If you want to improve your guitar playing there's no magical device, or instrument or book or course that will suddenly make it all happen. Bu there are two sure fire things that will accelerate your development:
- Play every day
- Play with others
I've written previously about the notion of guitar mastery and how to get more time to play every day. For the last three years, I've played guitar about 360 out of 365 days a year. Sometimes it's 15 minutes at the end of a very long day. On occasion its in an airport or hotel with a travel guitar. But it's not when I feel like it or when I have time; it's an every day commitment. That's helped me get a lot of the basics down. Today I'll focus on the importance of playing with others.
Two years I started playing guitar with a blues workshop at Red House studios in Walnut Creek. Every Monday we get together and work on blues songs. We've had some people come and go from the workshop, we've split up into two different bands, we've tackled classic blues as well as some rock songs that really have nothing to do with the blues (mostly my fault). But the important thing is we play together as a band. There's a drummer, a bass player and usually more guitars than we actually need. And we don't just jam or fool around; we work on songs that we'll perform live in front of an audience.
I've also been getting together every few fridays with my buddy Rob for the last 10 months and occasionally we've been lucky enough to have Chorus Dave join us on bass as part of the Electric Buddha Blues Band. Rumor has it in 2012 we'll get a drummer.
There's something important that happens when you play with others. It forces you to improve in ways that are more difficult, perhaps even impossible, on your own. You can't really develop the skill of listening to others by playing by yourself. With the right coaching from fellow musicians you learn how to not overcrowd others, how to leave quiet stretches, how to bring down the dynamics and how to deal gracefully when things go wrong.
If you want to really improve your playing, I encourage you to find a couple of like-minded wannabe musicians and just get going. As long as someone can hold down the beat, you're guaranteed to improve. And if you're very fortunate, you'll actually create music and friendships along the way.
Below is a video of me, Rob and Chorus Dave doing an Albert King song "I'll Play The Blues For You."