Reflections on John Scofield
By christcornell, Oct 19 2017 02:00AM
John Scofield played the festival theatre on the 14th July, and it should have been a mandatory attendance for every guitar teacher in Edinburgh. Aside from his incredible knowledge of harmony and sense of melody, it was a real lesson in tone and phrasing. Scofield studied at Berklee college of Music, where learning scales and arpeggios were seen as a means to an end and a lot of work was on ear training and phrasing, definitely an aspect of teaching that most Edinburgh guitar lessons could benefit from. It's a trap that most teachers/lessons end up in: teaching scales and technical material because it's easy to teach, easy to learn and comes with a more immediate sense of achievement. You can't avoid learning this stuff of course, but it's important not to play any of it like a robot, and that's one thing that really hits you when watching Scofield play; from the first couple of notes you can tell it's him and it couldn't have been anyone else. If you really listen to his playing, key aspects about his phrasing are his use of dynamics and accents; it's rare that he'll play more than a few notes without subtly varying the volume of each one. Combine that with giving every note it's full value and you've got the makings of some hip guitar playing, and that's before you've had to worry about reaching his near perfect level of groove. His individual sound and tone isn't reliant on amp settings either, when you here him play acoustic it's the same sound that comes out. Being able to develop that level of distinction in one's own sound is rare, but it's something we should all be striving for. Compare John Scofield with Pat Martino; their sound is heavily linked to their technique. Scofield uses lots of slurs and picks when he wants to accent, Martino picks almost every note and uses crescendos and diminuendos (as well as accents) to create movement in his lines. So, when you're practice technique, remember you're practising your feel as well!