The Multiple Musical Style Myth
Posted: August 25th, 2013 by Ashley Saunders
Let me bust another myth. I love to do it! Today myth is:
To be any good at music or as a guitarist, you have to be able to play every musical style under the sky.
While you have to master one style and learning the basics of one or two other styles will help you on your musical journey, you don’t have to master multiple musical styles.
Firstly it’s not possible as there are thousands of musical styles throughout the world, many of which neither of us has ever heard of! And secondly, you have to earn some money to eat and get some perspective/balance in life, so you can’t spend your whole live practicing music.
Guitar player word association
Just think for a moment, most of the players you admire, probably are monsters at their style but ask them to play a different one and their likely to fall apart.
Just to labour the point somewhat. Let’s try some quick word association:
Paul Jackson Jr [Jazz/funk]
Steve Vai [Metal]
Brent Mason [country]
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea!
Why is this important to guitar playing?
Ok, if you were given a choice between mastering one piece of music over the next month or trying to learn and master twenty different exercises. Which would you choose?
I’m assuming you have around an hour on average, each night to practice guitar.
If you picked the second, you might want to reconsider how to reach your goals in the most effective way. I can tell you from experience, trying 20 different things at once, won’t help you to progress. Sure you might see some change to the way you play but not the results you desired. Please remember you have limited time and more likely than not time pressures.
Like I spoke about in Practice what you want to be able to play – it’s much more productive for you to spend your time practicing what you want to be able to do, styles you’re drawn to, techniques you’ll actually use.
Don’t get caught up in the multiple musical style myth
If you try to learn every style under the sun, you won’t. And you’re more than likely to end up rubbish, frustrated and stuck in a rut! When that’s the case you’ll start finding ways to skip practicing or to cut the amount right down to the minimum you think you can get away with.
The only situation where this isn’t true, is for professional guitarists who are doing TV gigs, theatre shows or a range of high profile sessions. It’s likely that in each of these jobs you’ll have to be able read music and often transpose it on the fly!. As well as play a range of different styles and do this on a range of different stringed instruments (which can usually tuned like a guitar – Cheating!). The majority of recording session, the guitarist (and the other musicians there) are probably getting called as the product/artist/both like how you play and want your vibe on their track. Not because you can do everything under the music sun to a monster level.
So, focus on mastering one musical style that you love. A musical style that makes you want to get home to practice. Music that makes you find extra practice time and that you lose yourself in. If you finish practice time and it only feels like a few minutes has past yet in reality an hour or more has past, then you’re on to something – Keep going with.
Also if you try to master one style, work on your timing, you’re be more likely to land better gigs, find more enjoyment in playing with others and more musicians are more likely to want to play with you.
So how do I go about mastering one musical style?
Firstly, get deep into it. Jump right in! Learn how that style formed. Discover who was the first key players. Who did they influence, and so on until the current day.
That’s the history of the style, then go buy and learn some tunes from each of these eras. Learn to play like the CD, copy some licks, tunes, tones or steal the attitude that they play with. When you do learn, try to get as close to the CD as possible – in every way. Most of the time you probably have all the gear you need to get close – tone wise.
The more you learn like this, the better you’ll become, more will likely stick into your playing and make you a better player. Plus over time you’ll develop your own style based on what you’ve learnt. Your own style is like a big cake, a little of that person mixed with a sprinkling of that artist.
The more time you pour into learning one style, the more you’ll find there is to learn, but every step will excite you further and will spur you on to greater heights.
So why should I expand pass this one style?
Expanding gives you depth, as a musician, a player and as a music lover. I would urge you to go just as deep, on your second style as you have done on your first.
Anything you learn in one style can be applied to another. It will take you some time to figure out how to but you can. Just look at John5, he’s incorporated country pickin’ into metal guitar playing. Paul Jackson JR has used some Steve Vai licks in his playing (no, really! Yes metal licks in jazz – who’d have known!) .
A second style gives you more options and chances to play with other musicians as you’re not limited to one style. Plus any chance you get to play – you should take. It’s like to challenge you and help you to improve fast especially if they musicians are way better than you.
Multiple Musical Style Myth – Busted!
In conclusion, focus your efforts around one style, one goal. You don’t have to learn every style under the sun as you’ll probably never master one, which you could become proficient at. It’s a myth that you should (or that you could) be able to play every style. Don’t fall into that trap! Stick to a few, use your practice time wisely and go deep into that style and really study it.
So, tell me what style are you trying to go deep into at the moment?