by Steve Vai
(Part 2 of 7, originally published March 1989).
When you concentrate on a given situation wholeheartedly, you’ll get the best results. The key is single-pointedness of mind. This holds true for any pursuit; a bricklayer who concentrates on the work at hand covers every detail and gets the job done quicker and better. When you read a book with your mind fully focused, your comprehension and retention are vastly improved.
Here’s a musical example: I was transcribing music for Frank Zappa, doing everything from guitar and drum solos to orchestral scores and lead sheets. The work was quite intensive, and I found myself spending 10 or 12 hours a day listening to just one minute of music. I was concentrating so intently that I felt dazed whenever I stopped for a moment, but I achieved unprecedented results. I discovered new forms of written notation, greatly developed my ears, and transcribed some of the most rhythmically complex musical situations ever recorded — all by sheer single-pointedness of mind.
Mind control of this sort is a meditation. People meditate all the time without realizing it; watching TV is a meditation, in a sense. When many people hear the word “meditation”, they relate it to spiritual realms. “Stilling the mind” is probably the highest form of meditation. That is, keeping one’s mind from erroneous thoughts and focusing on the divine (or whatever path you’re on). We get the best results when we meditate on a subject, but alas, meditation is not easy. The mind loves to wander, and these intrusions keep you from the precious results you seek.
Now what on the face of God’s beautiful blue earth does all of this have to do with learning to play the guitar?
When you meditate on something, you’re forced to look at it from many different angles, including some you’ve probably never thought of. You’re forced to reach down into the depths of your identity and individuality. Consequently, your results will be uniquely yours. That’s what we seek as musicians: to light that tiny flare (or bonfire) of originality and individuality.
The following exercise will help you develop your musical meditation skills. Take one isolated musical idea, such as a single chord or riff. For our example, let’s take vibrato. Vibrato is a very expressive technique, and can say a thousand different things when properly used (or misused). Sit with your guitar and a clock, and vibrate a note for one hour. Sounds simple, but here’s the catch…
Never deviate from holding that note.
Pick it as many times as you like. Try many different vibrato approaches (fast, slow, soulful, mellifluous, etc).
Most important, don’t let your mind wander. When you find yourself thinking of anything other than vibrato (and you will, probably in the first few seconds), pull your mind back to the note. Your mind will wander off into thoughts such as “Am I doing this right?”, then “Boy, what a waste of time this is!” Eventually, you’ll find yourself thinking about your friends, your financial situation, what you did yesterday, what you’re going to do tomorrow, and of course, “Let’s eat!” This is the hard part. Just keep pulling your mind back to vibrating that note. It’s a discipline worth working on.
Eventually, you’ll exhaust all conventional vibrato approaches, all the ways you saw someone else do it. Then (if you have the discipline to continue), your mind will enter private realms and you will reach deeper into your own uniqueness for different ideas.
You may have to start practicing this technique little by little, doing it for just five or ten minutes. Try timing yourself. Ultimately, you’ll find that when it comes time to “just play”, you’ll use these vibratos with great ease, and you will discover something different in your playing.
You can practice this exercise with any riff, solo, or chord change. Just keep your mind on it and constantly analyze your performance. It can become very soulful. You might, for example, take just two notes — any two — and play them for an hour without straying from them. Try any approach; stretch them, use different picking styles, play hard or soft, make the notes long or short, or vibrate them.
One of the great things you’ll gain from this type of practicing is authority. When you play something, you’ll feel confident about pulling it off with flying colors.
But most important, you’ll gain discipline. Great results require discipline, and meditation is a discipline. But if you are really into this, it won’t seem like a discipline, but a pleasure. But there’s one thing for sure: Nothing you read in a column can teach you anything. You just have to do it!
Meditation: Solo Guitar
2002 live album by Joe Pass
Meditation: Solo Guitar is a live album by jazzguitaristJoe Pass, recorded in 1992 and released posthumously in 2002.
