Oh, lord… it’s Thirsty Thursday! I hope all is good with you and yours! My life is no secret, my hobbies, my job. Ya’ll know what’s up, right?!
Obviously, I’m on the air on 93.5 The Beach, Monday-Friday from 10am-3pm. Then Sunday nights at 9pm I host an hour of local music we call, Local Produce. Besides that, I’m a very enthusiastic musician, just a step above hobbyist, really. But I get a lot of questions about playing everyday. So today, let’s talk about some guitar playin’!
I can’t tell you how many times in a given week, or at a show, I get requests for certain songs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “I love the way you play it!” Which is always nice. It’s always followed by the dreaded question, “How do you do it?” Truth is, I don’t know… I’ve been involved with music all of my life, from playing to recording and everything in between. There are really very few tips I can offer as far as playing goes, and yes, I know, I’m not a GREAT musician. But, I do know how to play, and I have a good time doing it. Here are a few basic tips to help you along whether you’re just starting out, or have been playing your whole life:
1.) SMILE! It’s really not that hard. If you’re not having fun, you need to pack it up.
2.) Tone. I’ve heard a lot of different theories on how certain people play… from Hendrix to Garcia, from Slash to Orianthi. Truth is, you’ll never be able to reproduce their tone. You have to develop your own playing style over time. Find your own strengths and play to them. Obviously a lot of your tone is coming from your gear. However, a lot of people don’t consider the effects of their fingertips when playing. I’d say probably 85% of your tone comes from the attitude you apply to your playing and is reflected through your fingertips. If you think a certain part of a song should sound aggressive, put yourself in that mindset, and allow your guitar to do the talking via your fingertips.
3.) Strings. A lot of people seem to think you need a $3,000 guitar to sound good. No way. I mean, don’t get me wrong, expensive guitars are generally hand-made out of very very nice tone-woods. But a $3,000 PRS through a $250 amp is going to sound like a $3,000 guitar through a $250 amp… If you can’t play guitar, it’s not going to sound good either way. However, I’ve found that one of the great tricks to developing your own tone, no matter what the price of the guitar you’re playing, is string gauge. You can always switch out your pick-ups, your pots, your bridge, etc. Yet, if you’re consistently using cheap strings; your $3000 guitar is going to sound, well, cheap. There’s nothing wrong with cheap strings, but you should know that string gauge will effect your sound more than anything else in your rig. I already told you how your fingertips affect your tone, consider how the strings feel to your fingertips. Find ones that are comfortable to your fingertips and your tone will improve ten-fold almost overnight. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands and gauges. If you’ve used D’addario forever, and you think your tone is ok, just try a few different brands. You can always go back to D’addario’s. Hendrix & Clapton both used .009’s. I can’t touch anything on my electric that’s less than a .012 personally. On my acoustic I use .013’s. If you’re going to up your string gauge and you’re not knowledgeable about setting up your guitar properly, take it to a local shop and have them do it for you. That will save you a lot of heartache down the road. On my acoustics, I’ve used .012’s for years, but I never liked the sound, I felt like my tone was hollow. So using the same brand I’ve grown to like, I simply up’ed the gauge to a .013 and I can’t believe how thick the guitar sounds. Beautiful! And easy as pie.
4.) Theory. You have to learn how to walk before you can fly. Associate yourself with music theory, you don’t have to know everything… that’s pretty impossible. But know the language and your conversations, (remember, your guitar is just you talking..) will become much more complex and concentrated.
5.) Practice. It doesn’t really matter what you sit down to practice. Scales, chords, songs, doesn’t really matter. Just sit down and apply yourself. Study the theory, try different approaches when playing and like I said early, develop your own style by playing to your strengths. If you think you have no strengths, then practice until you develop some. You think Tommy Emmanuel picked up a guitar and just started busting this out:
HELL NO! He practiced. I know this is some basic stuff, but hopefully it helps some of you along a bit with your playing. If you want some tips on other stuff, like soloing, improvising, choosing a guitar, music theory, etc… Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and I may discuss it in a future blog. Thanks ya’ll! Have a great Thursday!
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