‘Feel’ gets talked about a lot in musician’s circles with certain players being deemed to have more of it than others. Sometimes feel gets mistaken for a lack of technique and very technical players are thought to have less or no feel, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Kurt Cobain certainly had a lot of feel as do John Scofield, John Frusciante and many others. At the end of the day I think it’s one of those personal things, and any guitarist that moves you must be playing with feel to have reached you on an emotional level.
Before you can develop feel I think it’s essential to play in an honest way and get past the whole ego thing; this will eventually allow you to find your unique voice on the guitar. No guitar player who is said to have ‘feel’ gets up on stage and throws in everything but the kitchen sink. On the contrary, they give it everything and shift their focus from technique to emotion.
In the following video, John Mayer shows us a simple but very effective exercise in developing feel. I’m a big fan of John Mayer’s playing as not only is he a great songwriter but he’s also a fantastic guitarist who’s really mastered his trade, and more importantly, is able to communicate his ideas for the benefit of anyone studying music. Enjoy!
The exercise starts at [5:28]