Sunday, May 02, 2010

practice makes perfect

Not much to tell you about CBGs at the moment, been having a rest from building them and concentrating more on playing. I've been messing about with the Akai Headrush, creating loops and other effects and even recording some of it. As this is a newish direction for me, I want to tell you a couple of lessons I've learnt from the experience. I'm sure there's a few of you who are like me, purely amateurs, playing on your own but with some small aspirations to produce some of your own music and maybe, hope you might get good enough one day to record something. Even give or sell a few copies of your own album. Probably you lack confidence and therefor think you'll never be able to produce something good or professional enough. Well I've got news for you, you can. The first lesson I've learnt is that practice definitely helps but may not "make perfect". The second lesson is - it doesn't need to be perfect! Let me expand on these.

I've never been disciplined to practise regularly, I tend to pick the guitar up when I feel like it, mess around on it and tend to play the same old familiar pieces that I have been playing many times. Nothing wrong with that but it is very limiting and gets boring. It's one of the problems of playing on your own. The Akai pedal has really opened things up for me because I can create a looped riff or rhythm to play along to. It's quite easy with a little practice and that's where I am learning this first lesson. I noticed how my tempo drifts, tending to speed up. The looped riff is very regular and so it shows up my playing when I jam to it. So when I get a nice little idea going, I have to really listen to the beat and concentrate on keeping time with it in order to produce something listenable. Something you don't do when just playing on your own. I find I keep trying over and over until I get it right because I am now motivated to. So there's the practise bit. Even a small amount pays dividends. So don't give up just because it seems hard to get it right. Just try again and again and it will eventually happen. You'll benefit a helluva lot from it.

Second lesson - aiming for perfection. I'm a bit of a perfectionist at heart with most things I do. If I wait until my playing is 100% perfect, I'll never achieve my small ambition, to record an album of my own music. Let me say here, I have no ideas of selling thousands of copies and getting famous. It's just an aim for my own satisfaction, to actually produce something tangible out of all this. A few pieces of music I can say are my own creation. So yes "practise makes perfect" but do we need or even want perfection? Think about it - we are living in cigar box guitar world. It's the imperfections that we like and even strive for. What makes music "alive" are often the small variations of tone and tempo in a person's playing. Listen to some techno stuff generated from a computer or whatever and you'll probably agree that it sounds sterile and clinical compared to a live performance played on "real" instruments. Fine if you like your music like that but for me, I like the warmth and soul that a real person playing an instrument, puts into the music. Think about blues and folk. Very often the playing and singing is nowhere near perfect in terms of purity. Some vocal examples - compare the likes of classical singers like Pavarotti who are probably pitch and tempo perfect to the likes of Bob Dylan, Hendrix, Tom Waits, Howlin Wolf to mention a few. What they might lack in perfect singing voices is more than compensated for in their feel, emotion and delivery. They're not trying to sing roughly, it's just the way they are - they are just being themselves and you have to like it or leave it. I saw a video clip of Son House playing bottleneck slide. His guitar sounded out of tune, he was holding the slide at about 45 degrees angle to the neck and to be honest, if that was me playing, I would probably feel a little embarassed. But there's no doubting it was a great performance and completely enjoyable to me. The emotion and rough quality of his singing and playing was what made him great. No matter how much I practise, I'll never be able to come close to that. But I might come close to just being Smojo, whatever he/me has to offer.

So I say to all you perfectionists, by all means practice and try to get close to a great sound/performance as you can, but don't be frightened to just let it rip and once you have something down that you feel 75% happy with, that's good enough for most folks. Don't let the striving for perfection get in the way of just enjoying your music and being creative. That's the key - let your creativity flow unimpeded, have fun with it, be proud of your creations and don't be frightened to share it with like-minded people.

No comments: