Phrasing.


Frizzy Totay
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Frizzy Totay
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02/21/2020 10:03 pm

Hi.

One of the most wonderful guitar tones is that of Eric Johnson. One of Eric's greatest compositions is "Cliffs of Dover". So I was pleasantly surprised to find an EJ style lesson on the site that picked (no pun intended) some of the sweeter runs from the song to make a lovely, short and almost doable mini-song.

First things first - this is absolutely pushing the boundaries of my capabilities. It might be just a smidgen too far for me. However, even playing the parts I'm up to speed on, I'm struggling to get the phrasing right. Take the very 1st lead lick. It's only 7 notes, yet somehow I'm not getting it to sound right. I have a similar problem with at least another couple of the licks. I've got all the notes memorised and most licks up to speed. But something is missing that I can't explain.

I'm playing my guitar unplugged so as not to disturb anyone. I always do. I know that kind of defeats the purpose of having an electric guitar, but that's the situation. Could the fact that there's no volume and effects be affecting it, or is there some technical issue behind it?

TLDR; How can I improve my phrasing 😄

Thanks


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03/02/2020 9:55 pm

Hi Poundhound,

Phrasing is super important for lead playing. Eric Johnson has some super tight, technical playing from what I remember of that song.

If you need help with these techniques, I recommend this lesson with Anders, and it's all about rock phrasing : https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=21294

Hope it helps!


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JeffS65
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03/03/2020 10:15 pm
Originally Posted by: Poundhound

Hi.

One of the most wonderful guitar tones is that of Eric Johnson. One of Eric's greatest compositions is "Cliffs of Dover". So I was pleasantly surprised to find an EJ style lesson on the site that picked (no pun intended) some of the sweeter runs from the song to make a lovely, short and almost doable mini-song.

First things first - this is absolutely pushing the boundaries of my capabilities. It might be just a smidgen too far for me. However, even playing the parts I'm up to speed on, I'm struggling to get the phrasing right. Take the very 1st lead lick. It's only 7 notes, yet somehow I'm not getting it to sound right. I have a similar problem with at least another couple of the licks. I've got all the notes memorised and most licks up to speed. But something is missing that I can't explain.

I'm playing my guitar unplugged so as not to disturb anyone. I always do. I know that kind of defeats the purpose of having an electric guitar, but that's the situation. Could the fact that there's no volume and effects be affecting it, or is there some technical issue behind it?

TLDR; How can I improve my phrasing 😄

Thanks

I wouldn't sweat how much effort it takesto get Cliffs of Dover down. I recall Eric himself said that he worked on it a very long time to be able to 'get it down'. Eric has some amazing phrasing on that songs (and on everything else). It's a lesson in lots of very cool and interesting ways to approach melodic techniques.


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03/04/2020 12:01 am
Originally Posted by: PoundhoundSo I was pleasantly surprised to find an EJ style lesson on the site that picked (no pun intended) some of the sweeter runs from the song to make a lovely,

Interesting useful thread Poundhound. Curiosity begs. Can you throw us the link please?


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Frizzy Totay
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03/04/2020 6:30 am

Hi and thanks for the responses.

ManXcat, here's the link to the lessons (I can't hyperlink for some reason. Apologies.):

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=21193&s_id=1696

This lesson had a strange effect on me. It both inspired and demoralised me. The fact that I feel so close and yet so far to being able to play it is incredibly frustrating. I also believe that because it is just out of reach technically, that is the reason I'm not getting the phrasing right. I can play each part correctly but not all together and only about 50% of the time. Oddly, the more I practised it the worse I got at it and that has resulted in me going from playing around 2 hours per day to not touching my guitar for around a week now. I'm scared I'll keep going backwards.

Thanks for the link to Anders' lesson. I'll give it a go today and it'll hopefully give me the little confidence boost I need to get back in the saddle.

👍


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Frizzy Totay
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03/04/2020 6:43 am

Oh, I also meant to mention to Jeff, from what I've heard, it took Eric 5 minutes to write Cliffs of Dover! He said he just woke up one morning and it was there ready for him, like a little gift from above. 😄


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03/04/2020 8:45 am
Originally Posted by: Poundhound

Oddly, the more I practised it the worse I got at it and that has resulted in me going from playing around 2 hours per day to not touching my guitar for around a week now. I'm scared I'll keep going backwards.

