Become A Great All Around Player. Part 1

The key to being a great guitar player is to be a great all around player. You need to be well balanced in all aspects of playing the instrument. Here, I show you how.

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How many times have you met a player that plays awesome metal guitar but falls apart when you ask them to play some funk? Or how about a player that can play great lead lines but turns into a heap of crap as soon as you present him with some latin or jazz rhythms? The fact of the matter is, for most people it's very easy to fall into a rut of practicing the same thing over and over again while forgetting about the other aspects of playing guitar. Obviously, you'll want to put more time into practicing the genre of music you like, or the style of playing you prefer but you should never forget the key to becoming a great guitar player is becoming great all-around player.

Being first a drummer, (yes, I play drums too.) I've had the experience of playing with many different guitarists. I remember I played with this guy years ago for a church festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The guy could play some cool latin rhythms, but being the punk/metal guy that I am, I ask him to play some heavy palm-muted riffs during one of our jams. I was surprised to find out the guy couldn't even palm-mute properly let alone play a continuously chugging riff.

I also remember playing with this guy in Hawaii that is a very experienced acoustic guitarist. Well, I was a bit shocked to find out that since all he ever did was play acoustic songs by himself while singing, he couldn't keep time properly. He sounded great alone in free time, but as soon as you added a drummer, things began to get a little tense.

Anyway, what I trying to say is this: Make sure that you don't find yourself practicing the same thing over and over endlessly. Try new genres, learn a new scale and learn new songs in a different style than you are used to. You'll be surprised on how much this will actually help your playing and the actual style you play.

Being a surfer, I have ridden shortboards for most of my life. I decided to learn to longboard recently. Well, all I can say is that I'm shocked at how much the new style of surfing I'm learning is helping me improve in my actual style.

Ok, before I start getting redundant, let me go over a few points. Before you can start going out of your way to practice what you do not know, you clearly need need to understand what these things are. Let me give you an example.

There is an organization called RGT (Registry of Guitar Tutors) based in the UK. The registry is linked to the London College of Music Examinations. This organization has established a few points to identify guitarists' abilities by grade. More or less like school. Now I'm not going to get into full detail of what each of the grades encompass, but I'll give you an idea of the point you need to keep in mind.

If you're a beginner, make sure you start off by learning the basic chords. These are the 10 chords found on my essential chords lesson here. As soon as you learn these you can start playing a few songs. But it shouldn't stop there. The fact is that learning at least five scales is part of grade 1. I know many guitarists who have been playing for years and only know the pentatonic scale. In reality, learning the basic major and minor scales, the major and minor pentatonics, and the blues scale is not hard at all. With a little time everyday you can easily learn them. These scales have a number of different positions for each and they can be transferred to any key. But that is beside the point. You do not want to overwhelm yourself. So, only attempt to learn the basic first position of each first. That should even be enough to get you started soloing. Then, as time goes on you'll eventually move on to learn the other positions of these scales until you are able to tie them together and see how each one relates to the other.

Below I'm going to break down the guitar skills into the main points that sum up a well-rounded player. These points will never be equal since you'll will always be somewhat better at one thing than you are at another, but the goal is to try and keep them as close to each other as possible. You should keep this in mind and practice in a way that you dedicate some time to each of these points. You will notice that as your skill increases you will grow in a well balanced, all around fashion. Here are the points:

  • Rhythm
  • Lead
  • Fretboard Memory
  • Chord Knowledge
  • Scale Knowledge
  • Basic Theory
  • Accuracy

    All of these points encompass an entire array of techniques as well. For example: Legato, improvisation, sweeping, etc., etc. But, for me they are the basics as far a being an all around good player goes.

    In the next part of this lesson, I will go into more detail about what you need to learn to go from one level (or grade) to another. Each of the levels will clearly increase in difficulty, but if taken one step at a time and in order, you will notice that the skills you've gained from the previous level will make the next level just as easy as learning the first. It's just a matter of putting in the time and practicing properly.

