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A couple months ago I became very unhappy with my guitar solos and later my creative process as a whole.
I was never happy with anything that I did, plus I really felt as if I was loosing my creative edge.
To see what I could do to gain some of this back I posted a message to a couple networking groups that I moderate.
After the overwhelming response I thought it would be a great idea to post a number of them in this section so
it could be helpful to others in this same situation.
If you are having issues with your creative process, this might be helpful as we start with my original post and
the responses that followed.
: Because I am taking actual repsonses I did not spell check anyone, so please no emails from editors
and school teachers, please
From: "Charlie Harrelson
Date: Wed Jan 1, 2003 8:57 am
Subject: The creative process.. My question
As many of you are aware, I have been in a huge creative funk with my
lead solo's on guitar. Seems as if I'm sleep walking and not
discovering new areas of excitement.
I did complete two new songs this month, one with Southern logic and
Autocad, and another one with Fragile Fear and they are both worthy
tunes, but my inner voice says "it could have been better, more
creative, more out of the box"...
If you did not know me musicically you could hear one of my new
solo's and say "wow, that was great" but the inner me says "man have
I fooled you"...I'm soloing on impulse power and neeed a boost!
I don't write much music so I haven't tested the waters on that end
yet. So my question to all those guitar minds out there is this.
What can I do to regain my chops, or to loss this voice in my head
that says "It ain't good enough"....?
One thing to really keep hold of is something that you wrote here
yourself about this:
" If you did not know me musicically you could hear one of my new
solo's and say "wow, that was great" but the inner me says "man
have I fooled you"...I'm soloing on impulse power and neeed a boost!
The line between an inspired line and a stock riff is pretty thin
sometimes, and the line between a great new idea and a poorly
executed new idea is often non-existant.
Remember, any creative process is really our own construct having no
reality beyond ourselves. Each person has many many creative
processes that are called upon to create new art. The key is to
develop as many as possible, linking them together in as many ways as
possible, and to know enough to understand what ways of thinking
musically come natural and which don't-- so we can develop those that
don't until they do.
Here are some suggestions.
Do not listen to any music from a genre
you've already heard.
Do you listen to Bossa Novas? If not than go
buy some Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, or obscure compliations of the
folk traditions in Brazil, or Esquivel, Joyce, etc. If you hate that
kind of music than even better! Listen for what makes it tick, and
dig out the melodies and how they relate to the groove.
Don't play any line on your guitar that doesn't start off with you singing it--
even if you can't sing. If you know Brazilian music then try Bali, or Senegal, or Bulgaria or something.
Don't listen to guitarists, and start thinking about other ways of
putting music together. Here is an example. Trombone is a lot like
a fretless bass or if they made them fretless guitar, but with one
string and seven "positions (which would be frets). The
seven "stopped" notes if it were a guitar are like their pedal
tones, the rest are pinch harmonics. The 'bonist lips tighten or
loosen to produce a "partial" from the overtone series which is the
same as our 12th, 9th, 7th 5th and so on harmonics They can get
really good articluation of the high harmonics thus they can play a
surprising wide range, depending on their technique and their horn
and mouthpiece. Limit yourself to one string for a little while and
think interms of the overtone series to produce a wider range of
notes and see if new ideas come out of that.
Listen to John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, these two giants of music
have two very different approaches to playing, but their
personalities and skill level are so strong that they are bound to
Here are some more names of jazz guys worth checking out:
Gerry Mulligan with Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Paul
Desmond, Cannonball Adderly, Jimmy Rainy, Johnny Smith, Pat Martino
(the last there are guitarists). Listening to new people, especially
new great soloists will definately inspire you.
inspiration is meant to take you to a new place creatively. You
can't really expect true growth without embracing new and different,
even if new is really old. I used to tell students when I taught to
listen to music that they hated and find out what specifically they
hate, and what they might find in it that is decent, and think about
how they'd play over it.
One last idea, very guitar specific. Most guitarists practice their
scales three or two notes to a string, drop that and try strick two
notes to a string on major/minor/diatonic modes (requiring many
position shifts), as well as single string playing. Use specific
ascending/descending patterns. I've been fooling around with
ascending in a minor 6th arpeggio but decending a minor seventh
arpeggio. Practice the scales giving emphasis to the patterns you
don't use for me it would be root on third finger and slide into
notes that don't fall well in that position.
Another thing is to
play the scales with each finger getting the root, but make sure you
can tag the entire chromatic scale as you go. You'll find phrasing
in each fingering that will open up new ideas. Look into alternative
octave divisions like in the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic
Patterns. Revist or vist the augmented/diminished ideas of Pat
Martino, or his minor substituiton system. Also, sharp all 11th's
for a while if you don't do that, or play eight note scales like the
bebop scale system or if you think of your standard 7 note scales as
tetrachords that are almost always a perfect fifth apart, play them
as tetrachords a sharp 4th apart-- this is called the augmented forth
principle in a harmony system called "axis correlation", it is a
system that allows you to resolve any chord in any key and create a
unique scale for each situation, especially those that seem to defy
standard harmony. I think it is based on George Russel's Lydian
Finally, remember music is speaking or singing. Don't play what you
won't sing, and think of new ways of speaking musically. Compare
Brando's manner of speaking to Jack Nicholas' or even Nick Cage's.
