11 Guitar Playing Tips From Famous Guitarists You Must Read
This advice from some of the best guitar players ever to live will inspire you to confidently go pick your guitar up
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Learning to play the guitar can be a mixture of joy and frustration, can't it?
We've gleaned 11 golden playing guitar tips from classic interviews with some of the best guitarists that have ever lived to help kick frustration to the curb.
Whether you've been playing the guitar for 8 months or 8 years, these pearls of wisdom will help inspire and motivate you. As a result, you'll improve your playing skills by a country mile.
You see, when you feel inspired, you become empowered to banish any negative feelings of doubt. You relax into the flow and guitar playing becomes fun and exciting.
Let's get to them.
1. “Most people give up at this point, but it’s best not to. Just keep on, just keep on.”
Electric guitar legend Jimi Hendrix on confidence and what to do if you feel like giving up playing the guitar.
"It was so hard for me at first. I knew about three songs. When it was time for us to play on stage I was all shaky. So I had to play behind the curtains. I just couldn’t get up in front. And then you get so very discouraged. You hear different bands playing around you, and the guitar player always seems like he’s so much better than you are.”
“Most people give up at this point, but it’s best not to. Just keep on, just keep on. Sometimes you are going to be so frustrated you’ll hate the guitar, but all of this is just a part of learning. If you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded. If you’re very stubborn you can make it."
2. “I don't think that you could practise enough.”
Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash explains why practise and using your ears are your two secret weapons when it comes to learning the guitar.
"Practise, and, you know, practise excessively. I don't think that you could practise enough. Basically concentrate on listening to people that you really like their style and try and learn some stuff from those people.
Learn their techniques, try and figure out who they do certain things. I think listening is a huge tool to learning how to play the guitar."
3. “Every guitarist has his (her) own signature and his (her) own spirit.”
On being voted the greatest rock guitarist in the world in 2020, Queen guitarist Brian May on why he doesn’t rate rating guitarists ability.
"I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but the funny thing about guitar playing is that you can’t really rate it. You can’t really give it points. That would be my response. I’m hugely honoured that people have [voted me the best rock guitarist in the world], but every guitarist has his (or her) own signature and his (or her) own spirit.
“I don’t know if it’s true with any other instrument, but it seems to me that the guitar is perhaps the most expressive instrument because anyone can pick it up and make some kind of noise which affects people. So we’re all different."
Interview on guitarworld.com
4. “I wish more players paid more attention to dynamics...”
Jazz guitarist extraordinaire Mimi Fox educates us on why she thinks dynamics are such a critical element of great guitar playing.
"Someone I did an interview with recently was asking me about my dynamics. The fellow said that he noticed on my records how sometimes I would play soft and then get loud, and really vary the dynamics. I said that I think it has a very big impact on people and they don’t even realize it.
And I wish more players paid more attention to dynamics. The way that you attack a tone – softly or roundly or piercingly – really affects people. All of these different things feel different to the listener. It’s like speaking, and all the inflections that we use"
Interview on guitar.com
5. “...Be completely honest with themselves about what they don't know.”
Steve Vai's no bs answer when asked what tips he'd give to people learning to play the guitar.
"...to be completely honest with themselves about what they don't know. Do you know all the scales? If the answer's no, then what you gonna do about it? And so it's really quite obvious; we just have to be very straightforward with ourselves, and that's how we arrange our practising."
6. “No matter how f**ked up things are [...] I'm going to give 1,000 per cent.”
Yngwie Malmsteen speed demon on the importance of keeping a positive attitude.
"My philosophy as a musician is to be the best I can. Some musicians on this tour let their guard down and they allow negativity to affect their performance.
To me, as a rule, no matter how f**ked up things are because of a personal or technical problem, that time I’m onstage, I’m going to give 1,000 per cent."
Interview on guitar.com
7. “For me, it's the rhythm thing that's way more impressive...”
Rocker Angus Young of AC/DC tells us why being an outstanding rhythm guitar player should be your primary focus.
"I can't deny that Eric Clapton's and Eddie Van Halen's lead stuff has influenced a stack of people, but for me, it's the rhythm thing that's way more impressive and important to a band."
8. “The beauty of it is that you can take one of those things and make it yours.”
Speaking of Eric Clapton, when asked if he has advice for guitar players today, this is what the rock blues star had to say.
"Yeah – listen to the past. I've run into a lot of players in the last 10 or 15 years who didn't really know where it was coming from. They thought it came from Jimmy Page or they thought it came from Jeff Beck or they thought it came from Buddy Guy or that it came from BB King.
Well, it comes from further back and if you go back and listen to Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell, there are thousands of them who all have something which led to where it is now. The beauty of it is that you can take one of those things and make it yours."
Interview on musicradar.com
9. “He doesn’t construct leads, he sits and plays over a song and comes up with strange sounds...”
Soundgarden's Chris Cornell on what he thinks makes bandmate Kim Thayil exceptional on guitar that you can copy and work on.
"His approach is more atmospheric and more stream of consciousness. He doesn’t construct leads, he sits and plays over a song and comes up with strange sounds and approaches – sometimes that comes out as a very hooky melodies and sometimes it’s very atmospheric guitar playing that can be effects-laden or just feedback even."
Interview on musicradar.com
10. “They didn't do that nasty sort of industrial distortion.”
Jeff Beck gives advice on how to get the best guitar sound if you were wondering.
"Listen to the great guitarists of the Fifties. They didn't do that nasty sort of industrial distortion. They played musical compositions as solos - Scotty Moore, Cliff Gallup, Django Reinhardt. There wasn't a bad note in any of those solos. I listened to that and stayed with those rules."
11. “I listen to other guitar players, yeah.”
Jazz blues guitar legend & singer George Benson on why taking inspiration from fellow guitarists is a smart tactic.
"I listen to other guitar players, yeah. It gives me new concepts and shows me where the instrument is going for the future and it is going some places. There are some musicians who are really putting out a good vibe with new theories. I try and keep up."