Let’s face it, a lot of players, when they first start learning to play guitar, want to burn, burn, burn. They want to play as many notes as fast as they possibly can and blow people away with their shred ability. This can be extremely attention grabbing and, at the appropriate moment, can be the right thing to do. However, one of the most important virtues of a musician is to make his audience “feel” the music. This often requires more discretion and sensitivity than just ripping off a thousand notes per second at a hundred and twenty decibels.
Varying the intensity and volume level of your playing can really breath life into your music. It can draw your audience in and really make them want to hear what you have to say, musically. Starting a solo at a lower volume and building to a more intense finish is a typical, yet highly effective use of dynamics. It lets the audience and the other musicians follow along with you as you form and build your solo. For another use of dynamics, try playing along at a fairly hard driving level of intensity and then back way off, then gradually build back up to your ending, really pulling the audience into what you’re doing.
Use dynamics when you’re playing rhythm. Listen to what the rest of the band is doing and be sure to blend with them in volume and intensity. This will help blend things together and make the song a lot easier for the listeners to feel.
Another rule of thumb regarding dynamics is, when the singer starts to sing, back off a bit. For example, you may have an intro that is fairly aggressive so go ahead and play it that way, but when the singer comes in and starts the verse, bring your volume and intensity down a bit. Don’t make it too whimpy, but make sure the singer has the spotlight, and not the guitar player that’s playing too loud. Use your discretion.
Riffs and hot licks can be exciting but if that’s all you do it can also get a little boring. Try to play melodically in your solos. Phrase your lines as if they were an actual written melodic line in the song. This can give your playing a lot of strength and can make it easy for your listeners to enjoy your playing.
Lock Into the Groove…
When you’re playing rhythm in a band, listen to, and lock into what the other players are doing. Start by listening to the drummer. Listen to what he is playing on his hi-hat. This will often be a great source of sixteenth or eighth note subdivisions that make the music easier to feel. Try to lock your playing into these subdivision and accents. Listen to what he’s playing on his bass drum and snare drum. If you use the hi-hat, bass and snare drum as a reference for the groove, you can help to create a strong groove. If you do this you’ll definitely be helping the audience, and the other players in the band get into what you’re doing.
Make sure your part fits with everyone else’s. If several of the other players have really busy parts you might want to see about playing a more simple part to add contrast and a solid foundation for the rest of the parts to lay on. Sometimes a fairly busy part may be needed to make the song work. Just make sure that all the rhythm’s that your are playing help to make the groove stronger. Make sure nothing in your part clashes inappropriately with another players part.
Are You Sensitive?
Overall, just be very sensitive to what you’re playing; how it fits with the other players parts, the mood and style of the song, along with what you’re trying to say musically. If you are always conscious of these points, you’ll be more successful at helping your audience and the other players “Feel” what you are doing.