Ideas On How To Be A Great Guitarist

Here is an attempt to explain what goes into making a great guitarist and various tips and methods which can help to achieve this goal.

Ultimate Guitar

"What makes a great guitarist?" This is an interesting question and one which 99% of aspiring guitarists want the answer to. Trouble is, there are so many different variables which can make someone great, good, cool whatever. What I aim to do here is give you some ideas on what you will need to do to start on that long and bloody difficult path to greatness.

01. Firstly we will look at style. Do you want to be a rhythm or lead guitarist, an acoustic or electric, fingerpicker or use your teeth? Style is very important, Look at any so-called guitar god and they will have something that sets them apart from everyone else. Hendrix had the wah-wah, Van halen had the tapping, Vai has the million notes a second and Morello has the weird effects.

What you have to decide is how you intend to be different. Do you have any weird riffs that indicate a unique style? or maybe you do some kind of metal/country/dance hybrid. But whatever makes you unique, play on that and develop that particular style until people start to comment on it and ask 'what the hell are you doing'? The whole idea of style is to make people get up and take notice of you. This wont happen if you copy everyone else.

02. Image. Not only do you have to be original but it certainly helps if you look the part too. Take note of Dave Navarro. Here is someone who takes more care of himself then his guitar playing and for him it has definately paid off. He hasn't written many memorable riffs or solos but everyone knows who he is because of how he looks. Just like a sportsman or pop star, Navarro uses his image as part of what makes him a guitarist, and he markets this by showing up at film premieres and at modelling shows. By making himself like a product he draws attention to his playing and to his band Janes Addiction. Other guitarists to learn from include Slash with his top hat, Satriani with his shades and Hammett and Hetfield with their insistance of wearing black.

03. Practice. Now ive saved the most important aspect till last so it stays in your memory. Practice is what puts you up on stage in the first place. You cannot be a guitar legend if you cant play a note. What works for me and countless other players is to set aside so many hours a day for some strict practice. Here is an example of the type of schedule that i would use.

1st hour - Warm up: 15 mins - 3 note per string ascending pattern 15 mins - 3 note perstring descending pattern 15 mins - fingering 2,4,1,3 accross whole fretboard 15 mins - hammer ons and pull offs

2nd hour - Rhythm playing: 20 mins - playing to backing tracks 20 mins - learn 5 ways to play G7 20 mins - downpicking and palm mutes

3rd hour - Everything: 20 mins - fingerpicking 20 mins - learn a riff 20 mins - tapping

Now this is only an example and everyone has different time windows tp practice in, but what im showing you here is that to be a truly great guitarist you have to be comfortable across many musical genres and styles. it doesn't matter if you have 1 hour free a day to practice or 10. what is important is that you write down what you intened to practice and stick to it. Also, don't stick to 1 style eg. punk or metal. play some funk or some blues if you get bored as playing riffs from a different genre really help relieve boredom and can get you out of that rut.

As I said before, it doesnt matter how many hows a day you practice but try to make it consistant. Playing 1 hour a day is better than playing 10 hours 1 day a week and then putting the guitar down for 7 days. Your brain has nerves which strengthen with repetition so by doing something regularly your brain learns to keep those pathways inside your brain active, and it makes it a lot easier to pick up the guitar the next day having remembered that lick you have practised the previous day.

There is something Joe Satriani said which is spot on, and its that when learning some death metal speed riff or something, to play it as slow as possible so you play it perfectly. By not playing something 100% correct everytime it takes your brain up to 7 times longer to master the skill. So to make sure you play it right, slow it right down so you can play it correctly. If satch says so, it must be true.

The last tip I have is to get out there and jam with some friends. You learn so much by playing with another musician thats its invaluable. After all, how many guitar legends do you see touring as a 1 man band?

Get your guitar, get that mirror, find that cool pair of comedy leather trousers and find yourself a friend or 8 (Slipknot wanabees), and start on that journey to legendary status. Good luck.

