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Create A Unique Guitar Playing Style and Identity

Mar 7, 2008
Learn how to manipulate and mold your sound into something that will set you apart from the rest of the crowd. We'll reveal some great ideas on how you can make some simple changes that will give you a very unique style.

Being Yourself. Who are you?

We all remember a point in time where we wished we had the talent and the sound of another guitarist. For many of us, this comparison takes place on a daily basis and can either drive us to work harder or bruise our self-confidence. Unfortunately, the end result usually concludes with us feeling slightly depressed and envious. We fail to realize our own potential and ability to create our own sound.

The harsh reality is that 95% of us will never sound like our heroes. Why? Simply because we don't have the time, the money, or their brains. That may sound cruel, but it's actually a good thing when put into the context of our own playing. Anyone can pick up a tab book and play a song but it takes a true guitarist to make it their own.

If you take a moment to examine some of your guitar heroes now, you'll find that they created their own style that made them famous by integrating various techniques from other guitarists and fusing them together. Many also took the core idea of a few different genres and combined them to create what would then become a new style.

Some great examples of such players include the likes of Santana, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Kurt Cobain, Pete Townshead and many more. You may be asking yourself why I mentioned money as one of the reasons that the majority of us will never sound like the players I have pointed out.

While you can emulate many of those tones, it's hard to duplicate them perfectly because they own thousands of dollars worth of gear.

However, don't be discouraged. With some simple fixes and a few innovative ideas, you'll be well on your way to creating a new style and tone that will make you shine.

Listen.

Before you embark on your journey to creating your own unique style, I highly recommend you look through our past articles and do some research. Don't be afraid to try new styles and genres to see which ones you enjoy the most.

Do some searches for diverse styles of music on Google. Another great resource is billboard.com. They have charts of the latest top songs that will give you an idea of what's available to you in modern terms. A trip to your local music store will also help you out immensely.

From that point, make a list of your favorite artists from these various genres. Try to seek out the similarities and differences. Ideally, you should listen for the little things that you like most. That could range from a certain way an artist strums, to how they move their fingers across the fretboard to create a certain effect.

Take the traits that you really like from these artists and combine them. Everyone has their own touches that they add and how you use them is up to you. It won't happen overnight but with practice and patience, you will find your groove. The end result will produce a style that reflects you and the music you love.

Look at the pros.

Taking the above tip to a higher level, let's look at some professional guitarists and the music that they play. Many come from varied backgrounds, which is what makes them unique. Perhaps seeing some genres that these familiar names are associated with will assist you in choosing some different styles.

David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)- Gilmour has been viewed as one of the most unique guitarists of the 20th century. Originally, Gilmour was a backup guitarist for the band until Syd Barret left due to personal issues. From there, Gilmour started to mould his sound into a piece of art via the use of a Strat, HiWatt amps, and a barrage of effects pedals.

How he used those effects pedals is what put his name into the forefront of style. He performs tricks that many have yet to emulate. He is truly a great guitarist to look up to.

Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) - If you aspire to incorporate a nice variety of diametrically opposed styles, then Ritchie Blackmore is the man to aspire to be like. Blackmore had the ability to incorporate country and classical music into rock guitar. This is very suiting considering he started on a classical guitar and then made the switch to electric later on.

Who inspired him? His main influences were players such as Hank Marvin and Duane Eddy, amongst many others. Perhaps you haven't heard of them but Hank Marvin was the front man for the 60's group, The Shadows.

Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) - Jimmy is an extremely versatile guitarist that combines numerous techniques from various aspects of playing to form his own material. He is the master of experimentation, using everything from violin bows to acoustic playing styles on an electric guitar. He has a history of using some very cool effects pedals as well, although he doesn't need them to sound good.

In fact, one of his earlier custom effects units happened to be one of the first fuzz boxes introduced to the world. It spread like wild fire amongst the world's most popular guitarists. Unfortunately, not even the likes of Jeff Beck could truly bring out its sound quite like Jimmy could.

Django Reinhardt (Quintet of The Hot Club of France) - Anyone who knows jazz knows this name. While Django was considered a gypsy guitarist, he primarily played the role of the mentor, not the one who was taking ideas from others. Over the years few have managed to replicate his lightning fast riffs and intuitive phrasing style. To top all of that off, his strumming patterns were insane!

Another neat fact about this brilliant musician is that he started his musical life by playing other instruments such as the violin and banjo. This explains a lot about the music he produced. Notes that are close together on a violin tend to be far apart on a guitar but Django broke that barrier and carried over many of those techniques. I believe his strumming style was adapted from the banjo.

I highly recommend you look into some of his masterpieces in order to test your technical ability and to grow as a guitarist. He used only two fingers to play guitar seeing as his first two were mangled in a fire.

Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley) - Moore transformed the guitar world by introducing driving rhythms and interesting chord progressions. He kept things basic and that's what made him famous. His music was compatible with Elvis because it didn't dominate the vocals and he didn't strive to be in the spotlight.

The coolest piece of gear that set Moore apart was his Echosonic amp. Only 68 were ever made in the world and he still has his to this very day. It featured an impressive built in delay system that gave him his characteristic sound. No one can beat these amps that were made by hand. Truly a rare, once in a lifetime find. Without it, Elvis wouldn't have the same sound on his records that revolutionized music history.

It's all in the fingers.

When I first started my journey in the musical world, I heard a saying that goes something like this: FIND SAYING. What allows us to have the ability to sound decent on virtually any guitar is our technique. What allows us to have great technique? That's right, our fingers!

Our fingers can be compared to soldiers on a battlefield. They are our first line of defense and set the tempo for things to come. Training them to be the best that they can be is an essential step to creating your own style. Sloppy fingers will get you no where fast in the guitar world.

Ideally, your fingers should be strong enough to handle bar chords with ease and have enough agility to navigate the fretboard with little to no difficulty. Agility and strength are key and often overlooked by guitarists because we treat fingers as muscles that are already developed.

False! Just because you may have larger fingers, it doesn't mean that they can stand up to hours on the fretboard. Not unlike an army, you must train each one individually to achieve maximum success.
About the Author
Over 1000 Live Bands Ready To Jam With You. Imagine That. Jam With Joe Satriani, Van Halen, Guns n Roses & More with Professional Guitar Backing Tracks ! E Walker is the founder of Planet of Rock Music Studios. Hear Backing Tracks for Guitar
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