New avenues in guitar playing

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Jan Deal
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New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Jan Deal » Thu Oct 29, 2020 1:56 am

I think that like a fair few people here, I am a product of 80's to 90's alternative music, and this has impacted heavily on my musical leanings and how I play guitar. I'm pretty much self taught, learning Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins back catalogue.

Here in lies the current challenge I have. I have been playing for about 23 years and my guitar playing hasn't ever really deviated from what I've learned from the likes of Sonic Youth, Television or My Bloody Valentine. Sure, my "tone" and ear has improved considerably, but I feel I always have the same reference points.

How do you get yourself out of this kind of creative cornering? Do you listen to completely different music, learn songs from a totally different style? I feel that hitting the same beats is somewhat redundant, but I'm unsure how to change my approach.
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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by marqueemoon » Thu Oct 29, 2020 6:15 am

Listen to some non-rock guitar music for sure. Classical, jazz, etc... have their own cliches but yeah.

Listening to guitar players in other genres can be helpful too. Joe Pass plays guitar like a piano and Charlie Christian plays it like a horn.

Find stuff you like, obviously.

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Veitchy » Thu Oct 29, 2020 3:56 pm

I've been looking at ways to tastefully use a guitar as an instrument in genres/sounds where it wouldn't normally be a lead instrument (or even the backbone of the melody).

I wouldn't call her 'new' at this point, but Annie Clark/St. Vincent is a great example of this for me, especially her more recent albums. The overall sound is pretty electronic and processed, but she still plays guitar on most of the tracks and it never feels forced - the tone always suits the song and the instrument sits in a nice space. Sometimes it's what's holding down the tune, certainly, but she's found some great ways to keep it in other songs where you would never expect guitars to show up.

Just one example, but yeah, I look at using the instrument as a tool sonically rather than the lynchpin of the whole melody/songwriting.

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:46 am

I'm kinda lucky (at least I feel that way) in that as my music tastes have evolved, I've pursued learning songs by those new artists as well. I've never been an amazing guitarist, but just like when I was young and first learning, I'm always learning what I like to listen to. I'll find new chords or new scale bits and try them out with my own music. At some point, I've realized that I play differently and better for the most part. Orchestra and classical have always been a deep love of mine, as well as solo instruments like cello and piano. Then I fell in love with electronic (synth) music. Some of my favorite bands also have 2 guitarists where one is playing the riffs/melodies and the other is just making cool noise. There's no recipe for all of this, it's kind of being in the right mindset and mood in the right time and place.
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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by panoramic » Tue Nov 03, 2020 6:02 am

I find listening to avant classical composers very helpful, also proto punk stuff and like Bowie tend to help me open up into new avenues. Then I go on jazz kicks also. It's easy to get yourself in a corner with guitar playing, it's not always a bad thing to have a certain style but it can feel like a bummer when you are the one in the rut.
Last edited by panoramic on Tue Nov 03, 2020 6:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by DeathJag » Tue Nov 03, 2020 6:27 am

Jan Deal wrote:
Thu Oct 29, 2020 1:56 am
I think that like a fair few people here, I am a product of 80's to 90's alternative music, and this has impacted heavily on my musical leanings and how I play guitar. I'm pretty much self taught, learning Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins back catalogue.

Here in lies the current challenge I have. I have been playing for about 23 years and my guitar playing hasn't ever really deviated from what I've learned from the likes of Sonic Youth, Television or My Bloody Valentine. Sure, my "tone" and ear has improved considerably, but I feel I always have the same reference points.

How do you get yourself out of this kind of creative cornering? Do you listen to completely different music, learn songs from a totally different style? I feel that hitting the same beats is somewhat redundant, but I'm unsure how to change my approach.
Yes to everything everyone suggested, especially listening to classical music! I am going to add something here. Try turning the music off for a couple of weeks. Don’t listen to any music. See what starts playing in your head. It might be the same stuff, or it might be a new direction... I call it tuning in to my upstairs radio, and it has led me to many new songs and compositions.

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by epizootics » Sat Nov 14, 2020 11:28 pm

Veitchy wrote:
Thu Oct 29, 2020 3:56 pm

I wouldn't call her 'new' at this point, but Annie Clark/St. Vincent is a great example of this for me, especially her more recent albums. The overall sound is pretty electronic and processed, but she still plays guitar on most of the tracks and it never feels forced - the tone always suits the song and the instrument sits in a nice space. Sometimes it's what's holding down the tune, certainly, but she's found some great ways to keep it in other songs where you would never expect guitars to show up.
In spite of her occasionally irritating 'hey, I went to a music school' moments, which, to be fair, faded after a couple albums, she's one of my favorite 21st century guitar heroes. Her episode of Guitar Moves cracks me up every time I watch it. You can tell she puts a lot of work into avoiding guitar chlichés. And, hell, she really knows how to write a tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vRPmJx8bYs
panoramic wrote:
Tue Nov 03, 2020 6:02 am
I find listening to avant classical composers very helpful, also proto punk stuff and like Bowie tend to help me open up into new avenues. Then I go on jazz kicks also. It's easy to get yourself in a corner with guitar playing, it's not always a bad thing to have a certain style but it can feel like a bummer when you are the one in the rut.
Interestingly, Bowie's guitarwork has always been overlooked, but he is a genuinely creative player - a lot of it can be heard on Diamond Dogs, notably on 'We are the dead' which has some of my favorite guitar parts ever on it. Not lead, not rhythm, more of a counterpoint to the instrumentation. Really cool stuff.