Each deliver their lines in a different manner. You don't have to
be "you" when you playing. Paul Desmond thought of Audrey Hepburn
when he was playing, Miles sometimes though about the way Sinatra
delivered a line, Trane used ideas he heard in Indian music. All of
these start with the attitude behind the music moreso than the notes
themselves. Stuttern when playing, talk faster than you should so it
sounds scattered and nervous, or calm and measured. Michael Dorn
decided that his approach to Worf on Star Trek would reflect the
character's arrogance in the way he spoke. He listened to the way
people spoke and chose to speak the opposite, he trys to emphasis
words like "the" and "a" in his sentences as if they were more
important then the nouns and verbs. "The Romulan Cargo Ship is
turning to Fire Captain." Think of how many ways that could be said,
by Spock or Worf or Kirk or Bones or Scotty or Naomi Campbell. Then
take each phrase you play on the guitar and play it as if spoken buy
any of these characters. These "acting" ideas work in music because
music is about communication and your personality is always being
presented in you music. The key is to remember that you can put on
new ones for the artistic situation you're in.
I hopes these ideas help. But remember, that voice bitching about it
not being good enough is not always being fair; separate the
emotional component and really assess intellectually if you're
growing musically and if you're honestly seeking new ways to express
yourself or new things to express. Logic will shut that voice up if
it is wrong.
Find something that moves you emotionally, THAT will spark the
creative process. Write a tune for your daughter, or your wife, or
your parents, whatever. Once you let go of the brain-process, and let
the emotional process take over, the notes will flow like rainwater
down a mountain. TRUST ME ON THIS.
daniel sent me a post you wrote on the evor yahoo groups. what do
u do to get out of a funk ? there are many times i feel uninspired.
there have been prolonged periods of writer's block, no inspiration,
or very little at times. i think for me, sometimes it has to deal
with psychological issues. are things fine in your life ? are you
happy ? are you just as inspired by the rest of the things in your
life. Sometimes, i become very afraid that the music in me has died
for good at times. i say 'oh no, i wont be able to write anymore...
but i always do, it takes a while.
sometime i listen to old cds that got me into music. look at some
olf magazines i have from back then, read some of the old interviews
with bands or people that i admire or those who helped influence me
and years back. i listen to the old stuff and look at videos etc...
although i dont think ill EVER be able to recapture the magic i did
when i was 13...i still try and try to remember what it was like. the
idea, foundations and ideals of why i started this. when you look at
music today and the scene and biz, how can one not become uninspired
? you have to seek your inspiration back out my friend...it wont come
if your too uninspired to even seek your inspiration...thats when its
time to maybe take a break and concentrate on other things in your
life, but i dont feel that is the case, simply because you have spoken
to many people about this and that you seem to care very much.
try not to trap yourself into any "one thing" musically. dont pain
yourself into a corner, which i dont believe you do! youve worked
with alot of people, but dont be afraid to experiment a bit on weird
change your guitar tone. if you play without effects, start using
some delay etc...if you play with them, play without. change things
around a little bit. i have been there and its very difficult to
get out of i know. it feels like the death of the inner musician
sometimes, and this might not be the case with you...i have to sit
down for some time and listen to something very sad over and over
to bring about the emotions. sometimes you just have to grieve a
little to bring the emotions back to the surface.
The creative process has 100% to do with your state of mind.... If you
have been feeling musically bored and uninspired it's probably because
you are concentrating on some NOT fun things..... it's a matter of
One way to stimulate yourself is to switch styles for
awhile: the mellow meditation disk that I did was amazing in that it
stimulated all of these extremely rocked out tunes as well as opening a
whole bag of possibilities... I was just too caught up in what I thought
I was supposed to sound like....or wondering why I play music in the
first place instead of just grooving with it because it makes me feel
GREAT to play it. happy new year.......Roberto
"Caught up in what I was suppose to sound like."
That has got to be the most enlightened thing I've heard all year (not this year,
SINCE IT'S ONLY BEEN A COUPLE DAYS... Very Perceptive Roberto!
I had to do a similar thing with the collab I'm doing with
Jeza, I worked it too hard and ran out of creative idea's, so I broke off and did something
totally different for a while, now the idea's begin to flow again.
is the founder of EvO:R
and solo guitarist
He manages a multi-million dollar audio/video business, maintains 7 websites, provides
guitar tracks for many artists that need something extra in their mix, records his own music,
is a father of 2, and maintains a 10 acre back yard that needed to be cut weekly during
the rainy summer and still has time to loaf around!
Catch his latest CD release TWO
today! It is available exclusively from
Peacework Music Network
Plus, be on the lookout for a couple Tracks Across America CD
compilations featuring the guitar work of TL2
along with a number
of members of the EvO:R organization.