- Listen to where the melody wants to go.
- I think frustration comes when we over analyze or try to force a melody to go in a direction that just doesn’t add to the piece or doesn’t lead anywhere. You know that you want to say something, you know that you are able to play it, but you just don’t know how transfer that feeling, passion, idea or whatever to the guitar.
- Listen to what it is you’re doing or not doing but should be doing
- You have to approach listening to guitar like you should your girlfriend or your wife. I didn’t say like you do listen to her, because the point is not to tune out (sorry babe). Just kidding I always tune in to her. But you should listen to your music as well. You listen attentively, try not to read too much into it, show it respect, allow it to ramble on and finish what it set out to say. Then you think very carefully before you give input so you don’t screw it up. You’re building a relationship, so you have to treat your relationship with your guitar likewise.
So how do we figure what in the world to listen for? Well, there are three areas that I have focused on in my studies that sometimes help me break out of ruts. They are technicality, arrangement, and composition.
Questions to ask while listening to your guitar music
With technicality I focus on left hand mechanics, right hand mechanics, sitting position and all the stuff that’s in the technique section of course. I also focus on whether or not that technique is the most appropriate one(s) for the song. Sure, clarity, speed and all that are important. But are they used in the most appropriate way for the direction of the music? These are questions that need to be addressed when you’re listening to your music.
- Are my notes clear?
- Are my chord transitions fluid or choppy?
- Are all of the notes the same volume or can I make better use of rest strokes, angle of right hand attack?
- Can you hear tension in my right hand?
- Could I use vibrato in certain places or not in others?
- Is the tempo appropriate?
- Is it too static or boring?
- Is the structure natural or does it seem forced?
- Are there unnatural or worse yet, cliche, transitions between parts of the song?
- Is the introduction or beginning a good lead in to the main idea of the song?
- Does it sound great but share no common elements with the main theme?
- Do I slide into the bridge or does the change interrupt my listeners’ experience?
- Which structure should I use for the feeling or idea want to get across?
- What idea would be appropriate for the structure I want to use?
- Am I arranging chords or phrasings most appropriately, should I use a different placement or fingering?
- Am I aware of the use of those positions when it comes to the feel of my song? If my arrangement takes a punchy , more aggressive approach, should I take the easy open chord route or and arpeggiate the melody or rhythmically drive the melody with a barre position?
- Am I staying too much in the boundaries and restricting exploration or am I using guidelines and letting go?
- What is the message, feeling, expression I want to convey?
- What is the music’s message?
- What elements will I emphasize to express that message?
- Is my piece boring?
- Do I give away too much in the intro?
- Do I need give enough to keep my listeners’ attention in the intro?
- What will my listener grab onto in the song? (the rhythm, a catchy melody, it’s dynamics, its tempo, its technique, it originality, its soul)
- Do I lead my listener with my use of arrangement or is he left waiting for the destination?
- Does he even know we are going anywhere?
- Can contrast and differentiation of the melody be the key to this song or do I need to take the song in completely new directions to keep interest?
- Am I being true to what I set out to do or does listening to this song sound like someone who is trying too hard to impress?
There are so many things to listen for in your guitar playing. If you want it, I’ve provided you a worksheet to use as a place to write questions about your playing. You should write a piece, sit down and listen to it and just ask questions the whole time as they come to you. But above all have fun. take a look at the next section on logging your progress. I hope to give you some good tips on how to write all this stuff down and put it to work for you. Thanks. Hope this helps.