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Cultivating A Unique Sound


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Hello there everyone my name is Leeland, I'm new here, I just got done reading the section on Steve Vai out of the new guitar player magazine this month asking to comment on your personal techniques for developing a unique sound. I have been playing guitar for about six years now and Ive played and play in a number of bands, and I've found that this topic is one that is most close to everything Ive done so far.


p.s. if you just want to skip to what will actually help you go to the list at the bottom of this post instead of reading through my horrendous rant of a forum submission.


The first step to achieving your own sound and personality on your instrument is to well, do it yourself. In the long run that's eventually what it all boils down to.


Most guitar players start off by learning a song or an exercise that was written by another guitar player or musician, through the help of these things and maybe a teacher you slowly begin to learn all the necessary techniques to play the guitar. However keep in mind that just being able to "play" really well, does not necessarily mean that you can "create" something innovative or original piece of work, here in lies the dilemma some guitarists find themselves in.


The absolute best thing that a guitarist can do to become a "musician" is to while learning new songs and exercises to constantly write your own material and apply everything new that you have learned in some way. This is where many people feel daunted or un-confident that they will ever be able to write anything good, Steve Vai had it right in this months issue when he said "You don't have to be great to do it, you just have to believe that you can and start doing it" (Oct. 09 Vai pg.64)


As far as advice for learning how to develop your own sound this is the best Ive heard anybody put it. What he is saying is the same point I'm trying to get to. You can only go so far learning other peoples music.


1. Players should constantly write their own material this may seem like alot of extra work, but if you didn't love it you wouldnt be a real guitar player right?


2.Learn to improvise I cant stress this one enough, being able to use your ears when jamming along with friends or a piece of music is invaluable, and will lead to things that no one else least of all you have ever heard before.


3. Get a recording program and record the ideas you come up with. SO useful! this is what helped me the most in writing my own material, is the ability to come up with things and then record them so i can use them later without forgetting. you can use pretty much anything. I for one still use a free program called Audacity its definitely not the best, but its simple and easy to use, also I recommend it if you are new to recording yourself. once you get it, practice layering yourself multiple times, writing multiple guitar parts, orchestrating your guitar with other instruments like bass and keyboard. No musicians available to jam with? record a backing track then record yourself improvising keep the best take and maybe you can use it later.


4. Don't be afraid to get started. this really should be number one on the list don't be afraid to record complete crap. eventually you will start to get the hang of it, and who knows... maybe one of those crap recordings might actually be cool later on?


5.Dont give up. Not everyone is a genius like Vai for example, not everyone "gets it" their first few years of playing. But everyone has a soul in some manner of speaking and music is a spiritual thing or for you atheists at least an inherent thing to human nature so no matter what no one can really just copy YOU or vise versa so in a way you already have your own voice before you started playing you just have to find how to apply it.


6. Play with other musicians. Nothing compares with being able to feed off of another musicians ideas or the ones you create together spontaneously its like Sex Vs. Masturbation (sorry for the analogy) one is more likely to produce something new. No Im not saying have sex with your fellow musicians but like they say no man is an island no matter what you will always have other people influencing you you can choose to thrive off that or not, but if you don't in some ways your just screwing yourself.....ha..I apologize again.


7. Read the book Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo. this isn't necessarily essential, but Ive never read anything that has impacted my playing as heavily as this book, it doesnt actually teach you how to do anything on the guitar, but it does tell you ways to look at your guitar and making music you've never thought of before using the philosophy of Zen. You could think of it as a book on the "philosophy" of playing guitar, rather than the technical aspects. best of all you can lend it to your friends who might not even play guitar but something like drums, and tell them to replace the word guitar with Drums every time they read it and it is totally applicable here is the URL if anyone is interested






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A "unique sound" might be personally & artistically satisfying, and if playing for yourself is the rational behind your playing, more power to you. But this is a society that revels in the second-hand and calls it real, and a music industry that scared stiff of the unique, because it has no idea how to market it. In the words of one very commercially successful artist...


I read these books where luxury

comes as a guest to take the slave,

books where artists in noble poverty

go like virgins to the grave...

Joni Mitchell, The Boho Zone

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.




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