A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Technique x (Emotion + Feel) = Angel Of Mercy from Black Label Society

I just finished doing some hard late nights and early mornings watching the FIFA World Cup tournament for the last four weeks.

As a football youth coach, it was great to see a positive attacking mindset employed by the teams. And football coaching is getting better all the time as the modern-day managers and their coaches try to find a balance between technique and understanding the game. I have seen coaches spend a lot of time on technique that the players train in isolation for such long periods that they get lost when it comes to a game.

The problem is that too much focus on technique takes away time spent on the deeper aspects of the game. Players might be great at performing drills. But without understanding how the game is played, they can’t use their technique effectively. Sure, they can take on a player and beat them with incredible technique however soccer is a team game. While Brazil has Neymar and Argentina has Messi and Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany has a team. And it was that team that won the FIFA World Cup.

Musicians are no different. There are millions of guitarists out there that have unbelievable technique. But how many of them are great songwriters. Because we all know someone with an amazing voice or great guitar talent. And maybe they should have made or could have made it. But they didn’t make it. Because the best and the brightest don’t make it the top on technical abilities alone. Music is a game and it needs to be played like one.

I just finished watching a YouTube view of Kelly Valleau playing an acoustic cover of “Fade To Black” from Metallica. The technique exhibited at pulling off the arrangement involved him combining the rhythms with the vocal lines and the lead breaks. It’s first class. All up the video has had 463,658 views on Youtube. Has anyone else heard of this phenomenal guitar player.

And the thing is, “Fade To Black” was written and arranged by James Hetfield who is the anti-hero of a technical player however his style of fast palm-muted down-picking ushered in a new style of rhythm playing. Look at any Metallica story out there and you will see that James more or less learned/mastered his craft in a band environment instead of spending countless days performing drills on his own. That’s not to say that if you woodshed you will not get far.

A favourite of mine is Zakk Wylde and he woodshedded from the age of fourteen, amassing an amazing technique. And no one can say that Zakk hasn’t created or being involved in creating some memorable songs. Just listen to “Angel Of Mercy” from the “Catacombs” album and you will see what I mean. It demonstrates unbelievable technique in the solo section while the verses and the chorus show the emotive side.

Hell, listen to his whole career and you will see what I mean. Same goes for a lot of other guitarists.

Great music must contain emotion. That is why “Angel Of Mercy” connected with me. It hits me emotionally and it makes me feel something. All the great songs do? And because I care for the song, I can’t stop sharing it and talking about it with people who want to listen. And when music is done right, it sells itself.

I am a great believer that technical abilities are a good tool to have in your arsenal as a musician, however it should be just one tool of many tools that are employed in the creation of your latest masterpiece. Don’t lose focus that a song has many moving parts and the vocal melodies along with the actual lyrics go a long way to making that connection with the audience as much as the riff.

Like the new Judas Priest album “Redeemer Of Souls”. A lot of the songs have some great musical moments and some cool riffs however the vocal melodies just missed the mark on the majority of the songs. “Halls Of Valhalla”, “Sword of Damocies”, “Secrets Of The Dead”, “Battle Cry” and “Beginning Of The End” are the exception, especially “Battle Cry”. And most of these songs are part of the deluxe edition.

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