Paul Gilbert: “Five Things You’re Doing Wrong with Your Guitar”

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Paul Gilbert recently spoke with Music Aficionado’s Rich Bienstock about five mistakes he sees his students make in his Rock Guitar School course.

We’ve excerpted his answers below, but check out the full entry at

Grabbing Your Guitar
Gilbert says he’s surprised when he sees his students hold their guitar like a classical guitar—“They’ll put it between their legs, with it sort of parallel to the body,” he says.

“If you want to play like someone like Brian May, for instance, you don’t want to hold the guitar like that. It messes up your vibrato. And you can’t get your thumb over the top of the fretboard to get the right grip. It makes everything harder and weakens your touch. You lose power. You also lose the ability to mute the strings if there’s any distortion.”

Don’t Look—Listen
“When it comes to vibrato, a lot of people look at their hands when they do it. Which is pretty much of no use. Because vibrato is one of those things you have to hear. There are some guitar things where the visual is really useful, like seeing chord shapes or scale patterns. But vibrato isn’t one of those things. You need to feel it and you need to hear it.”

Scales Are the Means, Not the End
“It’s so easy to practice out of context. For example, if you’re learning a scale, you take that scale and you sit in your room and you go up and down the fretboard, over and over. You’ve gotta do that, because you need to get that scale working. But you have to keep in mind that that’s not the finished product. That’s the starting point.”

Don’t Ignore The Basics
“Initially, I try to just get everybody strumming. It’s amazing how a lot of the metal guys have never strummed! And it’s not that challenging, but it really opens up a lot of doors in ways they might not have imagined.”

There’s More to Life than Shredding
“Yes, there are some people who come in to my course and just want to shred… If they want to shred then I’ll do that. I just want to make sure they shred and also sound good doing ir.”

Visit Music Aficionado to read Gilbert’s complete comments.

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