20 guitar tips from the pros

6. Sound can inspire

“Find a decent and affordable reverb pedal and dial it to where it’s not oversaturating the notes and just complimenting them, depending on what you want to hear. Something that simple can inspire all kinds of musical and lyrical directions. It can take you down a different road sonically, which will take you down a different road lyrically.” Ben Harper

7. Get rhythm!

“One very important side of my playing lies in the execution of rhythm. I have a very percussive style. It’s one I’ve developed with Dream Theater over the years, and requires the guitar to be very locked into the rhythm of the drums… Way more than what that would normally entail. I’ve always looked at it this way: When you think about doing a full show, you’ll be playing rhythm guitar for at least 90 percent of the night, maybe even more! Having the stamina and right-hand control to attain an aggressive, tight and distorted tone is a very big part of it.” John Petrucci, Dream Theater

8. Don’t forget melody

“When it comes to solos, I always try to somehow incorporate the melody of the song, or a variation of the melody, into the solo. I also try to think of the attitude that needs to go with the song, or come up with something that brings a different dimension to the song – maybe that could be a different rhythm. The attitude is important: not every song needs to have a flying solo with as many notes as you can; some need a little more depth and some air.” Rick Nielson, Cheap Trick 

9. Speed isn’t everything

“When most people say ‘technique’, they’re referring to fast playing. But technique goes much deeper than that. It’s the control of all aspects. It’s how you pick. It’s where you pick. It’s your tone. It’s the way you bend notes. It’s the way you vibrate them. It’s your ability to be really dynamic: really soft then really loud. The technique is in the bends with the bar, in the chords, the vibrato. Technique is a big word that people have homogenised.” Steve Vai  

10. Try new things

“Don’t practise what you know – practise what you don’t know. Don’t make it easy for yourself when you’re sitting at home alone. Then when you’re on the gig you can do whatever you want, because you’ll have taken the time to enhance your vocabulary. I would say that’s really what it is: enhancing the harmonic content of your playing. But play from your heart not your mind.” Steve Lukather