Talk through your guitar

By Michael Korte

Throughout time, musicians strived to imitate the human voice with musical instruments. The human voice is the most relatable sound to humans in the world, so it makes sense to try to imitate its sound with musical instruments. That is why I want to show you here a few ways that you can use your guitar or approach guitar playing in general, so that you can write better music.

First thing I suggest is, listening to actual singers and try to imitate them with your guitar. That means, transcribing vocal lines of your singers note by note until you figured out what the respective singer does with his voice. Where does he or she use vibrato? Where staccato? Etc.

There is a deep ocean of methods and elements that you can learn, simply by applying this way to practice.


What you will also learn by doing this, is, to apply phrasing elements on your guitar like a singer articulates vocal melodies. You get to experience how they apply vibrato, glissando – that means for guitarists in small intervals: bendings – or the use of the whammy bar for bigger steps, applying a wah-wah-pedal, stops and rests and even distortion.


The above-mentioned approaches help you a lot when it comes to composing solos, but you will also improve your improvising a lot.

When it comes to practicing improvising directly, try one of the following methods.

You can start by writing down five random sentences and say them out loud while you are trying to play them on the guitar. Play them on the guitar, as if your guitar would say those phrases and try to get as close as possible to how you would say or sing those phrases. That will make your improvising much more accessible to the listener and you avoid sounding boring by playing scales up and down or playing the same licks again and again, because you are doing something much more captivating.

Spend some time on one phrase only and find a few possibilities to play this one phrase, then go to the next after a while. When you can manage to play every phrase fluently and do variations of it with different stressing, start connecting two phrases, then three, then all of them. Rearrange them into new order, repeat phrases, vary in between the phrases. You will notice, that you suddenly sound much cooler and interesting, if you record yourself playing.


The next step of this would be, to invent spoken phrases as you go, on the spot, then play them while improvising. This will also help your lyrical creativity, if you try to stay on a certain topic, for example: Dragons. Or gardens. Skyscrapers. Whatever :)

And to take this one step further: do the above simultaneously.

Sing a phrase while you play it on your guitar, in the same rhythm, with the same phrasing, same melody. This will massively increase your aural skills (your ability to play what you imagine or hear).


Have fun applying this into your guitar playing!


About the author:
Michael Korte is guitar teacher in Finland, who gives kitaratunnit in tampere. He creates inventive learning programs for his students and is passionate about helping his students become better and more creative players.