Philosophy of Guitar

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I love music. My favorite instrument is guitar. Now I want to share some tips to help you understanding guitar. I know I am not an expert, but yeah, we all learn.

One of the dangers of challenging the norm in any field is being misunderstood. The salvation from this fate, should it befall one, is the realization that the ‘norm’ is also misunderstood. Since no one really understands the norm, it’s not abnormal to be misunderstood. That people don’t understand something doesn’t say too much about the truth or falsity of that thing.

Most beginners don’t understand the way the fretboard really works. Not just from a mechanical physical perspective, but a musical one as well. Presented with a diagram showing, say, the positions of the notes of the key of C on the fretboard, most would day that there doesn’t appear to be a discernible overall pattern to the positions of the notes.

What one comes to understand is that what is ‘discernible’ may not be obvious. You have to know how to look at things

The trick is to have a reason for choosing a particular way of looking at something. Music is not merely based on a set of arbitrary choices. The fixed tonal relationships of the diatonic system reflect natural harmonic principles. When you hear music, you are vibrating. These vibrations are recognized as ‘music’ because they follow identifiable patterns.

If you watch ocean waves rolling to the shore, you can see complexity in a single wave.

Each wave is really a combination of smaller waves. The white foam at the crest of a wave is where turbulence forms to scatter the light enough to turn transparent water opaque. Millions of tiny waves within the bigger wave. The waves come in rhythmic patterns. Some waves are smooth and don’t break until they hit the sand. Some waves break before reaching the shore and are absorbed into bigger waves.

This is the ocean singing.

Music is streams of invisible waves, no less real than those in the ocean, which fill the air and set your tissues vibrating in sympathy. There is symmetry and structure inherent in the experience of music, so there is symmetry and structure in the musical tones as they are arrayed on the fretboard. That it appears at first to be a random array is a matter of perspective. There is, of course, randomness within order,

There is a recognizable, symmetrical pattern to the notes on the fretboard which can be used the way a piano player uses the pattern of black and white piano keys to navigate the keyboard.

It’s recognizable … once you see it.

But unfortunately, it’s invisible on the guitar. You have to imagine it as you play. When you do, finding your way around the fretboard becomes almost as easy as finding notes on the piano. And the logic of the pattern conforms nicely with standard music notation, which is the goal.

When you have a pattern in your mind, you can find your way around better. Using tablature is a little like having a map with nothing but a grid and no geographical features. You know the latitude and longitude of each town, but you can’t see the roads or the land masses and the oceans.

Without a picture of the ‘geography’ of the fretboard, you are wandering aimlessly. With that picture, you are communicating with the guitar and it is communicating with you. The journey becomes the destination. And only you who decide where to go, when to rest, and how to stop.


~ by Indira Singgih on November 15, 2010.

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