I’ve been playing guitar for 14 years now.
Though I still have many breakthroughs, they tend to be more on a technical level and not so much on a theoretical or mindset level.
However, there’s something new that finally clicked into place for me recently. It was a profound realization for me, but I imagine it might be pretty obvious to a lot of you guitarists out there.
That epiphany was this: in much the same way the rhythmic patterns you play affects the style and feel of a song, the rhythmic qualities of your lead playing also influences the style and feel of a song.
This was something I maybe understood on a subconscious level, but definitely not on a conscious level.
When you think about a guitarist like Eddie Van Halen, people often say “he’s always playing the same stuff.” True or not, there is a certain thematic thread between all of his lead playing.
It’s not a bad thing to have a signature sound. However, the thing about Van Halen is that he’s a largely untrained guitarist. His playing really is a reflection of the way he hears and feels music.
That could very well be the reason why some have observed that his playing is always relatively similar. Again, it doesn’t take away from his incredible ability – which I have immense respect for – but it serves to illustrate the point I’m making.
The cool part is that I’m now understanding what I discussed with JJ Soriano many years back. I’m now realizing what made him such a fantastic guitarist; it was his ability to play in a variety of different styles and tap into the rhythmic qualities of the genre he was after.
He said, “People always ask me what scale I’m playing, but it’s not about the scale. I’m thinking more in terms of styles, like Caribbean grooves, and what that would sound like.”
Wow. It didn’t make a lot of sense back then, but it makes a lot more sense now.
From now on, I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to the rhythmic qualities of my lead guitar playing.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.