Ten Tips For Being a Great Guitar Player

Ten Tips For Being a Great Guitar Player

Please see my other blog about why there are too few great guitarists around here. And please take this constructively- some of it is going to bruise your ego a little, but hey you’re a guitarist, you’re already great if it does. So you don’t need to read it anyway. 😉

1) Stop staring at your freakin’ guitar. You can glance at it once in a while but if you don’t know the notes well enough looking at the guitar is just going to slow you down because your eyes can’t move fast enough and they can’t help you move faster. And you don’t need them to play great music- as Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano know. And besides, its art- you should be looking into your HEART.

2) Stop playing over the singer. Or over the other instruments. No matter who you are the people are there to hear the band, not a band with some guitar player who plays like she’s/he’s in his own world.

3) Learn to listen to the entire band, not just you. You might just find out that, no matter how great you think you sound, you suck when you hear what the rest of the band is playing.

Especially listen to the OTHER guitar player. The greatest guitarists were team players- Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, Duane Allman and Dickie Betts, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington in Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you’re both playing the same lines or even the same inversions of chords you’re probably doing it wrong.

4) Slow down, and stop thinking about it so much. Music is not athletics, its not math, its not a lot of things. Its art. So faster, more complicated, more intricate doesn’t always mean better, unless its in context (for context listen to John Coltrane, Bach, Duke Ellington).

5) Ask yourself why you need all those pedals. To the average audience member it probably seems that the more pedals you have the more you are trying to compensate for some untold inadequacy.

Jimi Hendrix used how many pedals? I think three- a chorus, fuzz and sometimes a wha (he also used an octave divider, as on “Purple Haze” but I’m not sure he used it live).

BTW, I usually use -0- pedals. Sometimes a chorus or a wah.

6) Stop showing up stoned or drunk. Or late.

7) Pay attention to what the band leader (or singer if you’re an accompaniest) is asking you to play.

8) Turn your damn amp down if the soundman or club asks you to. Unless you’re Jeff Beck. In which case Turn It Up! (but then you wouldn’t be reading this if you were Jeff Beck)

9) No one REALLY cares if you can play guitar standing on your head, with one hand, backwards, standing over the top of it, tapping it, looping it, etc. However you play it they only care that you can play it well.

10) Smile. Its a privilege to be able to entertain people, however drunk or inattentive they may be. You have been given that privilege. So be happy you have it.


For the record I am a forty+ year veteran of the Asbury Park music scene who has played with Jukes, E-Streeters, and all others higher up and in between during those years. 20 of which were spent teaching music, and several obtaining a B.A. in Music from Rutgers.


1 Comment

  1. May I add one more thing: Pay attention to your bandmates because they may be trying to tell you to end the song, to solo, to let the bass player take a solo (or the drummer) or any number of things. And for god’s sake, don’t do the same solo every chance you get to solo!


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