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Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless

Little Neophyte 10 Apr 00 - 09:02 AM
John in Brisbane 10 Apr 00 - 09:11 AM
Whistle Stop 10 Apr 00 - 09:25 AM
GMT 10 Apr 00 - 09:25 AM
Midchuck 10 Apr 00 - 09:31 AM
Gary T 10 Apr 00 - 09:39 AM
sophocleese 10 Apr 00 - 09:56 AM
Art Thieme 10 Apr 00 - 10:12 AM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 10 Apr 00 - 10:30 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 10 Apr 00 - 11:38 AM
kendall 10 Apr 00 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Peter T. 10 Apr 00 - 12:07 PM
MK 10 Apr 00 - 12:13 PM
DADGBE 10 Apr 00 - 12:17 PM
Little Neophyte 10 Apr 00 - 01:15 PM
Amos 10 Apr 00 - 03:23 PM
Art Thieme 10 Apr 00 - 05:21 PM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 11 Apr 00 - 01:29 PM
Lady McMoo 11 Apr 00 - 01:44 PM
Rick Fielding 14 Apr 00 - 02:09 AM
GUEST,Frankie 15 Apr 00 - 09:38 AM
GUEST 15 Apr 00 - 10:36 AM
Rick Fielding 15 Apr 00 - 12:07 PM
Little Neophyte 15 Apr 00 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,Frankie 16 Apr 00 - 07:30 AM
Art Thieme 16 Apr 00 - 11:42 PM
GUEST,Frankie 17 Apr 00 - 10:36 PM
Little Neophyte 17 Apr 00 - 10:53 PM
GUEST,Frankie 17 Apr 00 - 11:22 PM
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Subject: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:02 AM

When I first started playing the banjo, Rick Fielding got a great kick out of some of my tunes because they sounded so innocent. He also mentioned that I should savor these moments because eventually I will start focusing on my technique and when I do, what may happen is the innocence could fade away.
I guess that is the same with any art form.
I haven't noticed this happening to me yet, but as I get more focused on technique I can see what Rick means.
I am wondering what others have experienced as they work on technique and watch their skills develop.
My greatest fear is that one day my music will start to sound mechanical and lifeless because it has become almost too polished.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:11 AM

Neo, I don't really advocate this as a serious solution but if you ever get to that point of proficiency it's a really nice problem to have. To take the edge off this mastery I could suggest drinking alcohol, being real stressed at work, having a young baby 'sleeping' in your bedroom, not practising for a month/year or more, contracting some form of ailment temporary or permament. Enjoy it while you've got it. Regards, John


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:25 AM

The best way to avoid getting stale is to keep learning -- new songs, new techniques, etc. There will be times when your playing is less than inspired (that's true for all of us), but if you keep refreshing the material and developing your skills, the dry periods shouldn't last too long. Also, continue to seek out other people to play with -- it expands your consciousness (without the need for chemical enhancement), and helps keep things from getting too predictable.

Rick sounds like an excellent teacher, but I wouldn't stress too much about the pitfalls he identifies. It's good to know they're there, but you can get past them.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GMT
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:25 AM

Don't worry Neo those days never come !!!!

I don't practice much myself, just learn new songs and listen to my performance for places to introduce contrast.

Some times it can become a bit samey when I hear myself using the same strum, picking patern and chords. But that's just boredom and the joy comes back sooner than later.

Become the best you can by adding new tricks every now and then.

Have fun Gary


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Midchuck
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:31 AM

Listen to some Norman Blake. This is a man who can do it all, and who could blow away all but maybe a dozen or two people in the world, in terms of flatpicking a guitar. But he doesn't. He respects the music, and plays it at a pace where it sounds like it should.

A great many guitar pickers - and even more banjo pickers, but that's an admittedly highly prejudiced opinion - could learn from his approach.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Gary T
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:39 AM

The key is to keep your heart focused on what the music says to you, and what you want it to say to others. Increased skill in your physical technique can make that flow more smoothly, so long as you don't shift your focus to the technique and lose sight of the heart of the music. There are indeed those whose music sounds mechanical and lifeless. It's as if what they're doing is putting out the notes and/or words, but not actually playing the tune or singing the song. I get the feeling that their emotions are disconnected from their body.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: sophocleese
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 09:56 AM

Little Neo you need to practice your technique until it is utterly mechanical and meaningless requiring the bare minimum of conscious thought. Then you can spend your time interpreting the music instead of your fingers. Along the way you'll hit plateaus of development where you spend long months sounding the same, but then you find another slope to climb. Just remember each plateau and go back to it as the song demands.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 10:12 AM

Hi kid,

They once asked Frank Profitt what he thought of Earl Scruggs' picking on the banjo. He said, "I'd like to be able to do it, and then not do it."

Art


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 10:30 AM

The very fact that you are worried about such an event, makes the occurence highly unlikely. Yours, Aye. Dave


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 11:38 AM

You are alway looking for something to worry about, aren't you?

