6 Essential Tips for the Intermediate Guitarist...

Courtesy of Music Radar...

As you get better at playing the guitar people will say to you, ‘Why don’t you play this? Why don’t you play that? Perhaps, you don't know everything yet, but you desire to learn it all. Welcome to the dog-days of being an Intermediate guitar player...

Tip #1. Work hard to develop really good guitar tone
“If you haven’t got a good sound, it doesn’t matter how well you play - it’s going to turn people off! Really good tone means the guitar into the amp. Forget about all the pedals and all that stuff. Just get a good sound through the guitar and the amp and that means you can play one chord and you can be a rock god, ie Foreigner, Juke Box Hero!

The simplicity of that song’s amazing. It was a big hit, but it was all about getting that one good guitar chord sound. I think tone is essential, because you don’t have to be a good player to play a barre chord. If you’ve got really good tone and you can play a barre chord, you literally can write a song out of three chords and knock people over with it.

If we think of any classic amazing player from Jimi Hendrix to Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath to Jimmy Page… Whole Lotta Love is probably the easiest riff ever, and so is N.I.B., but they’re all about tone! Plug in, put your lead into the amp and make it sound good.

Tip #2. Experiment with sound
Some people say, ‘I’m a purist. I don’t use pedals. It’s all about technique’, which is fantastic for them, but personally, it is better to experiment with sound, because sometimes it can get a little bit boring if it’s just the same guitar sound on every song.

If you’re not very experienced, you can still be successful in your early bands and a really good way to achieve that is if you experiment with sound.

Even if your textbook technique’s brilliant, it’s nice to add a bit of colour. For instance, if we were to go to the extreme with guys like Korn and The Edge - they play one note and it sounds fantastic! If you’re not a great player, if you’re not very experienced, (Intermediate) you can still be successful and really good in your early bands if you experiment with sound. With killer tone, you can play one note and it’ll sound amazing.

Also, if you do experiment with sound, it makes you play a certain way for every new tone you achieve. Sometimes, it can make you play simpler, (and quite often simple is really good). You need to go out there, try different things and see what suits you. And, even if you’re not using pedals, experiment with the sound of amps and guitars, because that’ll help you create your unique sound as well.

The sounds you create with your instrument will be like your voice. If someone rang you up on the phone, they would know it’s your voice and you want that with a band, or a solo carreer down the road, (it is critical for the stage and on your future record).

When someone hears a guitar on a recording, they can go - HEY, ‘That is Stevie Ray Vaughan!’ The sound can come from your fingers, and a lot of it does, but definitely get into looking at both dialing in on your amp and to pedals /effects to get a unique tone.

Tip #3. Don't force the development of your own sound
If you want to develop your own style, it needs to come along naturally. If you’re sitting and you’re playing and playing and playing and working hard on your technique and going over scales, it can become a bit desperate, and it can come across that way. People can recognize that, and they can see that you’ve just been intensely practicing.

However, if you relax and you just play what you want to play, you naturally get into your groove. It’s there. It’s in you. Everyone has their own natural groove.Overtime and with expose to styles, song and musical situations it naturally grows.

Never force yourself to do anything like copy another players sound 100% verbatim. You can mimic and test other players ideas - try them on, but do not copy. Your natural sound kind of comes along over the years and you'll notice it and you'll go with it, so your style of playing is very relaxed. This will be from where your style emerges. Your own unique playing style, originality and sound come from this path. ‘Don’t sweat it. Don’t force it. It will come!’”

Tip #4. When you start to join bands work hard to get on with people
This is a totally unmusical tip, but it’s a really good one – get on with people! If you get on with people and you socialize well and you network and you play and you go to gigs and you go to band nights and all of that, all of your opportunities will come to you as a guitar player.

If you are not a pleasant and a sociable person, never go down to the pub and you never go to shows, there's no way to get ahead in this business.

A lot of the breaks you get are from friends and getting on with people. That’s where all the big breaks come from, even joining a big band and getting called up for the audition. That will come because you got on with somebody and they said, ‘He’s a good player… and he’s good to get on with.’

Tip #5. Learn from the great guitar players
It’s all out there, no sense in re-inventing the wheel, you can learn so much from great guitar players. You know when people say, ‘How do I do this? How do I do that?’ Just think about it like this... ‘Music and playing guitar is not rocket science. It’s already out there for you, just listen and learn. Get a teacher, take a course, learn scales, theory and styles.'

If you want to make a great record, listen to some really great records. There’s your way to do it. If you want to learn how to play guitar and have a feel and a sound, then a lot of the time it will actually come from watching DVDs, YouTube teachers, joining high-quality lesson sites and listening to records and going, ‘Ah that’s what they’re doing - I’ll copy that!’ You’ll try to copy it (and thankfully you’ll create your own style because you’ll never get it exactly right to the original artist recording).

Everything you need to know about playing guitar has happened already and it’s all been documented and it’s all been done by great people. Some players have never had a guitar lesson in their life. All they did was listen to records and play to them.Even though many of these people are weak in a lot of areas, (due to their lack of instruction), they can often make it in bands and in the scene because they listened and worked on their parts.

Let's say there were three main bands that you learned guitar playing from. It was Black Sabbath, Motörhead and AC/DC. If you had listened to them and that’s where you got all your technique from you'd have at least three good playing concepts together.

You'd get all your riffing technique and laid-back heavy stuff from Sabbath. AC/DC would give you simplicity in chords and making them sound good live, plus tremolo in the fingers from Angus. Motörhead would give the power of songwriting, the power of the three-piece and the three-and-a-half minute ‘grab you’ songs with the aggression of sound.

Tip #6. If you really want to get better - work hard at it!
If you want to be successful, you have to really want it. You'll meet people every day who kind of want to be successful but they don’t really want it. They go, ‘Yeah, I want to be really successful’ and then I say, ‘What are you doing about it?’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to get out of bed early.’

If that’s the case, it ain’t going to happen for you! You’ve got to really want it, and the people who do really want it usually get there. You just have to be really focused and really driven and just go for it every single day.


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