We can always choose to show off with our instrument, and it really doesn’t take that much time to be able to do it, we can collect moves and licks, develop our amazing speed and precision. Give ourselves to the discipline of finger building and receive our compliment and “wows” when we perform.
There is other way to approach it which takes much more time and aims a very different thing, which is truly mastering the instrument and discipline so we know what we are doing, and then do what we want to do genuinely traveling to somewhere every time we play instead revisiting different permutations of common places.
I remember reading a passage many years ago in small book about Johan Sebastian Bach written by his wife Anna Magdalena. Bach was teaching to one of his students in the clave when the young apprentice started to play notes without knowing too much what he was doing to obtain a “gimmicky effect”. The master slapped the student in the face with and said “Don’t ever try that!”.
The thing is while improvising you should not play a note that you don’t know how it will sound, because you would be just trying to get lucky, the note would carry no meaning or intention. The music comes from the heart through the instrument and from nowhere else.
If you don’t know what I am talking about listen to this beast, Derek Trucks. His capacity to express with the guitar is something else. He is improvising but he is not trying the get lucky. He knows exactly what he is doing and he doesn’t need one thousand notes. Each an every note he plays has a very specific intention and a unique feel.
And it reminds me of many talks with Gabi Pareras, the master form Barcelona, when he complains bitterly precisely of that, most of the times we are trying to get away or get lucky but we lack of real understanding of what works and the principles involved, everyone have is own opinion and we are reinventing the same things over and over and over again.
It is pleasurable thing when you are doing something and you feel you know what you are doing. When we are not focused anymore and trying to get away with it but trying to express something. Most of the time knowing what you are doing means knowing what you don’t need and getting rid of it.
How we are supposed to know what we do? Well, keep working until we do. Right?
To be continued