Aloha,

Ted


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: kendall
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 11:52 AM

Dont worry about it..I've been picking for almost 50 years, and that has never been a problem. The other night in a performance, I missed a note, then when it came round again, I missed it AGAIN, so, I just said "Someone moved my G string." the reaction of the audience was better than if I had played it flawlessly.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Peter T.
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 12:07 PM

Can this really be your greatest fear, Little Neo? It is a very curious fear, if you look at it. Sounds to me like you have problems with the perfect. (a little cheap psychology for a Monday....)yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: MK
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 12:13 PM

Well Neo, from my own personal experience, the fundamentals need to be mastered first (technique, chord knowledge, songs/repertoire) etc...ONCE, you have that down, and no longer have to think about what you are doing, you can divert most of your mental engergy to the dynamics of expression in your playing.

If there is a soul/feel within your talents, it will manifest itself through your playing and will be self-evident to you and others you choose to share your music with, and you needn't dwell on or analyse it.

If there is no soul, then sure you'll sound like a technician...and there are some very prominent and well known fingerstyle players (I'm not going to name names) who (I.M.H.O.) are wonderful technicians, but have no soul to their playing...and their recorded performances sound to my ears, like listening to an android.

But the bottom line, is that if YOU derive pleasure from what YOU are playing, then that is really all that is important.....and believe me, you know, whether or not you've ''got it''. You don't need a lot of validation from others to reinforce it.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: DADGBE
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 12:17 PM

It's an interesting problem, isn't it. The best music teachers I've encountered have emphasized that technique is a tool for helping us make music. It's not the music itself. Just as a fine guitar or banjo can help you play better, technique helps you play what's in your head. It's still up to us to select what to do with it. One super classical player said, "We spend 20 years learning technique just so that we can forget about it." For me, music defines itself as causing emotions with sound. Just think of the skill it takes to move people with a few well chosen notes. Seems to me that it's harder to do that than dazzling 'em with hot licks. Keep playing! Ray Frank


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:15 PM

Boy you guys are really helpful.
So what I gather here is, if I now focus my time on mastering the fundamentals(technique, chord knowledge, songs/repertoire) ect... and I have that down pat, and I am no longer thinking about what I am doing technically, at that point I can just focus on my expression of the music.
The feeling of heart & soul that I currently have in my music is not something that just disappears or gets buried and lost under a pile of good technical skills.

That is good to hear.

And you are right M.Ted, if I don't have something to worry about I have to look around until I do.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Amos
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 03:23 PM

Right on, Bonnie-O. Techique is built of hundreds of tiny perfections acquired over time. But the working limit is that the song communicate. The point where the technique overshadows the communication from You to Them is the place to back up from. Since you have the natural innate power to communicate beautifully, as you have shown, I don't think this is going to become a problem. See how much we love ya?!!


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 05:21 PM

As you progress with your technique, you will, undoubtedly, fabricate things on your own. These will be incorporated into your style as your very own cliches (musically speaking). You'll use these cliches for effect and they will become reasons people are truly enjoying your music---your own style--your technique. Far from making your music sound "mechanical and meaningless", these will set you apart from those who copy another's songs note for note. It'll happen naturally and will be as exciting and fresh as your own enthusiam for your songs and the tales they tell. Your love for the muic will shine.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 01:29 PM

Up to a point, how masterful an artist becomes at plying his/her avenue of expression is secondary to the subject itself. I'd much rather experience a good theme expressed poorly than a poor theme expressed proficiently. In the all too rare instances when inspired ideas are expressed masterfully, I say we are in the realm of art.

When I saw Van Gogh's "Peach Tree In Bloom" for the first time, I got the impression he was the conduit between his inspiration and the canvas, as if he were trying to capture, in feverishly short and fat brush strokes, the dreamscape in his mind's eye before he awoke. I not only saw a beautiful rendering of a tree, but also a gleam of Van Gogh's divine urgency as he painted it. Subjectively, he has imparted to me what it must've felt like to paint that tree, and thus has imbued his painting with a part of himself. That's art, not "product."

When I hear Lightnin' Hopkins' music, it's like listening to hundreds of years of collective oppression and hard luck condensed into one man and one guitar. When he sings, "Mama got mad at Papa, 'cause he didn't bring no coffee home," there's a deeper meaning conveyed beyond the stated words that gets you right in your water.

Their work endures because they seem to have the ability to pour themselves out through their chosen medium. I am reborn as a voyeurist or an eavesdropper when I experience their artistry.

In a lot of cases, there must be an irritant around which artists can secrete their creativity. Madness, addiction, and unrequited love have produced many beautiful pearls. Contented artists can produce good art, but to me conflicting influences bubbling within the artist's vessel cook up the most savory feasts for the palate.

Neil


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Lady McMoo
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 01:44 PM

Little Neo, good advice from everybody here!

Just keep practicing and playing until you have the confidence to make a mistake sound as if it was intentional!

Many decades happy picking!

All the best,

mcmoo


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 14 Apr 00 - 02:09 AM

Some great advice here. Take Frank Proffit's with a grain of salt though. Earl Scruggs was an amazingly evocative musician well into the late nineteen fifties. I think the sheer amount of playing he did (and his health problems) got to him and he did end up sounding mechanical and sloppy...but he left some wonderful recordings. I think many of the "hill" musicians just found him a bit "slick".

