Add whatever you need to add to make notes express your soul. Playing notes is fine, but to make music that counts you must play with feeling. Not many people are going to remember “the guy who played a bunch of notes” (unless you play them really fast, which is unfortunate). Your music should be special.
There are three things I’ve come to associate with soulful playing.
- Pure from-the-heartness. Not sure how to explain this one. It’s the note that weeps and the interval change that is the most uplifting thing you’ve heard. Santana is – in my book – the most soulful player on the planet. Listen to any of his work (the live stuff is best, like Sacred Fire) for soulful note after soulful note.
- Vibrato. It seems to really open up a note and sound more soulful than others. I personally like the vibrato of guys like Eric Johnson and John Mayer. It can go over the top though. A lot of the shredding guitarists have incredibly obnoxious vibrato.
- Authority. The guys who play from the heart can really lay it down (not shreddy, but powerful). There is no hesitation at all in their notes – probably because they aren’t even thinking about what notes to play.
This whole idea might be lost to a beginner. That’s okay, you are learning the basic chords and focusing on implementing them in songs. You are not thinking about making each note count. More advanced players however should think about playing with feeling (a lot). I know too many players who are pretty good, but are just worried about playing fast like Jake. It is not important to them to play with meaning.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what is a piece of music worth? Nothing if it is just notes. Everything if the notes go away and become expression.
Create music and take us somewhere else. Thanks, Brad