Hi, my name is Gus Drax and I’m the lead guitarist of the bands Sunburst, Biomechanical and Black Fate. I have also an instrumental solo album out called “In Search Of Perfection”.
Every month I will write an article here on Metalpaths under my blog “Train Of Thoughts” covering various subjects: from guitar and music to movies, sports and generally my thoughts! Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you might have and also suggest things to make this blog better! Feel free to comment below!
So lets move on this month’s article which is guitar-related and the subject is: “Why Should You Have Good Guitar Technique And How To Develop It”. These two are some of the most frequently asked questions I get and also two subjects that cause big discussions and disagreements among guitarists and musicians in general.
Well, let’s first define what wood technique is, what “good technique” means? It means the ability to play something on the guitar or any other instrument correctly in a short period of time and also the ability of playing any idea that comes into your head almost straight away!
So here we have the first disagreement! There are guitarists who like to play in a very technical way, “show off” in solos and like being what we call “Shredders”. But, there is a whole other category of guitarists that say.. “I don’t want to play fast.” “I don’t like it.” “I don’t like shredding”.
Well, No problem guys! Who said that having a good technique only means to play fast and “show off” ? Good technique means a lot more than that. Means that you can play whatever you want (a cover or an original song of yours, doesn’t matter) clean and most important record your music clean, which is essential if you want other people to like your music.
THE FIRST EXAMPLE
A great example of a musician who has a great technique but he rarely plays fast solos is of course Devin Townsend. Devin has recorded numerous albums that have brilliant guitar work. Why? Because he practiced and when he has an idea, he is able to instantly play it and of course record it perfectly. So its not only about playing fast, It is the ability of our hands to do whatever WE want them to do. So as you can understand you don’t want to have any limitations on what you can do! And this leads us to our 2nd question. How can I develop my technique?
WORKING IT OUT
Let’s simplify this question. How can I teach my finger muscles to do specific movements? Well, let’s see it this way. What are we doing to work our muscles out and make them bigger and stronger? We are going to the gym and we lift weight. We start by lifting lighter weights and when we’re going stronger we increase the weight. Something similar happens with our technique on guitar. We have to start with simple exercises (like the chromatic exercises) and gradually increase the level of difficulty. And here is the point where the metronome will take part in this article.
Many guitarists ask me.. “Gus, is the metronome necessary when I practice?”. My opinion is that YES! It is necessary. You have to start practicing exercises slowly, in a slow tempo, letting your hand to adjust in this new movement and get used to it. Then gradually speed it up and when you have it clean and fast enough, move to another exercise and do the same.(Remember the weight lifting example?) .
“Yeah Gus good point, but I think I can do that without a metronome driving me mad! I can do it myself, simply by just starting slowly and then increase the speed by myself when I feel comfortable”. Hmm.. yeah, but are you sure that your timing is perfect?? Or you’ll just end up teaching yourself bad habits? I did it with a metronome and I advice you to do the same. I think you’ll be pleased by the results! Having said that we can now proceed in analyzing the development of each technique.
GUITARISTS AND THEIR TECHNIQUES
There are plenty techniques that a guitarist can use: alternate picking, economy picking, legato, sweep picking, tapping, bends and vibrato among others! The big difference between the good guitarists and the BEST guitarists is here.
The best guitarists have all these techniques almost at the same level. They use them all and this helps them to avoid sounding the same and repetitive! They maybe have a stronger technique or a favorite technique if you prefer but the others are almost at the same level as well.
For example my personal favorite guitarist Mr. John Petrucci has alternate picking. Its stronger, he uses it more often but he has all the other techniques in his trickbag as well!
In case this is your deal and you want to become this type of a player, the secret is that you have to practice all the techniques equally.
How can you do that? Well, here’s what I did and perhaps you can do the same…
I made a simple list. I wrote all the techniques and next to them the guitarists that are considered to be the best on this particular technique! Then I started practicing exercises and songs of these guitarists so that I can improve my technique through this procedure. Let me give you my “List” along with some tips on how to practice and improve each technique.
- Alternate Picking – John Petrucci, Al Di Meola, Paul Gilbert
Perhaps my favorite technique along with legato! Pay much attention on synchronizing your hands. Left hand should fret the exact same moment that the right hand picks.(The opposite for left-handed guitarists). The metronome is necessary here. Start slowly and increase speed gradually.
- Economy Picking – Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Romeo, Jeff Loomis.
Very similar to the Alternate Picking, Economy picking has only one major difference. You use a downstroke when you change a string and you go down and an upstroke when you go up.
- Sweep Picking – Jason Becker, Frank Gambale, Jeff Loomis.
One of the most popular techniques.It has to do with the picking movement and not the fast arpeggio use as many people think! Try doing doing different things with it and not just throwing thousands of arpeggios here and there and you’ll see your vocabulary expanding. Pay attention on how the right hand mutes unwanted noise.
- Legato – Richie Kotzen, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert. I would recommend some muscle legato Exercises for classical Guitar.(Try the Vertical Exercises).Its going to help you improve this Technique and also make your fingers stronger.
- Tapping – Eddie Van Halen, Michael Romeo, Steve Vai, Reb Beach.
It is really necessary to have legato playing in a very good level before adding right hand fingers on the fretboard.Make sure to play everything clean and slowly before speeding up. For multiple finger tapping,try starting by doing exercises you did in your first practicing days(like the chromatics) using your right hand.
- Bending,Vibrato – B.B King, Marty Friedman, Zakk Wylde, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Try to make your vibratos sound stable. Vibrate on time and tempo! Not faster not slower.Vibratos and Bends are notes as well, they are not time free! And most important. USE YOUR EARS. Train them so that you can understand when your bend or vibrato is right or wrong!
To sum up,building your technique is not easy. It takes time and dedication. But you can all succeed it by practicing with a schedule and reach the level that you desire. If you want something very much, work hard on it and make it happen!
Thanks for reading this article my friends. I Hope you earned something from this. Feel free to ask any questions you may have and of course suggest article subjects that you would like me to write for. They will be seriously considered.
Take Care and See you next Month!
Movie of the Month : The Dark Knight Rises
Album of The Month : Flying Colors – Flying Colors
Written by Gus Drax.