Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guitar Workshop:
Percussive Guitar (Billie Jean)

If you're still working on Lessons 1, 2, and 3 of “Guitar Workshop: Percussive Guitar” from last week - up to thirty minutes a day, every day -- that's okay, you should be. This is hard. To give you an idea, let's watch our instructor Dale Campbell demonstrate a popular tune with this method. Notice anything wrong?

The technique is spot on, but why does the rhythm seem to adjust from one part to another? Is he trying to add a certain dynamic to the piece, or is it just plain sloppy? Now, in fairness, I can't play nearly as well as him, and if you're reading this, chances are neither can you. (We're on this journey together, remember?) In addition, this was recorded over a year ago, and I'll bet dollars to doughnuts he's gotten a lot better with this number since June of 2009.

This interim before we introduce the next series of lessons for the percussive guitar technique, is a good time to underscore the importance of perfecting technical skill while the learning of a method is in progress. I'd much rather listen to a reasonably good performer who's got good, smooth rhythm, than some hot-shot with fancy runs who keeps missing half of them. If you've already got a handle on this method, but haven't perfected it yet, you could probably apply it already, if only up to a point.

And here's a case in point. Sungha Jung is a self-taught fourteen-year old prodigy from South Korea, who was inspired by his father's playing. Notice how his right hand attacks the strings as a form of percussion on the alternate downbeat. He doesn't do it throughout the song, as it's probably one of those habits he picked up while teaching himself, never intending to make it deliberate. (I'm just guessing here, okay?) But what if it was deliberate? What if it was done consistently throughout the piece? That would be pretty awesome. And even though he's only been playing for a few years, Jung already has his first CD out, entitled "Perfect Blue," available on his website:, along with information about his upcoming USA tour. (He's in DC later this month.)

We'll be back next week with more stuff. So ... keep on keepin' on.

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