The “less is more” adage is certainly a bit overused when it comes to many things, but I think the first use of it was in the context of music. Guitar players sometimes will take forever to learn the fact that less is really more, since so many of them start by learning to simply “overplay” all the time! I like to say that young players today love to go “from zero to 60” in too short a time, or that they start out driving a Corvette, when they should really be just starting on a heavy 1956 Buick! It’s so much more important to savor the notes you play, and not overload yourself with too many fretboard pyrotechnics right from the get-go. Of course it’s very nice to be able to play fast, and to especially know all your positions on the fingerboard, but it’s how you get to that knowledge that really concerns me. I got all my fretboard knowledge from playing with feeling, learning in front of audiences, playing by ear and most of all, simply fighting for survival with the guitar in my hands! The act of being a “real” artist always stems from the true need to create, as opposed to what you think makes you cool, or accepted or whatever it might be.
As I found and fought my way through a myriad of gigs, both live and recorded, I noticed that even though there may have been a million ideas floating around in my head, it was usually the one with the most minimalistic approach that seemed to please everyone the most. Sure, I love to build up a solo or a part and really let it become explosive at times, but this is only if it is called for, and is appropriate for the music you are playing at the time. You can still decide to be “acrobatic” at certain times, even if it is not called for, but beware of landing on your feet, and being able to pull off such an outrageous move! You must always, within the framework of what you are playing, be able to justify your chancy moves, and finish off your musical statements!
In the end, you’ll see that in situations where you are called upon to be creative and inventive, such as recording and performing, the “less is more” statement will really ring true for you. I know it surely did for me, and even though it took awhile to reign in this “unbridled” guitar player, once I was under control, it was really all worth it. I hope it will one day be for you, too!