Playing Developments

2010 plans!

As we come into spring (and no more snow!!), it's common among keen guitarists to take stock of their musical development. Are chords getting more colourful? Is the fretting hand's fourth finger any stronger? Rock vibrato any wider? Picking speed reached the shred benchmark of six notes at 120bpm? The list goes on but you get the picture.

As a reader of Guitar Techniques you no doubt appreciate the breadth of tutorial columns and the insightfulness offered to get impressive results. From blues and classic rock to acoustic and world music styles, we're certain no other magazine offers what we do. So that said, you're on your way to becoming adept in all styles, to high levels of ability, right? Of course not and truth be told, few players ever are. Not that I'm saying this to offer you a get out clause if your development seems sporadic or minimal, mind. As we always say, regular sessions with the guitar with a focused agenda is the fastest way to getting better – there are no shortcuts. Rather, I say this to provide a perspective on what you should realistically expect with your own development.

I'll give you an example – recently I was in conversation with a famous rock guitarist and one of the GT team. This rock guitarist has a technique second to none and yet was revelling in a new (to him) technique he had seen BB King masterfully use – string bending with his first finger often by a tone. Said rock guitarist is now busy woodshedding, keen to have the technique fit into his already jaw dropping style. The GT tutor and I later concluded that many guitar heroes are a product of extremely intense study within a narrow area rather than the frequent assumption that all heroes are by default stylistically broad.

So what's to deduce from this? Should we all aim to be narrow but deep or rather generally competent across many areas? To my mind, it's a tough call and one best left to the individual. If you want to be a fusion dude with a limitless supply of altered shred lines – go ahead. Or maybe you want to be an outstanding cover band player skilled at dealing with Abba and Guns N Roses – same again. What I will say though, regardless of your level or style brevity, don't neglect checking out the guv'nor, BB King. Like the famous rock guitarist, BB may just give you that missing bolt of inspiration to get (even) better!

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