In the recent years, Tropical Fuck Storm (and most of the Drones' discography) have managed to keep the guitar in the center of things without sounding forced or boring. Their blend of doom metal, surf and Stravinsky is both playful and poignant. The song structures are surprisingly simple (a lot of it boils down to open chords down the neck) but Gareth Liddiard's approach to melody is always interesting. Listening to them lifts me up when I wonder why the hell am I building guitars in 2020 :)

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by stevejamsecono » Sun Nov 15, 2020 6:11 am

I've been finding Sarah Lipstate of Noveller quite inspiring lately. Totally cool soundscape/synthy textures.
And you find out life isn't like that
It's so hard to understand
Why the world is your oyster but your future's a clam

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by lefty » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:31 am

A few people have said it but I also found learning some jazz chords and ideas helped get me out of a rut. I do like Jazz enough but I'm no aficionado, in fact guitar jazz in general would be my least favourite style, but the extra chord colours helped even the most basic progressions sound interesting and different. It gave me a couple of years of freshening up my playing. My reference points and self teaching are practically the same as yours by the sounds of it.

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:37 am

Create a system for yourself in which you expose yourself to something new each day.

That can look any way you want it to, and it can be incredibly simple.

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Flurko » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:40 am

I saw Julien Desprez live one year ago, and it's one of the most innovative ways of 'guitar playing' I've heard in a long time.

One of the few pedal-heavy players who doesn't want to sound like a synth nor plays any rock clichés. Very impressive (and very very noisy)

A short concert

Trailer of his solo project

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Whiny Minotaur » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:59 pm

Transcribing songs that aren't in the mold of guitar music really helps for me. Trying to transcribe parts of Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition was a trip. Obviously some songs were impossible to do, but I learned a lot through transcribing the songs I could. Speaking of Hip Hop, I learned a lot about doing more interesting things with rhythm by trying emulate the delivery of certain rappers with my guitar.

Alternatively, I play guitar to songs which don't have a guitar with the mindset of a side musician. You can't really do what you'd do when playing rock, on, say, an atonal ambient electronic sound with very upfront vocals. It helps me be more disciplined and deliberate, and also helps me mold my playing to add to the song, instead of burying it with obnoxious guitar noise.
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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Mon Nov 16, 2020 12:46 am

Whiny Minotaur wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:59 pm
Transcribing songs that aren't in the mold of guitar music really helps for me. Trying to transcribe parts of Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition was a trip. Obviously some songs were impossible to do, but I learned a lot through transcribing the songs I could. Speaking of Hip Hop, I learned a lot about doing more interesting things with rhythm by trying emulate the delivery of certain rappers with my guitar.

Alternatively, I play guitar to songs which don't have a guitar with the mindset of a side musician. You can't really do what you'd do when playing rock, on, say, an atonal ambient electronic sound with very upfront vocals. It helps me be more disciplined and deliberate, and also helps me mold my playing to add to the song, instead of burying it with obnoxious guitar noise.
I LOVE this. Non-standard/strange rhythms have always interested me. I always thought about trying to transcribe multiple parts from an orchestra as guitar, though not in a heavy way like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Layering multiple guitars like an orchestra would layer multiple cellos or violins could be really cool.
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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by Lua » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:57 am

Flurko wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:40 am
I saw Julien Desprez live one year ago, and it's one of the most innovative ways of 'guitar playing' I've heard in a long time.

One of the few pedal-heavy players who doesn't want to sound like a synth nor plays any rock clichés. Very impressive (and very very noisy)

A short concert

Trailer of his solo project
Have you heard about Fred Frith? You might enjoy his stuff. Very inventive, yet a little more oldschool maybe. Less tech-y. One of his gazillion band projects did this kind fragmented noise funk thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rox7sirqzbQ&t=377s

His solo performances are more meditative and maybe more… musical. Often quite beautiful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkcJYh42XhE

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Re: New avenues in guitar playing

Post by tune_link » Fri Nov 20, 2020 10:26 am

Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 12:46 am
Whiny Minotaur wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:59 pm
Transcribing songs that aren't in the mold of guitar music really helps for me. Trying to transcribe parts of Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition was a trip. Obviously some songs were impossible to do, but I learned a lot through transcribing the songs I could. Speaking of Hip Hop, I learned a lot about doing more interesting things with rhythm by trying emulate the delivery of certain rappers with my guitar.

Alternatively, I play guitar to songs which don't have a guitar with the mindset of a side musician. You can't really do what you'd do when playing rock, on, say, an atonal ambient electronic sound with very upfront vocals. It helps me be more disciplined and deliberate, and also helps me mold my playing to add to the song, instead of burying it with obnoxious guitar noise.
I LOVE this. Non-standard/strange rhythms have always interested me. I always thought about trying to transcribe multiple parts from an orchestra as guitar, though not in a heavy way like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Layering multiple guitars like an orchestra would layer multiple cellos or violins could be really cool.
You know about Rhys Chatham right? That's been done. Cool stuff. There are some real neat videos on Youtube of him with even more than this record I link below. I think one video has him conducting 1000 guitars in Paris. I got to see him do a live guitar quartet thing with Thor Harris from Swans playing percussion and it was really good.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0WaNVgJqCU

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