I was able to get new teacher Jamie Glaser to do a “guest blog” to go along with his new video, and hope to do more of that in the future with other teachers at JGS – this is a very fun and facinating collection of thoughts and stories I think you will enjoy – Doug Perkins
(by Jamie Glaser, guest blogger)
It was about 2 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays back in the 70’s and I was in a little room with a piece of paper over the window so no one could see in. These were the practice rooms at Berklee College of Music. I would run to these rooms hoping that the person that had been next to my room before would be there again.
Twice some guitarist who played really fast was next to my room. I was inspired by this guy or girl who played cleanly, fast, and – unlike the rest of the school -wasn’t playing Charlie Parker licks. I heard ripping fast A harmonic minor scales starting on an E note – that scale some now call a E Phrygian dominant, or the flamenco scale. I look at scales from their intended tonic so I called it an A harmonic scale from an E!( and still do)
It was killing me to not see who I had been competing with, so I sat in the hall making believe I was doing theory homework. Out of the practice room came Al Dimeola.
We all wanted to play fast for whatever reason: youth, getting the audience’s attention, to be more like rock stars, to keep up with sax players, a million reasons really. Picking, speed, and playing clean have always been a desire of mine, and so many of you out there.
I have read every word of Doug’s AMAZING picking blog here, and he has covered all the good & the great, and given thought to things that seem really tough for some of us.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had a dozen guitar teachers and THEY ALL picked the same way. I know after being an instructor for the last 40 years that this is not always the case. Students have come to me immobilized cause they have heard so many different things from their teachers.
For me its simple.. play with a closed hand, no anchoring. That’s it!
….well that’s not IT, really, but its kinda IT.
You see, when I want to know something I go to the person(s) that do it best. I was drawn to the JazzGuitarSociety.com cause the family of players and founders there do it BEST.
I asked … who is it that plays the fastest, the cleanest, and has the most endurance? The answer for me was simple: Mandolin and Balalaika players in New York City’s Little Italy.
I was John Gotti’s guitarist for a while , and had the opportunity to hear amazing musicians in New York. (yes THAT John Gotti)
I watched as Mandolin players played tremelos, for an hour, sometimes talking to customers while they played, some with a cigar hanging from their lips.
I asked and they all told me the same:
use the Fulcrum…use the Fulcrum
This was a way to use the hand (somewhat similar to Doug’s salt shaker example) where the arm muscles and the hand muscles were not really used… it was all from a pivoting wrist. (see video)
They explained that the hand should be closed cause of gravity. The weight of the thumb needed to be counteracted by all 4 fingers so an equal volume, a constant sound could be achieved.
These guys showed me how to breathe, to get more speed, and also showed me that many times it isn’t the right hand that was the problem whatsoever, it was a slower than desirable left hand.
I have always played with the picking technique that I was shown as a teenager… and have taught the technique to many who have really done well with it.
I wanted to share one story with you:
I was called for a recording session in the early 90’s. I had been working for the amazing composer Ashley Irwin and he got me the gig. The call was simple… “Jamie we have a session for you with a guitarist who just played for the Pope”.
Well I didn’t ever turn sessions down but for sure I was gonna make this one.
As I was driving I thought to some of the cool sessions I did with other guitarists, Joaquin Lievano, Paul Jackson Jr, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and Michael Thompson, …they were a lot of fun. I always learned something. I just didn’t know what to expect on this session that was soon to come my way.
I walked in and heard some really amazing playing from a guitarist, as they were getting sounds. I looked through the studio control room window and there was a guy there, but he wasn’t playing. (He did have a guitar on his lap)
Gosh, was I ever wrong about him not playing!
The amazing music, the picking technique, the sweet sounds were in fact coming from that guy… and he was playing it all with his feet. He had no hands and no arms!
This was the day I was blessed to record and meet Tony Melendez.
It was a wonderful session. He played amazing stuff, I ‘comped, he soloed.
He strummed, I played melody. We played Pachabell.
Oh man. that day was amazing.
But what was more amazing then the session and the music was what he said to me.
Tony told me how he felt fortunate to be alive in this beautiful world
He felt FORTUNATE to not have any hands, cause he could make the music inside of him, with his feet.
He told me … “Jamie, let your heart always make the music.”
He said the technique I chose to use wasn’t important because playing from the heart, which takes ALL LIMITATIONS away.
I will never forget that day … it changed my life forever.
My thanks to all of you who read this blog and I thank Doug for inviting me to guest blog on his incredible informative space!