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Playing Intensity - how much do you value it?
Old 18th August 2016
  #1
Playing Intensity - how much do you value it?

I was watching a great clip on you tube of Eric Gales and Josh Smith jamming a slow blues live. I love Josh White - he's an amazing player I just discovered, great touch, phrasing, creative etc - he also has great lessons - I'm a fan. That being said, Eric Gales is force of nature when he plays and basically dwarfs Josh and most blues/rock players when on stage. I started thinking about why as I was watching the video and a big part of it is playing intensity - Eric plays with wild dynamics and really digs in in a way that I really like - you get that same general approach from players like Hendrix and SRV - it's not just notes being played, it's flat out war on the guitar! The more "subdued" players I would present as examples would be Robben Ford , Eric Johnson and Matt Scofield, which are all insanely technical but much less intense in their approaches ( I'm a huge fan of all of them so the purpose here is not to denigrate - they're all amazing).

I'm finding that I am more drawn to players who don't hold back and dig in more, generally. What are your thoughts on that and how do you approach it in your own playing?
Old 18th August 2016
  #2
For me, it comes down to a matter of taste and personality.

Some guys live right on the very edge, and of course that's going to come through their playing. Some guys are a bit more reserved.

Some are focused and goals-oriented, which is where the technical fireworks comes from in my experience. Some are just living life with less regard for this aspect.

We all value different things differently, which is why there's room for everyone.

Any element we can discuss is just a portion of a much larger picture:


Last edited by donsolo; 22nd August 2016 at 03:21 PM..
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Old 18th August 2016
  #3
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I always felt that Jimi and SRV never "played" the guitar, they "summoned" music from it. Both were otherworldly.

It took me years to loosen up and to play organically with some intensity. I also discovered that, depending on the piece, it is not necessary to play loudly and demonstratively to play with intensity, just play with emotion and become the groove.

I'm a slow learner.
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Old 19th August 2016
  #4
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This guy trumps all blues players on the intensity factor.
Old 19th August 2016
  #5
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Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post


This guy trumps all blues players on the intensity factor. It's not the same tired Hendrix formula that SRV and others milked for decades
Johnny Hiland is indeed awesome--one of the greatest of all time, and definitely intense.
Old 19th August 2016
  #6
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Don't care so long as they're not doing Sex Face. That's a big no-no.
Old 19th August 2016
  #7
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Originally Posted by mcgruff View Post
Don't care so long as they're not doing Sex Face. That's a big no-no.
SRV mastered that and John Mayer carries the torch
Old 19th August 2016
  #8
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Yup. Johnny Hiland is both skilled and intense, but lest we forget he got to study and "shown the way" by veritable Masters, not to mention that some of the best were just guitar into amp, no effects..... like this ---->




Pretty hard to get much more intense than that and still be melodic and lyrical. BTW don't miss the effect at around 2:40 where the amp is pushed into "squeezing up" by picking intensiry, damping, and amp settings sounding like a weak wah on some notes. Just expressive in spades and doubled. Masterful!
Old 19th August 2016
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Yup. Johnny Hiland is both skilled and intense, but lest we forget he got to study and "shown the way" by veritable Masters, not to mention that some of the best were just guitar into amp, no effects..... like this ---->




Pretty hard to get much more intense than that and still be melodic and lyrical. BTW don't miss the effect at around 2:40 where the amp is pushed into "squeezing up" by picking intensiry, damping, and amp settings sounding like a weak wah on some notes. Just expressive in spades and doubled. Masterful!
Bloomfield is pretty below average comparatively. The fact that Hiland found a way to bring something fresh and exciting to guitar playing while having to follow in the footsteps of 1000s of famous players, is his real achievement. It's all too easy to surf YT and become a great player these days, being unique in the process is something rare and that's what makes Hiland so special. + Imagine how much better Hiland would be if he got to play with Buddy Miles and Barry Goldberg? can't imagine.
Old 20th August 2016
  #10
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Originally Posted by ShellTones View Post
Johnny Hiland is indeed awesome--one of the greatest of all time, and definitely intense.
The guy's undeniably brilliant. And every time I come across that vid on the internet I click on it, and I last about a minute and a half. Not sure why that is.
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Old 20th August 2016
  #11
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From the recording engineer perspective, intensity is very important. Especially with the main vocals. Sometimes the rhythm section can really add or kill intensity.
Old 20th August 2016
  #12
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Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
The guy's undeniably brilliant. And every time I come across that vid on the internet I click on it, and I last about a minute and a half. Not sure why that is.
Half a minute longer than I managed.
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Old 20th August 2016
  #13
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Originally Posted by vincentvangogo View Post
Half a minute longer than I managed.
Maybe later on there's a sex scene and a car chase. Guess I'll never know.
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Old 20th August 2016
  #14
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I like the way Jimmy Olander just stands there and rips your face off with things you don't do because you can't or didn't think to.
Old 20th August 2016
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShellTones View Post
I always felt that Jimi and SRV never "played" the guitar, they "summoned" music from it. Both were otherworldly.

