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Guitarist Fareed Haque Explains Why Melody Is The Only True Teacher

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Again Jazz Guitar Today welcomes guitarist Fareed Haque to tell us what’s on his mind.

I want to start today’s article by saying something that may seem slightly arrogant.

Every once in a while on my albums and pretty regularly on my live gigs, I can find my way to THE ZONE.

When I was a younger musician I would get to the zone maybe 5 minutes out of every gig.

But I remembered what that space was, how it felt and I tried to get back there and sometimes I would get there for 6 or 7 minutes… Then get there for a whole tune or a whole set even!

What is that zone you ask?

It’s hard to explain but it’s that place where Melody Rhythm and Harmony all connect intuitively, logically, and you just know what the next right note is.

The zone is not something you can learn and then just know, it’s not something you can find from a scale or a chord or a special pick or a special amp.

Is ultimately a place where everything makes Melody.

And the truth is the zone is not something you can ever master – it’s a space you need to get to, every time, like a child, finding a new toy.

Actors know this, even more so comedians know this and musicians do too.

I’m not going to get into arguments here, but there are great swaths of Pat Metheny records where he is in the zone and there are a number of them where he is not and to those who know it’s obvious.

The same thing is true for Pat Martino – Pat was almost constantly in the zone through the seventies and after his comeback, he got there sometimes but not always.

Sonny Rollins is notorious for being incredibly in the zone and then incredibly out of the zone.

Miles Davis spent years in the zone and then kind of lost it…. Those last few records he can play, and there were only some moments of brilliance.

Pat Metheny did say something very brilliant once, I’m paraphrasing here, that “in school, we study the theory of Harmony, of rhythm but there’s very little about the theory of Melody.”

Because Melody is something that comes from balance from humor from wit from repetition from logic from geometry.

Like a good joke – good Melody is a mystery but when it’s right everybody knows it, everyone laughs.

And believe it or not, in my experience it is pretty darn universal.

In lessons I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain to a student, “no in this phrase that note needs an accent; that need note needs to be held” and then it’ll be sad or happy or exciting or whatever emotion is called for at the moment…

And when asked, “Why does it have to go like that?” I can explain, sort of, but it’s the combination of choices that make a phrase come to life… in the same way that Richard Pryor can say any old sentence and make you laugh and you can say the same sentence and it sounds like something you say around the house when you’re taking out your laundry. Dull as shit.

And the proof is in the pudding – when you play it right it works – when you play it wrong it just doesn’t.

I guess maybe that’s why I listen to mostly comedians for timing and rhythm and phrasing because the proof is right there in their work, in the audiences response.

There’s no hiding behind chops, theory, tone, even lyrical playing can masquerade as melodic playing and still not get there.

But Bird and ‘Trane and Wayne all played with Melody… It doesn’t matter how many or how few notes they play, melody is always there to lead us to the joy of music.

So play and experiment with that phrase until it makes you FEEL

And look for the next note, the next phrase that comes FROM that first one. 

Here’s a fun game to try – sit down with a page of note paper if you write music or home recording setup if you don’t…

And write 10 pages, 3 minutes, of Melody.

One phrase and the logical next phrase and the logical next phrase… Don’t be afraid to use repetition sequence architecture to shape your melodies.

Know that the only right answer is that it feels good, but it makes sense and you walk away remembering it.

Find your own right answer, your own melodic Muse and all the other complicated shit will melt away – because Melody is the only true teacher.


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