‘I don’t care about the rules. In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I’m not doing my job properly.’ – Jeff Beck.
Whilst I can’t claim to ‘break the rules’ nearly as often as Jeff does, or even claim that I try to, I still enjoy this quote and admire his words. As a guitar teacher I’m naturally concerned with imparting the most accurate and effective advice to my students. I want to make sure that they have the best chance to play the songs they want to play and develop the techniques they want to develop. But as important as it is to pass on practised methods, part of the joy of playing guitar for me has always been experimentation and finding out what works best for you.
Many of the greatest guitarists have gone with this approach and the already huge body of guitar techniques has grown accordingly to include playing with your thumb, ‘finger-tapping’, percussion using the body of the guitar and all manner of other techniques.
However the above examples relate only to the invention of new techniques. Not many of us will have the privilege of creating a new technique, so how about just finding your own distinctive sound on the guitar, how do you do that?
I think by playing what you want to hear. This is a very natural and authentic way to create music. It doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to break rules, but instead you follow your gut, listen to what you’re doing and find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. In other words you don’t write music for other people, but instead write and play in line with your own sense of beauty and enjoyment. People tend to enjoy this authenticity in music anyway.
So on that note, I think it’s appropriate to end with a video of Jeff Beck in one of my favourite performances: ‘Drown in my own tears’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFlRVNHdeIQ
I hope you enjoy it!