I’ve just listened to the new album, and I’m soo pleased that it stays true to the first with its simplicity and hasn’t tried to ‘1 up’ the first. It makes me think about how anyone can learn to play like him. Jose’s songs aren’t technical. They’re simple, this is his strength. Its refreshing to hear and if you pay attention to the patterns being played, you’ll start to see how you can easily replicate the sound. I’ll explain…
First you need to pick a track and listen to it a few times, stay away from the singles… I know its tempting, but they are singles for a reason and you’ll find other trks are more suitable for analysing to play.
You’ll notice how he often plays very simple loops of notes, that change only slightly in sound, very often moving down the scale, or bouncing backwards and forwards between a couple of notes/chords. This is the secret to a good Gonzalez trk. And anyone that’s mucked about picking the strings of a guitar for a while will know that occasionally you’ll find a good sequence of notes that ‘fit’. They work well together and you’ll think ‘hey that sounded good’… but most people often won’t stick with those notes, and quickly move around the fretboard to try and expand on it, and then probably lose the thread of the first sequence of inspiring notes. Not good.
When you find this notes that work, you should stick with them, and play over and over again, at different speed, intonations and tempos… don’t try and over complicate it by adding notes too quickly. The only experimentation you need to do at this stage is either moving the pattern of notes you’ve found, down a couple of frets, or by moving one finger at a time to find another sweet spot note. But each time, remembering to return back to the original sequence.
Sometimes I bounce 2 notes only over and over for ages, before moving on. I know that a good tune is as much about rhythm as it is technicalilty… so I’m never in a hurry to get complicated.
Jose frequently plays down the scale, so where ever you are on the fretboard, try and move down the scale (or towards the string nuts). As long as you remember to return to the ‘good hook’ you won’t go far wrong.
This is where listening to one trk over and over benefits. These simple note patterns are his signature sound. Actually I think the less knowledge you have of playing the better. You’ll be drawn towards notes that sound nice and not care what scale or key you’re in. The other noticeable signature sound to Jose is the vocals. “I can’t sound like that” you’ll be thinking… oh but you can! Y’see Jose’s voice is ‘thin’ and gentle. I know this because his vocals on the albums are ‘layered’ giving a chorus effect. Instantly thickening up any thin voice. Home effects units or software can do this very easily. So don’t stress over vocals. Even your pitch doesn’t matter too much. If you took your (own) 1 trk to a recording studio for a day, they have a button called ‘autotune’. How do you think most girl and boy bands got so far on CD sales? It sure hasn’t been through vocal talent!
All this may sound like I’m bashing Jose’s music. Not true. I love his stuff. Its so inspiring and refreshing to an average musician such as myself. One thats not technical… and is very rhythm focused. A simple vocal melody and picking pattern is all thats needed to get into the same ‘Jose’ zone that has made him an international star.
I bet nylon stringed acoustics sales have never been higher.