Regarding Meditation,Jim Ferguson wrote (in JazzTimes): "In Pass' hands, no tune seemed to elude performance, and he tackled everything--from bebop numbers to waltzes to standards to Latin pieces--with astonishing ease and effectiveness, something that is amply evident throughout this set...highlights include a pensive rubato treatment of "Shadow Waltz," a slowly grooving "Mood Indigo" and a swinging "They Can't Take That Away From Me," whose title reflects a sentiment that applies to Pass' position at the very top of the list of the world's finest jazz guitarists."
- "Meditation (Meditação)" (Antônio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonça, Norman Gimbel) – 4:52
- "Shadow Waltz" (Al Dubin, Harry Warren) – 2:05
- "Mood Indigo" (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Barney Bigard) – 3:24
- "More Than You Know" (Vincent Youmans, Edward Eliscu, Billy Rose) – 3:52
- "When Your Lover Has Gone" (Einar A. Swan) – 6:41
- "Everything Happens to Me" (Tom Adair, Matt Dennis) – 4:41
- "It's All Right With Me" (Cole Porter) – 4:51
- "I'll Never Be The Same" (Matty Malneck, Frank Signorelli, Gus Kahn) – 4:59
- "You Stepped Out of a Dream" (Nacio Herb Brown, Gus Kahn) – 3:54
- "All the Things You Are" (Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern) – 4:06
- "How Deep Is the Ocean?" (Irving Berlin) – 6:29
- "They Can't Take That Away from Me" (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) – 2:42
Musical Meditation: Airman finds resilience playing guitar
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It’s 2:30 p.m. on a sunny winter day. The temperature is unusually warm for it being February, and a bird sings from one of the many magnolia trees surrounding a gazebo on Joint Base Charleston. Perched casually on the gazebo’s railing, a blue guitar pick hanging from his lips, acoustic guitar in hand, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta, 1st Combat Camera Squadron combat broadcast journalist, begins to play.
As individual notes pour from the guitar, Asselta plays with a sense of comfort and ease that only comes from hundreds of hours of practice. Suddenly, his fingers begin to move with more intensity and the tempo increases. The hustle and bustle of the base is slowly drowned out by the song weaved with subtle hints of folk and blues. Even the bird in the magnolia trees stops chirping, as if to listen, too. Asselta’s fingers are now moving so fast, it sounds like three guitars are playing at once. No one else is around the gazebo to witness this impromptu concert, except a lone Airmen taking a brief smoke break.
When the song concludes, Asselta looks up and shyly smiles.
“That was an original,” he said.
The Airman sitting nearby looks up as a plume of smoke curls from his mouth, subtly nodding his head in approval, before returning to look off in the distance. Life seemed to have completely stopped for five tranquil minutes.
“Music has been big part of my life,” explained the tall brunette. “It’s gotten me through a lot.”
It’s evident for anyone who would happen to walk past the gazebo and see Asselta, that he and his guitar are a naturally cohesive unit. Even throughout the interview, Asselta never sets the guitar down, occasionally strumming a few strings when he finishes answering a question as if to punctuate his thoughts.
He describes the first time he held a guitar, which he found in his dad’s basement. The young Asselta immediately started playing the old, beat-up instrument and “making cool sounds.” A couple of years later, he started taking music lessons through his school and joined the orchestra. Asselta laughs while recounting his teenage years in Huntington, N.Y., when he discovered rock ‘n roll music and became the lead guitarist for a progressive metal band. When Asselta joined the United States Air Force, however, music took on a whole new meaning.
Asselta purchased his first acoustic guitar in 2012. At the time, he was living at his first duty station in Belgium. The winters were long and isolating, and Asselta wanted a productive method to pass the time. He began to dabble in song writing and producing, but quickly realized that music had developed from a simple hobby into a resilience tool.
“When I had a rough day, or a good day, I would go home, pick up a guitar and start strumming,” said Asselta. “I try to make what I’m feeling come out through the instrument. It’s a good way to shut off the brain and connect with myself through sound. It’s like a meditation for me.”
