Understanding What Kind Of Guitar Player You Are
Over the years working with people as a guitar and music teacher, I have found 4 main types of personalities that people have when it comes to how they react to learning and playing music. It’s important for you to figure out what type of personality you have so that you can maximize the time you spend when playing and practicing guitar. It’s also important to note that these are just the most common traits that I see and work with. There are certainly more and you don’t necessarily need to be just one.
In no specific order:
#1-The Emotional player: These are the types of people who can let loose of their thinking and just play the instrument with lots of emotion and expression. I often find that these types of people physically use a lot of their body to feel the rhythm of what there playing and don’t mind letting their emotions take control of them.
Things to focus on: I usually find that these types of players are not that interested in reading music and would rather learn songs by having other people show them how to play or by figuring them out by ear. The best thing to do if you’re a new player is to get proficient at playing open chords, movable bar chords and power chords. You have a lot of feeling and energy that your are dying to let out so the quicker you can play the essential chords that are used in guitar, the quicker you will be having fun playing what you want to play.
#2- The Songwriter: This is the type of person that loves to write their own music and create songs from scratch. You usually have a lot to say and like to share your thoughts with other people through songs. I have worked with some people who don’t care much to learn other people’s songs and I have worked with other people who don’t even understand that they are capable of writing their own music. In either case, I firmly believe that writing music is an extremely important skill for an aspiring musician to learn. It gives you a lot of insight as to what type of player you are and what skills you need to work on.
Things to focus on: You don’t have to be a musical genius to start writing your own songs. Some people are scared to even try it, others NEED to do it to get out all of their ideas. A lot of the most famous songs in modern music are extremely simple and easy to play, with only a few chords that make up the whole song. Along with knowing how to play the basic open chords and having a good understanding of melody, I always encourage songwriters to study a bit of music theory so that they understand Harmonic Structure and how songs work to sound pleasing to the human ear. Even if writers can crank out songs like lightning, they usually, at some point, get frustrated because they only have a limited knowledge of how music works and get stuck writing the same old song time and time again. Understanding theory will give you more options and ways to be expressive in songwriting.
#3- The Technical Player: These are the types of players that love music theory, playing physically difficult songs and usually enjoy reading music. The ability to read music is not a must, however it does enable a player to understand much more about the song both emotionally and how to perform it with more expression. If you like a good challenge and don’t mind spending a lot of time to perfect a certain song or technique, then you will probably find yourself in this category a lot of the time. Also, the theory side of music, that is very math oriented, is usually very interesting to you.
Things to focus on: Technique, technique, and more technique! If you like playing technical music you are going to want to focus a lot on perfecting your technique. This includes every aspect of how you pick (whether it be with a pick or with your fingers), strum, slide, sit, stand, etc.! Having a big vocabulary of scales, arpeggios, and patterns to link them together is also a must. Playing fast is also something that you are going to want to spend some time developing. The ability to rip through passages at very high tempos is incredibly FUN and EXCITING! If you focus on the right learning methods, it’s not as hard as you might think although it does takes a lot of continued practice to get your muscles up to snuff to keep with the fast pace.
#4- High interest, Low attention span: I couldn’t think of a specific name for this description so sorry but that’s the best I could do. A lot of people with ADD can fall into this category but that’s certainly NOT a required trait. Now you might already be thinking that falling somewhere near this category puts you at a disadvantage but I will tell you from experience, nothing can be further from the truth. I have worked with a number of people who obviously have a really hard time keeping their thoughts in one place and focusing on a certain topic. While that might be the case, these people also had incredible pitch perception (sometimes even what’s known as perfect pitch) and the very valuable ability to learn music by ear. I couldn’t be more envious of these types of people because I can assure you that I am not one of them. Learning music by ear and developing pitch perception has never come easy for me and I have had to work my tail off to be able to do it well. I have seen some students who are able to master this ability with ridiculous ease.
Things to focus on: Understanding theory and reading music is usually difficult for these types of people. When I work with people that are like this, I always focus on getting their technique as good as possible because they already have the tools inside of them to be an amazing player, it’s just a matter of giving them the ability for their fingers to move the way they need to so that they can play what’s inside of them. It’s good to do a lot of ear training exercises and learning songs by listening to them. After they get to a certain point, they usually form an interest in theory and want to understand more about how music works. This is because they become somewhat discouraged at what they don’t know and understand about music. I’m a firm believer in teaching what people want to learn and not pushing to hard for them to learn what they don’t. There are certain things that are crucial for every guitarist/musician to understand so I have always found a way to be able to teach those things in a manner that best fits their personalities.
