GUEST COLUMNIST:

MARK SCHUSTER

X-press Yourself!



In a world of ever-increasing numbers of mind-boggling guitarists, sometimes you have say to yourself "less is more." I'm certainly not the fastest or the most technical guitarist around, but I do like to think of myself as someone who really works hard to be expressive with my playing. Creating an incredible melodic and soulful passage, to me, is as intense as Eddie's "Eruption" or an Opus by Yngwie.

I've been playing guitar for about 20 years, and before that, drums and piano. Safe to say – music's been a big part of my life and continues to be. I've played all styles. But for me, nothing ever quite compares to Hard Rock and Metal. I think it takes a certain personality/mentality to grasp the concept of these genres and be able to deliver the goods. Let's face it, this stuff's not taught in school. These musical styles, like blues, have the potential to be extremely expressive. Their fundamental nature provides a platform, and almost begs for guitarists to let it bleed! I think that's what attracts me. It's seductive and alluring. I have to believe that if Beethoven was alive today, he'd be writing some of the best Metal around!

The following are a few examples from a new release I'm working on which illustrates how I approach expressiveness. Obviously, this is a very subjective topic. How do you teach someone to be emotional and expressive in their playing? I'm not 100% sure, but I think you start by helping them to get in touch with something inside, and let them take it from there. I use a couple of different techniques to help me get in the right frame of mind. I also think these techniques help provide for well-rounded instrumental compositions.

1. Harmonies

2. Expressive melodic passages (sometimes called "hooks." I call them "The Instrumental guitarist's chorus")

Tab Index
v - vibrato
x - muted, struck string
/ - slide up

Example #1 – Harmonies

This is a huge topic, so I'll just touch on a few things I tend to do. I work with thirds a lot – most people do. It's common, but sounds great. When in doubt…

I'm a big fan of the Harmonic Minor scale (raised 7th). So here's a harmony using the E Harmonic Minor scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D#-E) as line one, harmonizing a 5th above in line two.

and here they are played together...


Example #2 – Expressive Melodic Passages (Hook/Instrumental Chorus)

I usually start with a solid underlying drum pattern and a good chunky rhythm guitar line. The better that is, the better I write. I almost always tightly couple the rhythms and the melodic lines, and then make it repetitive (this is my personal taste and due to being a drummer at heart). Some groups that I think did (do) this well are AC/DC and Judas Priest, to name two. If done right, it really makes a statement and compliments a composition. This example uses two guitar lines. I like to make this particular statement as rich as possible. One good way to do that is by filling it out by playing an octave below. Another is to make use of harmonies.

This example demonstrates a melodic passage within the framework of a chorus within a instrumental song. Melodic passages are a great way to be expressive in a solo as well. It compliments the shredding going on in a solo by providing some depth, personality and melodic complexity to an otherwise shred-fest.

and here they are played together...


Here's everything together in a tune called "Anti-Social". Notice the key change to Am at 1:04.

Anti-Social
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For more examples of this kind of playing, visit my site: http://www.mp3.com/markschuster. If you have any questions about this article, or would like more information in general – feel free to drop me an email at schuster_mark@hotmail.com.

Mark