Not Listening = Over Playing


I’m as guilty of this as much as anyone – so, I’m not trying to be judgemental – just helpful.


The reason behind this post is simple, YouTube keeps suggesting people’s covers of tunes I’ve just seen. Now if I love the original then I’ll be sure to check out the the cover. The problem with this is that most people are over playing. Sure it sounds great in your bedroom, but over play on a real gig and you won’t last 5 minutes.


When I see someone overplaying, I usually hit the back button within 30 seconds of the clip starting. It’s not that they haven’t spent hours listening, learning and perfecting the tune.


It’s often that they haven’t listen to the tiniest and most subtle detail of the song. Often the track sound amazing (and makes you want to hit repeat), can be something as small as the drummer playing slightly behind the beat or a string keyboard pad sound which is running throughout the track. You might not notice it as it’s not hitting you in the face – i.e. It’s obvious if you’re listening hard but it’s in the background and could easily be missed.


These small parts make the song sound full. Taken away, there is a tendency to try and fill the space with more guitar/sounds/playing – which always leads to over playing.


To over simplify and explain what I mean, over playing is when you believe you can play ever note, all the time and still make it sound musically acceptable or even just musical!



Here’s my top 10 of ideas how NOT to overplay:



#1 Do vs Don’t

Remember that when you DON’T play, is just as meaningful as when you do. It’s cool to sit out of the verse and then go in hard in the choruses – creating maximum impact.



#2 Find a simple part that adds to the song

Playing chords or a single line idea low in the mix in the verse and playing so well that it blends in, will not only allow the song to breathe, it will test your playing (in a good way!)



#3 Simplify your chords

Power chords still work and makes it seem like your playing a lot, when in reality, you not hogging that much space.



#4 Think sounds

Especially ones which when blends with other band members.


I can get a few sounds that really compliments a Rhodes (electric piano) sound, which when used makes me blend with the key’s player.


Try this: front pick-up, tone rolled back to 7 or 8, heavy compression (any compressor pedal will do – like a dyna comp), tremolo set fairly slow at 70% wet and long delay (around 300 ms, 2 repeat, 50% wet – I.e. set so that it’s barely audible).


Another interesting sound is: using a lot of gain with a phaser sound (after the gain) and a short delay, can sound really synthy – especially when playing power chords.



#5 Just the chord changes

Framing the chord changes is always a great way to play but not to much. Framing is when you just play long notes over the changes – like one chord per bar.



#6 Hold off solos

This is the classic, solos are great but should be left until the solo slot. Sure, if you can or if it’s appropriate, play a lick or two after the first chorus or into the bridge.



#7 If in doubt, double!

If in doubt, double the rhythm guitar or the keyboard – get as close as you can to what they’re playing – It’ll sound chunky and fat!



#8 Find a Hook

Play the main hook, chorus and something small in the bridge. The main hook is usually the melody line everyone hums on the way out of the gig!



#9 Listen!

Listen to the other band members and leave them space and respond to their ideas.



#10 Cut it in half

Half what you plan to play and still hold back.



Really, it comes down to this: Think about what your playing and leave space for other band members and the song.

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