During my time as a teacher, I’ve come across lots and lots of guitar students. I’ve also kinda noticed that the majority of them could fit into five categories- each with their own strengths and weaknesses. As it’s vitally important to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses as a player (at least, if you want to correct you mistakes and improve…), I’m going to share with you the types of guitarists that I’ve come across and what each generally finds easier or more difficult.
Hopefully you can identify with- at least- one of these (stereo)types. If not, just leave me a comment below with your own “type” that doesn’t fit in.
Right, let’s start with one that we’ve all probably come across…
The Flashy Shredder
If you’re the flashy shredder type, you probably have a very strong drive and ambition to play like your heroes. You may even spend half of your life practising and perfecting your technique, until you’ve earned some pretty impressive chops! This type of guitarist wants to be the best- and is not afraid to put in the hours to get there!
If this is you, then it might also be that your strong drive and ambition is built upon how well you can impress people with your playing skill. I mean, you like to show off, right? This is great for flashy guitar solos, but be careful not to neglect your basic rhythm or strumming skills- essentially, the less flash, more basic stuff. If you can fluently pull off an Yngwie Malmsteen solo, but struggle to strum “Cum by ya”, then you know this has happened to you!
You may also be likely to fall into the trap of trying to rush and play things at full speed before you’re quite ready. You could also be attempting a lot of songs that are really too difficult for your current ability level.
The Studious One
If this is you, then you’re probably the complete opposite of the flashy guitarist above. Your motivation to play is not based on impressing people, but more a love of playing the instrument. You study hard and practise regularly, being very observant regarding your technique. This- of course- pays off in the long run, and you’re in a group of people who end up with the best technique overall.
Things you should be watching out for are that you don’t fall into the trap of relying on your current level of technique and knowledge too much. I mean, don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone- to where your technique becomes “sloppy” every once in a while. Studious types tend to like to stay within their ability level and never truly push or explore their limits as the flashy guitarist would.
The Camp-fire Musician
If you’re this type, then you probably have ambitions of sitting round a camp-fire, or at a party and playing the guitar for a sing-along with your friends. You enjoy learning well-known songs, and would happily replace the jukebox at your local pub or club (or will at least strum along to the radio in private…). You also probably get a lot of enjoyment from simply strumming chords all day, and aren’t interested in any flashy shred, or advanced jazz soloing.
The dangers of being this type of guitarist are that you get to the basics- open chords, with a few barre chords thrown in- and then you stop progressing. I realise you’re probably not interested in becoming the next Jimi Hendrix, but there is so much more to playing rhythm guitar than strumming G, C and D chords all day! Have you ever considered learning new chord voicings, or how to play chords all over the neck? It’s possible to really create some interesting music out of even an acoustic guitar and a songbook…if you know how.
Plus, this attitude may leave some of your favourite songs permanently out of reach for your ability!
The Rock and Blues Man (…or Woman…)
If this is you then you consider things like “vibe” and “feeling” to be more important than anything. You’re likely into your stringbends and pentatonic soloing (even if you can’t yet do it yourself). You know that you don’t need to learn entirely “correct” technique- it’s the emotion that matters.
…well…almost. Emotion is (very) important- don’t get me wrong- but there is a “correct” technique for bending strings too! When I say “correct” technique, I’m talking about the techniques that have been proven to work best, not ones that some “guitar technique” board sit around discussing and then prescribe for everyone. That isn’t how it works.
Blues is more than just the pentatonic scale, too! What about the dorian or mixolydian modes- have you considered trying those? It’s great being the Rock and Bluesman (…or woman), but don’t let this leave you stuck in a rut.
The Classically Trained Musician
I’m adding this one here because there is a distinct difference between the “classically trained” musician and the musician with a more modern approach. If this is you then you probably have great technique and command of the instrument, may have passed several grades up to grade 8 standard, and be able to easily sight-read anything that you come across (within reason).
If this is you then you may also struggle when the music isn’t written out in front of you in the form of notation. “Just jam on this riff for a while” isn’t clear enough for you, and you’re likely to get lost when improvising in a non-structured way. You have a great knowledge of theory, but its not always easy to convert that into practical situations (unless you are composing…).
I suggest that if you’re the typical “classically trained” guitarist, you should start to study my practical theory- scales and soloing, modal concepts etc. You can also work with backing tracks and scales to improve your improvisational ability.
So there you have it. Please let me know if there are any you think I’ve left off of this list. These are based on my own experience with different guitarists and so your own experiences may differ.