Doing Your Thing on Guitar

St. Vincent

You’ve probably noticed that most well-known guitarists have their ‘thing’; this could be defined as that certain something they do that makes them instantly recognizable. Tom Morello’s sound effects and riffs, Matt Belamy’s melodic soloing and chord work and Eric Johnson’s tone and endless scalar lines are just a few fine examples of players who have nurtured, explored and brought their own unique sound to the instrument… But how do you know what your thing is?

I’d love to be able to provide a concrete answer to this question but it’s usually one of two things, or a combination of both the thing you love doing and the thing that comes easiest to you. What happens if the thing you love most does not come easily to you? Worry not; your sheer desire and love for that thing will see you through to its accomplishment.

Nobody does it better

Nobody does it quite the way you do… This is certainly true of your thing, as nobody plays guitar like you. If you’re still unsure as to what your thing is then record yourself noodling. You’ll notice certain recurring themes and ideas, styles of playing and techniques. This should give you some pointers as to which direction to take.

Make decisions about your playing

Decide how you’re going to attack the instrument. Do you gravitate more towards fingerstyle or using the pick, or a combination of both? Do you hook your thumb over? Do you like barre chords or partial chords? You’ll find that once you go from, ‘trying stuff out’ to deciding on certain techniques, you’ll bring out more of your own character on the instrument.

Learning Scales: Quantity or Quality?

If you’re just getting into scales you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of permutations there are available and wondering whether you’ll ever learn them all, especially if you’ve ever dipped into the Guitar Grimoire. If you’re further on up the road then you may be wondering if you know enough scales or enough of the right scales. This is a personal choice as there are players that know all the scales (Pat Metheney, Allan Holdsworth) and players that know few or hardly any scales at all, yet both kinds of player are doing their thing. It should therefore come as a relief to know that you don’t have to know everything before you start exploring your own style.

I came across this video earlier on YouTube. This episode of the fantastic Guitar Moves series features female guitarist, Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent, talking precisely about how she arrived at her own unique style. Check it out:

About Graham Tippett 301 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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