Ev­ery month, Justin Sander­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his insight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: Is My Tech­nique Good?

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Food For Thought, Ses­sion Shenani­gans, Jam Tracks tips, That Was The Year, Phil Hil­borne’s One-Minute Lick and more.

Acou­ple of stu­dents re­cently had a ques­tion that’s very com­mon, now the Internet has given us such a big win­dow to see so many other gui­tar play­ers. Their ques­tion is ba­si­cally this: Is my tech­nique good?

This ques­tion leads to some pretty pro­found thought streams to ex­plore, and for most play­ers it’s well worth giv­ing it some time and mak­ing some de­ci­sions re­gard­ing prac­tice time and as­pi­ra­tions.

There are some play­ers who base their out­put on tech­ni­cal abil­ity. I’m sure they ‘feel’ it but it would seem their ex­pres­sion is formed around spe­cific tech­niques, which may take 100s of hours’ prac­tice to per­fect. While this type of mu­sic is un­likely to flick my switch it’s cer­tainly valid, but it leads to the ques­tion of tech­nique in the per­for­mance of art.

Ob­vi­ously de­vel­op­ment vi­tal. It’s good to play clean chord changes and notes that are clear and without open strings ring­ing. But look at Kurt Cobain. In­cred­i­ble writer, singer and per­former, but his tech­ni­cal skill might not be what most peo­ple would call ‘good’. His time was solid but his sloppy power chords re­ally helped de­fine the Nir­vana sound (lay­ing the 3rd finger slightly too flat so some­times the fourth string rings out the 4th on a root-5th power chord). But his so­los were melodic and pas­sion­ate be­cause he had no great tech­nique to rely on. Would I rec­om­mend you as­pire to Kurt’s level of tech­nique? Of course not, but he was amaz­ing.

How about David Gil­mour? One of the finest gui­tarists to ever grace our planet, but if we com­pared his speed and over­all tech­nique to some­one like Guthrie Go­van… So what makes his play­ing so spe­cial? Maybe it’s got noth­ing to do with tech­nique? But it must in some ways be­cause David’s bend­ing is awe­some, he’s al­ways in tune and never strug­gles to express his ideas.

Maybe Eric Johnson has the an­swer (see p9)? His tech­nique is flaw­less, he has in­cred­i­ble tone, writes great melodic melodies and is one of the great­est play­ers of all time. But I’ve met many gui­tarists who don’t con­nect with his mu­sic. “Far too tech­ni­cal,” they say. Maybe Joe Bona­massa knows the an­swer? He can play all those burn­ing Eric Johnson licks but usu­ally chooses to play a lot less. Does that mean he’s play­ing with ‘more emo­tion’? Does it re­ally mean that play­ing fewer notes is some­how more emo­tive? “BB King says more with one note than ‘X’ says with a thou­sand.” Heard that be­fore? So what’s it all about then?

That good old joke about jazz mu­si­cians play­ing 10,000 chords to four peo­ple and pop mu­si­cians play­ing four chords to 10,000 peo­ple does not make ei­ther mu­si­cal style less valid. They’re just dif­fer­ent and there’s ex­cel­lence and rub­bish in all gen­res.

My per­sonal con­clu­sion is that I want my tech­nique to be good enough to express any mu­si­cal ideas that I’d like to come out of my gui­tar. Maybe I as­pire to make my tech­nique a lit­tle above what I need so that the ideas come out smoothly and without too much ef­fort. But as my tech­nique de­vel­ops, my mu­si­cal ideas de­velop more com­plex­ity, so the tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment jour­ney never seems to end. But maybe that’s not a bad thing ei­ther?

There’s no right or wrong - it’s just food for thought!

Justin asks, “How good do we re­ally need to be as gui­tar play­ers?”

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