[p][br]Thanks for the link. Guests. I'll look at it in the morning.

Going backwards. You won't. Believe in yourself and just sleep on all that practice for a couple of days. I find the same thing from time to time. As fatigue sets in you just keep making more mistakes. At that juncture, it's time to stop. Go back to it after a good night's sleep or a day or so later well rested with no fear. What I discovered is that the mind (directing those motor skills) has learnt and adapted in that time, and what had seemed hard is now either learned, or not the insurmountable previously perceived. My consistent regular experience of which I am always in awe, neither exaggerating or ego embellishing. It's not 'me' (ego) and IDK how it works. I'm merely the observer noting that it just does.

[br]Interested in your experience. GL with it. Chat tomorrow.


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ChristopherSchlegel
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03/04/2020 12:46 pm

I missed this thread earlier!

Originally Posted by: Poundhound

However, even playing the parts I'm up to speed on, I'm struggling to get the phrasing right. Take the very 1st lead lick. It's only 7 notes, yet somehow I'm not getting it to sound right. I have a similar problem with at least another couple of the licks. I've got all the notes memorised and most licks up to speed. But something is missing that I can't explain.[/quote][p]Phrasing starts with rhythm. It's about when notes happen & how to group them into cohesive little units. The next aspect is to consider the articulation of the notes; how hard or soft you attack the notes. If you ramp up or down the dynamic level relative to the next group of notes. How you start & end a phrase.

It helps to think of musical phrases as sentences in speech. You have a subject, verb, modifiers, articles. The sentence starts, states its piece & finishes. There is a pause for a period, question mark or exclamation mark! Then you start the next sentence. Eventually you can think in paragraphs, until you can think of a solo or whole song as a little story.

[quote=Poundhound]I'm playing my guitar unplugged so as not to disturb anyone. I always do. I know that kind of defeats the purpose of having an electric guitar, but that's the situation. Could the fact that there's no volume and effects be affecting it, or is there some technical issue behind it?

Phrasing doesn't require electric guitar. But it certainly can affect your expectations when playing a piece like this! EJ's tone is a sweetly overdriven Strat through a loud Marshall amp. Tons of sustain on tap, reverb & delay. If you are just learning the piece it's okay to just mechanically learn the notes without amplification. But to get the notes to sing anything like the original you should be amped! Try a low setting, or try headphones.

Knowing just how hard you have to dig in, or how much of a light touch you can use on the fast passages while letting the power of the overdriven signal help you is certainly going to help you phrase a piece like that in a much more satsifying way!

Also, I've heard at least a dozen versions of this tune by EJ. I saw it live. He changes it up a little bit every time. I've even seen him struggle to get some of those licks happening. Sometimes he's rushing a little bit, or dragging behind the beat. That's hard stuff. Be patient with yourself.

Finally, it's electric guitar! Electrify it! :) Hope this helps. Have fun with it!


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Frizzy Totay
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03/04/2020 8:55 pm

Hey.

Thanks for more responses!

ManXcat, you were correct. I think I needed a rest. I was playing the EJ lessons almost exclusively for 2 hours a day. After about 15 minutes this morning I'd recovered my lost ground and gained some on the final section. The finger positioning on that one had been giving me grief, but it inexplicably fell into place immediately today.

Christopher, thank you for the deep analysis. All of it is spot on, I think. Sadly, the amp situation isn't going to change while in my current residence. My wife is currently intent on moving to a detached house, which would give me the freedom to play through an amp. I value my eardrums too much to use headphones. Years of listening to music on Walkmans/iPods etc. have already left me with moderate tinitus and I'm not going to push it any further.

One thing that stood out in your response was pressure. This is true for me particularly on lick 5, which due to its speed is the most difficult lesson. I feel heavy-handed playing it and the pick often gets tangled up. I've tried altering the pick position, to no avail. I'll just need to try and work out how to play witha lighter touch without missing notes or deliberately using pull offs to cheat a bit. 😁

I guess that if I pick a lesson that's a wee bit out of reach, it's going to take significant time and effort. Just reading the comments has given me the impetus to keep trying.

