Earlier this week I began practicing a new instrumental tune. I found the music straight out of the official book and immediately started hammering out different sections of the song. Now I LOVE guitar, and I’m not one to give up. But I started becoming frustrated. Frustrated that even though I was playing the notes exactly how they were on the official music, it still didn’t sound as good as the song itself.
In that moment I set down my guitar, opened up Youtube on my phone and watched this video of the artist performing it. Instantly my stress and worries washed away! Watching the artist play the tune answered 20 of my questions within 10 seconds of the video. I picked up my guitar and started copying what the artist did, with the exact same notes from before. Each note sounded better than before!
So in my case, I was trying to play a finger picking song without a thumb pick. But in watching the artist and copying what he was doing, it magically fixed the song. I don’t always choose to play songs exactly the same as the artist. When I do, it’s important to know how the artist performs it. If you or your band are working on a song and are going for a particular genre or feel, here are some tips on how to sound like your favorite musician.
How the artist performs the song is just as important as learning the notes. Yes you can learn all the drumbeats but maybe it doesn’t sound right? Does the drummer play softer or louder? Joe Satriani uses a lot more legato so trying to straight pick his songs will make it more difficult and just not sound the same! And if you’re going for the classic Nirvana grunge sound, well- strumming wasn’t their finest science. Go a bit crazy!
Ok, so you don’t need the exact replica guitar of Eric Clapton and yes Neil Peart’s drum kit is gigantic. You don’t need the same exact gear but knowing what the artist uses helps! Do they play guitar without a pick? Does the drummer play with brushes and only two toms? Changing small details could change the entire song. And if you want to sound like your favorite musician, copying there gear will get you sounding like them immediately.
Feel the music
Most importantly, feel the music. Every song has an emotion behind it, it’s your job to capture that emotion and amplify it to the world! If you’re playing a soft loving lullaby, jumping around stage is just giving it the wrong vibe! Likewise, don’t sit in a chair smiling while playing the soothing sounds of Metallica. Get up, put your rock face on and head bang a bit! The better you connect with a song and convey it’s emotion, the better you’ll play it.
When you want to sound like your favorite musician, you’re not trying to be a replica of Van Halen, or Kurt Cobain. But sometimes the song you’re writing calls for that vibe. Or maybe you’re covering a song and haven’t asked yourself, “How does the artist play it?” You’ll certainly add your own twist and make it unique to you! So if you’re working on a song and it feels a bit bland, spice it up like your favorite rock stars would!
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