My day job is running my own business as a recording studio owner. One of the things that I enjoy most about making records for a living is that every once in a while I get a client in who does a cool record that inspires me as a guitarist. Recently, I’ve had just that experience. A guy came in to record a full length CD of straight up 80s rock. It felt like 1986 all over again (like I actually remember what the hell 1986 felt like, I was just entering 1st grade lol). It was one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had in the studio because it really put things in perspective and got me thinking.
Here was this guitar player, he was doing some really cool playing. He just new how to hit everything just right from his riffs to his solo ideas. He rocked it hard and the music was very killer! It was one of the most fun projects I’ve had in the studio the entire year. As a guitarist it brought me back to the days when I started learning guitar and studied those kinds of solos and riffs. Things like pentatonic clichés, whammy bar craziness, and all of those great guitar solo techniques that you really only heard back then in popular music. After spending quite a few days of recording the guitar tracks, it really inspired me to open up some of my old tab books and records that I used to love. It also reminded me of something very important, which brings me to the point of this article. As guitarists that pursue technical guitar playing, we tend to usually stray away from some of the most important things in guitar playing: rhythm guitar work and knowing how to rock hard.
It is all to often that as guitarists we spend hours practicing speed picking to metronomes, studying theory, and mastering crazy solos. It is very rare however, that we sit down and concentrate on something that is way more important than how many notes per second you can play. When was the last time you just sat down and tried to rock it? That is, to write some riffs that aren’t necessarily technical, but make you want to throw your arm in the air with the horns high and start circle head banging, trash hotel rooms, and turn up your amp at least 5 more notches? I’m talking about writing something that is fun to listen to and not just for the sake of impressing the Berkeley school of music graduates or famous virtuosos. We lead guitarists tend to highly over look the rhythm aspect of our playing, when in reality, unless you are a famous virtuoso instrumentalist like Steve Vai, you are probably playing mostly rhythm guitar when you play in a band. When we technical lead guitarists do work on rhythm playing, it is usually never on stuff that isn’t in 5 different keys and has at least 165,028,912.89173 metric modulations in a 30 second period. It is very important to bring yourself back down to earth once in a while and just rock out. Rocking out is about having fun, and isn’t guitar supposed to be fun?
Let us take a band like AC/DC for an example. Say what you want about Angus and Malcom’s guitar playing. No matter what your opinions are, no one on earth can deny them one thing: they knew how to rock. They built a career doing one thing, rocking hard. It is scientific fact based on years of clinical laboratory tests and scientific trials that AC/DC rocked. It can’t even be argued that they didn’t, no matter how much someone doesn’t like or likes the band. To do so would result in being impaled and burned for blasphemy against the church of rock. People love AC/DC. Why? It is fun and it rocks.
My point is, there is a lesson to be learned from simplicity. As technical guitarists we usually puff out our chests out and snub our noses at this kind of stuff. For a long time myself I was very anti radio/popular music. Then I grew up a few years ago and stopped being such a pissed off, nonconformist closed minded elitist guitar wank head. I learned that you can actually learn something about songwriting and melody writing from even someone considered as lame as Britney Spears. Actually, I got a lot better in my own playing because I forced myself to opened my mind to music outside of my normal influences. Listening to top 10 pop hits can do unimaginable amounts of good to your melody writing and phrasing. So, what I am trying to get across, whether you care or not, is to at least consider that you can learn a lot about music and song writing from simplicity. It definitely won’t hurt your ability to play mind numbing arpeggios at 1,000,000 bpm and as someone on our message board here at IG once pointed out: ” I’d rather impress a 20 year old blond with wicked bewbs than a Berklee graduate.” Often in the quest to master the instrument we forget what made it fun to play in the first place! So next time you are sitting back blasting scales at 250 bpm, turn off the metronome, turn up the volume (to 11 of course) and have some fun. Try rocking it. What else can I say other than recording a 80’s rock record reminded me one thing, I need to rock more and have more fun when I play guitar. My question for you is, do you? It is something to at least think about.
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