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Mark Gettemeyer / Blog

The Other Part

Influence says a lot about who an artist is and it's interesting to hear how that influence is applied to their work. In the last 10-15 years, I've found myself drawn to the work of really talented guitarists like Craig Chaquico, Russ Freeman, Carlos Santana and Marc Antoine. In more of their music than not, lyrics (the Other Part of music) are non-existent. I've listened as these guys have crafted songs around sometimes simple melodies and woven them into more developed songs, and have admired their deftness and ability to make it all look and sound so simple. Assembling the right tones, for the right duration, can create a melodic treat that becomes a "hook" onto which the rest of the song hangs.

While the number of notes and keys available is very finite, the vast number of styles and tempos avail the musician with a dizzying number of choices when it comes to assembling a melody. Trickier still, is marrying that melody up with words and phrases that layer a story over the mood the music has created. I've recently stepped down this path, and the exercise found me drawing on everything I'd ever seen, heard or otherwise been exposed to, and forced me to articulate those experiences into written form. I found myself searching the far reaches of my mind and memory for commonalities that could somehow be strung together to tell a specific story. I also found myself frantically downloading Apps for my iPhone to help me with synonyms, rhymes and metaphors in the hope that something would resonate with a life experience somewhere in my past.

I can say with definite certainty that the task of assembling words and written phrases challenges me a bit more than musical phrasing. I suspect this comes largely from a lack of literary exploration on my part; rarely feeling compelled to pick up the latest novel or take a friend up on a suggestion of a good book. Imagining the influence that would have on me makes me think this might come at least a LITTLE easier.

So as I skip down the path of testing the waters of my musicianship, I've found this new fold in the fabric; another outlet for creativity, another test of my ability, another opportunity to further define my musical voice.

Patterns

As I mentioned in my previous blog, certain attributes about my style of playing and arranging are coming to light as I try to understand who I am as a musician exploring original material. My understanding of this evolution is beginning with recognizing and establishing where I am today. Armed with this knowledge, I'll be able to better evaluate my growth.

I've discovered that I am not as familiar with the notes on the guitar neck as I either thought I would be, or, after a number of years of lessons, as I think I should be. This became evident to me as I listened to the phrasing of the material I've uploaded. As my solos work through the chord changes, I find myself working to end or begin a phrase on one of the chord tones each time the chords change. While this makes sense musically, it illustrates to me that I'm trying to establish the chord tones in my mind, and assure myself that I know the different places on the neck where they reside. This tends to manifest itself in the amount of time I'm letting the chord tones ring throughout a piece of soloing. This is something that I suspect will continue to be part of my style as I seek a higher level of comfort with learning the fretboard. I hope to eventually land in a place where I'm not so preoccupied with hitting the chord tones on the down-beat, and I get to a place where I'm thinking about the space in between the notes.

I've also noticed that when it comes to assembling a more complete piece of music, I'm defaulting to basic patterns of song structure. Think back to third grade music class; your teacher taught you about songs and song patterns by using illustrations such as A B A B A C A. The letters represented verses, choruses and breaks. I suppose this is a logical starting point for someone who's never written music before (afterall, one must learn the alphabet before constructing words and sentences), I just get impatient sometimes and wonder how to break out of more traditional thinking. Continued pursuit of writing may be the answer; I don't think there's a quick way there, and I'm alright with that.

I'm also finding myself feeling like the guitar has to do the "talking" throughout most of the song. Given its tonal range, the guitar CAN do most of the talking, however, when other instruments do the talking, it lends a dynamic to a piece of music that the guitar can't establish. Sometimes, it's the things you don't say, or the silences, that speak louder than words or notes.

The Journey

In recent weeks, I've gained a considerable amount of working knowledge of my recording software (Riffworks by Sonoma Wireworks). While a few of the bells and whistles aren't really necessary (as a lot of them are redundant on my POD XT Live), the value for this software is really pretty good. For now, it's serving the purpose of getting my thoughts (musical sketches) documented.

I'm learning a lot about me, my playing and my style as a musician just by listening to the playbacks on the material I've uploaded to RN as well as tracks that are resident on my computer that haven't been shared. Good, bad or indifferent are all judgmental terms suggesting a desired outcome is the goal. Quite the contrary, the things I'm learning about myself, my style and my abilities are all helping me be a "better" player; not necessarily a "great" player, I suppose it could be argued that becoming better could be considered a goal, and getting to the place where my pieces are more mature, personally satisfying and musically challenging is not necessarily a goal, but a product of continuing the journey. I'm thankful for the opportunity to capture my work and grateful to those with whom I'm able to share.

Namaste-

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