There are actually two kinds of guitar players (simplified): The ones obsessing about technique and the ones that say “feeling” is more important.
I disagree with both Lol. What?
Let me explain. To be a great musician, there are three main things you have to be good at:
That’s it – you can find everything that is important in these three wide-range categorys!
So, if a guitar player has weaknesses in any of these, the outcome will be less than optimal. A musicians with extraordinary musicality and shitty technique will sound… shitty. Because he cannot transfer the sounds and notes in his head to the instrument. On the other hand, the guitar player practicing only finger exercises for 10 hours a day will never sound great, because he has insufficient musicality. All of the 2 will sound even worse if they have a bad sound – not properly setup guitar and bad equipment.
All three categories are equally important. The first one, musicality, is the hardest to teach. People should be talking about that subject a lot more, but you know the reality. Go to ANY forum for guitar players, what is discussed the most? Yeah, what guitar, what pickup, does it sound better to have batteries in your stompbox or use an AC-adapter… But almost NEVER is there something about musicality.
So how DO you get more “musical”?
Here are some suggestions:
- Learn how to really LISTEN to a piece of music. Don’t just listen while you do other stuff. Listen one time through and focus only on the drums. Then on the bass. Then on the rhythm guitar. Do this exercise every day, and a lot of things will become clearer, especially if you are just learning a new style of music!
- Do rhythm exercises without your instrument
- meet with other musicians and play together. Doing that – again – listen to what they are doing and don’t just try to be louder.
- STOP practicing only with guitar pro. It HURTS your musicality with those steril midi-sounds. Tools like these should only be used when necessary. Try to find good Jamtracks instead or practice with a metronome only on beat 2 and 4 – you will develop a much better understanding for rhythm that way
- learn music theory and do ear training
- Listen to different styles of music like fusion, jazz, classical, soul etc. You get really great ideas this way, and an open mind can get you lightyears ahead in your musicality.
Those are just some suggestions. But the already help a lot!
In the eyes of some musicians (most of the time they have a pretty bad technique themselves, haha!) technique is “the devil”. Comments like “all those scales are no use” and “focus on the feeling” and stuff are often used as an excuse of proper practicing.
While it is important to put your feeling into you music, you are unable to do so with an insufficient technique!
Technique is the skill of getting the notes in your head to sound on your instrument.
Nothin more, nothing less.
So if you only want to play slow, melodic solos – do you have to practice 3-notes-per-string scales at 200 BPM? No!
But if you like Vai, Malmsteen or petrucci, you will have to.
Practicing the right amount of technique for YOUR playing style will always make you sound better. It will NEVER hurt your playing! But read the last sentence carefully: For YOUR playing style! Get a good teacher who is really good at what you want to do and practice what he tells you. You will leap forward in your style!
If you want to know 4 of my favorite technical exercises important in ANY style, enter your email adress in the sidebar and get my 18-minute-long video for free!
The last instance in the chain of music – sound. If you have great musicality, great technique but a bad sound, you will still sound like shit. People who think “Steve Vai will sound good even with a bad guitar and a shitty 50$ amp” are WRONG. Of course, some of his playing will still sound good, but why settle for less? A good sound is very important. All 3 category are important – even when practicing.
Alway practice with the same sound you will use live (maybe a little less volume). Don’t torture yourself with dry, clean sounds when you are practicing a run that later will only sound good with a good deal of distortion. You will become better in less time if you alway use the sound that fits!
To get a good sound in your style of music, research what your favorite players use. If it is way too expensive, get a decent amp modeler and try to mimic the sound with that. Even with a line6 Pod or a good plugin on your PC/MAC like BIAS you will come very close. And you will have WAY more fun
Oh and last but not least – record yourself, and listen to it! You will be surprised if you do it for the first time – most people sound better than they think they are If you need something inexpensive with all the software included, have a look at this interface (click).
I hope I could inspire you to some playing action and maybe a litte open mind. Please leave a comment below on what you think about “Musicality, Technique, Sound”. Best regards!