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Exploring Guitar Elements

Exploring Guitar Elements

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Published by Michael Fairbrother
A brief exploration into the different ways to get more creative with your guitar.
A brief exploration into the different ways to get more creative with your guitar.

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Published by: Michael Fairbrother on Mar 23, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 By Michael Fairbrother 
Every guitarist has their own favorite style of music that they enjoy playingon guitar more than others. However, it is essential to keep an open mindwhen it comes to other forms of music. Bringing in other elements fromdifferent styles can open up a whole new dimension to your playing.At first it may be a bit daunting to bring in completely unfamiliar techniquesor sounds into your playing, so go slow. It is probably best to get some CD'sor MP3's of one style of music that you have never listened to before, yetyou feel like you might be interested in now. It could be Acapella, Tribal,Disco, Swing, New Age, Death Metal, or whatever type of music you previously thought, "I just do not like that" or "I would never listen to that."Give it a chance and just listen.For the next two or three weeks, totally immerse yourself in the sounds of this music. Set aside some time to really listen and find something you canappreciate about it. Listen for what sounds interesting to your ears: a certainhorn riff might stand out, a unique vocal expression, an odd rhythmic drum pattern, a funky guitar line, or a soaring synthesizer effect. There may not beanything that you particularly enjoy, then you have at least taken theexploratory journey to find out what not to listen to. Move on to the next piece of music or genre. Now that you have listened to new sounds and were able to discover whatelements you enjoyed, begin to recreate them on your guitar. Attempt toemulate other instruments. It does not have to be a 100% accurate copy.Actually, you do not want it to be... you want it to be similar and stilloriginal at the same time. For example, you could take a particular rhythm pattern you liked and play that, just with different notes, or vice-versa.The main thing here is to keep an open mind and always have an ear out for something unusual that catches your interest. Be willing to discover newsounds. You never know what unique element you can add to your playingand integrate into your own personal style.
Just as picking up different styles from other music genres can be aninspiration and open up your creativity, so can altering the actual sound of your guitar.Here are just a few ideas:
- Nylon strings are more suited for classical acoustic guitar,whereas steel strings are for electric guitar and standard acoustic.Also, (money permitting) you may want to experiment with differentstring guages/sizes. While new and clean strings sound bright andcrisp, old and dirty strings sound dead and dull. Who is to say what isright in the creation of your own unique sound?
- There are many different styles of picks out there (metal, plastic,nylon, serrated, different textures, different weights, etc.). Even theway you hold the pick, at which angle, and how you attack the stringaffects the overall sound.
- Slides come in all different sizes and materials. The mostcommon are glass, ceramic, and metal. Usually, the heavier the slidethe better the sustain.
- Playing without a pick and only your fingers generallyoffers a warmer tone. You can also try playing with a pick andfingers.
Volume and Tone Controls
- Often taken for granted, these knobs onyour guitar can offer you a wide array of sounds to get creative with.
 Effects Pedals
- There are almost as many effects pedals out there asthere are guitars. A few of the more popular ones are: reverb, chorus,delay, distortion, envelope filter, flanger, and phaser. These days thereare so many combinations of these sounds built into one pedal or effects processor, you have an almost unlimited resource to makesome pretty wild sounds with.
- Using feedback to your advantage can be a tricky thing.Feedback usually only occurs at loud volumes and can be difficult tocontrol. The trick is to find out where your guitar might feedback inrelation to your amp and use those howling sounds as part of your music. One feedback technique I used on some early recordings wasto get a mini-amp (one that you can hold in your hand), hook it up toan effects pedal (i.e. a flanger or phaser), and manipulate the amp invarious positions in front of your guitar pick-ups. You will not evenhave to play the guitar with your hands, just keep moving the amparound and you will get some cosmic sounds.
As with musical genres and guitar sounds there is also a vast array of techniques you can apply to your creative process. Beginner guitarists oftenwonder when to use which technique and where to apply it. Whether itapplies to composition, improvisation, or somewhere in the middle, thesimple answer is: experimentation.Spend some time learning each guitar technique, how it sounds, and where itsounds best to your ears in a particular piece of music. On the same note youmay not even enjoy playing certain techniques and choose not to employthem in your playing style.Here is a partial list of guitar techniques to research, learn, study, andexperiment with:
String Bending (single string, multiple string, chord bending)
Palm-Muting and Damping
Slides (single string, multiple string, chord slides)

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