JJ Rocks Article # 197:
From St. Croix Music Magzine, Issue # 39, December, 2009
Since this time of year has more people singing than other seasons, and Christmas songs are so memorable, let’s concentrate on getting a vocal quality out of our instruments. So pick your favorite holiday song that you have a vocal recording of and let’s think with our voices, but play with our hands. And as a guitarist I find that putting the pick aside and playing with my fingers is the first step to making my instrument sing. It must have something to do with the pick being an element that gets in the way of transferring my true feelings onto my guitar.
Horn players, bassist, keyboardists, and just about anyone else who does not use a pick always seems to be in closer contact with their instruments. But since a singer has their instrument built into their bodies, emotions sound like they connect more directly with the actual execution of their phrases. So just imagine how cool it would be if you could get your mind off of scales and techniques for awhile and only focus on giving your axe a human vocal quality. Now that’s a whole different trip and not as easy as it sounds.
The reason that I suggested Christmas songs is not only because of the season, it’s because knowing a melody very well takes one link out of your chain of thoughts needed to reach your goal. In other words, it’s one less thing you have to worry about. But knowing the melody is just one element in this process. You must try your best to “mimic” the sounds that you hear. And I know that I sound like I’m contradicting myself because of things I said before about only playing by ear, but this technique is totally “by ear only”. You are trying to recreate the singer’s exact feel and vibrato in your playing and this is something that can not be described in music theory or written down on paper. It has to go directly from your ears to your fingers. But this is not an easy task.
The first thing you must do is learn the lyrics! Every verse might have the same melody but the words are different. Each word will have a different character and rhythm of its own so you must try to recreate them on your instrument. This is something that you must really take your time with so I suggest trying to sing one line at a time yourself and then play what you are singing. Not just the melody! You must try to get the exact feel of the voice. You wont find this in any book so just try to follow the few simple steps that I gave you and sing on! Merry Christmas!
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JJ Rocks Article # 197: