Technique Versus Feel: which is better?
That's a bit like saying, 'which is better, simple music, or complex music?'. To answer either question isn't easy.
Some musicians will insist that the pursuit of technical and theoretical excellence is the ultimate goal; that the more you can command your instrument - the more closely you are able to play absolutely anything you can imagine - then the more freely you are able to express yourself. And in at least one sense, this is absolutely true: a musician who is able to play anything he can imagine, regardless of how difficult it is to perform, is truly free of any limitations.
But here's the rub: the ability to imagine a song or piece of music does not in any way guarantee that it will be good, or that it will please anyone else. Or to put it another way, just because one musician has concocted the most fiendishly complex piece of music ever heard, doesn't mean that it has any artistic merit (and holding the title for world's most complicated or difficult music does not, in itself, justify artistic merit, no matter what anyone tells you!)
So, guitarists, tearing up and down a scale as fast as you possibly can in your solo is not artistic, honestly (and believe me, I've done it myself and will probably do it again!): It's wonderfully cathartic and can be impressive to some people, but unless it has some taste applied and some purpose it's just self indulgence.
So what, you might ask, does give your playing artistic merit? The obvious answer is that it depends on taste, and this is true; oneman's meat etc... But one general yardstick we can use is this: how does it make you feel, or more specifically, does it make you feel at all?
If the ONLY thing it makes you feel is, 'wow, that's fast!' then we might be tempted to say that it's not a valid artistic statement, but if it creates a mood or a particular feeling then we really might be onto something. it's really important to say at this point that complex, fast or difficult music really can do this, but I think there's a law of diminishing returns: the faster or more complex a piece/song becomes, the more difficult it becomes (or the more thought needs to be put in) in order for it to really move the listener. And that's another crucial point. As guitarists/musicians, we have to think about what benefits the song and not just our ego. The song or piece is the artistic object and the guitar solo (or whatever) is just an ornamentation of that (We might even ask if we need a guitar solo for this particular song!).But if we play just the right notes, at just the right time, with just the right feel, that solo can lift a song, and it can really fly.
So think of guitar work that is an integral part of a song,a solo that you've heard that so fits the song that it would be impossible to imagine it not being there. Try George Harrison's guitar break on Something:simple but perfect. Or Gary Moore's guitar on Parisienne Walkways (an example of a technically gifted guitarist keeping it really simple except for a fewchoice moments), Or Jeff Beck on Nadia; perfect restraint and taste, yet astonishing technique.
Remember, there are a hell of a lot of fast guitarists out there and some of them have taste, style and feeling in abundance, but for the rest, you have to ask, what are they really saying, what are they really making you feel?
When you're learning as a guitarist the study of good technique is important, but If you're a serious guitarist, interested in making original music, there are two overriding considerations:
Mood and feel .
Technique is great, but we have to remember, it's only a means to an end: we learn good technique not because it's an end in itself but ONLY because it enables us to create mood and feel. Lose that and you're just showing off.
And ask yourself, are you playing to an audience of guitarists only, the sort of people who might be impressed by fretboard pyrotechnics, or, are you playing to a real audience? A real audience wants to FEELthe music ; a real audience wants to be MOVED!