The acoustic guitar is the instrument in the band that is oft-overlooked and rarely practiced.
Why is that?
It’s because most people who aspire to guitar stardom start with an acoustic. They want to be rockstars but they realize it is extremely hard work to be good – to shred, melt faces, blow people’s minds with fingering speeds Jimi Hendrix would envy. So they learn three chords, two strum patterns, and start playing worship songs. They eventually take their bad practicing habits over to their Epiphone Les Paul and digital effects pedals, thinking they have finally made it. Far from it.
But what if you want more than that?
Here are a few tips to help you practice better with your acoustic guitar:
PRACTICE WITH A CLICK
I know I say this a lot, but it’s important. Pull out a metronome and practice those crazy strums in perfect time. Work on that internal clock. Most often the drummer is blamed for bad time, but the acoustic guitar is quite often an offender. Your band will thank you and maybe buy you a new guitar for such dedication.
KNOW WHEN NOT TO STRUM
It drives me crazy when acoustic players strum full force through an entire song. Relax. Sometimes all that is needed is a strum on the downbeats. But not just any strum. The most passionate strum you have ever strummed in the history of strumming. Slow your pick down. Sweep slowly over your strings, covering the entire length of that downbeat. Pour your passion into the simplicity. Play it like it’s the coolest thing you ever played. If you start arguing with your leader that it’s too simple, you may not be on the team much longer Great music has space.
LEARN OPEN CHORD VOICINGS
I can’t stress this enough. I know it’s cool to learn bar chords for the first time. Sorry to disappoint, but they’re not that cool. Especially on an acoustic guitar. The best tones for an acoustic are open chord voicings. The less fingers you use and more open strings you strum, the better it will sound. Sometimes I will even detune my guitar to something like DADGAD in order to utilize more open strings. Also, get to know your capo. When a song is in the key of Ab, don’t play bar chords. Use your capo and get that open sound. I know some guitar players call the capo a “crutch for the weak” but I think THEY are the weak ones! In all seriousness, it’s not a matter of weakness. It’s a matter of good tone.
DON’T PLAY LEADS
I know it’s tempting to show up the lead guitarist with your smooth jazz leads, but just stop it. You are there for rhythm. Learn how to harness what you know and contribute only what the song demands. This goes for all musicians – submit to what a song needs. Don’t show off all you know within the course of a song. Don’t seek to impress, play simply.
Acoustic guitarists, the floor is yours. What is ONE PRACTICE TECHNIQUE that has helped you become better?