While melodic guitar playing isn’t genre-specific, it's an approach several guitarists in the progressive-rock spectrum tend to employ. It leads to a flowing, expansive sound consisting of triumphant melodies, emotive chord progressions and saturated distortion.
Among these characteristics, certain secrets can be discovered by comparing musicians in an effort to understand aspects of their songwriting and guitar playing that lead to the finished product that we hear. These intricacies are many, from the type of gear they use to the influences they draw from.
Getting down to fundamentals, though, there are a few ways to take a simple musical situation and sprinkle in some melodic fairy dust to yield a new creation. For example, one of the first feats of finger strength a beginning guitar player tries is the standard barre chord.
As such, amending this bar chord to include more expressive intervals, such as an added ninth, is a simple and effective way to meet the criteria for melodic guitar playing—emotive chords. The video below shows how you can turn major and minor barre chords into more complex and interesting shapes.
Another easy pivot from standard to melodic sounds doesn’t have to do with pitch at all, but with rhythm. Leaving common time signatures like 4/4 or 6/8 and using more adventurous ones like 5/4 or 7/4 is a quick way to turn your traditional riffs into melodic masterpieces. By pulling yourself out of your comfort zone and into a more uncomfortable meter, you’re forced to use your ear to stay in time at certain points, which is an awesome method to break habits and form new creative processes.
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.