For most, the tendency when picking up the guitar is to “fiddle” or jam whatever song is in our heads. We seldom tackle the instrument with intentionality and aggression, unless we have a lot of time to play.
The mind of a songwriter is often wired differently than that of a guitarist. Though the two cross paths often, it’s rare to see a pro-level guitar player (particularly a lead guitarist) and a successful songwriter embodying the same human being. Some exceptions might include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Clapton and Brad Paisley. But usually it takes two.
Modulation is a pristine effect. It’s subtle, not overly aggressive and best employed when it doesn’t substantially alter your raw tone. Distortion is different. While often loud and aggressive, distortion warps your signal, completely changing the demeanor of your sound. So the question is this: Can the two get along?
We can always memorize new chords. That’s not hard. But what if we learned the structure and the music theory behind those chords first? What if we put the time into gaining a complete, academic understanding of what we’re playing? People shy away from music theory because it’s hard. And I’m not going to tell you otherwise.
For those who might not be familiar with intervals, we’ll start by reviewing the core concept. The term sounds kind of advanced, but an “interval” simply refers to the distance between two notes, while a harmonic interval is when you play two notes at the same time.
First, the purpose of this column is to help you do more with your power chord progressions. If you think it’s over-simplified or over-complicated, then please consider the possibility that it’s simply mismatched with your skill level, before you comment. We also must consider the context of the information. Power chords are fairly simple.
Take any number of great players and ask them what the process was like, and chances are slim that you'll get any two who will tell you the same story. However, I would say there's a process or structure to learning the instrument. Just like with piano, there are foundational aspects of the instrument that we need to understand, which we then build on and develop as time goes on.
To some degree, your guitar solos will always sound a bit predictable to your own ear. After all, you listen to them all the time and you’re painfully familiar with your own playing style. So it sort of has the same effect that listening to a song over and over again would have.
I’ve noticed something about my soloing in the last couple of weeks. First, I’m not what you would consider a “lead guitarist.” I can hang, sure. But it’s not my area and I’ve never really been comfortable playing at higher speeds. That’s alright, because I make my musical living on the rhythm and layering side of the business. But I also noticed that I had some consistent problem areas as I moved across the fretboard.