Stop reading this and practice…
Jokes aside, let me just state that these tips most probably won’t make you more technically proficient on your instrument. That is not my goal. My goal is to introduce you to a new way of thinking when playing the guitar.
Hopefully these tips will help you on the road to becoming a musically, harmonically rich guitar player. Let’s get started.
1. Stop Listening To So Many Guitar Players
Seems like a bit of a counter-productive statement, doesn’t it? When I first started becoming a semi-proficient guitar player, listening to other guitarists and guitar-driven songs seemed like the natural thing to do, and for a while, this method definitely helped me on my way to technical proficiency. Pretty soon I was playing along to classics such as, “Hey Joe”, “Layla” and “Sultans of Swing” with ease. However, It didn’t take me long to hit the “ceiling” with regard to my musicality. It took me years to realise that my progress as a musician was halted because I wasn’t being exposed to any new ideas. I slowly began introducing myself to music with the guitar taking a secondary, if not, non-existent role.
I noticed a difference in my playing immediately. Listening to pianists, flautists and saxophonists had made my my note transition musically smooth and my phrasing harmonically rich. Who could ask for more?
2. Let Your Instrument Breathe
What makes instruments like the flute, the saxophone, and wind instruments in general so great is that they force the player to periodically stop and take a breath. This gives the instrument a human-like feel and contributes to the pulse of the song.
This quality is overlooked by most fledgling guitar players, who are always looking to fill the space with more notes, instead of listening to the song in its entirety. Many musicians fail to realise that what turns a noise into music, is not the sound made by the instrument, it is the space in between the noise.
When I learnt this, my solos took on an entirely new form. I was finally achieving the tone and feel that I had been searching most of my life for. A second of silence before exploding into an arpeggio-flavoured, neo-classical inspired burst will make all of the difference.
3. Learn To Play Clean
Many electric guitar players dream of having that fat, distorted lead tone which rivals that of David Gilmour. While I can respect the dream, I feel that many guitar players have taken the wrong route to achieving that magical tone.
My years of playing have taught me that without a good clean tone as your foundation, no amount of high end distortion pedals or processors will make your guitar sound as awesome as you expect it to.
Sound aside, learning to play quickly without any distortion to hide behind will make your playing more articulate and will make all of your notes as expressive as you want them to be.
Thinking about your instrument in a new way can lead to infinite possibilities. All of which can only better you as a musician.