Few Secrets to Playing Guitar With Feeling

Student Playing Guitar in lessons

Few Hidden Secrets to Playing Guitar With Feeling

What does “playing with feeling” actually mean?

Basically it’s playing the notes with “human touch”, so they don’t sound “robotic”.

This consists of elements of phrasing, dynamics and time.

This is as far as we’re talking about mechanical aspects, but on the other hand, musically, feeling is about creating a tension and releasing it.

            But many players who have done their work on their bends, vibrato, slides, hammer ons and so on, still don’t sound like they’re playing with feeling. Therefore many people think that you’re either born with or you’re not. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Of course, to some people playing with feeling comes more naturally than to others, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be learnt and rehearsed.

Adding Feeling to Your Guitar Playing

In this article I will talk about few ways to add a “feeling” to your playing.

First, I’d like to say a few words about “bending”.

Adding In Bends

Bending is not so hard to learn, but it’s very hard to master. Almost every beginner/intermediate player can do it right up to some degree.

It’s basically just that bending the string, so you lift the pitch of the note to a higher note. But it’s much more than this. You can get a lot of feeling if you bend the string slowly.

This way you create tension and release it when you land on the note you’re reaching. Of course, you have to practice it, to experiment when to start bending so you’ll reach the right note at the right time.

Another interesting bending trick is to bend and release note very quickly, and then bend it slowly immediately after that. And if you put a nice vibrato on the final note, you’ve done even more…

How about Dynamics?

            Second thing I want to talk about is the dynamics. Dynamics means that you articulate note differently, you emphasize the ones that needed to be emphasized, and almost hide some others.

A very simple exercise for that is that you play eight same notes for a length of one bar and a whole note in the next bar. At first, play all the notes with the same articulation. That won’t sound too good.

After that play the notes so you gradually increase the volume of the notes. Now it sounded like there was some tension. It felt like you were taking the music somewhere. And this was only with one note and eight notes.

Now imagine what you can do if you put more notes and different rhythms while applying different dynamics to different notes.

Gaps In Your Phrases

            The third thing I’m going to talk about is the gaps. If you play the most extravagant thing on the planet, but you’re playing it on and on, without any pause, the listener will become bored after a while.

Even if it might be very hard to learn, and technically very advanced, the audience just won’t be very impressed (that is, of course, if you don’t have only guitar freaks in the audience).

You can add gaps everywhere in your playing. If you know a phrase, you can divide it in two parts, with a pause in between. Or put a gap between two phrases.

There’s a saying that the gap and the silence between the notes are just as important as the notes itself.  

One interesting exercise is to try to mimic your breathing. You pause your playing every time you inhale the air, just as you would be singing with your guitar. I guarantee you, that you’ll sound more musical right away.    

Licks & Chords Changes

            The last thing I’ll talk about is adding busy licks before the chord changes. This one’s a little bit harder to explain, but the basic idea is to create a tension with many fast notes just before the chord change, and then to land on the right note on the next chord.

Of course you shouldn’t do it before every chord change, but every now and then.

For better understanding of what I’m talking about you might want to listen to “Since I’ve been loving you” by Led Zeppelin, there are quite a few examples of this in that song. And listen to the vocals as well, because Robert Plant does this with his vocals as well.

            So here we are, I’ve presented you a few things that might make you sound much more musical if you apply it to your playing.

Keep in mind that everything might not sound very good immediately, some of these things require some practice and exploring. But on the other hand it’s worth the work, because no two guitarists will do it the same way.

If you find the way of applying this to your guitar playing that works best for you, it will help you develop your own unique identity as a player.

This article was written by our friend, a professional guitar teacher Nejc Vidmar from Slovenia. He has taught this concept to several of his students, and the results and improvement of musicality in their playing was tremendous.