The other day I was working with a student that was learning a banjo piece(yes I can play that too). While he was playing, a lot of the slides and bends were playing havoc with the music causing him to have problems with his timing. He was making too much out of them. It was as if he was saying’ ” ok there is a bend here, so I’m bending the daylights out of this note.” I told him to take them out. He looked at me like I was insane.
As I was trying to explain to him why, I remembered something Manuel Barrueco said in a master class, ” Technique should be invisible.” Meaning you should not notice the virtuosity of a player; well the virtuosity of the player should not take center stage because they are playing music. There are some great players out there and to me the best players are fantastic. I do notice one thing. They make it look and sound easy. Countless times I have gone to see a band and noticed the guitarist did the same lick or trick over and over. All I start thinking is , “Ya I got it. you can do that.”
As our lesson progressed I said, “You should not notice the bend”. I know it is supposed to be there but I shouldn’t notice it. If I notice it, it’s too much. It’s like garlic on a pizza. If you notice the garlic then you have too much, but if it wasn’t on the pizza, you would notice that it was missing. It’s the same with bending, sliding vibrato and speed. It is the spice you add to the notes, it’s not the notes.
That is what is meant by saying, “Technique should be invisible.” A guitarist bending, sliding or breaking the speed limit should not take away from the music. It’s like a figure skater. They can launch themselves off of the ground and spin in the air 3 1/2 half times. Try that in your kitchen. You never really think, wow that is some great leg strength because it is part of a move. Same with an acrobat at the circus. You just see the show. They don’t show you how strong they are because their job is to do something else. The strength makes it possible but it is invisible.
What does that have to do with slides and bends and the like. Too many times students see that in a tab or music and spend too much time on it. Yes they are hard to do and should be practiced but they should be practiced to a point of anonymity. That is what makes them good. So what next? Take them out or start without them. You can always put them back in later. If you can’t play it without them then you won’t be able to play it with them. Just remember, too much garlic ruins the pizza.