by Jeff Scheetz, TrueFire’s Director of Education

Have you ever had someone ask you if you like the lyrics to a song and you say “I didn’t listen to them — I was just listening to the guitar part?” That has happened to me on more than one occasion. One of the things guitar players are guilty of is just listening to the guitar player!

However, if we just keep our ears on the guitar, we are missing out on a lot of other ideas from other instruments that if we just stop and pay attention we can actually steal them! Other players approach things differently and learning their parts can sometimes force you to play things you wouldn’t normally do.

I have transcribed quite a few Charlie Parker sax licks. By learning his licks I have learned some cool moves that I would have never thought of playing on the guitar. He is one of my favorite soloists — I usually listen to some of his live stuff for inspiration before I go into the studio to cut solos. Even though I don’t play anything like he does — it is the WAY he plays and the attitude and feel that he brings to the table that are inspiring.

I also have sat down at the record player — yes I said RECORD PLAYER (you kids with your iPad apps and your digital files and your guitar courses and whatnot don’t know how easy you have it) and worked up Paganini Caprices that were played on the violin. It is not only hard to hear the violin tones and put them on guitar — but there are some jumps and skips that you have to do that will really make you think differently.

language-improvAs far as learning, you can really stretch yourself by listening to other instruments. Especially when it comes to improvising, as the musical techniques you use when you improvise create such a “universal language.” The new TrueFire course “The Language of Improvisation” by sax guru Bill Evans is a great example of someone teaching killer riffs and ideas — but on an instrument other than what I play. It doesn’t matter what the weapon of choice to deliver the licks is — it matters that I understand the language!

So here is what I want you to do. Take a few minutes this week and work on learning a few licks from an instrument other than guitar. You don’t have to play the whole Brandenburg Concerto, but just get a few ideas and a little inspiration from outside of what you normally listen to — and see if it doesn’t turn on a few light bulbs!

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