What you can’t do...

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

“Prac­tice what you can’t do, not what you can” is ad­vice I’ve re­ceived and given over the years, so much so that it felt very wrong to ques­tion it. But when I had the plea­sure of meet­ing and in­ter­view­ing Ste­vie Vai a few years ago, he dropped some pearls of wis­dom that shook my prac­tice be­liefs to the core. What I want to share with you here is some food for thought that I wish some­one had shared with me when I started to get se­ri­ous about gui­tar.

The con­ven­tional wis­dom of ‘prac­tic­ing what you can’t do”’ makes per­fect sense in many cir­cum­stances. If your tim­ing is no good you need to work on it. Don’t know your scales? Learn them. Never un­der­stood har­mony and the­ory? Study it. But there is one area in which I be­lieve it may be bet­ter to work on de­vel­op­ing your strengths than bat­tling your weak­nesses, and that is tech­nique.

Your tech­nique can deeply shape your play­ing style and char­ac­ter and it was this area where Mr Vai said that, rather than strug­gling with tech­niques that he found dif­fi­cult, he pre­ferred to fur­ther de­velop those that came eas­ily. Whether you are a fan of his mu­sic or not, you can’t deny that he has a unique and iden­ti­fi­able voice on the gui­tar – one he cre­ated by de­vel­op­ing his strengths to their ex­tremes.

Around the same time I’d been talk­ing with fu­sion vir­tu­oso Scott Hen­der­son about how he de­vel­oped his style. He noted that much of it came from his in­abil­ity to pick fast, find­ing it dif­fi­cult and cum­ber­some but he had greater flu­ency and got the notes he heard out eas­ier by us­ing a lot of legato – again, his tech­nique pref­er­ence played a big part in the creation of his style.

I started think­ing of other ex­am­ples of eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able play­ers… Jeff Beck uses fin­ger­style for rock. Eddie Van Halen’s char­ac­ter­is­tic tap­ping and tremolo pick­ing, or Yng­wie Malm­steen’s speed pick­ing and sweeps. It seems that one of my personal favourite play­ers, Eric John­son’s style also has deep roots in his pick­ing tech­nique choices – and the list goes on. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing thought path to ex­plore on your own.

Most great artists fo­cus on what they can do and make it part of their unique voice. It’s a com­pletely op­pos­ing view to ‘work­ing on what you can’t do’ but it clearly works – if, that is, you want to be an ‘artist’. And I think that’s where the dis­tinc­tion lies. To be a ‘ses­sion’ guy you need a di­verse range of styles and tech­niques to draw on; to be an artist you need to de­fine and re­fine ex­actly who you are.

The gui­tarists that make it to the top of the tree are usu­ally bril­liant at what they do: be­ing them­selves. I’m pretty sure we don’t want Mark Knopfler be a bril­liant two-handed tap­per, or David Gil­mour to be a mas­ter sweep picker. We want them to be them­selves and I hope this ar­ti­cle might in­spire you to fur­ther ex­plore who you are, to de­velop that and be­come the best you can be at be­ing your­self.

Safe trav­els! Check out www.justin­gui­tar.com/ gt­mag for some ex­am­ple rou­tines and links to ex­er­cises you might like to try out for each sec­tion!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.