3 Reasons to Start Working on Your Guitar Technique
Want to improve as a musician? Follow these tips.
What kind of musician are you? Are you the person who comes home from doing whatever you do, and you play your guitar as a way to decompress from the day? Or are you the person who wakes up and picks up the guitar, and spends every waking second working to become the best guitar player in their area? Maybe you're a little bit of both—who knows? But one thing that I know for sure is that there is something about your playing you want to improve.
It's human instinct to want to become better at the things we do, so I know that you are thinking about which riff you wish you could play, or which chord is giving you trouble. Maybe you've been working on a song for a month or two, and there is just one tiny part that you keep slipping up. I know you're thinking about it, so please, do me a solid and stop thinking about that thing, and hear me out as to why you should work on your guitar technique.
What is technique on the guitar? Well... that means a couple of things. If we look at the history of the guitar, we can see that the guitar has gone through a couple of phases. Here is a brief history:
- Lute/Oud (Renaissance and Middle Eastern Instruments)
- Nylon String Guitar/Guitarra (Stringed instruments of Spanish origin that moved into all of Europe)
- Steel String Acoustic Guitar (Designed in America during colonialism, and was used mainly as a folk instrument in the beginning)
- Electric Guitar (Developed during the 20th century due to the increase in technology, mainly used in popular music)
The reason it's nice to know about the history of the guitar is that, since the guitar has history, the technique does as well. Guitar technique started from what we call "Classical Guitar Technique." In a nutshell, this is the approach to playing the nylon string guitar and playing/performing the repertoire from the baroque, classical and romantic periods, as well as modern music composed specifically for this instrument.
If we continue by the history of the guitar, we get into acoustic technique, and then electric guitar technique. This typically involved the use of a plectrum (pick), learning strumming patterns, and, nowadays, learning simple, functional popular songs. The electric guitar has an even more in-depth list (which we wont get into right away).
But... why should you focus on your technique?
1. It'll make you a better guitarist AND musician!
This seems like a crazy thing to put here. I assume everyone knows that being more technical makes you a better guitarist. BUT... I want to dive a little deeper into why that is.
Being more technical makes you a better GUITARIST, not a better MUSICIAN. I cannot stress this enough. There is a lot of talk about being a technician on your instrument as opposed to being a musician, and I could talk about that for hours. The reality is that when you become better technically on your instrument of choice, there is an opportunity that is presented to you to make you a better musician.
Let me use speed as an example. When you are just starting out, you are really only able to learn songs that are slow enough for you to play, or you need to play certain songs at a slower tempo (this is because you haven't built up the coordination between your hands, and the muscle memory for the chords you need). When you've finally played the guitar long enough, you're able to pick up other songs that use similar chords, and are at a faster tempo (because you've worked on the skill of speed). Learning these new songs opens your ears to new musical ideas from these composers/artists, and you are now learning the musical dialect of the artists you've chosen.
Makes sense? Good. If not, read it again. If it's still a little fuzzy, shoot me a message at my website. I want everyone to understand this, so please don't be shy.
There is something beautiful about playing multiple styles of music. I find that the best musicians I know are skilled in a variety of musical styles (meaning that they listen to LITERALLY EVERYTHING, and they play many different styles on the guitar).
What does this do for your playing? Well... let's break it down.
(Hopefully) we can all agree that the techniques it takes to play like Brad Paisley are different than the techniques it takes to play like Napalm Death, than they are to play like Julian Bream, than like Wes Montgomery, etc. Those country bends, the jazz arpeggio licks, the sheer speed and endurance of playing any sort of metal, and the classical history and fluidity behind Julian's playing. This means that when you play different styles of music, you are inevitably learning new ways to play the guitar. To me, this means you're becoming a better technician.
3: Helps you avoid injury
This is something I'm extremely passionate about. This section won't take long, because it's really short and sweet.
Having what we call "good technique" will stop you from straining when you play, help you stay "relaxed," and all the other things that people jumble in with good technique.
Learning how the guitar works, and how to make it work for you without straining yourself, is the safest way to ensure that you DON'T get injured. Music is a beautiful thing, and having someone quit because they got injured is a real shame. Let's try to avoid this as much as possible.
What I want everyone to know is this. The guitar is a relatively new instrument. There is no "proper" way to play. You see TONS of famous people break all the rules that guitar teachers tell you, which is making everyone confused. The real answer is this: Play how you want, and if it hurts, find a different way to play.
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Till next time,
John Marvin Scott