Having a stress-relieving coping mechanism became incredibly important a few years later when Asselta was stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
“When I was stationed in Turkey, I was there during a rough time,” said Asselta. “The base transitioned from a support base to more of a combat operations base. I was forward deployed to various locations. Each time I’d return to the main base, I’d pick up a guitar to decompress.”
Asselta is quiet for several minutes, lost in thought about the base thousands of miles away. Suddenly, his eyes light up.
“One of the highlights of my military career was when I was at an undisclosed location in Turkey. Most of the guys were having a really bad day,” he said. Asselta found an old abandoned guitar in the make-shift recreation tent at his base, and walked over to the smoke pit.
“I started playing ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles. A few minutes later, I had six or seven people start singing along,” said Asselta. The satisfaction of knowing he had helped his wingmen escape the stress of combat, even for a moment, was incredibly rewarding for Asselta.
Asselta highlights the importance of having a healthy outlet to use to unwind, particularly from the relentless demands of military life.
“I do this for me. This is my way of expressing myself and taking care of my own resiliency needs. In my opinion, everyone needs something to fall back on. For someone else, it might be sports, or video games, or religion,” said Asselta. “Find something to put your attention to. Don’t become a workaholic.”
He smiles and adjusts his guitar resting in his lap, ready to begin playing again.
“I think music is mankind’s greatest invention,” Asselta said, with the passion and intensity of a true musician. “It’s been around since the dawn of time. People figured out they can decorate space through art, and through sound they can decorate time.”
As the gentle notes from Asselta’s next song begin to fill the gazebo, another Airman who had wandered over to rest on the bench looks up and watches in contentment. The hustle and bustle of the base slowly fades out again, and all is right in the world. Asselta may never know how many people he helps find peace through his music.
|Date Posted:||02.20.2020 14:36|
|Location:||JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SC, US|
|Hometown:||HUNTINGTON, NY, US|
|Hometown:||LONG ISLAND, NY, US|
This work, Musical Meditation: Airman finds resilience playing guitar, by TSgt Zoe Russell, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.
Guitar and Meditation
I've been seriously dedicated to meditation for three years now. (I've given up keeping track now, it is so ingrained in my life.) And I've been playing my guitar since I was 11 and seriously practicing it since I was 18.
Here's what I notice about the practices of meditation and guitar playing:
The enormous life-changing skills of presence, awareness, focus, concentration, letting go ... these are what I work on in tiny increments everyday in my meditation practice (10 to 20 mins in the morning and, when I am at my best, at least 10 minutes in the afternoon).
When I bring these skills to the woodshed (a jazzers term for "practice room") and to the time I spend with my guitar on my lap, I notice that I learn better, I am more calm and less overwhelmed by all the I still want to be able to do on my instrument. My guitar practice sessions are more focused, less scattered. There is a glow and restorative aspect to this time. My mind is refreshed and still. This is new for me. Before, my practice session were always, basically, demoralizing -- showing me only how far I had to go and how painstakingly, achingly, terribly slow my progress was, if I wasn't backsliding, which I often felt like I was.
Learning to see that meditation is a way of practicing my guitar and that practicing guitar is a kind of meditation has made both activities exponentially more gratifying and deep.
There is a rich and satisfying inner life to my guitar work now that I am sure was always there somewhere, but I could never see it. I was moving too fast, trying too hard, too attached to what I couldn't do, hadn't done.
My friend the great saxophonist and human John Ellis once mentioned to me that he felt he needed his time in the practice room with his saxophone everyday as a way to stay grounded and sane. At the time, I caught his drift -- that he meant that his practice was, spiritually, more than just practice.
I -- finally -- get it.
You, Tol, just don't hurt here, spoil. Vitya melted into the fog and his friend again moved towards me, stroking and caressing my legs and torso. Soft lips, starting their journey from the pubis, followed the hands, unbuttoning one after the other the buttons of the shirt.Relaxing Guitar Music: Sleep, Meditation, Spa, Study - Instrumental Background Music ★52
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