Most guitarists start off playing in their room or garage, working out their favorite songs or reading tablature and trying to get those licks down. This is certainly where I started but I never even thought about the idea of playing with others. At the time I had one friend who played guitar too, and whilst we’d noodle about together and teach each other bits and pieces, we never really played with a band, and this is something which I regret. I watched a brilliant interview with Blue Man Group drummer Randy Wooten the other day, and he was talking about just how important it is for guitarists to play with a band, as soon as possible, and here is why.
Upping Your Game
The truth is that you really don’t know how good a guitarist you are until you start to play with a bassist and a drummer, at the very least. What many will find when they first start playing is that everything is different, and you have to up your game so that you are playing to the same level as your bandmates. There is a nice pressure here, that you don’t want to let the team down, so you have to find the way to reach their levels. The same will happen with each other player if they feel that they are not at the same quality.
Learning Real Timing
Even if you are sat at home with a metronome, there is no way that you can real nail down that timing, until you play with others. If you have a tight drummer for example then you will soon recognize that they are the ones keeping time with the bassist, and you have to fit in with that. There is no doubt that playing in a band dynamic is the perfect way for you to get a grasp of where your timing is, and how to improve it.
Sitting in the Groove
One of the most amazing and organic things that you can do with a band is not just to play cool cover versions of songs which have already been written, but rather to sit inside a groove with the band. Just jamming around can take you to some great places and you move away from that idea of which note you should be playing and when, and instead just make music. This is one of the most incredible things for any guitarists and there is no doubt that it is here where you will really learn to play guitar. This is very much like learning to drive a car, you can pass the test based on how you are ‘supposed’ to drive a car, but it is not until you get out there on the road that you are going to truly learn how to drive.
If you do play guitar then do your best to try and find people who play bass and drums, or any other instrument, and try to play as much as you can with them, it will help you a great deal.