At the heart of music making is creating a rewarding & sustained practice that produces joy and intensity for a life-time. This is possible for everyone; and the best part is, that we, as players, steer the process. When our goals are clear & we make contact with our musical self, incredible experiences can follow.
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. We give ourselves this opportunity.
We start this process immediately. It takes time to find our unique approach to improvising and writing. Willingness is the keystone. This process is never finished. It is a work in progress for a life-time.
Though anything can be done with musicality [exercises, studies, experiments, training], making music is its own thing, free of a training mindset. We make sure that we set time aside within our practice to simply make some music. Whether this is performing a piece of music or jamming or improvising or playing songs, alone or with others, we let sound flow without too much thought.
Writing music is a core practice. We suggest that it become a primary practice from the start and be maintained throughout our playing life. And, it begins through experimentation with the materials of music.
Some folks find this process effortless. Others find it tedious. Willingness is the beginning. And, it is okay to write some 'bad' stuff. Our 20th song or melody will most likely be better than our first. And, think about the 100th! It will completely rock. So, we start.
Writing includes composing chord progressions and arranging them in a song form, lyrics, rhythm, and/or melody.
Everyone's process is different, yet we share commonalities. Some of us will write the chord progression first [through cycling known chords], then write a melody to it. Others may write a melody, add words, then harmonize it. Or words first, then melody, then harmonize. To find out how we work, we experiment and learn from others. Our music writing process can often involves others. If we are good at writing melodies and chords, but not words, we find someone that is good at it, or maybe call on a poet. This doesn't prevent us from working to evolve our weak areas, yet sometimes, we just need others [if just some good ole energy]. A band takes every member to contribute even if particular players aren't involved in the core songwriting process.
One of the easiest ways to make music is to play to recorded audio. When we play along with a song [playing the recorded parts], we get the feeling of 'being in the band'. And, this is also acts as a benchmark for where our skills match up to any particular song [can we keep up with the tune?]. Playing to audio is a version of jamming with others, since we are playing along with recorded musicians.
We have options for what we do during this process, and what type of audio we will play with.
- Play the rhythm part of the song. Stick to this through the entire tune. Be solid and reliable.
- Play the rhythm part of the song until the solo, then play the solo, then back to the rhythm. If fills exist, play those too. Again, be on the spot reliable. Know the parts.
- Some songs have two or more guitar parts which create an overall texture. For these types of tunes, pick a part and just play it [if it is decipherable]. Another option is to listen to the overall sound and create a guitar part which blends the different parts. This can result in some interesting guitar parts. Listen to the entire texture, then find/play what you are hearing.
- Know the key of the song [chord progressions] and solo in that key for the duration of the tune. During this process, figure out the vocal melody and any other melodies or fragments of melodies that you hear. A great exercise is to figure out the entire vocal melody. Any track can be a solo jam track.
- Solo to audio designed for soloing. We provide some jam tracks for this in our Jam Audio Zone. There are countless sources for these types of tracks. They are typically called playalongs [good for both chording and soloing]. Our suggestion is that we avoid canned muzak sounding tracks and look for tracks with sonic integrity [what we have sought with I Love Guitar jam tracks].
- Solo to audio tracks which we design and record on our own. Rather than looking for pre-existing solo tracks to fit our needs, we can create our own. By doing this, we get exactly the challenge that we seek. All students of guitar are encouraged to do this.
- Jam to drum tracks.
Playing to audio is one form of jamming with others, but here we are encouraging everyone to make some music friends to jam with. At a bare minimum, may we suggest, jamming with friends at least once a month. Once a week would be sweet, yet for some, this can prove difficult to maintain. Once a month is do-able for most of us.
If we already play in a band, awesome. If not, playing in a band is a good goal to have, yet not a mandatory one. Jamming with friends can do a lot good for our overall musician experience. We find out where we stand with our playing; it provides healthy feedback about how our practice is going. We take information back to the practice studio.
To find folks to jam with, hanging out at music stores is a good start. Talk to the staff; sit and play guitars; talk with people. Also, community based groups are a good place to find like minded musicians. A club or a church, or even family events are places to make musical connections and can even end up as performance opportunities.
There is no pressure to jam with others; it is just a good idea and often ends up being a positive experience.
Recording music is awesome. It can also be an opportunity, like performance and jamming with others, to understand where we are in our music making process. Are we ready? How did we do?
With recording being so accessible now, we encourage everyone to start recording from the start. Listening to yourself along the way, gives vital feedback to how we sound as players.
Whether we record a basic chord track for soloing, or are recording with a band, the recording process itself is a basic music making skill to have.
When recording, we often play to a metronome. There are times in recording where it is mandatory that we play with a metronome [i.e. recording guitar parts before the drums]. There are other times where not using a metronome to record is more appropriate [i.e. recording a solo guitar track].
Performing is optional. However, it does provide great feedback about our playing and an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to share with others, and to test our skills.
Preparing for performance changes the way and the what of our practice time. If a performance is coming up, this often dictates what we will work on for a given session. This is as it should be. If we decide to perform, we best get ready.
Typically, players alternate between times of writing, recording, and performing. Musicians write music, then record it, then go perform it. Yet, in today's world, every player can determine new work routines for themselves based on countless variables.
Most people that play guitar don't perform. This is a fact. Performing doesn't have to be the ultimate goal to being a player. We can become great players and never perform. We may just play for the simple joy of it. If we decide to perform, well that is just another experience to add to our musical story.