September 5, 2012

Timing & phrasing pt.4 Josh Smith

Josh Smith, all heart!

 Josh Smith is absolutely one of the greatest soulful blues players. His love for jazz can also be heard in his great solos but the blues is King. 

Josh Smith is the 4th guitar player in this series that was kind
 enough to take the time and effort to answer my questions on the subject of timing and phrasing.

Did you train this consciously? Were you aware of it or did people point this out to you?
Phrasing is at its heart a very personal thing. It all comes down to how you hear and feel things. My phrasing and sense of time was built over years on the bandstand. Its something that gets ingrained in you the more you play. A lot of my sense of time came from learning to play rhythm like Steve Cropper and Cornell Dupree. Playing Motown or Stax chances makes your right hand a metronome, and then once you have that freedom you start moving things around. Its a balance between having a full vocabulary and knowing when to use what. There is certainly no right way or wrong way, just what we all hear individually. We are all just trying to play what we hear in our head, and then hoping people respond to it or "feel" it!
How did you train this? What were you listening for?
As far as training my soloing phrasing and time……a lot of course came from the blues masters. You can't possibly say more with less than those guys. Its learning to basically be a singer on your instrument. I'm trying to connect emotionally to my own ideas. I listen toy every one else on the stage and just react. I try not to have any pre-conceived ideas of how the solo should go. Feel and a natural unforced feeling comes before cool "out" note choices!
Did you record yourself in order to improve?
I would listen back to show recordings yes. Its a good to to know how in the pocket you really were and what really stands the test.
Do you think of some kind of 'grid' between beats as to where to place the notes? Like drummers do,
I heard Pat Metheny talk about this. Straight 16ths or 16th triplets in the pit of his stomach he said, depending wether he plays straight or jazz.
I don't think of time that way no. I tend to just latch onto the drummers snare drum and move in, around and on top of that. I use lots of triplets because I'm trying to make everything swing and sit deep in the pocket, but you can't predetermine that stuff.
Is the bass player more of a rhythmic anchor than the drummer? (steady pulse)
The Bass player is both an anchor and something that pushes you along and forces you to react harmonically. When playing in tio settings sometimes the Bass player has to be more foundational than the drummer to make things really feel deep and locked in.
Do you still work on your phrasing? What's your definition of phrasing?
I work on it by listening to other players. I also work on it by soloing over songs I've never heard and have no idea what changes are coming up. its all just training your ear and you mind to work together with your fingers and heart. My definition of phrasing is it your language, its how you represent yourself to the audience, so whatever you say, mean it!
Do you still steal licks from records?
Of Course!
Any recent cool licks?
I've been working on some cool stuff yes. Mostly country and bebop stuff. If I could phrase like Danny Gatton meets Charlie Parker all played by Magic Sam I'd be a happy man!
Do you keep a diary of licks like Scott Henderson?
I don't no.
Do/ did you notice a difference in timing when you play with eg. Travis Carlton or another bass player?
Of course, everyone you play with make you make different choices and pushes you along to places you might not have gone. so a great musician like Travis of course pushes you to new heights!
Do you consciously vary your timing? Hold back and start a phrase a wee bit later? Style?
Not consciously no. I just try to let it flow. I am a big believer in repition though and building motif's and climaxes, as long as they are spontaneous and from the heart!
Josh's new single : "Don't give up on me"
"Don't Give Up On Me" to be released Oct. 12th on Crosscut Records!

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Have a nice day, JB

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