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Thoughts on my guitar playing

I hung out with my friend Tom M. for awhile tonight at the Music-Go-Round where he works, and, as usual, I picked up various guitars and played them a little.

I have always been way better at playing one-note-at-a-time melodies than I am at playing chord sequences. That's what I understand better and have many years more practice at, and what makes more sense to me. That's also why at one point I declared myself a bass player (or rather, accepted someone else's declaration that I was a bass player) because the style of playing I am comfortable with is well-suited to bass guitar. So I normally play mostly melodies rather than chords when noodling around on a guitar.

However, lately I have been trying to get back into playing chords, to try to write accompaniments to some of the lyrics I write. So today I picked up guitars and spent most of my time playing a chord sequence on them.

And I realized that it was about 10 times easier to play chords and make them sound good on some guitars than it was on others. On one guitar I'd be flying through my chord sequence, and having some random music store oddball compliment my playing, and then I'd pick up another guitar and try to do the same thing, and I couldn't get it to work right (and yes, I did check the tuning on the guitars first, it wasn't anything to do with that).

And it occurs to me that, the latter experience of not being able to get it to work right is what I'm used to. And I wonder if I've ever properly evaluated guitars for ease-of-chord-playing when I've been picking them out. Sure, I've always thrown in a few chords when testing guitars out, but I've done that knowing that I'm not good at chords and that I flub them, and mostly relied on melody-playing and general sound to evaluate guitars. And when I've picked up other peoples' guitars and tried to play chords on them, have I ever considered that the quality of my chord-playing involved not just me but the guitar? Not really, aside from with incredibly crappy guitars.

I am starting to realize that there are some mysterious differences between guitars that effect my chord playing beyond the stuff I normally evaluate (such as action and the spacing of frets and strings, which also effect my chord-playing, but which I'm already aware of). And I should pay attention to it, because why make something more difficult than it needs to be?

And I should re-assess the guitars I have in the house, and see how easy/hard it is for me to play chords on them relative to guitars I tried at the Music-Go-Round that worked best for me on that. Might or might not want to do some more guitar-trafing at some point.

And yes, I definitely need to practice more too.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2012 05:46 am (UTC)
Try going through my guitars as well. My own feeling is that guitars aren't necessarily easier or harder to play (although they are), but rather that I bond with some guitars and not so much with others.

Last night, I had the pleasure of playing a truly superb but somewhat difficult guitar (Steven Brust's old Hoffman), and was struggling to get a good tone out of it. After a while, I realized that it wanted to be played HARD. I make a point of being gentle when playing other people's guitars, but it was nice to just dig into that one and listen to it open up. Each guitar wants to be touched differently.
Aug. 18th, 2012 01:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't think the guitars that I find it difficult to play chords on are necessarily bad guitars. Not even bad guitars fo me, if I'm playing a melody instead of chords. Different guitars are suited to different hands and different styles of playing in many ways. I've had the experience of picking up a friend's favorite bass guitar and finding it near unplayable, to me, because he had such a different playing style.

It just excited me to realize that some guitars make chords come much more easily to me, and that I probably hadn't properly been evaluating them for that.
Aug. 18th, 2012 06:50 am (UTC)
Try placing the butt of the guitar between your legs and angling the neck up in a half cello style. This will change everything as well. I believe this is how christopher parkening plays. You can see this on youtube
Aug. 18th, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
I can try it, but I doubt I will start playing that way regularly. I did play guitar daily for many years before I stopped, which is a whole nother story for another day.
Aug. 18th, 2012 06:56 am (UTC)
Check out this video on YouTube:


Sent by small dragons
Aug. 19th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
Oh! Classical guitar playing. I thought you were talking about something more extreme. That's actually how I first started playing guitar, footstand and spanish music and all. And it is not chord-playing, though it incorporates a little bit of chords in with the fingering.
Aug. 19th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
Hey, if you ever want a guitar geek friend to jam with, let me know! I just love playing, and I don't get to do it enough.
Aug. 19th, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
The thing is, I never really learned to jam with other musicians on guitar, to improvise music to go with their music. It was just never a part of my learning guitar - rather than improvising, I learned to to play specific pieces, sometimes with others but generally on my own. It's something I could theoretically learn to do, but so far I really haven't, and when I try, it doesn't really work out.

It's a little easier on bass in some ways, but on bass I find it hard to hear what I'm playing when there's other music going, unless the bass is turned up louder than it should be.

So, I love getting together with groups of musicians, and often do, but when it is time to follow along with something someone else is playing, I tend to either just listen, sing along if I know what to sing, or play percussion.

Probably what I ought to do, if I wanted to jam with people more, aside from getting some jam-specific music lessons, is play along with recorded music more, which should eventually build up skills I could use for jamming. I really have the wrong mindset for improvising though, a mindset of figuring out how to play something specific and then playing it.
Aug. 20th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
I can totally see ya playing again. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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