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Shred Academy - Free Guitar Lesson by Lee Carlson



Music of the Mind: Part 1
Self Expression - Playing with feeling

By Lee Carlson

There has been a long-standing debate regarding whether a so-called “shredder” is just showing off, or actually expressing something of him/herself. Personally, I love fast and flashy playing and I believe it to be as legitimate a form of self-expression as a standard blues lick. This article will explain why.

It has been said that shredding or technical playing has no “feeling”. If you believe that, let me remind you that there is more than one kind of emotion. I personally, am a hyperactive guy, so I tend to play accordingly. That’s not to say that I don’t ever play “slowly”, but, for the most part, I like lots of notes!

Years ago, I heard Michael Angelo Batio say in an interview regarding shredding that (I’m paraphrasing here) it is like the difference between driving an ordinary car or jumping in a Ferrari. He prefers the Ferrari. I actually got to meet him a few years ago at a guitar clinic in Calgary, and let me tell you, he is one of the most hyperactive individuals I have ever met. This, in a sense, didn’t surprise me because that’s the impression I get from his music. (DISCLAIMER: Not everybody who is intense has to be hyper. I’m just using him as an example of putting your personality into your music.)

When considering self-expression, or when you are sitting down to write a song, do you listen to how others have expressed the feeling or situation you are writing about? Or do you listen inside to what wants to come out? Musical meditation, if you will.

It is good to learn from others, but in the end, it’s about what is in your heart that is asking to be heard. How often have you heard songs on the radio that sound the same? In fact, sometimes one band can sound exactly like another. Are bands like this just following trends, or are they honestly expressing themselves. It’s not for me to decide. Only they know.

To play with “feeling” is to be honest and true to yourself and the song. Too often, I have encountered people and situations where the only ones credited with “playing with feeling” were the ones playing standard cliché blues/rock licks. (Don’t get me wrong here. I like those licks. In fact, those are what I first learned on my guitar.) However, the argument that a player is playing with “no feel” can be applied to all music genres. A typical statement about shredders is that, “they have no feel because all they are doing is playing a bunch of notes as fast as they can.” However, a shredder could respond to a blues player with the statement, “he has no feel because he’s just playing the same standard cliché licks all the time.” There is no difference. Blues/rock players have standard licks, as do jazz, funk, or metal players. The list goes on.

Before any of us steps up to criticize another person’s playing, and say it has no feeling, remember these points:

1) Every style has its standard cliché licks.

2) Many criticize a style when, in fact, they are not able to play, or are not willing to learn that style themselves, before giving their two cents.

3) There are many, many difficult emotions to express in this world. Learn to express more than the one you are most familiar with.

4) We don’t know exactly what a player is trying to express. To act like the authority on “feeling” is arrogant. Just try to appreciate the “personality” in the music.

5) Be honest with your playing, regardless of style, and don’t let others influence you negatively. If you have expressed yourself the way you intended to, that’s the end of the story.

There will always be critics. Don’t try to change them. Opinions about whether a song is good or not is totally subjective. Be true and honest with your self-expression, and even though many may not like it, there will be many who do!


Artist Mini-Bio:

Born & raised on Vancouver Island, Lee received his first guitar for Christmas at the age of 12. He started learning to actually play a year later, taking private lessons and playing in the school band. Soon after, he discovered the music of Steve Vai. Other influences were Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Frank Zappa, and anything that seemed like a challenge to play. After graduating, Lee attended Malaspina College for one year where he studied Jazz Theory and Composition. He moved to Vancouver after college and studied composition with music producer David Malecot of Malecot Enterprises.

After about a year in Vancouver, he moved back to Vancouver Island, and within a few months, started teaching guitar lessons at a local music store. The store shut down shortly after. A few months later, a new music store opened up and Lee again found himself teaching. It was at this music store that a previous student approached Lee with the opportunity to join a metal band. The band Acropolis was born. Acropolis was a great musical outlet, but unfortunately, it ended far too soon with only a few shows to their credit and a couple of low-budget recordings. After Acropolis, Lee joined a band called Friday's Cry, touring Western Canada and recording several albums. Soon after, he joined Da Capo a jazz quartet and recorded one live CD. After a year, Lee moved on to form a heavy rock band called Critical Day. With this band, Lee enjoyed a host of great shows and recording a couple of demos. Lee is currently recording his solo album.



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