Developing Style

Developing Your Guitar Playing Style

It is exciting to learn how to play guitar. Knowing that all of your hard work pays off when you can confidently tear through your favorite guitar player’s riffs as if they were your own. The question is: how do you go about developing style and creating your own sound?

There are two main ideas to think about when developing your own sound. First, to some extent, you ARE going to sound like other players. If you were to take all of your main influences, the players you like and have been learning from, add your own ability and technique, the end result would be a combination of all of that and your own style.

To take this and develop your own sound from it, you have got to be open to new things. You are going to start out emulating your favorite axemen and you will start to figure out some of their songs and licks. Without realizing it, you automatically will be putting your own twist on them which will lead to the beginning of developing your own style and sound.

As you begin to learn some riffs, you may notice that the original guitarist may have used all down picking strokes. You may decide to alternate picking and this will most likely create a slightly different sound. Developing your own sound comes from the preferences that you choose including picking strokes and also how you hold the pick as well as how aggressive you pick the strings.

If you take an established guitarist and have him play on a totally different guitar and amp setup, it is still going to sound like him with his signature sound and playing style. I once saw Paul Gilbert do a small training session at GIT. Paul used a spare guitar that was in the session room and played through a Peavey Backstage 30. Well, he sounded awesome and everyone in the session was blown away. It was at that point that I realized that it was all about your ability, technique and your own style that made the difference. This being said, the same can eventually be true for you if you are dedicated to improving and practicing. Once you establish your sound, you will sound like you regardless of the equipment that you are using.

To begin developing style, listen to players in other genres and think about what might work for you. A country guitarist can get ideas from a rock guitarist, or jazz, or a bluesman. As you begin to add some licks to your arsenal based on what you like, you will start to hear your own sound come through and it will be a combination of all of your influences and the choices that you made over time.

Let’s take the rock guitarist example. It is usually better to isolate and focus on one guitar player to study. One of my favorite guitar players is George Lynch. So, let us examine some of his work with Dokken and Lynch Mob. Please understand that Lynch is a premier guitar player and trying to learn some of his advanced guitar solos will leave most people frustrated and disappointed, so we will look at snippets of his songs, consisting mainly of rhythm tracks.

A common rhythm chord change is the tritone which he uses on the main rhythm track of “When Heaven Comes Down”. This is a great song to learn and practice as the rhythm crunches, it sounds like Lynch, and it is pretty easy to pull off. You can play along with the song, but just be aware that Lynch retunes his guitar, so your guitar which is tuned normally will not match up to his chord positions. But, don’t let this be a problem as you are simply studying the chord changes and layout., so just get the chord changes down begin playing them as they make sense on your guitar with the root being the open “E”. Learn the basic beginning rhythm track and practice it until you can play it easily. Then begin to add other sections of the song and build them up as well. This can be inspiring to any guitar player, beginner or advanced.

If you want to take the George Lynch study a bit further, you should learn the guitar scale called the Phrygian Scale. This scale starts at the fifth position of the harmonic minor scale, which is a cool sounding scale all by itself. Lynch uses this scale frequently as you can see that it matches up well with many of his tritone based chord patterns. This scale is also used by many other influential rock guitarists, such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

The key to all of this is to take your time to study and practice chords and scales used by guitarists that you like. This will help to keep you motivated and also help you to develop your style based on the music that you enjoy.