It’s been a whirlwind year for British guitar sensation Sophie Lloyd, who went from being one of the most prominent players online to performing in arenas with Machine Gun Kelly, as well as releasing her own music with guest appearances from members of Trivium and Steel Panther.
Here, she shares some of the most valuable knowledge she’s picked up along the way…
In the past, you’ve said legato feels like your strong point. How did you develop that fret-hand finger strength?
“I bought one of those Gripmaster hand exercisers when I was a kid and thought I was so cool on the school bus doing all my squeezes. I don’t think it made any difference to my playing! There’s no replacement for picking up a guitar, feeling those strings under your fingers and building your calluses.
“It’s also really important to build the strength of each finger, because a lot of players might feel great about hammering on and pulling off between their first and middle fingers, but less confident about doing the same with their middle finger and pinky.”
So you must have spent a lot of time working on different trills using each of your fingers?
“Yeah! It’s really good to work on fast trills going from your middle or fourth finger to your pinky, because there are more weak links in that part of the hand. I always use my little finger in legato runs, so it’s very valuable to me. There are some players who only use three fingers and I feel like they’re missing out on a massive part of their potential by neglecting the pinky.”
How exactly do you plan ahead for practice? Is there a routine?
“My old teacher used to say practice is like a triangle – one side is speed, the other is cleanliness and the other is accuracy. And whenever you’re learning, you need to focus on two of those and ignore the other. For example, if you’re practising with a metronome, you’re probably going to start off slower. In those situations you are sacrificing speed for cleanliness and accuracy.
“It’s always important to get your muting technique down at this stage, whether that’s using your fretting hand fingers to cover unused strings or your picking hand, or both! You might find yourself lifting parts of your hand to only cover a few strings at a time and then also using the side of your picking hand palm to mute other ones.
“Once you have those down, you can start practising up to speed and keeping the accuracy, maybe sacrificing a little bit of cleanliness to begin with because you can build on that more once your speed is up. At the end, you have to add it all together to complete the triangle!”
What kind of warm-ups might you do before filming or performing?
“There are a few, like the classic chromatic climbing run playing four notes in succession on every string and then going up a fret. That really helps with both my alternate picking and legato, because I’m making sure every note is right on the beat. There’s a whole-tone lick I’ve been practising a lot, too – basically playing three notes per string, each one a tone apart and then starting a fret up on the next string.
“So if you’re in A, that would be the 5th, 7th and 9th frets of the low E and then moving to the 6th, 8th and 10th frets of the next string and so on. Me and the other guitarist in Machine Gun Kelly’s band [Justin Lyons] are always doing that backstage to warm up and see who can do it faster!
“Another thing I like to do is the Joe Satriani warm-up where you play chords that are one fret apart on the higher strings and then invert them every time you change. That’s a good one for waking up the fingers!”
You use a lot of two-handed ideas. How does one develop left and right hand synchronicity?
“I separate my two hands so both have a fixed position. For example, I might be playing a A minor pentatonic line with my fretting hand based on the 5th fret but start each string with a tapped note an octave up on the 17th fret. It sounds really cool when you do things like that because of the wide intervals.
“Or you might do the same thing with your fretting hand but spell out position four of the minor pentatonic with your other hand, tapping notes like the 15th fret of the high E string, the 17th and 15th of the B string, the 17th and 14th of the G and so on. All you’re doing there is playing the minor pentatonic but using both hands to play it in different positions on the neck.
“If it feels hard, try to get used to playing on one string with the tapped note changing every time, and it will soon feel quite seamless. Once you get the hang of that, you can train your brain to do similar things with the major and minor scales.”