Guitar Lessons: Musical Expression Starts from Within
By Bill McRea
Great guitar playing is more than playing riffs and licks; it’s about presenting your emotions and feelings in musical terms. That’s why it’s called it musical expression.
When I first started playing I was so concerned about hitting every note right. I’d spend hours practicing scales and chord forms and making sure that each note sounded perfect. After about two years of practice I knew everything in the world about making chord shapes and playing scale, and nothing about making music. I’d record myself and the listen to the playback and it sounded like a bored guitar student trying to play every note perfectly.
Time to crack a few eggs and make a new omelet. I started to listening to some great guitar players that I admired like David Gilmore, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix to figure out what they were doing different then me. I knew the same scales, and chord progressions, but I sounded nothing like these legends. I decided I wanted to sound more like David Gilmore so I spent the time to learn the solo from Comfortably Numb, but it still sounded flat and unexciting. I was try to play it exactly the way David Gilmore did, when what I should have been doing was playing it the way I FEEL.
That’s when it all started to come together for me. I figured out that I can learn for great guitarist, but the musical expression must come from inside me, to be of any interest. To channel what is in your soul to the guitar, I learned to simplify musical passages, and feel each note, and I learned not to be so worried about what my hands were doing. Magically my hand started singing because I had reached deep inside and cleared my head enough to allow for the musical expression I was unable to share in the past.
All the scales, chords and hours of practice just provide me with the tools I needed for self expression. My musical journey will never end, but my ability to explore is now at warp speed.
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