  • 83 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Yespleasevicar
      Um i think accuracy is somthing that shud be practiced in everything you do, not as a seperate skill.
      Atreideslegend
      CheckOutSerafin wrote: I agree with Caustic, you can tell when someone has not listened to a wide veriety of music, take Kirk Hammet for example, he tries to play bluesy lead guitar but clearly never listnes to blues music.
      wtf? he doesnt try to play bluesy lead guitar he plays his own style of metal guitar, due to the fact he's in a metal band.
      Metal@melody
      A true guitarist is someone who plays with passion. If your passion doesn't include funk or punk- don't spend too much time on learning these styles. I agree that the more knowledge you have on scales and chords. ect. the better. But if you don't enjoy playing these styles; why learn them. Playing guitar is about you and your guitar and the message you send through your music. If you don't enjoy it, what's the point! NEVER STOP PLAYING!!!!!
      Martyrion
      People say that you have to know a wide variety of genres and styles, and I seriously think that's a bunch of crap. Why should I learn blues, if I play metal? I don't need blues, and it doesen't interest me. Why should I spend hours learning a style that I won't use, and that I don't even like. I can see the point where people should have some ability to do more than just one thing, but learning theory for chords and scales is not related to learning a style. You might only be able to shred like a maniac, but that doesen't mean that you can't take the time to sit down and improve your theoretical base for playing something of bigger variety. Still, focus on the genre you like, is what you should have, if you wanna be a musician, playing that kind of music. I have no problem coming up with new stuff, variations, etc. although all my influences are metal or hard rock bands. I focus on what I know, and I improve in the fields that I already know well. If you wanna improve your timing, the practice with a metronome, if you wanna have some more variety in scales and modes, then learn some new ones, instead of spending time on learning a style you might not even like.
      Chiefwiddler
      Learning other genres isnt going to help you play in time. That is a technical issue. I think branching out into other genres is a must, especially if you are feeling a bit dry creatively, but you improve timing and rhythm playing by using a metronome...not by learning flamenco if you are a metal guitarist!
      Metallica708
      CheckOutSerafin wrote: I agree with Caustic, you can tell when someone has not listened to a wide veriety of music, take Kirk Hammet for example, he tries to play bluesy lead guitar but clearly never listnes to blues music.
      Well done for attempting (and failing) to make an intelligent comment AND hop on the metallica-hating bandwagon at the same time!
      psilocyndreams2
      pretty good article. i agree. i played violin before guitar and it helped me A LOT. i improved really fast in the first 2 or 3 months. i've been playing mostly metal and punk but i've been wanting to try some blues and acoustic stuff so i can have more influences when i write stuff.
      The Iron Man
      Ya like my bass player friend has only been playing bass for 2 months and nothing else and just recently I made him buy a guitar for the main purpose of getting better at bass.
      gtr-boy
      bluespunkmetal wrote: Play what you enjoy playing, don't let some columnist shove his ideas down your throat... I, for example, agree with the column writer, different and wide styles do add up to a better all-around player... But still..... even though I TOTALLY DIG ultra hi-gain chugga chugga rhythm, I still don't like Nile or Canibal Corpse, but I do dig Meshuggah !!! I totally like Santana, but if there's a little unknown Guthrie Govan album stacked next to a multi-platinum Latin Rock album, I'd still get the shred one, you know what I'm sayin'?? For me, I mix SRV, James Hetfield, and Yngwie Malmsteen !! It's all about personal taste and preferences !!! Cheers to all UG freaks !!
      thats so true
      palefire
      Good article. For those arguing with the point, he's right. Trust me. As i've seen happen to someone before, you can shred all you like... but if you can't play a D Minor, you *will* look like a complete prat.
      Nerdo-sez-bo
      I found that after playing general rock music for a long time, I got into learning blues, jazz and even funk guitar. Each one has majorly contributed to my style today. Good article.
      ArcherTheVMan
      evo666 wrote: good article, a bit redundant, but informative
      i bet you wouldn't have used the word redundant if it wasn't in the article lol.
      gnrboi
      dailydel wrote: As long as your having fun who cares! I can understand the need for development if you want to be in a band or if you become frustrated, however some of us are limited by 2 main things 1) TIME, never enough of it and 2) TALENT, i don't have any, but i still enjoy playing. I'm hopeless at learning myself, always find it much easier if someone shows me what to do, then its a lot easier. So I guess what i'm saying is, if you want to be a serios guitarist then study as much as you can, just dont do it slavishly, I find that listening to a lot of trained guitarist's sometimes they loose melody in favour of speed or following scales, where listening to a self taught player you can hear that they play what sounds right, makes a hell of a difference! If you just want to have fun and bash out a few songs, then do that, hell lifes too short, just do what you enjoy!!!!!
      Oh man that is soo true!
      Jonn0
      Caustic wrote: Atreideslegend wrote: one thing to say; 'jack of all trades, master of none'.
      What he was saying was learning other genres helps on technique building, so you can do something different in your found genre
      detroitrulez
      Good article. The best part of it is how you were able to get thought out responses from all these folks above. That's great, cuz they've read it and it was easy enough to understand to come up with an opinion. I'm looking forward to your next article.
