Anyone who's heard me, played with me, or studied with me, knows how I feel about the importance of blues "language," and the way that it relates to every aspect of music appreciation and personal growth. I'd like to spend this edition of "Coach's Corner" underlining this issue and, once again, sharing some observations that will hopefully support what I believe to be true.
Talk is cheap in the music field. Labels abound and everyone's got a right to an opinion, whether that opinion may be qualified or not. I think the one thing that just about everyone might agree upon is the importance of "feeling" in our music, for this is a trait that transcends any particular style. To me, it's the difference between a good and bad tune or performance. Nothing else really matters anywhere near as much. Music needn't be harmonically complex or technically dazzling to emotionally move a listener, though many get sidetracked by the more cerebral or physical aspects of our art. You must have substance though, and that's where the word "message" rears its head in this scenario.
Blues music, probably to a more apparent degree than other styles, hinges on delivering a message or story, with a lot of feeling as well. And it often times doesn't take the listener more than a brief exposure to a vocalist or instrumentalist (sometimes as little as a note or two) to recognize the raw power of that message. Also, as a blues performer, if you can't play with feeling and give a message, you fail. It's that simple.
Another issue that most would agree upon is the impact of blues on other musical styles. Blues has, at one time or another, crossed paths with rock, jazz, country, pop, you name it. But the one observation that I've made over the years is that music of any style with the most timeless, lasting quality, has been music strongly rooted in (or related to) blues. And the musicians?
All of my favorite "non-blues" performers just happen to be great blues players as well. Coincidence? I don't think so. There's something to be said for the effort of a musician, at some point in their career, to center on and hone their blues skills, if for no other reason than to play with feeling and deliver a message. That acquired power usually ends up positively affecting all of the future music that they produce. Want examples? No problem.
Though I'm no comprehensive expert on the subject of rock 'n roll guitar, I do know something that Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, Van Halen, Vaughan, etc, all have in common. Blues power! On the other hand, I consider myself to be somewhat knowledgeable about jazz music. Many, many fine guitarists to discuss, but my favorites? Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, George Benson, etc. Spotting a trend here? "Fusion" is one of the most confusing categories in the music world, but if the label's appropriate, give me Larry Carlton and Robben Ford any day of the week above all of the rest combined. I don't care about flashy techniques, brain-teasing chord progressions and harmonies, or frenetic energy, because they all mean nothing without the feeling, the message, and the power of the blues.
As an instructor, I tend to stress blues as probably the singular most important stepping-stone in a musician's evolution. For me, "hearing" is believing!
"Coach's Corner" is an ongoing addition to Vision Music. The purpose of these brief articles is to share philosophy, offer practical insights, and to enhance your musical studies.
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