It took me years to loosen up and to play organically with some intensity. I also discovered that, depending on the piece, it is not necessary to play loudly and demonstratively to play with intensity, just play with emotion and become the groove.

I'm a slow learner.
slow learner, ha? yeah, I'm with you, I must be slow to but my thoughts after reading all the responses is your the only one who gets it.
Old 20th August 2016
  #16
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Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
Bloomfield is pretty below average comparatively. .
Personal preference, not fact by any stretch and to be perfectly honest I find "below average" applied to a man who was a bona fide Blues Historian as well as a true virtuoso player AND a break out-and-through musician ( he wrote horn charts and contributed much of the Eastern Influence to the East-West era, ignorant of his importance and quality and a downright eye-roller.

I'm not taking anything away from Hiland as a guitar player with both technique and some soul, but he has yet to contribute even a fraction of what Bloomfield did in roughly 20 years of public playing. Bloomfield didn't get position #22 on RS 2003 "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list by being "below average".

FWIW I've heard Hiland play Country where he is less dependent on effects and he is still very accomplished, but I would truly love to hear him play Blues with just his guitar plugged directly into a non channel-switching amp. That would be a decent comparison as a Guitar Player but still would fall short of the added Musician status that Bloomfield achieved.

You might want to realiz that Bloomfield wrote those horn charts on that very song I linked and also check out both the book and recording If You Love These Blues to get an understanding of the wide-ranging mastery he commanded.
Old 20th August 2016
  #17
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I hear no below average playing in the Electric Flag YouTube.

One of the things I have noticed when watching some highly advanced guitar players play is that they generally play with a much lighter touch than you might expect considering the intensity levels. And I know from my own personal playing experience that once I developed a much lighter touch I could play a lot of things that I couldn't play before and the things I already knew how to play were easier. I had to start playing with a lighter touch, in both my left and right hands, and do more alternate picking, when sight reading jazz lines that weren't written specifically for guitar in order to play them up to speed, cleanly, clearly, and phrased so they sounded like music. I am a working musician. And as soon as I played the next gig I realized how much easier it was to play everything. But there was a catch to it. I had to try to remain loose and keep a clear head when playing intense things. It was really easy to get "worked up" when picking faster and more intense "louder" stuff. That would make my playing more stiff. And I had much less control of dynamics. The other side is that for awhile when I was loose, had a clear head, and was playing with a really light touch while playing "intense stuff" it almost felt like an out of body experience. I had never really played that way before.

I learned more about playing with a lighter touch and realized that playing with a lighter touch was the thing I needed to keep doing after watching a Daniel Lanois "Rig Rundown" on YouTube in which he demonstrated how he picked on guitar and pedal steel. His touch was lighter than mine. Though I am getting closer. One thing he did, which I have been doing more lately, was to turn his amplifier up a little bit more to compensate for the lighter touch. With a good tube amplifier turning it up and playing with a lighter touch on a guitar you are really comfortable with you can get better tone or better control of tone. I went from turning my amplifier to around 5 to around 8. Past about 6 or 7 my amplifier doesn't necessarily get "louder". But 6 is louder than 5. Playing with a lighter touch does not necessarily mean that I would be playing really lightly all of the time. But I have a much rider range in which to pick, from barely touching the strings to almost breaking the strings depending on what I am wanting to do at any given moment. And I don't necessarily go from light to heavy picking just when I am playing "intense" stuff. I vary my attack a little bit from the time I start playing until the time I start.

Another element that can give the impression of "intensity" is the bending of space and time. I have heard this more in the playing of Black musicians than in the playing of rock and country musicians. Though some rock and country musicians do it. Lots of jazz musicians do it. And Roy Buchanan is one of the best I have heard. He also played with a very light to very hard touch. But he did as much sparse "slow" playing and quiet playing as "in your face" playing. And he could display intensity from both ends of the spectrum. I think one reason he was able to do a lot of what he did was because he was a master of his instrument. That does not necessarily mean that he could "play everything". But he had been playing long and often enough and with enough focus that he could just play and not think about how he did it. But what he thought and imagined and heard in his head he could just do.
Old 20th August 2016
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post


This guy trumps all blues players on the intensity factor.
Not knocking Johnny Hiland - he's great - but I'd guess you haven't listened to much Albert King, right?

Or perhaps we just don't have the same definition of "intensity"?
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Old 20th August 2016
  #19
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Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
Bloomfield is pretty below average comparatively. The fact that Hiland found a way to bring something fresh and exciting to guitar playing while having to follow in the footsteps of 1000s of famous players, is his real achievement. It's all too easy to surf YT and become a great player these days, being unique in the process is something rare and that's what makes Hiland so special. + Imagine how much better Hiland would be if he got to play with Buddy Miles and Barry Goldberg? can't imagine.
I guess you're too young to have actually heard Bloomfield live, right?

