How to become a Virtuoso Guitarist by focusing on One thing
So you want to become a virtuoso guitarist and you think you have what it takes. Let me give you a secret, no one ever in the history of the world ever achieved something great without a tremendous amount of hard work. So going into this I want to make sure that is very clear to you because what I am about to tell you on this page is how I was able to gain my shred status. I also would like to say this…
There are many ways to become a virtuoso guitar player, there is not just one path so remember that as you read to take everything I say with a grain of salt. You have to be willing to commit to this journey and explore your technique and skills as you progress. So without further a due lets get into how you can become a virtuoso by focusing on one thing, or in this case 3 things but one at a time.
One thing or Three Things, One thing of 3 things
You are not making any sense, is it one thing or 3 things? Let me say this, as It is important to focus on one thing at a time and that is what I am going to recommend you do. I also think that it is very important that you keep some variety going or I guarantee you that you will get burned out. So just wanted to leave this little caviat
First things first
Before you get started on this path of becoming a virtuoso guitarist or a shredder or whatever word you would like to use to describe some massive guitar playing skills, let me say this. The first thing you must do is make a decision or a commitment that you are going to do this come hell or high water because it is not going to be easy. You are going to need a strong desire to get the end results and I highly suggest you adopt the motto “do it or dye trying”
Basically this is like the burn the boats metaphor. The burn the boats metaphor is based of of a story where these warriors set out to conquer an Island. Once they reached the shore the leader had all of the men burn the boats. This meant that there was to be not retreat. They were going to take the island at any coast and if they were to fail there was not escape.
This is the same attitude I would like you to accept if you truly want to become an extraordinary guitar player. You’re going to need the attitude of “I’m doing this or I will dye Trying” Because if you adopt this attitude you will be 10 times more likely to succeed.
Where do I start? What is the one thing I need to do to become an extraordinary guitarist?
I have the ansewr for you, are you ready? Technique. I know simple right, Technique, but what does that mean? To mean you can split up technique into 3 main categories that somewhat go together but are also different. Lets start with my favorite which is Scales.
Scales, Scales, Scales
These are by far my favorite technique item to practice. They are very straight forward and they really are not to challenging compared to the other items that I will get to in a second. “Where do you I start?” You might be asking. Okay, if you have never played a scale before the first one you are going to want to learn is the Minor Pentatonic. Learn it in A Minor and learn position 1, and position 4. These to patterns or very similar and will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
After you have been playing minor pentatonics for a while and have your alternate picking down then it is time to start working on my favorite… The Modes. Learning to play the modes can be quite boring if that is your mindset going in, however, I would highly recommend that you see the Modes as a way to sling shot your skill level into becoming the virtuoso player you want to be. It comes down to this…
How much effort and how much time are you willing to put into these scales and the other items I am about to share with you. Is this something you want? If so it should be self evident what you should do. There is a lot of stuff out there, so if you are sincere about reaching this skill level on the guitar please fee free to reach out today.
Arpeggiate the Arpeggios
Next most important technique skill that you will need is arpeggios. Personally I prefer practicing scales over these as I think they are more simple and basic. Arpeggios are quite different from scales in the sense as with scales you are more focused on 1 string at a time usually as where an arpeggio will having you skipping across all of the strings. Fortunately/unfortunately these arpeggios are very challenging, but there is good news.
Just like the scales, once you learn one shape or one position you can apply to just about any key. So how do you actually take this knowledge and get really good at arpeggios. I will tell yo how to do it. Find a song, or chord progression and start playing the corresponding arpeggio over the corresponding chord. Sounds simple right! Wrong! This will probably be one of the hardest things that you ever try on guitar. But it is do able especially if you are just willing to go slow the first few times.
It is all in the phrasing
When you listen to your favorite guitar players and feel inspired by their playing. It is more than likely the thing that separates them from all of the mediocre guitar players that play for fun is their phrasing. Phrasing can be broke down into 3 to 4 main categories, and learning how to master these techniques will give you that extra edge that the rest of guitar players out there that just don’t cut it.
Lets break up this phrasing thing
Bends – This was an extremely challenging technique for me to master at first but I am so glad I did. It allowed me to separate myself from many of the other guitar players and styles. Most guitar players are not willing to do what it takes to learn how to bend and in the beginning it can even cause sharp pain in your finger tips and dig down in the the cartilage of your finger. What I would recommend you do is you start simple and go out to start learning some solo’s. What did it for me was the stairway to heaven solo, so although the main riff is banned from music stores, you can definitely get away with playing the guitar solo
Slides – Oh, slides… this is probably my weakest area of phrasing but I do use it and it is important. Of course the best way to learn slides is to find a great song or lick that uses them. In fact, unless you are working on your improvising skills over a backing track and just working on slides in particular, I would say that learning slides from songs is your best bet. There is one more thing you can do, which is to practice sliding into the scales instead of just playing the notes. A solo that has a really good slide at the beginning is hotel California.
Vibrato – This is by far my favorite of all of the phrasing you can do on guitar. In fact, I can’t even play a single note without playing a vibrato on it. I would encourage you to do the same thing! Whenever you are playing a song on guitar and their are individual notes, what I would like you to do is practice your vibrato. It can be very challenging and takes some finesse at first but once you get it, you’re golden. A song that really helped me master this phrasing technique is Voodoo child.
The Bonus Phrase
Hammer on’s & Pull off’s – Last but not least… Hammer on and pull offs. If you haven’t got this phrasing technique down then you are missing out. They show up quite often in Rock music, and would encourage you right now to go out and learn a song with hammer on’s and pull offs. This is probably the easiest of the phrasing techniques and it is a must for all rock and blue’s guitarist. A great song that will get you started on the path of hammer on’s and Pull off’s is “Thunderstruck”
Let me sum this all up by saying that my approach is very similar to the Bruce Lee approach of using your longest weapon against your closest opponent, or an even better metaphor of training hard so you can fight easy. All of these scales, arpeggios, and phrasing should push you to your absolute limit. And by doing this you will accelerate you guitar progress and blow all of your friends away with your extraordinary guitar playing. The real question though is, how bad do you want it. Are you willing to do it or dye trying? The choice is yours