How to develop your Performance Dynamic
“You have about 15 seconds to make your listener decide whether or not to give you another 15”
A sense of dynamics is a simple thing to develop. But it’s also crucial, because dynamics alone can set you apart from other guitarists. Have you ever wondered why the same guitar solos played by different guitarists sound different? The answer is not always in their gear setup – it’s because everyone has their own performance dynamic. Unfortunately, this factor is often overlooked during practice.
When we talked about finding your Signature Style, we developed a database of your personal sounds, techniques and rhythmics. Think of these as the elements of your unique voice. Your dynamic is more like the way you speak. Some people speak loudly, some speak quietly. Some people talk quickly, with no pauses; others use short sentences once in a while. It all depends on personality and situation.
After we have figured out WHAT we’re playing, it’s time to concentrate on HOW we’re going to play it.
As with speaking, performance dynamics can be determined using the same parameters:
- Unity / Separateness
Here, we are going to use the same approach. We’ll take a minus backing track, preferably with a song length and structure (verse/chorus), and put it on repeat for the next 50 minutes. For the first 10 minutes, we improvise over it while concentrating on Volume alone, going from one extreme to another. For example: play a verse as silently as possible, and the chorus as loudly as possible. (And use only your hands, not a volume knob!) For the next 10 minutes, improvise with the Unity of your phrases. For example, the verses – super-short phrases with big pauses, and the choruses – long, multi-note legato-style phrases. And vice-versa. For the next 10 minutes, work on your Speed again, going from one extreme to another. And so on.
Working on Tone and Clarity was the most fun for me. That’s when your guitar really starts to ‘’speak” – think of a person who ‘mumbles’ in verses and speaks clearly in choruses.
I think it’s important to work with only one backing track that you repeat for almost an hour. By the end of the first 10-minute session, you’ll be hypnotized by that repetition. It will open the door to your subconscious mind. And that’s mainly where we’re working when we speak of performance dynamics.
Modern guitarists sound louder and louder, but it’s hard to differentiate one from another. That’s because they overuse the compressors in their gear setup, which makes everything sound loud and clear. Back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, there were more ‘iconic’ and recognizable guitarists. Their performance dynamics were very developed and helped them express their feelings, which basically made them ‘non-replaceable’.