The thing with magic is there are so many types of magic, from amazing sleight of hand magic, to exciting stage shows with elaborately designed props that help create illusions and then there's “TV magic”. I remember checking out the Criss Angel stuff when he appeared on the scene, and I really enjoyed it. Having said that, I wasn't under any illusion (if you'll excuse the pun!). Sometimes he would be doing amazing close up magic and wowing people, and then he'd do big set pieces. It's important to understand that when these big set pieces happen, YOU are the audience. Not the people watching “live” on location. This is being done for the show, for you sat at home; to create the illusion of something truly spectacular happening.
There's nothing really wrong with that when you understand it, and it's important to be clear; you DO understand it. Yeah, you may not know how the trick is happening, but you do know that it's a trick. It's not real. You don't really believe that a magician has cut a woman in half, but it's all part of the show. Just like when you go to the theatre to see a play, you don't stand up in the middle and shout out “this is rubbish! He's not MacBeth, his name is Dave – he's a liar!” - that's ok though, because that's all part of the relationship between the entertainer and the consumer.
That's key here, there's nothing wrong with putting on a show for your audience to enjoy. I'm 100% in support of that, do what needs to be done to make it right!
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this now (if the title didn't give it away!). You see, there's this trend on Youtube recently to post “playthrough” videos and “live in studio” videos when they're really anything but. As far as I can see it, it's a deception to make ones self appear “better” than they might actually be. That's a real sad state of affairs if I'm honest, it's like we're in a community where everyone gets a mark. “oh this guy is faster than that guy, but he's not as good as this guy at position shifts when combining legato and picking” *vomits* The whole thing seems to be most prevalent in the land of improvisation and playing over fusion tracks – I mean, what says jazz "improvisation" like someone playing very carefully planned mechanical licks over a backing track? Miles would be SO proud.
So let's talk about the methods, then we'll talk about the ramifications and possible solutions (if you even feel it's something that needs fixing).
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The most obvious way one might want to create the illusion of something being “live” or a “one take improvisation” (again, like your ability to make something up on the spot in one take is somehow more artistically valid than composing the perfect solo!!!) is the trusty camera cut! There's nothing wrong with camera cuts of course, and they're actually a great way to add some interest to your footage, these are films to be watched after all. Just remember that every time there's a camera cut – there's the opportunity to cut to another take! I can show you a video where in an “improvisation” the camera cuts from an E note being played on
Does It Matter?
Ok, so why does this matter? Well it gives fans unrealistic expectations. I've wandered around NAMM and seen the hot wonder kid of the year playing on a booth and sounding like shit. That doesn't matter though as their fanbase isn't at NAMM and they certainly won't be seeing them live any time soon! This creates an interesting effect. When the aspiring player isn't aware of any trickery so they take it at face value and just go out and learn to do it. Guy A speeds his stuff up so guy B just learns it at that speed but uses cuts, then guy C learn to play like that without cuts etc. I really believe that's the reason there are so many freakishly good players out there
I don't know if this is a problem really, I just don't like the idea of the deception. That's why I said you may not feel it even needs fixing! I just see too many young kids seeing these videos (like the one above) and not getting it. Perhaps I'm wrong... but that's just simply not real!! As I said at the start though, whats the problem if that's your music? Maybe just don't pretend you're doing something you're not?
What can you do?
I think what it comes down to is the reason it's being done. Can Martin Miller, Andy James, Sam Bell, Jack Thammarat, Jack Gardiner, Tom Quayle etc play like fuck? Absolutely! Do they edit videos from time to time? Perhaps. Are they doing it to create something that's great fun to listen to as well as watch? Then It's probably ok right? It's a magic show, enjoy it. On the other hand, there are guys out there who will post videos that are deceptive, and they're doing it because they want to impress you. Music isn't about impressing people, it's about moving them right? Maybe that's why all those guys on the first list are out playing to audiences all over the world though? They're the real deal!
Maybe I'm just bitter because I almost killed myself trying to get my solos on my Chop Shop DVD in one take when I could have just played them one lick at a time and had the editors do all the hard work.
I'll leave you with this – I'm not sure what to make of it.... real or deceptive? Does it even matter?