Rock guitarists can be a pretty insular lot. Ask one about their top ten favorite musicians, and you’ll probably get a list of ten rock guitarists. (If they’re adventurous you may get a jazz or fusion guitarist on the list.) Ask the same guitarist to talk about one of their favorite songs, and they’ll most likely talk about the guitar parts. This makes sense – they love this instrument enough to want to play it. Then, as they’re learning, it’s one of the main things they think about, and one of the main things they’ll hear in a song.
That’s all probably fine if your goal is to be a guitarist.
But if your goal is to be a musician, there’s a lot you can learn from other instruments. (I should point out here that I consider voice to be an instrument.) One of the reasons I specified “rock guitarists” instead of just “guitarists” here is that I’ve noticed that jazz and classical guitarists tend to be much more open to influences from other instruments. I think that’s pretty awesome, and us rockers can learn from that.
So here’s a couple of cross-training exercises for rock guitarists:
- Learn to play the bass part from some of your favorite songs, turning it into a guitar part.
- Do the same thing for the vocal melody. Don’t worry about this turning the song into elevator music – the goal here is just to learn how to make those vocal parts into guitar parts as a learning exercise.
- Figure out how to do a percussion pattern based on a drum groove you like – slapping the strings, the body, etc. Make it funky, son.
- Just listen to a great album that has no guitar parts. (You have to listen – it can’t just be background music.) I recommend Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, a fantastic jazz album. Since this advice is for rockers, guitar-less might be a little bit harder to find. (Of course, I also think it’s essential for rockers to listen to non-rock, but I can understand wanting to deal with one problem at a time. Baby steps!) Apocalyptica does metal with cellos and no guitars. If you enjoy electronic music, Crystal Method’s album Vegas has lots of food for thought for guitarists. Dig around, you’ll find something (and maybe discover some great music that you will be surprised and delighted to hear).