Chops vs Musicality
I remember learning how to play guitar. All I could think of was “Man, I just want to be able to play this.” For a while, I thought like that. I just want to play this. It is hard. I cannot do it. I did it. Oh, wait, I lost it. I am sure many musicians can relate to this. Well, lately I have been trying to think a different way. Instead of just hitting notes and showing chops, what if I just focus on feeling the music a little more.
I was hanging out with some of the guys from the Ethan Parker Band and we got into talking about the feel of music. By this I mean the difference between a drummer who is incredibly groovy and musically rhythmic and a guy just playing fast licks and very technical. One of the guys said, “You know, I used to be impressed by big chops back in the day, but now I am impressed by someone who can play in the pocket and feel the music.” Then one of the guys went on to show an example of both musicians by playing a piano groove two different ways. The first one was full of life and it just was the perfect base for creativity to be built on. The second one was okay, but it missed that spark and charisma the first groove had. I went on with my day, and I started meditating on our conversation. I started thinking about the importance of feeling the music. How many times do we as musicians just play to play and do not feel what we are playing? Those times when music becomes a routine? But oh man what a difference it is and would be if every time we pick up our instrument we would go all in with what we play! It is ridiculous.
Now by this, I do not mean to say that chops are not important. I do believe that practicing licks and technical aspects of music is important to make a good musician. Nevertheless, I also believe that it is important not to forget about musicality and feeling the music. I believe without a balance we could sound like robots playing. I know I am not the musician I want to be yet, but I am thankful for better musicians than me that help me become a better one by pointing out things like this.
If you feel like you have been too caught up on technicalities, I hope this article drives you to go listen to some beautiful music full of emotion and get lost in it and groove with it. On the other hand, if you feel like you have not practiced any technicalities in a while, I hope you get encouraged to do so. After all, like some say practice makes the master.
Pablo A. Martinez
Pablo A. Martinez is a guitarist and programmer from West Palm Beach. Currently, he plays guitar with the Ethan Parker Band and at several churches in the area.
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