Imagine a painter whose whole goal was to paint exact copies of the great masterpieces, or a movie actor whose claim to fame is to speak and act just like the great actors that had come before him. While the mimicry skills of these artists may be admirable, they will never become stars in their own right.
They will only be a novelty for their ability to copy others. Unfortunately, too many guitarists take this approach to music. Countless hours are spent copping the solos of guitarists, which is the way nearly all guitarists’ start.
However, when the opportunity comes to play to an audience hungry for originality, the memory of that copycat guitarist will fade with their morning hangovers.
For any guitarist to advance past the cover material level, he or she must make the transition from covering other guitarist’s licks to developing their own style and sound. The process of finding your own musical identity is a rewarding journey, but not without its share of frustrations.
Making the decision to develop and then present your own style takes commitment and certain amount of courage. Clubs and their dollar-oriented managers are usually not interested in the musician advancing his or her artistic aspirations. They want covers, the bread and butter of the club rock scene.
In addition, playing clubs is the pinnacle of many musicians’ musical aspirations; finding other musicians that share your desire for originality can be a challenge. More often than not, club owners and promoters are just not interested in original music; many clubs make it a condition of booking that no original music will be played.
So how can the guitarist that wants more than copying others work exactly put his or her own, unique stamp on the music they play? There are several ways to make their work original and memorable.
References: How to Play Guitar – http://www.guitarplayerworld.com
All great guitar players have carved out their niche in the sonic landscape, making their sound an integral part of their overall dynamic. For example, when Eddie Van Halen’s “Brown Sound”, U2’s Edge’s room-filling reverbs and Eric Johnson’s stratospheric, singing guitar tone are heard they are instantly identifiable with the artist.
These guitarists all found a unique tone that fits their musical style, and have made it as much a part of their signature as the actual mechanics of their playing. Some cover guitarists have a dizzying array of pedals to mimic nearly any sound, or a digital effect processor pre-programmed with perfect sonic copies of other guitarist’s sounds.
To develop your own style and sound, find the sound that you love, and build on it. Continue to refine it until it is your own “signature”, regardless if you are playing covers or not. You’ll soon find fans that identify with your sound, and are not concerned that your tone doesn’t perfectly mimic every cover tune you do.
Unfortunately, many guitarists are more concerned about playing to the other guitar players in the crowd than expanding their musical horizons and developing their own playing style. You can easily pick out the guitar players in the audience; they stand with their arms crossed and stoic expressions, their eyes locked on the fingers of the guitarist.
They display a general scowl of disapproval. Ignore them, as they cannot be pleased; the crowd is there to be entertained by great music, not the mechanizations of a note-for-note guitar player. If a guitarist just can’t get past the need to please these critics and feels obligated to gain their approval, here is a useful technique: learn the solos note-for-note, but play the song with your unique signature.
Solo with feeling and freedom, and when it comes to a particularly difficult passage, rip that bit of the solo absolutely perfectly, note-for-note. It tells those that are concerned with these things that, “Yes, I could play the whole thing note-for-note if I so desired, but I am my own musician”.
The fact that you do a recognizable lick perfectly is not lost on the average listener, either; it can help the continuity of the song, particularly if the solo was a very recognizable passage.
When you hear that lick, that sound that gives you chills, and takes you to another place,
remember that a musician that has found his own voice is playing it. That musician is transmitting his or her emotions through their instrument directly to you. As a guitarist, make that your overreaching goal….through your own unique style and sound, talk to the soul of the listener.