a musical note is the equivalent of a word, a song is a
story. Like all good stories, there's got to be something
emotionally riveting going on to keep the audience interested.
If we're reading a book and itís good right up until
the end, where the author threw in some horrible cliché or
unbelievable twist that makes no sense, isn't everything
we've read so far completely wasted?
Like a book, a song has to start off by getting our attention,
then building interest, reaching some sort of plateau, and
then ending in a way that doesn't detract from everything that
came before. In order to accomplish this, all the parts of
the song must fit together and make cozy neighbors, or a piece
of music can go downhill.
We'll start with the smallest picture, which we'll call the
home jam. Sometimes you're just sort of improvising, experimenting
with different sounds and scales and chords, when all of a
sudden a lick or progression comes out that just sounds terrific.
Your ears prick, and the sound penetrates you in a way that
makes you want to play it over and over again. Whether it's
a simple three-chord progression or a smoking wah lick, you
play it over and over and over, loving every single note. What
kind of a mood does it set for you?
using this riff as the basis of a lengthy improvisation.
in every direction it can go. Play it frontwards, backwards,
distorted, clean, at different speeds and different octaves.
If you've got the setup for it, try some different effects
as well. Come up with some other riffs that fit well with the
first, and experiment with those a lot too. Try to remember
the ones you liked most, and when you feel like youíve
done enough, take the best riffs and put them alltogether to
make a rough song. Put them together in all the different ways
you can, and once again, decide which way they go together
best. You can say a sentence a million ways. Apply the same
idea to your playing.
I should say that either writing stuff down or recording your
efforts is verywise. If you've got good memory, and can do
without either, fine, but most people can't. Me included; if
I don't write down longer riffs and solos I often forget to
you're writing a song, listen very closely to the ways the
or bass line changes as the piece progresses. Each
riff, each note, in fact, has a distinct mood depending on
how itís played, and the notes or riffs surrounding
it affect this. The mood can be altered with the slightest
change. A single bend or added note can have surprising impact.
Notice the way that your feelings change as the music changes,
and listen specifically for any point where the mood is broken
by an inappropriate change of direction. Maybe turning on the
distortion pedal and hammering away with power chords wasn't
such a good idea after all. Even if you really love that heavy
section, donít hesitate to cut it from the song. You
can find a better home for it, a piece that puts it on a pedestal
instead of dumping it in the mud.
final word: play like you mean it! Don't be half-hearted,
if you're performing. When you play, think of each
note as a syllable, and the way you say each counts. The way
the syllables form words and the words form sentences can be
almost magical. It's like saying "I love you"; you've
got to say it with your entire spirit, or it's meaningless.
Play with complete joy. Play like you're whispering in your
listener's ear or shouting soul to soul. If it's strong enough
in you, everyone else will feel it too. People are always willing
to surrender to a good feeling once it begins to spread; emotion
is infectious. Love what you do and youíre giving everyone
in the room a reason to love it, too. Not everyone will love
what you do, because people don't always have their heart and
ears open to particular styles. If you put your entire soul
behind it and it makes you shiver just to play it, you've done
what really counts, and you will move those people who are
Tozier says, "Take a look
at the Earth from a plane. You'll see the earth cut up and
in pain. Take a look at L.A. from the sky. What you see should
make you cry. Hey, my children...what seems important won't