> Off the equipment subject: I seem to be able to come up with an endless >series >of riffs (which are all variations of about three riffs, but that's another >problem entirely) but can never put them into anything that resembles a >tune >or a solo. I usually wind up playing the riff du jour as a rhythm, then >try to >embellish, but it never turns into anything but a boring rhythm line. I'd be
>interested to know how folks go about turning notes into music . . . almost >everything I hear is about how to get through single notes to riffs, not >much >beyond.
I once asked an old friend of mine (who was the greatest pianist I've ever known) if he would teach me how to play jazz piano. He responded by saying "No, but I'll refer you to the best music teacher in the world." I asked him "Who." He pointed to my ears.
His point (for all the Homer Simpsons out there) is that listening is the BEST way to learn to play music, especially improvised music. LISTEN. For harmonica players, start by listening to the best. Sonny Boy I & II, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, etc. When your ears start hurting, listen some more. Listen until you can start to hear the notes before they are played (Theloniuos Monk is hardest to do this with). When you can hear the notes in your head, then, and only then, you can tranfer them to your instrument. That's where the second part takes over, PRACTICE.
Many people feel that practice is the most important part of playing, but I personally feel that listening is more important. You can practice licks and riffs all day, and wind up with the greatest technique of anyone. But when you play, all you'll wind up with is a series of randomly generate licks and riffs (John Popper? ... no flames please).
Watch some of the best musicians out there. My favorite is Stevie Ray Vaughan. When he plays, you can tell he's got the chops, but to me it looks as if his guitar is more of an extension to his body than a musical instrument he playing. He is hearing (and feeling) music and that music is exactly what you hear. Its like it goes straight from his brain (or soul) to his Vibroverb...