I’ve come across many beginner to intermediate guitar players, who get intimidated by the idea of being creative on the guitar. This could be any aspect of creativity, like songwriting, composing, improvising, etc.
If you are one such player, who finds it challenging to break out of exercises and assignments and dive into the world of creative guitar playing, you need to understand that this is completely normal, and every guitarist has been through this journey.
The goal behind this article is to help you get started with some really easy ways of becoming creative with your guitar. This concept applies to other instruments also, but more so with Guitar.
What do you need to know to understand this information?
- You need to be having basic knowledge of scales, chords and rhythm, as to what they are and how they are used to create music
- It would be great if you have a good understanding of more complex rhythms and meters, but for ease of use, we’ll use eighth notes to begin with
- You need to know scale shape for any one of the basic shapes you learn as a beginner guitar player e.g. Pentatonic, Major, Minor etc.
- You need to have a basic understanding of Melody (A group of notes played separately) and Harmony (Chords or group of notes played together)
- You need to have a basic understanding of how notes of a scale are numbered. This does not require heavy knowledge of Music theory, For ease of application, you can pick any scale you know, and put numbers to each note, e.g. in C major scale, C become 1, D – 2, E 3 and so on
- To take it to another level, where you can make sure that the Melodies you create, will harmonize perfectly with the chords, it would be great if you have an understanding of the tones of different triads. For now, if you are just getting started, then this information is not important at this stage and you can ignore that
- Pick a scale which you would derive the melody from. This could be anything like C Major, E minor, A minor Pentatonic, D Major Pentatonic
- Write down the notes of the scale like below, and put the number corresponding to the scale degree of the note underneath or besides each note.
- Notes of the C Major Scale
C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
- Pick the duration of the melody, for ease of use, I recommend you begin with melodies that last 1 or 2 measures
- Pick the type of rhythms you would use for the melody, begin with simple rhythms like Quarter notes & Eighth notes and then keep adding complex elements like faster rhythms, rests and syncopation etc. For the examples, I’m using Eighth notes, so in 1 measure or 4/4 music, you’ll have 8, eighth notes.
- Now start arranging the notes in any order or sequence like below. As you can see, I created 4 measures of music without much effort, by just following this simple process
1 3 2 4 3 6 4 7 / 1 4 2 5 3 7 4 1 / 2 6 3 7 4 1 5 2 / 7 5 6 4 5 3 4 5
- Find a position on the neck where you want to play these melodies. If you are slightly advanced, then play the melodies in different positions on the neck, especially when you want to repeat this in your songs
- Repeat the process to create more melodies, play them, and decide which ones you like and connect well. In case you feel the melodies are disconnected, do not panic, replace some notes and try to make them fit together.
- Repeat the process in as many scales you know, and make your melodies more interesting by using rhythmic elements more creatively, than what we did here.
Your goal is to understand and apply this process instantly, to all the scales you know, and come up with interesting melodic ideas. This will train you at multiple levels of playing and turn you into a more creative guitarist in a very short period of time. Do not get discouraged if you can’t find good melodies, just do it and you’ll soon see the results in your playing.
Dhanesh Sarangadharan is a certified guitar teacher in Pune, Maharashtra India, who is passionate about helping students progress faster towards their guitar playing and musical ambitions.