As guitar players we sometimes get caught in the “shred” zone. Playing faster than the other guy becomes obsessive, and we lose sight of why we learn the instrument to begin with: Music. Spending countless hours running through scales can do wonders for your guitar technique. But when we forget about melody and emotion, we can get trapped in a place where everything starts to sound overly mechanical. Here are some tips that may help you break away from the guitar olympics.
Improve your Guitar Technique with a Backing Track
One useful tip is to always practice with a backing track. They will keep you from trying to fill every sonic gap with just guitar, and will allow you to focus on a more melodic approach. It may also help in discovering alternative phrasings, techniques that you wouldn’t normally use, and really boost your improvisational skills. Plus, It sure beats the ticking of the metronome. Be sure to slow down and absorb the chord progressions, melody and the intricacies of the music that you are trying to compliment.
Luckily, the Internet is full of videos that provide backing tracks in many different styles. Here is a slow jam track in E Minor in a rock ballad style, that should get your inspiration going:
Listen to Music without Guitars
This might seem like a contradiction. But listening to music that is not guitar-driven could really open up your ears. You can easily get guitar-fatigued if you listen to guitar music exclusively. Furthermore, you risk sounding like the guitarists you are listening to. Remember, technique is one thing, but having your own voice will be your true legacy.
Different instruments have different approaches that could give your guitar technique a fresh perspective. For example, a Sax player will play lines very differently than a guitarist. It might not feel natural, but mimicking some of those lines will drastically increase your melodic vocabulary. Your note choices will be much more interesting, and you will be inspire to explore further.
Put the Guitar down for while
Now you must be thinking that I’m crazy. Sometimes the best way to improve your technique is to not play at all. Frustration and over exertion are enemies of creativity. Spending the bulk of your time running through the same scales and exercises can become extremely boring. You progress will quickly stall if you don’t feel inspired, and your guitar technique will suffer as a result. Go outside, read a book, get some coffee. Your guitar will be there when you come back.
Finally, some words of wisdoms from the amazing Guthrie Govan regarding this very subject:
Never forget that music creation is the ultimate goal. Scale runs and tricks should only be used to add color to a composition, and should not be the main center of attention. Your music should say something; not just ramble uncontrollably.