Thanks again, one and all.


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ChristopherSchlegel
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03/05/2020 5:27 pm
Originally Posted by: PoundhoundChristopher, thank you for the deep analysis. All of it is spot on, I think. Sadly, the amp situation isn't going to change while in my current residence. My wife is currently intent on moving to a detached house, which would give me the freedom to play through an amp. I value my eardrums too much to use headphones. Years of listening to music on Walkmans/iPods etc. have already left me with moderate tinitus and I'm not going to push it any further.
[/quote]

Fair enough. But the amp or headphones don't have to be loud. There are plenty of great sounding small amps & software that can simulate a loud amp & tone similar to EJ at very low volumes.

For example, I keep my Boss Katana in the common family room area of our house. I use the 0.5 watt setting, big overdriven tone on with the volume on low & can play it easily without disrupting conversation.

Originally Posted by: PoundhoundOne thing that stood out in your response was pressure. This is true for me particularly on lick 5, which due to its speed is the most difficult lesson. I feel heavy-handed playing it and the pick often gets tangled up. I've tried altering the pick position, to no avail. I'll just need to try and work out how to play witha lighter touch without missing notes or deliberately using pull offs to cheat a bit.

Yes, that's an important issue to keep working on. At first trying to play fast is going to raise your tension & adrenaline! But as you keep working on it try to relax & back off on the tension. It's something that I still deal with when learning a fast complex lick I've never done before.

If you can find a way to get it done with legato instead of picking each notes that's fine! You can also move the notes to (mostly) one string if that helps.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=287

I have a series of lessons on how to deal with speed & sequenced patterns like that.

This one shows how to visualize all the minor scale patterns.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=929

And this one has a lesson on sequencing the patterns in 4s. Straight across.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=14668&s_id=973

And in one position.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=14669&s_id=973

[quote=Poundhound]I guess that if I pick a lesson that's a wee bit out of reach, it's going to take significant time and effort. Just reading the comments has given me the impetus to keep trying.

Good deal! Don't stop. Keep going. :)


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Frizzy Totay
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03/05/2020 10:22 pm

Ooh! Nice. I'll have a look at your shredding lessons. Have to give a quick mention to this extract from the description/commentary:

"First, it is important to realize that playing fast - or "shredding" - should not be merely a flailing, spastic, haphazard jumble of notes or "stuff" you play as fast as you can. "

Lol. That almost sums up my technique.

I also received good news today. We're getting that detached house way out on a reasonably isolated region on the West coast of Scotland. There are some neighbours, but I should be able to bring the noise without upsetting anyone (except the dog). Not moving until June, but hopefully I can pick up a Katana or a Code soon after. I'd be interested to hear your take on each, if you can.

For the immediate future I'm going to step away from the EJ lessons. They're holding me back, I think and I'd like to get back to learning things at a better pace.


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ChristopherSchlegel
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03/06/2020 3:34 pm

That shredding stuff is fun but a pretty deep rabbit hole. :) It's a lot of work for very little return. It's not very practical for most music. But if you want to have that skill or tool at your disposal then, the material in those lesson will show you the path. The hard part is the time involved in getting that stuff in your fingers. Sometimes that's time better spent learning songs or other more practical skills.

Originally Posted by: Poundhound

"First, it is important to realize that playing fast - or "shredding" - should not be merely a flailing, spastic, haphazard jumble of notes or "stuff" you play as fast as you can. "

Lol. That almost sums up my technique.[/quote]

LOL. Yeah, I've seen that so many times over the years that it's become my standard reply when students or other guitarists mention it. That is of course why I mention it in the tutorial.

It's an interesting & surprising effect when you actually get some of that stuff up to speed. The more you get it down, the easier it gets to hear other faster phrases. And it doesn't seem so incredibly fast any longer! Once you can hear & do that kind of thing it actually makes musical sense & it's easier to grasp. It doesn't seem so impossibly fast as it did when you first encounter it.

