Paul Gilbert: The Most Common Guitar Mistake I See Students Make in My Classes


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UG News editor since early 2013. King Crimson fan. I handle the news around here.

UG interviewer Justin Beckner asked Paul Gilbert to single out the most common mistake rock guitarists that take his classes make, to which he replied:

“Having an instinct where you can fluently make decisions – while you’re playing – about how short or long a note should be.

“Even if all the notes are eighth notes, you have to decide if that note sustains all the way to the next one or if it’s staccato.

“A lot of players completely ignore those decisions because they’re still struggling with their technique.

“So instead of making those decisions with musical intention, they’re making those decisions because their fingers are struggling to get to the next note.

“They leave the note early and they make a space that doesn’t sound good.

“In my own playing, I solved that problem by using way too much distortion and way too much volume for so many years. If you leave a space, the guitar feeds back and howls.

“So I had to learn – to prevent the noise – how to never leave holes between the notes. That really built my legato technique.

“And legato doesn’t mean that it’s not picked – you can still pick the note – but you need to make sure that there isn’t any space between the notes. You have to give that note its full value.

“Once you have the technique down, you can start making musical decisions and deciding if that is what you want or not. Maybe you want some of those notes to be short but it’s important to be able to choose which ones.

“The masters of playing do that without thinking about it.

“At a certain point most players have to sit down and train their ears to do that naturally – to make these decisions about short and long.

“The same thing happens with quiet and loud, muted and not muted… the same thing happens with spaces and not spaces, and it’s all these contrasting things that make phrasing beautiful.

“As guitarists, we need to listen to our own playing and make sure that we pay attention to those dynamic contours.”

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