The importance of composition and challenging yourself

We're barely into the New Year so it's a good time to take stock of what 2012 provided you as regards guitar playing.

Any new tunes moved you forward? Did you finally nail a technique that's been eluding you? Maybe an electric or acoustic guitar acquisition opened up new approaches?

For me, positivity came from negativity at the end of 2012 - I fractured a bone in my left (fretting) hand that meant guitar playing was reduced to almost zero. Forget further technique development, I could barely achieve general technique maintenance!

The hand is in a better state now thanks to rest and my playing is getting closer to 100% thanks to playing exercises I devised to improve strength, stretch and stamina for (mainly) the fourth finger. You can try some of these out in a few issues time.

Thing is though, during my recovery phase I diverted my 'guitar time' to 'music time' where I focused more on composition and listening to new music.

I've a long interest in music technology so with new recording software (Presonus's marvellous DAW, Studio One) and synthesiser plug-ins, I set to creating new music that was anything but guitar initiated.

During this fun and fruitful period (aside from the left hand mouse clicking and piano based tinkling, ouch!) I reconnected with the notion that a guitarist isn't a complete musician unless their 'music time' includes composition too. Why? Well, while it's great to play in cover bands and learn new songs, the truth is the chords and rhythms are already prescribed for you.

Plus, unless you're fortunate enough to play songs that don't have mandatory 'must learn' solos (Hotel California and Alright Now spring to mind), even your lead playing is set in stone! Little room for your own unique voice in all this, eh?

That's why composition is imperative; you draw on what you like and use it to create new, unique music. It's highly personal. Ideally, your compositions would not only draw on your technical and stylistic skills but you'd encourage a dash of challenge too.

So with your pentatonic soloing and powerchords, what about seeing how 12/8 (or even 3/4) may be better than common 4/4 time? Maybe convert your regular dom7 chords into extended or altered chords? What about Latin rhythm syncopations to enhance your usual bluesy progressions? Or look to add more intervallic jumps (maybe fuelled by arpeggio practice) into your main melodies? The options are endless and regularly elaborated on in GT!

So, with a fresh new year ahead, we whole-heartedly encourage you to create your own music. Use pen and paper, a simple hand held recorder (even your smart phone!) or powerful DAW software - however and wherever you do it, do it and realise your fuller musical potential for 2013!