Calling Bloomfield "below average" is like saying a Ferrari is a slow car.

Or Mohammad Ali was a weak boxer.

For sheer intensity check out some of his early stuff with Dylan and his slide on the first Butterfield album. For artistry and taking the guitar into places it never went before try "East-West". You have to remember that he did stuff like that before all the other people who made it somewhat common place. When "East-West" came out there was nothing that combined blues, jazz, Indian raga, and rock in any way that came within light years of resembling that. When that album came out it was a total mind blower.
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Old 20th August 2016
  #20
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This guy comes to mind. A tour de force if ever there was one. Hell, the entire show was.

http://www.veojam.com/watch/1321911214
Old 20th August 2016
  #21
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Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
The guy's undeniably brilliant. And every time I come across that vid on the internet I click on it, and I last about a minute and a half. Not sure why that is.
I'm a guitar nerd, so I can appreciate the kind of guitar acrobatics exemplified by most of the players listed on this thread, but when it comes to the blues rock idiom, JJ Cale, Mark Knopfler, and Jesse Ed Davis are more my cup of tea. I like the laid back approach way more than balls out intensity. It's just way more listenable.
Old 21st August 2016
  #22
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Ahh now we are getting down to "the real nitty gritty", definition of terms - intensity. I think rolandjuno6 made some really important points that intensity doesn't necessarily mean loud, aggressive or fast. A light, even lilting, plaintive passage can tear your heart out and some sweep picked, blisteringly speedy set of scales can leave you cold. It's not about technique and endless rehearsal. Intense is about communicating emotion, at the very least, in my book. Little Bobby Radcliffe once said to me, "It's not what you know... It's what you do with what you know" and I agreed then and still do.
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Old 21st August 2016
  #23
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Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I'm a guitar nerd, so I can appreciate the kind of guitar acrobatics exemplified by most of the players listed on this thread, but when it comes to the blues rock idiom, JJ Cale, Mark Knopfler, and Jesse Ed Davis are more my cup of tea. I like the laid back approach way more than balls out intensity. It's just way more listenable.
Mark knopfler is, to me, the king of phrasing - he oozes taste. Brothers in arms solo should be required listening for any lead player
Old 21st August 2016
  #24
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I don't mind intense playing if someone has something interesting to say that happens to be intense. But intensity for it's own ends is just tiring. So I guess, no, I'm not a fan of guitarists who overplay.
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Old 21st August 2016
  #25
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Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Not knocking Johnny Hiland - he's great - but I'd guess you haven't listened to much Albert King, right?

Or perhaps we just don't have the same definition of "intensity"?
I'm a big fan of Albert King, but JH is the next generation, the new breed. Also he as a way more complete and diverse player. IMO guys like Hiland are the type of players that keep pushing the threshold and that's important. If musicians stopped progressing and just did Albert King licks over and over, there would be no point. King already did what he did so no reason to keep regurgitating it generation after generation. So talented people who are fans of King's build upon what he did, just like King built what he did based on those who inspired him.

Hiland is a hybrid of many players: Albert Lee, Albert King, James Burton, EVH, Gatton, Johnny Winter, Hendrix etc.. But he still found a way to have his own unique identity. I don't know why people hate on him?? it's all just jealousy and envy and resentment. Same reason people hate on Malmsteen. All envy and insecurity and lack of self a esteem due to their own musical shortcomings and artistic failures. Guys like Malmsteen and Hiland do one of three things to people who show interest in them. They inspire you to excel and become a better player/artist, they inspire you to give up or they trigger jealousy.

I don't think it's fair to make comparison really, it's not Hiland's fault he was born when he was. If he was Albert King's age he would have still done something special. Same with all the other greats. They may have been different, but they still would have been great. Talent is talent and talented people that are driven are going to excel no matter what generation they live. People who sit back and hate and wallow in jealously don't accomplish anything.

Johnny can get on stage with anyone. He can play in country bands, blues bands, bluegrass band. I've even seen videos of him jamming with hardrock bands. The guy has it all. Albert King can only play one style of music. Same with Albert Lee and SRV and all those one dimensional players.


