Why Does My Guitar Playing Not Sound Like Music?
by Joshua LeBlanc, professional guitar teacher and musician
Far too often beginner and intermediate guitarists get frustrated with their playing due to it not sounding like the recording that they are trying to recreate. The bigger problem that they face is not understanding some fundamental aspects that causes these problems.
Not Seeing The Bigger Picture
Many guitarists will learn how to play from tablature. The issue is that they tend to use a “Hunt and Peck” method to learn how to play. If you are not familiar with that term it refers to people who try to type on a keyboard and have to search for each letter that they want to type. With tablature there is a tendency to want to play each individual note but not see how it fits into a larger picture. Typically if you analyze the patterns in your tablature you can start to see how it may fit into a specific chord, arpeggio, or scale pattern. By trying to notice these types of patterns, you will be able to choose better fingerings for what you are playing.
Not Understanding Phrasing
Another issue is putting together the various elements of the song in a way to create music. Many players will just play the notes but not pay attention to the length of the notes (one of the faults with tablature on the internet is that it isn’t always given) or with how they are transitioning from one note to the next. Are you looking for where the musical “sentences” start and stop? It is similar to the way you speak in your everyday life. You communicate through complete sentences in order to convey the thoughts you have. We also do this in music by creating musical phrases. Noticing how longer notes and rests tend to be at the end of phrases. There are exceptions to this however so learning to identify the phrases will help.
Not Understanding Your Tone
Another aspect with guitarists is that they may not understand what tone is on the guitar. Your tone is the way that you sound when you play notes based on several factors. I am a believer that tone originates in your hands meaning that the way your hands operate will impact your tone regardless of the quality of your gear. If you play with no confidence then your tone will suffer and if you play with full confidence and authority that you know what you’re playing your tone will improve. Simple ways to improve your tone are noticing where you pick on your guitar. If you pick too close to the bridge your tone will sound thin but if you pick too close to the neck your tone will sound too warm. You want to find a spot that balances those two tones to your liking. Make sure that your strings are not old and oxidized because as they age they will not sound as good as they did when they were first put on.
Joshua LeBlanc is the owner and lead instructor at Lafayette School of Guitar specializing in guitar lessons in Lafayette, LA.