Do you want to have the musical skills that allow you to control the emotions your listeners will feel when they hear you play guitar? The single greatest skill you can develop as an artist is the ability to consistently create music that allows you to express yourself in this way.
Most guitarists would agree that such a skill is the pinnacle of true musical freedom. Sadly, for the vast majority of musicians this ability remains out of reach. Why does this happen? Actually there are many reasons, but here are two of the most important ones:
It is very rare that guitarists even 'attempt' to develop this ability. You can see the proof by looking at the data provided by Google's own Keyword Tool showing average searches done per month (worldwide) for the following terms:
* play guitar with feeling = no searches
* expressing feeling with guitar = no searches
* play guitar with emotion = no searches
* express yourself on guitar = absolutely no searches
* playing guitar with teeth = (believe it or not) 320 searches
As you can see, more guitar related searches are made for "playing guitar with teeth" than "express yourself on guitar," "express yourself on guitar," and other related subjects. Not too inspiring..
Most guitar players spend a great deal of time working on memorizing scale patterns, and taking in as much theoretical music concepts as they can stand. These things certainly have some merit, but are not the way to fully understand how to express yourself with guitar at a high level.
Here is a great illustration of my point: If I told you to find an "E" note on the guitar you would probably be able to do this very quickly. However, if I told you to quickly find a note on your guitar that creates a particular feeling, you wouldn't be able to find it (assuming you are similar to most guitarists). Let me explain this a bit further...
Pretend that we are both about to jam together on guitar. I start strumming an E minor chord, and you decide that you are going to start playing a cool melody at the same time. Before you begin playing, I ask you if you can play your melody in a way that expresses a particular idea. My idea is that I want you to express "a sad woman crying over a past love". Do you know what note you could play (above E minor) that will express "a sad woman crying over a past love?"
The majority of guitar players would have no clue how to approach this situation. In order to attempt to convey such an idea in their guitar playing, they would probably make a "guess" by playing various notes until something sounds good. This applies not only to the example from above, but to any idea that conveys an emotional expression.
The key to accurately expressing ideas with guitar is knowing exactly (in your head) which note will work in any given context, before you touch the guitar. All of the greatest guitar players who can freely express strong emotions in music have the ability to know ahead of time which note(s) will best express a certain feeling in any context. Not to mention, that they can use this ability to make anyone who listens to them feel the same. This is the greatest ability that one could ever look to obtain in all of music.
Perhaps you think that you need a masters degree in music performance or detailed knowledge of how music works to be able to become highly expressive with music. Well, you don't need either one.
Here are two things you must do to master musical expression with guitar:
1. When you are learning on guitar, make it your number one objective to express emotions while you play. Keep this in mind every time you pick up the guitar.
2. Forget about playing guitar in the same way you would read a "guitar TAB" - as a series of numbers, patterns and riffs. Instead, when you reach for the guitar neck, start seeing emotions that you can express.
To see and hear how this works, begin by watching the video below:
After watching the video you will fully understand how to express true emotion and passion on guitar.
By rethinking your current guitar player mindset to work with that of a "highly expressive guitar player," you can become a music expression master! As you continue practicing self expression in your guitar playing, you will see huge results in every aspect of your musicianship.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.