Quick question for guitar players:
Is it better to be fast or have rock-solid fundamentals?
Hold that thought and let's explore.
I’ve written lessons on speed and even the more recent “shredding” lessons that are entirely focused on building quicker hands and more limber fingers. However I've maintained over the course of my blog, that speed doesn't win out against solid fundamentals.
Quite the contrary; if you have a solid understanding of basic guitar techniques, you're far more valuable than someone who isn't well versed in those categories, even if they can play with a lot of speed.
When you observe the landscape of today's musical scene and examine what's popular from genre to genre, you won't find a market for searing guitar solos. It's just not something you hear anymore. If you listen to today's music, it's very basic, and whether or not you think that's a good thing, it’s reality. Since that reality doesn't have much of a market for speedy guitar anymore, the role of a lead guitarist needs to be put in its proper perspective.
Everything needs to be examined in the context of the music scene. Essentially the question needs to be asked, “What kind of guitar playing do people listen to and want to hear?” If you can answer that question, you can then better discern what kind of guitar bands are looking to hire.
What many do not realize is that it is perhaps more difficult to polish and perfect the basics of guitar, than it is to build speed. If you really think about where the bulk of mistakes occur when playing in the instrument, you'll find that the area of neglect lies within simpler concepts.
- Basic strumming and rhythm patterns. — A solid understanding of rhythm and strumming patterns, and the correlation between both.
- Clean, well-timed and mistake free chords. — The ability to play through chords while avoiding ill-timed strums, buzzing notes, or unnecessary open strings being played.
- A clear understanding of the dynamics of music. — Knowing when to play loud, soft and everything in between based off of song intensity and atmosphere.
- Simple, effective and well placed lead guitar. — The ability to place single notes and short lead pieces that effectively decorate and enhance the music, rather than overpower it.
These are all basic skills on the guitar; however they take years to develop. In order to hone these skills a player needs to realize that they are never truly done “learning” simple concepts. It takes a long time to get it right, and if one could stop and think about how many mistakes are made going through basic chord changes and simple lead patterns, it's very obvious that these areas need almost constant focus and attention from the player.
If an aspiring guitarist has the focus and discipline to carefully hone the more basic aspects of their guitar playing, they'll be of much greater value to prospective bands and studios looking for a solid player who can make an immediate contribution. If that can be accomplished, speed will come much more naturally.