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Touch and Feel - by Mark Stefani
As you're probably aware, I like to rely on some imagery in titles that have double meanings, whether I'm writing an original composition or an article. I want to spend some time discussing the value of "touch and feel" in your music, from two distinctly different angles. We'll start with the more obvious issue and, contrary to the subtitle, the word "intangible" might be more appropriate.

In my book, when a musician is performing, the most important ingredient is their touch and feel, and those essential qualities outweigh any others by a mile. What others, you say? Well, mental stimulation and physical prowess are the two that spring to mind. Sure, it's nice to sometimes be fascinated by theoretical sophistication or general hand speed, but those traits are secondary to the message itself, and history has repeatedly proven that those elements aren't even required for a successful live or recorded performance.

Want examples? In jazz, has there ever been a more influential innovator than the late trumpet giant, Miles Davis? Here was a master of subtle inferences and physical economics. With Miles,more often than not it was what he didn't play that aroused your imagination, and the aura that he created with a powerful sense of touch and feel was spellbinding at times. In blues, has there ever been a more powerful proponent of touch and feel than B.B. King? You know, they don't call him the "King of the Blues" because of sophisticated harmonies or lightning fingers, but his emotional presence is just so overwhelming that it renders those traits inconsequential. There are many other examples that I could cite, but one point I should make is that I considerboth of these great musicians to be masters of the mental and physical side of their respective genres, because their sense of touch and feel perfectly balances and compliments the all-important message.

Speaking of messages, let's move on to the other meaning of the title in this article, and how it relates to your personal, daily practice efforts and overall goals. In this instance, the "tangible evidence" factor really becomes a major player.

As my career has slowly evolved, it's become more and more important to me that my accomplishments are something other than a simple memory of past events. For instance, as good as it feels to perform or rehearse, it's a short-lived affair that dissipates over time. I need proof that I can actually touch and feel, like a song that I've written, or an arrangement that I've created, or a new lesson that I've authored, and so on. Now, how do these achievements become permanent?

Simple. In a word, "documentation." You can do this in two ways, through writing what you've created or by recording it. Now it's not just a practice or performance memory, but something tangible that you can actually hold in your hands, listen to, and share with others. If you're ambitious and motivated enough (do I see some hands?), you can even set higher goals accordingly, like writing a book or recording a CD. Artistically, it's not important that it becomes a money-making, commercial success, though you certainly will have that option available to you. More importantly, you'll have evidence of all your hard work and accomplishments over the years, which in turn will bolster your sense of self-esteem and confidence.

Touch and feel. No matter how you cut it, two great attributes to strive for as an evolving artist!

Mark Stefani is a guitarist, teacher, writer, and founder of Vision Music, an educational website offering over 600 pages of FREE learning resources, including guitar lessons by top professionals, jam tracks, articles, songs, sheet music, and more. Visit:

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