How Did They Get That Tone? Part 5: Crossing Genres

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

Guitar Tone Series Part 5: How Studying These Different Styles Will Improve Your Own Playing

Now that you’ve learned what many of the world’s best guitarists did to achieve their signature sound, you might wonder what this means to you as a guitarist. If you play primarily in one style of music, looking into other genres and adapting some of those styles into your playing will vastly improve your musicianship and stretch your creativity.

A Dose of the Blues

Many great artists from different genres, including most listed in the previous articles in the series, are skilled in the blues. If you are not, you may want to consider at least learning the basics. Blues is at the root of all of the most popular music being played today. Even if you play primarily in the classical idiom, understanding the basics of blues will expand your musical palette, and that’s never a bad thing.

All That Jazz

Most of the early rock and roll guitarists were also heavily into jazz. The rhythms of rock, pop, and even country are heavily influenced by the swinging sound of the genre. The true virtuosos of all types of guitar are renowned for the ability to improvise, and to play more complex pieces, both of which are jazz hallmarks. Do some research and you’ll be surprised at how many of your favorite artists incorporate elements of jazz into their work.

Out in the Country

Jazz is one of the two truly American popular music forms. The other, of course, is country and western.
Even if country music is not your “thing,” it is wise to consider learning the genre. Rock and roll had its basis in country, and most rock, blues, and jazz artists can rattle off the names of the country artists who inspired them. It can be good to add a little “twang” to your sound.

Classical Gas

How long has it been since you’ve listened to a symphony? Classical is often overlooked by those who wish to improve their tone. Why bother? Here is a reason: Everything in modern music, and most of the musical phrases, terminology, and technique we have come to know and love in modern music, had its start in the classical form.
If you play electric guitar and have never attempted to play a classical acoustic, you may be missing out on an opportunity to expand your horizons. Visit your local guitar shop and pick up a nylon-string guitar. Try playing a favorite solo on one; you may be surprised at how well it translates. Likewise, listen to some classical guitar, and try to play the piece on a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar. You may find yourself falling in love with guitar all over again.

Conclusion:

Many guitarists achieve their tone by incorporating elements of other genres in their playing. By experimenting with other forms, you may find that elusive tone you’ve been searching for.

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