Originally Posted by: PoundhoundI also received good news today. We're getting that detached house way out on a reasonably isolated region on the West coast of Scotland.[/quote]

Outstanding! Best of success with that!

[quote=Poundhound]Not moving until June, but hopefully I can pick up a Katana or a Code soon after. I'd be interested to hear your take on each, if you can.

I'm not familar with the Code, but I did a whole series of demos with the Katana.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifc_Xk5-Nrk&list=PLLlnl5iWw43icBvpfQQUpzkOKfLncd-bL

The Boss Katana 50 is an outstanding amp & value for the price. It's the one digital amp that I've been able to use as is & put pedals in front of. I used it in a couple of gigs & dialed a clean loud tone with a little gain (edge of breakup), then I plugged in my normal pedal board (Boss SD1, Zoom MS50, Chorus). Worked great!

[quote=Poundhound]For the immediate future I'm going to step away from the EJ lessons. They're holding me back, I think and I'd like to get back to learning things at a better pace.

Good deal! Enjoy whatever you are working on.


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JeffS65
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03/10/2020 6:48 pm
Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

That shredding stuff is fun but a pretty deep rabbit hole. :) It's a lot of work for very little return. It's not very practical for most music. But if you want to have that skill or tool at your disposal then, the material in those lesson will show you the path. The hard part is the time involved in getting that stuff in your fingers. Sometimes that's time better spent learning songs or other more practical skills.

[p]

Funny. Back when I had 'shredding abilities', I never really thought of them as the end goal. You can read a million guitar player interviews where they will tell you that shredding in and of itself is not useful. Truth. Shredding without musicality is noise. It's laregely why I didn't like much of the Varney/Shrapnal stuff back then. There was some good stuff but lots of noisy stuff.

Even back in my twenties, I saw shredding skills as more about the ability to command the instrument. It happened as one of those 'a ha' moments when I was really trying to be a fast shredder that I realized that due to my pushing to physcally be a better player that I had much better command of non-shred stuff.

I started to see shred excersizes (the things I made up to practice speed) as more a means to ensure that when I played anything, there was some authority to it.

I remember seeing the band Hurricane in the 80's and the guitarist Robert Sarzo (Rudy's brother) always seemed to be on the very edge of his skill as a player. The Hurricane stuff wasn't super-complex and maybe I was misreading what I saw but it just seemed like he didn't have full control (eventually Doug Aldrich replaced Robert in Hurricane, so there's that).

Steve Vai can play just about anything but generally doesn't but what he does play, it's command, command, command![br][br]I suppose it's like working out.

I don't work on shredding anymore and given that I have had to semi-rehab my index fingers over the last few years, my shredding ain't what it used to be. I still whip out a lick once in a while but there are some that are just a no-go nowadays.


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03/10/2020 7:58 pm
Originally Posted by: JeffS65Shredding without musicality is noise.

Amen!

A good read validating many truths JeffS65.


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Frizzy Totay
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03/10/2020 9:46 pm

In defence of shredding:

1) music without musicality is just noise. Yoko Ono?

2) People often criticize the likes of Yngwie, Michael Angelo etc. for having no emotion. The last time I checked joy was an emotion and I take great joy listening to them.

3) Incredibly, some people criticise Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Nuno and Andy Timmons for being mindless shredders!!! Music is subjective and we all take different things from it. I would just refer back to the OP and if you haven't watched a live version of Cliffs of Dover I would ask that you do. Eric is shredding. It seems that some forms of music get a free pass when it comes to fast playing. If it's Rock it's tuneless drivel, if it's jazz then it's the highest form of expression in music. I listened to some Alan Holdsworth recently and while there is absolutely no doubt he is a great player, his music left me completely cold.

Coincidentally, I recently discovered a song from Andy Timmons called "On Your Way Sweet Soul". I've swapped it in to my songs to be played at my funeral. I expect tears. 😭😭😭

Finally, thanks again to CS. I'll add the Katana to my shopping list.👍👍


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03/11/2020 11:47 am
Originally Posted by: JeffS65Shredding without musicality is noise.[/quote]

Well, sure. Anything without musicality is noise. :) Or maybe more accurately, anything without musicality is not music.

