Notes actually do mean something. They have power. I think of notes as being expensive. You don’t just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that’s what I use. I suppose I’m a minimalist instinctively. I don’t like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of “With or Without You“. My instinct was to go with something very simple. Everyone else said, “Nah, you can’t do that.” I won the argument and I still think it’s sort of brave, because the end of “With or Without You” could have been so much bigger, so much more of a climax, but there’s this power to it which I think is even more potent because it’s held back… ultimately I’m interested in music. I’m a musician. I’m not a gunslinger. That’s the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do.
U2’s guitarist pontificates about things so central to what we have been talking about here at BYB that what he says here is really worth contemplating.
In keyboard-land, there is a mythical figure in the progressive rock scene, well more than one, but since I’m not talking about Keith Emerson, I must be talking about Rick Wakeman. Rick, who by all estimates has a philosophy roughly opposite of the one described above, arguably considers notes much less expensive, and is often accused of lacking feel. Even though Rick’s playing doesn’t resonate with me personally, I bring him up because he has a storied career as an artist. So even if you think differently than me, you can still find much success. Ha!
But the point I want to make is that this kind of Wakeman-like-proficiency may not serve the song as well as simple playing can.
So that’s the good news, especially if you’re starting out. Yes, do work your way through a basic curriculum of getting all the chords and all the keys under your fingers. But once you do that, it’s probably more about what you take out than what you put in.