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Guest Article:  Jure Golobic


When it comes to phrasing, there are a lot of definitions to what that even means. Some people say it's the ability to connect different phrases together, some say it's the way you play tones. Phrasing might be best explained as how you shape your tones. To picture this for you, take for example, a lingual phrase »Oh, it's you«. There are many ways of how to say this exact phrase. For example, if you say it with pitch going down on the last word »you«, it may occur as a disappointment, because you expected someone else. If the pitch goes up on the last word, it may tell you, that you are happy to see that person. But if you put a pause between »Oh, it's« and »you«, it might tell something even more different, like you're really disgusted that you see that particular person.

It's similar when it comes to guitar playing (or any instrument for that matter). Guitar, especially, is very expressive instrument, on which we can express many emotions, but to do so, we have to think of it as a vocal instrument. 

Let's take only one note, any note you want. We can tell so much with only one note, just by the way we play it. If we play the tone and start vibrating it slightly, it might give us the feeling of tenderness and calmness. If we play it loud and apply a very aggressive vibrato on it, it might sound angry or energized.  Vibrato is a very obvious one. But there are many other ways to express feelings. Bending, slides, hammer ons and pull offs, harmonics, tapping, rakes, etc. These are just few of the most common ones. Of course, we have to divide these elements into more sub elements - the more, the better. For example, we can take bending and divide it into »normal« bend, pre-bend, slow bend, bend-vibrato, double-stop bend, double stop bend to unison and so on and on and on. To be able to find out as many different elements of phrasing, you have to listen and dissect tons of music, or get the best guitar teacher you can find.


The key element of being able to play like this is to use as many of those elements of phrasing as much as possible, as often as possible. This way, those elements of phrasing will become an integral part of your playing and you'll start using applying them naturally.

It's a good idea to write a list of all the elements you can think of and keep it in front of you when you're practicing. Of course you have to practice and master each one before you'll be able to apply them into your playing effortlessly and spontaneously.

A good way to practice is to limit yourself with only two or three notes, and try to play them in as many different ways as possible. Then take same notes and don't change the order and rhythm. In how many ways can you play the sequence now? Try playing it very quietly the first time and very loudly and aggressively the second time. What is the difference to you, does it tell you the same thing or does the overall feeling of the sequence change?

Ok, let's stop at this point. The last thing I've pointed out, playing it quietly or loud; DYNAMICS. That's one element of phrasing, that can change everything, but it's generally overlooked. Playing with wide dynamic range is just as important as any other element of phrasing. If we return to spoken sentences, dynamics of our speech can take the meaning of the spoken words to a whole new level.


Take the sentence »oh, it's you« again. Now imagine it being whispered into your ear by someone you find attractive. Huuuh... Completely different now, isn't it?

My strong advice would be, to try to emulate vocalists with your instrument. When you nail it, it might take you to a whole new level of expressing yourself. Try to emulate every little vibrato, the way one tone connects to another, emulate the dynamics, everything you're able basically. If you play like this and emulate expressive singers, people will like to listen to your playing, even if you'll play only simple melodies. Because it will sound different, alive and emotional.

This article was written by Nejc Vidmar, a professional guitar teacher and composer from Slovenia.

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