I was viewing an instructional video on developing guitar soloing techniques, and was struck by the parallels to audio design.
In both pursuits, there’s a danger of trying to impress instead of focusing on fundamentals.
In instrumental soloing, a solid foundation in harmony helps you relate the melody to the audience. Sometimes, simple is more evocative.
This isn’t to say that complex musical excursions can’t be engaging. Watch this video from the beginning for some stellar musicianship by John Mayer, as he builds the musical tension prior to release/resolution. This is all built on a solid foundation however, and that’s my point.
I cued up this first video to the beginning of the “Fire on the Mountain” jam, because it relates to the second video below, which is presents an approach to spelling out the chords to begin soloing to this song.
In a similar way that a musician may be tempted to impress with their chops, the audio designer faces the lure of reaching into their hard-earned bag of tricks (their “licks”).
Frequently, the solution is worse than the problem. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been there.
An example of an audio design trick is a filament regulation scheme in a vacuum tube circuit. It may look good on a ‘scope, but ‘scopes don’t “hear” the way humans do.
It’s important to step back and look at the big picture. When in doubt, simple is usually better. This second instructional video shows how to build the skeleton of a solo to the above tune – using only 3 notes per chord (the chord tones).
Simple can be tasty. N’est ce pas?