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> 5 Common Guitarist Problems
Ben Higgins
post Aug 12 2015, 07:49 PM
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Last year I made a video, outlining some of the most common issues I see and hear in people's guitar playing. The 5 most common problems I notice in guitar playing are:

1. Playing in front of the beat
2. Poor pitch control when bending
3. Poor / No vibrato
4. No melody / solos sound like scale exercises
5. No picking dynamics / all picked notes sound the same


So, what can we do to help ourselves improve upon these problem areas?

1. Playing in front of the beat

This is probably the worst offender. I see this all the time and I undoubtedly did it myself too but the good news is that we can cure this bad habit. A good way to work on this is to find a drum loop or some sort of backing track. First of all I want you to deliberately play in front of the beat. Pretend you're in a hurry and the drummer is slowing you down.

Next up, I want you to deliberately play behind the beat. Really drag it out and allow the rhythm section to get ahead of you.

Now, from the position of being behind, I want you to slowly catch up with the beat until you are on it.

Keep working at this until you can recognise when you are in front, behind or on the beat. Awareness is key. From there, you can consciously alter it until it's correct.

2. Poor pitch control when bending

There's a simple trick that many people use to hone their bending skills. First you need to play the note that you're going to bend to. Use the same string and fret the desired note. Then, using the same string, bend to it. Keep playing the fretted note and bending to it to provide an audio reference point. You should be able to start hearing if the bent note sounds lower or higher in pitch than the fretted note.

3. Poor / No vibrato

Vibrato is quite an advanced, expressive technique compared to things like chords, strumming etc so novice guitarists can be forgiven for not having developed that part of their playing yet. However, the longer you've been playing for, you'll want to be able to add more of your personal expression to your playing so vibrato is an essential technique. Luckily for thee, I've done a few lessons that will help you get started. I recommend learning them in the following order

https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Bens-Vibrato-Odyssey-5/
https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Bens-Vibrato-Odyssey/
https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Bens-Vibrato-Odyssey-3/

4. No melody / solos sound like scale exercises

Another common offense which, to be frank, is utterly boring to listen to. We've all done it, though, so don't feel bad if this applies to you. wink.gif When we're younger we get all excited about technique so we're keen to splutter it all over the place but we forget that our listeners can get technical excellence anywhere on Youtube, anytime they want.. and from much better and well established players too. So why would they be interested in hearing it done badly? So, don't be too keen to record video after video of bad sweeps and scale runs - we've heard it all before.

Breaking this pattern requires harsh discipline with yourself. When you catch yourself doing it you literally have to make yourself stop and take a break. If you know what chords and scale you're using that's a good strarting point. Next, just start putting together notes from the scale but don't just go to the next not and the next note in a linear fashion. Try jumping between intervals in a different way. Try one note over the chord. If that sounds good then spend some time picking the next one. Then the next. Sooner or later, you'll start to discover shapes within the scale that you know you can go to in order to get a specific sound. This is how you build your lick library (as well as stealing other people's!)

If I could could sum this up I'd say: trial and error. This is the key to it all.

5. No picking dynamics / all picked notes sound the same

Things like muting are your friend. You can palm mute things to get an aggressive sound that sounds like someone's rubbing a cheesegrater over your strings. You can also use your pick to play a note, then it immediately returns back to the other side of the string, cutting the vibration off dead. Listen to people like Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Brian May, Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman. They're all masters at it. I learned it from either Friedman or Yngwie and it gives me more to play with when adding aggression or even desperation (yes, desperation) to phrasing.

Ultimately, the guitar is your playground - play smile.gif


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Aug 13 2015, 03:57 PM
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Hi Ben! Very clear and inspiring post! These are very simple topics that we miss when we are beginner/intermediate players and think that everything is related to how fast or difficult you can play. Thanks for this thread!



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Daeron
post Aug 13 2015, 06:11 PM
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Very interesting, Ben !

About playing in the front of the beat or behind, do you have an exemple ? Is it something that a beginner can hear ?
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Tom51
post Aug 13 2015, 07:08 PM
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Your column is always great pleasure reading Ben! Its a lot wisdom about guitar playing and life that helps and is inspiration for me.
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Ben Higgins
post Aug 16 2015, 10:29 AM
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QUOTE (Daeron @ Aug 13 2015, 05:11 PM) *
Very interesting, Ben !

About playing in the front of the beat or behind, do you have an exemple ? Is it something that a beginner can hear ?


Hi, I give a small example in the video around 0:30. It might be easier to hear it with riffs. I don't personally have any examples of mine I can use and it might not be polite to use anybody else as an example but the gist of it is you should be able to notice the chords or licks happening too early. It helps if you know the piece but even if you don't you can usually hear when somebody is changing chords just before the beat etc. It may take practise to identify but after a while you'll get better at noticing it


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