90 comments sorted by best / new / date

    nice article dude but i found the timetable a lil unconvincing. damn dude do u really go through all of that in 3hrs?
    joe satriani is the best guitarist ever!!! no one like him. get the dvd and it will make u better
    Good article, but I disagree with a couple things. 1. The image thing. Image has NOTHING to do with your guitar skills. Having a good image will help your work get noticed, but in the end it has nothing to with your guitar playing. My advice would be to play wearing whatever you're comfortable in. 2. Setting a timetable. You're making guitar sound like a chore. You can't follow a strict lesson plan. the guitar is something that comes from the heart, not the brain. other than that, its a good article. I agree with what Voodoo Child15 said about the timetable but here are some good wwarm-up excercises i use to get started: 1. Major Scales Two Octaves A,B,C,D,E,F,G 2.Pantaton ic Scales (major and minor) Am, etc... 3.Hammer On's, Pull Off's 4.Then a bit of bending etc...
    griff1987- is there something wrong with being stuck in the 80's? haha what im saying is tapping will never get old as long as people stay creative with it. if theyre just copying other peoples stuff their not guitar players, theyr guitar athletes. anybody can learn someone elses songs, few can write their own and make them good.
    -=AFI Freak=-
    Good article. There was some good information here that I found quite helpful. I feel cooler now just from readin it. lol
    this is a good article but I really don't like people having time and schedule for their practice. Like me, I just play some riffs depending on my mood....and that really helps me play.....
    hoyl crap you warm up on guitar ... I allways got straight into playing solos and like improvising and stuff ... and along the way I look cooler ... right
    I gave it four stars, if you can do three or more hours a day do it! dave navarro takes it a tad too far in the stuck on himself department for me to want to emulate him.
    i dont see playing guitar as practising, i just play. didnt help me shit tough. the image and all i already knew, and timetable? well forget it
    i just play too wtf just push yourself to play stuff u think u cant ull probably be surprised at what u can do...
    )Eric(Draven: For those of you who use caps lock kuz your pissed off, all you have to do is move your left pinky finger 7/16th of an inch to stop looking like an idiot.
    this guy got that from maddox mission, HE DESERVES NO CREDIT!: bob's two cents
    they have one chic, and i meant to put article. My computer barely even has keys! I am POOR. But Jesus still loves me, isnt that great.!
    Kool articae, Five iron Frenzy is and 8 man band to, actually hey have one chi. Best band ever you know, besides Rage and maybe Zepplin and Coldplay.
    Okay to have a unique style of playing is always good and if you're self taught you usually pick that up anyways! And obviously practice means a hell of alot! But sometimes I prefer to be down the pub or shagging than playing my guitar so you've gotta be in the mood to practice or you'll lose enthusiasm! But image really doesn't mean shit unless you wana be a big egotistical rockstar!
    dude.....15 minutes on hammer-ons and pull-offs? EVERY DAY!!!! are you that bad at hammer-ons and pull-offs?
    not a bad article. i do agree with the image thing, though. im sure a lot of you guys care about what you're wearing for a gig (i know i do). it can be fun to have a certain style to your band, even if its just a joke (think of zz top and the beards)... although that really has nothing at all to do with becoming a better guitarist...
    i didn't read all the responses, but I jes wanna say image really doesn't have anything to do with guitar skills, and he never said that. Image just helps to make a guitarist a little more unique and stand out a little. Another thing, he also never said "image makes a great guitarist" like you all have been saying he posted. he said "it just helps if you look the part also" or somthin close to that. anywayz, nice article man. yeah, i practice 8 hours a day, but then, i have no woman either =P
    I thought it would have been longer. So you only need to have style, image and 3 hours a day to practice, and then you'll be? And no mention of skill?? That said, it wasn't a bad article. I don't have 3 hours a day to practice, and I wouldn't really want to do everything like tha. Then again , I've only just started less than a year ago, and so I'm not that advanced. I'll stick with Drop D and powerchords!!
    For those of you who use caps lock kuz your pissed off, all you have to do is move your left pinky finger 7/16th of an inch to stop looking like an idiot. Also, no one said image has anything to do with skill, but it makes the icon more recognizable, if Navarro didn't have the Navarro image, little 13 year old girls that listen to hip-hizzop wouldn't be able to tell you who he was because if he wasnt pretty he wouldn't be on MTV which would mean less promotion for the band and hense less fans, and hense, less money. And to finish this off, setting a time-table for someone to play guitar sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. If you're a messy player or just don't know where to start and stop, this is good. Timetables work for some, and don't work for some, it all has to do with the guitarist.
    i disagree, everyonne finds there own way to become good there really is no certain steps except for practice.
    Image is only secundary, the important thing here is the skills and THE MUSIC, you don't need to play 10 notes at second to be a great musician, the fact that you and other people enjoy the things that you play make you a good musician, the skills, scales etc... are only sources. I give you only 2 stars because you tought only in the image, skills and practice and you didn't think in the music. Radiohead doesn't have image (they aren't like rock guys) doesn't have advanced skills but they make very good music.
    one two many
    D-Fens: Image has NOTHING to do with your guitar skills Damn Rite! That is one very insightful must have thought about that for a long time
