Melody, Attitude, Emotion, and Chops
I find one way that I succeed as a guitar player is by being very analytical. I've always been interested in knowing why I like what I like. It's one thing to say: that's a great song or guitar solo. It's another to dig a bit deeper and understand why. If you read any of the Music Appreciation reviews, you'll see how I break down a piece of music and identify how the stylistic elements are interacting and how they are constructed. What I try to do — be it a solo or a whole song — is to identify the elements that turn me on, and learn from that. What I found was that it's pretty much the same basic formula turning me on, over and over again. And by going through that process, I been able to boil things down to a mantra and philosophy that I preach and live by: Melody, Attitude, Emotion, and Chops. For me, these are the essential elements. Get any three of those four elements into a guitar solo and you'll probably succeed (in my estimation). Get all four and you've smacked it out of the park. I use this knowledge to my advantage. I only have intermediate-level chops, but I have a real good sense of melody. So while I continually work on improving my chops, I make sure that I inject plenty of melody and attitude into my playing rather than just trying to blaze away. That way, when I actually play some faster stuff, it has more impact.Rather than constantly trying to learn new things, I'm more just trying to master these elements that I want in my playing. Note also, that I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think wheels should be round, — not triangles, octagons, or rectangles. Similarly with fine art, I like guys who paint recognizable pictures, rather than the abstract artists. But that's just me. What turns YOU on might be completely different elements. That doesn't mean you can't benefit from going through the analytical process. Once you understand why you like what you like, you can rule out a lot of extraneous crap. It's like learning to whack off — once you've found your favorite way, it works every time. So try working with general elements rather than specific techniques. Then employ these elements over and over.