There are many misconceptions with regard to high caliber playing, technical efficiency and its relevance to whatever style of music you like to play and compose. This article will help clear up some of these misconceptions by addressing the benefits of becoming a high caliber player.

Let’s start with the fact that Yngwie Malmsteen, for example, is a master at his personal craft, Neo-Classical guitar. His ability to compose and perform at an extremely high level is not only admirable, but is also essential to his accurate self-expression.

Here are some basic points every musician needs to keep in mind about high caliber playing, technical efficiency and its benefits to every style of music:

1) Being able to play at your highest level along with being technically efficient will ensure that your live performances will be more consistent and accurate to the recordings, regardless if you play cover songs or original music. This also means that your live performance will be more FUN for you and aurally appealing for the audience. Playing at your highest level can reduce anxiety during and before the performance and could allow for a more interactive live performance with the crowd while increasing your confidence about your live abilities.

2) Playing at your highest level includes the need to push your physical and mental boundaries as far as they can go. By doing this, you gain coordination, playing stamina and strength. Coordination is vital to guitar and considering that your picking hand must be right on with your fretting hand, you can count on hearing less dead notes when your maximum speed is much faster than what your songs require. One goal would be to count while playing to ensure more accurate rhythm performances. This requires dedicated practice time to just reading rhythms and playing to a metronome. Another major benefit to pushing your physical boundaries is increasing your playing stamina. If you ever want to go on tour and play shows day after day, you better believe that this is vital to your live performance. If you’re not practicing daily, or pushing your limits by exercising with a metronome at high speeds and keeping track, it will be a daunting task to play and perform on tour with a strong accuracy level. Also, playing strength is essential for performing fast and smooth legato runs, along with playing bar chords and classical/acoustic guitar in general.

3) Playing at your highest level will increase your ability to improvise. This ability can be developed further with a focus on ear training, theory, scales/fretboard knowledge, rhythm and phrasing. Improvising melodies and fast runs are not skills found by beginners and players with limited practice time. Even more impressive is the fact that some artists, such as Yngwie and Dream Theater, write songs and even albums full of improvised material. This ability can bring out melodies and rhythms not normally heard in the song writers head. One reason being that the virtuoso’s playing speed and coordination may be much faster than their mind’s ability to compose those lines instantly. By being able to play at your highest level, you increase the ease at which you can accurately play improvised melodies regardless of how complex or unorthodox they may be.

4) Pinpoint accuracy is probably the sleeper skill in high caliber players. The fact that these players can get 4 fingers to play at blistering speeds on a thin string is impressive. Accuracy can be achieved with countless hours of playing and developing your muscle memory. By keeping your fretting hands fingers low to the string, keeping its thumb in the proper position, playing right behind the fret and not rubbing any of your palm’s skin on the neck will develop accuracy. Implementing a robotic approach to these skills will only increase your accuracy because you are always using the same technique/feel while playing. One of the hardest aspects of left hand accuracy is that the frets change sizes as the fretboard gets higher in pitch. For guitarists and violinists, mastery of this skill is vital for performing fast melodies. A side benefit with regard to live performances is that you will focus less on what your hands are doing and more on crowd interaction.

5) In my opinion, the most important reason to increase your playing and technical efficiency is so that you can express yourself without any physical limitations. Being able to compose a phrase or run that may be very difficult to play is essential to self expression. If you can not perform what you hear in your head, than you have just compromised your composition. Regardless of what style you write for, being able to play and compose at the highest level in that style is essential to being a successful musician. When I say successful, I am not necessarily referring to being popular or respected in the industry; I am also referring to your personal success in being able to express yourself effectively and consistently.

A common misconception that goes along with working on just your playing ability and efficiency is that you will always play and write really fast solos. You must remember that just because you can play fast, does not mean you have to write fast lines or solos. Just because you can play an Yngwie Malmsteen solo does not mean you are going to write a solo just like him. You are in control of what you play and write, so the sooner you can focus on being the highest caliber player you can, the closer you will come to accurate self-expression.

For more information on these and other topics, as well as guitar lessons in-person and online, please contact Mike Walsh
via e-mail at

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