This is a little trick I use. It might not work for you, but it’s a good idea nonetheless.
In my mind, I have a different compartment per musical style. I try to pack all that I can into that compartment. Everything that makes that style, well, umm… that style! From the gear used, to what the guitarist might be listening to; to the players approach to the instrument, etc.
So, for example, take Country music, I know a little Brent Mason, some Tom Buxovac, sprinkled with some Chet Aktins. Which means I know and understand a range of country music styles and have a basic idea of what make it’s country! There are, of course a few common elements that I gather together and then drag out when someone says “here’s a country track, what you’ve got”.
With country guitar, I’m going to prefer to use certain chord voicings over other ones. This means simplifying my chord choices, unless it’s a slower song where I might want to use chord voicings with open strings to fill out the sound.
With soloing, I’m going to think about both the type of licks to use, or not use – as the case may be, as well as the way each note is attacked. In country, you’ll play notes more staccato, with more bending and each phrase will be short and distinctive.
Then on to guitar gear! With country guitar something like a Telecaster type guitar into a Fender Deluxe amp for those classic country guitars tones. This sound will get you very close to the classic country guitar sound without too much effort. If you’re going for a more modern tone, then a Strat style guitar with a low gain overdrive and a short delay into a Vox inspired amp will have you sounding up to date after a few notes! You get the picture.
As for soul, it’s a whole different style, gear choices, picking style and feel. Plus, it’s more harmonically advanced than some other styles. I’m more likely to play chord fragments, leaving the lower notes to the bass player. Also with Soul guitar, I’m more likely to blend blues and jazz licks when soloing. As for the tone, I’ll add more bass on the guitar tone – so it sounds more jazzy.
Of course this is essential if you do session work. But it’s also worth the effort even if you don’t, as you’ll learn so much to add to your current playing by learning a new musical style and you might change your approach to how you play guitar.
The real benefit is being able to pick a song and play 4 different versions – for example: Country, Blues, pop and soul.
Try it. Get a few classic CDs in each style and take notes, apply them and grow as a musician.