King was was obviously a better writer
Old 21st August 2016
  #26
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Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Ahh now we are getting down to "the real nitty gritty", definition of terms - intensity. I think rolandjuno6 made some really important points that intensity doesn't necessarily mean loud, aggressive or fast. A light, even lilting, plaintive passage can tear your heart out and some sweep picked, blisteringly speedy set of scales can leave you cold. It's not about technique and endless rehearsal. Intense is about communicating emotion, at the very least, in my book. Little Bobby Radcliffe once said to me, "It's not what you know... It's what you do with what you know" and I agreed then and still do.
You hear things from only one POV though. FYI there are people who have fast, loud, aggressive personalities and they are attracted to music that reflects those traits. Some musicians have a blisteringly fast, loud, aggressive and cold personalities and that is channeled into their music. I have nothing against slow and lethargic boring guitar players with low energy. I like their music as well. I think people need to respect the fact that all musicians do not think and play alike. I hate when people say shredders "have no feel".. um they "feel" like shredding ya know? People have no idea what someone else feels.
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Old 21st August 2016
  #27
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Originally Posted by kafka View Post
I don't mind intense playing if someone has something interesting to say that happens to be intense. But intensity for it's own ends is just tiring. So I guess, no, I'm not a fan of guitarists who overplay.
Overplaying isn't intense, it's overplaying.

As I mentioned previously, one of the most INTENSE players who ever lived was Albert King. Anybody who either doesn't get his intensity or thinks he in any way overplayed needs to have his ears examined.

That's not to say that intricate playing (a la Bloomfield on East-West) can't be intense - but the two are totally separate parameters.
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Old 21st August 2016
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Overplaying isn't intense, it's overplaying.

As I mentioned previously, one of the most INTENSE players who ever lived was Albert King. Anybody who either doesn't get his intensity or thinks he in any way overplayed needs to have his ears examined.

That's not to say that intricate playing (a la Bloomfield on East-West) can't be intense - but the two are totally separate parameters.
In his day Albert King was known for overplaying, as were lots of guys who are now considered "classic" guitar heroes. It's only when someone comes out who plays even more notes, is when the predecessor is suddenly crowned by the
melodic club and "soul-patrol". Hendrix was called out for being too over the top. Allan Holdsworth, Dimeola. Even Pete smashing the guitar was even too much for some sensitive music fans back then.... "OMG... he's gone hurt someone"

I remember when EVH came out everyone was like this guy is just a bunch of sizzle and a bunch of flashy notes, well 15 platinum albums later people finally realized wait a minute , this guy can actually write a song and play melodic. Then his legions of followers who did actually over play made you realize just how awesome and bluesy Eddie really was and is. what was he supposed to do in the 70s? play Clapton licks? ... You can only put so many people to sleep.

I loved it when Satriani sued coldplay for stealing one of his melodies and he won the case.. Yeah Joe is just a bunch of flashy notes too..?? lol Well Coldplay didn't think so. That was a big hit for them.

People have to musically open their minds here and stop being so predicable and afraid to explore.
Old 21st August 2016
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
... it's all just jealousy and envy and resentment. Same reason people hate on Malmsteen. All envy and insecurity and lack of self a esteem due to their own musical shortcomings and artistic failures....

If it was all insecurity and resentment then why do I love someone like Hendrix who I know was infinitely more accomplished than me. The reason I don't like Malmsteem is simply because his playing leaves me cold. No envy involved.
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Old 21st August 2016
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
You hear things from only one POV though. FYI there are people who have fast, loud, aggressive personalities and they are attracted to music that reflects those traits. Some musicians have a blisteringly fast, loud, aggressive and cold personalities and that is channeled into their music. I have nothing against slow and lethargic boring guitar players with low energy. I like their music as well. I think people need to respect the fact that all musicians do not think and play alike. I hate when people say shredders "have no feel".. um they "feel" like shredding ya know? People have no idea what someone else feels.
Just to be clear my exact words were "intensity doesn't necessarily mean loud, aggressive or fast". That doesn't exclude ALL loud, aggressive, fast playing. That was followed by a similar but opposite point that some not ALL slow, light plying can be (not always is) intense.

FWIW I find your remark that you actually like "lethargic, boring and low energy" disingenuous. Nobody likes boring. It is, in fact, the opposite of "intense". A case of slowing down and turning down but increasing dynamic intensity that you might relate to is EVH in the Panama solo. It's intense on it's own and adds intensity to when he builds and builds to an abrupt Stop!.

On the flip side Johnny Winter never met a flurry of notes he didn't like but more often than not still managed passion and intensity in his guitar playing. Unfortunately, his vocals were not on a par and he often sounded "too practiced and derivative" singing for effect on others rather than because he felt moved to say something meaningful.

Those words were chosen to point out that intensity is not dependent on speed, or lack of it, precision, etc. When you discard all the non-essentials, what one is left with is the ability to communicate passion. In my book, that's what "intensity" means and it can exist at any speed or volume, but is never "low energy", "lethargic" or "boring". Notes and phrases have to mean something to the player if they are to mean something to a listener.

It is nowhere near the same as rehearsed inanity like Warrant playing pseudo metal to choreographed group steps. Crap like that is calculated showmanship at best worthy only of the most contrived Boy Bands..
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