Where is your soul?
by Cullen James
My purpose in writing these columns isn’t to talk much about how to play the guitar. There are already far more proficient people doing a far better job of that than I ever could. The idea is that I would, perhaps, introduce folks to guitarists they didn’t know much about, share my love with other people, and talk about some history and technical aspects of the instrument. To that end, I usually switch weeks – one week I’ll focus on a guitarist or band and the next I’ll do a “tech” article.
I bring this up because this week is supposed to be a “tech” article. And, in a way, I guess it does discuss theory somewhat … but it’s really about “mojo.” That mythical something that makes our music ours.
I have a theory about the “soul” of guitarist. It’s obvious that chord progression choices are significant as well as how you play those chords. But where I think the soul really lies is in how close you play those notes and chords to the beat.
If you have a four-four beat, you have four beats in one measure. Those beats are divided equally in the measure. So when you’re playing on the beat, each chord plays on the beat, in a predictable, measured time. When playing a rhythm, it’s rare to play a chord off-beat (though it does happen, I mean, this is music). But soloist, on the other hand, is going to put his notes on top of that rhythm and most often in line to the same beat. However, if you pay very careful attention to solos, you’ll notice that a lot of players will place their notes just before or just after a beat.
That choice, that subtle difference in time, and the variation between hitting the beat and consciously playing off beat, is your feeling. And that feeling is your “soul.”