When it comes to learning to play guitar, aspiring guitar players generally don’t know which style to choose. If you’re a beginner, maybe you’re wondering if you should learn by playing rock, blues, jazz, funk or country?
Blues guitar, jazz guitar, and rock guitar, whilst similar, are really completely different – and this is pretty much a difference of arpeggios and chord shapes, and chord progressions. Then there are those genres you might prefer to play on acoustic guitars, such as those genres based around rhythm guitar.
So before you embark on the guitar-adventure, discover a selection of ten guitar styles!
For all the styles of musics to play on the guitar you need to know of the basics.
To play rock, blues or pop you’ll need to: train and muscle your fingers, gain flexibility, strength, speed, coordination and precision. You’ll need to master your fretboard and work on your fingerstyle. You can also do daily harmonic or arpeggio exercises – and you might benefit from learning a bit of music theory.
Each music style has its own codes and characteristics and this’ll condition the efforts and time for you to totally master it. Whilst blues is usually based around the pentatonic scale, for example, the guitar solos in jazz are much more complex, working with different chord progressions and melodies.
Whether it’s funk, rock’n’roll, hard rock or punk, a guitar player is bound to encounter difficulties during his training and guitar lessons. You’ll also need to leave your preconceived ideas on guitar and different styles behind.
To become a good guitarist in a particular style of music there are three aspects to consider, regardless of the genre:
And yes! The guitar is good for your health. And you can make a living off of it.
Rock’n’roll appeared in the 1950s in the United States. It came from blues, rhythm & blues, country and gospel. Guitarists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bill Haley propelled it and brought music into a new era.
To learn this musical genre you need to equip yourself with a vintage semi-hollow guitar such as a Gibson ES or a solid body such as a Telecaster.
Chuck Berry playing the guitar
Each sound must be sharp to favor fast and jerky rhythms. The amps are powerful and there’re practically no sound effects even though some reverb can be used.
In the logical extension of rock’n’roll, rock has become the unavoidable movement of the electric guitar. It’s less of a dancing evolution than its predecessor. It opened the way for what we called the first “guitar heroes“, such as Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Page, Clapton or Jeff Beck in the 60’s.
To play rock you need a minimalist spirit because it’s built around powerful sound. Rock is played hard on a basis of chords mostly stemmed from blues.
Learn how to play the guitar by watching Jimmy Hendrix
A guitar like Les Paul (Gibson) or a Stratocaster (Fender) is ideal. For sound effects just turn to a wha pedal or a fuzz for solos.
For rock it’s better to learn to play the electric guitar.
Developed around rock and in a similar but more violent spirit of rebellion, hard-rock highlights guitars and their distortions with singing.
Many bands such as AC/DC, Van Halen, Guns’N’Roses, Extreme, Scorpions or Bon Jovi, but also Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple are among the greatest.
To play this extreme music style you have to push rock to its utmost. It’s a muscular music: riffs are heavier, contain more distortion, singing is often perched in the treble, volume is impressive, guitars are often carried very low at the end of the strap.
The Scorpions – a band in the hard rock style.
Guitarists become virtuosos.
Slightly different from hard rock, heavy metal is inspired directly by rock and not blues. Sounds are harder and riffs heavier.
Heavy metal is also inspired by a classical music imprinted with blackness. Some guitarists even know how to play the guitar with one hand.
For those who like distorted loud sounds, who love music built around an extreme sense of rhythm, a melodic song and death or underworld-inspired themes, then heavy metal meets your requirements. And yes, we’re far from classical guitar lessons.
Heavy metal is mainly powerful distortions, syncopated rhythms, variations of a single piece and a multi-pedal system to multiply sound effects.
For Nile Rodgers, Bootsy Collins, Georges Clinton but also Jamiroquai, James Brown, Earth, Wind and Fire fans, funk is the style of groovy rhythms.
Basic notions are required such as rhythmic flow, swing, accentuation, etc. If you don’t know of these, ask your guitar teacher for help during your acoustic, electric or bass guitar lessons.
To play funk, train with a metronome as often as possible to set your game on an accurate rhythm. Slowdown the tempo of certain exercises to assimilate the right hand and start your exercises with a clear sound, without effects.
Once you master the rhythm, add on a wha-wha pedal or a Phaser.
Rhythm – the basis of funk – is mostly based on sixteenth notes: the left hand is placed entirely on the strings so as to smother them slightly and the right hand makes back and forth movements (called strumming).
Volume is constant and one shouldn’t be afraid to strike strings thoroughly to gain in sound and assurance.
Nail the funk style with some George Clinton tunes
Reggae is a music style from the Caribbean – especially Jamaica. Bob Marley and his band The Wailers widely popularized it.
With the right hand, notes are played with a pick (downstrokes) and the setbacks are made in return. With the left hand, you obtain silences by suspending fingers while maintaining contact with the strings.
It’s imperative to play “staccato” and not let the sound last.
Ziggy Marley, one of the best reggae musicians
Reggae regularly uses a technique that plays alternately the fundamental note in the bass and the acute notes of a chord (with fingers or a pick).
Country is an American style – especially in the southern regions of the USA. We recognize this musical genre by its sound, rhythms and chords.
To play country on the guitar you must master pick strokes. Prefer metal strings (forget nylon ones) that are thicker and therefore sound louder, even if they’re harder on your fingers.
Country is played as follows: a bass accompaniment with alternating chord positions, low-string notes with a brushed chord on the acute strings.
Jazz is surely one of the bases for any current music. Originally we electrified it to give more sound to an acoustic guitar. It’s this style that saw the birth of guitar microphones.
Solid body guitars such as a Rickenbacker will enable you to play as Birelli Lagrene, Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin or Django Reinhardt did.
Django defined the style of jazz on the guitar.
To play jazz you must use amps with powerful, clear and homogeneous sounds. The guitars have deep tones with high sustain.
Note that you must master improvisation basics and be experienced (or benefit from a number of guitar lessons). It’s required to know how to play the guitar well enough.
Blues is as old as jazz, although it precedes it in the specific guitar history. Blues is recognizable in its approach and emotion it releases: it’s a music of rage, anger, hope, lamentation.
The basis of blues is the progression of 3 chords, 12 measures and a characteristic tempo. Technically you’ll have to master bends, slides and bottleneck game to render a generally clear and warm, slightly saturated sound.
BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King Clapton and Hendrix knew how to master this style brilliantly. Hendrix was also a blues guitarist (see our article: How to play the guitar when we are left-handed?).
Pop was born from the Folk movement in the United States, inspired by revisited Irish ballads. Today this style is somewhat overused and pop is identified as “international variety”. Yet great bands popularized it such as The Beatles, REM, U2, Dire Strait, Genesis, The Police or even Toto.
Pop is the result of rock arrangements. It changed material needs, notably in terms of sound effects: multi-effects racks, endless pedals, extreme compression and a guitar such as a Stratocaster or a Telecaster are enough to turn you into a pop guitarist.
Did you know that there are actual proven health benefits to playing the guitar?
|Rock 'n' Roll||The original electric guitar music.|
|Rock||Pop music with distorted guitars.|
|Hard Rock||Not as dark lyrics as metal, but distorted guitars and driving bass and drum lines|
|Heavy Metal||Distorted guitars, guttural vocals, and heavy bass.|
|Funk||Complex rhythms and catchy bass grooves|
|Country||Fingerpicking, simple chord work, and vocals.|
|Jazz||Expected complex harmonies and rhythmic innovation|
|Blues||Based around twelve bar progression and a pentatonic with the 'devil's note'.|
|Pop||Simple chord progressions|