Jeff Gunn’s Hidden Sounds: Guitar Series Workshop – Review by Tyrone Buccione
I had the pleasure of attending guitar master Jeff Gunn’s Hidden Sounds workshop this past week during the Canadian Music Festival here in Toronto. Jeff Gunn is a true guitarist’s guitarist at heart and is also an accomplished author, songwriter and professor. Watching Gunn express himself throughout the workshop gave me reassurance that as long as you love what you are doing, then, “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
The main theme behind the workshop was to strive to be like yourself and to search for sounds and techniques that are unique to your own tastes and influences. The session was sandwiched between two, original classical guitar performances which screamed creativity and showed me an original style like none other (including the video below called “Candle Lanterns”). There were harmonics, drum beats and strumming patterns that reminded me of the open-tuning styles of Andy McKee and Don Ross; but Jeff had his own unique style and somehow stayed in standard tuning – which left me mesmerised. I was literally staring at this guy with my jaw slightly open in a mentally stimulating campfire trance. The way he played was nothing less than passionate and between his rocking back and forth and ear to ear grins, it was obvious that the man loved what he was doing.
Gunn split the session up into four parts, with each part explaining a method book in his quadrilogy called Hidden Sounds. The audience were encouraged to bring their guitars and play along while the lector guided the audience through the following:
Book 1: Developing a Musical Vocabulary on the Guitar – This is where Jeff demonstrated some insightful techniques including harmonics, finger attack strategies and positioning. The theme of this section was to empower the musician and show them, “the power of choice that lies at his/her fingertips.”
Book 2: The Power of Imitation – This presentation was my favourite of the four. Jeff showed how the guitar can be used to imitate other instruments including harmonica, charango, mandolin, banjo and DJ scratching while incorporating each technique into a melody. It reminded me of Brian May of ‘Queen’’s “Good Company,” where the guitarist imitated a whole brass section, clarinets and flutes. He also touched on other guitarists in pop that rely heavily on imitation including Tom Morello of ‘Rage Against the Machine’. I really like the idea of having a simple instrument produce such a wide variety of sounds and the challenge of pushing the guitar’s limits.
Book 3: Exploring Percussion on the Guitar – Another interesting section which had the whole audience banging and slapping away at their guitars. Some techniques were picked up quite easily and I was surprised I never utilized them before.
Book 4: The Reference Book – A great place for any guitarist to discover new resources and further expand their knowledge on the subject.
With the guitar being one of the most popular instruments in the entire world aside from the piano, you can imagine how difficult it must be to develop a style that is truly original. But wait! Gunn says that finding that style is quite simple because each person is unique – I’m pickin’ up what he’s layin down! It has been argued that all novelty is still a derivative of something. This is a point that I would back up to a certain degree where melody is concerned, but when you get to technique and expression, anything you play is original. Unless you’re a robot (But you’re not a robot, are you?), no two notes will ever be played the same way. Does this mean that if 7 billion people played the guitar and practiced enough, you would have 7 billion different styles of expression? I believe that answer is yes, you just have to spend enough time with the instrument to find it. Just like the snowflake theory, I think that no two musicians can develop in the same way.
In this workshop, I loved the slogan, “strive to be like yourself” and the encouragement to look past what your idols preferred and focus on what tones, techniques, fingerings etc., that you prefer.
I would highly recommend checking out the “Hidden Sounds” series by Jeff Gunn. You can browse and shop online at:http://www.jeffgunn.ca/SHOP.
So pick up that ol’ 6 six string and let the journey begin!
Editors Note: Check out Tyrone’s band TimeGiant below performing I Am The Fire a T-Mak World Favorite.