      bluespunkmetal
      Play what you enjoy playing, don't let some columnist shove his ideas down your throat... I, for example, agree with the column writer, different and wide styles do add up to a better all-around player... But still..... even though I TOTALLY DIG ultra hi-gain chugga chugga rhythm, I still don't like Nile or Canibal Corpse, but I do dig Meshuggah !!! I totally like Santana, but if there's a little unknown Guthrie Govan album stacked next to a multi-platinum Latin Rock album, I'd still get the shred one, you know what I'm sayin'?? For me, I mix SRV, James Hetfield, and Yngwie Malmsteen !! It's all about personal taste and preferences !!! Cheers to all UG freaks !!
      purpledrank
      I am completely for the use of multiple styles in your own playing. the sad thing is people dont necessarily want that in a show
      dailydel
      As long as your having fun who cares! I can understand the need for development if you want to be in a band or if you become frustrated, however some of us are limited by 2 main things 1) TIME, never enough of it and 2) TALENT, i don't have any, but i still enjoy playing. I'm hopeless at learning myself, always find it much easier if someone shows me what to do, then its a lot easier. So I guess what i'm saying is, if you want to be a serios guitarist then study as much as you can, just dont do it slavishly, I find that listening to a lot of trained guitarist's sometimes they loose melody in favour of speed or following scales, where listening to a self taught player you can hear that they play what sounds right, makes a hell of a difference! If you just want to have fun and bash out a few songs, then do that, hell lifes too short, just do what you enjoy!!!!!
      s8n_buddy
      GrimReaperMort wrote: All I wanted to say is that this is my second month in playing the guitar and i'm already getting the feel in the different types of styles. Although, my favorite is metal and rock. Umm, I already know my chords, how to tune, drop d, drop c, the pentitonic scale and some songs. Is it time for me to get an electric? Or should I just keep on playing the acustic to get better?
      electric and acustic are way different, they shouldnt be treated as steps, they require small but very important things to play, like posture and all that.
      dannyboy1992
      Brainwash wrote: See, while I think that its a good idea to have a variety of things you can play, trying to do everything in such a diverse instrument is pointless. I do believe that there are basics every guitarist should know, such as basic rhythm, basic chords, and accuracy and timing, but beyond that all depends on the type of guitarist it is. Lets say hypothetically I was in a metal band, why would I need to know how to play funk or latin rhythms for that? If you arent going to use it, then why learn it? Sure, you know more, but its just going to waste. Its just like someone that is trying to become a laywer isnt going to take a class on botany if they arent interested in it. You can try implimenting something into your main interest, but if you want to do that, you would already be looking into it because you like both types of music. If someone doesnt like funk music, they arent going to play it. Period. Telling someone they arent good because they dont happen to be interested in certain types of music is the most ridiculous thing ive ever heard.
      hes not saying learn it to play in a band hes saying learn it to become a better guitar player, which is entirely true and shred guitarists are NOT the best guitar players in the world
      Les__Paul__630*
      pretty sweet lesson, made good sense. Next installment would be great if he taught us something though
      xXSevenXx
      This article is a very good and true.It gets me mad when my friend says hes better than me...but i always say everyone is good in there own style(as this article said)....see all he plays is avenged sevenfold and other punk/metal/junk like that...i play more acoustic type of songs.I make up my own stuff....and he says i'm an amature....come on!i've never once seen him play something other than another band's song which he aposaly took credit for!
      DarkSithLord
      Yeah, I think this was a great article. I can't wait until you actually teach us things in the next lesson.
      Jawshuwa
      Damn, I've been playing (on and off, to be honest) guitar for about four to five months now, and I really haven't bothered learning scales. Lol. I think I'll get on that sometime soon.
      GrimReaperMort
      All I wanted to say is that this is my second month in playing the guitar and i'm already getting the feel in the different types of styles. Although, my favorite is metal and rock. Umm, I already know my chords, how to tune, drop d, drop c, the pentitonic scale and some songs. Is it time for me to get an electric? Or should I just keep on playing the acustic to get better?
      the_random_hero
      This article is good, but a bit obvious. There are so many artists out there who are really good at what they do (Angus Young, Kirk Hammet, etc), but they tend to limit themselves by what they know. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Metallica and AC/DC, but sometimes you just need to hear a bit of variety in your music. Learning in a lot of different styles WILL open your music vocabulary. For example, learning some jazz will allow you to improvise more effectively. This doesn't just apply with guitar, but every instrument out there (Joey Jordison got most of his skills from being in a jazz school)
      _zac_
      this article definitely applied tom ... when i started guitar i wanted to play metal metal metal, since, but found that blues, jazz and classical, despite being genres i'd never really listened to were fun to play and helped my prefered genre. If you keep on playing the same atreyu/avenged sevenfold/etc riff over and over it will soon become boring. Oh yeah good article.
      E V H 5150
