Be a versatile guitarist

Posted by Andrew Hobler on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Under: Theory and Application
So, I am writing this little blog as someone who read many years ago that versatility is a key way of both enjoying music and making a living from it.

Do you need to be able to play every genre and style flawlessly?

But..we need a little bit of an idea on many styles to be truly versatile.

I know musicians who are fantastic in a cover band situation and take time to learn the parts of every song their band plays. Unfortunately, this doesn't always translate well when required to sight read a chart and play an improvised solo but they might fudge their way through it if the music is not too complex.

Likewise, the need to be able to play over more complex chord changes often leaves a pop or rock specialist guitarist grasping to find notes or chords that sound right.

The 5 things that have enabled me to continue working as a guitarist for 40 years are:

  1. Being able to read music. (NOT TAB!) Chord charts and single notes. Being able to read music will never make you a worse musician. (I have heard people say that). It will take time and effort but is worth it.
  2. Having a thorough understanding of basic theory and harmony and how it applies to the guitar. 
  3. Being a person who makes the gig easy for the band leader and the other musicians around them. Don't be a prima donna. Be confident in your abilities.
  4. Have reliable equipment and practice until you sound great with your equipment. If you can't afford the best gear it doesn't matter. A cheaper guitar can have a couple of hundred dollars spent on it for pickups, set up and new hardware and sound great. Spend as much on getting an amp as you do on a guitar. A $3000 guitar through a $400 amp won't do the guitar justice.
  5. Be able to play over chord changes. Learn the arpeggios and scales that facilitate this skill. Even if you don't do any groundbreaking solos, you will survive the gig and not make a fool of yourself.
I had a keyboard playing friend who was a fantastic music reader. I asked him how he got to be so good at it. He told me that he borrowed scores of piano books from the library and just read and played them once only. He would then take those back to the library a couple of days later and borrow some more and repeated the process until he returned back to the first lot he had borrowed. By this stage he had forgotten the music in them and was sight reading again.

Classical guitar music is great for guitarists because of it's harmony/bass/melody content. It also exercises right hand technique and common sense left hand fingering. Start easy and build in complexity over time.

So.. learn theory, learn to read (NOT TAB!), learn to play over changes, sound great and be easy to get along with!

In : Theory and Application