Do you want to improve your musical creativity but believe in the conventional wisdom of one's musical potential being restricted by their natural talent? If you do, then you belong in the club of millions of musicians who have all felt the same way. When I started learning to play guitar, developing high levels of creativity in music was a big goal of mine, but unfortunately no matter what I did, nothing seemed to help me to go from hearing music in my head to playing it perfectly on guitar. This left me very depressed and disappointed, fearing that I might never be able to reach the skill level I so much wanted to attain. Sound familiar?
The good news is that musical creativity is a goal that can be achieved by anyone. If you doubt your own potential to become a creative musician and fear that you ‚Äòlack musical talent', think about how only people who are not musicians (or at least are not ‚Äògreat' musicians) make such ignorant claims, and nobody among the world's top guitar players believes in this myth.
However, despite the fact above, there are still several reasons why so many guitar players have a hard time improving their musical creativity. Here are a few of them:
1. The majority of musicians do not consciously plan or even know what it is they need to work on to become more creative on their instrument.
2. A lot of guitarists consider creativity in music to be an isolated practice item that is meant to be learned as a single skill, similar to learning a song on guitar or memorizing a new scale. Because of this, these guitar players look for an isolated item to play/practice on guitar to reach this goal. The truth is however, that creativity in guitar playing and music is not an individual "thing/item" that you practice, but rather a result that appears from being able to use ‚Äòseveral' guitar playing skills (that on the surface seem disconnected). Think about the process of learning to be fluent in a foreign language. To speak fluently, it isn't enough to only learn ‚Äòa lot of words' or to ‚Äòonly' master the rules of syntax or ‚Äòonly' work on your pronunciation. You must do all of these tasks simultaneously in order to develop the same command of a language that native speakers possess.
3. Too many guitar players cannot distinguish between being "musically creative" and being an "original" musician. To be original, you must have the ability to come up with musical ideas that nobody has heard or played before. Contrary to that, to be musically "creative", all that is necessary is for you to play music that YOU are happy and fulfilled with, regardless of whether or not you are truly original. The reason why I'm emphasizing the difference between these two terms is because understanding clearly the goal that you are after in your guitar playing will help you to reach it much more quickly.
The entire list of topics that is needed for becoming a highly creative guitar player is much too broad to be covered in only one article. However, in the points below I will help you to learn how to practice one particular aspect of guitar playing which is highly important for developing musical creativity. This aspect is the ability to visualize the entire guitar fretboard. Of all the skills you need to work on in order to improve your creativity, mastering the guitar neck will help you to see instant progress in your ability to express yourself on guitar, even though (ironically) this element is rarely practiced as much as it should be. Becoming totally fluent in your visualization of the guitar will make it a whole lot easier for you to master other aspects of making more creative music.
In the rest of this article I will list for you some of the ways in which you can (and should) be practicing guitar fretboard visualization. As you continue reading the points below, consider how the practicing ideas I present are interconnected to help you develop the same general skill (of fretboard mastery) from a variety of angles.
Here is what you must do in order to completely master your visualization of the guitar neck:
This is a skill that you need to work on separately from learning individual note names on guitar. There are some guitar players who have memorized the note names for every fret of the guitar, but have never worked on playing scales in more than one area of the guitar neck. As a result, their superior knowledge of individual notes is of limited value to them because it is not connected with a more tangible musical element of scale playing. To see exactly how this should be done, watch this guitar scale lesson on video.
If practicing scales in this way is new to you, then you can expect to see quite dramatic improvements in your creativity on guitar once you learn to play scales all over the fretboard instead of only in 1-2 areas of the guitar neck.
One rarely mentioned skill that is nonetheless critically important for complete mastery of the guitar fretboard is the ability to visualize the patterns (shapes) of frets that form intervals, scales, chords and general licks you play on guitar. This will enable you to play a note on your instrument and immediately know where to find a chord, interval or scale pattern based on that note. This skill will greatly speed up (and make easier) the process of expressing yourself creatively on guitar. To understand what this means, study this guitar neck memorization lesson that will make this point more clear.
To become more creative when playing guitar solos or writing songs, one fundamental thing you must learn is what all the notes on the fretboard are called all over the guitar. Most importantly, you need to be able to recall the notes quickly (in the same way you can recall your birthday, your phone number or other facts that you know by heart). Many guitar players make the mistake of ‚Äòstopping' to work on learning the notes on the fretboard further once they develop the basic ability to ‚Äòfigure out' what a note is called after thinking about it. This is not good enough. In order to have this knowledge be usable in your musical skills, you must speed up your ability to recall the note names on the guitar neck. To see exactly how to practice this, watch this guitar neck memorization lesson on video.
Due to the unique nature of the guitar, it is common for guitar players to become locked in to playing in a certain set of keys that are physically easier to play. However, this leaves a significant portion of the instrument unexplored when it comes to playing in unfamiliar keys such as Db major, F minor and others. Although you probably already know how to slide/transpose barre chords and scales to any key, there is a difference between theoretically knowing "how" to do something and actually feeling confident about playing in strange and unfamiliar keys. The good news is that by practicing to play in keys that you aren't used to yet, it will become much easier to visualize the entire guitar neck and to have your playing feel much easier and more creative as a result.
After reading the points above, it should be easy to see that building musical creativity on guitar does not revolve around tricks or secrets that only the "naturally talented few" are born with. Although there is a lot more to the general topic of creative guitar playing than what I have time to explore in this article, the practicing steps for developing visualization of guitar fretboard can be done by anyone and the result will be a much higher level of freedom and control over expressing yourself on guitar.
To get more advice and help about developing both your mastery of the guitar neck and musical creativity, study these free guitar lesson videos:
Mike Philippov is a professional guitar player, recording artist and guitar/music teacher. His guitar practice columns about learning to play guitar are read by guitarists worldwide.
His instructional music web site PracticeGuitarNow.com contains advice for guitar players on overcoming the most common problems faced when learning to play guitar.
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