Never confuse technique for "mechanical". Some folks just "swing" and others don't. You'll find that you'll be making decisions on which players move you more than others and you may find that the ones you really like, "swing" like crazy.

Some of my personal favourites really swing: Bix Beiderbecke, Norman Blake, Django, Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, Lil Hardin-Armstrong, Artie Shaw, Dock Boggs, Josh Graves (amazing), Doc Watson,...oh the list goes on and on.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Frankie
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 09:38 AM

Neo, A few weeks back I was going through some old tapes looking for a song to post on the Mudcat, and came across a rendition of Sensation A Rag played on a guitar so sweetly that I knew I had to find out who it was and get some more of his/her stuff. By the time it came to an end I realized it was me when I was about 5 years into this adventure, back when I was a real ragtime junkie. After I finished kicking myself for trading that old OOO-18 for a long gone Telecaster I fished out some other recordings I used to make long ago to chart my progress and was, in all modesty, overwhelmed by the ebullience in my playing from that time. At first I was feeling a kind of sense of loss but I realize that I'll probably listen to stuff I'm doing now in another 15 years and will hear something worthwhile and reflective of the person I am right now. Frankie PS I use a lot of the same tatics mentioned above and find that a one week respite from playing, spending my usual practice time with books,films etc. helps bring on some fresh insight. More than a week though and I become klutzy.


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 10:36 AM

There was no putdown of Mr. Scruggs intended in my previous post. Earl was a great picker and innovator. What I was saying is that Frank Proffitt was possibly being judged by the person asking him what he thought of Earl Scruggs' style. When he said what he said, he was saying I'm really amazed at what Scruggs can do. For me, though, while it might be nice to that, I still think that the old-timey way of backing up songs is the best way to do it to my ear.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 12:07 PM

Well Spake (or spoke, or speaked) Art.

I'm afraid the old time drop thumbers and Scruggs influenced three finger pickers are never going to see eye to eye. Back in my naieve youth I always wondered why the two factions NEVER frequented the same jams. For a while I put it down to political considerations, ie: The Scruggsters tended to be right wing, and the frailers, intellectuals. Then I thought it might be an "organic" thing, 'cause the bluegrassers used plastic and metal picks (and usually SMOKED!!). One day a frailing friend cleared it all up for me..."They drown us out! So fuck 'em!"

Rick(who only tries to drown out bad S-Ss)


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 12:18 PM

Frankie, I look back on things I have drawn as a teenager and I just can not believe I drew them. Was that really me? But I never continued with my art work to compare it to anything.
I guess by taking a break from playing (not too long) it could have the feeling like when you go on a holiday and come back to your regular routine feeling refreshed and inspired.
But why is it, when we are kids, every day feels refreshed and inspired?
I would like to keep this in mind with my music so that I never lose sight of it's innocence and wonder.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Frankie
Date: 16 Apr 00 - 07:30 AM

Neo, I guess I'm trying to say that even if the new car smell fades you'll find other things to hold your fascination. I have to admit that I don't have the same joy of discovery and sheer exhilaration as when I started out but I derive as much or more enjoyment from playing than I ever did. While I don't play the knuckle busters like I use to I'm able to impart an emotional depth to music that really interests me (mostly blues and old Irish and Scottish tunes) that I never could have back in my salad days. I've got a feeling that getting mechanical and meaningless is more of a concern for those who earn their living at it.
Oh yeah, another thing that has kept things fun is studying the guitar playing of Joseph Spence these past few years. Absorbing some of the aspects of his loose-limbed, off the cuff style has opened up some new possibilities for me.

Regards, Frankie


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 00 - 11:42 PM

When I hear Ry Cooder doing things in Joseph Spence's style I REALLY miss those groans and grunts the Spence used to do all through his songs. When I first heard it it sounded terrible to my ears---out of tune actualloy. But over the years I truly came to love everything Joseph Spence did. He was an acquired taste I suspect. Bob Wills' yells in the middle of his vocalist's best songs is something I'd miss now if they weren't on the old records. But I love Laphraoig Scotch too.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Frankie
Date: 17 Apr 00 - 10:36 PM

Yeah Art, his "singing" was a big part of the experience, especially on his '58 Folkways recordings (IMO). I've read somewhere that the out of tuneness was intentional. Supposedly, when some one handed him a guitar he would either sharpen or flatten (I forget which) the G string.

Frankie


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 17 Apr 00 - 10:53 PM

Frankie, what I get from what you are saying is that the music is kind of like a marriage. The sheer exhilaration from the initial infatuation might fade, but as the marriage establishes itself through a long term committment you start to derive as much or more enjoyment from the emotional depth you have built upon.

Frankie, your postings have been really helpful,
Thanks,
Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Sounding Mechanical and Meaningless
From: GUEST,Frankie
Date: 17 Apr 00 - 11:22 PM

Neo, I've never been married long enough to confirm it but I do like your analogy.

Frankie


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