Let's talk about space. Not studio recording space. Sonic space. Your guitar part. We all want to be heard, to stand out, to express something with a guitar.
But instead of defining ourselves clearly and concisely, we will often muddy up our own message, our own voice.
Recording sessions means making either yourself or the other party happy. In most cases, it is a producer. Producers don't necessarily care about your legacy as a guitarist. They care about putting out the finest product they can. And that means satisfying a market.
So when they tell you what to do - do it... If all goes well and you hear something the producer or artist hasn't, I'll suggest it. If it works, better for everyone involved. However, a trend started a long time ago...
This trend was to double almost everything. Rhythm guitar on the left and right. Double the electric rhythms with acoustic guitars on the left and right. Double the acoustic guitars with high-strung acoustics on the left and right. Add some really heavy guitars on the chorus on the left and right. Made a big juicy sound.
Add some color guitars, tremolo, chicken pickin' tick-tock guitars. Single strums. Then a solo, often harmonized and written out. Often the producer wasn't even a guitarist, so many solos through this period were lame.
Move forward to today. We start noticing fatigue setting in. Listening to music is getting tired. Most Rap, Soul, Pop and Hip-Hop "artists" sound the same as listening to most other Rap, Soul, Pop and Hip-Hop music.
And, guitarists. As you know guitarists today are the finest there have ever been technically and sonically! And, we can't leave out all of that crazy new gear. There's new guitar styles and awesome guitar techniques. Yet... a lot of fatigue. Boredom. No connection to what the listener is hearing.
Perhaps it isn't today's music or musicians. Perhaps it is the production and the "more is better" philosophy.
More tracks. Many recordings use at least 40 to 60 tracks on a basic production. More mics and more amps and more pedals and more guitars. On every song.
Yet where are the guys the guitar world in general consider icons today? Where are the Jimi's, Eddie's and Eric's? Maybe, and I believe this to be true, they are here. In the millions. But they haven't realized how to connect to the listener - without 60 tracks!
Most arrangements today lack creativity. And you do not have to be eccentric in your style to be creative. You can choose to play in any style and do some real thought. Do you need more than ONE guitar on any song? Think about how one single guitar, played end to end, solo and all, will focus and direct you into the ears of anyone listening.
No clutter. Just you, your guitar and your tone playing your fingers off. Even if it is simple. Wanna talk soloing? I'm not going to say slow down or speed up. But I am going to tell you to breathe! Give the listener some time to take it in. A half second would be enough here and there. Say something. Then give it a second. Say something else, etc. (Listen to Brian Setzer with Stray Cats).
Rhythm can be defined as sound and silence. We've got the sound part down. I think we need to consider how much sound is really the right amount. Then consider the silence. Or at least the space. I believe we can better define ourselves and connect if we use less. And this holds true for everyone involved.
Vocalists. Do you need every word tuned and harmonized? See what I mean? No personal connection. It's like a machine is singing to you with many more machines saying the same thing at the same time.
Are you getting this?
Back to the icons. Maybe the connection could be made because we could actually hear their pure notes, (unpolished -- without digital tuners). Emotions. Techniques. Parts. Tone. And maybe we could hear them because there wasn't a wall of guitars sounding like the Tower of Babel confusing and cluttering up their message. They left room around them to be heard. The old classic guitar gods also knew how to allow the music to breathe.
Take a moment. Stop playing. Realize you said something. Then breathe before you say something else. It is music. We don't get paid by the note. We should get paid by how well we can place a part of ourselves into the community of players on a song. And what we do to better the song. And sometimes, often times, less is definitely more.
So the next time you are doing a recording, try this. Try to start with a tone you love. Complete and whole. Your tone. Your voice. Then figure out a part that is not merely chords and notes, but a part. A real part. Something that comes and goes. Says something. Then leave space for the listener to sink in.
Even for a second. Look for that space. Respect it. Your listeners might finally get to hear what you have to say and accept you as someone they want to hang with often. In the buds, or on the stage.