    ok, i bet noone will ever read this, but, anyways, guys, dont set times!! just get up and thhe morning and pick your guitar up and *** around, dont play anything in particcular unless u play somethin that sounds good and want to add to it. if u have to set strict times or u wont play, your not ment for guitar, u have to naturally love to play, or it will feel like a chore and u will hate it.
    Nice article, well done, quite inspiring, but I think the routine practice thing is a bit too heavy.
    You listed a lot of opinions as facts dude. I do not need that much time to warm up. It takes me one simple all-over-the-neck riff to warm up, not a friggin hour.
    Its true that you must practise for a few hours a day, but dont be so rutined or you will end up draining the soul out of your huitar playing and become too techincal. Try to practise certain scales, but always improvise, and practise your improvisations
    Well I don't know what else you do , but I know that I don't have time for a routine like that everyday.
    Uh, I dont know if anyone is gonna see this or if this has been said, but warming up for 1 whole hour? Thats a little extreme; that time could be spent in a better way.
    Let me start off by saying this, as much as I hate this guys article because he says that image is important, and that Jimi Hendrix is set apart with the wah-wah despite the fact others were better and Van Halen was the only one who taps, I agree with him about the timetable. But before I get to that, let me say that Steve Vai and Randy Rhoads both use more creative tapping lines than EVH, and Vai does not play that fast as much as say Yngwie Malmsteen. Next, as faar as style goes, WHO CARES? Slash dressed the way he did because it was the 80s. Steve Vai dresses the way he does because he can. OH MY GOD, I'M PLAYING WITH A FISHING POLE DOWN MY PANTS SO IM AS GOOD AS ERIC JOHNSON. No, it doesnt work that way. You need to have organized practicing. This is what I do agree with, the time table. Not necessarily the one here, but John Petrucci suggests doing this too, and explained his in his video. Mine isnt the most organized but IDEALLy would look something like: -Half hour of warm ups - hand stretching, picking arps -Half hour of legato (hammer ons pull offs) -An Hour of picking with a metronome -An Hour of transcribing from a record -X playing songs -Hour improvising Then whatever else I do would just be maybe more transcribing, playing songs, writing them, etc. Someone said something like, "why practice hammer ons and pulls offs 15 minutes everyday? You must suck at them or something" But the answer is, no to get better at them, and judging by your comment Im willing to bet me having a consistent practicing time for them and you questioning practicing them Im better than you at them. And if any of you question time tables, and saying that practicing 3 hours a day is alot, and youre hoping to be successful, I wish you luck, but Im sorry that you arent going to make it. John Petrucci practiced 6 hours a day in an organized manner and he is nasty. If any of you dont know who he is, Im sorry but you are missing out. My advice to anyone thats read this far, DONT USE TABS, figure stuff out by ear and youll get much better.
    ey, i think steve vai deserves some mention because he wears the craziest cool clothes ever, hes such a style dude. and he plays jems
    yeah griff so what if i am stck in the 80's playin Van Halen...he rocked...good article i respect that u took he time to wrie it unlike sum ppl
    Tom Martin
    Hmm, I agree, I never do a fixed practice regime, that would just take all the fun out of playing the guitar, personally I usually spend a lot of my time improvising. In my improvisations I like to include just about every technique I know, so I guess thats good practice. If I find something I can't play, I will play that damn thing untill I can play it perfectly. Even if it takes me hours. I usually play the guitar for 4-6 hours a day.
    good article. i knew morello id good enough to be mentioned with hendrix, van hallen and vai. they all had their own unique style that makes them all kick ass
    Oh and forgot::: I just put on my cd player and jam to the cds, its great practice. I have a wide variety of music and it helps alot to practice, so I jam around for a few hours and then go out.
    diegob You don't realize how revolutionary Jimi Hendrix is, Even respectable musicians would say that. Sure, its rock 'n roll, but damn dude, its just classical, it doesn't make it any harder to play, and you dont have any more credibility unless you're a stuck-up jerk. I play classical but I can play hendrix, so whats the difference? purple haze kicks ass. And dude trust me, its alot easier to get somewhere if you have an image. What he is saying is you have to have a vibe about you: Something has to be there. I dont wanna go see some jerk off play guitar for 3 hours while hes just standing there doing nothing interesting: If I wanted to see/hear that I would play his songs in front of a mirror er something like that.
    good article, but as like, hundreds of people said already, looks don't really matter about ur guitar skills.
    good article but i cant practice with a time table.i played piano for a few years with a time table every day and i hated it! and as for image before skill i don't no where to start saying whats wrong with that! actually i didnt like this artical at all
    i don' 'av time fo' 'jzis sree 'our prahtice. in ausria ze men must vork to pway guita'.
    I sort of do like to set my practice, to make sure i can get the best out of the time I do have. I wouldn't go by this, But its gives some good ideas. Overall... ****
    Good article, but I disagree with a couple things. 1. The image thing. Image has NOTHING to do with your guitar skills. Having a good image will help your work get noticed, but in the end it has nothing to with your guitar playing. My advice would be to play wearing whatever you're comfortable in. 2. Setting a timetable. You're making guitar sound like a chore. You can't follow a strict lesson plan. the guitar is something that comes from the heart, not the brain. other than that, its a good article.