Don’t Play The Song – Play The Music

Play The Music, Not The Melody,

By Mattie O'Boyle

Don't play the melody, play the music

In each case, to bring out the music, we have to go beyond the melody

So many musicians focus on learning songs. And that’s fine, but let’s dig deeper. When you really look closely it’s not the song that counts, but how you play it, that’s where the music comes from. And just to prove that we are going to play some music with the world’s most uncool, boring song – Mary Had A Little Lamb.

The first thing I want folks to examine is the sheet music. Here is what it might look like:

Now here is what that might sound like.

What kind of music does that sound like? To me it sounds like a bubble without water – basically nothing. Now let’s make some music with that melody. Here is my Mary Had A Little Lamb played as an Old Time Fiddle tune.

Now here it is again with a bit of swing.

And finally here is my super sad version – I call it Mary’s Lamb Got Munched By The Wolf.

In each case, to bring out the music, we have to go beyond the melody. The melody is certainly part of the music, but each style of music has certain characteristics beyond just the melody. So instead of learning a tune this week, I suggest that folks investigate what makes your style of music sound like that style. What’s going on in the rhythm, in the harmony, in the phrasing that makes a song sound like as Reggae or Rumba or Blues music? Once you start to get a feel for those stylistic characteristics, then you can generalize them to almost any melody and play something awesome. So, try it out. Don’t play the melody, play the music.

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