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Next steps and what is holding you back?

1137 Views 16 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Zasterz
After a long hiatus, I have been back taking lessons and playing/practicing fairly consistently for 2.5 years or so now. Thus far, my lessons have focused on the fundamental aspects of sound production and technique like tone, articulation, time, support, etc. I feel fairly comfortable/confident with the progress made in those areas and I am at a point where I get compliments on my sound/tone at jam sessions. Have been working on soloing as well: guide tone lines / voice leading and targeting notes, ascending vs descending vs flat lines, sparse vs dense phrasing, scalar vs intervallic, call and response, using space, syncopation, etc. and feel like I am getting a decent handle on the horizontal aspects of creating coherent diatonic melodic lines.

However, I am far from satisfied with my playing. I feel like my solos all sound kinda similar and lacking in feeling. I am not using much embellishment like glissandos, bends, approach notes, enclosures, turnarounds, vibrato, etc. that add emotional nuance and use of devices like color notes, substitutions, and outside playing that add tension and harmonic complexity.

My teacher has told me he is against teaching anything pattern-based such as ii-V-I or pentatonic patterns and licks, but I just don't see how you can get around the use of them to some degree, if only to allow you to go on autopilot for a bit while your mind thinks of what to play next. He arrived at this conclusion after having drilled patterns and licks extensively himself, so I can see why one would eventually feel the need to move away from a rigid approach. However, now I am feeling that my current approach is holding me back, and I just don't see my mind and fingers reaching the level where all these aspects are being incorporated coherently on the fly, producing hip 16th note lines at 150bpm over complex changes.

So my question is what should I be focusing on next? Continue with the same teacher, go to a different teacher, or go buy ChadLB's packages and shed patterns and licks? Do I focus on general technique, or should I be working on applying to a specific piece of music?

Obviously if I could do all of the above, I would, but a job and family means one thing at a time.
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I really like this Digging Deeper series of vids from Jeff Antoniuk. Each one is a quick nugget that imo can focus you on a digestible task to apply to your playing. I’m recently retired from teaching, but I wish I’d known about these to share with my old students, I can see them helping pretty much anyone. Have a look!

This first vid is just the intro, browse his channel, there are like 200 of these vids with no particular order— if one mini-lesson doesn’t apply to your situation, go on to the next. You’re liable to find something you can be inspired by!

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I went through a bunch of his videos last night and I feel inspired again. There are so many cool ideas here. And I really like how he applies it to specific tunes. And the tune choice is perfect; songs that I love and have been working on/struggling with! Case in point is "Side slipping on Speak Low". Really love this song and tried it out at a jam last week, but just felt like I was playing the changes without any coherent approach. Then, BOOM!, this video outlines how to use side-slipping to build tension at specific points in the form. This is exactly the kind of idea/lesson I was looking for! Thanks for the suggestion!
Right? What I love about it is it’s often all you actually need, one little thing to apply yourself to, rather than embarking on like a whole new system or approach. I think when we’re dissatisfied and unsure what to do next, we tend to forget about how much we already know and just putting the focus on one task like this can work almost like a key to liberate your intuition and let what you already know pour out. It’s actually a matter of assigning some sort of limiting parameters to organize your practice rather than considering all options at once. Really effective!
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Also, on a related note, I’m a firm believer that if you have a feeling of “stuckness”, the antidote is to find a way to do something that feels easy. The sensation of ease specifically is a really necessary experience, we are playing music and from time to time it needs to feel like play, child’s play. So limiting the “toy” (idea, shape etc) to focus on is also useful for that!
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