Again, these are just the main personality characteristics of people that I work with. There are plenty more and of course you can be some of one and some of another. The reason I think it’s important to understand where you might fit in to all of this is because it will enable you to have a lot more fun learning guitar and not get so frustrated when things become difficult. Always focus on learning the things that you want to be able to do and the rest will come with time if you are looking to become a well-rounded guitar player. If someone says that knowing how to read music is essential for a beginning guitar student and you do not take to reading easily, then I’m pretty sure your not going to be having much fun when you start out. One very important thing that you need to ask yourself is what style of music are you looking to play. If you say Classical or Jazz, then I say that hands down, without a doubt you need to learn to read music. However most other styles of music can be played, written, and performed well without knowing how to read notes on the staff.
You know, I never thought of it like that and am glad I took the time to read this. Thank you so much for writing about this aspect of playing! I probably fall into a split of 60% v 40% 1&4, as I'm now trying to improve and identify areas that I would gain the most or best ground. I've been playing for about 40 years give or take some period of abstinence entirely, and was impressed with your web offering, and now after reading this, your thought process and character. Peace and thanks! I don't chime in like this ever really.
i tend to get frustrated easily, also im still searching for that perfect amp and perfect tone that still drives me nuts and perfect guitar too.
but im working on keeping my temper in check because it obviously does no good too lose it over needing more practice or something , or just plain being too tired and rest first then play.
With rather a long involvement with playing all types of guitar, along with harmonising and fronting several excellent combos of my own, with luckily, some great performers in semi-pro circles, I have had many become close friends over the years. Yes, I sing and play lead simultanously when requsite, and was very self-satisfied as I mastered this rather special skill. Combine this experienc with playing covers and revamps, tributes as well as unusual and experimental rock music of many sub-genres, including my long affair wih instrumentals, has probably made it difficult to rigidly classify myself. I have also musically directed my bands and have learnt recording to quite a high level in the latter years. I am inclined to view myself hybrid with respect to your classification and eclectic along with that assertion. I am heavily into modal scales at the moment and improving chord classification and musicl theory. I do avoid sight reading, finding it overbearing and stultifying.
Thanks for the comment! I always love hearing from members who take the time to get a little more in-depth as to their playing and how they react to learning music. The article, I find, is most helpful to beginners or players that would like a little more insight as to what might work best as for a way for them to excel the quickest.
You clearly are not a beginner and it makes sense to me that you are, at this point, more of a hybrid learning as to the different types I mention in the article. This usually happens as we get more familiar with different ways of learning, we gain skills we didn’t possess when we started.
I personally did not have a great “ear” when I started, however after many years of jamming, improving and playing, I’ve developed my ear a lot so I can rely on it much more.
If your into Modes be sure to check out the Modes On Guitar program… It focus on the ability to use the modes to expand the fretboard and be able to utilize all of it when jamming and improvising. One note I will make on this is that the lessons focus on keeping everything in the same key, so you are not really using the modes for their particular unique “sound”… rather making all 7 modes relative to your key so you can jam and improvise in more places over progressions that allow for this.
Hopefully that makes sense… If you would like me to expand more, just let me know!
I’m just learning and have Ra I’m having trouble with power chords and bar chords is there any easier way to play them
Thanks for your question. I’m assuming by Ra you mean Rheumatoid Arthritis? Regardless of that… If your having trouble with Bar Chords, which certainly can be tricky and rough on the muscles when your first learning, you can work with a capo and stick with open chords. You won’t be able to be as mobile around the neck if you were to use Bar Chords, but if your just starting out, that shouldn’t be an issue.
When you use a capo, you will basically stick to using all the open chord shapes and playing them up higher on the neck.
As far as power chords… there’s no real substitute for these. They are a fundamental aspect to playing rock music and there’s no real good alternative to get the same effect as playing a proper power chord shape. With that said… they are much easier to play than a Bar chord since you don’t really need to bar anything.
Let me know if that helps and if you have any more questions
Great article, Mike. Although it’s hard to know which one to slot myself in. I’m a passionate guitarist and song writer who has so much to learn about theory. Even all of your teaching approaches apply to me one way, or another. I guess I’m a passionate guitarist who’s standing at the crossroads of learning theory, so that I can apply it to better songwriting/jamming, and learning more difficult covers.
The key with me is to take it as it comes, and look at it all as equally valid and practice patience when tackling different elements, and seeing them through to the next level. Also, never forget to indulge. Guitar should be fun, even when thing’s get frustrating. It always helps to take a look back at how far you’ve come. I find it helps to remind you how far you can go, rather than HOW FAR you have to go.