By Chris Glyde
Many guitar players tend to stop at the beginning level of learning guitar. But music is
the product of many skills applied at the same time, so you’re only as strong as the weakest category/link. In order to be better than 90% of other guitar players, you will just need to focus on certain skills that only 10% of guitar players actually focus on.
This article will be taken from the standpoint of an intermediate-level guitar player. So, if you don’t understand some of the terms in this article, you should do some research to understand exactly what it is I am talking about. I don’t want to spend the majority of the article going into in-depth descriptions at this point.
1) Visualization Skills:
Visualization skills are your ability to see how scales, arpeggios, and notes line up on
the fretboard. The average guitar player will develop this skill to a certain rudimentary level, but with much still lacking. Most guitar players will memorize all the notes on the neck and memorize the five pentatonic scales, but if they’re very bare bones in terms of their knowledge, they will only know some of the notes on the neck and the first pentatonic.
The great part about this is that if you go even just a little bit deeper, you will already be better than 90% of guitar players in this area. So, how can you do this? Here’s what you should work on.
To go a step forward, memorize the diatonic scales all over the neck and then figure out how the diatonic scales and the pentatonic scales integrate together. This means that you should examine the scales and see how they overlap. For example, if you look at the minor pentatonic and Aeolian scale (minor scale) down below, you will see that the minor pentatonic actually fits comfortably within the Aeolian scale.
There are other steps you can take as well, if you sit down and think about what it would take to improve your visualization skills. For example: Memorize scale degrees all over the pentatonic and diatonic scales. Memorize where you can use all arpeggios and their inversions over the pentatonic scales. Really, it can just keep going, but I think you get the idea.
2) Rhythmic Skills:
You’ll probably be thinking to yourself when you read the title of this section that plenty
of people have rhythm, and you would be about 90% correct. 90% of players can play rhythm guitar or, more specifically, can play rhythm after they hear it or had someone else play it first. However, there is a major weakness in this type of player.
Most people won’t be able to think of a rhythm and then play the rhythm they hear in
their head, and most people won’t be able to play a rhythm first. They have to have someone else play it. This creates generic lead lines and only a handful of default strumming patterns that these players can use to make music. This means that they literally have no control over the rhythmic aspect of their music, and their music will become uninspiring and overall boring and predictable.
If you want to be better than 90% of guitar players, your first bet will be to learn actual
rhythmic notation. Then you’ll be able to understand the strumming patterns and the rhythmic patterns within your lead playing. You’ll be able to write interesting, inspiring, and creative musical lines, and it will be a lot more fun! I have a series of articles on Rhythmic notation, so feel free to Google my name and rhythmic notation to locate these articles.
Guitar phrasing is an underrated not often discussed subject with most guitar teachers.
Guitar phrasing is how you play something, and even having some basic knowledge about this will greatly improve your playing. Guitar phrasing tends to consist of Note Choice (chord tones), nuances (bends, vibrato, stacatto), and rhythm. It’s a combination of these three elements into interesting phrases that you would play in a solo section. Most guitar players just learn other players’ licks and pull them out of a lick bag when ready, but this is oftentimes limiting and uninspiring. However, by working on these elements and how you can use them together, you’ll make killer phrases, be able to make variations on those phrases, analyze your favorite players’ variations, and overall just have a great time playing some awesome lead guitar.
If you work on these three elements, then there’s nothing stopping you from becoming a great guitar player, better than 90% of the guitar players in the world. Have fun, and enjoy!
About the Author:
Chris Glyde is a music enthusiast, guitar instructor, and vocal coach based in Rochester, New York, dedicated to improving the quality of instruction and helping players become all that they can be. Check out his website: rochesterguitarlessons.com.