Playing With Conviction, It's important you know
Ben Higgins
Oct 23 2014, 10:41 AM
Posts: 13.792
Joined: 11-March 10
From: England
I believe that one thing that makes music work is when a player has conviction in what he's doing.


: a strong belief or opinion

: the feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true

There are abundant examples in the world of music where people create something that is enjoyed and adored by many. It has the X factor, it grabs us, it captures our attention. Sometimes it's music we would never normally listen to but nevertheless we are enraptured by the delivery of the music. In many cases, somebody with rough or sloppy technique can deliver something that has so much potency that you can't help but be drawn into it, regardless of their musical proficiency.

It's this latter aspect I want to expand upon here. In the guitar world, there's a lot of competition still. Youtube and forum comments (although thankfully not this one) are full of people saying how X guitarist destroys Y guitarist.. Z guitarist sucks etc. That's the polite version of the type of stuff you read.

But the focus is nearly always on technical prowess. Because somebody's favourite guitar player is better at more techniques than another, in their eyes it makes the other player redundant somehow, is if they can't possibly enjoy the work of both. I've never understood that. Why do you have to choose one over the other ? Anyway, I digress as usual......

I'm going to use Kirk Hammett as an example here because people are always slagging him off, saying he's sloppy or he's this, that or the other. This always annoys me. Sure, if you compared Kirk to the creme de la creme of technical guitar wizards then, quite frankly, not many people can compare to that level of prowess but since when was that an entry requirement to make music ? There are plenty other famous guitarists out there who would struggle to play anything by Satch, Vai who would in turn struggle to play anything by Govan and Lane but to be fair, those guys didn't get into music to play other people's stuff, they're all musicians who create their own stuff. So, going back to Kirk.. regardless of the way he plays and whether it appeals to people's tastes or not, what makes Kirk's contributions so integral to the work of Metallica is his conviction.

Everything he plays is given 100%. I think Kirk's always had a great and distinctive tone as well, which helps. Every note has been chosen specifically. It's been thought about, played with and chosen to be part of the song. That's what conviction is. It's knowing what you want and going for it. Decisiveness. Many technical wizards do not have that discipline at all. When a Metallica song gets to the solo, everybody knows how it's supposed to sound. It's part of the song just as much as the vocals and riffs. If you got up and performed one of their songs and changed the solo it wouldn't sound right. Hell, if Kirk himself changed all his solos the fans wouldn't like it. Why ? Because it's part of that song's DNA. Every note is played with conviction, whether that note is "right or wrong". And it's conviction that all people can identify with.

Slash is another one who gets a hard time from all the shred fans too but I tell you what, the dude's written some of the greatest riffs and most memorable solos of all time. When I was a kid at primary school, me and my mates used to sing songs off Appetite for Destruction when we were hanging around outside. When it came to the solos we sang them as well. Because we could remember them. They were part of the song. And since when did kids remember anything ??

It just goes to show, technical prowess is not the ball breaker. It loses out to conviction every time. If you have conviction in your playing, everyone will stop focusing on what you're doing and how you're doing it and just listen. And that's what music is for.

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