Playing straight from your "soul."
Emotional/melodic playing is the art of expressing one's emotion directly through the instrument. For many musicians it is the ultimate goal - to be one with music. But wait! This sounds like a quest that could take years to complete! And you'd be right. To get to the stage where scale shapes and thought disappears takes years. However, a quick introduction and some handy hints will get you well on your way in no time.
A succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence, tune.
You can hear melodies everywhere. Nearly all TV commercials have them! Can you think of any catchy jingles? They're melodies. And the fact that they're catchy makes them very good melodies - regardless of whether you like them or if they annoy the hell out of you. Melodies are very similar to licks as both of them consist of notes in a certain scale. Licks are more "on-the-fly," thoroughly memorized passages from a library in your head that you'd use to improvise a solo - whereas I'd define the use of a melody as being more of a compositional tool (for writing songs/tracks) as they are used to create recurring musical motifs that fit beautifully over an arrangement. They almost feel like a meaningful sentence as encountered in spoken language. It's not just blasting through scales like lead improvisation sometimes is.
A powerful melody that I'd use as an example would be by the artist Tony MacAlpine with his track "Tears of Sahara." There's clearly a melody in the verses and a different melody in the choruses, with a flurry of notes and licks in the middle known popularly as a "solo." In fact, his use of melodies are just like how a singer would repeat some lyrics in the verses and then repeat the same chorus over and over.
And so... Playing the guitar as if it were a vocal instrument is a very good way of grasping melodic playing. In most common singing styles you won't catch singers singing one note after another in perfect staccato like with picking notes on a guitar - they tend to drift between tones and "bend" up and down to different notes. They may not know that they're doing it. They just feel it and sing. People love to hear great vocals, and have done ever since we lived as cavemen. So it's a good idea to make melodies that are similar to what a singer would sing. Use lots of bends and slides. Listen to your favourite singers and try to replicate what they're doing on your guitar. You'll quickly develop a beautiful style of musical expression.
You don't have to live and breathe music to create melodies. You already have the capacity to do so.
1. Get a jam track;
2. Without playing, listen to the track repeat a few times;
3. Absorb the emotion. Decide what feeling it envokes within you;
4. Begin to hum a melody over the track that feels right.
Humming may seem silly! But this will be a great out-of-guitar (body) experience for you and your musical ear because there are no finger positions or scale shapes within your own brain to limit you. You'll literally be humming what you feel. Now don't forget what you came up with - record yourself humming into your cellphone or computer or whatever you have on hand.
Finally, pick up your guitar and figure out where the notes are and where it's easiest for your fingers to play your created melody. Is it easier to play in minor position one? Or perhaps number four? Write it out in tab form.
Did one of your hums sound like a slide? Or a bend? Did it sound staccato/punctuated as if simulating picking? Would you like any of those notes to be played legato style? Write it down on the tab.
You may also find that you prefer the tonal quality of the melody being played high up the neck on the thick strings rather than low on the neck on the thin strings. Or maybe the other way around.
And with that you will have played from pure emotion. The more you do this, the more melodic and emotional your playing will become.
If you want to become more of an emotional player, try playing over a jam track once or twice a week, using my humming technique at first, but eventually just improvising melodies as they come to you. And remember to listen to the playing of your favourite guitarists. You'll unknowingly absorb their "sound" and personal touches, and their style of playing will be more likely to spring up when you begin humming.
About the author:
By Alfred Potter. www.alfredpotter.com