How To Find Your Signature Style
“It doesn’t matter
what you play. It matters how you play it.”
“What you play also matters.”
Guitarists spend most of their time developing technical skills and learning music theory. That determines their “level” and pure ability to play something or not. But after you start releasing your own music, the need to sound “unique” and “recognizable” enters the equation. Then most of us make the same mistake. To stand out, we start digging deeper into developing better skills than everybody else, or knowing more than everybody else.
I believe that a recognizable signature style stands apart from both of those approaches. I believe a signature style can be developed by guitarists of any skill level, at any point of their career or learning process.
Even though your style totally depends on HOW you play and WHAT you play, I still think the key word here is YOU.
You, and only you, decides WHAT and HOW you will play it.
One day back in 2012, when I was composing guitar leads for FOR THIS DAY songs, I was jamming over the rough tracks. I was testing the ground by running fast scaled licks back and forth. At some point, the singer looked at me and said: “We all know you can play. I want you to bring some ‘Jay’ here…”
That phrase (beside serving its inspirational purpose at that particular recording session) also got me thinking: “What does it mean to bring JAY?” and “How can I bring JAY anytime, anywhere?”
Over the next week, I developed a formula for my own Signature Style.
In modern music, guitar solos in general are being used less and less. (Unfortunately.) So I knew that if I ever got a chance to perform a guitar lead in a song, it would have to be SHORT, INTENSE and RECOGNIZABLE.
Based on these three requirements, I started working on WHAT I will play from now on.
Your Style Database
- Working Scales
- Bends and Vibrato
- Technical Arsenal
- Rhythmical Arsenal
Before any of these 5 phrases, you can insert the word “My” or “Personal” or “Signature”. (For example: My Working Scales, My Sounds, My Bends, etc.) Because nobody but you is going to build that database for you.
Here’s how it works. First, take a minus backing track – preferably one with a song length and structure (verse-chorus) – and put it on repeat. For the first 10 minutes, improvise over it, but concentrate only on scales, patterns and fretting positions. The point here is not to learn or practice them, but to find what resonates with you and what pleases your ear the most and memorize it. For the next 10 minutes, work on your signature sounds (slides, bar technique, hammer-ons, pull-offs). Again, don’t practice them, but play with their variations (speed, frequency and timing) to find what resonates with you. Then spend 10 minutes on bends and vibrato, using the same approach. And so on.
Doing this for 50 minutes a day for the next month will be enough for you to build a database of your signature phrases and sounds. You’ll also develop your signature vibrato, technique and rhythmic. If you get caught in a trance while doing this exercise, consider it a good sign, because it means your subconscious mind is working!
We’ll delve deeper into each one of these five areas very soon.