3 Ingredients For Your Sound

Posted: April 14, 2010 by Paul H in Tips & Tricks

This is one of the very first things I used to tell my students at MI (Musician’s Institute in Hollywood). There are many ways to divide up what you do as a musician but check out these three. I can help you learn the first two, but for the third you’re on your own: 

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 4.35.42 PM1. Vocabulary: This is what you play. Just like speaking, music is a language and with language the words you use mean things. It’s the same with music. The groups of notes and phrases you play mean things musically. This also includes how you assemble what you play. For example, you could combine a BB King lick with an Eddie Van Halen lick. But when you combine them you do it in the way only you can. Just about everything has been played before, so what licks or phrases you choose to put together, I call your vocabulary.

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 4.34.47 PM2. Technique: This is your ability to play your vocabulary clean and precise, your vibrato speed, vibrato width, your raw motor skills. Picking, legato, string muting, bending and on and on. Your technique comes from massive repetition and lots of practice. It’s your ability to execute what you play.


Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 10.00.03 AM3. The Intangible: This is your inner force, mojo, emotion. I believe that music contains a form of communication that we are not consciously aware of. In the world of our daily lives we deal with reality and sometimes forget we are spiritual beings. This is why music and the arts are so important, there’s something being communicated through them on a sub-conscious level. For example, the first note in Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman“. Listen to it. There’s hardly any vibrato on it. You can hear the recording engineer messed with the level so there is a volume change, and it may be on the verge of feeding back, but what makes that note so amazing? This is not something that can be taught. You have to find this within yourself. Some people refer to this as playing with feeling or emotion, but that’s simplified. Remember when you play to let this intangible force flow.


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