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Developing Your Own Guitar Style

Finding Your "Voice" & Signature Sound

Although we all start out playing guitar by learning songs by our favourite artists, when you get serious, you'll want to develop a style of your own. At first, you need to just accept that you'll sound like the players you love. In fact, you'll want to! But you're unique and different. There is no one in this world like you. And no one who hears the music as you do. If you want to express who you are, then sooner or later you will want to develop your own style of guitar playing.

Making Sure You Don't Copy Forever

In order to carve out your own niche or musical style, you must be willing to listen to and learn how to play new things. Even as you start off copying your heroes, don't forget to be who you are. It's only by being you that you can inject those unique twists and turns into your sound.

Sure, start out by listening to records by your favourite guitarists. Copy them, but... feel it for yourself! Pretty soon you'll realise that the way you play a tune – while true to the original – isn't a carbon-copy at all! Little by little you will begin to discover your own musical identity, your own "voice." And that's what will make you unique from every other guitar player out there.

Knowing How to Reproduce the Sound You Like

When developing your own personal style, the most important thing you need to remember is that along the way, it's necessary to consider every element of what it means to play guitar, and do it in such a way that you don't kill what you want to express. For example, the "little" things such as:

  • What gauge (i.e. thickness/rigidity) of pick suits your ears?
  • What about the way you hold the pick?
  • Or how much "attack" you apply?
  • Which brand and gauge of strings do you most like the sound of?
  • How about elements of rhythm? What makes you tap your foot and what puts you to sleep?
  • And lead phrases and solos... when playing a passage written by another guitarist, try to tweak the strokes, the "space," the vibrato, how long you hold a bend... tweak it all just a little bit to suit your own style

...and so on. You see what I mean? Lots of little things that all add up to expressing yourself the way you want to express yourself.

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Separating Yourself From the Pack

An amazing thing about the great guitarists is that they can still sound the same even if you put them on a different rig (i.e. guitar/amp/effects combo). And the same principle applies to you, too. If you have mastered your own style, you can carry your "signature sound" over to different gear. Even between an electric guitar or acoustic. Listen to Eric Clapton, for example. A great guitarist doesn't just lose his or her identity just because of minor changes here and there.

Uncovering Unlikely Influences

One final tip: As you practice, keep an open mind about other genres. Some styles really, really might not be your cup of tea. If so, then go ahead and ignore them, obviously. But... don't be too hasty to dismiss a different style simply because it's outside of your normal music collection. You can pick up a lot by going against the grain and listening to guitarists playing other styles.

In fact, it could be exactly that which sets you apart from other players in your chosen genre. It's weird how influences sometimes just "get under your skin" without you even realising it. Follow your ear and your heart and before you know it you'll have developed your own guitar style that'll make people sit up and pay attention!

Best of luck with it,
Chris

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