People learn to play the guitar for a variety of different reasons. Filling in free time, impressing girls, a deep-felt love of anything music and ‘everyone in my family plays’ are all common reasons, but regardless of what makes us start, most of us end up at the same place: crazy about great guitar sounds and creating the riffs that might one day launch us into stardom.
So, why is the guitar such an appealing instrument to learn? It’s the attitude mainly. Look at the great guitar players – Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen and Slash to name a few of the most popular – while they all play very different styles of music, the thing that they all have in common is their energy and presence when they perform on the stage. This ‘coolness’ is what many guitarists aspire to reach; to get to the point where they too can stand on stage in front of thousands of people and play an incredible guitar solo which touches others deep in the heart, inspiring yet another generation to pick up the guitar.
The guitar is also a naturally leading instrument. Its tonal range means that, along with vocals, it jumps out from the mix during live performance situations and it is an indispensable part of the line-up for most bands today. And here comes the point. A guitarist who has learned every one of their favourite player’s riffs and solos note for note will want to get up there and share their love with the rest of the band and everyone watching. They have the love, they have the passion, they have the necessary techniques to pull it off and they have the perfect vehicle to use to deliver it all up. But the riffs and style that ignited the passion in the guitarist might not necessarily have the same inspiring effect on those listening. Playing for you and playing with a band are two very different things. To play well in a band it is not enough to be a great guitarist. You have to be a great musician too.
The musician understands that tasteful note choice, listening to the band as a whole and ‘playing the silences’ are integral to the bands success as a whole. The notes that you don’t play are just as important as the ones you do and playing simply but keeping a tight groove with the band can create a much more pleasant experience for both band and audience. The good musician compliments the rest of the band, instead of trying to draw all of the attention. The good musician is always conscious of locking into the rhythm with the bass and drums. The good musician contributes tastefully to the whole sound of the group.
This is what makes the difference between a tight, professional band and a garage band: groups made up of guitarists, bassists, drummers and vocalists can never be successful in the long run, but a group made up of musicians just might find themselves topping the charts and landing the big gigs.
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