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Guitarists: how do you do what you do?

posted on #1
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Joined: 18.12.21
I am constantly amazed by the talent around here. While I appreciate everyone's unique sound, I am particularly drawn to the guitars. While I have some guitar playing ability, I am absolutely terrible at composing from scratch. This is why I spend most of my time playing bass over existing progressions. I want to expand. I have all the books, watched hours and hours of YouTubers, but still missing something. So, I'm asking for a little help. How do you do it? Are you using anything like a chord progression chart or circle of fifths? Do you just know because of practice? I just want to get past this creative roadblock. Thanks.
posted on #2
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Joined: 16.07.15
P0TI0N wrote:
I am constantly amazed by the talent around here. While I appreciate everyone's unique sound, I am particularly drawn to the guitars. While I have some guitar playing ability, I am absolutely terrible at composing from scratch. This is why I spend most of my time playing bass over existing progressions. I want to expand. I have all the books, watched hours and hours of YouTubers, but still missing something. So, I'm asking for a little help. How do you do it? Are you using anything like a chord progression chart or circle of fifths? Do you just know because of practice? I just want to get past this creative roadblock. Thanks.


Most of the time I sit down with the guitar and just fumble around with it hoping that I can come up with something I like. Especially hoping it does not sound too much like something already written. That is tough to do for me. Then decide on what I feel would be the best tempo for it.

Many times I will choose a random bpm time signature on the metronome or drum machine and then try to build something around that. I also use the many drum tracks provided by our percussionists here for ideas and inspiration.

Using different effects, tunings, capo's, etc., also help me in the writing process. Those things can help inspire new ideas.

Hope any of this is helpful to you.
Edited by FrankieJ on January 14 2022 21:22
posted on #3
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Joined: 01.01.17
My favorite is finding symmetries patterns on a Nylon spanish guitar, this is perfect for getting relaxed. I love the vibes of the guitar body. Reason enough to grab it then and when. I've made the experience when listening to the own recordings, i can hear the weak spots, a nice feedback loop for me. To ease the play, i tune 6 strings down 2 or 3 half steps and use a capo at the same time. Fret distances are smaller then and left hand fingers less aking.
posted on #4
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Joined: 04.11.19
Try to play some easy chord progression, like G then C. Then change one note in the chord to get some different colour, just experiment don't think too much about theory.

Try to use open strings too. Use them as some kind of a drone and play a simple chord like a power chord against it then move on the neck from top to bottom and see what happens. Really effective to create moods.

You can play with different rhythm patterns too. Sometimes, a rather mediocre composition can get really interesting just by changing its rhythm. You can incorporate syncopation for example. Or change the time signature.

Hope it helps :)
posted on #5
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Thanks, guys. By all means, keep the helpful tips coming :)
posted on #6
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Joined: 19.09.18
Every KEY has its own "feel".
Em , A , G are commen "funky" keys.
Bm , C, A are commen "blues keys" etc... Bm usually "majestic , sad blues, A more rocking upbeat blues...etc...
There are alot of exceptions but generally speaking....THIS IS GENERALLY the case.
Playing, practicing a variety of styles like say Reggae...youll get a feel of commen keys for that genre.So if you want to compose a reggae track , start plinking around the key of A, B or G or Em ...all commen and often used reggae keys. Practicing , you will draw upon your database of songs you have played before and just remember "if I play an A I can now go to D, E, C from here"......
Practice Practice Practice.

Once you get the feel of the keys (Bm is a commen sad but pretty key), you will hear commen "progressions" of chords that are used to compose songs.When someone says the song is BM , in my head i will automatically know , its going to be very pretty, maybe sad, most likely very melodic and emotional song.

For this it really helps understanding song plagerism cases. One case would be The Eagles "Hotel California" vs Jethro tull "We Used to Know". The main key is BM but based on the melodies, the songwriters didnt really have a whole lot of options on what chords to use to write their songs. So even though the chords are virtually the same , we have two different songs and the chords used are commen for that key (BM) as they are the only chords that fit.
Someone once said any song written in Bm will always be a one of four other songs written in Bm in the history of music. The options of what chords to go to next to sound good is that limiting.
[youtube]VTnuGkZgaMc[/youtube]

So YES, while composing a reggae song in A , there are commen "progressions" , sequences of chords that logically go together and will always sound good together, which get people in trouble for plagerism when really from a songwriting perspective , the writer had no other good choices to rearrange how the chords fit together.

