While I’m technically competent, I feel so musically lacking, and I feel insecure compared to other more talented musicians. Part of it is because i Just started 2 years ago, but I’m determined to help develop my skill. Any tips?
Hard to know without more info but you need to put some personality into the music.
1-2-3-4 strums all the same isnt it, thats a machine
scales 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-1 isnt it, thats a machine
Humans respond to emotion and music is about invoking emotion
You say you’re technically competent. That would tend to suggest you play scales and practice chord changes. What type of music do you like? Do you learn and play songs? Do you play along to backing tracks?
Give us a bit more info Martin.
yes, I have to agree with the other comments. Can you give a bit more details about what you mean by “musically”? There are so many aspects and facets to music.
Do you mean putting emotion into your music?
Do you mean music theory (like scales, chord progressions, …)?
Do you mean playing more diverse styles of music?
To do this you really need to be more diverse in what you listen to and be analytic about it. In my own experience I listen to any music from Classical to Metal and recently Symphonic metal, the more you listen to the more you appreciate what they’re doing.
This knowledge of different styles and comparing them helps you understand music more and improves both your knowledge and techniques; it’s a lifetime achievement to learn what you’re asking, it doesn’t happen easily, you have to have patience and tenacity to get there, but there is always more to learn.
More importantly don’t stress yourself about it, just accept that it’s a long learning experience.
Without more context it’s hard to offer specific suggestions, but I’ll give it shot.
- Dynamics: spend some practice time focusing on dynamics. Play soft, then loud, crescendo and decrescendo, etc.
- Sing/Hum a melody or a riff, then play it. Put on a backing drone or a very simple progression (even just two chords). Sing/hum a short melody, then play what you sang. You might find that your singing/humming is more naturally “musical” in its phrasing and note choice, compared to what your fingers are used to doing on the guitar. Get your fingers used to that “musical” phrasing.
- Pay attention to “space”: Sometimes notes should fill the musical space, sometimes the space should be empty and “waiting/expectant”
- Tempo: Make sure you play in time. Super important. If you’re already good at keeping time, then start thinking about varying the tempo in certain places. Increased tempo in the chorus, ritardano at the end, and so on.
“Learn songs, learn songs, learn songs!”
Learn how to "groove’.
Make the listeners feel the beat and the rhythm, and make them want to move in time, sing along, and even dance.
(But don’t ask me HOW to do that, because I don’t know…not yet, at least. I just know it’s important.)
Hi sorry for not clarifying enough, I am a fingerstyle player, so I usually play melody, bass, chords all together at once. I would say I’m way more competent with fingers than pick haha
In terms of musicality, it’s more to feeling the song, understanding its dynamic and such. I have a hard time going beyond just playing proper notes and expressing proper emotions.
I have actually tried coming up with stories for the song I’m playing. So when I play an instrumental song, I try to write a story around the song, but it doesn’t translate through my playing
This lesson may answer some of your questions:
I am new, 1.25 year under my belt and am not technically good nor very musical at this juncture. I am at the “just starting to get a few compliments from my wife stage”, which is nice .
If I were to project myself into the shoes of technically competent but lacking emotion in my playing, I think I might try letting go of the technical part and try to practice playing while listening and trying to feel the groove, while letting myself not play so technically well, trying not to worry about making mistakes and messing up technically.
You have the skills, so you won’t lose them (like I would if I tried that now), so make a few mistakes and feel how the music feels, perhaps?
I would encourage you to not compare yourself to other musicians. It’s a zero sum game. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. If you feel you just have to compare, then compare yourself to your own self as of a month or a year ago.
I’m not sure if it’s what you are after but I think your question relates to the difference between playing a piece that is technically all correct and as written in eg tab etc vs ‘with expression’ (whatever that means)?
I am still early in my musical journey but some things I find help me try to move past a technical delivery to something more nuanced (which isn’t all the time):
I generally listen to the piece many times, sometimes different covers and recordings, live vs studio and pick up on ones I like and what gives the essence or feel of the piece. That also embeds it so I can hear it in my head even away from the instrument.
I will practice the technical delivery until I can eg look out the window or chat to someone in the room and keep playing. For experimenting with this topic, start with simpler pieces or smaller sections so your brain has more bandwidth to process other things going on (eg dynamics and expression).
To understand how to transfer what’s in your head to the instrument experiment with how you can technically vary what you are doing and produce different outcomes. I once spent a practice session sat at the piano trying to get different sounds out of the same single note / key press (loud, soft, slow attack, fast attack) by playing differently. Similarly for pick angles or finger pressure. Or where you play on the instrument. I watch a lot of streamed music eg on twitch and watch and then try and mimic how they hold their hands, posture etc for different outcomes in terms of sound. On my acoustic - I find different ways of strumming the same chord to get different sounds.
Once you are trying to recreate a sound from your head rather than follow the instructions or notations or recipe then I find my internal ‘copy’ or memory of the song is sufficiently different (and imperfect) to the original to produce something more varied. Whether that means more musical is yet to be seen… If there are lyrics then that can help carry you. Also - I often try and smile, shake my arms or shoulders out and breathe and relax and release tension before starting.
I will record a lot of when I play and listen back and see what works and what carries what I wanted. I will also share it and get feedback which is often surprising and different to how you see yourself.
I’m not sure if that helps but some steps I have tried. As I said - I am still learning so might not be ‘correct’ approach but I enjoy
Good luck and enjoy!
Thanks @grayal !
That was presented well, very helpful for me, hopefully for the OP as well!
Don’t ever compare yourself to other players. Play whatever you want to play. Find your own voice on the instrument.
Thank you all, I think I am going to focus on learning dynamics and transcribing. I need to relisten to songs a lot
Thanks for the topic. I feel the same way. I don’t want my music to feel robotic or too mechanical. I ditched worrying about the down up down up stuff so much that you see most people teach to beginners. Remember school of rock with Jack Black- loosey goosey baby. Focus on feeling the rhythm and take a song that has been played 1000 times and make it your own. I am still working on playing in time. I think that’s more critical than any strumming pattern.
I am with you in this one. I need some rudimentary consistency and timing before I can worry about all the “feeling the music” stuff.
Without trying to invoke the wrath of the Mods…
I would look into modes as I found that I connected more to some than others, might give you an understanding of why you like the stuff you like and enable you to emulate it more.
Now the controversy; Rick Beato has some fine videos on modes and how they invoke different moods… he tells a good tale too.
You do need to learn to walk before running.
Music has a framework you need to play within