      Muppet, the word is INACCURATE. As for playing guitar to learn bass...bass is played the same as guitar, but it is easier than guitar, but not to say that it's easy to actually be good at bass guitar, which seems rare these days. Root notes are too frikin' simple! So I say this: If you feel like playing bass guitar in a band, be original in your bass lines. Mess around with some intervals, but don't get too wild, it still has to match the rythym and lead. I don't know what this has to do with the article, though...
      Muppet
      Yespleasevicar wrote: Um i think accuracy is somthing that shud be practiced in everything you do, not as a seperate skill.
      I agree. An unaccurate player can ruin a band.
      AskTiny
      i use all those chords when i solo but i really never had a style just went by what sounded good
      Alfi_d
      The Iron Man : Ya like my bass player friend has only been playing bass for 2 months and nothing else and just recently I made him buy a guitar for the main purpose of getting better at bass.
      You don't get better at playing bass by playing guitar. thats silly... i've seen many guitarist turn into bass players, and they are definatley the worst and its easy to pick out who they are. bass is about being solid
      Sir_Awesomeness
      I agree that knowing other styles makes you an all around better player. Once I had these two guitarists over, both insane metal players, but one guy played a bunch of other stuff and showed him up. Also, most of the best rock bands, had influences of other styles in their songs. People may say if you only like metal play that, but if you are that narrow minded you will never get anywhere.
      Obelisk
      To everyone who thinks that learning other styles aside from the one their band plays is "stupid": You will never become a profound guitarist if you do not break out of your own shell. Like Brainwash said, you don't need to learn jazz or funk to be a competent guitarist. But don't think that you are up to your full potential. As long as you stay within the restraints of one genre, you are limiting yourself. But like, Brainwash and Atreiwhatever said, you don't have to do everything. I think the longer you play the more you'll realize what you want out of your playing. I don't think it's conducive to a person's develpment as a guitarist to completely reject outside ideas but, do what makes you happy. I actually sort of agree that it is important to cultivate your own style and your own methodology to guitar to some extent, but I can't say that I think you should barricade yourself from other genres because your band is a straight up metal band. I think this article brings up some really important ideas, and I think that this could help a lot of guitarits if they are open to this. And to Chris: the scale patterns, specifically in the pentatonic keys, are referred to as "boxes"; these boxes can be moved anywhere on the fretboard (except from the open position) and they retain the same shape/fret spacing, if you will. The are only seven notes in every scale...you can't have anymore or less...you can play the same notes in an octave higher or lower but it's the same note from the same scale. As far as specific keys, generally a lot of guitarits find it easiest to play in the key of E, because standard tuning is EADBGE, so you have the open E chords and the octave at the twelfth fret to solo off of and fall back on. Regardless of this, no key is more important than any other. I don't play in the key of D more than I do in F...or if I do it's because I happen to know more songs in D...so don't worry about this kind of thing. Once you know the scale pattern it doesn't matter.
      CheckOutSerafin
      I agree with Caustic, you can tell when someone has not listened to a wide veriety of music, take Kirk Hammet for example, he tries to play bluesy lead guitar but clearly never listnes to blues music.
      gwitersnamps
      Nitpicky question here. When you jammed with the latin rhythm guitar player, did you at least play some of his latin stuff along with your punk? Learning new styles is best used to keep up with and understand other musicians.
      super666fender
      for me,metal is my main genre. i have xpanded also into some reggea type of music, blues-(which influences my leads ALOT and some of my rhythyms aswell) and flamenco/latin which are quickly becoming fused with my metal playing mroe and more. It astounds me how much more crazy and diverse i can make metal leads with flamenco blended in. i can't stress it enough. learnign other genres is the key to becoming a guitar god.
      Overaid
      Yeah great and nice article, I too see alot of guitarist who can play in tempo. I was with one of my friend who took lessons, he was playing very well, then we tried to play togeter, he was unable to follow my rythm and so was I. Then I throw a drum beat so we could follow it, and he was unable to do it. It's really important to practice alot and extend your knowledge, from rythm to scales and chords, etc And I too think that it's always usefull to extend your playability if you cant play blues, soft rock, or chords because you shredd all the time, you may have a problem. It was funny how people was looking at me in that music shop where you only find megadeth and avenged sevenfold fans when I played Johny B. Goode. Diversity in guitar helps you alot, it allow you to play with different people from around the world, even though you never heard of it, you'll be able to catch up someway if you're used to play a whole range of genre. And its false to believe that you can't master what you really like if you pratice other genre. It always impress me when I play a metal riff, how easy it seems to play some blues, and it impress me alot more when I play that metal riff again and that I can play it better than the last time I was repeting it after and after.
      pottsy
      by combining different styles a new style is born!! that is why there are more different styles now than ever before, because all the greatest artists have been willing to combine different style. eg the beatles - sgt. peppers?! whether you think that it is any good or not, you have to agree that they created a style of their own