Open Your Mind

(originally published:

Stealing And The Misery Of Being A Guitarist In The Music Scene Nowadays

Stealing is for guitar players (and of course all musicians) part of the daily practice routine. Get the chops like Malmsteen, your tone like Jeff Beck and the note choice of Eric Johnson etc. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, everybody who has open ears has the intention to grab some stuff to play and practice or at least to get some inspiration from others. That’s great and necessary to progress your playing. BUT why steal things mentioned above (chops, progressions etc.) only from guitarists?

What happens is that everything is growing from the same root. The guitarists-plant dusts itself. It is a vicious circle that pushes guitarists nowadays in the background in modern (commercial) music! You only get called for the studio gig to play some typical rock licks/funk licks etc. But you and i know we are able to do much more than that. As we all are here – practiced our fingers to the bone – the only chance we see to be in demand is to sit down and focus on (or record) our own weird stuff. That can be fun but not so financially beneficial and very lonely as well.

My point is: the guitar is such a flexible instrument. How come this instrument doesn’t get the acknowledgment and attention it once had and still deserves. My answer: we are not flexible enough!

What I want you to consider is playing dance floor – house – techno – ambient – triphop – acidjazz – etc. !!! Adjust your thinking, expand your style, expand your audience! Playing (rock) guitar doesn’t have to mean that you get stuck in the rehearsal room or your home studio. Just don’t be stubborn – its all about music, the thing we love and live for.

– for instance, ever tried copying dance floor synth-arpeggios? Double handedly? Sweeped? Stringskipped? Inverted? In three part harmony? Do it!
– Bring your hi-speed bebop licks to an acidjazz jam!
– Listen, and recreate everyday life noises on guitar to get the triphop gig
– Practice sound effects on guitar – get the chromatic or wholetone lines flashing above a techno groove!
– Or go to the biggest (!) house club in your town grab the DJ and suggest an alliance! You support him playing heavy riffs or leads on his house beats or fill spaces with wide clean chorus/wah chords!

You’ll see that it works cause all these guys have is records and samples. He will love to deal with a human guitarist – he just hasn’t met one cause he is from a different music scene.

You’ll end up having a 500 – 1500 people audience, screaming, dancing, having fun, and your are getting paid very well! Its just a small step into a strange area but it’s worth it! Don’t wait for chances to come to you, be the first one to take this step. Cross the border! I did and don’t regret it at all.

Be proud to play guitar – be really open minded and trade styles and people respectfully. Approach musicians that come from totally different musical areas. If we keep on playing our same old clichés, it is no wonder that we only get “used” to maintain these clichés.

So be brave and everything will come back to you.

Luke Skywalker, Jedi Guitar and the Refresh button

I also want to sharpen your senses on something almost everybody does, but hardly recognises.

So what the hell could I mean and what has Mr. Skywalker got to do with it?
I’m talking about the „reflex-licks’n’riffs“! Most of the time they come in the flavor „Pentatonic-Blues-Penetration“ and sometimes you find „Harmonic-Minor-Noodles with Meaty Riffballs“.

Know what I mean? This lick you play while you talk to a friend, the one you play when you are totally pissed, the one you play when you just don’t pay attention to it.

Not paying attention to what you play! – Isn’t that frightening?
Everybody has these kind of licks up his sleeve – the ones you can’t get rid of since years.

Please don’t mistake them with trademark licks of YOUR style – carefully created and always there when you need them! I mean the really cheesy „everybodystyle“ licks’n’riffs.

Modify them – bring them back to life! They’ve done their job already (i.e. to help you practice 16th-notes or to get a cool rhythm feeling – now they got stuck on you). They don’t have emotional value for you, they are not special, they are not you. They are like insects which, whenever you don’t listen, take control of your fingers and play for themselves. This should not happen!

– Always be aware of what you are playing and of what comes out of your guitar, cause that is what you will be judged on and that is what makes up your style!

– Only play what you really want to play not what your hands want to play (they tend to controled by the reflex-insects)!

This is where Luke comes in. Do you remember the Jedi training where he wears that closed helmet, standing there with the light-saber trying to defend himself against this little flying training-ball shooting tiny lasers? He gets shot when relying on reflexes.

Yoda tells him to use the force – and thats what you should do! Don’t rely on the reflexes – listen and be aware of what you are playing – thats your force. TRUST, trust your opinion on what has to be played.

Listen to the sounds in your head and get rid of the automatic stuff. Then you will be unique and your notes will be your words and not just old phrases.

If you have the power to say goodbye, push the refresh button and peel off the reflexes you’ll see what’s left underneath.

That can be a frustrating experience, but hey, I thought you want to be unique!?

Here are a few licks to show you how I would possibly refresh them.
Do them your way – I just wanted you to think about what could help to improve your playing:

Lick 1 old
Lick 1 new

Lick 2 old
Lick 2 new

Lick 3 old
Lick 3 new

The Chromatic Swirl

As an example for creating akward “soundeffects” on guitar check this one out.
This lick basically a chromatic one which is shifted up a half step every section. The notes descend while the whole pattern is ascending. Combined with some speed it creates a swirl effect which could scare someone or make him throw up. In this case played over a E minor progression but try to throw it in wherever you like – maybe on the next blues jam to loosen things up a bit. As it is chromatic and used more like a sound effect you don’t really have to care what key you are in, just play it as clean as possible!

The tapped notes are played with the edge of the pick. I do this for two reasons:

1. The sound has more attack and is clearer compared to when tapped with i. e. the index finger.

2. It is hard to squeeze the right hand finger besides the other four left hand fingers, especially in the upper frets.

To practice this monster break it down to one string at a time first and then combine them or maybe come up with your own variations. But keep it chromatic for at least 70% of the lick to gain the effect. Keep it played fluently at slower speeds and then slowly accelerate.

Keep your fingers as close to the fretboard as possible cause that’s where you need them.

Chromatic and Backing

Thanks for reading all this (quite a bit wasn’t it..), and I hope I was able to open your mind a bit.

Sven Stichter

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