This article is for intermediate to advanced players who want to develop their own sound'. In other words, if you want to have a unique sound and style that will make you stand out, this lesson is for you. Before you read this article, make sure you read Part One Here. In this part we will look at how other players influence you and how you can use that to shape your playing.
What Do You Like About Your Influences?
Most people probably have an iPod or similar with thousands and thousands of songs. That means you have plenty of influences to shape your playing. Take a piece of paper or make a playlist on your iPod and choose your top 20-30 guitar songs. Choose songs that really make you feel inspired when you hear the guitar parts. Don't choose songs just because they're popular or because other people think it's good playing. This must be 100% your choice. Listen to those 20-30 songs over the next few days and narrow the list down to under 20 that you would like to really influence your playing. The further you can narrow the list down the better; it'll give you something to focus on. It's pretty hard to focus on 50 different styles and sounds so narrow the list down to sounds you feel you must have in your playing. You should be asking yourself would I like my playing to sound like that?.
What Do You Like About These Songs?
From your list of less than 20 songs, listen to each one and try to narrow down which guitar parts speak to you the most. If you can, try to narrow a song down to one single technique or lick the guitarist plays. You might like the entire song but try to focus on small sections that you love the sound of. After you narrow the song down to sections or parts, really look at those parts and try to find out why you like them. Try to find out things like:
1.What scale is being played?
2.What chords are used?
3.Are there any techniques that cause the part to sound special to me?
4.Are any effects being used or special hardware?
The more questions you can answer about the parts the better. Write down what you like about them and also what you don't like. You probably won't like everything about another player's playing so write down what you don't like about it. Repeat this process for all the songs in your list. Don't be fooled this is a long and challenging process. If you just write down has a cool legato lick or super fast picking you're not going to get anything out of it. The more detail the better. Once you do this go through the list and try to see any techniques, scales or anything else that is common between some of the parts.
For example: say you're a Joe Satriani fan and narrowed a large list down to a couple licks and ideas. You may notice that most of the licks you like use the Lydian mode and the licks you don't like use the Pentatonic Scale. Now you have something you can focus on and try to use in your playing. Now you know to try to use the Lydian mode more in your playing and avoid using Pentatonic Scales. This may make you sound a little bit more like Satriani, but it won't be the same. By deciding not to use Pentatonic Scales in your improvising, you will straight away sound different.
That is a pretty basic example and if the notes you write down are detailed you will have a lot more things to focus on. Don't be afraid that by following this method you will end up as a copy-cat guitarist. It won't happen. In fact, by following this method you are more likely to create a unique sound that will only sound like you. There will always be something you don't like about another guitarist's sound so by eliminating that from your playing you will sound different.
Develop And Eliminate
After all this you should have a very detailed list of things you want in your playing as well as things you don't want in your playing. From here the task is simple: work to develop your list of wants' and eliminate your list of don't wants' from your playing. For example if you really like how a player in your list uses sweep picking, listen to the player sweep as much as you can and focus on getting the sound you want out of your sweep picking. On the other hand say the number one technique you don't want in your playing is pinch harmonics, work as much as you can to stop playing them and if you're playing a cover that uses them, try playing something else instead that you will enjoy playing.
Why Do All This?
Have you ever been in a guitar shop and heard a player jam away on a guitar and think to yourself, that sounds pretty bland/boring? Have a think why that player might sound bland. Do you think that the player spent the time and effort to figure out what sounds and techniques they want in their playing? Do you think the player records and listens to their own playing in the attempt to improve? I doubt they would even consider doing anything like that. Make sure you don't fall into the same trap. The more you think about how you sound the more control you will have over your sound. The more you control you have over your sound the more you will enjoy playing. What really separates a great player from an average one? It's the effort they put in.
The End Result?
Well to be honest, there isn't an end result because no matter how good you are now you can always improve. Some players are afraid of sounding too much like somebody else and other players want to sound like somebody else. It's your choice what path you take. It takes an honest person to listen to their own playing and point out the positives and negatives. Be honest with your playing and you will improve at a much higher rate than the type of person who criticizes everybody else but himself.
Aaron writes lessons over at Tempo Music Cards.com which provides beginners with a range of resources including flash cards to help you learn the basics on guitar.