Great guitar solos are sometimes romanticized to the point of mythical proportions. It's one of the few areas where it's still considered acceptable to concede to yourself, "You can't teach that." While this might seem like a harmless idiom to utter when you're filled with a sense of awe, it can also be detrimental to your longterm growth as a musician.
This feeling of "hitting a wall" is something we've all gone through as musicians. Our initial reaction might be to quickly slap a Band-Aid over the situation and learn more licks or new scales. Sometimes that approach can help us get out of a slump. But in this situation, are we really addressing the student's concerns? No.
Think about the minor pentatonic scale; almost immediately, the mental image of that familiar box shape is probably conjured in your mind's eye. The fact that we can instantly recall various patterns due to their spacial layout over the fretboard is a great thing. But what if we're relying too heavily on existing scale shapes?
Many of the greats have that unique quality to their playing that can be instantly discernible from others. Sometimes it's the way they vibrato a note or their particular phrasing style. This generates a powerful sense of familiarity with listeners, which is similar to recognizing a singer's voice.
It's hard to imagine how rock or heavy metal music would have evolved without this essential cast of characters. However, it's important to be objective and to look at both sides of the fence when evaluating the impact these players' fame and reputation have had on future guitarists as well as their own musical growth.
There are only so many hours in a day, and most people don't have access to a guitar for a good portion of that time. But that doesn't disqualify the average person from becoming a great musician. What can you do to actively "practice" while you're driving in your car, riding on the subway, stuck on an airplane, at the gym or on your lunch break?
I wasn't fully aware of the concepts of muscle memory, but I intuitively recognized (like most people) that the more you do something, the better you get. Some people hate the idea of going on a diet or starting a workout regimen. But if you stick with it, you will start to notice changes in your mood, energy levels and physical appearance that can further fuel your motivation.
We all know that what inspires and motivates some young people to play the guitar is seeing an accomplished musician rip up some impressive tapping lick, or sweep pick their way through a minor arpeggio. For many, those flashy techniques act as a gateway drug. However, even the best shredders had to learn open chords and basic alternate picking at some point.
A new year is upon us, and with it comes the familiar and arguably cliche theme of new beginnings. People treat January as an opportunity to re-ignite their motivations in a host of different ways. Whether it be to eat healthier, exercise more or start learning an instrument (hint, hint), there is perhaps never a better time than now to start anew.
In Part 1 of this series, I set the stage for the general differences between improvising and soloing. While both approaches require focused practice to excel, in my opinion, neither is superior to the other. It all depends on the player. Essentially, improvising is the act of embellishing notes over a given chord progression on the spot.