So what we learn from all that is practicing unveils that each key has chord structures that generally "fit together well" and will be "logically" the next place the song will go melodically. Sometimes you will have options where to take the song, other times you can only go to one specific chord for the song to "sound good".It depends. But again ...practicing unveils the mysteries of the art.Your goal is to build a database in your head of songs and styles you have played and recall them while working on a new song that is similiar to what you have played before.

Other then that what everyone else said...Think in "patterns".
Also practice playing scales so they DO NOT sound like you are practicing scales.

Skip around scales.

I highly recommend practicing to youtube videos of backing tracks especially a channel called "Elevated Jam tracks".

He has great backings and he puts the scales to use on the screen so you can play along...

In this video he shows you at the start how to apply the scale to the feel of the key of the song then lets you experiment on your own. I think hes the best backing track musician on youtube personally...

Notice also his video song titles. He gives you the key and descibes the "feel". That helps familiarize you with the "feels " of each key and you start learning the similarities and which keys are commenly used for styles of songs.

1:20 into the video he gives you the chords and scales for you to play along with once you get into the groove of the track...

As I stated, this guy s videos are excellent for breaking down styles and song structures and practicing to them you will learn what makes a good reggae song, what makes a good rock song...what makes a good blues song...etc...

At 10:26 he solos using the scale he gave youand you can hear how that scale fits in the context of the chords. He waits for you to discover it for yourself first. These videos are good tools.

[youtube]p3uDpehs0ns[/youtube]

[youtube]dZOt8iv-TDc[/youtube]

[youtube]yTmECzXG220[/youtube]
Edited by LittleWing on January 15 2022 16:42
posted on #7
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Posts: 37
Joined: 04.07.20
P0TI0N wrote:
I am constantly amazed by the talent around here. While I appreciate everyone's unique sound, I am particularly drawn to the guitars. While I have some guitar playing ability, I am absolutely terrible at composing from scratch. This is why I spend most of my time playing bass over existing progressions. I want to expand. I have all the books, watched hours and hours of YouTubers, but still missing something. So, I'm asking for a little help. How do you do it? Are you using anything like a chord progression chart or circle of fifths? Do you just know because of practice? I just want to get past this creative roadblock. Thanks.


i learn a lot from others on here, whether they know it or not :) so many great compositions to "jam" with. many times i have downloaded someone's jam, tried to come up with something but couldn't really find something to go with it, but in the process, i've learned a chord progression, and it inspires something new. playing around with different times too is great for creativity. i've youtubed different times for learning, then place a click track out and just try and fit stuff in there. or googling "backing track in A" or whatever key you like usually results in some stuff to just jam with. another way for creativity is downloading drum templates. there's lots of fine drummers on here, and with so many varying styles, it's perfect for jamming material and riff dynamics, which will hopefully turn into some new riffs to explore :) most importantly, have fun creating :)
posted on #8
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Joined: 01.02.14
I sometimes sit for hours and play whatever comes to my mind on the guitar. Sometimes I like it and most of the time it sucks.
With the knowledge that every note and every chord progression has already been played, it is not easy to compose something new. But what nobody can deny you is your style and the feeling that dominates you at the moment of playing. There will always be someone who will listen to you and even more who just don't. Let your feelings and your thoughts run free, let them flow. You will see that you are getting better and better at not only inspiring yourself with your instrument and your music!
Music is magic! If you can play even one good note and feel comfortable doing it, it's worth it. Good luck and have fun!
RockinĀ“ in a free world !
posted on #9
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Joined: 16.07.15
adu wrote:
I sometimes sit for hours and play whatever comes to my mind on the guitar. Sometimes I like it and most of the time it sucks.
With the knowledge that every note and every chord progression has already been played, it is not easy to compose something new. But what nobody can deny you is your style and the feeling that dominates you at the moment of playing. There will always be someone who will listen to you and even more who just don't. Let your feelings and your thoughts run free, let them flow. You will see that you are getting better and better at not only inspiring yourself with your instrument and your music!
Music is magic! If you can play even one good note and feel comfortable doing it, it's worth it. Good luck and have fun!



"But what nobody can deny you is your style and the feeling that dominates you at the moment of playing."

Well said adu.
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