When it comes to guitar playing, there are some guitarists who are known for their flawless technique and precision and there are some like David Gilmour and Jeff Beck who are known more for their emotional style of playing. We are not here to argue which style is best, ideally, a good guitar player should be able to strike the right balance. There is no point shredding a million soulless notes per minute nor is “playing with feeling” an excuse for being a sloppy player. Guitarists who play with feeling are masters at extracting the maximum emotion from every note they play. Here’s how you can make your guitar playing sound more emotional.
Go slow and easy
Slow down. When you’re burning, you’re really only able to convey one emotion: intensity. Think about how you speak. Depending on what you are trying to communicate, your speech changes tempo, pitch, volume, and inflection. Change your guitar language accordingly
A great way to hit the brakes while strengthening your mind-heart-fingers-guitar connection is to listen to a melody in your head before hitting a note.
Listen to vocal melodies
Another way to slow down and play melodically is to listen to vocalists. You’ll be amazed at what learning vocal lines, melodies, and harmonies can bring to your performance. A singer’s utterances, inflections, choice of notes, and performances may seem completely foreign to you as a guitarist. But try copying a few lines from the best singers and you will undoubtedly unlock new tones and techniques that will put your audience on an emotional roller coaster ride.
If you are playing at full volume at full volume and speed, you are simply not leaving enough room in the music to show any emotion. Let’s go back to the analogy of speech. Imagine your partner whispering sweet words in your ear. But they are not whispering. They are screaming, very loud and very fast. No matter how comforting your proclamations of love are, you probably won’t take them as such.
But what happens when they find out that you spent too much money on a guitar pedal without telling them? Suddenly that loud and fast speech comes into focus and is totally appropriate. That volume and intensity are used as the perfect way to convey the current emotion. Fast, slow, loud, or quiet, use them all in your performance and whatever you play will translate that much better.
Sometimes disciplining ourselves to play more moderately is next to impossible. Do you want to get out of that high speed routine? Eliminate some options. Force yourself to play a full solo on a single string or a different scale, turn off the overdrive and solo clean, or try soloing on a completely different instrument. That’s right, maybe write the solo for your new tune on a piano and then translate that to your guitar. Talk about getting a new perspective! Once you step out of your comfort zone, you will be forced to trust your ears and emotions. It’s a little revealing at first, but I bet you’ll find a new sonic voice that you never knew you had.
Let your emotions flow
While these are all great techniques to adopt, the most important thing is to really try to think about what you are feeling. What a concept! Do you want to play emotionally? Then allow yourself to feel the music, feel your experiences, and feel the moment. With little more than a bit of self-awareness, I think you’ll find yourself tearing back tears, imposing joy, and amplifying your fans every time you touch your strings.