audience tell me how to play, I think WE are the masters of that, don't you? If I misunderstood your meaning I am sorry..could be!
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I mean, other guitarists usually see it as good technique. Reading most Guitar Player articles, they all talk about getting the distortion out of the guitar by a powerful right hand. That Angus Young quote is probably the quintessential one. It's not often you read about a guy bragging about softer picking techniques. I suppose the guys who play with their fingers are often the opposite, but they're usually praised too. None of this is bad, it just seems that playing softly has a more negative connotation.
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Dynamics is as important as any other aspect of technique. It's how you get the emotion into the playing. If you simply play the notes for the specified amount of time at the specified time, it sounds mechanical. What makes it human and makes it music is the emotion you evoke by applying dynamics to your playing. That can be varying the attack, varying the volume, varying the rhythm, arpeggiating chords, applying vibrato,..whatever. Playing louder or softer is simply one aspect of dynamics.

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Originally posted by Eric Iverson:

Guys who are good acoustic players find, when playing electric through good amps, and not necessarily super loud, that they have to lighten up a little on the touch. Because if you don't it sounds klutzy.

I know. When I play acoustic I like to hear a good rattling sound under the music, but yes... that DOES sound klutzy on electric.

 

But there's a couple of points... there's a sort of forcefulness in playing that doesn't have anything to do with breaking strings. Angus Young's comments about getting the gain from the way you pick sounds a lot like what I'm thinking about.

 

Second and REALLY IMPORTANT point: getting the band out of the Wimp zone isn't really up to the guitarist, it's a job for the rhythm section. I know it sounds all "jobsworth" and unionized and all that, but really, there's no way a guitarist is going to singlehandedly compensate for a wimpy rhythm section. So my point is that you can give the strings a good whack but after a while it'll distort a bit too much and anyway, that's a bass player's job.

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