[quote=JeffS65]Even back in my twenties, I saw shredding skills as more about the ability to command the instrument. It happened as one of those 'a ha' moments when I was really trying to be a fast shredder that I realized that due to my pushing to physcally be a better player that I had much better command of non-shred stuff.

Yes, that's it. It is much like working out. And like anything, the things you practice & drill are the things you have under your command. At this point in my life it's more about maintaining my skill than building or increasing. And I make time every day to do speed stuff. That way it's there when I need it & it raises the overall ceiling of what I am capable of when it's time to play.


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03/11/2020 11:59 am
Originally Posted by: Poundhound1) music without musicality is just noise. Yoko Ono?[/quote]

Originally Posted by: Poundhound2) People often criticize the likes of Yngwie, Michael Angelo etc. for having no emotion. The last time I checked joy was an emotion and I take great joy listening to them.[/quote]

Music is a very personal thing. I think that timbre is more of a deal breaker than speed. For example, compare a Beethoven sonata or a classical guitar piece to a Malmsteen or Angelo piece. All of them are shred city & with similar melodic & harmonic content. But you are going to find people very divided over enjoyment of them. And the deciding factor isn't going to be be notes per second. It's going to be the timbre of the instruments.

Originally Posted by: Poundhound

3) Incredibly, some people criticise Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Nuno and Andy Timmons for being mindless shredders!!!

Some of that is timbre. But some of it is unfair. And can usually be more accurately described as, "I don't enjoy music that has a lot of information to process." It can be a lot of work to listen to that many notes. And some people just like music that has a medium tempo steady beat & a hummable melody.

[quote=Poundhound]If it's Rock it's tuneless drivel, if it's jazz then it's the highest form of expression in music. I listened to some Alan Holdsworth recently and while there is absolutely no doubt he is a great player, his music left me completely cold.

Yes, there is a big difference in melodic & harmonic content in some cases.

Music has the ability to evoke an emotional response. And the lack of an emotional response is an indication that the listener should listen to something else. Not necessarily that the music is lacking.

But the emotional response to music is very strong. So people's reactions & expectations are highly charged!

[quote=Poundhound]Finally, thanks again to CS. I'll add the Katana to my shopping list.👍👍

Good deal! Great amp!


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03/12/2020 12:36 am

Predominantly emotive [u]straw arguments[/u] relative to the original quoted statement (subject) of [u]musicality with respect to shredding[/u].

If understandable from the perspective of foibles intrinsic to the nature of man, there's no logic in nor need to be defensive. Shredding is what it is, and [u]without muscality[/u], other than as an exercise of technical skill, tactile prowess or ego massaging as is too frequently the case in my listening experience and observation, which admittedly is narrow in the genre as invariably I turn it off or walk out, liking it with or loathing it [u]without musicality[/u] doesn't alter the fact.

As to subjectivity of individual preference, I think this sums it up well enough.


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Frizzy Totay
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03/12/2020 7:25 am

Just out of interest, is this musical or not?

Classical shredding

Firstly, yay me!! I figured out how to link. Secondly, IMO, yes it is. Transfer it to a guitar and add distortion and it's still musical. I believe this is the type of thing that influenced a great many neo-classical guitarists in the 80s, and was played by Steve Vai in the film Crossroads

As for being "predominantly emotive", yes, that's probably true. But predominantly still leave room for logical too.Good music is predominantly emotive but with some logic in there.😁


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03/12/2020 8:02 am

Yes, that example of Paganini is musical. And I genuinely loved it in the first link you posted.

But, I think you may have overlooked the relevance of "straw argument" in my previous reply. But never mind mate. We're here to share, express and hear different points of view, and I respect yours regardless.

I agree wth you that shredding when relevant and musical, and with those as its objectives, can be entertaining and pleasing to the ear as well holding the attention of critical discernment from the conscious mind. I noted Christopher's references to the salience of timbre, and it's given me food for thought and reconsideration of perspective.

I'll go and listen to your Crossroads link now.

[br]Cheers big ears!


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