How To Massively Expand Your Musical Creativity On Guitar

Author: Ed Cupler

Guitarist / music instructor Tom Hess Do you ever have a hard time expressing yourself clearly when you play guitar? If you struggle with this, you can greatly benefit from learning how to enhance your musical creativity. In order to become creative in your music, you need to increase your understanding of how musical expression works. Once you learn more about expressing musical emotion, you will gain a new freedom in your guitar playing that you never had before.

The fact is, most people do not know how to be truly creative in their guitar playing. The biggest problem is that they have a core misunderstanding about how musical creativity really works. If you struggle with this, then you probably know that this can become an increasingly frustrating experience over time.

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Many guitar players try to enhance their musical creativity skills by searching the music of their favorite bands for cool riffs and guitar ideas and playing them over and over. This is certainly an enjoyable activity to do when playing guitar, but in reality it does not do very much to help you to learn musical expression. If you spend a great deal of time on this, you will be missing out on the two most critical parts of being able to create emotion in music:

  1. You have to understand the manner in which great guitar players and musicians ‘think’. More specifically, this means determining WHY they choose the specific notes and musical ideas that they do. This is something that you cannot learn if you simply copy the “notes” of your favorite songs and guitar solos. Rather than just playing the same notes as other musicians, you must spend time thinking about the musical emotions you want to express, and what specific musical choices you need to make to achieve that goal. Once you gain this level of musical creativity, you will develop your own unique sound as it relates to the ideas and emotions that come from your mind.
  2. You must learn why certain musical elements create very predictable emotions for people, and then use this knowledge when playing music for others. The best musical artists will generally make decisions in their music based on the goal of influencing the emotions of the listeners in a specific way (whether the artist, or their audience consciously realize it themselves or not). Without this ability to intentionally express your unique emotions in music, you will be limited to merely playing the musical ideas of others.

If you want to truly master musical creativity, you will need to learn how to use music theory. Unfortunately, most guitar players have one of two misconceptions about what music theory IS. Some people stay away from theory because they believe it contains unbreakable “rules” that will limit their freedom of musical expression. Other guitar players think that the purpose of music theory is only to learn abstract ideas about all the nuts and bolts that make up music.
So what is the real purpose of music theory? Music theory is a tool to accurately describe the effects of musical ideas on the emotions of whoever listens to a piece of music.

Change Your Understanding Of Music Theory

In order to really understand music theory, you need to first get rid of any of the current misconceptions you have about it (as described above). Once you do this, you can truly unlock your greatest potential with musical expression and creativity. The main thing to understand about music theory is that it is very useful for explaining how music makes us feel various emotions.

Here is an example to illustrate how you can use this idea. As a guitar teacher, I spend a lot of time showing my students how to increase their skills with musical creativity. One of the exercises I use is to have my guitar students write down specific emotions they want to express in their guitar music. Then, I have them write down the specific ways to accomplish these musical expressions using a variety of music theory ideas.

Learn how to use these ideas by watching this video:

When you learn how to use music theory, it will help you to achieve the following:

  1. Music theory will help you understand exactly why you feel the way you do when you listen to any given piece of music. The best part is that you will then be able to use this knowledge in your own musical expression to make much higher quality music.
  2. You will be able to create music in a way that much more accurately expresses your ideas and emotions. It is common for most musicians (who are trying to write a song) to simply improvise on their instrument until something sounds “good enough.” This songwriting method is very limited and does not bring a lot of results consistently. However, if you have the knowledge of how to express specific musical emotions in music, it will be much easier to write great songs with less effort.
  3. Music theory gives you all the equipment you need to put together new musical ideas much more quickly, without having to rely on remembering the way something sounds. Having the ability to associate specific feelings and emotions with the musical tools needed to express them allows you to compose and organize entire sections of your music on paper (or by ear) before even playing any notes.
  4. When you understand how to connect emotions in music with the musical ideas that create those feelings, you will be able to make music that puts the listener into a specific emotional state (that you get to choose!)

So What Is The Next Step?

If you would like to increase your musical creativity and master musical expression, start by taking action on the following:

  1. Learn about music theory in the video above.
  2. Remember that although music theory is extremely important for maximizing your musical creativity, you need to also develop a variety of musical skills to achieve the most freedom in your musical expression.
  3. Understand that music theory skill is not developed by merely taking a certain number of music theory lessons, but rather by your ability to use your current knowledge to accurately bring out your emotions through your music. Use the exercise mentioned earlier in this article to see how well you can use theoretical music concepts to make music that is consistent with the ideas you want to express. If you struggle with this, this either means that your music theory skills are low or (most commonly) you do not understand how to use what you know in music theory in an actual musical context. If you play guitar while integrating together music theory and musical expression, you will notice a HUGE surge in musical creativity!

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you know a lot about scales, chords, and other theoretical concepts. The most essential thing when it comes to music theory, is understanding how to consistently integrate your music knowledge with the thoughts and ideas in your mind. Once you can do this, your musical creativity will be overflowing!

About The Author:
Tom Hess is an electric guitar teacher online, recording artist and the guitar player of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website tomhess.net to receive many free guitar playing resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.

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