I’ve been working with a few of my students on the important concept of dynamics. There was a television commercial that aired some years ago (a perfume company, I think). I may have mentioned this before but it had the tag line: “If you want to get someone’s attention, whisper.” Many guitarists who get to the point they want to play out in front of audiences could learn something from that idea. I was certainly guilty of playing everything at the same level in the beginning but I hope I’m better at varying my volume/intensity there days. There’s sometimes a reason that we sometimes have to play loudly, mostly having to do with the room. A loud, noisy bar is not the place to attempt a soft ballad. Likewise, playing every song at low volume in a “listening room” demands a lot from an audience.
Perhaps I’m misstating the concept a bit. Volume does not necessarily equate with intensity. One of my favorite songwriters, Lyle Lovett, does a masterful job of playing his most introspective songs with great intensity – listen to what he does with “North Dakota.” Along with developing an interesting set list in terms of mixing slower and faster songs, drawing the listener in with variations of volume (even within an individual song) will result in a compelling performance.
More random Friday thoughts. We have a GREAT radio station in the area that often introduces me to new and interesting acoustic music, WUMB, based out of UMass Boston. They also have live streaming at WUMB.org. Especially in the afternoon and evenings they play not just pure acoustic “folk music” (whatever the heck that is….still trying to define that term after 50 years of listening to it!) but also quite electric stuff including some classic blues by the masters and new stuff by indie songwriters and bands that may not feature an acoustic guitar at all. But last night as I was driving home from a fishing trip I heard a couple classic Joni Mitchell songs from the early 1970s. Wow. I’m embarrassed to say I usually don’t play Joni much these days but her songwriting genius becomes more and more apparent to me as the years pass. Yes, her voice can be off-putting for some people but there is absolutely no question that she sings from her heart and her deepest emotions are right there for all to see. I also deeply admire lyricists who can evoke many layers of meaning with very few words. “A Case of You” is a perfect example. If you haven’t listened to Joni in a while, take the time to do so. I’ll bet you’ll find something new even in songs you’ve heard for years.
I need a new book about music to read this fall. Anyone have any ideas?
As usually happens, the muggy weather that we often get in September has returned to Cape Cod. Result: my Martin M-36 and Gibson J-15 both sound like someone stuffed pillows into them Ugh. This will pass but in the meantime it hardly makes playing a pleasurable experience!
I’ve forced myself to begin an actual list of songs that I want to learn or perfect. This is a good thing because I’ve found there are tunes that make me go: oh, yeah, I wanted to learn that one! Somehow songs get pushed to the back of my mind these days. Is that an age thing or am I slipping into the habit of just playing the same-old, same-old? God, I hope not! Anyway, keeping a list of potential tunes is probably a good idea for all of us.
That’s all for a muggy Friday on Olde Cape Cod.
Peace & good music,