September 14, 2012

Timing & phrasing pt 6 Mike Miller


Mike Miller

.. "Mike Miller is known as a "guitarist's guitarist" and is one of the most sought-after and respected players in Los Angeles. Miller's resume includes being a member of Better Midler's all-star band in Las Vegas, Chick Corea, George Duke, Vinnie Colaiuta, Yellowjackets, Brand X, Peter Erskine, Gino Vanelli. Miller is one of L.A.'s hidden gems, with the ability to play multiple styles and in almost any setting." - Tom Meek - LAJazz.com  


‘there's nothing like hearing yourself really suck to make you start practicing in earnest’

Did you train timing consciously? Were you aware of it or did people point this out to you?
How did you train this? What rhythmic examples were you listening for?
I've been working with metronomes since very early on. I became fascinated by different groupings (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.) against 8th notes, triplets, later found 5s, 7s, a lot of math kind of stuff. In high school I toured one summer with a trio that had a cheesy drum machine. The sounds were cheesy, but the time was good. I was playing mostly bass at the time,which is fantastic for learning about time, harmony, and the power of the bass in a band. 

I've also been lucky to play with some great drummers, (Vinnie Coliauta, Peter Erskine, Chester Thompson, Simon Phillips, Mike Clark, Greg Bissonette and many others and, from early on, Mark Craney. He was from my hometown in South Dakota. We had a band that played a lot of improv, some Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, Yes, Zappa, anything we wanted to do. So that stuff is fascinating to me. 

I've always listened closely to piano players, the way they comp is much more interesting to me that the typical guitar scratch thing. Chick Corea, Jan Hammer, George Duke, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, and of course the hilariously impossible Art Tatum.  

Did you record yourself in order to improve?
I've recorded myself a few times in order to improve, although, there's nothing like hearing yourself really suck to make you start practicing in earnest. No one goes home from a great gig and says, "I'm going to start practicing 8 hrs a day. It's only when you totally eat it in front of a crowd that people get serious about it. To a certain extent, anyway... 

Do you think of some kind of 'grid' between beats as to where to place the notes?
I think of time like a wheel, or like a clock, where "one' is the top of the circle and you try to just drop the notes in the right space when it comes by, instead of forcing them to fit. That the time exists on it's own and it's up to you to find it.

Is the bass player more of a rhythmic anchor than the drummer? (steady pulse)
The bass is driving the bus. No one has more control of how the music is going to sound and move than the bass. It's a completely different mentality and mindset that I try to get into when I'm playing bass, and i love it! I have enormous respect for great bass players, the old "bass players are failed guitarists" line is bullshit. 
    Playing with a drummer with a lot of chops and bad time is like dragging a dead body up a hill on your back. Awful. Give me a guy with good time and limited chops ANY DAY!

What's your definition of phrasing?
Phrasing...hmm.  You know this one JB? : What's the difference between Yngwie and a machine gun? Phrasing! Just kidding. 
Your phrasing is like a conversation as opposed to a monologuewheresomeonewon'tstoptalkingandafter5minutesyoujustwantotshoothimintheheadwithabiggun.

Do you still steal licks from records?
Licks? I really don't think in terms of licks. To me, it's all in the intervals. 
Everything is made up of the intervals. Licks, chords, arpeggios, scales, it's like the alphabet. It's like the difference between having a phrase book and being able to speak a language.

Do/ did you notice a difference in timing when you play with different people?
Playing with different people, yeah, there's usually a period where you figure out where people are feeling the time, on top, purposely behind, big band waaaay behind, but these are also just styles, as long as the time is good, you can adjust and let it move around a bit.

Do you consciously vary your timing?
Sometimes I think about Wayne Shorter or Jeff Beck and how they can just kill you with one note, how it's all about where they place it, how long it lasts, (where it ends) what it sounds like, and using those kinds of ideas to form what you play when you solo, instead of just playing a bunch of worked out stuff and trying to avoid wrong notes. I feel like maybe if I choose my notes better I won't be in such a hurry to get to the next one. Certainly moving a phrase around, starting it in different rhythmic placements is part of that palette.

I have bought 2 of your lesson videos. One about scales and what to do with them and one about looping. Since I saw that last video it changed the way I listen to your music. Do you use the layering of ideas to compose? 
I love my looper, I use it to gather ideas, I can edit them later, but the looper is great for just mining raw materials.

About the first: creativity is being fed by skill and methodological approach? There is too much 'feely' stuff going on? Too little skill?
For me, the scalar/intervallic stuff is just a way to increase your reach, it's like digging in the dirt, you don't use all of it by any means, but you find some real gems in there that you certainly won't find at all if you don't do the work. I think the feely thing is fine. I mean, if music is supposed to express an idea or an experience, it would help to actually HAVE an idea or experience, no?
You can bluff your way pretty far in this business, but eventually you have to back it up. So I've always wanted to have as much ammo under my belt as possible.


Hope this answered some questions for you, and thanks! MM
Sure did. Thank you so much for the interview and helping me with the poolguitarblog.


There are several clips and post about Mike on this blog. Use the search engine to find them all! 
tag: Mike Miller


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Have a nice day, JB


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