Guitar Lessons: Musical Expression Starts from Within

Great guitar playing is more than playing riffs and licks; it’s about presenting your emotions and feelings in musical terms. That’s why it’s called it musical expression.

When I first started playing I was so concerned about hitting every note right. I’d spend hours practicing scales and chord forms and making sure that each note sounded perfect. After about two years of practice I knew everything in the world about making chord shapes and playing scale, and nothing about making music. I’d record myself and the listen to the playback and it sounded like a bored guitar student trying to play every note perfectly.

Time to crack a few eggs and make a new omelet. I started to listening to some great guitar players that I admired like David Gilmore, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix to figure out what they were doing different then me. I knew the same scales, and chord progressions, but I sounded nothing like these legends. I decided I wanted to sound more like David Gilmore so I spent the time to learn the solo from Comfortably Numb, but it still sounded flat and unexciting. I was try to play it exactly the way David Gilmore did, when what I should have been doing was playing it the way I FEEL.

That’s when it all started to come together for me. I figured out that I can learn for great guitarist, but the musical expression must come from inside me, to be of any interest. To channel what is in your soul to the guitar, I learned to simplify musical passages, and feel each note, and I learned not to be so worried about what my hands were doing. Magically my hand started singing because I had reached deep inside and cleared my head enough to allow for the musical expression I was unable to share in the past.

All the scales, chords and hours of practice just provide me with the tools I needed for self expression. My musical journey will never end, but my ability to explore is now at warp speed.

Bill McRea is the publisher of The Guitar Warehouse and Guitar Playing Techniques. Both sites offer free lesson and product sales.

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