Friday, June 17, 2005

Guitar Playing - Technique vs. Feeling - What's important?

By:Edward D Cupler

For many people, when they hear the word technique applied to
guitar playing, it brings to mind someone spending long hours
practicing scales and chords, getting their fingers to work like
precision machines that play each note perfectly without fail.
With no more feeling than someone doing calculus.

the other hand, when the word feeling is applied, people might
think of a smoke filled room in which every face has a story to
be told, and the guitar is a means of extracting every pent up
emotion in the room. The MC is an old blues man that has felt
every hardship life has to offer and he now turns the pain into
musical notes that cut deep into the soul of every person in the

So what's important? Both! I'm not saying that
everyone needs to have the technical ability of a Malmsteen, nor
do I think that everyone should be filled with the blues like a
Stevie Ray Vaughan. I do however think that a guitarist should
have the technical ability to play however they feel. Technique
and feeling are both important and neither should be ignored.
Listening to Malmsteen, you can easily feel the intense emotion
in every note. His playing isn't just a blaze of notes; it's the
sound of someone who has mastered technique to the point where
he doesn't have to think about it. His playing has become free
of the constraints and limitations allowing the emotion to
create the music. By the same token, listening to Stevie Ray
Vaughan you hear all the feeling you would expect from a great
blues player, but Vaughan also had great technique that makes
this possible. Without great technique his playing couldn't flow
effortlessly and his playing would become choppy and restrained.
Like Malmsteen, Vaughan's technique allowed his guitar playing
to become free of constraints and limitations, allowing emotion
to take precedence in the creation of his music.

how do you learn this? Well, if you're alive there will always
be something to stir up some passion in you. Injustice,
religion, love, hate, movies, books someone else's music.
History gives us thousands of years worth of great stories and
literature to draw from. The news we hear every day can be
enough to get us worked up. All you need to do is harness these
feelings and let them become a part of your music. This is where
your technique must get to the point that you're not thinking
about scales, modes, and chord theory or alternate picking
styles and bending each note with perfect pitch. This is where
you must draw a distinct difference between practicing and
playing the guitar. Practicing is; long hours, getting your
fingers to work like precision machines that play each note
perfectly without fail. Studying chords and scale theory with no
more feeling than someone doing calculus. The goal is great
playing. Just like a good quarterback needs to spend hours
studying plays and practicing accurate passing so things come
naturally during the big game, a guitarist must spend hours
developing good technique so things can come naturally during
the big gig.

When practicing technique, the most
obvious thing that comes to mind is speed. How fast can you
blaze through your scales? Although this is a part of good
technique, it is not the only thing you should work on. Accurate
string bending is also very important. You must train yourself
to bend notes to pitch. Many amateur guitarists bend strings
without accuracy, which makes their bends sound weak. Another
thing that you should work on is the relationship between chords
and scales. Without understanding which chords belong to which
scales, your playing can get lost very quickly. You should
understand how to form your chords anywhere on the fretboard
from the scale you're using. Check out the Guitar Scales and Chord
lesson at Guitar Metal for a visual
reference. Don't just memorize chord shapes. Show a man a chord,
he plays one song, but teach a man how to make chords from
scales and he can write his own songs. When practicing for speed
and accuracy, know what your goal is. If you want to have the
ability to play at hyper speed, you'll need to focus more on
scales and alternate picking techniques. Practicing them at slow
speeds to find the best technique and to eliminate anything that
might be slowing you down. I also recommend using the following
video lessons "Speed Kills" and Speed Lives", both from Michael
Angelo Batio. These videos are great for helping you to
understand techniques for playing fast. However if your goal is
to play a more bluesy rock style such as Angus Young, you will
want to focus more on blues phrasing and bending. You still may
need to slow things down to eliminate bad playing habits, but
the goal here would be crisp clean playing not necessarily
speed, although some speed is important.

About the author:
Edward D Cupler is the owner of guitar lessons website
Offering free guitar lessons to beginners
and advanced students.
Ed is also the owner of

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