Is it possible to master more than one guitar style?
Striving to excel at more than one guitar styles is a rather common phenomenon among guitar enthusiasts, especially inexperienced ones like beginner level students. In fact, at times several of them aspire to develop their mastery in more than 2 distinct guitar styles. I’ve observed this in a few students of mine and I think it can be explained in several ways.
First of all, today’s guitarist has infinitely more resources than the one 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. Undoubtedly, Jimmy Page didn’t have access to as many guitar methods, Johnny Winter hadn’t watched a single instructional youtube video (nor grumpy cat), Wes Montgomery hadn’t enjoyed the privilege of so many guitar related articles or endless tablatures of songs and exercises. All this material can be really valuable, pretty tempting but in some cases a bit misleading.
A grave danger here is that the guitarist, being bombarded with information of various quality, finds it hard to prioritize, schedule his time effectively and since he/she finds all this material ready to be consumed, he/she doesn’t have to struggle as hard in order to transcribe what he/she hears in his/her favorite records. It goes without saying that the latter is priceless practice for one’s ears and a very helpful tool for the development of one’s personal style.
Now let me clarify what «mastering a style» truly means in my opinion. First of all, it means to understand and try to reproduce the appropriate guitar tone for this style. This is not just a matter of the equipment used, but it might concern one’s picking style, muting, etc. Second, develop and apply the techniques and phrasing most commonly used in this style and learn as much of the repertoire as possible. Third, play this style live.
I firmly believe that performing live is imperative since it is a situation in which you have to be very focused on both what you and the rest of the band members are doing while you must really try hard not to make serious mistakes. Also, it is a more demanding situation compared to practice in the sense that you are deprived of the comforts of your own bedroom, plus you need to perform instead of just execute your parts.
Four, it means to record music of that style and -optionally- five, to compose music of that style. Recording is a very helpful tool because it puts your playing under the microscope and helps you focus on every minute detail of your playing. When listening to your recorded tracks solo, you can clearly hear several mistakes that go unnoticed in a rehearsal or a live show.
Of course, you should clarify to yourself WHY you want to master one more guitar style
a)Is it for professional reasons? E.g. you want to work as a session musician?
b)Is it just for fun because you enjoy that style as well?
c)Do you want to draw inspiration and enrich your playing with unique elements?
d)You actually don’t have a favorite style?
e)Just to satisfy your ego and show that you can be good in more than one styles?
If it is for the last reason, my humble apologies but I think you should change mentality. This one is a literal dead end. I reckon the third one is the most common goal and it strikes me as a pretty rational one indeed. Several, say, metal guitarists admit to have been influenced by the great fusion master Alan Holdsworth.
In fact, John Petrucci considers him as a major influence. Another common non metal influence among metal players is Django Reinhardt, whose unmistakable technique and beautiful melodic choices are phenomenal and can teach a lot to every player.
However, there is not a single guitarist that I know of, who doesn’t have a main playing style. In many players, we can definitely hear influences that come from a different genre. Yet, their sound, repertoire and overall style always has a stamp.
Some such examples could be: John 5 who has many country influences, Marty Friedman, who has many exotic and ethnic influences and Alex Skolnick, who’s been greatly influenced by jazz. In fact, Alex Skolnick is one of those blessed few that thrive in a double career both as a metal/rock guitarist and as a jazz player. Yet, he started off as a metal/ hard rock guitarist and this is what most people know him for.
All in all, the fact that most players do emphasize in just one style is for several good reasons, since it keeps the player focused, helps him/ her shaping an effective practice schedule and gain a deeper level of knowledge in his/her style of preference. After all, obtaining a good, well-rounded knowledge in what you do, is different from becoming a jack of all trades. In fact, even the players that have drawn influences from different styles, surely first matured in their basic style and then added their singular traits. I find this is an effective strategy.
So, be it for the aforementioned or any other goals you might have, I can truly assure you that you don’t have to master any other style in order to achieve them. It would suffice to listen carefully to the players you want to mimic, transcribe and incorporate your favorite licks of theirs to your playing. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun
About the author : SinniK Al is a Cardiff based electric guitarist, widely known for his work with SlavEATgoD, I Bow Candles and Seduce The Heaven. Currently, he’s recording SlavEATgoD’ s sophomore record and preparing his solo instrumental record and I Bow Candles ‘ sophomore record. He is endorsed by 39 custom guitars
© 2012 SinniK Al