The most fulfilling goal can reach as a musician is having the ability to fluently convey the emotions you feel through your guitar playing and to control what your listeners feel when they experience your music. The power to predict and influence the emotions of your audience is the hallmark of true musical greatness.
Many guitar players dream about attaining such musical freedom, yet unfortunately, for most this skill remains hopelessly out of reach. You may ask: why is it that so few musicians have this ability if it is deeply desired by many? There are actually many reasons why guitar players struggle to express themselves freely in music. Here are 2 of them:
1. It is very rare that guitarists ‘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:
expressive guitar playing = 0 searches
emotion in guitar playing = 0 searches
express emotion with guitar playing = 0 searches
playing guitar with emotion = less than 10 searches
express yourself with guitar playing = 0 searches
I figured I’d try something different so I typed in “playing guitar upside down” = 390 searches
As you can see, more guitar related searches are made for “playing guitar upside down” than “expressive guitar playing,” “emotion in guitar playing,” and other related subjects. Not very motivating…
2. 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 grasp an understanding for expressing oneself with guitar at a high level.
In order to show you what I mean, let’s try a quick mental exercise. Right now, I want you to find the note “A” on your guitar (or at least imagine where it is located). Most likely, this is something you can do relatively quickly. Now, I want you to find a note on the fretboard that conveys the feeling of “great sadness.” Did you find the note? My guess is that you did not, and more specifically, that you are wondering what I even mean by this. Don’t worry, I’ll explain this in a little more detail.
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.
Guitarists who have the highest expressive control in their guitar playing will nearly always be able to find the perfect note to express any thoughts or ideas. These people are experts at making us experience the feelings they want us to experience any time they pick up the guitar. To become highly expressive is one of the greatest accomplishments one can achieve in music.
How can you become highly expressive with guitar?
You don’t need to spend thousands of hours studying advanced jazz harmony or get a doctorate in music theory in order to start expressing strong emotion in your music. Rather, you can start right now by incorporating a couple of key ideas into your guitar playing:
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.Stop seeing the fretboard as a series of notes, fret numbers, and scale patterns. Start seeing emotions that you can express on guitar.
To see and hear how this works, begin by watching the video below.
Immediately upon viewing the video you will start to understand how to approach your guitar playing if you want to play guitar with real emotion and feeling.
The idea of “making others experience the feelings you want them to any time you pick up the guitar” might appear to be a distant goal to you right now. However, by taking the time to start focusing on playing with emotion right now, you can start to make faster progress and turn the guitar into your vehicle for artistic expression.
Watch this guitar music theory video to improve your self-expression skills on guitar.