While I don’t pretend to be an expert on guitar, I have accumulated some decent musical experience from playing for 25 years. Here’s some ideas for improving one’s musicality.
- Challenges for Guitarists
- Ideas for improvement
- 1. Record live (and listen back to see what I could do differently)
- 2. Record at home
- 3. Do home studio recordings with a click track
- 4. Play with other musicians
- 5. Play with motivated musicians
- 6. Seek to send ideas, colors, feelings through the music
- 7. Play along with recordings
- 8. Record myself playing along with recording
- 9. Practice right after the gig
- 10. Seek specific advice from respected musicians
- 11. Enjoy the musical ride!
Challenges for Guitarists
I recently saw 3 fellow guitar players at a jam session.
All 3 were talented. They all played some cool stuff and in general sounded good.
But each had some things going on that I wished that they would improve. (Of course, I have a lot of stuff I could improve, too)
Because it would allow more enjoyment for the listener, and probably for themselves. I think between the three guys, they encompassed the major issues most guitarists face.
Sight reading, ear training, harmony, time and conveying a story and emotions.
Please keep in mind that while it’s easy for me to see what others can work on, it’s not as easy to be so truthful with myself. Emotions tend to cloud my judgement. Being able to work out what personal issues I have musically is a skill in and of itself. I’m faced with a lot of the same challenges as these guitarists.
Ideas for improvement
So here’s some stuff that helps me diagnose what I can do to become a better musician. And how to figure out what I need to do to get “better”. Perhaps they might of use to you as well?
1. Record live (and listen back to see what I could do differently)
I use a H4N Zoom recorder or a smartphone.
Even with a scratchy phone recording, you’ll still be able to learn a lot. With the zoom, make sure you set the recording levels correctly so there’s a good signal before starting to record. If you’re playing at a rock concert, make sure the recording levels do max out.
2. Record at home
This is like the live version but I can listen back right away. I can hear if what I’m playing is what I imagine myself playing.
This is a great way to get instant feedback. I’ll play a few choruses of a bebop tune and then listen back.
This has happened accidentally with all the video recordings I’ve done for this site. Some I’m happy with musically. Others suggest certain aspects of my musicality that need improvement.
3. Do home studio recordings with a click track
I use GarageBand for free on the Mac and Audacity on PC. I started using the monthly subscription to ProTools. You can listen back, and figure out what you like. Then you do multiple takes.
It’s like practicing, practicing recording and recording all at once.
Plus you can create your own tracks. Even if you don’t like the recordings today, in a year or two it’ll at least be like listening to your own scrapbook!
4. Play with other musicians
I love playing music with people and am a somewhat non-talking extrovert. As long as the vibes are good, I feel pretty happy playing with friends of all skill levels. In fact, I just jammed with a budding musician who was rocking out pretty hard on his uke at the tender age of 5 or 6! Haha, it was tons of fun.
5. Play with motivated musicians
There’s tons of things to be motivated about in music, like getting ready for a live show, a recording session or really needing to sending out certain vibes and sounds. Playing with people that are seeking to go somewhere will usually inspire me and also will give me concrete (hopefully constructive, please) feedback on the way. These sessions might be jam sessions but usually more like rehearsals for gigs, concerts, going to record, playing gigs and shows.
6. Seek to send ideas, colors, feelings through the music
I love trying to make music that has a visual image attached with it. The beautiful woman dancing, the waterfall, a story about someone, cool colors and expressions of emotions. It’s like therapy or meditation or storytelling or what whatever you can imagine as you play. It’s like sending out the brushstrokes to an enormous musical canvas.
At the same time, technique still remains important. But being able to maintain a high level of technique while create a musical tapestry is a great feeling!
7. Play along with recordings
Highly recommended for increasing pretty much all areas of musicality.
I have learned so much through playing with great recordings. In the last 10 years I tried to play with recordings a lot more. It has helped my ears a lot. I’m somewhat decent at picking up music by ear now, but it took a lot of patience to get to that point and still have a ways to go.
8. Record myself playing along with recording
You can hear what you play instead of what you imagine you play.
It’s tough to hear what you may be playing. It takes a lot of emotional strength and focus (depending on a person’s personality.
Check out this strategy when you’ve got a solo down from a record or are playing along and doing your own thing.
9. Practice right after the gig
Work on what’s most fresh in your mind from earlier that day.
If you go towards fixing the issues after you’re all warmed up from playing:
- Your brain will have that night (sleeping) to digest the new way of playing.
- You will experience what it is like to play at an even higher level by getting closer to solution to the problem. In order words, you’re stretching your muscle memory in a positive direction.
10. Seek specific advice from respected musicians
Just talking and hanging out with great musicians helps. You get to hear how their brain works and it might give insight into their playing style and how they view the world.
If you have a specific question, they may have already faced that challenge and figured out a way to personally overcome that musical challenge. Keep in mind what may work for one person may not work for another person.
11. Enjoy the musical ride!
Realize that most of the time it’s not going to be perfect, so remember to have while you’re playing. There’s always something to get better at, but there’s always something good happening, too.
All sorts of random stuff has happened while I’m playing. Loud noises, people talking to me, complete memory lapses, total misunderstandings about tempo and/or song choice (that’s hilarious when you start playing two different songs).
Being uptight and angry usually doesn’t help the vibe, which in turn doesn’t help the creation of music, unless I guess you want to play angry music. Instead finding humor in all the situations will usually keep the mood good and the music flowing.