When we think of the tunes we like, we tend to think of our perception of their merit exclusively in the acoustic realm. In other words, we tend to think of the tunes we like as those we think sound the best. Nothing much more to it.
But recently, I’ve realized that there’s another important dimension, at least for me (and I suspect for others as well) that I hadn’t previously considered. Not consciously, at least.
Yet, having given it a bit more thought, I’ve realized that this other dimension does factor in to my overall affinity for a tune. Quite a bit, really.
And that is how the tune actually feels when I play it. You might refer to this as the “kinesthetic signature” of a tune – the actual sensation of movements experienced during the playing of it. And, just like the melody, something that lives on in memory.
After reflecting in my mind through multiple tunes, I realize that each tune I play has its own kinesthetic signature, a certain way it feels to play it that’s part of every tune memory I have. And it’s a dimension that’s dissociated from the sound, but yet still intimately connected to my relationship with any given tune (and I think a major factor in which tunes I instinctively gravitate towards when I just grab my banjo and start to play).
I do think there’s a special magic that happens when both the sound and the kinesthetics are working in tandem. These are those tunes that just seem to play themselves.
Recently I posted a tune I wrote entitled “Pink Kitchen Girl.” One of the responses I received was that it was a fun tune to play – as in the actual movement of the fingers was fun. In other words, its kinesthetic signature enhanced the overall enjoyment of it. It was this response that prompted me to think more deeply about this aspect of playing music.
And that’s when it occurred to me that this is something I’ve always cared a good bit about, and something I take into consideration when arranging or composing a tune. Yes, the sound I’m after is top priority, but I also enjoy it when the tune is just physically fun to play.
This week’s tune, “Bill Cheatham,” has a kinesthetic signature I enjoy. In particular, it’s the delightful run up the neck that opens the B part, especially when executed with a series of drop thumbs. Irrespective of the final sound, that’s just a fun thing to do.
Incidentally, I do think this is reflected in the final product. The more fun we’re having, the more natural and effortless things feel under our fingers, the better the end result will be. It’s inevitable.
Anyhow, I’d be curious to know if any of you have an awareness of this aspect of tunes (not whether it’s hard or easy, but whether it feels good once you’ve learned it). Let me know in the comments section if so. And let me know if there are any particular tunes whose “kinesthetic signature” you particularly enjoy.
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the tab:
The first run through the A part I’ve tabbed straight ahead, as I play it the very first time in the video. The second time through is a more syncopated sound, which I stick to for the remainder of the tune because..you know…I can’t help myself!
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my [free] video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out my complete guide on reading banjo tabs.